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Title: Under the Country Sky
Author: Richmond, Grace S. (Grace Smith), 1866-1959
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 "Under the Country Sky" ***

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



[Illustration: "'Come, George--you need a good tramp,' Stuart urged at
Jeannette's elbow"]

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

UNDER THE COUNTRY SKY

By GRACE S. RICHMOND

Author of

"Red Pepper Burns," "Mrs. Red Pepper,"
"The Twenty-Fourth of June,"
"The Second Violin," Etc.

With Frontispiece in Colors
By FRANCES ROGERS

A. L. BURT COMPANY
Publishers New York

Published by Arrangements with DOUBLEDAY, PAGE AND COMPANY

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

COPYRIGHT, 1916, BY
DOUBLEDAY, PAGE & COMPANY

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED, INCLUDING THAT OF
TRANSLATION INTO FOREIGN LANGUAGES,
INCLUDING THE SCANDINAVIAN

COPYRIGHT, 1915, 1916, BY THE CURTIS PUBLISHING COMPANY

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

CONTENTS

CHAPTER                                       PAGE

    I. Heart Burnings                            3
   II. Something Really Happens                 15
  III. A Semi-Annual Occurrence                 31
   IV. A Literary Light                         39
    V. Shabbiness                               50
   VI. When Royalty Comes                       60
  VII. Snowballs                                71
 VIII. Soapsuds                                 84
   IX. A Reasonable Proposition                 96
    X. Stuart Objects                          105
   XI. Borrowed Plumes                         119
  XII. Early Morning                           135
 XIII. A Copyist                               143
  XIV. Out of the Blue                         153
   XV. "Great Luck!"                           164
  XVI. A Little Trunk                          176
  XVII. Reaction                               187
 XVIII. "Steady On!"                           199
   XIX. Revelations                            212
    XX. Five Minutes                           228
   XXI. Messages                               236
  XXII. Toasts                                 248
 XXIII. Why Not?                               259
  XXIV. Magic Gold                             270
   XXV. Great Music                            283
  XXVI. Salt Water                             295
 XXVII. "Cakes and Ices"                       310
XXVIII. A Tanned Hercules                      323
  XXIX. Milestones                             332
   XXX. Questions and Answers                  342

-----------------------------------------------------------------------



CHAPTER I

HEART BURNINGS


She did not want to hate the girls; indeed, since she loved them all, it
would go particularly hard with her if she had to hate them; love turned
to hate is such a virulent product! But, certainly, she had never found
it so hard to be patient with them.

They were all five her college classmates, of only last year's class,
and it was dear and kind of them to drive out here into the country to
see her, coming in Phyllis Porter's great family limousine, the
prettiest, jolliest little "crowd" imaginable. They had been thoughtful
enough to warn her that they were coming, too, so that she could set the
old manse living-room in its pleasantest order, build a crackling
apple-wood fire in the fireplace, and get out her best thin china and
silver with which to serve afternoon tea--she made it chocolate, with
vivid recollection of their tastes; and added deliciously substantial
though delicate sandwiches, with plenty of the fruitiest and nuttiest
kinds of little cakes. She had donned the one real afternoon frock she
possessed, a clever make-over out of nothing in particular. Altogether,
when she greeted her guests, as they ran, fur-clad and silk-stockinged
after the manner of their kind, into her welcoming arms, she had seemed
to them absolutely the old Georgiana.

They had brought her a wonderful box of red roses--and Phyllis had
caught her kissing one of the great, silky buds as she put it with the
rest in a bowl. "I don't believe she's seen a hothouse rose since she
left college," thought Phyllis, with a stab of pity at her tender heart.
But for the first hour of their stay Georgiana had been her gay and
brilliant self, flinging quips and jests broadcast, asking impertinent
questions, making saucy comments, quite as of old. It was only when Dot
Manning, toward the end of the visit, began a sober tale of the
misfortunes which had come thronging into the life of one of their
classmates, that Georgiana's face, sobering into sympathetic gravity,
betrayed to her companions a curious change which had come upon it since
they saw it last.

Meanwhile, in answer to her questioning, they had told her all about
themselves. Phyllis Porter and Celia Winters were having a glorious
season in society. Theo Crossman was deep in settlement work--"crazy
over it" was, of course, the phrase. Dot Manning was going abroad next
week for a year of travel in all sorts of beguiling, out-of-the-way
places. As for Madge Sylvester, who was getting ready to be married
after Easter, the first of the class, she sat mostly in a dreamy,
smiling silence, looking into the fire while the others talked.

No, Georgiana did not want to hate the girls, but before their stay was
over she found herself coming dangerously near it--temporarily, at
least. They were dears, of course, but they were so content with
themselves and so pitiful of her. Not, of course, that they meant to let
her see this, but it showed in spite of them. They wanted to know what
she did with herself, whether there were any young people, and any good
times going on--Georgiana led them to the window, just at this point,
and pointed out to them a vigorous young man striding by in ulster and
soft hat, who looked up and waved as he passed, showing one of those
fine and manly young faces, glowing with health and hopefulness, which
always challenge interest from girlhood.

"Oh, have you many like that?" Celia had asked, and when Georgiana had
owned that James Stuart was the only one precisely "like that," Dot had
inquired if Mr. Stuart belonged to Georgiana, and, being answered in the
negative, shook her head and sighed: "One swallow _may_ make a summer,
Jan, but I doubt it!"

Theodora Crossman, the settlement worker, inquired particularly whether
Georgiana were doing anything worth while, using that pregnant modern
phrase which has been decidedly overworked, yet which hardly can be
spared from the present-day vocabulary.

"Worth while!" cried Georgiana, flashing into flame in an instant in the
way they knew so well. "Worth while--yes! You haven't seen my father,
have you, ever? It's a pity this happens to be one of his bad,
spine-achey days, for he'd be a good and sufficient answer to that
question. Father Davy is one of the Lord's own saints on earth, and he
possesses a magnificent sense of humour, which not all saints do, you
know. To love him is a liberal education, and to take care of him is
better 'worth while' than to have any number of fingers in other
people's pies."

"Of course, dear," Theo had answered soothingly. "We know there's
nothing in the world so well worth while as looking after one's father
and mother. Your mother died long ago, didn't she, dear? And your father
would be dreadfully lonely without you. At the same time, it doesn't
seem as if he could absorb all your energies. You remember the splendid
things Professor Nichols used to say about the duty of the college girl,
after college, particularly in a small town? I suppose you have no
foreigners here, but I thought perhaps you might find quite a wonderful
field for your endeavour in stimulating the women of the place into
clubs for study and work. It's----"

A curious exclamation from her hostess caused Miss Crossman to pause.
In fact, they all stared wonderingly at Georgiana. She stood upon the
hearthrug, her colour, usually ready to glow in her dusky face, now
receding suggestively, her dark eyes sparkling dangerously. "The only
trouble with that sort of thing," she answered with suspicious
quietness, "or rather the two troubles with it are these: In the first
place, the women have pretty nearly a club apiece already, which suits
them much better than anything I could 'stimulate' them to; and, in the
second place, I have 'quite a wonderful field for my endeavour,' as you
call it, Theo--did you crib that phrase?--in the upper regions of my own
home. I--in fact, I may be said to belong to the I. W. W.; I'm one of
the industrial workers of the world!"

"Jan, you haven't gone into anything crazy----" Dot was beginning, when
Georgiana, obeying an impulse, walked away from her hearthrug toward the
door, beckoning her guests to follow.

"Come on," she invited. "Since you have so poor an opinion of the
possibilities for serious labour in a world of woe offered by my
residence in a small country village, you may come and see for
yourselves."

They came after her, with a rustle and flutter of frocks and a patter of
smartly shod feet, up the old spindle-railed staircase, through a chilly
and unfurnished upper hall, and up a still chillier narrow second
staircase, into an attic region which could hardly be properly
characterized as chilly, for the reason that the atmosphere there was
frankly freezing.

As near as possible to the gable window stood a monster structure the
nature of which the beholders did not instantly recognize. Phyllis was
the first to cry out: "A loom! It must be a very old one, too. Oh, how
fascinating! What do you make, Jan--fabrics?"

"Rugs," explained Georgiana, pulling at a pile upon the floor. "Such
rugs as these. Good looking? Yes, dear classmates?"

"Stunning!" cried Madge Sylvester, with a smothered shiver at the
penetrating cold of the place.

"Simply wonderful!" "Too clever for anything!" and, "Oh, Jan, do you
make them to sell?" "Can I buy this one?" "I'm wild over this dull blue
and Indian red!" came tumbling from the mouths of the eager girls, as in
the fading light from the attic window they examined the hand-woven
rugs. There was sincerity in their voices; Georgiana had known there
would be; she was sure of the art and skill plainly to be found in her
product.

"I'm afraid not, Phyl. These are all orders, and I'm weeks behind. They
go to certain exclusive city shops, and I have all I can do."

"You must have struck a gold mine. I'm so glad!" congratulated
warm-hearted Phyllis.

"Well, not exactly. It's rather slow work, when you do housework, too,"
acknowledged Georgiana. "However, it does very well; it keeps us in
firewood--and oysters--for the winter."

She instantly regretted this speech, for it led, presently, as she might
have known it would, to delicately worded expressions of hope that she
would in the future give her friends the pleasure of purchasing her
wares.

Down by the fireplace again Georgiana turned upon them in her old
jesting way, which yet had in it, as they all felt, a quality which was
new. "Stop it, girls. No, I'll not sell one of you a rug of any size,
shape, or colour. I'm far behind, as I told you. But--I'll send Madge a
gorgeous one for a wedding present, if she'll tell me her preferences,
and I'll do the same for each of you, when you meet your fates. Now stop
talking about it. I only showed you to demonstrate that this is a busy
world for me as well as for you, and that I'm very content in it. Dot,
don't you want just one more of these fruitkins? By the way, since you
like them so much, I'll give you the recipe. I made it up--wasn't it
clever of me?"

"You're much the cleverest of us all, anyway," murmured Dot meekly,
nibbling at the delicious morsel, while her hostess rapidly wrote out a
little formula and gave it to her with a smile.

They were soon off after that, for the early winter twilight was upon
them, and the lights in the waiting car outside suddenly came on with a
suggestive completeness. Georgiana assisted her guests into luxurious
coats and capes made of or lined with chinchilla, with otter, with
sable; handed gloves and muffs; and listened to all manner of
affectionate parting speeches, every one of which contained pressing
invitations for visits, short or long. Each girl made promises of future
calls, and professed herself eager to come and stay with Georgiana at
any time. Then the whole group went away on a little warm breeze of
good-fellowship and human kindness.

"They are dears," admitted Georgiana, as she waved her arm at the
departing car; "but, oh!--_oh!_ I can't stand having them sorry for me!
The old manse _is_ shabby, and every girl of them knew how many times
this frock has been made over--I saw Celia recognize it even through its
dye. No wonder, when it's been at every college tea she ever gave. But I
won't--_I won't_--be pitied!"

The door opened, and a slender figure in an old-fashioned dressing-gown
came slowly into the firelit room.

Georgiana turned quickly. "Father Davy! Do you feel better? If I'd known
it, I'd have brought you in to meet the girls. They would have enjoyed
you so."

"I'm not quite up to meeting the girls perhaps, daughter, but decidedly
better and correspondingly cheerful. Have you had a good time?"

He placed himself as carefully as possible upon the couch by the fire,
and his daughter tucked him up in an old plaid shawl which had lain
folded upon it. She dropped upon the hearthrug and sat looking into the
fire, while her father regarded the picture she made in the dyed frock,
now a soft Indian red, a hue which pleased his eye and brought out all
her gypsy colouring.

The head upon the couch pillow was topped with a soft mass of curly gray
hair, the face below was thin and pale, but the eyes which rested upon
the girl were the clearest, youngest blue-gray eyes that ever spoke
mutely of the spirit's triumph over the body. One had but to glance at
David Warne to understand that here was a man who was no less a man
because he had to spend many hours of every day upon his tortured back.
It was three years since he had been forced to lay aside the care of the
village-and-country parish of which he had been minister, but he had
given up not a whit of his interest in his fellowmen, and now that he
could seldom go to them he had taught them to come to him, so that the
old manse was almost as much a centre of the village's interest and
affection as it had been when its master went freely in and out. A new
manse had been built nearer the church, for the new man, and the old
house left to Mr. Warne's undisputed possession--proof positive of his
place in the hearts of the community.

"A good time?" murmured Georgiana, in answer to the question. "No, a
hateful, envious, black-browed time, disguised as much as might be under
a frivolous manner. The girls were lovely--and I was a perfect fiend!"

Mr. Warne did not seem in the least disconcerted by this startling
statement. "The sounds I heard did not strike me as indicating the
presence of any fiend," he suggested.

"Probably not. I managed to avoid giving in to the temptation to snatch
Phyl's sumptuous chinchilla coat, Madge's perfectly adorable hat, Theo's
bronze shoes, Dot's embroidered silk handbag, and Bess's hand-wrought
collar and cuffs."

"It was a matter of clothes, then? How much heart-burning men escape!"
mused Mr. Warne. "Now, I can never recall hearing any man, young or old,
express a longing to denude other men of their apparel."

Georgiana shot him a look. "No, men merely envy other men their acres,
their horses, their motors--and their books. Own up, now, Father Davy,
have you never coveted any man's library?"

The blue-gray eyes sent her back a humorous glance. "Now you have me,"
he owned. "But tell me, daughter--it was not only their clothes which
stirred the fiend within you? Confess!"

She looked round at him. "I don't need to," she said. "You know the
whole of it--what I want for you and me--what they have--_life_! And
lots of it. You need it just as badly as I do--you, a suffering saint at
fifty-five when other men are playing golf! And I--simply bursting with
longing to take you and go somewhere--anywhere with you--and see
things--and do things--and _live_ things! And we as poor as poverty,
after all you've done for the Lord. Oh, I----"

She brought her strong young fist down on the nearly threadbare rug with
a thump that reddened the fine flesh, and thumped again and yet again,
while her father lay and silently watched her, with a look in his eyes
less of pain than of utter comprehension. He said not a word, while she
bit her lip and stared again into the fire, clenching the fist that had
spoken for her bitterly aching heart. After a time the tense fingers
relaxed, and she held up the hand and looked at it.

"I'm a brute!" she said presently. "An abominable little brute. How do
you stand me? How do you _endure_ me, Father Davy! I just bind the load
on your poor back and pull the knots tight, every time I let myself
break out like this. If you were any minister-father but yourself, you'd
either preach or pray at me. How can you keep from it?"

He smiled. "I never liked to be preached or prayed at myself, dear," he
said. "I have not forgotten. And the Lord Himself doesn't expect a young
caged lioness to act like a caged canary. He doesn't want it to. And
some day--He will let it out of the cage!"

She shook her head, and got up. She kissed the gray curls and patted the
thin cheek, said cheerfully: "I'm going to get your supper now," and
went away out of the room.

In the square old kitchen she flung open an outer door and stood staring
up at the starry winter sky.

"Oh, if anything, anything, _anything_ would happen!" she breathed,
stretching out both arms toward the snowy shrubbery-broken expanse
behind the house which in summer was her garden. "If something would
just keep this evening from being like all the other evenings! I can't
sit and read aloud--_to-night_. I can't--I _can't_! And the only
interesting thing on earth that can happen is that Jimps Stuart may come
over--and he probably won't, because he was over last evening and the
evening before that, and he knows he can't be allowed to come all the
time. He----"

It was at this point that the old brass knocker on the front door
sounded--and something happened.



CHAPTER II

SOMETHING REALLY HAPPENS


It might have been any of the village people, as Georgiana expected it
would be when she closed the kitchen door with a bang and went
reluctantly to answer the knock. Since it was almost suppertime it was
probably Mrs. Shear, who seldom made a call at any other hour, knowing
she would as surely be asked to stay as it was sure that David Warne's
heart would respond to the wanness and unhappiness always written on
Mrs. Shear's homely middle-aged face. As she went to the door, Georgiana
felt an intensely wicked desire to hit Mrs. Shear a blow with her own
capable fist, which should send her backward into the snow. Georgiana
did not believe that the lady was as unhappy as she looked. It seemed to
be a day for expression by the use of fists!

But when the door was opened and the light from the bracket lamp in the
manse hall shone out on the figure standing upon the porch, all desire
to hit anything more with her fist vanished from the girl's heart. For
with the first look into the face of the man outside her instant wish
was to have him come in--and stay. Somebody so evidently from the great
world which seemed so far away from the old village manse--somebody who
looked as if he could bring with him into this dull life of theirs all
manner of interest--it was small wonder that in her present mood the
girl should feel like this. And it must by no means be supposed that
Georgiana was in the habit of experiencing this sort of wish every time
she set eyes upon a personable man. Personable men had been many in her
acquaintance during the four years of her college life, and more than
one of them had followed her back to the old manse to urge his claim
upon her attention.

"Is the Reverend Mr. Warne at home?" asked the stranger in a low and
pleasant voice. "I have a letter of introduction to him."

"Please come in," answered Georgiana, and led him straight into the
living-room and her father's presence. Then, though consumed with
curiosity, she retired--as far as the door of the dining-room, where she
remained, ready to listen in a most reprehensible manner to the
conversation which should follow.

There was an exchange of greetings, then evidently Mr. Warne was reading
the letter of introduction. Presently he spoke:

"This is quite sufficient," he said, "to make you welcome under this
roof. My old friend Davidson has my affection and confidence always.
Please tell me what I can do for you, Mr. Jefferson."

"I should like," replied the stranger's voice, "to have a room with you,
and possibly board, if that might be. If not, perhaps I could find that
elsewhere; but if I might at least have the room I should be very glad.
I am hard at work upon a book, and I have come away from my home and
other work to find a place where I can live quietly, write steadily, and
be outdoors every day for long walks in the country. Doctor Davidson
suggested this place, and thought you might take me in--for an
indefinite period of time, possibly some months."

"That sounds very pleasant to me," Georgiana heard her father reply. "We
have never had a boarder, my daughter and I, but, if she has no
objection, I should enjoy having such a man as you look to be, in the
house. Your letter, you see, is not your only introduction. You carry
with you in your face a passport to other men's favour."

"That is good of you," answered Mr. Jefferson--and Georgiana liked the
frank tone of his voice. It was an educated voice, it spoke for itself
of the personality behind it.

"I will go and talk with my daughter," she heard her father say, after
the two men had had some little conversation concerning a book or two
lying on the table by Mr. Warne's couch.

Georgiana fled into the kitchen, where her father found her. When he
appeared, closing the door behind him, she was ready for him before he
spoke.

"If he were the angel Gabriel or old Pluto himself I'd welcome him," she
said under her breath, her eyes dancing. "To have somebody in the house
for you to talk with besides your everlasting old parishioners--why, it
would be worth a world of trouble! And it won't be any trouble at all.
Go tell him your daughter reluctantly consents."

"You heard, then?" queried Mr. Warne, a quizzical smile on his gentle
lips.

"Of course I heard! I was listening hard! I was all ears--regular donkey
ears. He's a godsend. His board will pay for sirloin instead of round.
We'll have roast duck on Sunday--twice a winter. He can have the big
front room; I'll have it ready by to-morrow night."

"Come in and arrange details," urged Mr. Warne.

Georgiana stayed behind a minute to compose her face and manner, then
went in, the demurest of young housewives. Not for nothing had been her
years of college life, which had made, when occasion demanded, a quietly
poised woman out of a girl who had been, according to village standards,
a somewhat hoydenish young person.

As she faced the stranger in the full light of the fire-and-lamp-lit
room, she saw in detail that of which she had had a swift earlier
impression. Mr. Jefferson was a man in, she thought, the early thirties,
with a strongly modelled, shaven face, keen brown eyes behind
eyeglasses, a mouth which could be grave one moment and humorous the
next, and the air of a man who was accustomed to think for himself and
expect others to do so. He was well built though not tall, well dressed
though not dapper, and he looked less like a writer of books than a
participant in action of some kind or other. His dark hair showed a
thread or two of gray at the temples, but this suggestion of age did not
seem at all to age him.

The stranger, on his part, saw a rather more than commonly charming
Georgiana, on account of the Indian-red silk frock.

"It's not fair to him," thought Georgiana, "to show him a landlady who
looks so festive and fine. I can't afford to wear this often, even for
his benefit." But to him she said: "I know it will give my father much
pleasure to have some one in the house besides his daughter. And I am
quite willing to have you at our table. I must warn you that we live
very simply, as you must guess."

"I live very simply myself," Mr. Jefferson assured her. "There are few
things I do not like. My one serious antipathy is Brussels sprouts," he
added, smiling. "With that confession the coast is clear. And--you
would not mind my smoking in my room?"

Georgiana glanced at her father with a suddenly mischievous expression.
He was studying the prospective boarder with interested eyes.

"I think," confessed Mr. Warne, "that merely to catch a whiff now and
then of a fragrance which is singularly pleasant to me, but which I am
denied producing for myself, would add to the things that give me
comfort. If you wouldn't mind smoking in the hall now and then, or,
better yet, by my fireside, I should be grateful."

Mr. Jefferson nodded. "Thank you, sir. And now--when may I come? I have
a room at the hotel, so don't let me in until you are quite ready."

"You may come to-morrow night for supper," promised Georgiana. "But you
haven't seen the room." She rose.

"It will be in the upper right front?" hazarded Mr. Jefferson. "And it
will have the customary furnishings and some means of heating?"

"I should prefer to have you see it," she insisted, and lighted a candle
in an ancient pewter candlestick with an extinguisher at the side.

So the stranger, following her upstairs, surveyed his room and professed
himself entirely satisfied. It looked bare enough to Georgiana as she
showed it to him, but she told herself that there were possibilities in
the matter of certain belongings of her own room which could be
transferred to give an air of homelikeness to this.

"It is large, and I can have plenty of light and air," commented the
prospective boarder. "If I might have some sort of good-sized table by
that south window, for my work, I should consider myself provided for."

"You will find one when you come," promised the girl.

"Thank you. Now, I will take myself off at once. Then you may have a
chance to discuss with your father the probabilities in favour of your
not regretting your quick decision," he said as he descended the stairs.

"Father and I always make quick decisions," Georgiana remarked.

"Good! So do I. Do you hold to them as well?"

"Always. That's part of father's creed."

"That's very good; that speaks for itself. Well, I promise you I shall
be busy enough not to bother this household overmuch. By the way"--he
turned suddenly--"that table you spoke of putting in my room--if it is
large, it must be heavy. Your father cannot help you lift it, and you
should not lift it alone. Don't put it in place until I come--please?"

She smiled. "That's very thoughtful of you. But I am quite equal to
moving it alone."

"Then let me help you now, won't you?" he offered.

She shook her head. "It's really not ready to be moved. Don't think of
it again, please."

He bade them good-night and went away, with no lingering speeches on the
road to the door. He had the air of a man accustomed to measure his time
and to waste none of it. When he had gone Georgiana went back to her
father. He looked up at her with a twinkle in his still boyish eyes.

"Well, daughter, it looks to me as if this had happened just in time to
prevent a bad explosion from too high pressure of accumulated energy.
You can now lower the position of the indicator on the steam gauge to
the safety point by spending the whole day to-morrow in sweeping and
dusting and baking. If there are any spare moments you can employ them
in making over your clothes."

"Father Davy! Where did you get such a perfectly uncanny understanding?"

"From observation--purely from observation. And I myself confess to
feeling considerably excited and elated. It is not every day that a
gentleman of this sort knocks at the door of a village manse and asks to
come in and write a book. If it had not been that my old friend Davidson
is always bringing people together who need each other, I should think
it the strangest thing in the world that this should happen. Davidson
is the minister of a great New York church where this Mr. Jefferson
attends; and Davidson has never forgotten me, though he took the high
road and I the low so soon after he left the seminary. Well, it will
give us a fresh interest, my dear, for as long as it lasts."

Georgiana thought it would. She was up betimes next morning, to begin
the sweeping and dusting and general turning upside down of the
long-unused upper front room. In the course of her window washing, her
shoulders enveloped in an old red shawl, she was vigorously hailed from
below.

"Ship ahoy! Your name, cargo, and destination?"

Without turning she called merrily back: "The Jefferson, with a cargo of
books, bound for the public!"

"What's that? I don't get you."

"Never mind. I'm too busy to be spoken by every passing ship."

"I'll be up," called the voice, and footsteps sounded upon the porch.
The front door banged, the same ringing male voice was heard shouting a
"Good-morning, sir!" and the owner of the voice came leaping up the
stairs and burst into the room without ceremony. He advanced till he was
close to the open window, and nodded through the glass at the
window-washer, who sat on the sill with her upper body outside.

He was a fine specimen of youth and brawn and energy, the young man whom
Georgiana had pointed out to her friends as one of her resources when it
came to the good times they were so anxious to know of. His name was
James Stuart, and he was a near neighbour of the manse. He was a college
graduate of three years' longer standing than Georgiana, and he, like
her, had returned to the country home and his father's farm because his
aging parents could not spare him, and he was the only son whose lack of
other ties left him free to care for them. He and this girl had been
schoolmates and long-time friends--with interesting intervals of enmity
during the earlier years--and were now sworn comrades, though they still
quarrelled at times. It looked, after a minute, as if this would be one
of those times.

"I didn't just get you," complained James Stuart through the window.

"Wait till I come in. I can't tell all the neighbours."

Georgiana polished off her last pane, pushed up the window and slipped
into the room, quite unnecessarily assisted by Stuart.

"I can't understand," began the young man, eying with approval her
blooming face, frost-stung and smooth in texture as the petals of a
rose, "why you're washing the windows of a room that's always shut up."

"Jimps, if you were Mrs. Perkins next door I'd understand your consuming
curiosity. As it is----"

"Going to have company?"

She shook her head.

"Then--what in thunder----"

"We're going to have a boarder, if you must know." Georgiana began to
attack the inside of the window.

"A boarder! What sort?"

"A very good sort. He's a literary person with a book to write."

"Suffering cats! Not the man at the hotel?"

"I believe he was to exist at the hotel--if he could--for twenty-four
hours," admitted Georgiana.

"But that man," objected Mr. James Stuart, "is a--why, he's--he doesn't
look like that sort at all."

"What sort, if you please?"

"The literary. He looks like a--well, I took him for a professional man
of some kind."

Georgiana laughed derisively. "Jimps! Isn't authorship a profession?"

"Well, I mean, you know, he doesn't look like an ink-slinger; he looks
like some sort of a doer. He hasn't that dreamy expression. He sees with
both eyes at once. In other words, he seems to be all there."

"Your idea of literary men is a disgrace to your education, Jimps. Think
of the author-soldiers and author-engineers--and author-Presidents of
the United States," she ended triumphantly.

"It doesn't matter," admitted Stuart. "The thing that does is that he's
coming here. I can't say that appeals to me. How in time did he come to
apply?" Georgiana told him briefly. Stuart looked gloomy. "That's all
right," he said, "as long as he confines himself to being company for
your father. But if he takes to being company for you--lookout!"

"Absurd! He's years older than I, and he said he would be working very
hard. I shall see nothing of him except at the table. Heavens! don't
grudge us anything that promises to relieve the monotony of our lives
even a little bit."

Stuart whistled. "Monotony, eh? In spite of all my visits? All right.
But I'd be just as well pleased if he wore skirts. And mind you--your
Uncle Jimps is coming over evenings just as often as and a little
oftener than if you didn't have this literary light burning on your
hearthstone. See?"

He went away, his thick fair hair, uncapped, shining in the morning
sunlight, his arm waving a friendly farewell back at the window, where a
white cloth flapped in reply.

"Dear old boy!" thought the young woman affectionately; "what should I
do without him?"

That afternoon, just before the supper hour, the boarder's trunk
arrived. It was borne upstairs by the village baggageman, complaining
bitterly of its weight. It was an aristocratic-looking trunk, and it
bore labels which indicated that it was a traveled trunk. Shortly
afterward the boarder himself appeared and was allowed to betake himself
at once to his room, from which he emerged at the call of the bell, and
came promptly down. Meeting Mr. Warne limping slowly through the hall,
he offered his arm, and in the dining-room placed his host in his chair
with the gentle deference so welcome from a younger man to an older.

Georgiana, as she served one of the undeniably simple but toothsome
meals for the cooking of which she was equipped by many years'
apprenticeship, noted how bright grew Father Davy's face as the supper
progressed, and how delightfully the newcomer talked--and listened--for
if he was an interesting talker he proved to be a still more
accomplished listener. When the supper was over Mr. Jefferson lingered a
few minutes by the fire, then went up to his room, explaining that he
must unpack his books and make ready for an early attack in the morning
upon his work.

In her own room, that night, Georgiana lay awake for a long time. Just
before she went to sleep she addressed herself sternly:

"My child, I shouldn't wonder if you've jumped out of the frying pan of
monotony into the fire of unrest. It certainly means trouble for you
when you can't get a perfect stranger's face out of your mind for an
hour. Now, there's just one thing about it: you've always despised girls
who let themselves leap into liking any man and are so upset by it that
everybody sees it. This one is undoubtedly either married or engaged to
be, and even if he's the freest old bachelor alive you are to behave as
if he were the tightest tied. You are to go straight ahead with your
work and to remember every minute that you are a poor minister's
daughter with only a college training for an asset. He's very clearly a
man of importance somewhere; he couldn't look like that and be anything
else. He will never think twice of you. Whatever attention he gives you
will be purely because he is a gentleman and he can't ignore his host's
daughter--nonsense, his landlady--I might as well face it. He's a
boarder and I'm his landlady. Gentlemen don't take much interest in
landladies. So now, Georgiana Warne, landlady--keeper of a
boarding-house, be sensible and go to sleep."

But before she went to sleep her mind, in spite of her, had imaged for
her again the interesting, clever-looking face of the stranger under the
roof, with his clear, straightforward glance that seemed to see so much,
his smile which disclosed splendid teeth, his strongly moulded chin. And
she had owned, frankly, driven to the confession just to see if it
wouldn't relieve her:

"It's just such a face as I've seen and liked--in crowds sometimes--but
I never knew the owner of one. It's such a face as a woman would
remember to her grave, if its owner had just belonged to her one--hour!
Oh, dear God, I've prayed you to let something happen--anything! And now
I'm--afraid!"

But, in the morning, when pulses beat strongly and courage is bright,
Georgiana had another tone to take with herself. She faced her image in
the glass, which looked straight back at her with unflinching dark eyes.

"I'm ashamed of you! To moon and croon like that! Now, brace up, Miss
Warne, and be yourself. You've never lacked spirit; you're not going to
lack it now. You're going to be strong and sane about this thing. You're
going to be the sort of girl whose mind no man can guess at. You're
going to weave rugs for your life, and enjoy Jimps Stuart as you always
have, and there's not going to be a whimper out of you from this hour,
no matter what happens--or doesn't happen. Do you hear? Well,
then--attention! Head up, shoulders back, heart steady; forward,
_march_!"

Two hours later, when, in the absence of the new inmate, Georgiana went
into his room to put it in order for the day, she found it impossible
not to note the character of his belongings. They were few and simple
enough, but in every detail they betrayed a fastidious taste. And among
the articles in ebony and leather which lay upon the linen cover of the
old bureau stood one which held her fascinated attention. It was a
framed photograph of a young and very lovely woman in evening dress, and
the face which smiled over the perfect shoulder was looking straight out
at her.

Georgiana stared back. "Who are you?" she whispered. "I might have known
you would be here!"

"And who, please, are you?" the picture seemed to query lightly, smiling
in return for the other's frown. "As for me, don't you see plainly? I
belong to him. Else why should he have me here? You see I'm the only one
he cared to bring. Doesn't that speak for itself?"

"Of course it does," agreed Georgiana; then stoutly: "And why should I
care? Of course I don't care. To care would be--absurd!"



CHAPTER III

A SEMI-ANNUAL OCCURRENCE


"Father Davy, the 'Semi-Annual' has come!" Georgiana, tugging with both
strong young arms, hauled the big express package into the living-room
of the old manse, and shut the door with a bang. Breathing rapidly from
her exertions, her cheeks warmly flushed, her dark eyes glowing, she
stood over the package, looking at her father with a curious sort of
smile not wholly compounded of joy and satisfaction.

"That is very good," said Father Davy in his pleasant voice; "and very
opportune. It was but yesterday, it seems to me, that I heard daughter
declaring that she was 'Oh, so shabby!'"

"Yes, yes--but what do you wager there is there?" questioned Georgiana.
"I can tell you before I take the cover off. Three evening gowns,
frivolous and impossible for a little town like this; one draggled
lingerie frock, two evening coats, and possibly--just possibly--a last
year's tailored suit, with a tear in the front of the skirt and not a
scrap of goods to make a fold to cover it. Why, oh, why, do they never
have any pieces?"

"The reason seems obvious enough," Mr. Warne suggested, as the girl
stooped and began to wrestle with the cords which tied the big package.
His glance fell musingly on the down-bent head with its masses of
dark-brown hair, upon the white and shapely arms from which the sleeves
were rolled back,--Georgiana had been busy in the kitchen when the
expressman came,--upon the whole comely young figure in its blue-print
morning dress. "They never have need of the pieces, I should judge,"
said he.

"But I have. Jeannette might think of me when she orders her clothes,
not just when her maid is packing the box with a lot of castaways. Well,
here's hoping there's just one thing I can use," and she lifted the
cover of the box and looked within, it cannot be denied, with eager
curiosity.

"There are always many things you can use," her father gently reminded
her; "you, who are so ingenious."

"Here's the evening frock!" cried his daughter, lifting out the top
garment and holding it up before them both. "Oh, what a dress to send a
poor country cousin! Fluff and flimsy, trimmed with sparklers; cut
frightfully low, no sleeves, and a draggly train. Doesn't it look
suitable for me?" She flung it aside with a gesture of scorn. "Ah,
here's something a shade better! A little dancing frock of
rose-coloured chiffon--and her clumsy partner stepped on the hem of it.
The maid in the dressing-room sewed it up for her to have her last dance
in, and then she came home and threw it into the box for me. Well, I can
get a gorgeous motor veil out of it--I who have so many drives in the
cars of the rich!"

"The--the under part looks available to me," suggested Mr. Warne,
striving to be of comfort.

Georgiana shrugged her blue-clad shoulders. "Oh, yes, if I could dress
in slitted silk petticoats and you could wear them for dressing-gowns,
we'd have plenty. Well, look at _this_! Here's a velvet--cerise! What a
glorious, impossible colour! And here's the lingerie frock; that's not
so bad; I really think it will stand a couple of launderings before it
falls to pieces in my hands. And here's the evening coat--pale gray with
fox trimmings--and she's fallen foul of some ink or something, and the
cleaner couldn't get it all out. Father Davy, look!"

"It seems to me," said Mr. Warne in his gentle tones, which were yet not
without more firmness than one might expect from so frail a person,
"that I have heard somewhere a homely proverb to the effect that it is
not quite in good taste to----"

"'_Look a gift horse in the mouth,_'" finished Georgiana. Her eyes were
rebellious. "And there's another: '_Beggars mustn't be choosers._' Yes,
I know. Only, semi-annually I certainly do experience a burning wish
that my dear rich relations were persons with a trifle keener sense of
discernment as to which of their old clothes would be most appreciated
by their poor cousins. They must now and then, Father Davy, wear
something sensible. They must have morning clothes and street
clothes--adorable ones. Why do they send only the worldly clothes to the
manse? And why--_why_ do they never put in so much as one of Uncle
Thomas's discarded cravats for the Little Minister himself?"

"Your Uncle Thomas and I may possibly have different tastes in the
matter of neckwear," replied Mr. Warne with such gravity of manner but
such a sparkle of humour in his blue-gray eyes that his daughter laughed
in spite of herself. "Come, come, dear, is there nothing you can approve
among all those rich materials? You might make me innumerable cravats,
and I am such a fop I could wear a fresh one each day--to please you."

"Father Davy!" Georgiana sat back on her heels. She had slipped her
bared arms into the armholes of the sleeveless white "fluff-and-flimsy"
evening frock, and the "sparklers" of the low-cut bodice now framed her
blue-print clad shoulders with an astonishing effect of incongruity. "I
have a wonderful inspiration. Let's ask Jeannette out here for a
visit--an object-lesson as to the state of life whereunto the country
cousins have been called. She hasn't seen me in ten years, and all I
remember of her is a fluffy, yellow-haired girl with a sniffly cold in
her head. What do you say, Father Davy? Shall we ask her?"

Her father's gaze, quiet, comprehending, more than a little amused, met
Georgiana's, audacious, defiant, mischievous, yet reasonable. The two
looked at each other for a full minute.

"Do you think she would come?" Mr. Warne inquired doubtfully.

"Why shouldn't she come? She's had a gay winter so far, but not a happy
one. She's no debutante any more, you know; she's an 'old girl' in her
fifth season. That's what the society girls get by coming out at
eighteen. Now I, who am only a year out of college and who never 'came
out' in my life, am as keen at the game of being grown up as if I were
just putting up my hair for the first time. Well, Jeannette's been
keeping up the pace all winter, is thoroughly worn out and unhappy, and
doesn't know what to do with herself. It's March--and Lent--the time of
year when the society folks betake themselves to spring resorts to
recover their shattered nerves. Don't you think she'd jump at the chance
to come to the little country town and try what our air and our cookery
would do for her?"

"You seem to know all about her in spite of not having seen or known
her--except through these boxes of clothes--since she was a little
girl."

"Ah, that's just it--through her boxes--that's how I know her!"
Triumphantly Georgiana held up the cerise velvet gown. "Don't I know a
girl who would wear that? Wild for excitement--that's why she chose the
colour. But she didn't get the fun she expected; he didn't like it--or
somebody said she looked too pale in it--and she fired it at me before
she had done more than take the freshness off. _I_ can wear it--see
here!"

She got to her feet, untied the little black silk tie which held the
low-rolling collar of her working dress at the throat, unfastened a row
of hooks, and let the blue print slip to her feet. Over the glory of her
white shoulders and gleaming arms she flung the cerise velvet--gorgeous,
glowing, wonderful colour, as trying to the ordinary complexion as
colour can well be. But as the gown fell into place, and Georgiana,
backing up to her father, was fastened somewhat tentatively into it, it
would have been plain to any beholder that if the rich girl could not
wear the queenly, daring robe the poor girl could--as she had said.

She swept up and down the room, her head held high. She played the part
of a lady of fashion and held an imaginary reception, carrying on a
stream of "society" talk with a manner which made the pale man on the
couch laugh like a boy. Holding a dialogue with a hypothetical male
guest, she led him out into the hall, still within sight of Mr. Warne's
couch, and was in the midst of a scene as inspiredly clever as anything
she had ever done at college, where she had been the pride of a dramatic
club whose fame had waxed greater than that of any similar organization
for many years, when the front door of the house suddenly opened, and a
gust of chilly March air rushed in with the person entering.

Georgiana wheeled--to find herself confronting the amused gaze of her
boarder, Mr. E. C. Jefferson, as read the address upon his mail.

Mr. Jefferson was by this time, after a month under the roof of the old
manse, well established as a member of the household, though after the
somewhat remote fashion to be expected of a man whose absorbing work
filled most of his waking hours. He closed the door quickly as he caught
sight of Georgiana in her masquerade, removed his hat, and bent his head
before the cerise velvet.

Georgiana, blushing as vividly as if it were the first time mortal man
had ever beheld her pretty shoulders, threw him a laughing look,
murmured: "Dress parade in borrowed finery, Mr. Jefferson; don't let the
blaze of colour put your eyes out!" and retreated toward the living-room
where her father sat, much amused by the situation.

She was followed by her boarder's reply: "I find myself still happily
retaining the use of my eyes, Miss Warne. You need not be too much in
haste; it is very dull outside, I assure you."

He went on up the stairs, but she had caught his smile, momentarily
illumining a face which was ordinarily rather grave. Georgiana closed
the living-room door upon the sight of the lithe figure rapidly
ascending the staircase without a glance behind. As she faced her father
she assumed the expression of a merry child caught in mischief.

"Our new lodger has certainly come upon me in all sorts of situations,
not to mention disguises," she remarked, "but this is the first time he
has met me in the role of leading lady on the melodramatic stage. Please
unhook me, Father Davy; the play is over, and it's time to get the
pot-roast simmering. And what do you say to inviting lovely Jeannette
Crofton to visit us? Would it be too hard on you?"

"Not at all, my dear. I should be glad to see your Uncle Thomas's
daughter. Invite her, by all means. You have far too little young
companionship; it will do you good to have a girl of your own age in the
house."

"I wonder how we shall get on," mused Georgiana. "Anyhow she'll see what
a market this is for evening frocks cut on her lines!"



CHAPTER IV

A LITERARY LIGHT


Many hours afterward, the labours of the day over, Georgiana bent her
dark head above an old-fashioned writing-desk in a corner of the
living-room, and dashed off the contemplated letter to her almost
unknown cousin. How the invitation would be received she had little
idea, but since a letter of thanks was undeniably due in response to the
"Semi-Annual" box, it was certainly a simple and natural matter enough
to offer in return for it a possible pleasure and a certain benefit.

"I'll run straight down to the post-office and mail it," declared
Georgiana, sealing and stamping her letter after having read it aloud to
her father. "A run in this March wind will be good for me after baking
and brewing all day."

"Do, daughter; and take a tumbler or two of jelly to Mrs. Ames, by the
way. And pick a spray or two of the scarlet geranium to go with it." Mr.
Warne spoke from the depths of an old armchair by the living-room fire,
where, with a lamp at his elbow, he was not too deep in a speech of the
elder Pitt on "Quartering Soldiers in Boston," to take thought for an
invalid whom he considered far less fortunate than himself.

"I will--poor, disagreeable old lady. She doesn't admit that anything
tastes as it should, but I observe our jelly is never long in
disappearing."

Georgiana, now wearing in honour of the close of day a simple frock of
dark-blue wool with a dash of scarlet at throat and wrists, donned a big
military cape of blue, scarlet lined, and twisted about her neck a scarf
of scarlet silk (dyed from a Semi-Annual petticoat!), which served less
as a protection than as the finishing touch to her gay winter's night
costume. She was likely to meet few people on her way, but there were
always plenty of loungers in the small village post-office, and not even
a college graduate could be altogether disdainful of the masculine
admiration sure to be found there, though she might ignore it.

As she closed the house door, lifting her face to a cold, starlit sky
from which the clouds of the day had broken away at sundown, another
door a few rods down the quiet street banged loudly, and the sharp creak
of rapid footsteps was immediately to be heard upon the frozen gravel.
Georgiana smiled in the darkness at the coincidence of that banging
door.

"Well met!" called a ringing voice. "Curious that I should break out of
Mrs. Perkins's just as you came along!"

"Very curious, Jimps. How do you manage it? I stole out like a cat just
to avoid such a possibility. I knew you were there."

"Did you, indeed?" inquired the owner of the voice, coming up and
standing still to look at what he could see of the military-caped form.
His own strongly built figure took up its position beside hers as if by
right. His hand slipped lightly under her arm, and he turned her gently
to face the direction in which he himself had set out. "That's like your
impertinence. To pay you for it you shall come this way," he insisted.
"It's only a step farther, it's not quite so hackneyed, and it will
bring us out where we want to be. Look at the stars!"

"They're wonderful!"

"Carrying something under that cape? Give it to me, chum."

"It's only a bit of a basket, Jimps; never mind, you might spill it."

"You can't carry a bit of a basket when I'm around! Spill nothing! Hand
it over."

"Terribly dictatorial to-night, aren't you?"

"Possibly. I've been bossing a lot of new hands to-day, who didn't know
a pick from a gang-plough."

"But you've been outdoors every minute!" Her tone was envious.

"Every blessed minute. And you've been in, puttering over a lot of house
jobs? See here, you need a run. Let's take the time to go up Harmon
Hill and run down it--eh? There'll not be a soul to see."

She laughed doubtfully. "I'd love to, but--the jelly?"

"That's easy." He dropped her arm, turned aside to a clump of trees at
the corner of an overgrown old place which they were passing, and
deposited the little basket in the shadow. He came back and caught her
arm again.

"Easy, now, up the hill. I wish the snow wasn't all gone, we'd have a
farewell coast at the end of the season. But there'll undoubtedly be
more. Honestly, now, George, hasn't the coasting and tramping helped you
through this first winter?"

"Jimps, I don't know what I should have done without it--or you."

"Thanks; I think so myself. The first winter back in the little old
town, after the years away at school and college--well---- Anyhow, I
pride myself the partnership has worked pretty well. We've been about as
good chums as you could ask, haven't we now?"

"About as good."

"All right." His tone had a decided ring of satisfaction in it, but he
did not pursue the subject further. Instead he changed it abruptly: "How
does the new boarder come on?"

"Very well. We really don't mind having him at all, he's so quiet, and
Father enjoys his table talk."

"Father does, but daughter doesn't?"

"Oh, yes, I do--only he doesn't talk much to me. I sit and listen to
their discussions--and jump up to wait on them so often that I sometimes
lose the thread."

"The duffer! Why doesn't he get up and wait on you?"

Georgiana laughed. "Jimps, we're going to have another guest."

"Another man?" The question came quickly.

"Not at all. A girl--my cousin, Jeannette Crofton. At least I'm writing
to ask her for the fortnight before Easter."

"Those rich Crofton relations of yours who hold their heads so high for
no particular reason except that it helps them to forget their feet are
on the earth?"

"James Stuart, what have I ever said of them to make you speak like
that?"

"Never mind; go on. Is it the girl whose picture gets into the Sunday
papers--entirely against her will, of course--as the daughter of Thomas
Crofton? She's reported engaged, from time to time, and then the report
is denied. She's----"

"I shall tell you no more about her," said Georgiana Warne, with her
head held quite as high as if she belonged to that branch of the family
to whom James Stuart had so irreverently alluded.

"All right. I'm not interested in her anyhow, and you'll want your
breath for the run down. Come on, George; one more spurt and we're
up.... All ready. Take hold of my hand. Come on!"

In the March starlight the two ran hand in hand down the long, steep
Harmon Hill which led from the east into the little town. Stuart's grip
was tight, or more than once Georgiana would have slipped on the rough
iciness of the descent. But she did not falter at the rush of it, and
she was not panting, only breathing quickly, when they came to a
standstill upon the level.

"Good lungs, those of yours, George," commented Stuart, in the frank
manner in which he might have said it to a younger brother. "You haven't
played basket ball and rowed in your 'Varsity boat for nothing. Sure
you're not letting up a bit on all that training, now that you're back,
baking beans for boarders?"

"And sweeping their rooms, and carrying up wood for their fires,
and----"

"What? Do you mean to say that literary light allows you to tote wood
for him?" They were walking on rapidly now. "I'll be over in the morning
and take up a pile that'll leave no room for him to put his feet. What's
he thinking of?"

"Jimps, boy, how absurd you are! How should he know who puts the wood in
his room? I don't go up with armfuls of it when he's there."

"If you did, he'd merely open the door for you and say: 'Thank you very
much, my good girl.' I don't like this boarder business, I can tell you
that. Do you let him smoke in his room?"

"Why not, you unreasonable mortal? He smokes a beautiful briarwood, and
such delicious tobacco that I find myself sniffing the air when I go
through the hall in the evening, hoping I may get a whiff."

"Does, eh? When I bring up the wood I'll smoke up your hall so you won't
have to sniff the air to know you're enjoying the fragrance of Araby."

In this light and airy mood the pair went on their way, enjoying each
other's company as might any boy and girl, though each had left the
irresponsible years behind and had settled down to the sober work of
manhood and womanhood. To Georgiana Warne, whose necessary presence at
home, instead of out in the great world of activity where she longed to
be, Stuart's society, as he had intimated, had been a strong support
during this first year and a half since her return. The singularly
similar circumstances which had shaped the plans of these two young
people had been the means of inspiring much comprehending sympathy
between them. An almost lifelong previous acquaintance had put them on a
footing of brotherly and sisterly intimacy, now powerfully enhanced by
the sense of need each felt for the other. It was small wonder that
their fellow-townsmen were accustomed to couple their names as they
would those of a pair long betrothed, and that, as the two came together
into the village post-office, where as usual a group of citizens lounged
and lingered on one pretext or another, the appearance of "Jim Stuart
and Georgie Warne" should cause no comment whatever. To-night more than
one idler noted, as often before, the fashion in which the two were
outwardly suited to each other. Both were the possessors of the superb
health which is such a desirable ally to true vigour of mind, and since
both were understood to be, in the village usage, "highly educated,"
their attraction for each other was considered a natural sequence--as it
undoubtedly was.

The mail procured, the letter posted, and the small basket delivered to
a querulously grateful old woman, the young people set out for home.
They had somehow fallen into a more serious mood, and, walking more
slowly than before, discussed soberly enough certain problems of
Stuart's connected with the commercial side of market gardening. He
spoke precisely as he would have spoken to a man, with the possible
difference that he made his explanations of business conditions a trifle
fuller than he might have done to any man. But his confidence in his
friend's ability to grasp the situation was shown by the way in which,
ending his statement of the case, he asked her advice.

"Now, given just this crisis, what would you do, George?" he said.

She considered in silence for some paces. Then she asked a question or
two more, put with a clearness which showed that she understood
precisely the points to be taken into consideration. He answered
concisely, and she then, after a minute's further communion with
herself, suggested what seemed to her a feasible course.

Stuart demurred, thought it over, argued the thing for a little with
her, and came round to her point of view. He threw back his head with a
relieved laugh. "I admit it--it's a mighty good suggestion; it may be
the way out. Anyhow, it's well worth trying. George, you're a peach!
There isn't one girl in a hundred who would have listened with
intelligence enough to make her opinion worth a picayune."

"I'm not a girl, Jimps. I don't want to be a girl--at twenty-four. I
can't; I haven't time."

"That's a safe enough statement," replied James Stuart, looking down at
the dark head beside him under the March starlight, "as long as you
continue to act enough like a normal girl to run down the hills with me
after dark. Well, here we are, worse luck! I suppose you're not going
to ask me in?" There was a touch of appeal in the lightly spoken
question.

"Not to-night, Jimps; I'm sorry. Father Davy overdid to-day, in spite of
all my efforts, and I must see him to bed early and read him to sleep."

"After he's gone the literary light won't come down and smoke his
spices-of-Araby mixture by your fire, instead of his own, while you
entertain him, will he?"

Her low laugh rang out. "You ridiculous person, what a vivid imagination
you have! Every evening at about this time the literary light goes off
for a long tramp by himself, and often doesn't come back till all our
lights are out, except the one we leave burning for him. He is
absolutely absorbed in his work. We really see nothing at all of him
except at the table."

"Just the same, the time will come," predicted James Stuart. "Some night
he'll take his regular place at your fireside, as he does at your table.
I know your father's soft heart. Yours may not be quite so vulnerable,
but if the boarder should happen to look low in his mind after a
telegram from anywhere, or should get his precious feet wet----"

"Jimps, go home and be sensible. When Jeannette comes--if she does come,
which I doubt more and more--you may be asked over quite a number of
times during her visit."

"I presume so. And that's the time you'll have Jefferson down, and
you'll pair off with him, while I do my prettiest not to look like an
awkward countryman before the lady who has her picture in the Sunday
papers."

"Good-night, James Stuart--good-night."

"Good-night, Georgiana--dear," Stuart responded cheerfully. But the last
word was under his breath.



CHAPTER V

SHABBINESS


"I positively didn't know how shabby the house was till I'd read
Jeannette's letter of acceptance!"

She did not say it to her father--not Georgiana Warne. She said it not
to James Stuart, nor to Mr. E. C. Jefferson. Being Georgiana, she said
it to no one but her slightly daunted self. She was standing in the hall
as she spoke, the wide, plain hall which ran straight through the middle
of the wide, plain house, with its square rooms on either side and its
winding, old-fashioned staircase at the back. Of the house itself,
Georgiana was not in the least ashamed. She knew that it possessed a
certain charm of aspect, from the fanlight over the entrance door to the
big quaint kitchen with its uneven floor dark with time. It was when one
came to details that the charm sordidly vanished--at least to the
critical vision of the young housewife. Like the worn white paint upon
its exterior, the walls and floors within called loudly for a restoring
hand. As for the furnishings, Georgiana looked about her with an
appraising eye which took in all their dinginess. The old rugs and
carpets were so nearly threadbare; the furniture was so worn; the very
muslin curtains at the windows, though white as hands could make them,
had been so many times repaired that even artful draping could not
wholly conceal their deficiencies.

In other ways the household's lack of means made itself plainly apparent
to the daughter of the house, as she went from room to room. The linen
press, for instance--how pitifully low its piles of sheets and towels
had grown! Hardly a sheet but had a patch upon it, hardly a towel but
had been cut down and rehemmed, that it might last as long as possible.
There was, to be sure, one small tier of towels, handed down from
Georgiana's grandmother and carefully preserved against much using, of
which any mistress of a linen press might be proud. There were also two
pairs of fine hand-made linen sheets with borders exquisitely drawn; two
pairs of pillow cases to match, and a quite wonderful old bedspread of
knitted lace.

"I can keep washing out the best towels for her," Georgiana reflected
resignedly as she counted her resources.

In the china cupboard there was left quite a stock of rare old plates
and dishes which could be used as occasion demanded. The blue-and-white
crockery which must serve a part of the time was pretty meagre, the
supply of antique silver good as far as it went; it did not go very far.

But--"After all," said Georgiana to herself determinedly, "we can give
her good things to eat, and served as attractively as need be--why
should I mind about the rest? Father in his armchair is a benediction to
any meal, and Mr. Jefferson can talk as few guests can who sit at the
Crofton table, I'll wager. I'll not be apologetic, even in my mind, no
matter how much I feel like it. I've asked her and she's coming. She
wouldn't be coming if she wasn't in a way willing to take what she
finds. We'll have a good time out of it."

Whereupon she betook herself to the room which was to be given to her
cousin, and fell to work with a will, for this was the last thing to be
done before the arrival of the guest.

When it was in order she looked about it, not ill content. It would be
an exacting guest, surely, who could not be comfortable here--and there
are many guest-rooms of elaborate appointments where guests are not
wholly comfortable. This room was large and square and airy, with its
four windows facing east and south, and the view from the eastern ones
was far-reaching, with a glimpse of blue mountain ranges in the
distance. If the matting upon the floor had been many times turned and
refitted, its worn places were now all cunningly hidden and it was as
fresh as the newly scrubbed paint on the woodwork. There was a
luxuriously cushioned, high-backed chair--would Jeannette, by any
possibility, recognize the blue silk of those cushion covers? Georgiana
wondered. Jeannette, who never wore a frock long enough really to become
familiar with its pattern, would only know that the cushions were soft
to her comfort-accustomed body. The woven rag rugs of blue and white
upon the floor were of Georgiana's own making. An ancient desk, which
had belonged to Mr. Warne's mother, was carefully fitted with all the
small articles one could desire in reason, taken from Georgiana's
cherished college equipment. The washstand in the corner, behind a
home-made screen of clever design, was furnished with two beautiful old
blue-and-white ewers--the pride of Georgiana's heart, for they had come
over from England with her great grandmother; and the rack was hung as
full with towels as fastidious bather could desire. There were two or
three interesting old prints upon the walls. Altogether, with its small
bedroom fireplace laid ready for a fire, and a blue denim-covered
woodbox filled to overflowing with more wood----

She had forgotten to fill the woodbox, as yet. It was nearly time to
dress for Jeannette's coming. Georgiana ran hurriedly downstairs and
through the kitchen, warm and fragrant with the baking of the day in
preparation for the coming supper, and in that pleasant order which the
kitchen of the good housewife shows at four in the afternoon. In the
woodshed beyond she gathered a great armful of wood, not to bother with
the basket, which would not hold so much--and hurried back again, making
toward the front stairs this time, because the back stairs were narrow
and steep, and one could not rush up them at great speed with one's arms
full of wood.

"Wait a minute, please, Miss Warne!"

The front door of the house shut with a bang, and hasty footsteps caught
up with Georgiana at the foot of the stairs, just as one big stick
tumbled loose from her hold and went crashing down behind her.

"Oh, never mind," she panted. The load was much heavier than she had
realized, but she had not meant to be caught upon the front stairs with
it--not even if it had been James Stuart who came to her rescue.

It was not Stuart, but evidently one quite of Stuart's mind, for
Georgiana now found her arms unburdened of their heavy incumbrance
without further parley, and herself put where she belonged by this cool
command:

"Never carry a load like this when you have a man in the house."

"But--but we haven't!" objected Georgiana, her voice a trifle
breathless. She followed Mr. Jefferson, as he strode up the stairs with
the wood. She opened the door of the guest-room and lifted the cover of
the woodbox.

"Haven't?" he questioned, dumping the wood into the box, and then
stooping to rearrange it. "Would you object to telling me what you
consider me, then?"

It was on the tip of her tongue to tell him that he was supposed to be a
literary light, but she restrained the too-familiar speech.

"You are, of course, a boarder--a 'paying guest,' as we should say, if
we were some people," she observed with gravity. "You are expected to
complain of whatever service you receive, not to offer any under any
circumstances."

"I see. Were you intending to fill this box?"

He stood upright, and his glance wandered from the box in question
around the pleasant room in its fresh and expectant order. But it came
discreetly back to Georgiana's face.

"Not at all," she denied. "There's quite enough there for to-night."

He nodded, and went toward the door. "The woodshed is, I suppose, beyond
the kitchen, after the fashion of woodsheds, and the kitchen is beyond
the dining-room?"

"Please don't bother!"

Of course it was useless to protest--and she followed him down the
stairs, through dining-room and kitchen to the woodshed. As he passed
through the kitchen he stopped and stood still in the middle of it.

"May I look for a minute?" he asked. "It takes me back to my boyhood. My
mother used just such a kitchen as this. I thought it the best room in
the house."

His lips took on a smile as he looked. Georgiana, with her own hands,
had scoured every inch of that kitchen, had made to shine brilliantly
every utensil which had in it possibilities of shining. It was
impossible not to feel a housewifely pride in the appearance of the
place, and to exult in the spicy odours which told of the morning's
bakings.

Mr. Jefferson, going on into the woodshed and returning with a
well-balanced load of wood which put Georgiana's late attempt to the
blush, assured her that he felt personally competent to attend to the
woodbox without further aid from her, and marched away as if he were
quite accustomed to such tasks.

It may be here stated that next day, when in his absence she looked into
his room to see if the woodbox there were quite empty, she found it
quite full, though she could not possibly remember when he had
discovered the opportunity to do the deed without her knowledge. And
from this time forth, during the remainder of his stay, she was obliged
to resign herself to the fact that the "man in the house," though he
might be a boarder, would permit no interference with this self-assumed
task.

Jeannette had written that she would arrive on a certain Thursday
afternoon between four and five, being conveyed by motor from the large
city, sixty miles away, which was her home. Georgiana, therefore, with
memories of college days again strong upon her, made ready to serve
afternoon tea beside the living-room fire.

"Be prepared to have this function every day while the guest is here,
Father Davy," said she. "Jeannette's undoubtedly accustomed to it and
would miss it more than she could miss any other one thing. But she's to
have only the plainest of thin bread and butter with it, since our
six-o'clock village supper comes so soon after. We mustn't pamper her,
must we?"

Mr. Warne, in his armchair by the fireside, ready to welcome the guest,
looked up at his daughter with bright eyes. "Pampering," said he, "is
the atmosphere of this house. Jeannette cannot escape it. I am pampered
beyond belief every day of my life. At this very moment my eyes are
feasting upon the sight of my child in what must be an absolutely new
old dress!"

A peculiar expression crossed Georgiana's face as she glanced down at
the soft gray-blue of the afternoon frock she had donned for the
occasion.

"I'm wondering if she will recognize it," she murmured. "It was one of
the white evening gowns in that last 'Semi-Annual.' I coloured it
myself--as usual. It really came out pretty well, but it gives me a
queer, conscious feeling to be wearing it when I meet her. Do you
suppose she'll know it, Father Davy?"

"And if she does?" The tone was that of a tender irony.

"I suppose I'm an idiot to care! I don't care--_but I do_!" Georgiana
flung a look at the slim man in the big chair, which said that she was
confident of his understanding her, no matter what she said.

"No false pride, daughter," he warned her. "You can tell the big man
from the little one by the character of the things he is willing to
accept. There was never any stigma attached to wearing the discarded
garments of another, provided they were come by honestly. And when one
has coloured them, into the bargain--and looks like the 'Portrait of a
Lady' in them----"

"Father Davy, you're the most comforting creature!" And Georgiana
dropped a kiss upon the top of the head which rested against the back of
the worn old armchair.

If she had not been watching from the window she would not have known
when the Crofton car drew up at the door, so quietly did the great,
shining motor roll down the macadamized road which ran through the main
street of the little town. She was out and down the manse path in
hospitable alacrity, yet not without the dignity of which she was
mistress.

So this was the guest whom she had ventured to ask down to the
hospitality of the shabby old village manse! If she had been a princess,
Miss Jeannette Crofton could not more thoroughly have looked the part.
Georgiana had known many rich men's daughters at college and had found
close friends among them, but no one of them had ever suggested such a
background of luxury as did this slim and graceful girl, as she set her
pretty foot upon the old box-bordered gravel path. She was rather small
of stature, her fair-haired beauty was of a strikingly attractive type,
and every detail of her attire and belongings breathed of wealth and
fashion. Georgiana felt herself instantly a buxom milkmaid beside her.



CHAPTER VI

WHEN ROYALTY COMES


"It was so good of you to ask me," said Jeannette in a voice of much
sweetness, as she put out her hand to her cousin. Then she turned to the
man in livery who stood at attention by the door of the car. "You may
take this coat back with you, Dennis," she said; and she let him remove
from her shoulders the long, fur-lined cloak she had worn for the March
drive. He gathered together her belongings, as she walked up the path
with Georgiana, and he afterward went back for a long motor trunk which
had been brought upon the back of the car. Besides this was a larger
receptacle of black leather which he brought and deposited in the hall.

"Dennis can take all these to my room for me," said Jeannette, with more
appreciation of the situation than Georgiana had expected. Dennis did
not look altogether pleased with this task, but he performed it and was
rewarded by a smile from his young mistress, which promised to soothe
his injured dignity at some future time.

Mr. Warne, rising slowly from the armchair as Jeannette was brought
into his presence, looked keenly into the face of his sister's daughter.
Her fine clothing was nothing to him; he could not have told what she
wore; but he was interested in learning what she might be, herself. It
was something of a test for any stranger, the meeting of that clear look
of his, kindly though it was sure to be. With all his appearance of
frailty and exhaustion, one felt instinctively that whatever had
happened to the body, the mind was intact and resolute with energy, the
judgment swift and accurate.

As they all took tea together Georgiana could feel their guest striving
to adjust herself to her entertainers. Her manner was very charming,
though a little languid, a little weary, as if she were tired with her
long drive--and with other things besides. But there was that about her
which proclaimed her unmistakably the gentlewoman, and this was good to
know. She got on well with her newly discovered uncle, and he with her.
Indeed, the simplicity and straight-forwardness of Father Davy's manner
with every one, his keen observation, his ready imagination, would have
put him instantly on an equal footing with the most exalted of his
fellow-creatures. It could do no less with his niece, no matter how new
to her his type of man might be, nor how new to him the fashion of her
speech and smile.

This was a pleasant beginning. But if Georgiana, before her guest
arrived, had thought the old house shabby, she felt it now to be
positively shambling. She struggled mightily against this attitude of
mind, knowing that it was unworthy of her, but, as she led this
wonderful, winsome creature, whom she knew to be accustomed only to the
softnesses of life, up over the worn stair carpeting to the room she had
prepared for her, she was wondering how she herself had ever conceived
the preposterous idea of inviting her cousin to visit her; the task of
making this daughter of luxury comfortable, even for a fortnight, seemed
suddenly so impossible.

"Oh, how very attractive!" exclaimed Jeannette, as she was taken into
the room over which Georgiana had spent so much thought. "I shall love
it here!"

That was to be her attitude, thought Georgiana. Being exceedingly
well-bred, the guest was prepared to like everything that was done for
her. Though this was precisely what was to be expected and desired,
Georgiana found herself already irritated by it--most unreasonably, it
must be admitted.

"I'm a jealous goose!" said she sternly to herself, and fell to helping
her cousin. There was something appealing about the girl's helplessness,
because she evidently tried hard not to show it. As the two lifted the
garments from the carefully packed trunk trays it was Georgiana who
found the right places for them in clothespress and bureau drawers. She
had seldom seen, never handled, such exquisite apparel, from the piles
of sheer, convent-embroidered linen to the frocks and wraps and négligés
which went into retirement on the padded hangers she had provided. She
realized, too, that elaborate as seemed to her the array of clothing
Jeannette had thought it necessary to bring for her visit, it was
probable that the girl herself had felt that she was having packed only
the simplest of her wardrobe and the least that a civilized being could
do with.

It was when Jeannette herself spread forth upon the little
dressing-table--cleverly contrived out of an old washstand, a long and
narrow mirror, and some odds and ends of muslin and lace--the articles
she was accustomed to use every day of her life, but which might have
been matched only in the homes of princes, that the young hostess found
it hardest to control the pang of envy which smote her. Such silver,
such crystal, such genuine ivory--and such sheer beauty of design and
finish! Yet Jeannette was almost awkward in her disposal of the imposing
array, saying with a laugh that she really couldn't remember how the
things went at home, but that it didn't matter in the least.

She set about removing her traveling clothes as if she never had been
waited upon in her life. It was only when she failed to discover how she
was put together that Georgiana had to come to the rescue.

"It's dreadfully stupid of me," protested Jeannette, her delicate cheeks
flushing, "but I simply can't find that absurd hook."

It was then that Georgiana frankly took the situation by its horns and
did away with all embarrassment.

"You must let me help you, Jean," she said, finishing the unhooking with
ease, "whenever you need it. I shall love to do it, for you might have
rather a bad time trying to do everything for yourself. There you
are--and please call me when you are ready to be fastened into your
other frock. I'm just around the corner, and there's nobody else at home
now."

Before supper was served, Georgiana prepared her cousin to meet "the
boarder." Not on any account would she have let his presence be
accounted for on the score of his being a guest in the house; not even
would she call him a "paying guest."

"Mr. Jefferson came to us through a letter from a friend. He said he
wanted a quiet place to work in, away from all interruptions by friends
or claims of any sort. He is writing a book, and we see as little of him
as if he were not in the house--except at the table. I think you will
like him. It's so long since we have had a man in the house we're not
yet used to it, but on the whole it's rather comforting."

"How interesting--to have a book being written in the house! Is it fact
or fiction, do you know?"

"I don't imagine it's fiction. He has piles of reference books, and a
great deal of mail, and--somehow--he doesn't look as if he wrote
fiction."

Yet, as Mr. Jefferson came into the dining-room that night, Georgiana
found herself wondering why she should think he did not look as if he
would write fiction--not foolish fiction, certainly, but sensible
fiction, made possible by keen observation and set off by a capacity for
quiet--possibly even biting--humour. He looked at least as if he might
write essays, thoughtful, clever essays, full of searching analyses of
his fellow human creatures, of their oddities, their hopes, their
aspirations, their sins, and their virtues. Or--was he, after all,
writing on scientific matters--facts, pure and simple; inferences,
deductions, conclusions from facts? She wondered, more than she had yet
done, as to the nature of his work.

"I think Mr. Jefferson is delightful," said Jeannette cordially, beside
the living-room fire, when supper was over, and the boarder, after
lingering in the living-room doorway for a minute, but declining on the
score of work Mr. Warne's invitation to enter, had gone his way
upstairs. On this first night Georgiana had let the disordered dining
table wait, and had accompanied the others to the fireside as if she had
a dozen servants to attend to her household affairs. "After this, she
won't notice so much," she had argued with herself. "I don't want to
have her offering to help. I don't mean to do a thing differently on her
account, but I can't help--well, _shying_ at the dishes the very first
minute after supper!"

"A man of fine intellect," Father Davy responded to his niece's
observation, "and accustomed to think worthy thoughts. One can see that
at once. It is a real pleasure to have him here. It is good for us, too.
Georgiana and I were growing narrow before he came. He has broadened us;
we get his point of view on subjects that we thought had been disposed
of for all time--and find them not disposed of at all."

Before the moment arrived when, in Georgiana's mind, the waiting work in
the kitchen must be done without further postponement, the front door
was besieged by James Stuart. A basket of late winter apples in hand, he
came in, looking the image of vigorous youth, his well-set-up figure
showing its best in the irreproachable clothes he always wore when his
day's work was over, his manner, as usual, that of the friend of the
house. He had not received Georgiana's permission to come in upon this
first evening of Miss Crofton's visit, but he had taken his welcome for
granted and was not disappointed in receiving it. It was impossible not
to be glad to see his smiling face, for his good looks were backed by a
capacity for adapting himself to whatever company he might find himself
in, though it should be of the most distinguished.

Presenting Stuart to her cousin, it occurred to Georgiana to wonder as
to the impression each must make upon the other. Jeannette was wearing a
frock of a peculiar shade of blue which the firelight and lamplight,
instead of dulling, seemed to make almost to glow. It was the sort of
apparently simple attire which is the product of high art, and in it,
sitting just where all lights seemed to play together upon hair and
cheek and perfect throat, the visitor was, as Georgiana owned to
herself, certainly worth looking at.

She left them together presently and went off to the kitchen. Here she
covered from view with a big pinafore her own undeniably attractive
figure and fell upon her task, proceeding to dispatch it with all the
speed compatible with quiet. She had cleared the table, and, having
arranged her dishes in orderly piles, was just filling her dishpan with
the steaming water which made suds as it fell upon the soap, when a
familiar footstep was heard upon the bare kitchen floor.

Georgiana looked over her shoulder, words of reproof upon her lips:
"Well--having come without an invitation, the least you can do is to
stay where you belong and entertain the guest."

"There's a characteristic welcome for you!" The intruder seemed in no
wise daunted by his reception, but picked up a dish towel and stood at
ease, waiting the placing of the first tumbler in the rinsing pan. "And
where should I belong, if not standing by a chum in distress?"

"I'm not in distress, if you please."

"Don't mind washing dishes while the guest sits by the fire?"

"Not a bit--more than usual," Georgiana amended honestly.

"Why don't you pile 'em up and let 'em wait till morning?"

"I shouldn't sleep for thinking of them."

"My word, but you're a hustler! I don't know whether I can keep up."

"Don't try. Go back to the other room, please, Jimps. You can be of real
use there."

"Well, I like that!"

As he wiped away assiduously, Stuart surveyed his companion's face in
profile. It belied the dictatorial words, for Georgiana was smiling. Her
cheeks were of a splendid colour, her dark hair drooped over the
prettiest white forehead in the world, and the whole outline of her face
was distracting. Here was a lamplight effect which rivalled the one in
the living-room, though it was thrown from a common kitchen lamp,
unshaded, and fell upon a figure in a red-and-white checked apron.
Georgiana glanced at her self-appointed assistant and encountered the
flash of an eye which told her that, however Stuart objected to her
words, he liked the look of what he saw.

"Isn't Jeannette a beauty?" she inquired hastily, and plunged her hands
into her pan with such energy that she sent a splash of hot, soapy water
upon Stuart's cheek. He surreptitiously wiped it off with a corner of
his dish towel.

"She sure is," he assented cordially. "I wasn't prepared for quite such
a looker. She doesn't seem to have brought with her that proud and
haughty expression she had in the Sunday papers."

"She's a dear, and not in the least proud and haughty. I'm going to
enjoy her visit, I know. If I can only make her enjoy it!"

"I'll be glad to help," Stuart offered. "This isn't a very promising
time of year for the country, but if you think she'd like any of the
good times we can give her here, I'll get them up."

"Our sort of good times is just what I do want to give her. She's had
enough of her own kind and needs the diversion. What would you get up,
for instance?"

"I'll take overnight to think it out, but I can promise you it'll be an
outdoor affair. Would she be up to any kind of a tramp, do you think?"

"Oh, no, Jimps! Not yet, at any rate."

"All right. I'll harness up my best team and carry her most of the way.
We must have another man, I suppose. Shall we ask the literary light,
just for a lark? It would give tone to the company to have him along,
eh?"

"He probably wouldn't go."

"Don't you fool yourself. A fellow who covers as many miles a day as he
does will jump at it, no matter how important his next chapter is. Do
you know, I'll have to admit I rather like him since I tramped a couple
of miles in his company the other day. There are a lot of interesting
ideas in his head, and I got him to give me the benefit of a few of
them. Drew him out, you know. Though to be strictly honest"--with a
laugh--"when I thought it over afterward I wasn't exactly sure that he
hadn't drawn me out rather more than I drew him. Anyhow, the interest
seemed to be mutual, and that flattered me a bit. It's perfectly evident
that he's a great student of affairs."

They finished the work at a gallop. Georgiana slipped off her pinafore,
and Stuart, who had insisted on waiting for her, hung it upon its
accustomed nail.

"Do you suppose pretty cousin ever wore one?" he queried.



CHAPTER VII

SNOWBALLS


Mr. E. C. Jefferson laid down his pen, ran his hand through his heavy
brown hair, rumpling it still more than it had been rumpled
before--which is saying considerable--and stretched his legs under the
table upon which he had been writing steadily since half-past one
o'clock. He heaved a mighty breath, stretched his arms to match his
legs, looked round at his windows, which faced the west, and so had kept
him supplied with strong light longer than windows on any other side of
the house would have done, and took out his watch.

Nearly half-past four. Time, and more than time, for his late afternoon
tramp. He set the piles of sheets before him in order, sheathed his pen
and put it in his pocket, and rose from his place, the light of
achievement in his eye, but crampiness and fatigue in all his limbs.

As he approached his windows to ascertain what kind of weather was to be
found outside, he became aware of sounds which would indicate that some
event of activity and hilarity was going on below. He realized now that
he had been hearing these sounds--quite without hearing them, after the
fashion of the absorbed workman--for the last half-hour. Looking out, he
beheld an interesting affair in full swing.

At each end of the side yard the heavy snow which a late March storm had
brought overnight had been shovelled and manipulated into the semblance
of a fort such as lads are wont to make. Between these two entrenchments
a battle was raging. But it was no lads who held the places of the
combatants. Instead, as he looked, Mr. Jefferson saw rising warily from
behind the fort nearest him, a girlish figure in a scarlet blanket suit,
its dark head half shielded by a scarlet toboggan cap very much awry. A
mittened hand flung a snowball with strength and precision straight into
the opposite fort, and the assailant immediately dodged down behind the
embankment.

From the opposing stronghold then cautiously appeared a head snugly
bound in a blue scarf, from which locks of fair hair escaped at divers
points. A second snowball, accompanied by a loose flutter of snow,
wended its way uncertainly through the air, and fell a foot short of the
fort behind which crouched the scarlet figure. The figure immediately
rose and fired an answering volley. Peals of laughter and gay shouts
rang through the air.

At this very moment a third person ran into the yard from the street,
calling: "For shame, George! I'm going to take sides with the enemy,
and we'll have you out in no time!"

Jefferson saw this third figure, in sweater and cap, dash across the
open, narrowly escaping a vigorous shower of missiles from the near
fort, and disappear behind the farther one.

The battle was now on in earnest. Let Scarlet Toboggan fire as fast and
as furiously as she might, a merciless bombardment of her protecting
walls had begun. The girl in the blue scarf--and priceless furs--had
sunk laughing upon the floor of her refuge, while her new ally, bringing
to bear the full strength and skill of his sex, battered at the
entrenchments across the yard, and began to make havoc thereon.

Georgiana was a brave foe, but though she fought with surprising
endurance she was beginning to be seriously worsted, several feet of her
snow rampart having been shot away, when a voice behind her cried out a
command, and an arm, more sinewy than hers, sent a hard shot whizzing
past her head into the opposite fort with that directness of aim and
effectiveness of delivery which only the male arm can accomplish.

"Duck down and make snowballs while I fire!" the voice ordered, and
Georgiana, breathless but still undaunted, obeyed.

"Keep behind me, and pile the balls at the right," directed Jefferson.
His voice was eager as a boy's. He also had pulled on sweater and cap,
and as he and James Stuart faced each other across the twenty yards
which separated them, they might have been a couple of school-fellows
wrestling for supremacy.

"Keep 'em coming--faster--faster!" Stuart urged Jeannette, the lust of
battle upon him. "Stop laughing and work! George is a"--he stooped to
make a ball for himself--"fiend at making 'em; you've got to learn! Keep
'em coming."

The wet snow was precisely in the right state for quick packing, and
Georgiana was indeed an expert at the business. Jefferson found her
hard, round balls splendid missiles, and he used them with all the
energy of an arm which welcomed the change from the labours of the past
hours to those of the present.

"Ha! there goes that left corner!" he exulted with his comrade-at-arms,
as the last of a series of well-directed shots reduced a part of the
enemies' defences to a gratifying slump. "And here comes a bit of ours,"
he added, as a ball of Stuart's ploughed through a weakened upper
portion of their own rampart.

"He'll be game to the last," panted Georgiana, working furiously.

"So will we! We'll fight to a finish, if we go without our suppers."

The battle raged on. The combatants took no heed of passing time, until
Jeannette, growing reckless with excitement, lifted an incautious head
and received a spent ball full upon her chin. No harm was done, as she
protested, but Stuart raised a flag of truce and Mr. Jefferson ran
across the lines to apologize.

"It didn't hurt a bit," Jeannette reaffirmed, showing a very pink chin.

"It's lucky it didn't. I wasn't properly protecting you," Stuart
declared warmly.

"Both sides come in to supper!" commanded Georgiana. "Please stay,
Jimps; it's the only amends we can make you, and you must be as hungry
as a bear."

"Thanks; I'd like to, but I'm not properly dressed, I'm afraid."

"Jean and I won't make a change, and you can take us coasting this
evening, if you will. Do you suppose Mr. Jefferson would dream of
staving off his dignity a bit longer and going, too?"

They all looked at the person mentioned and their glances were all gayly
audacious.

"Is that an invitation or a challenge?" He put it to Georgiana.

"Whichever you choose to take it."

"I'll take it as I choose, then, and accept. The spirit of sport is upon
me; I couldn't work this evening if I tried."

"Good for you! 'All work and no play,' you know," quoted Stuart, as they
went in together, a moist and merry company.

Upstairs, while Jeannette dried her hair, she reflected that she didn't
know when she had had so gay a time. She ran in to say this to
Georgiana, but found that that young woman had already put her hair in
order without drying it, as its damply curling locks above her forehead
testified, and was rushing away downstairs to the kitchen.

"Won't you take cold?" suggested Jeannette, struggling with her own wet
braids, and very naturally wishing for her maid to dry and put them in
order.

"Mercy, no; not over the kitchen stove. They'll be dry soon enough," was
the reply; and Georgiana vanished, the supper on her mind.

When Jeannette came down, half an hour later, and appeared in the
kitchen doorway, she saw that the speed of her young hostess's labours
and the warmth of the kitchen were quite likely to prevent all chance of
undried locks.

There was system about Georgiana's work, fast as was its pace. Each trip
across the floor, from pantry to dining-room and back again,
demonstrated housewifely efficiency. Both hands were always full and she
seemed never to forget what she meant to do. If she passed the stove on
her way somewhere she stopped to stir something or to glance into the
oven, and when she went to the storeroom for cream she brought away
bread and butter as well.

Jeannette commented admiringly. "Don't you ever forget and have to run
back for something?" she inquired.

"Goodness, yes! But when you've been over certain ground several million
times, it's a pity if you can't make your head save your heels as a
rule. Excuse me, dear; but if you wouldn't mind standing just a foot or
two to the left----"

Jeannette turned. "I see; I'm in the way when I'd like so much to help.
Isn't there anything I could do?"

"All done, thank you--except--would you just arrange that boxful of
scarlet geraniums Jimps brought over, for the table? That would help
very much. Take any bowl or glass from the dining-room cupboard that
looks appropriate to you."

"I'd love to." And Jeannette fell to work--if it could be called work.
Never in her life had she arranged scarlet geraniums as a table
decoration, or, for that matter, seen them so used. But as she placed
the splendid, thrifty blooms, each with its accompanying rich green
leaves, in the plain brown bowl which she felt best matched their
undistinguished beauty, she discovered for the first time that other
blossoms besides roses and orchids, chrysanthemums, and the rest of the
ordinary florists' products, may charm the eye from the centre of a
snowy cloth.

"That's gorgeous! Thank you so much! Aren't they the jolliest flowers in
the world for a winter night? Jimps's greenhouses certainly are doing
well. Don't you want a bit of a blossom in your hair? Their grower would
feel tremendously complimented."

"Red's not my colour, but it is yours. Let me tuck this little sprig in
these braids, and I'll risk the grower's being better pleased than if I
wore them."

Georgiana submitted, and promptly forgot all about the scarlet
decoration. But the others did not--found forgetting it, indeed, quite
impossible. As they gathered about the table, it caught the eye of each
in turn. Georgiana's cheeks, from the vigorous exercise in the frosty
air, were glowing brilliantly; her eyes were wonderful to look at; her
dark cloth dress had upon it no relief of colour; so the scarlet
geranium in her hair was the touch of the artist which drew the eye and
held it. She had placed upon the table, instead of the customary lamp,
one of the few treasures of the house, a fine old candelabrum, with
pendent crystals, and the burning candles threw their mellow light
directly into her face.

She looked up suddenly, after having served each one from the dish
before her, and found them all looking at her. James Stuart's fork was
suspended above his plate, but the others had not yet taken theirs. She
gazed at them in amazement.

"Why, what is the matter?" she cried. "Do I--is something queer about
me? Have I missed a point somebody has made?"

They all turned then, laughing, to their plates, and nobody would tell
her what was wrong. Stuart seemed to think it a great joke--her
mystification. When she removed the plates for the second course--there
were but two in the simple, hearty little supper--she glanced into the
small kitchen mirror. Her eye caught the scarlet geranium.

"I suppose I look ridiculously sentimental with that flower just there,"
she thought. "But I won't take it out after Jean put it there. No wonder
they laughed."

An hour afterward they were all out upon the hill nearby. Stuart
possessed a splendid pair of "bobs," and they were soon dashing down the
hill at a pace which, while it made Jeannette hold her breath with
mingled fear and joy, made Georgiana cry out, "Oh! is there anything so
glorious?" and made Mr. Jefferson, just behind her, watching over her
shoulder, respond with heartiness: "The snow fight took five years off
my age, and now here goes another five. I must be almost as young as you
are now, Miss Warne."

"Oh, no; I'm only ten myself to-night," she answered. "Coasting was one
of my earliest joys. I was so proud when I could steer Jimps Stuart's
first pair of bobs--small and primitive ones compared with these."

She found Mr. Jefferson beside her when it came to the walk back up the
hill. A new side of him was visible to-night. He was not the quiet
student and writer, the man who discussed with her father and herself
the course of the world's events or the problems of social service, but
a light-hearted boy, much like Stuart, and ready to abet all the other
man's efforts for the amusement of the party.

The fun went on for an hour; then Jeannette, unaccustomed to so much
vigorous exercise, began quite against her will to show evidences of
fatigue, and after one particularly long, swift flight the party went
back to the house. There followed another gay hour before the fire,
while Stuart roasted chestnuts, and Georgiana, sitting on the floor
against her father's knee, told stones of madcap pranks at college,
illustrating them by such changes of facial expression and such
significant gestures that her hearers spent themselves with their
laughter.

Jeannette, lying back in a shabby but comfortable old armchair, looked
and listened with the absorbed interest of one to whom such simple
pleasures as these had the flavour of absolute novelty. Her eyes
wandered from Georgiana's vivid face to her father's delicate one; to
James Stuart's comely features glowing ruddily in the firelight as he
tended his chestnuts, showing splendid white teeth as he roared at
Georgiana's clever mimicry or turned to laugh into Jeannette's eyes as
he offered her a particularly plump and succulently bursting specimen of
his labours; to Mr. Jefferson's maturer personality, his brown eyes
keenly intent, his face lighted with enjoyment, his occasional comments
on Georgiana's adventures flashing with a dry humour which matched hers
and sometimes quite outdid it. To Jeannette they were all an engrossing
study. As for herself----

"She's the loveliest thing I ever saw," thought Georgiana from time to
time as she glanced up at her cousin, whose fair hair against the dark
cushion of the old chair caught and held the charm of the fire's own
warmth in its gleaming strands. Jeannette's eyes were matchless by
lamplight; her cheeks and lips were glowing from the outdoor life of the
day and evening; her smile was a thing to imprison hearts and hold them
fast. If she spoke little no one thought of her as silent, and the charm
of her low laughter at the sallies of the others was the sheerest
flattery, it was so evidently born of genuine delight in the cleverness
she did not attempt to emulate.

"I'm a clown beside her," said Georgiana to herself. "Who cares how a
woman talks when she looks like that? Every line of her is absolute
grace and beauty, every turn of her head is fascination itself. I never
saw such eyes. That little twist in the corner of her lip when she
smiles is the most delicious thing I ever saw. Jimps looks at it forty
times in every five minutes and I can't blame him. Mr. Jefferson keeps
his chair facing that way so he can have her all the time in focus,
though he doesn't eat her up as Jimps does. I can't blame either of
them. And I shall go on being a clown, because that's what I can do and
it amuses them. If I should lie back in a chair like that and just smile
without saying anything, Father Davy would say, 'Daughter, don't you
feel quite well?' and Jimps would propose getting me a cup of tea. Oh,
well--how absurd of me to mind because another girl looks like a picture
by a wonderful painter while I look like--a lurid lithograph by nobody
at all!"

Whereupon she set her strong, white teeth into a hot, roasted chestnut,
cracked it, and, regarding the halves, said: "This reminds me of the
night Prexy lost his head"--and brought down the house with the merriest
tale of all. It was so irresistibly absurd that Jeannette, helpless with
her mirth, buried her face in her cobweb handkerchief, Stuart rocked
upon his knees and made the welkin ring, and Mr. Jefferson laughed in a
growling bass that gathered volume as the preposterousness of the
situation grew upon him with consideration of it. Even Mr. Warne, whose
expressions of amusement were usually noiseless, gave way to soft little
chuckles of appreciation, and wiped his tear-filled eyes.

Georgiana, finishing her chestnut, looked upon them all and told them
they were the most gratifying audience she had ever addressed, but that
she feared it was not good for them to give way to their emotions so
unrestrainedly, and that she should therefore not open her lips again
that night. As they found it impossible to break down this resolution,
even with entreaties backed by offerings of worldly goods, the party
broke up. Georgiana carried off her guest to put her to bed with her own
hands, while Mr. Jefferson and James Stuart smoked a bedtime pipe
together in the boarder's room; after which Stuart let himself quietly
out of a door that was never locked, to reflect, as he tramped homeward
over the snow, on what an inordinately jolly evening it had been.



CHAPTER VIII

SOAPSUDS


"Will you think I'm dreadful, Georgiana dear," asked Jeannette, lying
luxuriously back upon her pillow while her cousin sat braiding her own
thick locks by the little bedroom fireplace in which the last remnants
of the fire were smouldering, "if I say I shouldn't have believed I
could possibly have such a good time in such a way? I never did anything
the least bit like it."

"Never coasted?"

"Never."

"Never threw snowballs?"

"Not that I can remember."

"Nor roasted chestnuts?"

"I never tasted one before--except perhaps in the stuffing of a fowl."

"Poor child! But at least you've sat by the fire with other girls and
men and told stories, little Jean?"

The guest considered. "Of course--at house parties. Yet I can't seem to
recall any such scene as the one we just left, down by your fire. I
certainly never sat on the floor with my arm on my father's knee, with
a group of people around, while somebody told stories--sure not such
stories as you told. Oh, you're the cleverest girl I ever knew, to tell
such things in such a way! It was perfectly splendid! How those two men
did enjoy it! I don't know when I've heard men laugh in just that way."

"Just what way? Please tell me how they laughed differently from other
men. To be sure, Jimps just lets go when he's amused and raises the
rafters with his howls of glee; but so do other young men of his age.
And certainly Mr. Jefferson laughed decorously enough."

"Yes, but it was so whole-souled with both of them; and yet there wasn't
a thing in your stories but--oh, I can't tell you just what I mean, if
you don't know. But somehow it all struck me so differently from the way
any girl-and-man evening ever struck me before. There--there seems a
different air to breathe here--if that expresses it--from any I've ever
been in."

The two regarded each other, Jeannette from between half-closed, deeply
fringed eyelids as she lay back upon her pillows, one arm, half veiled
with the finest of linen and lace, outstretched upon the treasured
old-time counterpane, the other beneath her neck; Georgiana sitting up
straight, with two long, dark braids hanging over her shoulders, her
dusky eyes wide open, her cheeks still bright with colour balanced by
the scarlet hue of the loose garment she had put on.

"I've no doubt there is," agreed Georgiana thoughtfully. "Still, though
you live a very different life from any I've ever known, I didn't
suppose your education in the matter of roast chestnuts--and the things
that go with them--had been quite so badly neglected. To think of never
having had them except so disguised by the manipulations of a French
_chef_ that you couldn't recognize them! And to have gone to balls and
horse shows and polo games--and never to have built a snow fort! Dear,
dear, what we have to teach you! Life hasn't been really fair to you,
has it, my dear?"

This was sheer audacity, from a poor girl to a rich one, but it was
charming audacity none the less and by no means wholly ironic. To
Jeannette, studying her cousin with eyes which were envious of the
physical superiority for lack of which no training in the social arts or
mere ability to purchase the aid of dressmaker and milliner could
possibly atone, conscious that Georgiana possessed a mind far keener and
better trained than her own, the question called for a serious answer.
She half sat up and pushed her pillow into a soft mountain behind her as
she spoke:

"No, it hasn't! I thought so before I came here and now I'm sure of it.
I feel a weak and helpless creature beside you--helpless in every way. I
can't do anything you can. If my father should lose his money and I
should be thrown upon my own resources, I shouldn't be able to make so
much as a--snowball for myself!"

Both laughed in spite of Jeannette's earnestness, for the words brought
back vivid memories of the wild sport of the afternoon. Then Georgiana's
ready brain leaped to the inevitable corollary:

"Ah, but there'd be sure to be a man ready to dash into your fort and
make your snowballs for you!"

"I'm not so sure."

"I am."

"Of course the men I know don't seem to mind whether a girl is helpless
or not, if she can look and act the way they want her to. But--I'm
discovering that there are other kinds of men, and somehow I like this
new kind. And I imagine this kind wouldn't care for helpless girls. You
made snowballs for your man to throw, and they were good hard ones, as
my chin can still testify."

"You can learn to make hard snowballs," said Georgiana, smiling.

Jeannette held up one beautifully modelled but undeniably slender arm
and clasped it with her hand. "Soft as----" She paused for a simile.

"Sponge cake," supplied Georgiana, coming over to feel critically of the
extended arm. "It _is_ pretty spongy. It needs exercise with a punchball
or"--she flashed a mischievous glance at the languid form beside
her--"a batch of bread dough."

"Bread dough! Would that help it?"

"Rather! So would sweeping, and scrubbing, and moving furniture about.
But you're born to a life of ease, my dear, so those things are out of
the question for you. But fencing lessons would be good for you--and
fashionable, too, which would double their value, of course."

"Georgiana!" Jeannette sat straight up and laid two coaxing arms about
her cousin's firmly moulded neck. "Teach me to make bread, will you,
while I'm here?"

"Oh, good gracious!" Georgiana threw back her head to laugh. "Hear the
child! What good would that do, if you learned? You wouldn't do it when
you went back."

"I would!--Well, of course, I might have difficulty in--but mother wants
me to be strong; she's always fussing about it because I can't endure
the round of society things she says any girl ought to--and enjoy. If
you thought bread-making would really help----"

"It would be a drop in the bucket of exercise you ought to take."

"Nevertheless, I want to learn," persisted Jeannette as Georgiana moved
away, evidently with the intention of leaving her for the night. "I'd
like to feel I knew how. And your bread is the most delicious I ever
tasted. Please!"

"Oh, very well; I'll teach you with pleasure. I shall be setting bread
sponge at six to-morrow morning. Will you be down?" Georgiana's smile
was distinctly wicked.

"Six o'clock!" There was a look of mingled incredulity and horror in the
lovely face on the pillow. "But--does bread--does bread have to be made
so early?"

"Absolutely. After the morning dew is off the grass, bread becomes
heavy."

Jeannette stared into the mocking eyes of her cousin; then she laughed.
"Oh, I see. You're testing me. Well,"--with a stifled sigh--"I'll get up
if you'll call me. I'm afraid I should never wake myself--especially
after all that snowballing----"

"Exactly. And I'll not call you. So lie still in your nest, ladybird,
and don't bother your pretty head about bread sponges. What's the use?
You'll never need to know, and you'll soon forget having had even a
faint desire toward knowledge. Good-night--and sleep sweetly."

"Oh, but wait! I'm really serious. Please call me!"

"Never!"

With one laughing backward look and with a kiss waved toward the slender
figure now sitting up in bed, Georgiana opened the door and fled. That
she did not want to teach her cousin an earthly thing, even if she could
have believed Jeannette serious in her request, was momentarily growing
more evident to her own consciousness. Just why, she might have been
unwilling to explain.

Next morning, however, she found herself destined to carry out the plan
Jeannette had so impulsively proposed. She crept downstairs as quietly
as the creaking boards under the worn stair carpet would permit, and
began her work in a whirl of haste. But she had not more than assembled
her ingredients on the scrupulously scoured top of the old pine table
when she heard the kitchen door softly open. Wheeling, she beheld a
vision which brought a boyish whistle to her lips.

Jeannette, enveloped in a long silken garment evidently thrown on over
her night attire, a little cap of lace and ribbon confining her hair,
the most impractical of slippers on her feet, stood smiling at her
cousin, sleep still clinging to her eyelids.

"I'm down," she announced in triumph.

"So I see. But you're not up," replied Georgiana, regarding the vision
with critical eyes.

Jeannette's gaze left the trim morning garb of the young cook, her
perfectly arranged hair, her whole aspect of efficiency, and dropped to
her own highly inappropriate attire, and she flushed a little. But she
held her ground.

"You didn't call me, and when I woke it was so near six I didn't dare
wait to dress. Can't I learn unless I'm dressed like you?"

"If a French doll had come to life and offered to help me in the kitchen
I couldn't feel more stunned. What will happen to all those floating
ends of lace and ribbon, when they get mixed with flour and yeast? Be
sensible, child, and go back to bed."

"I'll pin everything out of the way, and perhaps you'll lend me an
apron. I really don't want to bother you, Georgiana, but I do want to
learn."

Georgiana relented. "Very well. Come here, and I'll cover you up as best
I can. Or I'll wait while you run up and dress--if you've anything to
put on that's fit for bread-making."

"Nothing much fitter than this, I'm afraid," admitted Jeannette
reluctantly.

"Poor little girl!" Georgiana's momentary irritation was gone, as it
usually was, in no time at all. "Well, here go the frills under a nice
big gingham all-over; and now you look like a combination of Sleeping
Beauty and Mother Bunch! All right; here we go into business. Do you
know how to scald that cupful of milk you see before you?"

"Scald it?" repeated Jeannette doubtfully--and so the lesson began.

Absolute ignorance on the part of the pupil, assured knowledge on that
of the teacher--the lesson was a very kindergarten in methods. There
were times when Georgiana had much difficulty in restraining her inward
mirth, but she soon saw that this must be done, though Jeannette herself
laughed at her own clumsiness, and evidently was determined to let
nothing escape her.

"Kneading looks so easy when you do it," she lamented; "but I can't seem
to help getting stuck."

"That will come with practice--if you ever try another batch, which I
doubt. And it's the kneading that is so good for your arms."

"Yours are beautiful--and so strong, it must be fun to own them."

"There are times when a bit of muscle is of use in a hustling world,"
admitted her cousin. "There, I think that dough will do very well. Turn
it over and lay it smoothly in the bowl--so. Cover it with its white
blanket--so; and leave it right here, where it will have a good warm
temperature to rise in. Now, run up and snatch another nap; you'll have
plenty of time."

"You're not going back to bed?"

"Rather not!" Georgiana's smile strove to be tolerant. "There are just a
few things to be done about the house, and they are best done before
breakfast. Off with you, lady cousin!"

"Do you always get up so early?" Jeannette persisted.

"I have an extraordinary fondness for early rising," Georgiana
explained. "It's foolish, of course, but it's an old habit. Good-bye, my
dear; my next errand is down cellar," and she vanished from the sight of
her guest, quite unable to keep herself longer in hand before the
amazing point of view of this daughter of luxury.

The "next errand" was the washing of the handful of fine towels with
which the painstaking hostess was keeping the guest-room supplied,
unwilling to furnish the aristocratic young person upstairs with the
coarser articles used by herself and the others. Jeannette, all unaware
that the snowy linen with which her room was kept plentifully supplied
was constantly relaundered in secret by Georgiana's own hands, was as
lavish in her use of it as she was accustomed to be at home, and the
result was a quite unbelievable amount of extra work for her cousin.

Mr. Warne, coming upon his daughter by chance in this very early morning
flurry of laundering, expressed himself upon the subject in the gentle
but positive way which was his.

"Why do it, my dear?" he questioned. "Are the sheets and towels we use
not quite good enough for others?"

"Not half good enough for Lady Jean," responded the laundress, rubbing
energetically away--yet carefully, too, for the old linen was not so
stout as it once had been.

"You are intentionally deceiving her, aren't you, daughter? Why do
that?--since it is not necessary for her comfort."

"But it is. She would shudder at the touch of a cotton sheet. As for a
common huck towel----"

Mr. Warne shook his head. "I can't agree with you. So that the sheets
and towels are spotless--as your sheets and towels are--the mere degree
of fineness is not essential. And if she knew how much labour it costs
you, I am very certain she would infinitely prefer to be less of a
spendthrift in the matter of quantity."

"I've no doubt she would. But I'd rather wash my fingers off than not
give her the fresh towel for her perfect face each time she uses one.
I'd like it myself. I'd like a million towels, all fine as silk. I'd
like----" She stopped abruptly, seeing the look upon her father's face.
"Oh, I'm sorry!" she flashed at him repentantly. "I truly don't mind
being poor in most ways. It's the lack of certain things that go with
nicety of living that grinds me most. I shouldn't mind wearing gingham
outside, if I could have all the fine linen I want underneath.
It's--it's--oh, well, you know! And I'm an idiot to talk about it when
the thing we really need is books--books for your starving mind. If I
could get you all you want of those----" Her voice broke upon the wish,
always strong with her.

"My dear, my mind will never starve while it has the old books to feed
upon. Listen, on what a pertinent thought did I come this morning. I was
delving in good old Thomas Fuller, of those fine seventeenth-century
writers whose works still glow with fire: '_Though my guest was never so
high, yet, by the laws of hospitality, I was above him whilst under my
roof_.'"

The girl laughed, dashing away a hot tear with the back of a soapy hand.
"Trust you to find a classic to turn a tragedy into a comedy," she said.
"Go away now, Father Davy, and I'll soon be through. It's a poor
washerwoman I am to be thinning my suds with brine!"



CHAPTER IX

A REASONABLE PROPOSITION


"You'll come, too, Georgiana dear?" Jeannette, furrily clad for a walk
with James Stuart, stood in the doorway looking back. "Please do."

"Come, George;--you need a good tramp," Stuart urged at Jeannette's
elbow.

He looked the picture of anticipation. He had undertaken getting the
visitor into training by increasingly long daily walks, and the result
was proving eminently satisfactory. At the end of the first half of the
visit Jeannette was looking wonderfully well and happy--hardly the same
girl who had come to the little village to try if she could endure such
life as was likely to be offered her there.

"Thank you, my dears, nothing could persuade me. Run along and leave me
to diversions of my own," answered Georgiana gayly.

So they had gone, Jeannette wafting back a kiss, Stuart waving an
enthusiastic arm. Georgiana had smiled at them, had closed the door
softly behind them--and had immediately banged to another conveniently
near at hand, one opening into a small clothespress under the stair
landing.

"Diversions of my own!" she repeated with emphasis. "Happy phrase! I
wonder what they think my diversions are--with this family to look
after. Well, you got yourself into it, George Warne. You can stick it
out if it kills you."

She deliberately thumped one door after another all the way along her
progress through the empty rooms and up the stairs to the second floor.
Her father was away for the afternoon on a rare visit to a neighbour who
had sent for him, an old parishioner, who, falling ill, longed for the
gentle offices of his friend and long-time minister. As for Mr.
Jefferson, this was the time of day when he was always away on his usual
long walk. It was a comfort to be alone in the quiet house--and to
bang and thump.

In her room Georgiana arrayed herself in a heavy red sweater, then
ascended to the attic and stood eying the great hand loom of antique
pattern, a relic of an earlier century. It was equipped with a black
warp, upon which a few rows of parti-coloured woof had been woven.

"Diversions!" she repeated, and shook her round fist at the lumbering
object.

Then she sat down on the old weaver's bench and began to weave with
heavy, jarring thuds which shook the floor, as with strong arms she
pulled and pushed and sent her clumsy shuttle flying back and forth.
The attic was very cold; but she was soon warm with the violent exercise
and presently had discarded the sweater and was working away with might
and main.

"Go at it--go at it!" she was saying to herself. "Jealous idiot that you
are! Jealous of Jeannette, of her clothes, her money, her beauty, her power
to attract--jealous because Jimps likes her so well--because Father Davy
looks at her with the eyes of an appreciative uncle--because Mr. E. C.
Jefferson talks to her as if he enjoyed it. Pound--pound--pound away at
the old loom till your arms ache, and see if you can get the nonsense
out of you!"

"I beg your pardon," said a deep voice at the top of the narrow stairs
not far away.

The loom stopped with a jerk as the weaver flashed round upon the head
and shoulders protruding above the rafters. "Oh! I'm sorry! Did I
disturb you?" cried Georgiana, fire in her voice. She did not look in
the least sorry. "I thought you were out, too. And I'm just over your
head. Of course you came up to----"

"No, I didn't," replied Mr. Jefferson. He ascended two steps more,
looking curiously at the loom "I came up because I thought something
extraordinary had happened up here and I ought to find out about it."

"Nothing extraordinary, merely something very ordinary. I do this
whenever I have time and the coast is clear. You usually go out at this
hour," she said accusingly.

"So I do. I came back just now, when I saw Miss Crofton and Mr. Stuart
starting off alone, in hopes that you might consent to go with me. It's
a great day. Won't you?"

"Thank you, no," the girl replied. "I'm behind with my work. These rugs
are orders very much overdue. I've been rather delayed lately, since my
machine is so noisy I can't work when anybody is on the second floor."

"Please never mind me," urged her visitor. "I can time my work to fit in
with yours, if you need to make haste. But that must be a rather
strenuous business. It's a very old affair, isn't it? Do you mind if I
look at it? I never saw one of just that pattern."

"I mind very much," replied Georgiana crisply, moving off the bench and
standing on the floor. "But that's no reason why you shouldn't examine
the Monster if you like. That's what I call it. I'll run down and be
back when you are through."

And this she would have done, but that he barred her way.

"But I won't," he said gravely, "if you prefer that I should not. Come
back, please! I'm intruding, and I'll apologize and go."

The light from a dusty attic window fell full on her face as she stood,
and he saw that in it which made him look again.

"Miss Warne," he said gently, "something is wrong, I'm afraid. Can't I
be of use to you in some way? The reason I wanted to look at this loom
was that I saw your last two strokes with the bar as I came up, and I
recognized what a tremendous push you had to give. I'm something of a
mechanic and I wondered if I couldn't do a bit of oiling, perhaps, to
make it easier. I'm afraid it's tiring you unduly."

"I need to be tired," she said, low but vehemently. "I'm in a black
mood, and the more I tire myself the quicker I shall get the better of
it. Now you know. I suppose you never have black moods."

"Do I not? So black that I could grind myself under my own heel. Do you
have them, too? I might have known by the look of you."

"You don't look as if you ever had them," she said rather curiously, her
eyes on his quiet face.

"Ah, you can't always tell--luckily. It's pretty cold up here. Are you
sure you wouldn't do better to take a run in the wind with me? You know
somehow heavy tasks look lighter after a breath of outdoor air."

"So you know what heavy tasks are?" For the life of her she could not
resist the question.

He looked steadily back at her, smiling a little. His eyes were very
clear in their quiet scrutiny. She felt as if he saw much that she would
prefer to conceal. "I have known a few that seemed to me fairly heavy at
the time," he said. "Afterward, I was thankful to have had them--to
prepare me for heavier ones."

"Oh--but they weren't the same dismal round----"

"Weren't they? Most tasks are. But I never had one quite like this. I am
concerned for you, lest this prove too heavy. Now that I am here--do you
really mind so very much if I look the machine over?"

She permitted it, and she did not run away as she had meant to do.
Presently he asked for a screw-driver and a can of oil, and when she had
procured them he did a number of things to the cumbersome loom, the
result of which, when she attacked it once more, proved that he had
relieved to a certain extent the hardest of her efforts.

"But it is still much too severe for any woman," he said seriously,
standing, oil can in hand, a little lock of hair, shaken down by his
labours, straying across his forehead. "Please tell me, and don't think
me merely curious--is there no way in which you can add to your
resources except this? You have a college training----"

"And no way whatever to make use of it," she exclaimed with some
bitterness. "But I can weave, and I have a feeling for colour and form
and can work out effects which find a market. Hand-woven rugs bring
their price these days. Really, Mr. Jefferson, I am no subject for pity
and----"

"You don't want it. Let me assure you that I don't feel a particle. To
be young and strong and fit for hard work is no cause for pity. But--I
have reason for persisting in my inquiry. You see, I happen to know of
some one in need of such training as you undoubtedly have. Would you
consider giving a few hours daily to one who needs a copyist and
critic?"

Georgiana scanned his face with intent, incredulous eyes. Then, "Do you
mean yourself?" she questioned.

"I mean myself. I hesitate to mention that I am the candidate, knowing
that that admission must instantly create a prejudice against me." He
was smiling a little. "But I state an actual fact. I have reached a
point in my labours where I need a copyist. Do you think it possible
that I may secure one without sending away for her?"

"I must suspect you," she said slowly and with rising colour, "of
manufacturing a need. It is very, very kind of you, Mr. Jefferson--but I
think I must continue to weave my rugs."

"But I am not manufacturing a need," he insisted. "I declare to you that
I have been on the point of consulting you for some time. If it had not
been that your days seemed very full with your guest and your
housewifery, I should have put it to you before now. I am in earnest,
Miss Warne. Won't you, as a matter of everyday business, lend me your
eyes and your hand--and your critical judgment? If you can't do it while
Miss Crofton is here, may I engage your spare time after she goes?
Please don't deny me." He began to descend the stairs. "I won't stay for
an answer," he said. "Think it over, will you? And please don't refuse
until you have consulted your father."

"Why do you ask that?"

"Because I know he will look at it as any man would, without
unreasonable prejudice against accepting a business proposition simply
because it happens to come from a temporary member of the household. It
takes a woman to bother about that."

With this straight shot he left her, laughing back at her as he
descended in a way that went far toward disarming her, though she would
not at once admit it. Instead, she went back to her loom, putting into
the next section of weaving a quite unnecessary amount of force purely
from tension of mind over the possibilities opened up by this most
unexpected offer. There was no denying that it was precisely the sort of
thing which she had often longed to do, and for which, she knew, as he
had suggested, she was more than ordinarily well fitted. It was
impossible, as she had said, not to suspect the lodger of creating a
want to fit her need of earning money, yet there could be no doubt of
the fact that any writer of books who draws upon all manner of collected
notes and reference books for his material must be able to make valuable
use of an assistant in a variety of ways.

Why should she not take him at his word? Well, she would think of it.
And meanwhile--suddenly--the black mood was gone!



CHAPTER X

STUART OBJECTS


That night, after Mr. Jefferson's unexpected proposal that she should
assist him in his literary work, Georgiana, running out upon an errand
in the business part of the village, encountered James Stuart. This had
been a not infrequent happening in days past, but since Jeannette's
arrival it had not once occurred. Stuart was much at the house, but not
for a fortnight had Georgiana had ten minutes alone with him.

That he welcomed the chance as well as she was evident from his first
word: "Great luck! At last I get you to myself for half a wink without a
soul around. Where are you going? Wherever it is, you don't go back to
the house till you've given me what I want."

"And what's that?" queried Georgiana.

Her tone was cool in spite of herself. She had missed the almost daily
walks and talks with Stuart, glad as she had been to have him do his
effectual part in helping her entertain her guests. And there had been,
as she was obliged to confess to herself, a sense that if he had been
very anxious not to lose altogether her society he would have managed,
in spite of lack of ordinary opportunity, to bring about such meetings.
How much she could feel the absence of his companionship she had not
dreamed until she had been tried.

After the friendly village fashion of intimate acquaintance he lightly
grasped her arm in its covering of the scarlet-lined military cape she
always wore on such walks, and turned her from her course toward a side
street leading away, instead of toward, the centre she had been
approaching. She protested, but he was laughingly determined and she
yielded. It was good, undeniably good, to have Jimps by her side again,
and hear his voice in his old eagerly devoted tones in her ear. That he
was really overjoyed at coming upon her in a free hour it was impossible
to doubt.

"My word! George, but you've kept me on short rations lately," he began
accusingly. "One would think you had suddenly put me on a diet list.
Nothing but sweets, contrary to the usual prohibitions of the medical
men for the husky male! Do you think I have no appetite for the good
substantial food? Parties and drives and candy-pulls, always with the
lovely guest, and never an old-time hobnob with my chum! What's the
matter with you, George? What have I done?"

"But such sweets! And so soon they will be gone, and nothing for the
hungry youth but plain bread and butter. How absurd of you to complain!"

"Bread and butter! Beefsteak and mushrooms, you mean; roast turkey and
cranberry sauce! A fellow can live on them. But not on eternal honey and
fudge--with my apologies to the lady."

"I should say so, Jimps. You're outrageous, and you don't mean it. I
wouldn't walk another step with you if you did."

"She's undoubtedly the sweetest thing on earth," admitted Stuart. "There
are times when I think I'd like to ask her to marry me on the spot--if
she'd have me, which she wouldn't--me, a farmer! She dazzles me,
bewitches me, makes me all but lose my head. And then I look at my chum,
the girl I've known all my life, and I think--well, sugar is all right,
but you can't get on without salt--and pepper--and ginger--and----"

"Jimps!" In spite of herself Georgiana was laughing infectiously, and
Stuart joined her. "How absolutely ridiculous! I sound like a whole
spice box, and nothing but the 'bitey' spices at that."

"That's what you are," declared James Stuart contentedly. "And when I'm
with you I have no hankering after sugar. Mustard plasters for me;
they're warming."

They walked on, the spirit of good fellowship keeping step with them. If
Georgiana had allowed herself to believe that Stuart was completely
absorbed with the enchantments of the beautiful guest, she now
discovered that, quite as he had said, the enchantment was by no means
complete and he had not lost appreciation of the old friendship and what
it meant to him. This was good to feel. It was all she wanted. If she
had been guilty of a creeping sense of jealousy as she watched Stuart
and Jeannette together, so evidently enjoying each other's society to
the full, it was because it made her suddenly and unpleasantly
understand what it would be to her to live her days in this commonplace
little village without Stuart at her right hand. But here he was,
literally at her right hand, and he was making her walk with him, not a
beggarly square or two out of her way, but a good three miles around a
certain course which once entered upon could not be cut short by any
crossroads. And all the way he was telling her, as he had always done,
all manner of intimate things about his affairs, and asking her of hers.

Before the circuit had been made Georgiana had done that which an hour
before she would have thought far from her intention, natural as such a
procedure would have been a month ago, before Jeannette came--she had
told Stuart of Mr. Jefferson's offer. If the truth must be confessed,
after suffering the mood which had only lately been dissipated, she
could not resist producing the effect she knew, if Jimps were still
Jimps, was bound to be produced. Such is woman!

Quite as she had foreseen, he was aroused on the instant. The generous
sharing of Georgiana Warne with other aspirants for her favour had never
been one of James Stuart's characteristics, open-hearted though he was
in every other way. He stopped short in the snowy path, regarding her
sternly while she smiled in the darkness. This was balm for a heavy
heart, indeed, this recognition she had of his disapproval even before
he jerked out the quick words:

"Great Scott! You don't mean to tell me you'd do it! Spend hours every
day working with E. C. Jefferson? Not a bit of it. Not so you'd notice
it! Tell him to go to thunder!"

"James McKenzie Stuart! What a tone to take! Why on earth should you
object?" Georgiana's tone was rich and sweet and astonished--it
certainly sounded astonished.

"Because you're my chum, my partner; and I won't have you going into
partnership with any other man--not much!"

"Partnership! Secretaries and stenographers aren't partners----"

"Aren't they, though! The most intimate sort. And a fellow like
Jefferson, full of books and literary lore--he'd be breaking off work
half his time to talk Montaigne and Samuel Johnson and--and Bernard
Shaw with you. And you'd drink it all in with those eyes of yours and
make him think----" Georgiana's uncontrollable laughter halted but did
not stop him. "What's his work, anyhow? Writing a History of Art?"
growled Stuart, marching on, with Georgiana beside him bursting into
fresh mirth with every step. Her heart was quite light enough now; no
danger that she had lost her friend!

"I've no idea what it is, but it's certainly not that. He seldom speaks
of art in any form--except literary art, of course. I've an idea it's
scientific research of some sort."

"Then why isn't he in a laboratory somewhere, boiling acids? Why isn't
he digging in city libraries or hunting scientific stuff over in Vienna?
Vienna's the place for him. I wish him there fast enough," irritably
continued this asperser of other men's vocations.

"His research work has undoubtedly been done; he has pile upon pile of
notebooks and papers on file. His handwriting is a fright; that's
probably what he wants me for--to make it legible to the printer."

"Let him send for a typist then; that's what he needs if he writes an
illegible fist. You can't typewrite."

"I could learn, if necessary. I've often wished I could."

"You could learn! Yes, you could learn to come when E. C. Jefferson
whistled, I've no doubt! Oh, I beg your pardon, George--you needn't turn
away. Nobody could ever fancy you coming at any man's whistle. I'm just
seeing red, that's all, at the thought of your going into a thing like
this, that's bound to throw you two into the closest sort of relations."

"That's all nonsense, Jimps. You're behaving like a little boy. And you
know I can't afford to lose a chance like this. You know how slow the
rug-weaving is----"

"You don't mean you're still at that?"

"Of course I am. The prices are very good now, and I'm----"

"Then you certainly can't lose them to go into copying manuscript by
hand. Stick to the weaving; that's my advice."

"Mr. Jefferson saw the loom to-day. He thinks it too hard work for me,"
suggested Georgiana slyly.

This was a telling shot, for Stuart had often expressed himself in
similar fashion in the past. As was to have been expected, her companion
became instantly more nettled than ever.

"Oh, he does, does he?" he said hotly. "I'd like to know what affair it
is of his. You know well enough I've protested scores of times against
that weaving----"

"And now you tell me to stick to it!"

He wheeled upon her. His tone changed: "George, I know I'm absolutely
unreasonable. Of course I don't want you pulling that back-breaking
thing. I don't want you to have to hustle for money any sort of way;
that's the truth. What I do want is--to keep you away from every other
earthly beggar but myself!"

"O James Stuart, how absurd! That's not a brotherly attitude at all."

"The role of brother isn't always entirely satisfying," retorted Stuart
under his breath. "You know well enough you've only to say the word and
I----"

"Jimps dear"--Georgiana's voice was very gentle now--"remember we've
left all that boy-and-girl sentimentalizing behind. It was quite settled
long ago that you and I were to be brother and sister, 'world without
end.' And I know you mean it as brotherly, all this fuss about my taking
a bit of perfectly reasonable employment for just a little while."

"Little while? Do you know how long he expects to be at work on that
confounded book?"

"No; do you?"

"He told me one night when we were smoking together that he had given
himself a year to do this work in. He came in January; this is April.
Do you wonder I'm a bit upset at the notion of my best friend's going
into harness with him for a year?" Stuart's tone was grim.

Georgiana, now in wild spirits with the relief from her fears, and the
suddenly opening prospect of a long period of such work as she dearly
loved, had some ado to keep her state of mind from showing. "It doesn't
follow," she said, outwardly sober, "that he intends to spend that whole
year here."

"He will--if he gets you for a side partner. A man would be a fool not
to."

"That's a great tribute--from a brother," admitted Georgiana, smiling to
herself. "But as far as our lodger is concerned, you need have no fear
of any but the most businesslike relations, even though I worked beside
him--as is quite improbable--for a year. He's not that sort."

"Not what sort? Don't you fool yourself. He's human, if his mind is bent
on writing a book. And you are--Georgiana!"

"Jimps, there's a path in your brain that's getting worn too deep
to-night. Come--let's hurry home. Jeannette will wonder what's become of
me."

"Let her wonder. George, are you going to do this thing?"

"Of course I am."

"No matter how I feel about it?"

"Why, Jimps--really, do you think you have any right----"

"Georgiana, I--love you!"

"No, Jimps, you don't. Not so much as all that. You have a brotherly
affection----"

"Brotherly affection doesn't hurt; this does," was Stuart's declaration.

"No, it doesn't, my dear boy. You're just made with a queer sort of
jealous element in your composition, and when something happens to call
it out you think it's--something quite different," explained Georgiana
rather lamely. "You know perfectly that you and I fit best as good
friends; we should be awfully unhappy tied up together in any way. Why,
we settled that long ago, as I reminded you just now."

"It seems to have come unsettled," Stuart muttered.

"Then we must settle it again. Truly--you mean everything to me as a
brother, friend, chum--whichever you like, and I--well, I should feel
pretty badly to lose you. But----"

"I wish you'd leave it there. I don't fancy what you're going on to
say."

"Then I'll not say it. Come, Jimps, give me your hand on the old
compact."

"I will--on exactly one condition." Stuart stood still and faced her in
a certain secluded spot just where the snowy path was on the point of
turning into a wider, well-used thoroughfare.

"What is it? Make it a fair one."

"It is fair--the fairest between a man and a woman. It's this: leave the
'never-never' clause out. I'll agree to any terms of friendship you
insist on if--well, just leave me a chance, will you--dear?"

There was a brief silence while Georgiana considered. She had not
expected this, certainly not just now, when her long-time friend frankly
admitted the drawing power of the winsome visitor. As she had implied,
there had been between them, in the days of dawning maturity while they
were yet in school together, certain youthfully tender vows which they
had later exchanged for the more carefully considered terms of the warm
but less sentimental friendship which had now existed for some years.
That Stuart was really dearer to her, more a necessary part of her life
than she had realized, had been made disconcertingly clear to her by the
totally unexpected pangs she had suffered during the last fortnight,
when it had seemed to her that she was likely to lose the fine fervor of
his devotion. Now, however, that she was assured of his intense loyalty,
she was the old Georgiana again, ready to stand beside her friend to the
last ditch, if need be, but wholly unwilling to bind herself to his
chariot wheels while no ditches threatened.

"'Never' is a big word," she said finally. "It isn't best to say 'never'
about anything in this life."

"Then you won't ask me to say it?" His voice was eager.

"Not if you don't want to, Jimps."

"I don't. There was never anything surer than that. Give me your
hand--chum."

She gave it. "All right--chum."

He had pulled off his own glove; he now gently drew off hers, and the
two warm hands clasped. "Here's our everlasting friendship," he said,
with a little thrill in his low voice. "Nothing shall come between us
except--love."

"Jimps! That's not the old compact at all."

"It's the new one then. Isn't it sufficiently ambiguous to suit you?"

"It's much too ambiguous."

"I can make it plainer----"

"Perhaps you'd better leave it as it is," she admitted, recognizing
danger.

"As you say."

He held her hand for a minute in such a close grasp that it hurt her,
but she did not wince. Ah! if she might just have this pleasantly
satisfying relation with the man whose presence in her life meant warmth
and light and even happiness on the hard road of everyday routine, and
then have somehow besides the contentment which comes of accomplishment
along a line of chosen activity--and still remain free for whatever God
in heaven might send her of real joy, she could ask no better.

"Jimps, I'm perfectly contented," she said radiantly, as they walked on.

"That's good. I wish I were."

"What would make you?"

"Your promise to earn your money making rugs--with me to help you."

"But you couldn't!"

"I could learn."

"Oh, how absurd! You haven't time, if there were no other reason."

He did not answer, and, since they were now back in the village and
nearing the object of Georgiana's errand, no more was said until they
were once again on their way homeward. They walked in silence until they
reached the very doorstep of the manse. Then Stuart made one more
protest.

"Not even to please me, George?" he asked, as she stood on the step
above him, leading the way in to Jeannette and the warm fireside.

"Jimps, I'm sorry you feel that way about it. But I've talked with
Father Davy and he agrees that it's a godsend. There's no reason in the
world I could give Mr. Jefferson for refusing to help him when he needs
it, and when I need it, too. Therefore--I'm sorry, Jimps, since you are
so strange as to care--but I've made up my mind."

"You'll excuse me if I don't come in to-night," he said, and turned
away.

She stood looking comprehendingly after him as he left her, then ran in
and closed the door. The mood which held her now was so far from being
black that it was rosy red.



CHAPTER XI

BORROWED PLUMES


"Uncle David, I was never so sorry to come to the end of any visit as I
am this one," said Jeannette Crofton. She was holding Mr. Warne's frail
hand in both her own, and looking straight into the young gray-blue eyes
which looked affectionately back at her. She was dressed for her
departure, and the great closed town car which had brought her was
waiting at the door.

Near her stood Georgiana and James McKenzie Stuart. Mr. E.C. Jefferson
had just appeared in the background, come to bid the guest farewell.

"You have given us much pleasure, my dear," responded Mr. Warne, "and if
you have received it as well, the balance is pretty evenly struck."

"I might have stayed two days longer," declared Jeannette with evident
longing, "if it hadn't been for that sister of mine. I'm sure she could
have had a birthday dance without me--but no! How I wish I were taking
you all with me--even you, Mr. Jefferson," she added with one of her
adorable smiles, as she turned to him; "you, whom I can't possibly
imagine caring to dance a step, not even with the prettiest girl I could
find for you."

"You almost make me wish I knew how to dance a step," said Mr.
Jefferson, advancing to take her hand. "As it is, I can at least wish
that prettiest girl a partner worthy of her grace."

"While I am wishing," exclaimed Jeannette with characteristic
impulsiveness, "why in the world don't I bring about my own wishes? Oh,
where have my wits been! Georgiana, darling, run and dress and go with
me! I'll send you back to-morrow in the car. And you, too, Mr. Stuart!
Oh, come, both of you, and dance at Rosalie's birthday fête to-night!
Please--please do!" She turned to Mr. Warne. "Mayn't she, Uncle David?
Couldn't you manage to spare her just for twenty-four hours?"

They looked at one another, smiling, hardly believing that the gay
suggestion was a serious one.

But by Jeannette, accustomed to having her own way once a way had
occurred to her, all objections were thrust aside. "Oh, but you must
come!" she cried. "I'll not take no!"

"Come and talk it over a minute with me, crazy child," bade Georgiana;
and she drew her cousin out of the room, where she could state the great
difficulty which, being a woman, had instantly assailed her. "Jean, I
hate to quash such a glorious idea, but--I shall have to be
frank--clothes!"

"With loads of frocks hanging in my wardrobe at home? And half of them
too trying for me to wear at all, while they would suit you perfectly.
Nonsense! Oh, hurry and make ready. James Stuart will go if you will; I
saw it in his eyes."

It could not be refused, this tempting invitation, with such a lovely
tyrant to enforce her will. One word, however, did James Stuart and
Georgiana Warne exchange in a corner before they capitulated.

"George, my evening togs--they've been put away for the four years since
I left college. They must be about the most hopelessly ancient cut
conceivable to eyes like hers. Shall I risk looking like a rustic in
such a house as that?" But Stuart's eyes were eager as a boy's.

"I'll not go if you won't, Jimps. As for rusticity, I can keep you
company. Can you bear to lose such a frolic? I can't."

"Neither can I, hang it! All right, I'll be a sport if you will," agreed
Stuart with a laugh, and rushed away to pack a bag in short order, all
the zest of irrepressible youth, in one who had been forced by
circumstance to foreswear most of the joys of youth for stern labour,
coming uppermost to bid him make merry once more at any cost of after
fall of spirits.

"Thank goodness I've had the sense always to keep the latest of
Jeannette's 'Semi-Annual' tailored suits pressed and trim," thought
Georgiana as she dressed. "This is a year behind the extreme style, but
I know perfectly well I look absolutely all right in it, and my hat,
having once been hers, is mighty becoming and smart, if it is a
make-over. It's lucky I can do those things; that's one benefit of going
to college, anyhow."

A few other "make-overs" in the way of dress accessories, all of
exquisite material, on account of their source, and daintily preserved
because of their frailty after having served two owners, went into her
traveling bag. For the dance itself, since there was no other way, she
was not loath to accept Jeannette's generous offer, and, being a very
human creature, could not help looking forward with delight to the
prospect of finding herself arrayed in such apparel as would
successfully sustain any scrutiny which might be brought to bear upon
the country cousin. As for Stuart, she had no fears for him, for his
years of college life had made him an acceptable figure upon any
occasion, and she was confident his broad shoulders and fine carriage
could atone for any slightly antique cut of lapel or coat-tail.

Altogether, it was a very happy young person who embraced Mr. David
Warne, shook hands with Mr. Jefferson, and ran down the path to the
great car in the wake of Jeannette, and followed by James Stuart looking
extremely personable. Well-cut clothes were the one extravagance Stuart
allowed himself now that he was immured for at least the early half of
his life, as he expected, upon the farm of his inheritance.

"Well, well, I'm glad to have my little girl run away for a few hours,"
said Father Davy, from the window where, with Mr. Jefferson at his
shoulder, he stood watching for the final wave of Georgiana's hand. "She
has enjoyed her cousin's visit, but it has meant considerable extra
labour for her. This seems a fitting return for Jeannette to make."

"One can hardly blame Miss Crofton for wanting to prolong her enjoyment
of your daughter's society," observed Mr. Jefferson, his eyes watching
closely the laughing faces behind the glass as the travelers settled
themselves. "I can imagine one's feeling a very decided emptiness in a
place which she had left."

"There, they're off!" announced Mr. Warne, waving his slender arm with
eagerness, his delicate features alight with pleasure in this unexpected
happening. "Emptiness, you say, Jefferson?" he added as the two turned
away, with the car out of sight down the snowy road. "That quite
expresses it. Even for a few hours I am conscious of a distinct sense of
loneliness without Georgiana. Her personality is one which makes itself
felt; it has individuality, audacity; even--I think--that curious
quality which for want of a better name we call 'charm.' Am I too
prejudiced?"

He placed himself upon his couch, plainly very weary with the flurry of
the last hour. He lay looking up at Mr. Jefferson, who had lingered a
little before going back to the work which loudly called to him. It was
quite possible for the younger man to comprehend how desolate was the
gentle invalid's feeling at being left, if only for a day and a night,
in the care of the friendly neighbour who was to minister to his needs
and who was already to be heard bustling about the dining-room, laying
the table for the coming meal.

"You may be prejudiced," admitted his companion, "but it is a prejudice
which can be readily forgiven--and even shared," he added, smiling.

"Her cousin," pursued Mr. Warne slowly, "would outshine her in beauty
and in sweetness of disposition, perhaps, though I doubt if Jeannette
has ever had a fraction of the tests of character and endurance my girl
has had."

"She surely never has," agreed the other. "And as for mere sweetness of
disposition, there are other qualities which make their own appeal."

A whimsical smile appeared upon the pale face resting against one of
Georgiana's crimson couch pillows. "How she would make me signals of
distress and warning," he mused, "if she could hear me carrying on an
antiphonal service in her praise with our lodger, who, she would
consider, knows her not at all. Well, well----

    "'Man, she is mine own,
  And I as rich in having such a jewel,
  As twenty seas, if all their sand were pearl,
  The water nectar, and the rocks pure gold.'

You'll forgive an old man's romanticism, Mr. Jefferson, I hope?"

"You are one of the youngest men I know. And if you may quote
Shakespeare to your purpose, I may quote good old Doctor Holmes," said
Mr. Jefferson, drawing the pillow into an easier position as he spoke:

  "'He doth not lack an almanac
  Whose youth is in his soul.'"

To Georgiana Warne, a year out of college, and during that year having
sorely missed the many gayeties of the life she had known for four happy
years, the present experience was delightful. She enjoyed every minute
of the swift drive over the sixty miles to her cousin's home, enjoyed
the arrival there, the meeting with the family and their house guests
assembled for afternoon tea, the installment in a luxuriously furnished
room where Jeannette presently brought her an armful of gowns to choose
from for the evening. A small dinner was to precede the dance, and all
sorts of scheming for Georgiana's pleasure had been fermenting in
Jeannette's brain on the way home.

"I've arranged with Rosalie to put you next her special prize--the most
wonderful man she knows. All her set are crazy over him, though he
belongs in ours fast enough. It's Miles Channing, just home after a
year's travel, and as good looking as any illustrator ever drew. You see
you simply must be your most brilliant self. And here's the way to do
it--wear this!"

She held up before Georgiana's disconcerted gaze such a marvel of colour
and cunning as brought a gasp of astonishment and a quick denial: "Oh,
my dear! Not that--for me. It's bad enough to wear your things at all,
but don't give me something that will make everybody look at me, like
that!"

"That's precisely what I want," laughed Jeannette. "And this is a thing
I haven't ventured to wear and never shall, though I'm wild to do it.
But I couldn't carry it off; you can. Those orange shades will be
glorious with your eyes and hair. Besides, as for making you conspicuous
above the rest, on account of any gorgeousness of colour or eccentricity
of style, it simply can't be done these days. So put this on and see for
yourself. You needn't wear it, of course, if you don't like it; but you
will."

Reluctantly Georgiana allowed a slim French maid to slip the marvel of
her country's art over the bared shoulders, and the next minute she was
staring at herself in a long mirror, while Susette clasped her hands,
and gay young Rosalie, passing the door at the moment and summoned to
the private view, cried joyously:

"Oh, Georgiana, you're perfectly stunning! Of course you must wear it,
and you'll be the star of the evening."

Rosalie rushed on, having settled the questions out of hand, after the
manner of the youthful. Jeannette was laughing as she called her mother
in to confirm the decision.

Mrs. Crofton, languidly interested, surveyed her niece with approval.
She was an impressive lady, was Aunt Olivia, and was accustomed to have
her opinion carry weight. "It suits you, my dear," was her verdict.
"Those who can wear such daring effects should do it, for every scene
needs points of light and intensity."

"And these other frocks," Jeannette declared, pointing to them where
Susette had spread them out upon the bed, "are just colourless baby
things that anybody can wear."

"They look exquisite to me," regretted Georgiana, eying them wistfully.

Somehow, now that she was here, she did not so much enjoy the thought of
appearing in borrowed finery, and, since it must be done, would have
preferred the simplest white frock in Jeannette's wardrobe. But this was
not to be without displeasing her hostesses, and she reluctantly
submitted. Susette begged leave to arrange her hair, Jeannette hunted
out silk stockings and slippers to match the frock, and Rosalie
contributed the long white gloves which completed the costuming.

When Georgiana was ready to descend she took one last look at the girl
in the long mirror, and turned to Jeannette, herself a picture in the
delicate colourings which she affected and which set off her golden
beauty. "I feel like the old woman in the nursery song," she said,
"doubtful of my identity."

"But you must admit you're simply glorious," cried Jeannette. "I knew
you were a beauty, but I didn't know you were such a raving one as
this."

"I'm no beauty," denied Georgiana with spirit. "It's just the clothes.
But you--I never saw anything so enchanting as you to-night."

"Delightful! I'm so glad, for--there's somebody I want to enchant. Come
on," and Jeannette led the way.

At the foot of the great staircase, about a wide fireplace, Georgiana
saw James Stuart with a group of other young men, and noted swiftly that
there was no too-striking contrast to be noted between her friend and
his faultlessly attired companions, except that his face and hands wore
a deeper coat of winter tan than theirs, and he looked stronger and more
virile than any of them. And even in his outdoor colouring, there was
among them one who rivalled him, the one who, as Georgiana instantly
guessed, was the lately arrived traveler. A moment later she met
Stuart's eyes and saw his look of astonishment as he gazed at her.

Presently, when those whom she had not already met had been made known
to her, she found Stuart at her elbow. "Am I dreaming?" said his voice
in her ear, "or is this my chum? I'm almost afraid to speak to you!"

"You look awfully nice, Jimps," she returned under her breath. "Yes,
isn't it absurd for me to be peacocking like this? But they made me do
it."

"You take my breath away."

"Look at Jean," she whispered. "Isn't she the loveliest thing you ever
saw in your life?"

He looked. "You and she are a pair," he admitted.

Jeannette came up to them with the tall traveler, and Georgiana found
herself looking up into a pair of dark eyes whose glance told her that
their owner found her worth studying intently. Miles Channing was of the
sort who waste no time in preliminaries. By the time she had sat out
half the dinner by his side she felt as if she had been under fire for
hours. All her youth and wit responded to his sallies, and she enjoyed
the encounter as keenly as a girl might be expected to do, who for a
year had seen no men but the slow village swains--always excepting James
Stuart, who was her one reliance in time of famine.

Channing made no attempt to disguise his preoccupation with the most
attractive of the few strangers in the set of young people whom he had
known for years. Between the dinner and the dance, Jeannette, who had
been observing without seeming to observe, dropped a word in Georgiana's
ear:

"You've done it, dear. I never saw him lose his head so completely.
You'll have to be careful or you'll have all the girls down on you.
They're crazy over him, you know--including Rosalie."

"Absurd! I shall never see him again, so what does it matter?" retorted
Georgiana.

"Don't be too sure of that. Nothing can stop him when he's interested.
And you know you are a witch to-night; anybody would be caught in your
snare. I didn't know you were such a clever thing at the game, though I
might have guessed it."

"If I weren't, I might take lessons of you," Georgiana gave back. "You
have Jimps slightly delirious, I can see. Is he the one you wanted to
enchant? I'm sure you've done it."

"Isn't he splendid? He looks so much stronger and more interesting than
half these boys I've known all my life. I do want him to have a good
time."

"He's having it."

Georgiana was sure of this, but she was having so good a time herself
she didn't mind. More than once she had caught Stuart's eyes across the
table, and had noted how they were sparkling. The glance the two
exchanged might have been interpreted to mean: "Fun, isn't it? You play
up to your opportunities and so will I. This won't happen again in our
lives, perhaps."

Presently the dancing began, in great rooms cleared for the purpose and
decorated with every art of the florist. The music was all of a quality
more perfect than any Georgiana had ever heard, and the strains which
assailed her ears made her wild to dance to every note. She was besieged
by invitations.

"But I haven't danced for more than a year, and I don't know one of the
latest steps," she said regretfully.

"We'll soon remedy that," promised Chester Crofton, her cousin, who
carried her off into an unoccupied room, where the music could yet be
heard, and proceeded to teach her. She was easily taught, having all the
foundations after four years of practice among college girls, and she
was soon able to go upon the floor with young Crofton and the rest.

Miles Channing did not dance, but after watching for a time--while
Georgiana was acutely conscious that his eyes constantly followed
her--he claimed and bore her off before others could prevent. In a
palm-shadowed corner well removed from observation he drew a long breath
of content and settled down beside her.

"I hope you will not be too much bored at missing a round or two," he
began in the slightly drawling speech which was somehow one of his
charms, it was so curiously accompanied by his intent observation. "I
haven't danced for so long I can't venture to attempt it, especially
with you."

"I should be the most patient of partners, I'm so unaccomplished
myself," declared Georgiana.

"Nevertheless I shouldn't want to try you. You dance like a sylph, I
like an elephant."

"I don't believe it."

"You do grudge sitting out, then, do you?" he asked.

"Not a bit."

"It wouldn't really matter if you did, for I intend to hold my advantage
now I have it. I care more to talk with you than for all the dances on
the program. And the time is so short I must make the most of it. You go
back to-morrow, I understand?"

"Yes, indeed."

"And you'll not be here soon again?"

"I don't expect to. I'm a very busy person at home and can seldom be
spared."

"That means that whoever wants to know you must come to your home?"

Georgiana felt her pulse beats quickening. This was certainly losing no
time. She assented to the interrogation, explaining that her father was
an invalid and she was his housekeeper. She felt no temptation to
represent things to Mr. Channing as other than they were. It was somehow
an atonement for appearing in her borrowed attire that she should not
allow appearances to deceive this new acquaintance into thinking her
home the counterpart of her cousin's. The news did not appear in the
least to disconcert him.

"I should like very much to meet your father," Channing said; and
Georgiana liked him for taking the trouble to put it in that way. He
instantly added: "And I should like still more to see you in your own
home. May I have that pleasure?"

"We shall be very glad to see you," she promised, careful of her manner.

"No matter how soon I come?"

"I suppose you will allow me to reach home first?" she questioned gayly.

"Barely. This is Wednesday night. You go home to-morrow--Thursday. May I
come Saturday?"

"You have been living on railway schedules so long you have acquired the
habit," she gave back with slightly heightened colour. In the course of
her experience she had seen more than one young man change his plans
after encountering her, but she had never known one to form new ones as
quickly as this.

"I have discovered that when one wants to reach a place very much, he
can't start too soon," he said very low, with such obvious meaning that
she had some difficulty in keeping her cool composure. It was not only
his words, but his looks and manner which spoke. She had never dreamed
that outside of stories men ever really did begin to fire on sight, like
this.

The matter settled, Channing began to talk of other things, but through
all his speech and acts ran the visible thread of his instant and
powerful attraction to her, so that she was conscious of the colour of
it. By the time two dances had gone by and she was sought and found by
an eager claimant, the girl was quite ready to get away from this new
and decidedly disturbing experience. And when, a little later, she
allowed James Stuart to try one of the new steps with her, she had a
comfortable sense of having got back upon known and solid ground, after
having been swimming in a too-swift current.



CHAPTER XII

EARLY MORNING


"You've no idea, Jimpsy," Georgiana said, when she and James Stuart had
assured themselves that they were able to suit their steps to each other
and were moving smoothly down the floor, "how glad I am to be with some
one I know, for a bit."

"Only some one? Not particularly me?"

"Yes, particularly you. My brain needs a little rest."

"There's a compliment for an old friend! But I didn't suppose dancing
tired the brain. It's my feet that have bothered me. I've walked all
over Jeannette's little toes, but she's perfectly game and won't admit
it."

"I thought you and she were getting on beautifully together."

"So we were. I couldn't see how you and Channing got on together,
because you went off and hid somewhere. That's not fair with a perfectly
new acquaintance."

"Didn't you and Jeannette go off and hide somewhere?"

"We're not new acquaintances."

"Oh, indeed! How old ones are you?"

"A month is a long time compared with one short evening. I never knew,
George, you were such a terrific charmer. You've had them all nailed
to-night; and as for Channing--well---- Only I suppose he's a shark at
the game himself. He shows it. Better look out."

"What an excellent opportunity a dance is for old friends to give each
other good advice." Georgiana smiled up into his eyes.

He closed his own for an instant. "Don't do that; it dazzles me."

"Nonsense. You're learning the game yourself. Jeannette's been teaching
you. We're all finding each other out to-night. I had no idea she could
sparkle so."

"You're the sparkler. She simply glows with a steady light."

"Well, I like that!"

"You like everything to-night. You remind me of a peach--on fire."

"Jimps!" Georgiana's soft laughter assailed his ear. "I believe we're
both a bit crazy with this sudden leap into dissipation--such
dissipation! Just remember where we'll be to-morrow night."

"I don't want to--except that I'll be with you. We'll talk it all over
by your fire, eh?"

"Of course. There'll be that much left, anyhow. Is this over? Thank you,
Jimps, for the best dance I've had to-night."

"No use trying it on me," he murmured as he released her. "What's the
use of capturing what you've already got?"

By and by it was all over and Georgiana was mounting the stairs with
Jeannette, smiling back at certain faces in the disordered spaces below,
where flowers lay about the floors and a group of young fellows,
belonging to Rosalie's house party, were making merry before they broke
ranks.

In Jeannette's room by a blazing fire the girls held brief session,
sitting with unbound hair and swinging slippered feet, and cheeks still
flushed with the night's gayety.

"Jimps and I were imagining ourselves sitting by the fire in our old
living-room to-morrow night," said Georgiana softly, staring into the
flame with eyes which reflected little points of light. "It will seem
like a dream then, but we shall talk it all over, and remember what fun
we had, and how lovely everybody was to us--and how beautiful you were
in that blue-and-silver frock."

"You dear thing, you ought to have such times often and often!" cried
Jeannette. "But--O Georgiana, you have times I envy you! While you are
dreaming of our flowers and music I shall be dreaming of the dear old
house, and the jolly evenings you gave me there, and envying you--oh,
envying you----"

"Envying me! Are you crazy, child, or are you just----"

"Just speaking the truth. You can't think how many times I shall think
of you sitting there with your three splendid men----"

"Jean! What are you talking about?"

"About Uncle David, and Jimps, and Mr. Jefferson----"

"But they're not mine," protested Georgiana, laughing. "Except Father
Davy."

"Not--Jimps?"

"Oh, of course he's my friend, my very good friend. And Mr. Jefferson's
only a 'boarder,'"--she made a little grimace at the word. "You speak as
if I had them all about me all the time."

"But you do evenings, don't you?"

"They were there much more while you were visiting me than they will be
now. Jimps has heaps of arrears to make up; he let lots of work go while
you were there, you must know, my dear. As for Mr. Jefferson--he may
never come down any more, now that Jimps won't be going up to beg him to
make a fourth for your entertainment. So don't imagine me holding court
with those three retainers. It will mostly be just Father Davy and I
with a volume of Dumas or Kipling. Isn't it odd how my pale little
father loves the red blood of literature?"

"Just the same----" but Jeannette did not finish that. She began afresh:
"And oh! how I shall miss you, George--as Jimps calls you. Somehow I
must have you before long for a real visit here, or wherever I may be
for the summer."

"Thank you, Jean; but I can never get away."

"I'll arrange it somehow. That makes me think--Miles Channing was
dreadfully disappointed that you were going in the morning. I've no
doubt he will manage to see you off somehow. I think it's too bad of you
to insist on going before luncheon. Think how little sleep you'll have."

She gave Georgiana a penetrating look as she said it, but saw only a
pair of beautiful bare arms thrown up over a mass of dark locks, as her
cousin, with a clever imitation of a half-smothered yawn, answered
merrily: "Then we must go to bed this minute or I shall never have
strength of mind to get up. And I can't leave Father Davy to the tender
mercies of Mrs. Perkins longer than I can help. She'll give him
everything that is bad for him, in spite of the best intentions."

It was a wide-awake Georgiana, nevertheless, who, fully dressed for the
drive, leaned over Jeannette's bed at ten o'clock that morning and
kissed a warm velvet cheek, murmuring: "Don't wake up, Jean. We're just
off after breakfast. I'll write soon. You've been a perfect darling, and
I'm more grateful than I can tell you."

"Oh, I'm dead to the world, I'm so tired!" moaned the girl in the bed.
"I always have to pay up so for dancing all night. But you,"--she lifted
languid eyelids to see her cousin's smiling freshness of face and air of
vigour--"why, you look as though you had had twelve hours' sleep--and a
cold plunge!"

"I've had the cold plunge," admitted Georgiana, laughing. "And I'm 'fit
as a fiddle,' as Jimps says. He sent his good-bye to you and told me to
tell you he'll never forget you--never!"

"Tell him I'll not let him forget me--or you, either. Oh, how I hate to
have you go, both of you!"

Through a silent, sleeping house Georgiana and Stuart stole, the only
member of the family up to see them off being Mr. Thomas Crofton
himself, the oldest person under the great rooftree.

"My dear, you must come again, you must come often," he urged, holding
Georgiana's hand and patting it with a paternal air. He was a handsome
man in the early sixties, with graying hair and tired eyes. "You have
done a great deal for our Jean; she looks much stronger than when she
went to your home. But neither she nor Rosalie can enter the race with
you for splendid health. That comes from your country life, I suppose.
I envy you, I envy you, my dear."

"Come and see us, Uncle Thomas--do. Father Davy would be so happy; you
know he's such an invalid. But his mind and heart are as young as ever."

"I will come; I will drive down some day, thank you, Georgiana. I should
like to see David again. Mr. Stuart, come again, come again. Good-bye;
sorry your aunt was too much done up to see you off this morning, my
dear. Good-bye."

As the two emerged from the door a tall figure sprang up the steps.
"What luck! I was passing and I suspected you were just getting off.
Good morning! Can you possibly be the girl I saw dancing seven hours
ago?"

"I don't wonder you ask, Mr. Channing," laughed Georgiana. "Evening
frocks and traveling clothes are quite different affairs."

"Ah, but the traveling clothes are even the nicer of the two, when their
wearer looks----" Channing glanced at Stuart standing by. "Confound you,
sir!" said he, with a genial grin, shaking hands. "Since you're going to
drive all the way home with Miss Warne can't you give me the chance to
say something pleasant to her?"

"You can't make it too strong to suit me," observed Stuart--and remained
within hearing.

"Saturday, then, if I may," said Channing, looking as far into
Georgiana's eyes as he could see, which was not very far. She wore a
close little veil, which interfered with her eyelashes, and clearly she
could not lift her glance very high.

Then they were off, with Channing waving farewell, his hat high in air.
A hand at another window also waved, and Georgiana knew Jeannette had
seen this last encounter.

"Well, for sixteen hours' work," remarked James Stuart grimly, as the
car gathered headway and the house was left behind, "I should say you
had done some fairly deadly execution. Saturday, eh? Why does he delay
so long? Isn't to-morrow Friday--and a day sooner?"



CHAPTER XIII

A COPYIST


The old study of David Warne was a square, austerely furnished room on
the second floor of the manse, opposite the sleeping-room now occupied
by Mr. Jefferson. It contained several plain bookcases, filled mostly
with worn old volumes in dingy yellow calf or faded cloth. An ancient
table served for a desk, with a splint-bottomed chair before it. On the
walls hung several portrait engravings, that of Abraham Lincoln
occupying the post of honour among them. The floor was covered with a
rag carpet of pleasantly dimmed colours, and an old Franklin stove, with
widely opening doors and a hearth with a brass rail, completed the
furnishing of the room.

This was the place now swept and dusted and warmed for the joint labours
of the writer of books and his new assistant. Mr. Jefferson had moved
the materials of his craft to the new working quarters: he had brought
up wood for the fire and had made that fire himself, according to the
custom he had inaugurated soon after his arrival. The day and hour for
the beginning of that which James Stuart insisted on designating as a
partnership had arrived. At ten o'clock that April morning, when
Georgiana's housework should have reached a stage when she could safely
leave it for a more or less extended period, the study door was to close
upon the two and shut them away undisturbed for the first details of
their affair in common.

Georgiana had been up since before daybreak, planning and executing a
system which should make all this possible. Now, at a quarter before
ten, with all well in hand, she flew to her room for certain personal
touches which should transform her from housewife to secretary. Two
minutes before the clock struck she surveyed herself hurriedly in her
small mirror.

"You really look very trim and demure," she remarked to her image. "Your
colour is a bit high, but that's exercise, not excitement. Still, you
are a little excited, you know, my dear, and you must be very careful
not to show it. It's a calm, cool, business person the gentleman wants,
George, not a blushing schoolgirl. It would spoil it at once if you
should look conscious or coquettish. So now--remember. And forget--for
the love of your new occupation--forget that Miles Channing is coming
again to-night--again, after one short week! What does it matter if he
is? Run along and be good!"

Half a minute left in which to run downstairs, kiss Father Davy on his
white forehead, and receive his warm "Bless you, dear, and bless the new
work. May you be very happy in it!" and to walk quietly upstairs again
and knock at the door of the study. It opened under Mr. Jefferson's
hand, and to the cheerful sound of snapping wood on the open hearth of
the old Franklin stove he bade her enter.

His smile was very pleasant, his steady eyes seemed to take note of
everything about her in one quick glance, as he said with a wave of his
hand: "Welcome to my workshop! You see I've swept up all the chips, but
we'll soon make more."

"You manage to keep your workshop remarkably free from chips," she
commented. "You must have a great system of order."

"Pretty fair. I should be hopelessly lost if I let this mass of material
become disordered. Will you take this chair? Must we begin at once or
may we talk a little first?"

"I think we had better begin. You know there are just two free hours
before I must be back downstairs, if you are to eat, this noon."

He laughed and she noted, as she had noted many times before, how young
he looked at such moments, grave as his face could be when in repose.

"Very well," he agreed. "I have no doubt you will work at this task as
you do at the loom, with all your might, and I shall have to lengthen
my stride to keep up with you. But that promises well. One is likely to
fall into habits of soldiering when one works alone. You have no idea
how carefully I have to keep certain favourite books out of sight when I
want to accomplish big stretches of work. And in this room--hard
luck!--I see so many old treasures that I'm going to have a bit of
trouble in resisting temptation."

His eyes led hers to the old bookcases. She nodded. "It's a shabby old
collection, but it's very dear to father's heart."

"It well may be. Gibbon, Hume, Froude, Parton--Lamb, Johnson,
Carlyle--Hugo, Thackeray, Reade, and Trollope--Keats, Shelley, and the
rest. What matters the binding? Some time I must read you a passage in
good old Christopher North that appeals to me tremendously. No, not now,
Miss Warne; I see I must fall upon my task without delay or you will be
slipping away on the plea of bad faith on my part. Well----"

He turned his chair toward the table and took up a notebook. His face
settled instantly into an expression of serious interest.

"I am going to ask you first," said he, "to copy in order upon a fresh
sheet each reference which you find marked with a red cross, so that the
references may be all together. Be very exact, please, and very
legible. German and French words are easily misread by the typist who
will put this work finally into copy for the printer."

Georgiana, glancing at the first marked reference, found cause to credit
this statement, for it read:

  Cagnetto: Zur Frage der Anat. Beziehung zwischen Akromegalie u.
  Hypophysistumor, Virchow's Archiv., 1904, clxxvi., 115. Neuer
  Beitrag. f. Studium der Akromegalie mit besonderer Berücksichtigung
  der Frage nach dem zusammenhang der Akromegalie mit
  Hypophysenganggeschwulste, Virchow's Archiv., 1907, lxxxvi., 197.

"It would be best to print the words as clearly as I can, wouldn't it?"
she suggested, suppressing her desire to laugh.

"That depends on your handwriting. Try a line and let me see, please."

When she had shown him a specimen of the peculiarly readable script
which she had cultivated in college, he signified his approval with a
hearty "Good! That's a splendid hand for work, the hand of a workman, in
fact. I congratulate myself. Go ahead with the jaw-breakers, only
verifying each reference before you leave it."

Thus the new task began, and thus it continued day after day--not always
quite the same, for Georgiana soon recognized that her employer was
diversifying her labours as much as he consistently could by changing
the nature of the copying. Now and then he refreshed her endurance and
rested her tired hand by asking her to read aloud to him several just
finished pages of his own writing, walking the floor meanwhile or
sitting tipped back in his chair with closed eyes while he listened with
ears alert for error of statement or infelicity of phrase, and she
wondered at the character of the words she read.

Of course she discovered at once what was the general subject of the
book. No essay was this, no work of fiction, no "history of art," as
Stuart had scornfully suggested. It could be only the sternest of
research and experience which dictated such sentences as these:

  The especial dangers to be contended with are that the ethmoid
  cells may be mistaken for the sphenoids; that we may go too low and
  enter the pons and medulla; that, laterally, we may enter the
  cavernous sinus, and above, that we may injure the optic nerve.

It was all more or less of a puzzle to her, but it was one which her
taskmaster never explained further than the revelations of each day
explained it. She understood that he was a scientist, that he
undoubtedly had been an operator in some surgical field or was putting
into shape the work of another in that field, but what he now was
besides a writer of technical books she had no manner of idea.

"But I really enjoy it, Father Davy," she insisted, when she came down
to him one day with hotly flushed cheeks and shaking hand after a
particularly protracted siege of copying involved and incomprehensible
material. "It's monotonous in a way, but it's intensely interesting,
too. Mr. Jefferson is so absorbed in it, it's fun to watch him. To-day
he was as happy as a boy over a letter he had just received from a
Professor Somebody, a great authority in Vienna. It seemed it absolutely
confirmed some statement he had made in a monograph he wrote last year
which had been challenged by several scientists. The way he fell to
writing his next paragraph after he had read that letter made one
imagine he was writing it in his own heart's blood. He read it aloud to
me." She laughed appreciatively at the recollection.

"Could you make anything of it?" inquired Mr. Warne with interest.

"Not very much. It was about the pituitary body;--oh, I've come to have
a great awe of the pituitary body, it seems to be responsible for so
many things. He chuckled over it like a boy, and said to me, 'Forgive
these transports, Miss Warne, but this is food and drink to me. I wish I
could explain it to you so that you might rejoice over it with me. Some
day I will, when we are not so busy.' I hope he will. There's enough
that I do understand to make me interested."

"I see you are--and rejoice, my Georgiana. Do you remember what Max
Müller says, echoed by many another, '_Work is life to me; and when I am
no longer able to work, life will be a heavy burden?_'"

He smiled as he said it, but his daughter read the seldom-expressed
longing in the cheerful voice and laid her cheek for an instant against
his. "He's quite right. And you have your work, Father Davy, and you're
doing it all the time. I think you preach much more effectively now than
you did in the pulpit, even when you don't open your mouth. And when you
do open it angels couldn't compete with you!"

They laughed softly together, though Mr. Warne shook his head. "It's a
curious thing," he mused, "that the weaker the body gets the harder does
the mind have to strive to master it. But, thank God--'_so fight I, not
as one that beateth the air_.'"

"'Not as one that beateth the air,'" murmured the girl. "I should say
not, Father Davy. As one that delivereth hard blows on his own body, his
poor, tired body. Oh, if I had one tenth the self-control----"

At which she ran away, as was quite like her, when emotion suddenly got
the better of her. The darkest cloud on this girl's life was the frail
tenure of her father's existence. The rest could be endured.

The work in the upstairs study went steadily on, in spite of the fact
that James Stuart railed and that Miles Channing came at least once in
seven days, driving the sixty miles in a long, swiftly speeding car
which brought him to the door of the manse before the early May sunset,
and which took him back when the shadows lay black upon the silent road.
Two hours in the morning, three in the afternoon, Georgiana gave to the
rigid performance of the tasks Mr. Jefferson set her, while outside
below the windows at which she worked lay her garden, beloved of her
affection, beseeching her not to neglect it.

It was hard sometimes not to betray how she longed to be outside, as she
wrote on and on, copying the often difficult and uninteresting language
of the more technical part of her employer's construction. And one
afternoon, lifting her eyes to let them dwell on a great budding purple
lilac tree, with the warm breath of the breeze which had drifted across
the apple orchard fanning her cheek, and all the notes of rioting spring
in her ears, she did draw in spite of herself one deep sigh of longing
which she instantly suppressed--too late.

Her companion looked up quickly, noted the flush in the cheek and the
hint of a weary shadow under the dark eyes, and suddenly pushed aside
his paper. Then he drew it back, blotted it carefully, laid it with a
pile of others, and capped his pen. He wheeled about in his chair to
face his assistant.

"Put down your work, please," he commanded gently; "precisely where you
are. Don't finish that sentence."

Georgiana looked up, astonished. "Not finish the sentence?"

"No. Did you never stop in the middle of a sentence?"

"I'm afraid I have. But I didn't suppose you ever did."

"I don't. But I want you to. Please. That's right. You will know where
to start it again to-morrow."

"To-morrow?" In spite of herself her eyes had lighted as a child's
might.

"Even so. To-day we are going for a drive in all this beauty--if I can
find a horse and some kind of a vehicle, and you will go with me. It's
only three o'clock. We can have a long drive between now and the hour
when you invariably disappear to make magic for our appetites. How about
it?"

"I can keep on perfectly well, you know," she said, with pen still
poised above her paper.

"But I can't." He was smiling. "Now that the other plan has occurred to
me, I can't keep on."

"Did you see inside my mind?" queried Georgiana, putting away her
copying with rapid motions.

"Suddenly I did. I've been rather blind, a hard taskmaster. I've been
conscious of what was going on outside when I went for my walks, but the
work is absorbing to me and I have kept you too steadily at it. We both
need a rest," he added as she shook her head.



CHAPTER XIV

OUT OF THE BLUE


Twenty minutes afterward he drove up to the door with the best that the
village liveryman had to give for the highest price his customer could
offer--a tall black horse of fair proportions, and a hurriedly washed
buggy of the type in vogue in country districts. But as Georgiana went
down the path she was conscious that the figure which stood hat and
reins in hand awaiting her would lend dignity to any vehicle, short of a
wheelbarrow, in which he might be seen to ride.

Then presently the pair were driving along country lanes in the very
midst of all the burgeoning beauty of the season, and Georgiana was like
a captive bird let loose. Her companion as well responded to the call of
Nature at her loveliest, and the tireless worker of the study seemed
changed at a word to a bright-eyed idler of the most carefree sort. The
two gave themselves up without restraint to the enjoyment of the hour.

"I wonder how long it is," said Mr. Jefferson, letting the reins lie
loose at a leafy curve of the road while the black horse willingly
walked, "since I have had a drive like this. Not for ten years at
least."

"You've lived always in a great city?"

"Since boyhood--in the heart of it."

"And have driven motors, not horses, for those ten years."

"Yes, like everybody else. But I spent all my summers as a boy on my
grandfather's farm, and there I drove horses and rode them and did
acrobatic feats on their bare backs. I was a wild Indian, a cowboy, and
a captain of cavalry by turns. Those were happy days, and on a day like
this they don't seem long ago."

"They can't be so dreadfully long ago," she dared, with a glance at the
interesting profile beside her.

"Can't they? Don't I look pretty aged compared with your youth?"

"I'm not so remarkably young," she retorted.

"Aren't you? You are about ten years younger than I. That's a big leap
and must make me seem a grandfather indeed."

"But you don't know how old I am."

"I could come pretty close to it," said he with a quick look.

"How could you know?"

"When you see a spray of apple blossoms like those"--he pointed toward a
mass of pink and white at the stage of perfection beyond an old rail
fence--"can't you tell at a glance whether they've been out a day or a
week?"

"I should say that if things had happened to them to make them feel as
if they'd been out a week when they had been out only two days----"

"A heavy rain, for instance? In that case we should be
deceived--perhaps. But in the case of a human being those heavy rains
sometimes only mature without fading---- Hello,----what's this?"

A small and very ragged boy had emerged suddenly from a meadow gateway,
his face convulsed with pain and fright. He nursed one hand in the other
and the colour had deserted his round cheek, leaving it pallid under its
freckles. The only house nearby was an abandoned one and there were no
others for some distance in either direction.

Mr. Jefferson stopped his horse. "Does it hurt badly, lad?" he asked in
the friendliest of tones, which yet had a bracing quality. "Don't you
want to let me see if I can help it?"

The boy stood still, tears silently making their way down his face.
Giving the reins to Georgiana, Mr. Jefferson jumped out and gently
examined the small hand, the middle finger of which, as the onlooker
could plainly see, was badly distorted and somewhat swollen. The skin,
however, did not seem to be broken.

"We can make that more comfortable right away," the man promised the
little boy. "Sit down on the grass for a minute or two, laddie, while I
find something I want."

He pulled out a handkerchief, as yet folded and fresh from its ironing,
and handed it to Georgiana. "Will you tear that into strips an inch
wide, please, while I take a look back here for a bit of wood?" and he
disappeared down the road, while Georgiana with the aid of her strong
white teeth tore the fine linen as he had bidden, and spoke comfortingly
to the little fellow, who seemed glad enough to have fallen into
friendly hands.

When he shortly returned Mr. Jefferson was rapidly cutting and whittling
a stick into a little splint, which he then wound carefully with a strip
of the handkerchief until it was covered from view. Then he took the
injured hand in his own capable ones--his assistant had often noted
those hands--and said quietly, "I'm going to hurt you just a minute,
little man, but you'll be all right, so be game," and in two deft
motions he had pulled and twisted the broken finger, and had set it
straight as the others, with but one sharp outcry from the owner. In
less time than it can be told in, the set finger was bound securely with
its neighbouring finger to the padded splint, and the whole neatly
bandaged with the torn linen, the entire procedure accomplished with
the rapidity and skill of the practised hand. No amateur surgery this,
as Georgiana understood well enough.

"There," said Mr. Jefferson, drawing forth another handkerchief as
spotless as the first--she wondered if he went always thus provided
against emergency--and improvising a little sling in which the bandaged
hand swung comfortably, "I think you'll do. Rest a bit and then go home,
and tell your mother not to touch that finger for three weeks. By that
time it will be as good as new, only be careful with it when you first
use it. Good-bye, laddie, and better luck next time."

Georgiana saw the uninjured hand of the boy close over something bright
as the man's hand left it, and heard a low sound which might have been
almost anything indicative of surprise and joy. Then the black horse was
moving on, and Mr. Jefferson was saying: "Weren't we talking about apple
blossoms?"

"We had finished with them, I think," Georgiana replied, wondering if he
really were going to offer no explanation of the hint of mystery which
had been about him ever since her work with him had begun.

But he did not offer any, only went on with the pleasant talk with which
he had all along beguiled the way. Georgiana was recognizing this
afternoon, more than she had yet done, what a well-stored mind was
possessed by this unassuming man, whose manner and speech yet did not
lack that quality of quiet assurance which is the product only of
genuine knowledge and experience.

The black horse was within a mile of home, passing through the last
stretch of woodland which would justify the walking pace, in which,
greatly to his astonishment, he was being allowed to indulge at all such
points, when a motor car, slowing down beside him, caused him to lay
back his ears in displeasure.

Georgiana, turning, beheld the handsome, eager face of Miles Channing as
he leaned toward her, his hand hushing his engine as he spoke.

"Miss Warne--Mr. Jefferson--forgive me for stopping you! I should have
gone on and waited for you if I had been sure you were on your way home.
But I'm a messenger from the Croftons; they beg you to let me bring you
back with me to-night." His eyes rested on Georgiana.

"To-night? Is anybody ill?"

"Oh, no, no; nothing like that. It's for quite a different reason they
want you; only I'm to ask you not to question me. You're to come on
faith, if you will. And they'll agree to have you back in the morning by
breakfast-time, if you insist."

Georgiana looked puzzled, but, being human, she was naturally interested
and attracted by this mysterious plan. "It's very odd," she mused, "but
if father can spare me----"

"I will undertake to see that your father is not lonely this evening,"
said Mr. Jefferson's quiet voice at her side. "And please don't bother
about to-morrow morning or to-morrow at all, if you would like to be
away."

"If Mr. Jefferson wouldn't object----" began Channing; but Mr. Jefferson
anticipated him.

"Please don't hesitate to go on with Mr. Channing, if you would like to
gain a little time," he suggested to his companion. "He will have you at
home before I can reach the bend in the road."

Georgiana looked round at him. "I prefer to finish one ride before I
begin another," she declared, smiling. "It's only a mile, Mr. Channing;
we shall be there nearly as soon as you. Please go on."

It thus came about ten minutes later that James Stuart, walking up to
his home from a field where he had been superintending an interesting
new departure in cultivation, caught sight first of a now-familiar
roadster of aristocratic lines whose appearance thereabouts had become
most unwelcome, and shortly thereafter of a less pretentious vehicle,
being rapidly drawn by a still more familiar black horse, and occupied
by two people whom it gave Stuart no acute pleasure to see together.

"Well, I should say George was displaying her admirers in great shape
this afternoon," he said gloomily to himself. "It's a wonder I'm not
trailing on behind with a wheelbarrow. But I vow I'd like to know since
when her contract with Jefferson has taken them out into the
country--and in working hours, too!"

Afterward it was all rather a strange memory to Georgiana when she
recalled it. She had flown about to prepare the appetizing early supper
with which she was accustomed to serve her small family, and to which
she now added a delicacy or two on account of its seeming the natural
thing to ask Mr. Miles Channing to remain rather than to allow him to go
to the small village hotel. Then she had cleared her table and left the
after-work to the neighbour who was to come to the rescue as before. She
had dressed with hurried fingers for the trip, and had driven away with
a devoted escort who spared no pains to make her feel that he was
exceedingly pleased at the success of his mission.

There was no place in her memory for something she did not see nor would
have thought of imagining significant if she had seen it. When she left
the house Mr. Jefferson was in his room, searching for a book from which
to read aloud to his self-assumed charge of the evening. When he heard
Georgiana's blithe cry of farewell to her father in the doorway below,
he left the bookcase and went with a quick step to the window. He
watched the car driven by Mr. Channing out of sight down the road; then
he descended to the garden, pipe in hand. Before he returned to the
house to take his place by the evening lamp and begin the reading to the
gentle invalid stretched on the couch, he had covered many furlongs up
and down the straggling pathways and had consumed much more than his
usual quota of choice tobacco. And though all about him had been the May
environment at its loveliest, through all his marching up and down he
had never once looked up.

Miles away, and ever more miles away, Georgiana had flown like the wind
in the swift car under its skilfully guiding hand. The drive was a
blurred impression of slowly gathering rosy twilight, of the odour of
the apple blossoms--somehow a different and more seductive fragrance
than it had been in the sunlit afternoon--and always there was the sense
of there being beside her a presence which disturbed. Channing's low
laugh, his vibrant voice in her ear, the things he said, half serious,
half earnest, always full of an only slightly veiled intent--the girl
who had spent so many days of her life in hard study or harder
housewifery could do no less than yield herself for the hour to the
pulse-quickening charm of it and forget everything else.

Just as twilight settled into dusk and for the first time the headlights
of the car came on with a long reach like a golden ribbon along the
road, Channing, suddenly slowing down, a few miles out of the city,
began a rapid speech on a subject so unexpected that it fairly took his
hearer's breath away.

"It's not fair of me to tell you, but I've simply got to get in the
first word. You must pretend you haven't heard it, but if there's any
persuading to be done I want my share, and want it first. Your cousins
are going to invite you to sail with them next week for a summer in
England after a fortnight in Paris--Paris in June! You don't know what
that means; you can't even imagine it. I can--I know it--don't I know
it!" He laughed softly. "Since they're to be away and won't need her
they'll send down their housekeeper--the most competent person in the
world--to stay with your father and make him absolutely comfortable, so
you don't have to hesitate on that score."

"It's perfectly wonderful, but"--Georgiana was staring at him through
the dusk--"but--oh, I couldn't, Mr. Channing! how could I? Father is so
feeble; something might happen."

"Not in summer. Things don't happen to elderly people in summer. It's in
winter--pneumonia and things like that. And don't you know he'd be
delighted to have you go? He wouldn't let you miss such a chance; I know
him already well enough for that."

"But, you see, I'm engaged to work for Mr. Jefferson----"

"Well, he'll be all right; he's a traveled man himself; anybody can see
that. He wouldn't stand in the way of your good, not for a moment; of
course he wouldn't. He'd urge you to go. Why, there's nothing else for
you to do. Think of the glorious summer we'll have--glorious! Why,
I----"

"What do you mean? I don't understand." Georgiana felt her cheeks grow
scarlet in the darkness.

"Mean? What could I mean? Why, I'm going, too, of course. Sailing when
you do. Invited to spend a month in Devon with the Croftons--and you."
His voice sank lower. "And that fortnight in Paris--oh, I'll be in
Paris, too, no doubt of that! I'll show you what Paris is like on a June
evening. Do you think I'd want to send you out of this country if I
weren't going, too? Not I--Georgiana!"



CHAPTER XV

"GREAT LUCK!"


"Father Davy, are you sure, _sure_?" begged his daughter.

"Sure that I want you to go, daughter? Very sure. What sort of father
should I be if I were willing to deny you this great pleasure merely to
insure my own comfort? And I shall be comfortable. Why should I not be,
with the good Mrs. Perkins to look after me, and our fine friend Mr.
Jefferson to bear me company in the evenings, as often as he can? And
with James Stuart, who is like a son--and with your letters arriving
with every foreign mail? Dismiss these fears, my dear, and take your
happy chance to see something of the Old World. Many a delightful
evening will we have together next winter, you and I, over the
photographs you will bring back, while you discourse to me of your
adventures."

Thus Mr. David Warne in his most reassuring manner, while his daughter
studied his delicate, pallid face, her heart smiting her for being
willing to leave him to the loneliness she knew, in spite of all his
protests, he would suffer in her absence. And yet opportunities like
this one did not occur everyday, might not come again in her lifetime.
And everybody was conspiring to make it possible for her.

"It goes without saying," Mr. Jefferson had told her at once, "that all
other engagements should be cancelled in the face of such an invitation
as this. We will all look after your father for you. And as far as your
work with me is concerned, don't give it another thought. I shall make
rather slower progress without you, of course, but when you return we
will take great strides and complete it well within the limit I have
set. So go by all means, and good luck!"

As for James McKenzie Stuart, his words of persuasion seemed to be
tempered by various other emotions than those of unselfish desire for
Georgiana's pleasure.

"Of course it's great, and there's no doubt that you must go," he said.
He was sitting upon the rear porch of the manse, looking off toward
Georgiana's garden, on the second evening after her return from the
hurried drive to the Croftons'. "I'll do all I can for your father, of
course. But don't ask me to console the book-writer."

Georgiana laughed merrily. "He'll not need any consolation, Jimps. Nor
you either. Jeannette told me to tell you that she'd write to you once a
fortnight--if you'd answer."

"No! She didn't say that?"

"Yes, she did, and meant it. I'll write, too, of course. You'll be
deluged with letters and picture post-cards. You ought to be satisfied
with so much attention."

"Letters are all right--we won't say anything about the post-cards--and
I hope you'll both keep your promises. But when I think of all these
summer evenings without you----"

He heaved a gusty sigh which Georgiana had no reason to doubt was
genuine. How much heavier would be his spirits, if he were told that
Miles Channing was to be of the party, she had full consciousness. She
was aware of the futility of attempting to keep this unwelcome news from
him longer than the day of her departure, but she had not thus far
ventured to mention it.

"I shall miss these evenings myself," she said soberly. "After all,
Jimps, I expect there'll be nobody gladder to get back home than I. I
shall see this old garden in my dreams." Then quickly, as another
deep-drawn breath warned her that sentimental ground was dangerous, she
cried: "Oh, but, Jimps! I haven't told you of the last and nicest thing
that wonderful girl has done for me. She insisted on my bringing home
the dearest little traveling suit of some kind of lovely summer serge
that doesn't spot and doesn't muss and is altogether adorable. She
insists it's not becoming to her, and it really isn't; but I almost know
she planned not to have it becoming so she could give it away to me. And
a perfect beauty of a little hat--and a big, loose coat, to wear on the
steamer, that looks absolutely new, but she vows it isn't, and that
she's tired of it. Was ever anybody so lucky as I?"

"It certainly does take clothes to stir up a girl," was Stuart's cynical
comment. "Talk of separation and they pretend to be as sad over it as
you are; but let 'em think about the clothes they're going to wear and
their spirits leap up like soda water."

"Poor old Jimps! Doesn't he know the sustaining qualities of pretty
clothes? Too bad! But really it's lucky I have something to sustain me,
it's such a pull to make myself go. I didn't suppose I'd ever leave
Father Davy this way while he is so feeble, but he's the most urgent of
all to send me off, and I know I really can bring him back wonderful
pleasure."

Thus the talks ran during the few days which elapsed before Georgiana's
departure. Every spare hour was full with preparation, from the packing
of the trim little steamer trunk which arrived by express, a gift from
Uncle Thomas, to the careful mending and putting in perfect order of
every article Father Davy would be likely to wear during the whole
period of his daughter's absence. Georgiana's thoughts as she worked
were a curious mixture of happy anticipation and actual dread.

"If only I could go as Jeannette is going," she said to herself,
"without a care in the world except to plan how she will fill the
summer, and to make sure her maid puts in plenty of silk stockings to
last till she can buy some more in Paris. When I went to college it was
with the fear that I ought not to accept father's sacrifice, even though
Aunt Harriet was with him then, and he was far, far stronger than he is
now. I've never done anything in my life without a guilty feeling that I
ought not to be doing it. Why can't I do now as they all bid me--drop my
cares and take my fun, like any other girl? I will--I must. It's only
fair!"

The excitement of anticipation grew upon her as the busy hours slipped
away; the regrets and anxieties diminished. With every day came fresh
and delightfully interesting contributions to her outfitting from
Jeannette or Aunt Olivia--a handsome little handbag of silk and silver
to match the traveling suit; a snug toilet case of soft blue leather,
holding everything mortal woman could want on train or ship; a great
woolly steamer rug to use on shipboard. Georgiana could only catch her
breath at such kindness, and dash off hasty notes of spirited thanks,
and protests against any more of the same sort. But in spite of her
pride it was impossible to resist accepting these and other gifts, they
seemed prompted by such genuine affection.

The day came; the trunk was closed and strapped. Mr. Jefferson had done
the strapping, coming upon the prospective traveler in the upper hall,
where she was trying in vain to bring leather thong and buckle into the
proper relations.

"Haven't I yet proved my right to the title of man in the house?" he
inquired, as he did the trick with the masculine ease which is ever a
source of envy to those whose hands are weaker.

"Indeed you have; but I shall never get over feeling that I have to do
everything for myself."

"It will be some one's privilege to teach you better some time," was his
rejoinder. "Meanwhile, those of us who are near at hand are only too
happy to act as deputies."

Between her "three men," as Jeannette had called them, Georgiana was
allowed to do little for herself at the last. She was to meet her
cousins as the train went through their city, but Stuart had invited
himself to accompany her to that point, thus giving himself a chance, as
he said, to clinch that bargain with Jeannette concerning the promised
letters and post-cards.

Therefore Georgiana's farewells were not to be all said at once, for
which she was thankful. It was quite enough to take leave of Father
Davy, who was looking, it seemed to his daughter's eyes, on that sultry
June morning, a shade paler and weaker than usual.

"It's the sudden summer heat, dear," he said with the brightest of
smiles, as with her arms about him she questioned him; "nothing more.
There, there, my little girl; don't let your fancy get the better of
you. I'm very well indeed, and shall soon be used to the summer weather.
Go--and God be with you, dearest!"

"It doesn't matter about His going with me if He'll only stay with you,"
murmured Georgiana, vainly struggling with herself, that she might take
a bright and tearless farewell of this dear being.

"He will go with you and He will stay with me," said Mr. Warne
cheerfully, "so be at rest. Here--I've written you a steamer letter.
Read it when the good ship sails, and think of me as rejoicing in your
happiness."

It was over at last, and she was off. At the gate she had turned to Mr.
Jefferson, who was carrying her handbag to the village stage, from which
Stuart had leaped to run up to the porch and say a word of cheer to Mr.
Warne, sitting in a big chair.

"I can't tell you what a comfort it is, Mr. Jefferson," she said as she
gave him her hand, "to know that you are here. I haven't worked with you
for six weeks not to understand that it is no mere author of a
scientific treatise who is staying with my father."

"No?" He smiled into her lifted eyes, and his look was that of a friend
whom one may trust. "Well, Miss Georgiana, if it is of any support to
you to be told that whatever knowledge or skill I may have is all at the
service of your father, then I am glad to assure you of that fact. I
will do my best for him always. Good-bye, and may it be a happy time
from first to last."

His hand held hers close as he said these words, and continued to hold
it for a moment longer while he gave her a long and intent look. She
felt a strange pang; it was almost as if she could think he was going to
miss her. Yet she knew better. If he missed her it would be only because
he had become accustomed to having her about. No sign of any more
uncommon interest had he ever shown.

Then Stuart, farther down the path, was calling, "Come, George, we're
all but late now"; and she was in the old stage and it was lumbering off
down the road, while neighbours waved from their windows, and Georgiana
strained her eyes to get a last look at the figure on the porch.

On the train she and Stuart somehow found little to say to each other in
the ride of an hour and a half to the city station where the rest of the
party came aboard. Stuart did not catch sight of Miles Channing until
the last minute of the train's stop. He had filled the earlier period of
the ten-minute detention in the station with a hurried talk with
Jeannette, during which Georgiana noted that the two seemed thoroughly
absorbed in each other. It was small wonder, for Jeannette had never
been more radiantly lovely than in the distinguished plainness of her
traveling costume. She seemed very happy as she presumably bargained
with Stuart for letters, and Jimps himself had never looked more
interested in any proposition than in that one.

Suddenly, however, the wait was over. Georgiana turned from greeting
Channing, who had just come aboard followed by a porter with his
luggage, when she heard Stuart's voice in her ear:

"George, is _he_ going?"

"I believe he is," she admitted, trying not to let her colour rise
beneath the accusing expression in his eyes.

"And you didn't mention it?"

"Didn't I? He's Jeannette's and Rosalie's friend, not mine."

"No; he's something more than a friend to you--or means to be. I might
have known he'd work this scheme. It's good-bye to you in earnest then."

"Jimps! Please don't. It's nothing of the sort. I----"

The train began to move. But instead of a hasty leave-taking and a leap
from the steps, James Stuart stood still. "I believe I'll go on for
another hour," he said coolly, with a glance at his watch. "I can get
off at the next stop. Meanwhile--Miss Jeannette, the observation
platform seems to be nearly empty. Would you care to sit out there a
while, since I've no chair in here now and the car is full?"

Georgiana, sitting facing Miles Channing--she wondered who was
responsible for the fact that his chair proved to be next hers--saw his
eyes, as he glanced toward the rear of the car, follow Stuart and
Jeannette.

"He's a mighty nice fellow, isn't he?" he commented pleasantly. "Too bad
he isn't coming along. Seems tremendously interested in Jeannette, and
it's quite evident that she likes him--as much as is good for him. These
partings--well, I'm sorry for him. But he means to make the most of this
last hour. It would be unkind of us to follow them out there, wouldn't
it?--though I was about to propose going out when he stole a march on
me."

"It would be very unkind," agreed Georgiana gayly. "Yes, I wish he could
have the whole journey; he deserves a rest and change. He's one of the
finest men I know."

Now that Channing was beside her, with his handsome face and faultlessly
dressed figure easily the most attractive man in the car, she could not
begrudge Jeannette this final hour with Stuart, though her pride
smarted a little under the change in his manner toward herself. She had
read in her cousin's face, as Jeannette's eyes met Stuart's when she
first caught sight of him, that she was much more than commonly glad to
see him, and the observer had noted with what an air of joyous
comradeship the two had hurried, laughing, down the aisle to the rear
door after Stuart's proposal.

But the hour was soon over. It was not until the train stopped that
Jeannette and Stuart returned to the others inside the car, and then the
farewells were necessarily hurried. With a smiling face Stuart shook
hands with them all, leaving his best friend to the last, according to
the unwritten law of farewells.

When he came to her he looked very nearly straight into her eyes--not
quite--it might have been her lower eyelashes upon which he brought his
glance to bear.

"Great luck, Georgiana," he said distinctly, "and all kinds of a good
time."

"Good-bye, Jimps, and thank you very, very much for coming," she
responded.

It was hardly to be believed that James Stuart would not lower his voice
and murmur some last word for her ear alone, for this had long been his
custom. Instead, he gave her a brilliant smile--and turned again to
Jeannette.

"Good-bye, once more," he said--and added something under his breath, in
response to which Jeannette nodded, smiling, and went with him to the
front end of the car, where she alone was the last to wave farewell as
he looked back from the platform.

Georgiana caught a final glimpse of him as he ran along it with bared
head, and the whole party waved hands and called parting salutes, in
which she joined. Then Jeannette came back, and Georgiana looked
searchingly at her, her own heart experiencing an uncomfortable sort of
depression as she saw the exquisite flush on her cousin's cheek and the
light in her eyes.

"'Dog in the manger!'" Georgiana sternly reproached herself in her own
thoughts. "Isn't it enough for you to have one man looking devotion at
you, but you must claim everybody in sight?" And she made a determined
and partially successful effort not to mind that things had turned out
as they had. Only--she and James Stuart had been friends a very long
time, and she was sorry to have the parting from him tinged by a cloud
of misunderstanding. It would have been much better, she admitted to
herself now, to have told him frankly in the beginning that Miles
Channing was to be of the party.



CHAPTER XVI

A LITTLE TRUNK


It was a journey of only a few hours to the dock where the party were to
take ship, the sailing being set for early afternoon. Before it seemed
possible they had left the train and were being conveyed by motor to the
pier. It was at the first whiff of salt-water fragrance that Georgiana
felt a sudden onset of dread of the sailing of the great ship. And when
she caught sight of the four black funnels rising above the mass of
smaller smokestacks and masts and spars which lifted beyond the dingy
buildings of the pier, she experienced an unexpected and disconcerting
longing to run away--back to her home.

Her father's face rose before her as she had seen it that morning, pale
and worn, the inner brightness of the undaunted spirit shining through
the thinnest of veils. What if anything should happen to that beloved
face, so that she should never set eyes on it again? The thought shook
her with a throb of pain.

They were on the pier, they were ascending the gangway, they were on one
of the lower decks and entering the elevator which was to lift them
past many intermediate decks to that one, next the highest of all, where
their quarters lay. And when they came out upon that upper deck
Georgiana was dimly conscious that they were a party to attract
attention, even among many people evidently of the same class. Any party
to which Aunt Olivia and Jeannette belonged, she felt, must necessarily
expect to be noticed. Of her own contribution to the party's distinction
she was entirely unaware.

But now that she was actually on shipboard, where during the last
fortnight she had so many times imagined herself, Georgiana found to her
distress that she could not for a moment banish the thought, the image
itself, of that gentle, suffering face at home. Not that she wanted to
forget it--not that; but she did want, now that her decision was made,
to be able to appreciate what a happy occasion it was and how fortunate
the circumstances which had brought about her presence here, the last
place in the world she had expected ever to be in.

She entered the stateroom which she was to share with her cousins, and
was amazed at the size and comfort of it. It was half filled with
flowers and baskets of fruit and other offerings sent for the girls,
with two boxes addressed to herself. Both Stuart and Mr. Jefferson had
sent her flowers. As she examined them a hurried steward appeared with
a third box, which proved to be also for her--a small box, which had
come not from a city florist, like the others, but by mail.

It had been put up by unskilled hands, as its crushed shape and damp
exterior clearly showed. She opened it, wondering, and found a little
bunch of garden flowers, sadly wilted, their limp stems protruding from
the moistened newspaper in which they were wrapped. She searched for a
card, and found it. In a hand she knew well, a little cramped, a little
wavering, but full of character, she read these words: "Blessing her,
praying for her, loving her."

Georgiana's heart gave a great leap of fear. What were those lines, what
the context? She knew them--knew them well. She had never heard her
father quote them, and never read with him the lines from which they
came. Did he know them, use them with intent, not imagining she would
place them? As she well remembered, they were from "Enoch Arden," and
she had spoken them herself, in a dramatized version of that pathetic
poem, the last winter of her college life. And they ran thus:

  When you shall see her, tell her that I died
  Blessing her, praying for her, loving her.

At the moment she was alone in the stateroom, the two girls having been
an instant before summoned by their brother to meet some friends who
had come on board to see them off. She stood staring at the touching
little bunch of faded bloom, knowing just how tender had been the
thought of her which had prompted the effort. It had not occurred to Mr.
Warne that there was any other way of sending flowers to ships than by
mailing them from one's own garden. As for the words, she knew well
enough that he had not dreamed of disturbing her content by quoting
them, yet--she could but feel that the reason why they came to his mind
when he was searching there for a bit of tender sentiment to send with
his parting gift was the thought of his own possible end being not far
away. And if he, too, were thinking of that----

With a fast-beating heart Georgiana stood staring out of the open
porthole at the scene of activity outside. Far below her she could see
the gangway over which she had come on board. In less than an hour--the
party had arrived early--that gangway would be withdrawn, the water
would slowly widen between pier and ship, and there would be no turning
back. Could she go--could she bear to go--and take the chance? Were her
fears only the natural forebodings of the unaccustomed traveler, or was
there a real reason why she should never have allowed herself to be
persuaded to leave one whose hold on life was so frail, the only being
in the world to whom she was closely bound? She closed her eyes and
tried to think....

Mrs. Thomas Crofton, turning from a group of friends at the touch of her
niece's hand upon hers, would have drawn the girl into the circle and
presented her with genuine pride in her, but the low voice in her ear
deterred her:

"Aunt Olivia, please forgive me, but I must ask you to come away with me
just for five minutes. Please----"

In a temporarily forsaken angle of the deck Georgiana laid her case
before her aunt, speaking with rapid, shaken words, but none the less
determinedly. Mrs. Crofton listened with an astonished face and with
lips which protested even before they had the chance to speak.

"I know just how dreadful it will seem to you all--that I shouldn't have
known my duty long ago. But I see it now--oh, so plainly! And it's not
only my duty, it's my love that takes me back. I can't stop to tell you
how I feel about leaving you all when you've been so kind, so wonderful
to me. I can tell you that another time. But the thing now for me is to
get off this ship before it sails. I must!"

"But, Georgiana, my dear child----"

"Oh, please don't try to keep me, Aunt Olivia! My mind is made up. I
can't tell you how it hurts to do it, but I don't dare to leave my
father. If anything happened to him I could never forgive
myself--never. He isn't well. It would do no good to take me with you
now. I should be so miserable I should spoil it all for you."

"Georgiana, listen." The calmly poised woman of the world held the
clinging hand in a firm, warm grasp, the low voice spoke evenly. "Many
people feel just as you do, dear, on the eve of sailing. Some are made
actually ill, even quite old travelers. But they know that it is pure
hysteria and they fight it off, and afterward they are able to laugh at
their fears. My dear, you are quite mistaken about there being any
danger threatening your father. He is in the best of hands, and he
himself would be sadly disappointed----"

It was of no use. Mrs. Crofton took her niece to her stateroom, and,
sending for Jeannette and Rosalie, even for Uncle Thomas, tried in vain
to shake her.

Ten minutes before the hour of sailing, Rosalie, rushing about the deck
in search of Miles Channing, finally discovered him and burst out under
her breath with the appalling news:

"Georgiana's going back! She's got the idea somehow that her father
mayn't live till she comes home. We can't do a thing with her. Oh, do
come and see if you can't show her how absurd it is to do such a thing!"

"Going back!" Miles Channing seized Rosalie's arm. "Where is she? Why,
she can't go back; the ship's all but casting off. What on earth is the
matter with her? She's too sensible a girl to lose her head at the last
minute. Good heavens! We won't let her go; we'll keep her in her
stateroom till it's too late. Take me there--quick!"

They dashed along the narrow passageways, until, coming from the
Croftons' suite, they encountered Georgiana pale but quiet, Jeannette
flushed scarlet and in tears, and Mrs. Crofton evidently sorely
exasperated, but keeping herself well in hand.

Channing walked straight up to Georgiana. "Will you give me five
minutes?" he asked.

She shook her head with a faint smile. "It's no use, Mr. Channing. I
shall not change my mind again. I should have known it in the first
place, and there mayn't be five minutes to spare. I must be in sight of
the gangway."

"I'll take you there," he said, and glanced at the others in a way which
clearly said: "Give me my chance." They understood and let him lead
Georgiana on ahead toward the place she sought.

He was a clever man and an experienced one in the ways of women, even
though his years among them were not yet many. He realized that argument
was of little use; there was only one weapon left with which to fight
the girl's determination, and it was one he was not loath to use, though
he had not meant to speak so plainly until quite different surroundings
invited.

"This is a hard blow to my hopes," he said very low, as they stood where
they could watch the manoeuvres of the officers and men who were in
charge of the embarkation of passengers. "I can't tell you what this
voyage with you has meant to me; I don't know how to give it up. Now,
please listen. Won't you do this? Come across with us, and then, when
you are actually over--it's only a five-day crossing, you know--if you
still feel you must go back, we'll not try to prevent you. You'll be
away then only a fortnight, and nothing in the world can go wrong at
your home in that little time. And meanwhile we shall have had this
voyage together--Georgiana?"

His voice with its meaning inflections would have been very hard to
resist, if the girl had not by now set her teeth upon her determination.
Having suffered already so much humiliation for the sake of her sudden
conviction, her pride would not have let her change again, though a
voice from the skies had then and there assured her that all was and
would be well with her father. So once more she shook her head and moved
toward the gangway. Behind her, ready to follow her if must be, a
deckhand waited with her luggage. The Croftons, their faces showing much
concern, had remained in the background waiting for a signal from
Channing that he had or had not prevailed.

"If you go ashore," threatened Channing, "I shall go with you. And the
ship will sail without me."

This roused her to speech. "No, no; don't even say such a thing--just to
frighten me. Good-bye, Mr. Channing, and--I'm truly very, very sorry."

"I mean it," he urged hotly. "The whole thing is nothing to me without
you; you know that perfectly well."

"I should never forgive you," she said, turning to look once into his
eyes, as if to convince him of the reality of her prohibition; and he
saw there all the spirit he had reckoned with, and saw, too, such a
world of possibilities for one who could arouse that intense and
purposeful nature, that he was swept off his feet.

"But you will forgive me if I come back by the next ship," he said
quickly.

"No. Not if you come a day sooner than you intended."

Once more their glances met, like blows; then Georgiana moved rapidly
toward the gangway, where the sailor in charge was beckoning. The
Croftons, one and all, hurried forward, and the retreating traveler
suffered their embraces.

"My child, you are forcing us to leave you here alone to look after
yourself, after our promising to take every care of you," mourned Mrs.
Crofton. "I shall be most uneasy about you."

"No, no, dear Aunt Olivia, you mustn't be. I am a perfectly independent
person, and I can take myself home without a particle of trouble.
Good-bye--and please, please forgive me, all of you!"

She was off at last, with Jeannette's hot tears on her cheek, Rosalie's
reproachful and all but angry final speech, "I didn't think you'd
actually do it, Georgiana Warne!" ringing in her ears; and Chester's
explosive, derisive prediction following her, "By thunder, but you'll be
a sorry girl when it's too late. I can tell you that!"--to make her feel
that nobody really understood or sympathized with her.

It was Uncle Thomas who applied the one touch of balm to his niece's
sore heart:

"David Warne is a rich man, my dear girl, to have you," he said gently,
as he kissed her. "Don't feel too badly over disappointing us; it's all
right. Take good care of yourself going home, and give my love to your
father."

She smiled bravely back at him as she ran down the gangway with half a
score of belated visitors to the ship. In a moment she was only one of
the crowd of people who were watching the huge bulk of the liner draw
almost imperceptibly away from the pier. Through blurred vision she
looked up to the spot where they were all waving at her and
smiling--thank heaven, they were smiling, as it was obviously their
duty to do, no matter what their feelings.

When their faces had become indistinguishable, and the great ship had
backed far out into the waters, and was headed toward the Atlantic,
Georgiana turned to a porter at her elbow. "No," she said, "I didn't
sail. Yes, this trunk is mine; it's to go back."

Somehow, as she followed the man through the long, dingy building, the
thing which drove home the ache in her heart was the sight of the
little, aristocratic-looking, leather-covered steamer trunk, Uncle
Thomas's gift, packed with so many high hopes, now riding alone on a
great truck. Of all the baggage which that truck had borne to the lading
of the ship, hers was the only little, lonely piece to come back!



CHAPTER XVII

REACTION


In the darkness of the summer midnight Georgiana descended from the
"owl" train, the only passenger, as it happened, to alight at the small
station. She had hoped to slip away unobserved for the half-mile walk
home, but the station master was too quick for her. He was a young
station master, and he had known Georgiana Warne all his life--from
afar.

"Well, I certainly did think I'd seen a ghost," said he, confronting
her. "I thought you'd gone to Europe. Get a message to come back? Your
father ain't took sick, has he?"

"No, I hope not. I--something happened to make it best for me to come
back."

"Well, that's too bad, sure," said he, curiously regarding her. "Say,
wait five minutes and I'll walk down the road with you. It's pretty late
for you to be out alone."

"Thank you, Mr. Parker; I don't mind a bit, and I'm anxious to get on.
I've only this small bag to carry, and it's bright moonlight. No, truly,
please don't come. Good-night, and thank you."

Could this really be herself, Georgiana Warne, she wondered, as she made
her escape and walked rapidly away down the road under the high arches
of the elms. How had it come about? Why was she here, she who had
expected to be out on the first reaches of the great deep when midnight
came this night? As she passed silent house after silent house, familiar
and yet somehow strangely unfamiliar in the light of what might have
been, it was hard enough to realize that she had had this wonderful
chance to stay away for two happy months from the sober little old
place, and had herself relinquished it.

Before she knew it she was nearing her home, the old white house
standing square and stern in the moonlight--she had been seeing it all
the way in the train. She loved it dearly, no doubt of that, but it had
been no attack of homesickness which had brought her back to it.

As she came up the path she saw, past the sweeping branches of the great
trees which surrounded the house, that Mr. Jefferson's windows were
still alight. This was no surprise, for she knew he had often worked
till late hours before she began to help him; and it looked as if, now
that he had to continue alone, he meant to keep up the rate of advance
by working overtime.

Georgiana stole upon the porch and tried the door. It was bolted as
usual. She slipped around the house, and tried the side and rear doors
in turn, to find them fast. She had had no plan as to how to make an
undisturbing entrance at this hour, but had counted on being able to
discover some unguarded point. She and her father had never been careful
as to thorough locking of the house in a neighbourhood where thefts were
almost unknown, but evidently their boarder, accustomed to city ways and
chances of trouble, had taken pains to make all fast.

There seemed to be only one thing to do, and Georgiana did it. After
all, it was probably better that somebody should know of her return, in
case she had to go about the house and make any betraying sounds. She
stooped to the gravel path, and scooping up a handful of pebbles flung
them up at one of the lighted windows, where they rattled like small
bird shot upon the wire netting of the screen.

It took a second fusillade before the absorbed worker within was
attracted and appeared at the window, a black figure against the yellow
radiance of the oil lamp.

"It's some one who belongs here," Georgiana called softly. "Please come
down very quietly and let me in."

"Wait a minute," returned the voice above.

In less than that minute the door swung softly open, and the tall
figure, clad in loose shirt and trousers, the former open at the neck
and revealing a sturdy throat, stood before the applicant for admission.
There was no light upon Georgiana, for the moonlit yard was behind her.

"What can I do for you?" Mr. Jefferson was beginning in a pleasant tone,
as of one not at all disturbed by being summoned at this hour, when a
voice he had heard many times before said, with an odd thrill in it, as
if it struggled between tears and laughter:

"You can let me in and try not to consider me an idiot. I got my father
on my mind and couldn't sail, so I came back. That's absolutely all
there is of it."

"My dear girl!" Mr. Jefferson put forth a hand and took hers, as he came
out upon the porch. "Of course, I beg your pardon," he added, releasing
her hand after one strong pressure, "if you consider that my rather
natural surprise isn't apology enough. But--you can't mean that the
ship--and the party--have sailed without you?"

"Just that. Is--is my father as well as he was this morning?"

"He was quite as well, apparently, at bedtime. The heat has been trying,
but he has borne it without complaint."

"I don't know what I expected," confessed Georgiana rather faintly; "but
I don't think I expected that. I'm very thankful. I'll come in and slip
upstairs. Thank you for coming down."

She would stay for no more; it seemed to her that she could bear no
further explanations to-night. As if he understood her, Mr. Jefferson
was silent as he followed her in, bolted the heavy door, and took from
her the handbag she carried. He deposited this at the door of her room
upstairs, and spoke under his breath in the darkness relieved only by
the rays which shone from the open door of his own room at the front of
the hall:

"Good-night--and welcome back!"

It was almost daylight when she fell asleep, and she wakened again at
the first sound of Mrs. Perkins's footsteps in the kitchen below her.
She dressed slowly, her heart heavy with the sense of having made a
probably needless sacrifice. With the waking in the familiar old room,
all the realization of that which she had lost had come heavily upon
her. Why was not the sunlight pouring in through portholes, bearing the
refreshing breezes from the sea, instead of beating in over the hot tin
roof of the ell upon which her windows looked? Was it merely as Aunt
Olivia had warned her, the hysteria of the inexperienced traveler? Why
had she not at least accepted Miles Channing's eminently reasonable
suggestion that she make the voyage, giving her emotions time to cool?
At the longest, if she made an immediate return, she would have been
absent but little more than a fortnight.

But she dressed with unusual care none the less, and when she descended
the back stairs she was looking as fresh and trim as ever in her life.
She encountered the good Mrs. Perkins in the kitchen and had it out with
her, receiving the first encouragement she had felt that somebody would
think her rational in her return.

"Well, I must say," declared that lady, standing still, as if she had
been struck, in an attitude of astonishment, "while I'm more than sorry
for you to lose your trip, Georgie, I shall feel safer now you're back.
Your father cert'nly does look awful peaked to me and kind of weak-like,
more so than I ever noticed before. Perhaps it's just because I felt the
responsibility settlin' down on my shoulders the minute you was out of
the house. And I guess he was goin' to miss you pretty awful much;
though, of course, he wouldn't say so."

Georgiana took in her father's tray when it was ready, quite as usual,
her heart beating fast as she entered and beheld the white face against
the propped-up pillows. After the first gasp of surprise she saw the
unwonted colour flow into the pale cheeks.

"My dear, dear child," he said, as she set down the tray and flew to
clasp him in her arms, "this is--this is almost more than I can grasp.
What has happened Is the sailing of your ship deferred?"

"My sailing on it is deferred," she told him. "I couldn't leave you,
Father Davy; that's the simple truth. Your daughter is an
infant-in-arms."

She did not try to make it clear to him; but let him guess the most of
her reason for returning, and was rewarded by his fervent: "Well, dear,
it was a very wonderful thing for you to do. But you should not have
done it. You should have trusted the good Lord to take care of me, as I
bade you. You must do it yet. We will arrange for you to follow your
Uncle Thomas's party on the next boat. I cannot have you lose so much
just for me."

"It's no use," she asserted, her eyes studying the blue veins so clearly
outlined on the fair forehead. "I've made my decision; I ought to have
made it that way in the beginning. So long as you need me I shall not
leave you."

At the breakfast table she met Mr. Jefferson. It was only twenty-four
hours since she and he had breakfasted together, but somehow it seemed
to Georgiana as if at least a week had gone by. Mr. Warne was seldom
present at the first meal of the day, and it had come to seem very
natural to Georgiana to sit down with her boarder and pour his coffee
and talk with him. This morning, however, there was a curious constraint
in the girl's manner. After the first interchange of observations on
the promise of even more extreme heat than on the preceding day and the
possibilities of dress and diet to suit the trying conditions, the talk
flagged.

"I am strongly tempted," said Mr. Jefferson, as he rose after making an
unusually frugal meal of fruit and coffee, "to let up on work till there
comes a change in the weather. I believe I shall try how it feels to
idle a little. You surely will indorse that, Miss Warne, as far as you
are concerned?"

"No," she said quickly, sure that this plan was the result of
consideration for herself; "as far as I am concerned I should much
prefer to work. I am sure you can give me something to do, even if you
are not working yourself."

"Do you mean that? Then if you do, I shall be with you, though I think
it would be good for you to rest. This last week has been pretty full
for you, even though you haven't been with me on the book."

She shook her head. "I want to go on with it," she insisted; and he
agreed.

News in a small village travels fast, and Georgiana was fully prepared
to have James Stuart appear with the first fall of dusk. He came through
the hedge at the foot of the garden, and found her on the seat under the
old apple tree which was her favourite resort. His greeting was full of
the astonishment which had been his all day.

"My word, George, but I never would have believed this! How on earth did
you come to do it?"

"I had to," she said simply and rather wearily. She had explained to at
least twenty persons that day, as well as she could explain. She was not
willing to confide to any one the incident of the flowers and the card
which had brought about the impulse to return that had hardened so
quickly into action. She had listened to all kinds of comments on the
situation, some few sympathetic, but most of them curious and critical.
Many had said to her that they never would have believed Georgie Warne
would ever change her mind about anything. Others had added that perhaps
it was a good thing, since her father certainly was pretty feeble and
nobody knew when he might take a turn for the worse. Altogether, it had
not been a happy day for the object of the village interest.

Stuart sat down beside Georgiana on the old bench which bore his
initials from one end to the other of it, the earliest ones hacked out
during his small boyhood, the later more than once coupling Georgiana's
with his own. His hand, as he settled into place, rested on one of these
very monograms.

"It seems like the natural thing to say I'm glad to see you back," he
said slowly, "but--there's a reason why I can't say it at all."

"Then don't dream of saying it." Georgiana leaned her head listlessly
against the seamy old tree trunk behind her.

"It's not that I wanted you to go; you know I was altogether too selfish
for that," he went on. "But--something happened at the last that made me
entirely reconciled to having you go. Can you guess what it was?"

"Possibly."

"But you can't. Of course I was pretty well dashed at finding Channing
booked for the trip. But--I got over that when--I made up my mind to
come, too."

"To come, too!" The head resting against the tree trunk turned quickly.
"What _do_ you mean?"

"Jeannette suggested it," said he, with something in his voice which his
listener could not quite analyze. "She put it up to me to come over
while they should be staying in Devonshire, and join their house party.
At first I said I couldn't, but the more I thought of it the more it
seemed possible to get over there for a fortnight anyhow. The plan was
not to tell you, and to surprise you by walking in on you."

Georgiana stared at him, as well as she could see him through the fervid
twilight. "Jimps! Why, how could you get away?"

"There's never a time when it's easy to get away," he admitted; "but
everything's in full sail now for the summer, and just lately I've
succeeded in getting hold of an awfully competent man who could run
things for the month well enough. Anyhow, of course I was dippy at the
thought of going and--I promised her I would if I could manage it. I've
never had the chance to travel much, and it suddenly struck me that I
didn't have to deny myself every possible thing. But, of course, now
that you're back----"

"But that makes no difference!" she cried quickly, "Why should it?
Jeannette asked you because she wanted you. Of course you must go, if
you really can get away."

"She never would have asked me if you hadn't been going. And it was only
an afterthought then. If I hadn't gone on for that last hour it wouldn't
have occurred to her."

"It occurred to her to wish it, because she said so more than once to me
the day I was there. But she didn't dream you could do it. I don't know
why we should all consider you a fixture, for your father is much
stronger than mine and it couldn't harm him at all to spare you for a
little. Of course, you must go, Jimps! When will you start?"

"Do you honestly want me to go, George?" He seemed to be scanning her
face through the dimness.

"I should be a selfish thing enough if I didn't," she protested.

He was silent for a minute; then he said: "To be frank, I wrote last
night for a berth on a ship that sails in two weeks. Jeannette warned me
not to delay, the travel is so heavy this time of year. I talked it over
with my father and he seemed pleased at the idea. You can imagine I felt
a bit dizzy this morning when I heard you hadn't sailed. I didn't
believe it at first."

"Never mind, you will go just the same--and all the more. It's a pity
somebody shouldn't carry out the plan, and you've had less fun than I,
for you've been at home longer since college. Go, Jimps, and take the
goods the gods provide."

She maintained this spirit throughout the ensuing fortnight, in spite of
his evident effort to make her acknowledge that she would feel her own
disappointment the more for his going. When he came over to say good-bye
he found her apparently in the gayest of spirits; and she gave him such
a friendly send-off that he went away marvelling in his heart at the
ways of young women, and the ways of Georgiana Warne in particular.



CHAPTER XVIII

"STEADY ON!"


On the day following the departure of James Stuart for England, while
the two literary workmen were hard at it in the old manse study, the
July weather having mercifully turned decidedly cooler for a space, the
village telegraph messenger, a tall youth with a shambling gait,
appeared with a message for Mr. Jefferson. Georgiana brought it to him,
and waited to know whether there was a reply.

She saw the message--evidently a long one--twice read, and noticed a
peculiar lighting of the grave face which had bent over it. Mr.
Jefferson wrote an answer, briefer than the message received, and
himself took it to the waiting boy. When he returned he sat down and
began to put in order the papers on which he had been working.

"I have another trade, as you have guessed," he said to Georgiana. "It
seems necessary for me to go away and work at it for a few days, perhaps
a fortnight. It is fortunate for me that you are here, for I should not
have felt that I ought to leave your father, and yet I should hardly
have been able to refuse the call of that message."

"Then I am very glad," she returned, "that I am here. Can you leave me
work to do?"

"I am afraid not, beyond that already laid out for to-day. Won't you
rest while I am gone? This is vacation time for most people, you know."

She shook her head. "With only father to look after I shall have little
enough to do."

"You won't--forgive me!--go up into that blistering attic and make rugs?
I hope not!" She felt that he was looking keenly at her.

"Why should you hope not? I am one of the people who must be busy to be
contented. How soon do you go, Mr. Jefferson?"

"On the noon train." He looked at his watch. "I have an hour to make
ready. No, don't go. I will come back when I am ready, and we will put
things in shape to leave, so that we shall know exactly where to take
them up again."

In half an hour he was back, and together the two put the results of
their joint work into such shape that at a moment's notice they might
resume it. This done, they went to Mr. Warne, and the intending traveler
explained briefly the situation--without, as Georgiana fully realized,
explaining it at all. Then, shortly, he went away, with something in his
manner which subtly told her that he was very glad to go, and that he
was thinking of little besides the errand which took him from them,
careful though he was in every courteous detail of leave-taking.

When he had gone Georgiana and her father looked at each other.

"Daughter," said Mr. Warne, looking intently at the vivid face, with the
eyes which saw so many things, "do you know what you remind me of?"

"No, Father Davy. Of a cross child?"

"Of a young colt, penned into a very small enclosure, with only one lame
and blind old horse to keep it company. And within sight, off on the
hillside, is a great, green pasture, with other colts and lambs sporting
gayly about, and the summer sunshine over all--except in the corral,
over which a dark cloud hangs. And I am sorry--sorry!"

"Father Davy!" Georgiana choked back a lump in her throat. "But it is
hot July, and the cloud makes it cooler and nicer in the corral. And
besides--the lame, blind horse is such a dear--has drawn such heavy
loads and would be so lonely now without company. And--and the colt has
many long years to sport on hillsides."

Mr. Warne smiled, more sadly than was his wont. "But not while it is a
colt." Then, after a pause, "My dear, we shall miss Mr. Jefferson."

"Shall we?"

"I shall miss him more than I should have realized till I saw him go
down the path. And James Stuart, too. That is why I know that you will
miss them."

"We shall live through it," prophesied his daughter cheerfully, and
betook herself to the kitchen, which she found looking, in spite of its
well-ordered neatness, more like a jail than ever before.

The following days went by on feet of lead. Never had Georgiana had to
make such an effort to maintain ordinary, everyday cheerfulness and
patience. She found herself longing, with one continuous dull ache from
morning till night, for something to happen, something which would
absorb her every faculty. She rose early and went for long walks, and
went again in the late afternoons, with the one purpose of tiring her
vigorous young body so that it would keep her restless mind in order.
She worked at her rug-making many hours, spent many more in reading
aloud to her father, and still there were hours left to fill. She forced
herself to go to see all her acquaintances, to visit those few who were
ill; there was nobody in want in the whole place, it seemed, in this
summer prosperity of garden.

"There's nothing to do for any one," she said to her father one day. "I
feel guilty times without number because I'm not of more use to the
people about me."

Her father studied her. "Dear," he said slowly, "what you need just now
is something the good Father knows you need, and I believe He will not
deny it to you. In the meantime, remember that simply being cheerful and
patient under enforced waiting is sometimes the greatest service that
can be rendered."

"If you haven't taught me that, it isn't because you haven't illustrated
it every day of your life," she cried--and fled.

In her own room she beat her strong young hands together. "Oh, dear God!"
she said aloud, "if I could only, only have the thing I want, I would
take anything, _anything_ that might go with it and not complain!"

And then, suddenly, one early August night, Mr. Jefferson returned. He
came up the path, bag in hand, and saw a solitary figure standing on the
small front porch, where a latticework sheltered opposing seats. It was
a white figure in the early dusk and it rose as he approached.

"The fortnight is not quite up," said Georgiana quietly. "But I put your
room in order to-day, hoping you would come. My father never missed
anybody so much."

"That sounds very pleasant." He set down his bag and shook hands. "It
makes it the harder to say that I must be off again in the morning.
And--I shall not be coming back. If it had not been that I could not
leave without seeing you and Mr. Warne I should have sent on to ask you
to pack and send my trunk."

"Really? How very unexpected! But I would gladly have sent on the
trunk," said Georgiana. Something cold clutched at her heart.

"Would you? That sounds rather inhospitable! Do you care to hear my
plans?"

"If you care to tell them, Mr. Jefferson."

"I wonder," said he, "if you would be willing to go around to the other
porch and sit there. I have a fancy for being where I can get the scent
from your garden. I shall miss that spicy fragrance. Is your father
still up?"

"He has just gone to bed. He would be very happy if you would go in and
speak to him," said Georgiana.

Mr. Jefferson ran upstairs with his bag, and made a brief call upon Mr.
Warne. Then he came down, to find Georgiana standing with her arms about
a white pillar, her face looking off toward the garden. The lamplight
from the central hall, whose rear door opened upon the porch, gleamed
rosily out upon her.

Mr. Jefferson came out and stood beside her. "I came back," he said,
"just to offer you my friendship in any time of need. I couldn't go away
without doing that; I couldn't be content merely to write it back to
you. I have lived here in your home with your father and yourself until
it has come to seem almost as if I belonged here. But my work calls me;
I must go back to it. The book must wait, to be finished in spare
moments as other books have been finished. I thought I could give myself
this year away from my profession to accomplish this task and perhaps to
lay in fresh stores of energy. But I find I can't be easy in mind to do
this longer. So I am going back."

After an instant Georgiana answered, without turning her eyes away from
the garden: "You are a very fortunate person."

"To have work that calls so loudly? I am sure of that. And it is work
which absorbs me to the full. But I shall always have time to give to
you or to your father, if in any way I can ever be of service to you. I
have no family to call upon me for any attention whatever; I have no
near relative except the married sister who lives abroad, as I have told
you. By the way, Allison has bidden me more than once to thank you for
her for taking such good care of me. You know her by her picture, if you
have noticed it--the one on my bureau."

Georgiana nodded. She did not trust her lips, which were suddenly
trembling, to tell him that though he had often spoken of this sister he
had never mentioned the fact that the photograph on his bureau was hers.
But--what did it matter now? It was far better that she had not known,
that she had had this restraint upon her imagination to keep her from
ever letting herself go. It was far better---- But he was speaking; she
must listen.

"While I have been in this house I have felt," he was saying, "as if I
had a real home. It is hard to give that up. Association with your
father has become much to me. I can't tell you what he has given me out
of his stores of wisdom and experience. And you--have been very good to
me; I shall not forget it."

"I have done nothing," murmured Georgiana with dry lips, "except feed
you and dust your room. You might have had such service anywhere."

"Might I? I doubt it. And there is something else. If I may I should
like to tell you how I have admired you for your steady facing of each
day's routine. There is no heroism in the world, Miss Georgiana, equal
to that, to my thinking."

She shook her head. "I'm not heroic; please don't tell me I am."

"But you are, and I must tell you so. Why not? I have seen more than you
may have realized. My whole life's training has been in the line of
observation of other human beings. And you must know that no one could
be with you and not understand that the fires of longing to live and
live strongly and vitally burn in you with more than ordinary
fierceness. Yet you subdue them every day for the sake of the one who
needs you. That is real heroism, and the sight of it has touched me very
much."

Suddenly she found herself struggling to keep back the choking in her
throat. How well he had understood her--and what unsuspected depths of
tenderness there were in his rich and quiet voice. She could not speak
for a little, and he stood beside her in a comprehending silence.

"I can't go away," he said presently, "without telling you that your
happiness has come to seem very important to me. I have--necessarily--a
fairly wide knowledge of men, their characters, their motives, their
ideals--or their lack of them. Miss Georgiana, when you come to
choose--will you let me say it?--don't be misled by superficial
attributes, even the most attractive. Don't let the desire to have your
horizon apparently expanded, to go far and see much and live intensely,
overbalance your appreciation of fine and lasting qualities in one who
could give you little excitement but much that is real and worth having.
It may be very daring in me to say this to you, but I find myself
impelled to it. I want you to live, and live gloriously, and find
employment for every one of your splendid energies, and there is only
one being in the world who can help you do that--the man whom you can
respect as well as love, and love as well as respect. Will you promise
me to choose him and nobody else?"

She turned suddenly and fiercely upon him. "How can you think I----" She
stopped short, her eyes blazing in the darkness.

"I can foresee," said he, very gently, "an hour for you when you will be
tempted out of your senses to do the thing which promises change, any
change. You are starving for it; you are desperate with longing for
it----"

"Mr. Jefferson----"

"Miles Channing came into town when I did: his car raced my train for
the last two miles. He has gone to the hotel. Doubtless you will see him
within the hour. Miss Georgiana, I can't let you marry him without
telling you that if you do you will be an unhappy woman for the rest of
your life."

She was speechless for a moment with surprise. She forgot her encounter
with the speaker in her astonishment at his news. Channing had come
back, then, even as he had vowed, long before the rest of the party. The
knowledge that he was close at hand again, bringing back with him such a
wild will to accomplish that of which he had been thwarted that he had
not been able to brook delay upon the other side of the water, was
knowledge of the sort which stopped the breath.

"Will you forgive me?" said Mr. Jefferson's low voice in her ear.

"But--but I--don't understand," she stammered--and now at last she
showed him her unhappy eyes.

"What I have to do with it? How can I fail to have something to do with
it? When I let you sail in the same party with this young man without
warning you, it was because I had no possible notion that he was to be
along. When I learned that he had gone and that he had followed you
back, I knew that he was in earnest--at least in his pursuit of you. I
had thought there was no actual danger for you on account of your
friend--your real friend--the young man whom you had known and trusted
so long and with such reason. But now, with him away and you alone here
and lonely and full of the hunger for life--yes, I know I am speaking
plainly, but I feel that I must put you on your guard. And I want you to
feel that though I shall be gone to-morrow night I am here to-night, and
if you have any need for me--for an elder brother----"

"Oh, how can you think----"

"I do think--and I know--and I fear for you. Not because I do not
believe in you, but because I know the manner of man who will approach
you. You have never known his sort. Let me be a brother to you--just for
to-night, if only in your thought. It may help to steady you."

There was silence between them for a little. Then steps upon the front
porch, quick, ringing steps, as of one who comes with eagerness.
Georgiana felt her hand taken for an instant and pressed warmly between
two firm hands. Then her companion left her....

Three hours afterward Georgiana flung herself, breathing fast, upon her
knees beside her open window and lifted her face toward the sky. She
would have fled to her garden for this vigil she must keep, but the
extraordinary truth was that she did not dare be alone there. Her hands
gripped the sill, her eyes stared without seeing at the vaulted depths
above her. After a long time--hours--she rose and went to her door,
opened it without making a sound, and, listening till she had made sure
that the house was as silent as all houses should be at two in the
morning, she stole slowly along the upper hall. Presently she stood
outside the closed door of the guest who was sleeping under the roof for
the last time. With a fast-beating heart she noiselessly laid her hand
upon the panel of that door.

"You did steady me," she whispered. "I couldn't have done it if you
hadn't warned me--fortified me. Oh, what shall I do without you?"

Inside suddenly a footstep sounded, the footstep of a shod foot.
Instantly the girl was off down the hall like a frightened deer. In her
own room she stood with her hand upon her breast. "Up--at this hour!"
her startled consciousness was repeating. "Why? There was no light in
his room. Couldn't he sleep either? Why? Is _that_ what it means to him
to be a brother?"

In the morning Mr. Jefferson took his leave. His parting with Mr. Warne
was like that between father and son. When he came to Georgiana he
looked straight down into her eyes.

"Remember," he said, "that what I have told you of my wish to be of any
possible use to you and your father holds good, even though I should be
at the other side of the world. I shall write now and then to ask about
you both. I can't tell you how I hope for your happiness--Georgiana."

When he had gone she went to her room and dropped upon her knees beside
her bed, her arms outflung upon the old blue and white counterpane.

"O God," she whispered passionately, "how could You show it to me if I
couldn't have it? How _could_ You?"



CHAPTER XIX

REVELATIONS


Summer had gone at last, its fierce heat giving way to the cool, fresh
days of an early autumn. August, September, October--the months had
dragged interminably by, and now it was November, bleak and chill, with
gray skies and penetrating winds and sudden deluges of rain. Georgiana,
sweeping sodden leaves from a wet porch after an all-night storm, looked
up to see the village telegraph messenger approaching. With her one
dearest safe upon a couch within, and Stuart long since at home again,
she could not fear bad news. She thought of Jeannette, who was always,
in the absence of a telephone in the old manse, telegraphing her
invitations and demands.

She tore open the dispatch with a hope that it was from Jeannette, for
she had sadly missed her letters. Jeannette, indeed, it was who had
inspired the message, but its sender was her sister. Rosalie Crofton
wired that Jeannette had been taken suddenly and violently ill while on
a visit in New York and was to be operated upon at once; that she had
begged Georgiana to come and to bring James Stuart with her; that
Rosalie herself was dreadfully frightened and prayed Georgiana not to
lose a train nor to fail to bring Stuart.

Action was never slow with the receiver of this message; it had never
been quicker than now. With one brief explanation to her father, she was
off to find Stuart. Just at the dripping hedge she met him, his face
tense with the shock it was plain he had received. At sight of her he
drew a yellow paper from his pocket.

"You've heard?" he cried.

"Yes; this very minute."

"There's only an hour to catch the ten-ten. You'll go?"

"Of course. I was coming to tell you. I'll be ready."

She turned again and ran back. There was much to do in the allotted
hour, but with the help of Mrs. Perkins she accomplished it. When she
and Stuart were in the train, sitting side by side in the ordinary coach
of the traveler who must conserve his resources, as Georgiana had
decreed, Stuart spoke the first word of comment upon the situation.

"Of course, there was nothing to do but go," he said, "after that
telegram."

"Of course not," agreed Georgiana simply.

"She was perfectly well--last week," said Stuart.

"Was she? You know I haven't seen her since they came back."

"She said she had tried every way to get you there."

"She has. I was going--when I could. You know father hasn't been as well
since they came back in September."

"I know. But she's wanted to see you. She says she can't write half so
well as she can talk."

"No. One can't."

There was silence for some time after this exchange. Stuart seemed
restless, stirred often, once got up and stood for a long time at the
rear of the car, staring back at the wet tracks slipping away behind.
When they had changed trains and were headed for New York, with their
destination only a few hours away, Stuart, again in the vestibule of the
car, looking out through the closed entrance door upon a dull landscape
passing like a misty wraith through the November fog and twilight, found
Georgiana at his elbow.

"Jimps," she was saying in her straightforward way, "what's the use of
bothering to keep it covered when it shows so plainly? Do you think I
don't understand? I do--and it's absolutely all right."

He turned quickly, and his gloomy eyes stared down into her uplifted
face.

"O George!" he muttered. "Can you honestly say that?"

"Honestly. I know how it happened. You couldn't help it. It was meant to
be. The other--wasn't. That's all there is of it."

"I've been feeling such a sneak."

"Why should you? I've told you over and over----"

"I know you have. But--that last time----"

"That was really the beginning of--this other," said she with decision.
"You were not yourself and you didn't know just why. You thought it must
be because you cared for me, but it was--the stirring of your first real
feeling for any woman, only you didn't recognize it. That's the whole
thing, Jimps, and you are not to reproach yourself, particularly now
when----" She faltered suddenly, and he drew a quick breath that was as
if something stabbed him.

After a little he began very slowly: "It didn't really happen
till--Devonshire. Those two weeks--I can't tell you. No mortal man could
have resisted her. Yet I tried; I did, George. She didn't know about
you; she never has, except that we were old friends and dear ones. She
thinks the trouble is that she's a rich man's daughter and I'm only a
farmer."

"You're no ordinary farmer and she knows it. Her family know it. And if
she wants you she'll have you; they've never refused her anything."

"I haven't asked her."

"James Stuart!" It was her old tone with him. For the moment both forgot
the possible issue of this errand upon which they were going; only the
vital relations at stake seemed involved.

"But--she knows," said Stuart very low.

"Of course she does."

By and by Stuart spoke again. "George, you were never quite so close to
me as now."

She slipped her hand into his. "I'll stay close, dear; and I'll do all I
can for you both."

This was all they said until the first lights of the great city, miles
out, were flashing past them. Then it occurred to Georgiana to put a
startled question:

"Jimps, have you any address to go to? There was none in my telegram."

"I know where they are staying." Stuart put his hand into his pocket and
drew out a thick letter, upon which Georgiana recognized her cousin's
handwriting. "This came only yesterday morning."

In spite of herself the girl felt a wild thrill of pain. Her chum--her
chum! And it was the first time he had ever failed to be open with her.

As if he recognized that the sight of the letter had told even more
plainly than words could have done, the degree of intercommunication
between the two presumable lovers, Stuart said quickly:

"I was going to tell you, George--on my word I was. I knew you didn't
care for me--that way, but I was afraid it might hurt just the same,
after all our vows. Somehow the days went by so fast and--well, you see
there was Channing. A while back I thought you were going to marry him,
more than likely."

"You didn't really think it, Jimps."

"I don't know what I thought. George, we're getting in. Oh----" And he
broke off.

She knew what had happened, for with the first glimpse of the great
terminal station the things which thus far had been never really vivid
in her consciousness had in the twinkling of an eye taken terrible form.
This was New York, and somewhere in it they were to find Jeannette,
stricken in the midst of her youth and beauty and joy of life and love.
If only they might find the worst of the danger safely past!

They were rushed in a taxicab to the great uptown hotel, to find there a
message saying that the whole family were at the hospital and that they
were to follow at once. In the second cab Georgiana's hand again found
Stuart's and stayed there. His face was set now; he spoke not a word,
and even through his glove his hand was cold to the touch. Then,
presently, they were at the big, grim-looking hospital with the
characteristic odour, so suggestive to the senses of the tragedies which
take place there night and day, meeting them at the very portal.

It was Georgiana who made the necessary inquiries, for Stuart seemed
like one dazed with fear of that which was to come. He followed her with
his fingers gripping his hat brim with a clutch like that of a vise, his
eyes looking straight ahead. An attendant led them to a private room,
and here in a moment Georgiana found herself caught in Rosalie's arms,
with pale faces all about which tried to smile reassuringly but could
succeed only in looking strained. It was Aunt Olivia who seemed most
composed and who made the situation clear. Uncle Thomas could only grasp
the newcomers' hands and press them, while his lips shook and his speech
halted.

"It is a very peculiar case, and we had to wait till a certain surgeon
came who was out of town--Doctor Craig. They seemed to think it safer to
wait for him. He has had extraordinary success in similar cases. He--is
with her now, operating. My dear, I am very glad you have come--and you,
Mr. Stuart. She wanted you both, and we felt that if her mind were at
rest her chances----" But here even Aunt Olivia's long training in
composure under all circumstances deserted her, and she let Georgiana
put her in a chair and kneel beside her, murmuring affection and hope.

It was a long wait--or so it seemed--interrupted only once by the
entrance of a young hospital interne, who came to advise the family of
the patient that thus far all was going well. It had proved, as was
expected, a complicated case, and there was necessity of proceeding
slowly. But Doctor Westfall had sent word to them to be of good cheer,
for the patient's pulse was strong, and Doctor Craig's reputation, as
they knew, was very great.

"It's Dr. Jefferson Craig, you know," explained young Chester Crofton
softly to Georgiana. "We're mighty lucky to get him. He only came back
from abroad two days ago, and he was operating out of town somewhere
last night. Doctor Westfall was awfully keen to have him and nobody
else."

Georgiana knew the name, as who did not? Jefferson Craig was the man
whose brilliant research work along certain lines of surgery had
astonished both his colleagues and an attentive general public, and his
operative surgery on those lines had disproved all previous theories as
to the possibilities of interference in a class of cases until recently
considered hopeless after an early stage. It was indeed subject for
confidence if Doctor Craig's skilful hands were those now at Jeannette's
service.

But there is no beguiling such periods of suspense with assurance of
former successes in similar cases. Jeannette's family had need of all
their fortitude for the bearing of such suspense before Doctor Westfall,
the Crofton's family physician from the home city, appeared in the
doorway. He had been brought on by them when they were summoned to
Jeannette's bedside. He had known the girl from her babyhood, and the
signs of past tension were clearly visible in his face as he looked upon
his patient's family, though his eyes were very bright and his lips were
smiling.

"Safely over," was his instant greeting, and his hand fell with the
touch of hearty friendship on the shoulder of Mr. Thomas Crofton. "I
wouldn't come till I was sure I might bid you draw a long breath and
ease up on this strain of waiting."

They came around him, Aunt Olivia's lips trembling, her hand fast in
Georgiana's. Young Chester Crofton gave a subdued whoop of joy, and
pretty Rosalie, scarcely out of emotional girlhood, burst into
hysterical crying which she struggled vainly to keep soundless.

"Mind you," warned Doctor Westfall, wiping his own eyes though he
continued to smile, "I don't say all danger is past. Doctor Craig would
be the last man to countenance such a statement. We must hold steady for
several days before we can speak with absolute assurance. But every sign
points to safety, and certainly--certainly--well,"--he paused as if he
could not readily find words for that which he wished to say,--"if it
had been anybody but our Jeannette I should have congratulated myself on
the chance to see such a piece of work as that. I've never seen
Jefferson Craig operate, though I've been a fascinated follower of his
research and have read every word he has written. And he's astonishingly
young. I expected to see a man of my own age."

"We must see him, Doctor," murmured Mrs. Crofton, striving to regain her
composure which, as is often the case, was more shaken by the assurance
of good news than by the fear of bad. "We must thank him for ourselves.
He will come in to see us?"

"As soon as he is out of his gown. I'm going back for him in a minute,
for I knew you would want the words from his own lips. You will like
him--you will like him immensely."

He went away again presently on this errand, an imposing figure of a man
of fifty, accustomed to responsibility and able to carry it, a typical
city physician of the class employed by the prosperous, but with certain
clearly defined lines about his eyes and lips which proclaimed him a
lover of human nature and a sympathizer with its sufferings, in whatever
class he might find his patients.

"He's such a dear," declared Rosalie, wiping away her tears and smiling
at James Stuart. "He's adored Jeannette ever since she was born, and I
know he's been just as anxious as we were. Do cheer up, Jimmy. I'm just
as sure she's going to get well now as I was sure she wasn't before."

"I don't dare to be sure," he answered in a low tone.

Georgiana looked at him and saw how shaken he still was, notwithstanding
the reassuring news. In spite of her anxiety she had been observant,
ever since she entered the room, of the attitude of Jeannette's family
toward James McKenzie Stuart. It had not been difficult to come to the
conclusion that for Jeannette's sake they would accept him, and that for
his own sake they were forced, in varying degrees, to like him. How
could they help it? she wondered, when they looked at his fine, frank
face and observed his manly bearing. He was college bred; he was a
successful worker with his brain as well as with his hands, for his
farming was scientific farming, and his results established a model for
the community. He was by no means poor--and yet--Georgiana realized that
the change for Jeannette from a home of luxury to one of comparative
austerity of living would be a tremendous one. Well, such events had
occurred before in the world's history, and it was by no means
unthinkable that they should occur again. As Georgiana noted the tense
look on Stuart's face, and saw the hardly abated suffering in his eyes,
she said to herself that if Jeannette cared as much for him as he for
her, she cared quite enough to bring her family to terms at any price.

The door opened again, as quietly as hospital doors invariably open,
and Doctor Westfall advanced once more into the room, followed by a
younger man with a grave, clean-cut face and the unassuming, quietly
assured bearing of established success. As Georgiana's eyes fell upon
the distinguished surgeon whose name was Jefferson Craig she recognized
her former lodger, Mr. E. C. Jefferson. That she did not for a moment
wonder what Mr. Jefferson was doing here in the famous surgeon's place
was due to the fact that her mind instantly bridged the chasm between
the two personalities and made them one. Yet there was a subtle, but
easily recognizable, difference between the personality of Mr. Jefferson
and that of Doctor Craig. There could be no question that here his foot
was on his native heath! The literary worker had for the time vanished,
and here was the man who did things with his hands and did them better
than other men. She had long understood that he had another and more
active place in the world than that which he had temporarily occupied as
solely a writer of books. This was the place, and nothing could have
seemed less surprising than to find him in it.

At the same time, the finding occasioned a difficulty in maintaining her
own composure of face and manner. She had known Mr. Jefferson; she did
not know Doctor Craig. She understood instantly, without any
explanation, that he had chosen to be known in the obscure village by
only a part of his name, because that name was so notable that even the
two village doctors, the old one and the young, would have recognized it
and been at his heels, to the detriment of those months of rest from
surgery which he had dedicated to the exposition of his methods upon
paper. She was quick to perceive also that it would be easy enough for
Doctor Craig to prove as different from Mr. Jefferson in relation to his
acquaintance as he was different in his position in the world. What,
indeed, had Dr. Jefferson Craig and little Georgiana Warne in common?
Certainly far, far less than had had Mr. E. C. Jefferson and that same
Georgiana Warne.

He did not see her at once, for the father and mother of his patient met
him in the middle of the floor, and his first glance fell upon them and
remained there while he spoke to them of their daughter. Even in his
manner of speaking Georgiana felt a decided difference. There was a
curious crispness and succinctness of speech that marked the
professional man, which was decidedly different from the more expanded
conversational manner of Mr. Jefferson.

"Yes, she is sleeping quietly under the last effects of the anæsthetic,"
he was saying when Georgiana took note of his words once more. "We will
let her sleep. It will spare her some hours of consciousness."

"Will she suffer very much when she wakes, Doctor?" was the mother's
anxious question.

Doctor Craig's smile was the very one Georgiana had first liked about
him, for it transformed his face and gave it back the youth which his
early responsibility in a serious profession had done its best to age.
"We shall not let her suffer very much," he promised. "That's not
necessary nor desirable."

"When may we see her?" Mrs. Crofton pursued.

"You may all see her for a moment before she wakens, if you wish.
Afterward her mother and father for just a word, and--I am told she
expressed a very strong wish to see a young man who was on his way. Has
he come? For the sake of her contentment I have agreed to allow him a
word with her by and by--just a word, if he will be very quiet."

It was Uncle Thomas who turned to beckon James Stuart forward, and then
to nod at Georgiana. Immediately Stuart was presented to Doctor Craig,
who, looking intently into the young man's questioning face, said
straightforwardly: "Mr. Stuart and I have met before under quite
different circumstances. He knew me as a writer of books and may be
surprised to find me here--as I am surprised to find him."

"Let me present you to my niece, Miss Warne, Doctor Craig," said Aunt
Olivia, and Georgiana was glad of the preparation the minutes had given
her, for here indeed was need for all her powers of self-control. Her
eyes had no sooner looked into those which met them with such a keen and
searching glance than she was stirred to the depths. She had thought she
had known what it would be to feel those eyes upon her again, but she
had not reckoned with the effect of absence.

He made no effort to conceal the situation. "When your daughter sees me
next, Mrs. Crofton," he said, without turning from Georgiana, "she will
know me, as Miss Warne and Mr. Stuart do. I spent last winter in Miss
Warne's home, under the name of Jefferson alone, to find time to work at
a book I am writing. I gave it up sooner than I had expected, because my
work here would not be denied."

"Didn't Jean know you when she saw you before the--the operation?" cried
Rosalie, full of curiosity at this unexpected turn of affairs.

"She did not see me before she was anæsthetized," explained Doctor
Craig; and Doctor Westfall added, patting Rosalie's hand: "It's rather
like a story, isn't it, Rosy? Doctor Seaver, of the staff here, was
telling me this morning how Doctor Craig tried to take a year off to
rest and write, but how they got him back--and glad enough to have him,
too. And yet we want that book. It's rather hard to have a reputation so
big it won't give you time to rest. He needed the rest, Seaver told
me."

"I had it. Six months in the country did more for me than a year in
town," said Doctor Craig. He turned at the sound of a light knock upon
the door. He gave the impression of a man whose senses were every one
alert.

An apologetic interne came in with a message for Doctor Craig and he
left them, with a final word of confidence and the request that they all
retire to rooms at the nearby hotel where they were staying.

Georgiana found Rosalie at her side. "O George! is he really the man you
had in your house all this year? You lucky thing! Didn't you fall in
love with him instantly? Why, he's perfectly wonderful!"

"You think so now, child, because you know he's distinguished. If you
had seen him quietly working at his book you probably wouldn't have
looked at him a second time."

Rosalie studied her cousin's face so intently that Georgiana had some
difficulty in maintaining this attitude of cool detachment. The young
girl shook her head. "He couldn't have changed his face," she insisted.
"He's not a bit handsome, but he's stunning just the same. Oh, how
astonished Jean will be when she finds out who's saved her life! When do
you suppose he'll let Jimmy Stuart see her? He'll die if he doesn't make
sure she's alive pretty soon."



CHAPTER XX

FIVE MINUTES


It was not many hours before Doctor Craig himself led Georgiana and
James Stuart together into the room where Jeannette lay. She had asked
to see them together, he said, and they might remain for precisely five
minutes. He immediately left the room again and took the nurse with him.

The five minutes were spent by Stuart with Jeannette's hand in both his
own, as he knelt beside the the bed where she lay, no pillow under her
head, her face very white but her eyes glowing.

Jeannette's look met Georgiana's. "Is it all right?" she said very low.

"Of course it's all right, dear; and I'm perfectly happy over it,"
whispered Georgiana.

Jeannette smiled. "I couldn't be happy till I was sure," she breathed.
"I thought--I might die, even yet--and I wanted it like this--first."

An inarticulate murmur from Stuart answered this, but Georgiana assured
her very gently: "You're going to be happy with Jimps for years and
years, Jean darling."

They were silent then, as they had been bidden, but the silence was
eloquent. Doctor Craig, coming in to put an end to the little interview,
saw the unmistakable tableau. As Stuart, catching sight of him, rose
slowly to his feet, the surgeon's fingers closed upon his patient's
pulse. He nodded.

"As a heart stimulant you have done very well, Mr. Stuart," he said.
"But small doses, frequently repeated, are better than large ones."

Jeannette's hand weakly caught his. "Isn't it queer, Georgiana," she
murmured, "that it should be your Mr. Jefferson who has saved my life?"

In spite of herself, Georgiana could not prevent the rich wave of colour
which swept over her face. She knew, without venturing to look at him,
that Doctor Craig's eyes flashed toward her with a smile in them. She
stooped over Jeannette with a gay reply:

"And he began his acquaintance with you by snowballing you till you
almost had need of his surgery on the spot!"

Then she and Stuart were out in the wide, bare hospital corridor, and
Stuart was saying with a shiver: "Does she look all right to you,
George--sure?"

"Of course she does, Jimps. You never saw her before with her hair down
in braids; and any face looks pale against a white bed."

He shook his head. "I shall not stir out of this town till she looks
like herself to me."

"Of course you won't. I wish I needn't, but I must go back to father
to-night."

They all tried to dissuade her from this course, but she was firm. She
knew well enough that all Jeannette had wanted of her was to assure
herself that she possessed a clear right and title to Stuart's love.
Evidently Jeannette had guessed more at Stuart's past relations with
Georgiana than either of them had imagined, and she would not allow
herself to be happy without the knowledge that she was not making her
cousin miserable.

One brief conversation with Doctor Craig was all that was vouchsafed
Georgiana before she left the city, and that took place in the presence
of others, in Aunt Olivia's apartment. It was clear enough how busy a
man he was in this his own world, for when he came into the room he
explained to Mrs. Crofton that it had been his only chance since they
arrived to make a brief social call upon the family of his patient. It
was but an hour before Georgiana's departure, and when he learned this,
Jefferson Craig came over to her, where she sat upon a divan at one end
of the long private drawing-room of the suite. Seeing this, the others
of the party began conversations of their own, after the manner of the
highly intelligent, and for those five minutes Georgiana lived in a
place apart from the rest of the world.

"Please tell me all about your father," he began, and the tones of his
voice, low as are habitually those of his profession, could hardly have
been heard by one across the room.

Georgiana told him, unconsciously letting him see that the fear of her
probable loss was ever before her, though she could not put it into
words. She knew as she spoke that his eyes did not leave her face. She
had no possible idea how alluring was that face as the light from the
sconces nearby fell upon it. She was conscious, womanlike, that the
small hat she wore was made over from one of Jeannette's, and she did
not think it becoming. Though it was November, she still wore her summer
suit, for the reason that since her return from abroad Jeannette had not
found time to pack and send off the usual "Semi-Annual," and previous
boxes had not included winter suits at at all. Altogether, with
many-times-mended gloves upon her hands, and shoes which to her seemed
disgraceful, though preserved with all the care of which she was
mistress, Georgiana felt somehow more than ordinarily shabby.

Doctor Craig asked her several questions. He spoke of the rug-making,
watching her closely as she answered. He asked how often she went to
walk and how far. He asked what she and her father were reading. He
would have asked other questions, but she interrupted him.

"It's not fair," she said. "Please tell me about the book. Does it get
on?"

"Do you care to know?"

"Very much. I'm wondering if your copyist makes those German references
any clearer for the printer than I did."

"Nobody has copied a word. I have not written a word. The book is at a
complete standstill. I see no hope for it until I can take another
vacation--under the name of E. C. Jefferson."

"And that you will never take," she said positively.

"I never shall--in the same way. There are reasons against it. The book
will have to be written as the others were--on trains, on shipboard, in
my own room late at night."

"Is it right to try to put two lifetimes into one?" she asked, and now
she lifted her eyes to his.

Before, she had managed to avoid a direct meeting by those many and
engaging little makeshifts girls have, of glancing at a man's shoulder,
his ear, his mouth--and off at the floor, the window--anywhere not to
let him see clearly what she may be afraid he will see. And Georgiana
was intensely afraid that if Dr. Jefferson Craig got one straight look
with those keen eyes of his he would recognize that her whole aching,
throbbing heart was betraying itself from between those lifted lashes.
But now, somehow, with her question she ventured to give him this one
look. The interview might end at any moment; she must have one straight
survey of his face, bent so near hers.

He gave it back, and until her glance dropped he did not speak. Then,
very low, but very clearly, he said deliberately:

"When may I come?"

The room whirled. The lights from the sconces danced together and
blurred. The floor lifted and sank away again. And Chester Crofton chose
this moment--as if he were not after all really of that highly
intelligent class which knows when to pursue its own conversations and
when to break into those of others--to call across the room:

"Oh, I beg pardon, Doctor Craig, but when did you say Jean might have
something real to eat? Rosy says it's to-morrow and I say it's not yet
at all."

Doctor Craig turned and answered, and turned back again. He was not of
the composition of those who are balked of answers to their questions by
ill-timed interruptions. But the little diversion gave Georgiana an
instant's chance to make herself ready to answer like a woman and not
like a startled schoolgirl. So that when he repeated, his voice again
dropped:

"When, Georgiana?"

She was able to reply as quietly as she could have wished: "Do you want
to come, Doctor Craig?"

"I want to come. I have never wanted anything so much."

"Then--please do."

"Very soon? As soon as I can get away for a few hours? Perhaps next
week? It is always difficult, but if I plan ahead sometimes I can manage
to make almost the train I hope for."

She nodded. "Any train--anytime."

There was an instant's silence. It seemed to her that she could hear one
or two deep-drawn breaths from him. Then:

"Would you mind looking up just once more? I must go in a minute; I
can't even take you to your train."

But she answered, with an odd little trembling of the lips: "Please
don't ask me to. I'm--afraid!"

A low laugh replied to that. "So am I!" said Jefferson Craig.

He rose, and she rose with him. The others came around and he took leave
of them. His handclasp was all that Georgiana had for farewell, for when
she lifted her eyes she let them rest on his finely moulded chin. But
she knew that in spite of his expressed fear it was not her round little
chin he looked at, but the gleam of her dark eyes through their
sheltering lashes, and that his hand gave hers a pressure which carried
with it much meaning. It told her that which as yet she hardly dared
believe.

Since the journey home was made up of changes of trains, no sleeper was
possible, and Georgiana sat staring out of her car window while those
about her slumbered. There was too much to think of for sleep, if she
had wanted to sleep. She did not want to sleep, she wanted to live over
and over again those five minutes with their incredible revelation. And
as the wheels turned, the rhythm of their turning was set to one simple
phrase, the one which had sent her world whirling upside down and made
the stars leap out of their courses:

"When may I come?"



CHAPTER XXI

MESSAGES


  Hope to reach Elmville at seven to-night.--E.C. JEFFERSON.

This was the first of them. When Georgiana received it she had been
waiting eight days for this first word. She had known well enough that
until Jeannette was entirely safe Doctor Craig would not leave her.
Georgiana had not minded that she had had no word. She had not really
expected any. A man who was too busy to come would be too busy to write,
and she wanted no makeshift letters. And she had not minded the delay in
his coming; rather, she had welcomed it. To have time to think, to hug
her half-frightened, wholly joyous knowledge to her heart, to go to
sleep with it warm at her breast, and to wake with it knocking at the
door of her consciousness--this was quite happiness enough for the
immediate present.

Meanwhile, what pleasure to put the house in its most shining order, to
plan daily little special dishes, lest he come upon her unawares; to sit
and sew upon her clothing, shifting and turning her patchwork materials
until she had worked out clever combinations which conveyed small hint
of being make-overs!

For the first time in her life she said nothing to her father of her
expectations. What was there to tell as yet? She could not bring herself
to put into words the memory of that brief interview, in which so much
had been said in so few simple phrases. And if Father Davy read--as it
would have been strange if he had not--the signs of his daughter's
singing lightness of heart, he made no sign himself; he only waited,
praying.

Georgiana received her first telegram at noon. She had flown for two
wonderful hours about her kitchen, making ready, when the despatch was
followed by another:

  Unavoidably detained. Will plan to get away Thursday.

This was Tuesday. Georgiana put away her materials, and swept the house
from attic to cellar, though it needed it no more than her glowing face
needed colour. What did it matter? Let him be detained a week, a month,
a year--he would come to her in the end. Now that she was sure of that,
each day but enhanced the glorious hope of a meeting, that meeting the
very thought of which was enough to take away her breath.

On Thursday came the message:

  Cannot leave this week. Will advise by wire when possible.

No letter came to explain further these delays. Georgiana felt that she
did not need one, yet admitted to herself that the ordinary course in
such circumstances would be to send a letter, no matter of how few
words. Toward the end of the following week a telegram again set a day
and hour, and as before, another followed on its heels to negative it.
The last one added, "Deep regret," and therefore bore balm.

And then, after several more days, came a message which was all but a
letter:

  It seems impossible to arrange for absence at present. Will you not
  bring your father and come to my home on Wednesday? Will meet train
  arriving seven-fifteen. Journey will not hurt Mr. Warne, and visit
  here will interest him. Please do not refuse.
                                                    E. C. JEFFERSON.

Well! What girl ever had a suitor of this sort? one too busy to come or
write, yet who, on the strength of a few words spoken in the presence of
others, ventured to send for the lady of his choice to come to him, that
he might speak those other words so necessary to the conclusion of the
matter. Georgiana sat re-reading the slip of yellow paper, while her
heart beat hard and painfully. For with the invitation had come
instantly the bitter realization--they could not afford to go! Her
recent trip on the occasion of Jeannette's illness had taxed their
always slender resources, and until the money should come in for the
last bale of rugs sent away, there was only enough in the family
treasury to keep them supplied with the necessities of life.

The time had come--undoubtedly it had--when she must confide in Father
Davy. Not that he would be able to see any way out, but that she could
not venture to refuse this urgent request without his approval.

Georgiana tucked away in her belt the last long telegram, and went to
her father. He lay upon his couch, the blue veins on his delicate
forehead showing with pitiful distinctness in the ray of November
sunshine which chanced to fall upon him.

Georgiana knelt beside him. "Father Davy," she said, with her face
carefully out of his sight, "I have a little story to tell you--just the
outlines of one, for you to fill in. When I was in New York Mr.
Jefferson--Doctor Craig, you know,"--she had told him this part of the
tale when she had first come home,--"asked me when--when he might come
here."

She paused. Her father turned his head upon the crimson couch pillow,
but he could not see her face.

"Yes, my dear?" he said, with a little smile touching his lips. "Well,
that sounds natural enough. He knows he is always welcome here. When is
he coming?"

"He isn't coming. He can't get away. He has tried three different
times, and cancelled it each time. He seems to be very busy, too busy
even to write."

"That is not strange; he must be a very busy man. Doubtless he will come
when he can make time. I shall be glad to see Mr. Jefferson."

"But--you see--he wants us to come there."

"Us?"

"You and me. Father Davy--you understand, dear; don't make me put it
into words!"

Her father's arm came about her and she buried her face in his thin
shoulder. "Thank God!" he said fervently, under his breath. "Thank the
good God, who knows what we need and gives it to us."

After a minute's silence: "But we can't go, Father Davy."

"Can't we? I could not, of course, but you----"

"I couldn't go without you--to his house. And--we haven't any money."

"No money? Is it so bad as that?"

"And if we had--I'm not sure that I want to take a journey to a man--so
that----"

"Let me see the telegram, my dear," requested Mr. Warne. When he had
read it he regarded his daughter with a curious little smile. She was
sitting upon the floor, close beside his couch, her brilliant eyes now
raised to his face, now veiled by their heavy lashes. "It seems clear
enough," he said. "Concessions must be made to a man who belongs to the
people as he does. I don't think it would be a sacrifice to your
dignity, daughter, if you were to go."

"But, Father, darling, don't you see? I didn't want to tell you, but
there was no other way. We have quite enough to live on--without
extras--till the next rug money comes. But that may not be for a month;
they are always slow. And for us to go to New York--well, we could just
about get there. We couldn't get clear home. Father Davy, I can't
go--penniless--_to him_!"

He lay looking at her down-bent head with its splendid masses of dark
hair, at the beautiful lines of her neck in her low-cut working frock of
blue-and-white print, at the shapely young hands gripping each other
with unconscious tenseness in her lap. His eyes were like a woman's for
understanding, and his lips were very tender. Slowly he raised himself
to his feet.

"Stay just where you are, daughter," he said, "till I come back."

She waited, staring at the old crimson pillow with eyes which saw again
the drawing-room in Aunt Olivia's apartment and the profile of Doctor
Craig's face as he turned from her at Chester Crofton's interrupting
question. That was more than three weeks ago----

Father Davy was gone some little time, but he came back at length at
his slow, limping pace, and sat down upon the couch. He held in his hand
a little bag of dark blue silk, a little bag whose contents seemed all
heavily down in one corner. Georgiana's eyes regarded it with some
wonder. She had thought she knew by heart every one of her father's few
belongings, but this little bag was new to her.

"I think," he said softly, "the time has come for this. It was meant,
perhaps, to be given you a little later in your history, but if your
mother knew--nay, I feel she does know and approve--she would be the
first to say to me: '_Give it to her now, David; she'll never want it
more than now._'"

Georgiana leaned forward, her lips parted. She seemed hardly to breathe
as her father went on, his slender fingers gently caressing the little
blue silk bag:

"From the time you were a baby, a very little baby, she saved this money
for you. It came mostly from wedding fees; I always gave her those to do
with as she would. They were a country minister's fees--two-and-three-dollar
fees mostly--once in a great while some affluent farmer would pay me
five dollars. How your mother's eyes would shine when I could give her a
five! She turned all the bills and silver into gold--a great many of
these pieces are one-dollar gold pieces. There are none of them in
circulation now; it may easily be that they have increased in value,
being almost a curiosity in these days. I think I have heard of
something like that. At any rate, dear, it is all yours. It was to have
been given to you to buy your wedding outfit; but--she would have wanted
you to have it when it could help you most." He held out the little bag.
"She made it of a bit of her wedding dress," he said, and his hand
trembled as it was extended toward his daughter. "It was not only her
wedding dress, it was the best dress she had for many years."

With a low cry that was like that of a mother's for a child, Georgiana
took the little blue silk bag, heavy in its corner with the weight of
many small gold pieces, and crushed it against her lips. Then, with it
held close to her cheek, she laid her head down on her father's knee and
sobbed her heart out for the mother she had missed for ten long years.

In the little bag there proved to be almost a hundred
dollars--ninety-two in all.

"She sorely wanted to get it to a hundred," said Father Davy, when he
and Georgiana, their eyes still wet, had counted the tarnished gold
pieces that had waited so long to be delivered to their owner. "There
seemed a dearth of marriages the year before she went; the sum increased
very slowly."

"She must have gone without--things she needed," Georgiana said with
difficulty.

"I think she did, but she would never own it. She was very clever, as
you are, at making things over and over, and she looked always trim and
fine. She was a beautiful woman--and a happy one, in spite of all she
was deprived of in her life with a poor country minister. 'If my little
daughter can only be as happy as I have been,' she used to say, 'it is
all I ask.' My dear, she would have liked--she would have loved--Mr.
Jefferson. I can't get over calling him that," he added, with his
whimsical smile struggling to shine through the tears which would not
quite be mastered.

"O Father Davy!" was all Georgiana could say. But she lifted a flushed
and lovely face with all manner of womanly qualities written in it, and
kissed her father on brow and cheek and lips, as she would have kissed
her mother at such words as those.

       *       *       *       *       *

"I wonder," said Mr. Warne, sitting comfortably in the Pullman chair his
daughter had insisted upon, "if I can possibly be awake, not dreaming. I
never thought to take another journey."

"He said it wouldn't hurt you, and it's not. You're not too tired? I
haven't seen you look so well for a long time," declared his daughter.

The eyes of other passengers, across the aisle, were irresistibly drawn
to these two travelers--the frail, intellectual-looking man with his
curly gray hair and his gentle blue eyes, his worn but carefully kept
garments, his way of turning to his daughter at every change of
scene--the daughter herself, with her face of charm under the close hat
with its veil, her clothing the suit of dark summer serge with its lines
of distinction, which was still doing duty as the only presentable
street suit she possessed.

They were a more than commonly interesting pair, these travelers, and
they were furtively watched from behind more than one newspaper.

Georgiana had no eyes for possible observers. With Father Davy she
preferred to sit with her chair turned toward the window, looking out at
the hills and trying to realize the thing which was happening. She was
actually on her way to the home of a man whom a month ago she had
thought gone out of her life forever. And, even now, he had not spoken a
word of love to her, had not asked her to marry him! Yet he was to meet
her at the end of this short journey; she was to look out upon the
platform and see that distinguished figure standing there, waiting for
her--for her, Georgiana Warne, maker of rugs for small sums of money,
wearer of other people's cast-oft clothing, undistinguished by anything
in the world--except by being the daughter of a real saint; and that was
much after all. Fate had not left her without the best beginning in
life, the being brought into it by such a father and mother--bless them!

The hours flew by, the train passed through the outlying towns and came
at last to the monster city. The lights within the car and without were
bright as they drew into the great station. Following the porter who
carried Mr. Warne's worn black bag and his daughter's fine one--given
her by Aunt Olivia that summer--her arm beneath her father's, Georgiana
made her way through the car, into the vestibule, out upon the platform.
No sight of Doctor Craig rewarded the hurried glance she gave about her.
But before she could take alarm a fresh-faced young man in the livery of
a chauffeur came up to her, saying respectfully:

"I beg pardon, is it Miss Warne?" And upon her assent he said rapidly:
"Doctor Craig bid me say he was called to a case he could not refuse,
but he hopes to be home soon. I am to take you up and to see to your
luggage."

"We have no luggage but these bags," Georgiana told him, wondering for a
moment how he had recognized her so readily, then understanding that
though she herself might be a figure indistinguishable by description
from many another, that of Father Davy could not fail of recognition by
one who had been told what to expect.

"I have a chair here for the gentleman," the man said, and he indicated
one of the station chairs attended by a red-capped porter.

Mr. Warne, being wheeled rapidly through the great station, looked
about him with the eager eyes of a boy. It was twenty years--twenty long
and quiet years, since he had been in New York. What had not happened
since then? In spite of the myriad descriptions he had read and pictures
he had studied, the effect upon him of the real city, as, having been
transferred from the chair to a small but luxurious closed car, he was
conveyed along the thronged, astonishingly lighted streets, was
overwhelming. Suddenly he closed his eyes and laid his head back against
the cushioned leather.

Georgiana bent anxiously toward him. "Are you frightfully tired, Father
dear? Are you--faint?"

His eyes opened and his lips smiled reassuringly. "A little tired, my
dear, and very much dazed, but not upset in any way. I shall be glad to
sleep--and glad to wake in this wondrous city."



CHAPTER XXII

TOASTS


They drove downtown for many blocks, turning at last into an old and
still notable square which is one of the great town's almost untouched
residence districts, in the very heart of its teeming commercial life.
Here, all at once, the noise of traffic was quieted. Only as a distant
and not too disturbing murmur came the sounds of the warfare which raged
so near. At one of the dingy but still stately old houses the car drew
up, the chauffeur alighted and opened the door. He escorted the
travelers up the steps and rang the bell.

The door was opened by a lad in plain livery, and he was reinforced
immediately by a middle-aged housekeeper who came forward and took the
guests in charge. She had a rosy face and iron-gray hair and her accent
was distinctly Scotch.

"I am Mrs. MacFayden, Doctor Craig's hoose-keeper," she said. "Doctor
Craig is mair than sorry not to be here to greet ye baith. He tell't me
to say ye should mak' yersels quite at hame, and should hae yer dinners
wi'oot waitin' for him. If Maister Warne should be tae weary tae sit up
longer, he should gang awa' tae his bed. I know Doctor Craig will mak'
all the haste posseeble, but 'tis seldom he can carry oot his ain plans,
for the press o' sick folks aifter him day an' nicht."

"Doctor Craig is very kind," said Mr. Warne. "If it will not seem
discourteous I think I shall lie down upon my bed, for I am not
accustomed to travel and am a little tired."

"That wull be the best thing posseeble for ye," said the kindly
housekeeper, leading the way upstairs. "Tammas, ye'll bring the luggage.
I should advise, Maister Warne, havin' a small tray in your room an'
then attemptin' no mair than juist tae see Doctor Craig, when he cooms
tae say gude nicht."

She led her guests into a large, square, pleasant room, furnished with
old mahogany. A cheery fire was burning in a fireplace. She opened a
second door, and showed a connecting room, of lesser size but very
attractive.

"The Doctor often has special patients stayin' in these rooms," she
said, "but fortunately they were emptied three days agone, and kept for
ye. The Doctor has always some puir soul he wants to mak' comfortable.
I'm glad 'tis guests this time he has, an' no patients. He needs to
forget his wark when he cooms hame, but 'tis seldom he has the
opportunity."

She left them, saying that if the Doctor had not returned by eight she
would serve dinner for Miss Warne alone.

"No, please, Mrs. MacFayden," begged Georgiana. "If my father has his
tray here I will see him to his bed. I really do not care for dinner at
all."

The housekeeper smiled. "The Doctor would na' be pleased wi' me, if I
let ye go dinnerless," she said. "But I'm thinkin' we'll see him soon.
Wull ye coom doon to the library, Miss Warne, when ye're ready? 'Tis the
door at the right o' the front entrance. The door on the left is the
waitin' room, an' the Doctor does na' keep office hours at nicht."

With a fast-beating heart Georgiana set about making ready for that
descent to the library. The whole affair was becoming more and more a
strain upon her nerves. If Doctor Craig had met them at the station it
would have been far easier for her than this. But here she was, actually
in his house, combing her hair in his guest-room, going down to dinner
at his table--and she had not seen or heard from him, except by
telegram, since the hour when he had given her hand that meaning
pressure and left her with her friends. It was an extraordinary
experience, to say the least.

She wondered how she should dress for dinner--the dinner that she might
eat alone! She had only her traveling suit and one simple little gray
silk, dyed from a white "Semi-Annual" and made very simply, with a wide
collar and cuffs of white net. Anybody but Georgiana would have looked
like a Quakeress in the gray silk, but with her dark hair and warm
colouring she succeeded only in imitating a young nun but just removed
from scenes of worldly gayety! She decided that the hour and the
occasion called for this frock, and put it on with fingers which shook a
little.

Eight o'clock. She dared wait no longer, so, making sure that her
father, having eaten and drunk, was resting luxuriously on his bed, she
opened her door. The house seemed very quiet, and she went slowly along
the upper hall, and after pausing a moment at the top of the fine
staircase with its white spindles and mahogany rail, she began to
descend. The steps were heavily padded and her footfall made no sound;
therefore, as she afterward realized, a very close watch must have been
kept, for the moment she came in sight of the open library door a figure
appeared there.

The next moment Jefferson Craig had crossed the hall and was standing at
the foot of the staircase, looking up at the descending guest. The
guest, naturally enough, paused, four stairs up, looking down. The
light, from a quaint lantern hood of wrought iron and crystal hanging
above the newel post, shone full upon the dark head and vivid face
above the demure gray frock with its nunlike broad collar and cuffs of
thin white.

The man below looked for a full minute without speaking, but Georgiana
could not have told what expression was upon his face or whether he
smiled. She knew that at the end of that long look he stretched one arm
toward her, and that obeying the gesture which was all but a command she
came on down those four remaining steps. Jefferson Craig led her into
the library, where a great fire sparkled and leaped and filled the room,
otherwise sombre with books, full of welcoming cheer. He closed the
door, then led her to the hearth.

"Where shall we begin?" he said, in that low but very distinct voice she
so well remembered. "Where we left off?"

"I'm not," answered Georgiana, looking away from him into the fire,
whose light flashed in her eyes less disconcertingly than that which she
somehow knew leaped in his, "sure where we left off."

"Aren't you? I am. We left off where we had each seen, for just one
instant, into the other's heart. And having seen there was no
forgetting--no?--Georgiana?"

She shook her head.

"It was good of you to come to me," he said very gently. Her hand was
still held fast in his. "I did my best to have it the other way--the
usual way. There seemed a fate against it. I could have written, but
somehow I didn't want to. I preferred to wait--with the memory of your
face always before me, till I could see it again. And now that I see
it--bent down--and turned away"--he laughed a low laugh of content--"oh,
look up, Georgiana! Surely you're not afraid now. You know I've been
loving you ever since I saw you first, in spite of thinking I must not,
because of the one I understood you belonged to----"

She looked up then out of sheer astonishment. "Oh, no, not since you saw
me first," she disputed. "It couldn't be--and I thinking all the
while----" She stopped in confusion at the revelation she might be
making.

But he caught her up. "You thinking all the while--what? Tell me!"

"I thought--you hadn't the least interest in me."

"Did you care whether I had or not?"

"I--tried not to care," confessed Georgiana naïvely. She smiled, a
sparkling little smile. It was so clear now, that he wanted this
confession.

He looked at her for a minute longer, then he said: "Don't you think
enough has been said to warrant--this?"

It was then that Georgiana learned how little one may judge from outward
quiet of manner and controlled speech what may happen when the heart is
allowed to speak for itself.

"Forgive me," he said at last, when he had released her, all enchanting
confusion under his intent gaze; "but you know the breaking up of a
famine sometimes makes human beings hard to manage. If you could know
the times I've watched you, when you were bent over my illegible fist of
copy, and thought how I should like just to put my hand on your
beautiful hair----"

A knock sounded upon the door. With an exclamation of annoyance Doctor
Craig left Georgiana and opened it.

"Dinner is served, sir," announced Thomas, the boy.

His master turned back with a laughing, remorseful face. "I had
forgotten all about dinner," he said, "though now I come to think of it
I believe I had no luncheon. You must be famishing. Mrs. MacFayden tells
me your father is resting. We will go up and see him--before dinner or
after?"

"I think he will drop off to sleep for a little, he is so tired, and
then wake by and by and be ready to see you."

"Good! It couldn't be better. I am eager to see Mr. Warne, but I want
him to be ready for me--who have so much to ask of him. Meanwhile--shall
we go?"

He offered her his arm, such graceful deference in his manner that she
felt afresh the wonder of his wish to transplant her from her world to
his. As they walked slowly through the dignified old hall he said in a
tone of great satisfaction: "Mrs. MacFayden has ventured to hint to me
more than once that this house is of the sort which needs a mistress.
To-night, when she saw me come in, she said to me very respectfully:
'It's a gled day for ye, Doctor, an' now that I've seen the lassie I can
congratulate ye wi' all mae hert. She'll mak' a bonny lady to be at the
head o' the hoose, if ye'll permit me to say the thocht.' I assure you,
Georgiana, the conquest of my good Scottish housekeeper upon sight is no
small achievement."

"It must have been my gray gown and white cuffs," suggested the girl
demurely.

He looked down at the hand resting on his arm. "Now that I have time to
look at anything but your face," he said, "I see that you are wearing
something very satisfying to the eye. I like simple things, such as I
have always seen you wear."

With inward astonishment and congratulation Georgiana thought of all the
dyed and reconstructed "Semi-Annuals" which had marched in a frugal
procession across his vision during the past year. Suddenly she felt an
affection for the very frock she wore, difficult as had been its
achievement from the materials in hand. Certainly, women in beautiful
and wonderful clothing, such as he saw daily, had had no chance with him
against the attraction of herself in the cleverly adapted makeshifts of
her own fingers. It was the girl who had made the most of herself and
her home out of her restricted means who had drawn to her side this man
whose judgment must approve his love or he could never love at all.

Things hadn't been so unequal after all. The wise God, who had set her
life thus far in the midst of poverty, had given her with which to fight
it the wit and resource which fashion weapons out of materials which
more favoured mortals cast away. That greatest of gifts bestowed upon
the daughters of men had been hers--the creative touch. At last she
recognized it, and knew it for what it was. Using this good gift she had
learned other things than the making of clothes!

A great warm surge of joy and understanding enveloped Georgiana Warne as
Jefferson Craig, having led her into the dining-room and placed her
ceremoniously in her chair, bent over her where she sat, saying softly:

"This place has been waiting a long time at the bachelor's board. Now
that I see it filled--like this--I know how well worth while it's been
to wait."

He took the place opposite her. With a nod at the boy Thomas, he
dismissed him for the moment. He looked across the table, rich with the
finest appointments in his house, arranged by a housekeeper who heartily
approved his everyday simplicity of life, but who exulted to-night in
the chance to show the lady of his choice the fine old heirlooms of
silver and damask which were to come to her. Smiling, he lifted a
delicately chased goblet of water which stood beside his plate.

"To my wife!" he said.

Georgiana, raising the face of a rose, took up her own glass. She looked
at it a moment, her eyes like dark twin fires, her lips taking on lovely
curves. Then she lifted it toward the man opposite.

"To--_you_!"

"Still afraid?" asked Jefferson Craig, watching her as one watches only
that which is the delight of his eyes. "Never mind; I'll teach you by
and by the word I want to hear."

       *       *       *       *       *

Upstairs, the slender figure on the bed stirred from the brief sleep
which had claimed it. Father Davy opened his eyes again upon the firelit
room and the pleasant comfort which surrounded him.

"Before they come," he thought, "I must tell my Father how I feel about
it. I was too tired even to pray. But I am quite rested now."

He slipped down gently to his knees and closed his eyes, folding his
thin hands on the heavy white counterpane before him.

"Dear God," he said, "I have the desire of my heart--the answer to my
prayers--and I am very glad to-night. Yet Thou knowest my heart is
heavy, too--with longing for my Phoebe. Tell her, Father, that her child
is happy in the love of the best man she could have asked for. And tell
her that David loves and longs for her to-night with the love that will
never die. For that love that will not die in spite of years and pain I
thank Thee. If it may be, give our child the same blessed experience.
And teach us to love and serve Thee, world without end, Amen."



CHAPTER XXIII

WHY NOT?


"There's just one more thing to be settled," observed Dr. Jefferson
Craig. "While we are settling things, suppose we attend to that."

He stood upon the hearthrug before the fire in his library, elbow on
chimney piece, looking down upon his two guests. It was eight o'clock of
the evening following that upon which Mr. David Warne and Georgiana had
arrived at the big New York house in the old-time, downtown square.
Although they had been under the hospitable roof for more than
twenty-four hours it was the first occasion on which the three had been
together for more than a few minutes at a time.

On the previous evening in an upstairs room had been enacted a little
scene which would live forever in the memories of them all; but Doctor
Craig, perceiving with trained eyes the signs of growing fatigue in his
frail friend after the unwonted strain of the day and its necessarily
emotional climax, had gently but firmly insisted on withdrawing at an
early hour. Georgiana had remained with her father, herself content to
have the strange and wonderful day end in the old, simple, and natural
way in which her days had ended for so long. She had felt, as she
performed her customary daughterly offices for the beloved invalid, that
she had quite enough to take with her to her own pillow to insure its
being the happiest upon which she had ever laid her head.

They had seen little of Doctor Craig on the following day; but he had
taken dinner with them that night, and as he had brought them back to
the library fire he had given stringent directions to the boy Thomas
that he be disturbed only for the most important summons. And hardly had
the trio taken their places in the pleasant room before Jefferson Craig
made his statement that there was something still unsettled in their
affairs.

As he spoke he was looking down at Georgiana. It would have been strange
if he could have kept his eyes away from her to-night. Like a flower in
sunshine had she bloomed under the warm influence of the joy which had
come to her when she least expected it. She was again wearing the little
gray silk frock, but now its nunlike simplicity was gone--and happily
gone--for a bunch of glowing pink Killarney roses at her belt, placed
there by Doctor Craig's hands, lighted the plain costume into one of a
charm which could no longer be called demure.

"Something still to settle?" It was Father Davy who replied, for
Georgiana had no answer for that suggestion. One glance at Doctor
Craig's face, as he said the words, had told her what was coming.

"The most important thing of all. Everything else is in order. You, dear
sir, have agreed to come and live with us. We are convinced that it's
not a sacrifice, except for the leaving of certain old friends. You have
a zest still for seeing and hearing the things you have been denied;
it's to be our keen pleasure to make your days go by on wings. You're
going to have plenty of room here for the bookcases and the books, all
the furnishings you care to keep--in short, you're to live the old life
with a fine new one as well. Altogether, everything is in train for the
great change, except"--he crossed the hearthrug at a stride, and laid a
son's hand upon the thin shoulder of Father Davy--"except the date of
it," he finished, smiling down into the uplifted face.

"But that," replied Georgiana's father without hesitation, "is not for
me to settle. It is for you two."

Craig looked across at Georgiana and for a minute studied her down-bent
profile as she sat gazing into the flames; then came round to her,
plucking a pillow from a big leather couch by the way, to drop it at her
feet and throw himself down upon it. So placed he could look straight
into her face. "You'll have to take an interest in the ceiling now if
you succeed in avoiding me," he said, with a low laugh.

"I don't want to avoid you," answered Georgiana, and let her eyes meet
his fairly for an instant. She could not yet do this in a quite casual
way.

He crossed his arms upon her knee, sitting in a boyish attitude and
looking not unlike a big boy for the moment, for all the lines of care
were gone from his face in the soft firelight, and happiness had laid
its rosy mantle over his shoulders as over hers. He began to speak
rather quickly:

"For the life of me, I can't think of a reason why you should go back
and spend a winter in the same old grind, waiting till spring
and--making me wait till spring. Why should anybody wait till spring?
I've let you talk about all the work you were going to do this winter at
home, but that was just because I didn't want to make you feel as if you
were caught in a trap. I had an idea that for a few hours, anyhow, it
might seem enough of a change to come down here and promise to marry a
perfect stranger of a surgeon instead of the 'literary light' you knew.
I thought we'd let it go at that for those few hours. But now--it
doesn't seem to me possible to go back to bachelorhood again, even with
such a prospect before me in the spring. Not after having tasted--this.
Georgiana, why must I?"

Her face was the colour of her roses. There was no getting away from the
challenge of those eyes that watched her so steadily--not even by
following his suggestion and gazing persistently ceilingward. Craig
glanced at Father Davy, to find that his soft blue eyes showed no sign
of shock, and that his face was perfectly placid as he looked and
listened.

The younger man went on, coming straight to the point: "Georgiana, marry
me before you go back! You've promised to stay a week. Let's have a
wedding here, next Wednesday. Then we'll leave Father Davy here
comfortably with Mrs. MacFayden, and run up to see about getting things
packed and shipped. I'll take that much of a vacation now. Then, in
April, we'll go abroad for a real honeymoon and take Father Davy with
us. I'd propose that now, but the seas are stormy in December and
January and we mustn't risk it for him. But, let's not wait! Why should
we? Now, honestly, why should we?"

The girl turned her face, with a strange little look of appeal, toward
her father, to meet such a look of entire comprehension as stirred her
to the depths. Suddenly, obeying an impulse she did not understand, she
drew herself gently away from Craig, rose and went to the figure in the
big chair opposite. She sat down on the arm and, bending, dropped her
face upon the fatherly shoulder, hiding it there. Craig sat perfectly
still, watching the pair, as Father Davy put up a thin, white hand and
patted the dark head. Then the two men smiled at each other.

After a while Craig got up and quietly left the room.

By and by Father Davy whispered: "What is it, dear? You're not ready?
You shall not be hurried. Or is it----"

She spoke into his ear. "I want to go back home--and earn--and
earn--enough to----"

"Can you earn it, daughter? Can you ever get enough ahead to provide
what you would like? And meanwhile--he wants you very much, my dear. I
think I know more of his heart than you do, in way. Last winter we had
certain talks that showed me a little of that. Would it be such a blow
to pride to do as he asks? Unless--in other ways you are not ready. If
your love for him isn't quite mature enough yet----"

"Oh, it isn't that; it's mature enough. It--it hasn't grown, in spite of
me, all this year like--a--tumbleweed"--her voice was a little
breathless--"not to have got its growth----"

"Its first growth," amended her father, with a meaning smile.

She nodded. "But--if you could know how I want--time to make the most
of--what mother left me. I could do so much if I just had time. If I
used it now I should have to use it up so fast! There'll be fifty
dollars left when we get back. I could almost make that do, if--no, of
course I couldn't. But I could earn more. O Father Davy, is it wrong of
me to be so proud?"

"Not wrong, my girl, but very natural, I suppose. Yet to me--well, dear,
I hardly know how to say what I feel. I confess I should like to see you
married to this man. Life is--so short----"

They sat together in silence for a time; then Georgiana slipped back
into the seat where she had been.

Presently Father Davy said that it had been a full day, and that he
thought he should be fitter for the morrow if he should go to bed.
Georgiana went up with him, saw him comfortably resting, listened while
he whispered something in her ear as she bent above him, kissed him with
her heart on her lips, and finally stole like a mouse down the stairs
again.

When she came into the library once more it was to find herself in arms
which held her close. "Do you think I don't understand, my dearest?"
said the low voice which had such power to move her. "Do you think I
don't respect and love you for your perfectly natural feeling about it
all? But, Georgiana, you bring me a dowry bigger than any I could ask
for--the inheritance from such a father as he is--and from the mother
who gave you all he left her to give. What are towels and tablecloths--I
don't know what it is brides bring!--beside such things as these? Won't
you give me the real thing, and let me furnish the ones that don't
count? Dear, if you could know the pleasure there is for me in the very
thought of buying you--a hat!"

She could but smile, his tone put so much awe into the word. Suddenly
she grew whimsical; it was so like Georgiana to do that when she was
deeply stirred!

"What do you suppose that hat was made of, I wore here?" she asked him.
"I'll tell you. I found the shape for twenty-five cents at the village
milliner's. I cut it down and sewed it up again into another shape. Then
I hunted through the old 'Semi-Annuals'; you don't know what those are,
do you? I found a piece of velvet that had been a flounce. I steamed it
and covered the shape. Then I had to have some trimming. It came from an
old evening cloak of my Cousin Jeannette's--a bit of gilt, a silk rose,
some ribbon from--I can't tell you what it came from, but it had to be
dyed to match the velvet. I couldn't quite get the shade. But the hat,
when it was done, wasn't so bad."

"Where is it now?"

"Upstairs in my room."

"Would you mind getting it?"

She laughed, hesitated, finally ran upstairs and down again, the hat in
hand. Pausing before an old gilt mirror in the hall she put it on, then
came to him, lifting her head with a proud and merry look which bade
him beware how he might venture to criticise the work of her hands.

Adjusting his eyeglasses with care, he viewed it judicially. "It looks
very nice to me," he said. "Suppose you keep it on and put on a coat and
let me take you out in the car for a few minutes. There's a certain
window uptown I should like to look at, with you."

"I have no coat," she said steadily, and now the colour ebbed a little
from her warm cheek, "except the one that belongs with the suit I wore.
It's short; it wouldn't do to wear with a dress like this."

"I see." Suddenly he came close again, gently lifted the hat from the
dark masses of her hair, laid it carefully on a table near by, and drew
her with him to a broad, high-backed couch at one side of the fire.

"I can see," he said, very quietly, "that you and I have much to do in
getting to know each other. Let's lose no time in beginning. Listen,
while I try to tell you what marriage means to me--and to find out what
it means to you."

It was a long talk, and, by the kindness of the fates which rule over
the irregular schedule of the men of Craig's profession, an
uninterrupted one. Long before it was over Georgiana learned many new
things concerning the man who was to be her husband, not the least of
which was his power of making others see as he saw, feel as he felt, and
believe, from first to last, in his absolute integrity of motive. And
when he told her what he thought he could do for her father if he should
have him under his eye during the coming winter, the period which was
always so long and trying for the sensitive frame of the invalid, whose
resisting powers were at their lowest when the winter winds were
blowing, she gave way and the question was settled.

But she did not give way in everything after all, nor did he ask her to
do so. When he suggested details of preparation, and she shook her head,
he smiled and told her it should all be as she wished. And when he said,
very gently, that he hoped she would let him provide her with the means
to buy whatever she might need, because everything that he had was hers
already, he took with a submission that was all grace her refusal to use
a penny of his until she should bear his name. If he made certain
reservations of his own as to what might happen when he should hold the
right, that did not show.

"So that I get you, dearest," he said at the end of the evening, just
before he let her go, "I am willing to take you in any sort of package
you may select for yourself. Personally it seems to me that jeweller's
cotton is the most appropriate background for you, if you won't have a
satin-and-velvet case!"

At which Georgiana laughed, and assured him that she was no real jewel,
only one of the secondary stones, and uncut at that. The answer she got
to this sent her off upstairs with thrilling pulses, to lie awake for a
long time, recalling his voice and look as he said the few suddenly
grave words which had given her a glimpse of his bare heart.



CHAPTER XXIV

MAGIC GOLD


The days which followed were to be remembered with peculiar delight all
Georgiana's life. Each morning, in Doctor Craig's own car, accompanied
by her father, she went shopping. Mr. Warne could not use his strength
in following her into the shops, but he could sit at ease in a corner of
the luxurious, closed landau, an extra pillow tucked behind his back, an
electric footwarmer at his feet, his slender form wrapped in a wonderful
fur-lined coat which his son-in-law to-be had put upon him with the
reasonable explanation that it had proved to be too small for himself.
From this sheltered position he could watch the hurrying crowds, study
the faces and find untiring interest in the happenings of the streets.

Not the smallest part of his pleasure lay in receiving his daughter
again each time she came hurrying out of some great portal, the tiniest
of packages under her arm. Although Duncan, Doctor Craig's chauffeur,
was always watching, ready to jump from his seat and assist her, she was
usually too quick for him to be of much use, though she always gave him
her friendly smile and thanks for his eagerness. It may be said that
Duncan himself, a young Scotsman whose devotion to his master was now
augmented by his admiration of his master's choice, enjoyed those
shopping expeditions with an unusual zest.

"Oh, but these shops are wonderful, Father Davy!" Georgiana was fain to
cry, as she came back with her purchases. "Of course I have to shut my
eyes and simply fly past the counters where I'd like to buy everything
in sight. But I do find such glorious little bargains, such treasures of
left-overs--you can't think how I'm making my money hold out! I'm so
thankful for all my training in turning and twisting; it's such a help
just now!"

If Father Davy rejoiced within himself that the days of "left-overs" for
Georgiana were all but past and that there was to be no more "turning
and twisting," at least with material things, he did not say so. Instead
he surveyed the contents of the small packages with eyes which were
nearly as bright as hers, and made her supremely content with his
approval.

The climax of the shopping came on the morning of the third day.
Georgiana returned to the car after a more than usually long absence,
during which, for the first time, Mr. Warne had become slightly weary of
using his eyes in watching the ever-moving throng, and had dropped off,
in his warm corner, into a little refreshing nap. He wakened to find
Georgiana beside him, the car moving uptown by a less congested route
than they had taken before, and his daughter's hand firmly clasping his.

He looked round at her and saw, to his surprise and dismay, that her
heavy lashes were thick with tears. But she smiled through them, and
bade him wait to hear the reason until they were in the Park, where each
morning a drive, according to Doctor Craig's suggestion, was taken
before the swift run back to the downtown square.

The moment they were well within the precincts and had entered upon the
less frequented drive which she had asked for, Georgiana turned to her
father. She held up something before him, and, looking at it, he
discovered the little old bag of dark blue silk which her mother had
fashioned from her own wedding gown, and which had contained the
treasured gold pieces which had made it possible for Georgiana to have a
wedding gown of her own.

"It's nearly empty now," said the girl softly. "It's bought so much,
Father Davy; I've begun to think it was magic gold! Everybody--all the
shopgirls and women--have helped me spend it. It was as if they knew I
must make it go a long way and wanted to do it. I really think"--she
gave a tremulous little laugh--"it was a good thing I wasn't dressed to
match the car I came in, or they never would have taken the trouble to
hunt up the things I wanted--at the prices I could pay. The fact that I
looked like a shopgirl, too, was such a help!"

"A shopgirl!" repeated her father. "You, my dear? What would Jefferson
say to that? No matter how you were dressed you could not possibly look
anything but what you are."

"Oh, but, Father Davy, dear, you don't know what many and many of the
shopgirls, especially these city girls, look like. There are such
beautiful faces among them, such soft voices, such really charming
manners. Of course there are plenty of the other kind, the cheap and
common sort, but so many of the nice kind! I don't mind looking like
some of them, indeed I don't. And the fact that I'm wearing this little
old summer serge suit, now in December, with this hat, which any clever
girl would know I made myself--well, it has helped me to interest their
sympathies in my search. And now I've found"--her voice sank--"I've
found what I couldn't have expected to find in all New York. And I'm so
glad--so glad--I can't tell you. Look!"

She slowly unwrapped a long, slim, cylinderlike parcel, and brought to
view what it contained. Inclosed in its pasteboard protector, to keep it
unwrinkled in its soft perfection, lay a roll of dark blue silk, of a
small brocaded pattern.

Georgiana silently laid the little blue-silk bag upon it, and held up
the two so that her father could see how close was the resemblance. The
colour was precisely the same, making allowances for the slight dimming
of age; while the design of the brocade was so similar that the two
might have been made in the same period, if not by the same hand.

Mr. Warne studied the two fabrics intently for a moment, then looked
into his daughter's eyes. He was too moved to speak. When she herself
could talk again composedly she told him what she meant to do. The blue
silk, made by her own hands in the three days left her, was to be her
wedding gown. She had bought a little fine lace, fit for such a use,
with which to make the finishing; and no matter what Doctor Jefferson
might think of such a substitute for the customary bridal attire, for
herself she should be far happier than in the finest white silk or satin
that could be bought.

"God bless you, my little girl!" Father Davy murmured, wiping his eyes,
their clear blue depths misty.

His thin hand clasped the little blue bag again, his heart ached with
the sorrow which is part joy and with the joy which is part sorrow.
Nothing his Phoebe's daughter could have done would have proclaimed her
so truly the child of her mother as this unexpected act. He looked again
and again at the roll of blue silk in Georgiana's lap.

"How strange it seems that you could find it," he said, "now when
everything is so different from the fashions of twenty-five years ago."

"It's a revival, the silk man said. He explained that the styles of the
moment call for the fabrics and patterns of the past, and that it's a
constant revolution, bringing back every once in so often what is
old-fashioned between times. But he himself was surprised that the very
newest thing on his shelves was the one that matched the old. I think he
was almost as pleased as I was--without knowing anything about it,
except that I was very anxious to find the silk. And now to hurry home
and make it!"

Her unconscious use of the word "home" struck pleasantly upon Mr.
Warne's ears. He himself was beginning to feel very much at home in the
old square. Small wonder, since he had found there the son he had longed
for all his married life.

Back at the house Georgiana fell to work without delay. She had told
Mrs. MacFayden her intention, and had enlisted the warm interest of that
motherly Scotswoman. She had offered Doctor Craig's young guest the use
of her own sitting-room, with that of the sewing-machine which stood
there, and here presently Georgiana unrolled her breadths of silk and
laid upon them the pattern she had selected.

And now, indeed, she was glad of the long training in the dressmaker's
trade, glad of the clever art she had cultivated for so many years. It
was to her a simple enough matter to fashion herself a dress which
should be in form and line all that could be desired. To do it out of
unbroken yards of material, without necessity for piecing and patching,
was a delightful novelty. To accomplish it in three days was only a
matter of working at top speed, with fingers which flew at the behest of
a brain which also worked like magic at its task.

During this period Doctor Craig himself was more than ordinarily busy,
to judge by his infrequent appearances at his home. For those last three
days before his marriage he was out of town, returning only on the
evening preceding the date set. But Georgiana found no lack in him as a
lover, for during the brief moments when he could be with her he made
the most of his opportunity, letting her see plainly that she was always
in his thoughts, and giving her every evidence that he was the happiest
of expectant bridegrooms. Each day a great box of flowers was brought to
her, in which she revelled as she had only dreamed of doing. While he
was away he called her up each evening on the telephone, managing to
send her somehow, over the wire, a sense of his nearness and his
devotion. Altogether those few days brought to Georgiana an experience
unique in a lifetime, and one which she would gladly have prolonged.

Then, it seemed quite suddenly, it was Wednesday morning, and the sun
was shining brilliantly in at Georgiana's windows over a thousand
roof-tops. The marriage was to occur at noon, because, for a bride whose
bridal finery was limited to a little frock of dark blue silk and whose
traveling attire was the plainest of ready-to-wear suits and simplest of
small hats, without furs or furbelows of any sort, it seemed the only
fitting hour.

It had been arranged that the two essential witnesses to the ceremony
should be two close friends of Doctor Craig's, an elderly couple whose
name, if the Warnes had known, was one of the old names of the city,
standing for the bluest of blue Knickerbocker blood, though for only
moderate wealth and for no ostentation whatever. Georgiana had begged
that no other guests be asked, being anxious, on her father's account,
to have the whole affair over with the least possible agitation for him.
To this Doctor Craig had cordially agreed.

At eleven o'clock, however, a third guest arrived, a most unexpected
guest, who with a ruddy, eager face, came running up the old stone steps
of the house, a great florist's box under his arm. He demanded of the
boy Thomas instant entrance, and waved back at a taxicab driver the
summons to bring along a much larger box which was nearly filling that
vehicle.

Georgiana, peeping out of her father's window, beheld, and was off and
down the stairs before Thomas could fairly begin his explanation that
Miss Warne was engaged and could not be intruded upon at this hour.

"O Jimps!"

"Well, well, George! You came pretty near giving me the slip, didn't
you? But not quite--thanks to Doctor Craig."

Georgiana showed her surprise. "Did he let you know?"

She had led him instantly inside the library and had unconsciously
closed the door all but in the face of the interested Thomas, ignoring
both florist's box and big package, which that young man would have
brought in to her. She had both hands on James Stuart's shoulders, and
was looking him straight in the eyes, which looked as straightly back.
If there had ever been the beginning of romance between these two,
clearly it was far in the background now. Never did brother and sister
face each other with their relationship more clearly defined.

"I should say he did--since you didn't! What did you mean by trying to
steal a march on us all like this? Jeannette is furious, though of
course she isn't strong enough to come, wild though she is to do it. She
wanted me to tell you that she'll have revenge when she gets about, and
that you won't escape her wedding presents. Meanwhile she's sent you
something she had on hand, because there was no time to get anything
else. She thought you would find a use for it somehow. She sent her love
with it--and I can tell you that's pretty valuable."

"Of course it is! Jimps, I'm so pleased, so wonderfully pleased that you
are here--I can't tell you!"

"Then, why in the name of old friendship didn't you send for me?" Stuart
demanded, for plainly this still rankled. "Evidently Doctor Craig had
more belief in that than you did."

"I wanted to, indeed I did, Jimps, dear, but I thought--I was
sure--well----"

Stuart laughed. "Thought I wanted to save every penny for my own
wedding, eh? I rather guess I can squander a few on yours. I wouldn't
have missed it for worlds, though I'd give a good deal if _my_
sweetheart could have been here, too--and so would she, bless her! She's
coming on splendidly, George--looks almost herself again. In a month
more her doctor will let up on restrictions."

They talked fast, with an eye on the library clock, and when its deep,
slow chime proclaimed the half-hour Georgiana rose.

"I must go now. Come and stay with father till the hour arrives, will
you? It will steady him to see you. Not but that he seems as serene as
ever, but I know inside it's a pretty big strain for him."

"All right, I'd like nothing better, since I can't see you any longer.
Where's the principal man for this occasion, anyhow? Can he take the
time to be married, or is he liable to send up word he's detained? You
can't put your finger on these popular surgeons till they're here."

"I had a telephone message from him an hour ago," Georgiana assured him,
with a conscious little smile. "I really think he'll be here, though not
till the last minute, probably."

"If he isn't I'll go after him with a gun. If he doesn't show up I'd
marry you myself if it wasn't for a previous engagement," dared Stuart,
with a happy laugh.

"Never! If I couldn't have my man I'd never marry anybody," she
whispered, as she turned to look back at him for an instant, her hand on
the library door.

Stuart caught the hand, and whispered back: "George, is it like that
with you, too?" She nodded. His face flamed. "It's wonderful, isn't it?
Unbelievable!"

She nodded again. They looked into each other's faces, smiling through a
mist of happiness, then Georgiana flung open the door and ran out into
the hall.

Stuart followed, caught up the big box and ran after her up the stairs.
"Here," he said under his breath, as they reached the top, "be sure to
open this before you go. Jean wanted you to wear it away with you; she
said you'd be sure to need it, traveling. It's a beauty; it just came
home for her."

He gave her the big box at the door of her room, while she pointed him
down the hall to her father's door. He patted her arm with a brotherly
gesture, and hurried along.

Inside her room, with a glance at the clock, she opened the box. Under
the tissue lay a soft, luxurious-feeling mass, all dark blue cloth of a
velvety texture, with glimpses of dark fur. She opened it, with a sigh
of pleasure, for it meant that now she might look fit to be Dr.
Jefferson Craig's traveling companion, with this cloak, fur-lined,
all-enveloping, to slip on over the plain little suit which was not half
warm enough for severe winter weather.

"It's the last of my 'Semi-Annuals,'" she said to herself, "and the
best. How dear of her! And oh, how good it is that Jimps is here! Now I
have a family, a real family to see me married--a father and a brother!"

The clock again--warning her to fly. She had ever been rapid at
dressing--she had never been quicker. A cold plunge--the second that
morning, bringing the blood leaping--the donning of fair garments lying
ready to her hand--the arrangement of hair in the old way, simplicity
itself--then the slipping over her white shoulders of the blue silk
gown. When it was fastened Georgiana went to stand by her window,
looking out with eyes which did not see.



CHAPTER XXV

GREAT MUSIC


"Wull ye be comin' soon, Miss Warne?" said the voice of Mrs. MacFayden
at her door. Georgiana opened it quickly, and the housekeeper entered,
quietly resplendent in black silk with fine lace collar and cuffs, her
hair in shining order, an expression of great solemnity on her face.

"Mr. and Mrs. Peter Brandt are here," she announced with impressiveness.
"Doctor Craig is doonstairs with them; he cam' ten minutes ago. He bade
me say he wad coom for ye himself when ye were ready. It's a gled day
for him, Miss Warne, an' for us a'."

Georgiana advanced, her heart very warm toward this good woman, who, as
she well knew, was quite as much the friend of Jefferson Craig as his
housekeeper, and well esteemed, even beloved by him. The girl came
close.

"Mrs. MacFayden," she said, very low, "I have--no mother to kiss me
before I go down. May I----"

The sentence was left unfinished, for with one step forward Mary
MacFayden opened wide her arms, and for a long minute the two enfolded
each other, while both hearts beat strongly.

Then Georgiana, suddenly mindful that she must not let go for an instant
of her self-control, pressed a kiss upon the fair, smooth cheek of the
Scotswoman, received one equally warm upon her own, and drew away
smiling. "Thank you," she murmured uncertainly. "I couldn't go without
it."

"Thet ye could na', lassie," responded Mrs. MacFayden heartily.
"Noo--wull I send the doctor up?"

"Just in a minute--when I have seen my father----"

Georgiana ran into his room from her own. A deep embrace, a lingering
kiss--while James Stuart looked out of the window, a lump suddenly
appearing from nowhere in his sturdy throat.

Then Georgiana said softly at the young man's elbow: "Thank you again
for coming, Jimps. It's such a comfort to have my brother here."

Before he could reply she was gone again.

He led Mr. Warne downstairs, where Doctor Craig presented them both to
the Brandts--delightful people Stuart thought them, too--so simple and
unaffected--almost like village people.

As he stood waiting with them, in the same dignified big room which he
had been in before he went upstairs, he was conscious that in his brief
absence its character had changed. Library though it still was, with its
massive bookcases filled with rows upon rows of finely bound books, it
had taken on a festal air. Great bowls of roses, deep crimson, glowing
pink, rich amber, had been brought in; they stood on table,
chimney-piece, and floor; hundreds of them it seemed to him there must
be. He realized that Georgiana herself could not have seen them; they
would be a surprise to her. Evidently the simple little wedding was to
have a character all its own.

With the quiet departure of Jefferson Craig from the room James Stuart
was all eyes for an appearance at the door. How would Georgiana come to
her marriage? In shimmering white, he supposed, for that was the
traditional garb of all the brides he had ever seen--mostly village
girls they were. Once, while at college, he had attended a city wedding,
that of a classmate who had not been willing to wait till his college
course was finished. Stuart remembered how pale the bride had been; she,
had looked as if she were going to faint. He hoped Georgiana would not
look like that: he could not conceive it.

The next moment he saw her, entering the wide door, on Doctor Craig's
arm--the same Georgiana he had always known, as simply dressed, even
more simply, he thought, though he had little time for looking at her
dress, so held was his gaze by her face. Never could he have conceived
so radiant a bride. And then he thought--Jefferson Craig had gone up
alone to bring her down. Stuart wondered if he himself could make
Jeannette look like that, at such a moment. He thought he could!

Georgiana looked into Father Davy's eyes as she stood before him. He was
not tall; his face was almost on a level with her own. It seemed to her
she had never seen eyes so clear, so blue, so comprehending. Her own
never left them for a moment while the service lasted, until the closing
prayer.

Father Davy's voice, at first very slightly tremulous, gathered force as
he went on with the words he had spoken so many times, but never as he
was speaking them now--to his child, to Phoebe's child, and to the man
of her choice. A little flush crept into his thin cheeks. More than once
his eyes rested on the dark-blue silk which covered his daughter's
shoulders; the sight of it seemed to give him strength.

When the service ended, and his voice sank into the words of prayer, the
hand of Mr. Peter Brandt went for a moment to his eyes; Mrs. MacFayden
felt suddenly for her handkerchief; James Stuart softly cleared his
throat, winking once or twice rather rapidly. Never had any of them
heard just such a prayer as that. It was as if he who made it were very
near the invisible Presence whom he so tenderly and trustingly
addressed.

Stuart never forgot the moment when he looked for the first time into
the eyes of Jefferson Craig's newly made wife. For one instant he
suffered a pang of jealousy--a queer, irrational feeling. It was as if
he had lost his friend, as if this star-eyed creature before him could
never find room for him again in her full heart. But he knew better in
the next breath, for she lifted her face, ever so little, and with a
sense of deep relief he gave her the brotherly kiss she thus permitted.
When he looked at Jefferson Craig he found that the keen, fine eyes were
regarding him with a very friendly intentness, and he wrung the hand
offered him as he would have wrung the hand of a brother.

"You're the luckiest man in this whole big town," declared Stuart. His
lips had been dumb before Georgiana, but now he turned to her again.
"George, there's no use trying to tell you how I feel about this. All I
can say is that nothing's too good for you--or for him. That's pretty
lame, but--whatever eloquence I'm capable of is tied up somewhere; I
can't get it out."

"It's out, Jimps, dear," she assured him. "Isn't it--Jefferson?"

"It certainly is--Jimps," Craig answered heartily. "It was for just that
genuine feeling that I sent for you. I knew we couldn't spare it."

Stuart watched the pair eagerly during the next hour--the hour during
which the little party sat at the wedding breakfast which followed. The
table was a round one, and his place was next the bride, so he missed
nothing. He had never been present on such an occasion, nor could have
guessed the beauty and charm of the setting wealth and art can give. It
was perfection itself, arranged by whose hand he had no notion, but he
understood well enough by whose order had been created all the simple
elegance which so well suited the house and the people. And as he looked
at Georgiana he said to himself:

"She fits into this as if she had been born to it. She _was_ born to it,
for it's just the kind of thing she'd have made for herself if she'd had
the means. No show, no fuss, just niceness! And it's the sort of thing
my wife shall have, somehow, even in the country, before long. We'll
_bring_ this there; she'll know how. There's no patent on it. Bless
her--how George deserves this! If only Jean could have been here. But
I'll tell her; I'll get it over to her. And she'll understand!"

At the end of the hour the car was at the door, and Georgiana was coming
down the stairs in her traveling clothes, her bridal bouquet on her arm.
How those splendid roses had lighted up the little dark-blue frock!

"I've no bridesmaid to throw it to," she said, extending it toward
Stuart. "Will you take it to Jeannette?"

"I should say I will. I'll be with her this evening; she made me
promise." And Stuart received the offering with a glad hand.

A long, silent clinging to her father was the only parting embrace for
this girl. If James Stuart longed for one of his own, after these years
of friendship, he was obliged to be content with the lustrous look he
had from eyes lifted for a moment to his as Georgiana took her place in
the car, and with the lingering pressure her hand gave his, which spoke
of love and loyalty.

Then she was gone, with Jefferson Craig sending back at Stuart a special
brilliant smile of gratitude for the office he had performed, that of
taking the place of the whole group of young people usually present on
such occasions, saying good-bye with bared head and face of ardent
devotion, with the first light snowflakes of winter falling on his fair
hair.

"I can't believe I'm quite awake," said Georgiana, by and by. She sat in
one of the drawing-rooms of a fast train, the door closed, the curtains
drawn between herself and the rest of the carful of passengers, and only
the flying landscape beyond the window to tell of the world outside.

Craig sat watching her; he seemed able to do nothing else. In his face
was the most joyous content; there seemed almost a light behind it.
"Not awake?" was his amused comment. "I wonder why. Now I feel
tremendously awake--after a long, uneasy sleep, in which I dreamed of
losing what I most wanted."

"But it's not all strange to you as it is to me. I can't quite believe
that there's nothing on my shoulders--no care, no anxiety, just--well,
_your_ shoulders! Oh, but," she went on hastily, "don't think that means
I want you to carry everything for me; indeed I don't. I want to
carry--half!"

"Ah, but that's it," he answered. "My shoulders for your burdens, yours
for mine. That way neither of us will feel half the weight of either.
I'm not pretending that I shall give you a life of wholly sheltered
ease; it won't be that, and you don't want it, not in this
burden-bearing world. But--you shall have some things that you have been
denied, my brave girl! Georgiana, I can't tell you how it touched
me--the dress you made to be married in."

Her eyes went down now before the look in his.

"I'll tell you fairly that I longed with all my heart to take you to
some place worthy of your beauty and find a wedding gown for you--not
necessarily a very costly one, but one that should bring out all you are
capable of showing. But when I saw you, looking just yourself, in the
silk that was like your mother's,"--he leaned forward, taking both her
hands in his and looking straight into her face, compelling her gaze to
lift to his lest she should miss what she knew was there,--"I felt
something inside my heart break wide open--with worship for you, little,
strong, splendid spirit that you are!"

He pressed the hands against his lips. Then he touched two rings upon
her left hand: exquisite and rare jewels were set in both engagement and
wedding rings, after the modern fashion. But there was a third ring
there, guarding the others, a slender band of gold, worn thin by many
years of hard, self-forgetting work--the ring which David Warne had
placed twenty-seven years ago upon the hand of his bride. Jefferson
Craig studied all three, turning them round and round upon the rosy
finger they encircled.

Presently he spoke again, very gently: "My rings on your hand mean to me
love and beauty, loyalty and truth. But her ring stands for all that
and--service. We need it there, to remind us what we owe the world we
live in. She paid her debt; we'll pay ours, in memory of her. Bless her
for giving me her daughter!"

For a minute Georgiana could not speak. Then, with her dark eyes
sparkling through the mist of tears which had taken her unawares, she
seized his hand and lifted it to press her glowing cheek against it,
saying passionately: "Oh, _how_ you understand!"

They were silent for a long time after that, while the train flew on,
through the gathering darkness of the late December afternoon, into the
night....

Georgiana had supposed that they were to go at once to the old home, for
she knew that Craig could not be long away at this time, and there was
much to do there. But she found that instead of changing trains in the
great city, sixty miles beyond which lay the home village, they were
leaving the station to be conveyed in a waiting car to a hotel.

"If you had been spending all these years in cities," was Craig's
explanation, "I should have felt like plunging at once with you into the
solitude. But as it is--well, I wondered if we shouldn't like to hear
some great music to-night. Do you feel as I do--that there are times
when nothing but music can speak for you?"

"But you," she said, "who live in the rush all the time----"

"There's no rush here for me," he answered. "Nobody is likely to know me
here; I can forget the whole world in the midst of the crowd with you
to-night. As for the music--I've been on short rations a good while
myself. I think we can feast together, don't you?"

It was all a fairy tale to Georgiana, that evening in the city. Her
college days had been spent in a small college town which, though it had
lain not many miles away from this same great metropolis, had seldom
seen her leave it for the privileges which richer girls enjoyed at every
week-end.

As for the superb hotel to which Craig took her, although she had seen
its impressive front, she had never so much as stood within its stately
lobby. Now she experienced all sorts of queer little thrills, as she
watched the accustomed ease with which her husband led her through the
brief details of arrival and noted with what deference he was received.
Evidently he had been expected, for there was no delay in the smooth
service which took them to an apartment reserved by wire, as Georgiana
gathered from a word she overheard.

He was quite right; a touch of this was what she needed, as a bird long
confined needs a chance to stretch its wings. To this girl, with vivid
life stirring in her pulses, the unaccustomed experience could but be a
delight, with such a companion to show her the way. Every detail had its
own fascination, such as might never come again when she should be more
wonted to such scenes. The dinner served in their own small
drawing-room, the flowers which crowned the table, the blithe talk Craig
made during the little feast, with all its pretty, ceremonious detail of
service; finally the short drive to the place where the great music, as
Craig had called it, was to be heard--it all made a richly enchanting
picture in Georgiana's mind.

When at length she sat beside her husband in the immense, silent
audience, listening to such splendid harmonies as only once or twice in
her lifetime she had heard before, her heart was far too full for words.
He did not ask them of her, understanding something of what was passing
in her mind, though not even his more than ordinary powers of sympathy
could have guessed at all that held her breathless through those hours
of supreme delight.

Certain words of a Psalm, which she had often heard her father quote,
came into her mind and repeated themselves over and over. She had smiled
with a bitter irony sometimes when she had heard him speak them in a
tone of utter thankfulness, while she had been quite unable to imagine
how he could use them of himself. But now--now--surely they applied to
her!

Along with the sweep of the conductor's baton, with the rise and surge
of one of the greatest of the symphonies, ran the triumphant words of
the singer of old time: "_Thou hast set my feet in a large room._"

Surely it was a large room into which, from a cramped and restricted
one, she had emerged. She would do small honour to the devout life which
had so long been lived beside her if she should fail to give the praise
to the Maker of all life, who, according to her father's firm belief,
had known from the beginning all for which He had been so wisely fitting
her.



CHAPTER XXVI

SALT WATER


It was the tenth day of April. A great ship was making ready to sail;
she lay like some inert monster at her pier, while all about her, within
and without, was apparent commotion yet really ordered haste, the
customary scene of bustling activity.

Few passengers had yet arrived, for the time of sailing was still some
hours away. One party of three, however, had just driven down to the
very gangway, allowed by some special privilege a closer approach than
most at this hour. The reason was apparent when the party alighted, for
one of its number was clearly an invalid, a frail-looking man with curly
gray hair, who leaned upon the arm of a much younger man with a keen,
distinguished face. The third person was a young woman, the sort of
young woman who looks as if no buffeting wind could blow her away,
because she would be sure to face it with delight, her eager face only
glowing the brighter for the conflict.

"This is the advantage of coming early, isn't it?" said Mrs. Jefferson
Craig, with a look of congratulation at her husband. "It's not much as
it was when we saw Mr. and Mrs. Brandt off last week. You can walk on
board as slowly as you please, Father Davy; there's no one to push."

Mr. David Warne was drawing deep breaths of the salty air, with its
peculiar mixture of odours. He was also gazing about him with delighted
eyes, seeming in no haste to cross the gangway.

"When I was a boy," he said to his daughter, who remained close at his
side, "I lived, as you know, in a seaport town. Ever since I came away,
it seems to me, I have been longing to smell that salty, marshy, briny
smell again. It takes me back--how it takes me back!"

"The voyage is going to do you worlds of good," exulted Georgiana, her
eyes bright with hope. "Jefferson was quite right: the winter at home,
to help the poor spine; now the sea air, and the complete change, to
make you strong. We'll have you marching back and forth with the other
learned men, under the lindens at Trinity, while we are in Oxford--hands
clasped behind your back, impressive nose in air--the very picture of a
gentleman and a scholar."

"As if there were anything of the scholar about me," murmured Mr. Warne,
smiling at this picture of his undistinguished self. "Well, my children,
I suppose you are ready to go on, and I imagine we are not wanted in the
way here. Let us proceed across that little bridge, and then we can
look back at all this interesting activity."

Half an hour later, having taken possession of their staterooms, the
party returned to the deck, where Georgiana and her husband established
Mr. Warne in his chair, well tucked up in rugs--for the April air though
balmy was treacherous. They then fell to pacing up and down, according
to the irresistible tendency of the human foot the moment that it treads
the deck.

"He seems deliciously happy, doesn't he?" said Georgiana's voice in her
husband's ear. "If he were twenty-six instead of fifty-six he couldn't
enter into it all with more zest. How pleased he was with Mrs. Brandt's
flowers, and how dear it was of her to send them to him!"

"However happy he may be," declared Jefferson Craig, "it's not within
the bounds of possibility that he is so happy as we!"

"Oh, of course not!" agreed Georgiana to this decidedly boyish speech.
She realized suddenly how quickly the sense of relaxation from care was
beginning to show in her husband. Her hand within his arm gave it a warm
little squeeze. "That couldn't be expected. To be torn apart, at any and
all hours, and kept apart day after day, just when we most want to be
together--and then to come down to a big ship and know that no telephone
bell can ring, nobody can make a single demand upon us that can prevent
our being by ourselves--well, words simply can't express how wonderful
it seems!"

"It _is_ wonderful, and we'll make the most of it. There's just one
thing I want to get out of this vacation in the way of work, and then
all the rest of it shall be at your service."

"The book?"

"The book. How did you guess? I haven't spoken of it."

"No, but I've seen you looking wistfully at your notebook time and
again, and guessed what you were thinking of. Well, we can make it fly.
I'm ready for you."

Georgiana plunged her hand into a small bag she carried on her arm, and
brought forth a notebook--of her own. She produced a pencil. "You may as
well begin to dictate now," she said demurely. "What's the use of losing
time? Just don't go too fast, that's all."

He stared at her. "What do you mean, dear? You don't know shorthand."

"Don't I? Well, perhaps I can write fast enough in long hand. Try me."

"My idea is," he said, "that we might spend a couple of hours every
morning, and another couple in the afternoon, if you don't mind, and
really get ahead quite a bit while we are at sea--provided you prove a
good sailor, which I have an idea you will if---- See here, what are you
doing? You're not taking that down in signs!" He looked over her
shoulder at the notebook, where a series of dashes, angles, hooks and
dots was forming with great rapidity. "You don't mean to say----"

"No, I mean to write, and let you do the saying. Go ahead, sir--only be
sure you say something worth while."

"But--you didn't have that accomplishment when we worked together last
summer."

"How I did wish I had, though! You kept insisting that I was doing all I
could for you by copying endlessly, but I knew perfectly well that if I
were a stenographer you could accomplish just three times as much in a
given time as you did. You know perfectly well you only took that course
to give a poor girl the chance to earn. If it hadn't been for helping me
you would have had a secretary at your elbow, after you got to the point
of needing him."

"I took that course, as you well know, because I wanted you at my elbow.
If you had been able to write only a word a minute, I should have wanted
you there just the same."

She gave him a merry, understanding look, then read him the words he had
just spoken from her book.

"Where in the world did you learn, and how?" he demanded. "And how have
you become so proficient in so short a time?"

"I'm afraid it's rather blundering work yet, but it will grow better all
the time. Why, I've been taking lessons all winter, dear sir, at the
best shorthand school in the city. I made up my mind that it was the
thing I could do that would be of most use to you. It's a shame that a
man who is doing the original work that you are shouldn't have time to
give other people more benefit of it. It seemed to me you could write an
important monograph in an hour, if you just had me at hand to take down
the words of wisdom as they fell from your learned lips. Why you haven't
used a secretary before for this purpose I don't know, but I certainly
am glad you haven't. It insures me the position."

If she had wanted a reward for long and severe labours she had it in his
look. "Other men dictate such papers," he said, "but somehow it has
never seemed to me I could. I tried it once or twice and didn't get on
at all as I did when I had the pen in my fingers. But with you, it may
be different."

"It will be different," she told him confidently. "You're going to
become used to my being so much a part of you that you can think as if
you were using my brains--or I were using yours, which would be more to
the purpose, I admit. Oh, we're going to accomplish all sorts of things
together."

He looked down into her eager face, glowing with colour, the dark eyes
apparently seeing visions which gave them keen delight. "You are a
partner worth having," he said, much moved. "I knew you would be, and
it's seemed to me all winter that no wife could be more of one. But if
you're going to add this to your other activities you will make yourself
even more indispensable than you already are, which is saying much."

She could hardly wait until she had made a trial of this new form of
partnership. The ship had barely turned her face out to sea, parting
company with her pilot, before the work began.

Doctor Craig had secured a small suite of staterooms opening upon a
central sitting-room, and here he and Georgiana could be sure of much
time to themselves. While the pair were engaged Mr. Warne was supremely
content to lie in a sheltered corner of the deck, book in hand, reading
or watching the ever new glory of sea and sky, or talking with some
fellow passenger who possessed intelligence enough to discover what
manner of man was here.

When Georgiana, ardent as a child in her joy over what was to be
revealed, unpacked a small, portable typewriter and set it upon the
table of the sitting-room, Jefferson Craig suddenly caught her in his
arms.

"My blessed girl," he cried, "this, too? What haven't you done with
your winter, when I thought you were spending your time getting
acquainted with New York, as I meant you to do? You and Mrs. Brandt were
supposed to be seeing everything worth seeing, on those morning drives.
Were you shut up in your room all that time learning machines?"

"No, indeed. Do you imagine I made up all the stories I told you of
those expeditions? We did all that, and this, too. I spent only an hour
each morning at the school; the rest of the study I put in at all hours.
Many of them were when I was waiting for you, Doctor Craig, to take me
to a dinner or the opera. My notebook lived with me as if it had been a
treasure I couldn't have out of my sight. It was just that. I never was
so proud of anything I learned at college as I was when the gruff man
who had my special training in charge told me I would make a
stenographer. Not all of them did, he said. Some never could get hold of
it, or acquire any speed or accuracy. Just give me a year, and I'll put
down your thoughts before you think them!"

"I haven't a doubt of it," he agreed, with a laugh of amusement and
delight.

Thus the work began, and thus it proceeded, with only one day's
interruption when, in mid-ocean, came twenty-four hours of moderately
bad weather.

To Georgiana's joy she proved herself the sailor her husband had
prophesied, but her father was not so fortunate, and she promptly
tucked him in his berth, where she kept him fairly comfortable until the
rough seas quieted. When he was recovered he lay for one morning on the
couch in the sitting-room, while the two workers resumed their task.
Here he seemed to slumber much of the time, but in reality he kept
rather a close watch on the absorbed pair, whom he had never before seen
thus engaged, much as he had heard of their labours.

Looking up suddenly Georgiana discovered the blue eyes upon her, and
when her flying fingers next stopped she put a question: "A penny for
your thoughts, Father Davy. Don't we work together rather well, in spite
of my being such a novice?"

"You two pull excellently well in double harness, it seems to me," he
responded. "I can't see that either is taking all the load while the
other soldiers and lets the traces slack."

Doctor Craig looked around at him. "She's always ahead by a pair of ears
at least," he declared with a laugh.

"But I hear his steady pound--pound--at my side, and I'm afraid he's
going to get a shoulder ahead," his wife explained.

The interest the pair excited on shipboard was greater than Georgiana
guessed, though Doctor Craig was quite aware of it. Somehow or other the
word had gone around, as words do go in a ship's company, as to the
literary labours they were engaged in, and as Jefferson Craig's name was
one known to more people than Georgiana had the slightest notion of,
there was cause enough for the attention given them. Craig's noteworthy
personality--one which marked him anywhere as a man of intellect and
action--Georgiana's fresh young beauty, her spontaneous low laughter as
she paced the deck at her husband's side, her readiness to make friends
with those whose looks and bearing attracted her--these attributes made
the Craigs the target for all eyes.

"I never saw people who looked so absolutely content," fretfully
murmured one swathed mummy in a deck chair to another, as the pair
passed them, on the tenth round of a long tramp, one gray morning when
the wind was more than ordinarily chill. The speaker's black eyes,
heavily lidded in a pale, discontented face, followed the Craigs out of
sight as she spoke.

"Oh, they're on their honeymoon--that accounts for it," replied the
other, languidly. Her glance also had followed the walkers.

"No, they're not--I've told you that before. They were married last
December--plenty of time for the glamour to wear off. They act as if
they never expected it to wear off. Sue Burlison must hate to look at
them--she certainly had her mind made up to marry Jefferson Craig, if it
could be done."

"So did Ursula Brandywine," contributed the languid one.

"You could say that of a dozen--twenty. I presume there are at least
four disappointed mothers on board, besides Jane Burlison. Not that any
of them ever had much encouragement from him--I'll say that for him.
They'd about given him up as hopeless when he went off and married this
country girl. One thing is certain--in spite of her fine clothes she
hasn't the air his wife ought to have--she's not his equal."

"What's that you say?" The questioner was a sallow-faced youth upon the
black-eyed lady's other side. Sunk deep in a fur-lined coat, his cap
pulled low over his eyes--which were precisely like hers, even to the
expression of discontent--he had seemed for the last hour to be
slumbering. But at the moment he looked quite wide awake, as he turned
his head toward his mother and challenged her latest statement. "What's
that you say?" he repeated, in her own acrimonious tone.

"Oh, have you come to at last?" she inquired. "It is quite impossible to
remember that though you sleep for hours you are liable to wake in time
to contradict me on any point whatever. In this case it is of no
consequence what I may have said."

"You were handing us the hot dope about Mrs. Craig's not being in the
same class with Dr. Jeff. It certainly does take a woman to stick her
claws into another woman's fur. There's one thing I can tell you--there
isn't a man on board who'd agree with you. If she's a country girl--you
can say good-bye for me to the little old town. I'm going to take to
rural life till I find another. Talk about peaches and cream!"

"I believe I did not mention her complexion," his mother observed
coldly.

"Neither did your little son--though it would bear mentioning. I should
say yes! You said she hadn't any air. Jupiter--there she comes now. No
air!"

He subsided into his high-turned fur collar but his eyes watched
intently as the Craigs, still walking briskly after at least an hour's
exercise, came up the deck from the stern. His mother, on the contrary,
let her drooping lids fall indifferently. The moment they were out of
possible hearing the young man sat up.

"By Jove, if you call that no air, tell the grande dames to get a move
on. She walks like a young goddess--that's what."

"Silly boy! Nobody is talking of her face or her gait. If you don't know
what I mean, no one can tell you."

"Oh, I know what you mean," her son assured her. "I get you. What I say
is--you don't get _her_! Jefferson Craig's the one who gets her--lucky
chap! Maybe he doesn't know it--oh, no! Maybe not!" And turning his
back he once more appeared to slumber.

It was fortunate for Georgiana that she never even imagined such
comments, though she passed these rows of critical eyes a hundred times
a day, sat at table with people who were keenly observant of her every
act and word, and spent some reluctant hours in the society of those who
strove to cultivate her for their own blasé enjoyment. She only knew
that among the company she met a number of interesting men and women,
with whom she and her husband were thoroughly congenial, and that it did
not matter in the least about the rest. If those whom she liked so much,
and with whom she could talk with the greatest zest, turned out to be
the men and women of scientific or literary achievement, this seemed
only natural to the college-bred girl, and she cared not at all that she
did not get on so easily with those whose distinction lay in purely
social or financial lines.

During the winter just past her experience had been much the same, in a
larger way. Her husband's acquaintance was naturally a large one, but
the circle of his real friends was bound almost wholly by these same
congenialities of mind and tastes. Georgiana had met and been
entertained by many people whose names stood high on the list of the
distinguished, though their personal fortunes were small, and their
social activities were ignored in the society columns of the Sunday
press. A college president, several famous surgeons, not a few noted
authors of scientific books, as well as certain social workers, and two
or three clergymen--these, with their wives and families, were the sort
of people who gave to Georgiana Craig a hearty and sincere welcome,
recognizing her at once as one who belonged to them. It was small wonder
that the young wife, trained in a school of life in which nothing
counted except worth and ability, found no lack, nor thought of sighing
for the privilege her husband could easily have given her, had he cared
for it himself, of mingling with a quite different class, that of the
rich and gay who cared for little except that which could give them the
most powerfully emotional reactions in the way of diversion,
acquisition, or notoriety.

So they continued to work and walk their joyously contented way across
the wide Atlantic during the six days between port and port. Georgiana
enjoyed every hour, from that early morning one in which she first came
on deck, running up with her husband to breathe deeply of the
stimulating sea breeze before breakfasting, to the latest one, when,
furry coat drawn hurriedly on over her pretty evening frock, her dark
hair lightly confined under a gauzy scarf, she with Craig and a merry
half-dozen of the evening's group came up again upon a deserted deck,
to "blow the society fog out of their lungs," as one young biologist of
coming reputation put it, in the silvery April moonlight, with only a
few similarly inclined spirits to share with them the big empty spaces.

"I shall really be sorry to land to-morrow," sighed Georgiana, leaning
upon the rail on the last night of the voyage, and staring ahead toward
the quarter where her husband had just indicated they would be seeing
land when they came up in the morning. "It has been so perfect, this
being off between the sea and the sky together. When shall I ever forget
this first voyage? It's a dream come true."

"You will enjoy the second one just as much, for you're a born sailor,
and there'll be a long succession of voyages for you to look back upon
by and by. Not just my annual pilgrimages to foreign clinics, but
journeys to the ends of the earth if you like. Will that suit you,
eager-eyed one?"

"Suit me? Oh, wonderful to think of! Am I eager-eyed really? I try so
hard to cultivate that beautiful calm of manner I admire so much in
other people. Haven't I acquired a bit of it yet?"

"A beautiful calm of manner--all that could be desired. But your eyes
still suggest that you're standing on tiptoe, with your face lighted by
the dawn," Craig answered contentedly. "Heaven forbid you ever lose that
look! It's what gives the zest to my life."



CHAPTER XXVII

"CAKES AND ICES"


Jefferson Craig found plenty of the zest which he had told
Georgiana--that last evening on shipboard--her eager-eyed look added to
his life, when, the next day, in a compartment reserved for the three
travelers, he watched her as she fairly hung out of the windows. All
through Devonshire and on to the northeast. She was drinking in the fair
and ordered beauty of the English countryside in April, exclaiming over
apple orchards rosy as sea-shells with bloom, over vine-clad cottages
and hedge-bordered lanes, masses of wall flowers at each trim station,
and such green fields as she had never seen in her life. Father Davy was
not far behind her in his quiet enjoyment of the unaccustomed scenes.

A night at Bath, picturesque and interesting, and then before the eldest
of the three travelers could be really weary they were in famous Oxford.
Professor Pembroke and his wife, Allison Craig, met them at the station,
to convoy them to the comfortable quarters in the dignified stone house
near Magdalen College, which Craig had more than once described to
Georgiana.

Here the young American had her first taste of a manner of life which
enchanted her. From the moment that she set eyes on Jefferson Craig's
sister, the original of the photograph she had so often studied with a
constriction of the heart, not knowing whose it was, she was drawn to
her as she had never been drawn to any other woman.

Sitting with her in the pleasant, chintz-hung living-room, walking with
her in the garden which was like no garden she had ever imagined, she
was conscious of a stronger sense of wonder than ever that a man whose
family was represented by a sister like this could ever have chosen the
crude young person she still considered herself. From Mrs. Pembroke,
however, she received only heart-warming assurance of her welcome and
her fitness.

"My dear," Allison said, as the two stood at an ivy-framed window one
morning, looking out at Mr. Warne and his son-in-law as they slowly
paced up and down beneath a row of copper beeches between house and
garden, "I never saw my brother so happy in his life. Jeff always was
hard to please as a boy. I used to think it was merely a critical
disposition, but later I discovered that it was his extreme distaste for
all artifice, acting, intrigue--all absence of genuineness. Only those
boys and men interested him whom he had absolute faith in.

"I don't mean that he himself was a goody-goody--far from it; he was a
terrible prank maker, and more than once narrowly missed suffering
serious consequences. But when he really grew up and it came to an
acquaintance with women, very few have even attracted him. I began to
fear that he was becoming hardened and would never find just what his
fastidious taste could approve--not to mention what his heart might
soften to. But now--well, I think I am almost as happy as he is, that he
has found you. He seems like a different being to me, and evidently it
is you who have wrought the miracle."

"I surely have made no change in him," Georgiana protested. "He has been
just as he is now from the beginning--except, of course, that I know him
better. I can't imagine him hardened to anything."

Allison Pembroke looked at her, smiling. She was herself an unusually
beautiful woman, more mature than Georgiana, but still with a touch of
girlishness in her personality which made her very appealing to her
young guest.

"Evidently the softening process began the moment he met you," she said.
"He frankly admits that himself. I am going to tell you what he wrote to
me last winter, after you had begun your work with him. 'I feel like a
footsore traveler,' he said, 'who has been walking for many miles along
a hot and crowded highway, with the dust heavy on his shoulders and
thick in his throat, who suddenly finds his course turned aside through
a deep and quiet wood, with flowers springing on all sides, and a clear
stream running beside him, where he may bathe his flushed face and cool
his parched throat.' I have never forgotten the words, because they
struck me as so unlike him. I knew then that something had happened to
him there in the old manse. And when I saw you, dear, I didn't wonder
that he chose just those words."

"I should never have thought," murmured Georgiana, incredulously, "that
I could ever have reminded anybody of a quiet wood--I with my hot
rebellion at having to spend my days in the country, which I could never
quite cover up."

"I know. Just the same, Georgiana, after having known so many artificial
women, posing, as women do pose for a man in Jefferson's place, it
refreshed his very soul to find a girl like you, who dared to be herself
from head to foot, whether she pleased him or not. And oh, I am so
thankful you could care for him, since he needed you so much!"

Such talks brought these two very close together.

It was a happy week which Georgiana spent in the fine, classic old town,
walking or driving with Allison, exploring quaint, winding streets,
ancient halls, and flowery closes; or meeting interesting people of all
ranks, from the chancellor of the University himself to the young
undergraduates who offered her in their old and dingy but distinguished
rooms tea and toasted scones, along with their fresh-cheeked admiration.

Not the least of her pleasure was in watching Father Davy's keen
enjoyment of everything that came his way, and in noting how many of
these English people seemed to find him one of them in his appreciation
of all they had to offer and in his intimate knowledge of their
time-honoured history. He apparently grew a little stronger with each
succeeding day; certainly he grew younger, for happiness is a tonic
which has special power upon those who carry the burden of years; and
Father Davy's years, while not so many, had been heavy of weight upon
his slender shoulders and had bowed them before their time.

After Oxford came London--a fortnight of it, and a very different
experience. Living at a luxurious hotel with Allison Pembroke, who had
come up with them, to show her all the ways of which she felt herself
ignorant; with Craig coming and going from hospital and lecture room,
suggesting each day new wonders; with hours spent daily in the dear
delight of exploration in all sorts of out-of-the-way, famous places;
Georgiana felt as if it were all too miraculous to be true.

That she, "Georgie Warne," as the village people had called her all her
life, should, for instance, be walking with charming Mrs. Pembroke along
Piccadilly in the May sunshine--real London sunshine and no watery
imitation such as she had heard of--dressed in the most modish of spring
costumes, violets in her belt purchased on a street corner from a young
girl with the eyes of a Mrs. Patrick Campbell and the accent of
Battersea Park--well, it simply did not seem real!

Much less did the hours seem real when she went with her husband to take
tea on the Terrace at the Houses of Parliament, or with all three of her
party to dine with some friendly Londoner who appeared eager to offer
hospitality to the whole party. Best of all, perhaps, were the late
evening walks upon which Craig took her alone, to stroll along the
Victoria Embankment, a place of which she never tired, to watch the
myriad lights upon the black river, and to talk endlessly of all the
pair could see before them of purpose and achievement.

"Do you know what you remind me of these days?" Craig asked one night,
when the two had returned to the hotel after one of these long, slow
walks, during which they had been unusually silent.

He threw himself into a deep armchair as he spoke and sat looking up at
his wife, who stood at the open balcony window, gazing down at the
street below, with the interest in everything human which seemed never
to abate.

She turned, smiling. She was particularly lovely to look at to-night,
wearing a little pale-gray, silk-and-chiffon frock (lately purchased at
a French shop in London), which, in spite of its Parisian lines and
graces, was distinctly reminiscent of a certain other gray-silk frock
worn on a never-to-be-forgotten occasion.

"Of a child at her first party?" she asked. "That's what I feel like.
Only there's no end to the cakes and ices, the bonbons and surprises.
And I never have to worry because before long I must go home!"

"No, not like that; your similes are always too self-deprecatory. You
seem to me more and more like a young queen who has just come to the
throne, but who is shy about picking up her sceptre. She prefers
long-stemmed roses, and every now and then she catches up her train and
runs down from her dais and out-of-doors, until some shocked courtier
rushes after her and brings her back!"

"Now you _are_ laughing at me!" Georgiana wheeled to confront her
husband, who, stretched lazily in his chair, after a long day at the
side of a great biologist in his laboratory, was relaxing muscles and
nerves at the same time.

He put out one arm toward her, and she came slowly to his side. "Not a
bit. It just delights me to see you your natural self in spite of all
that London can do to you. Allison tells me that it is the most
interesting thing in the world to watch you decide whether you will buy
a new hat or a new book. She declares that milliners admire you and seem
anxious to please you, but that when you get into a bookshop you have
every old bookseller climbing about his ladders to bring down his
choicest treasures for you."

Georgiana laughed. "I can't get used to buying hats at all--not to
mention silk stockings--and as for buying hats and books and silk
stockings on the same day, it's simply past belief that I can do it. Why
do you fill my purse so full? I'm afraid I'm losing all the benefit of
my long training in frugality."

"I hope so. I can never forget last winter watching you dissemble your
good healthy appetite and pretend you didn't want beefsteak, while you
fed your father and me on a juicy tenderloin. Brave little housekeeper
on nothing a month!"

She looked at him quickly. "I never dreamed you noticed. And besides, I
really didn't want----"

"Take care! The table was the only place where I ever caught you playing
a part. I forgave you, only--how I did long to divide with you! Now all
the rest of my life I can divide, equal shares, with you--my Georgiana!"

The weeks flew by, bringing never-ending interest. After London came
Edinburgh, city of stately beauty, where among Scottish friends of the
Craigs Georgiana learned whence her husband's family had sprung, and
their noble origin and history.

Then the vacation was at an end "for this time," as Craig said, and the
little party turned their faces homeward.

A letter from James Stuart, in the same mail with one twice its length
from Jeannette Crofton, caused them to hasten their date of sailing by a
week in order to be in time for a great event. Stuart wrote
characteristically:

  You simply have to come home, George, and help me through it. Of
  course I knew from the first I'd have to face a big city wedding,
  but the actual fact rather daunts me. Of course it's all right, for
  we know Jean's mother would never be satisfied to let me have her
  at all except by way of the white-glove route. The white gloves
  don't scare me so much as the orchids, and I suppose my new tailor
  will turn me out a creditable figure. But if I can't have you and
  Dr. Jeff Craig there I don't believe I can stand the strain.

  The worst of it is that after all that show I can only take her
  back to the old farm. Not that she minds; in fact, she seems to be
  crazy about that farm. But it certainly does sound to me like a
  play called "From Orchids to Dandelions."

  So, for heaven's sake, come home in time! The date's had to be
  shoved up on account of some great-aunt who intends to leave Jean
  her fortune some day if she isn't offended now, and the nice old
  lady wants to start for the Far East the day after the date she
  sets for our affair.

"Of course we must go," Craig agreed. "We'll stand by the dear fellow
till the last orchid has withered--if they use orchids at June weddings,
which I doubt. As for the dandelions, I think there's small fear that
Jean won't like them. I fully believe in her sincerity, and I'm prepared
to see her astonish her family by her devotion to country life. Stuart's
able to keep her in real luxury, from the rural point of view, as I
understand it, and she will bring him a lot of fresh enthusiasm that
will do him a world of good."

"I'm trying to imagine Jimps's June-tanned face above a white shirt
front," mused Georgiana. "He'll be a perfect Indian shade by that time."

"Not more so than any young tennis or golf enthusiast, will he?"

"Oh, much more. Jimps is out in the sun from dawn till sundown; his very
eyebrows get a russet shade. But of course that doesn't matter, and his
splendid shoulders certainly do fill out a dress coat to great
advantage. You don't mind being considered one of his best friends by a
young farmer, do you? That's the way he feels about you."

"I consider it a great honour. I never was better pleased than when
Stuart first made friends with me, even after I discovered that he was,
as I thought, my successful rival. It was impossible to help liking him.
In fact, I've often wondered why--he didn't continue to be my rival."

"Oh, no, Jefferson Craig, you couldn't possibly wonder that!"
contradicted Georgiana, in such a tone of finality that her husband
laughed and told her that flattery could go no farther.

The voyage home was nearly a duplicate of the one outward bound, except
that the two workers put in much extra time on the book and pushed it
well toward completion.

Father Davy acquired the strength to take short walks on an even deck
and boasted hugely of his acquisition, a twinkle in his eye and a tinge
of real colour in his cheek.

"Imagine my coming home from abroad with trunks full of clothes and
books and pictures," murmured Georgiana, as the three stood together
watching the big ship make her port. "I feel like a regular
millionairess."

"A regular one would smile at your modest showing," was Craig's comment.
"I'm quite certain no man ever found it more difficult to persuade his
wife to buy frocks, even when he went with her and expressed his anxiety
to see her in particular colours."

"Confess," demanded Georgiana with spirit, "that you would be
disappointed if I suddenly became a devotee of clothes and wanted all
those gorgeous things we saw, and which that black-eyed Frenchwoman
tried so hard to make me take."

"Those wouldn't have suited you, of course. I don't want to make an
actress of you, or even a society woman who gets her gowns described in
the Sunday papers. But when you refuse simple white frocks with blue
ribbons----"

"Costing three figures! And I could copy every one of those myself for a
fraction of the money."

"What would you do with the money saved?"

"Buy books."

Georgiana and Father Davy exchanged a smiling, tender glance which spoke
of past years of longings now satisfied.

Craig laughed heartily. "Incorrigible little book-lover! Well, it's a
worthy taste. I happened to overhear a comment on your reading the other
day which amused me very much. When you left your steamer chair to walk
with me you left also a copy of _Traditions of the Covenanters_. A
little later, coming up behind that young Edmeston, who spends most of
his time lounging in the chair next yours, I heard him say to a girl:
'She doesn't look such an awful highbrow, but believe _me_, the things
she reads on shipboard when the rest of us are yawning over summer
novels would help weight the anchor if we got on the rocks!' Then with
awe he mentioned the name of that book, and the girl said:' How
frightful! But I'm crazy about her just the same. I do think she wears
the darlingest clothes.' So there you are! The men impressed, the girls
envious, and your husband--worshipful. What more could a young wife
ask?"

"Absolutely nothing," acknowledged Georgiana with much amusement.



CHAPTER XXVIII

A TANNED HERCULES


In spite of the fact that the holiday was over it was good to get back
to the old house on the Square, to hear Mrs. MacFayden's warm "It's a
gled day"; to smile at Thomas and Duncan and the maids; to hug dear Mrs.
Brandt; and to receive a hearty welcome from the other friends, who were
mostly still in town in the middle of June.

Then came eager summonses from Jeannette, who, with Aunt Olivia and
Rosalie, was staying at an uptown hotel for the finishing of the
trousseau. Georgiana found herself involved in a round of final shopping
and hurried luncheons, while Rosalie talked incessantly, Mrs. Crofton
argued maternally, and the bride-elect herself turned to Georgiana as
the one person--with the exception of her father--who understood her.

"I can't convince mother and Rosy that I'm not really to spend the
summer in the country with Jimps, and most of the rest of the year at
home doing the usual round," sighed Jeannette, unburdening herself to
her cousin during a half-hour's needed relaxation between luncheon and
a visit to a famous jeweller's.

"I know; you'll just have to be patient, let them equip you for what
they expect of you, and then--live your own life as you and Jimps have
planned it. After a while they will see that you really do mean to live
in the country, not the city, and that décolleté evening gowns don't
suit the fireside, nor afternoon calling costumes the five-mile tramp.
Meanwhile, don't let the poor boy ever guess at the size or quality of
your outfit. I think he'd run away and hang himself!"

"He never shall know. And, Georgiana, I really have managed to have some
quite simple little frocks made--by a young woman whom Madame Trennet
recommended when I whispered in her ear. And I've bought the jolliest
dark green corduroy suit, with a short skirt and pockets, and a little
green corduroy soft hat to match, for the tramps. Oh, I'm going to be a
real farmer's wife, I promise you!"

"Of course," mused Georgiana gently, lifting quizzical eyebrows, "I've
never happened to see any farmer's wife thus equipped, but there's no
reason why you shouldn't set the fashion. I suppose you will wear green
silk stockings and bronze pumps with this picturesque tramping costume,
with a bronze buckle in your hat to complete the ensemble. All you will
then need will be a beautiful painted drop of the Forest of Arden----"

"You unkind thing! If _you_ begin to scoff----"

"But I won't. I know there's heaps of sense in your pretty head, and
you'll make Jimps the most satisfying sort of a wife even though you
don't carry the eggs to market or milk the cows. There's no reason why
you should, with your own private income. Jimps is too wise to forbid
your spending it to decorate both your lives, for he knows you couldn't
stand real wear and tear, while a reasonable amount of country life will
make you stronger. Go ahead, dear; hang English chintzes at the
farmhouse windows, set up your baby grand piano in that nice, old
living-room, and hang jolly hunting prints in the dining-room. Wear the
corduroys--only, instead of bronze pumps, I should advise----"

"You needn't. I've got them. The heaviest kind of tanned buckskin boots.
And you all may laugh, but you just wait!"

"I'm not laughing; you know I'm not. I wish I could help you by
convincing Aunt Olivia that you don't need some of the things she
insists on including. But, since I can't, I'll comfort you by assuring
you that Jefferson says he's counting on your being one of the sort who
will prove the great contention--that beauty and poetry _can_ be brought
into the farmhouse."

Thus spoke Georgiana, though in her heart of hearts, as she watched
Jeannette in all her costly elegance, at counter after counter,
selecting supplies of one sort or another, she couldn't help having her
doubts whether a lifelong training in luxury could be turned into a
fitness for living, in spite of many mitigations, the truly simple life.
These doubts, however, she suppressed, only dropping a word of caution
here and there, which Jeannette took kindly, being eager to prove
herself practical, and undoubtedly sincere in her longing to bring to
James Stuart the helpmate he needed.

So came on the great day; and when it had arrived, and the Craigs were
guests of Aunt Olivia, making ready for the ceremony, Georgiana had her
chance to return to Stuart the support he had given her in the hour of
her own marriage. She had just completed her dressing, and was about to
descend with her husband to the waiting bridal party below, when Stuart
came to their door.

Craig admitted him, and he entered, the dreaded white gloves in his
hands, visible agitation on his brow.

"You young Hercules!" Georgiana cried. "Aren't you splendid!"

"I feel anything but splendid," he returned nervously. "I look like a
boiled lobster on a white platter!"

"Nonsense, man," denied Dr. Jefferson Craig, his hand on Stuart's
shoulder, "you're the picture of a healthy young bridegroom. I've seen
plenty of tallow candles standing up to be married; you're a refreshing
contrast."

After a minute of heartening talk, Craig slipped out of the room,
leaving the two old friends together.

"Cheer up, Jimps," Georgiana bade Stuart, as she gave a straightening
little touch to his white cravat, woman fashion. "This part won't last
long. And don't be frightened when you catch sight of Jean in all her
glory. She would much rather have been married as I was, you know, and
she's really precisely the same girl in spite of her veil. She worships
you, and everything's all right. Stop looking as if you wanted to run
away!"

"But I do--if I could just take her with me," he answered, in such a
melancholy tone that Georgiana laughed in his ruddy face.

"You can't; this is the only way you can get her; so stand up straight
and look everybody in the eye. You're perfectly stunning in those
clothes, and lots nicer to look at than most men. And Chester will take
you serenely through all the forms, so you've nothing to worry about.
That's right--give me a ghost of a smile. One would think you were about
to be hung!"

"I came to you to be braced up, so it's all right; but call off the dogs
of war now. I did pretty well till I saw the total effect, and then I
thought maybe Jean would wish she had a man who could turn pale instead
of crimson. But I'm going through with it, and I don't intend to look
knockkneed, anyhow."

"Good for you. Just remember that Jean would swim through a flood of
water to reach you, wedding gown and all, if the aisle should happen to
be inundated, so you certainly can stand at the altar while she walks up
that aisle."

"I sure can." And James McKenzie Stuart shook his broad shoulders,
lifted his head, and held out both hands to Georgiana Craig. "Much
obliged for the tonic. And, George--just remember, will you, that I'm
precisely the same brother to you I've always been! Nothing can ever
change that!"

"Of course you are," she agreed, with a rush of vivid recollections
which brought a curious little smile to her lips. "Now go, my dear boy,
and heaven bless you!"

Half an hour later, standing beside her husband in the flower-fragrant
church, Georgiana watched with a beating heart to see Stuart bear
himself like the man she knew him to be, in spite of all the pomp and
ceremony to which he was such a stranger. She had been half angry, all
the way through the preparations, that Aunt Olivia had insisted on every
last detail of formality and ostentation--or so it had seemed to her, as
unaccustomed as Stuart himself to the great church wedding with its
long processional, its show of bridesmaids and flower girls, its ranks
of ushers, its elaborate music, its pair of distinguished clergymen in
full canonicals. But now, somehow, as the age-old words sounded upon her
ears, it seemed to matter less under what circumstances they were
spoken, so that the answers to the solemn questions came from the hearts
of those who spoke them. And of this she could have no possible doubt.

By and by, when in her turn, back in the festally decorated house, she
came to give the newly married pair her felicitations, she was well
pleased to see Stuart quite himself again, smiling at her with the proud
look of the bridegroom from whom no human being can wrest the prize he
has just secured. And as she noted Jeannette's equally evident happy
content with the man she had married, Georgiana took courage for their
future. Surely--surely--they could go from these scenes of luxury to the
plainer life that awaited them, and miss nothing, so that they took with
them, as they were doing, the one thing needful.

"It's all right, I'm sure it's all right, dears," she said to them, and
she said it again to her husband when they were rushing back to New York
by the first train after the bridal pair had gone.

"Yes, I think it is," he agreed. "It's an interesting experiment, but
not more hazardous than many another in the matrimonial line. If it
succeeds Jeannette will come out a finer woman than she could ever have
been by any other process. It's amusing, though, to see her family.
Evidently they regard her as one lost to the world quite as much as if
she had gone into a convent to take the vows perpetual."

"All but Uncle Thomas. He knows; he understands, little as he says. He
grew up on a farm himself; he told me once that he could never smother
the longing to get back to one. Poor Uncle Thomas, chained to a mahogany
desk, with a Persian rug under his feet! That one little trip across the
water, when the family went last year, was the only vacation he had
taken in five years. And he came back on the next ship!"

"Jean and Stuart will have him often with them, see if they don't."

"I hope so. Change is what he needs very badly. Change! Oh, if everybody
could have that when they need it! How it does make lives over! I
know--how I do know! It's the deadly monotony that kills. Jean will
bloom under the old farmhouse roof, away from all the fuss and frivolity
she's so tired of."

"You've done some blooming yourself," observed her husband, "though I'll
venture to say you work harder than you ever did before, even at the old
loom."

She gave him a quick glance. "Oh, it wasn't play I needed--just
work--the sort of work I love. I have that now. I love the visits to the
hospital, the looking after the patients you bring home, the taking
notes of your lectures, the teaching of my evening class of
Italians--every bit of it is a delight. And then, when we do run away
for a few hours, like this----"

"We enjoy it all the more for the contrast. Yes, I think we do. It's a
pretty fine partnership, and it grows more satisfying all the time.
Here's hoping the two we've just seen start follow in our contented
footsteps. A year from now we'll know!"



CHAPTER XXIX

MILESTONES


Georgiana would not have believed that it would be a full year before
she should have a chance to see for herself what sort of life Jeannette
and Stuart were making for themselves under the conditions which seemed
such doubtful ones. But so it turned out.

It had been before Jeannette's marriage that Georgiana found a change
coming in her own life, and the months of the summer and autumn which
followed were busy with the happy preparations for the new experience.
In January her first son was born, and she learned that even a full and
joyous partnership between two human beings is not the most complete
thing that can happen to them. When she saw her husband take the round,
little pink-blanketed bundle in his arms for the first time, and watched
his face as he explored the tiny features for signs of the future, her
heart beat high with such rich content as she had not dreamed of.

"Strange, isn't it, dear!" Craig said, when he had laid the pink bundle
back in the arms of the nurse, who bore it away to the pretty nursery
close at hand. "It's an old miracle always new, and never so wonderful
as when it comes to us for the first time--how that little life can be
neither you nor I, yet both of us in one. Big possibilities are wrapped
up in that bit of flesh and blood; it's going to be a great interest,
the watching them begin to show."

"Oh, yes!" she murmured, lying quietly with her hand beneath her cheek,
too weary and too happy for speech.

"I wonder if I dare to tell you how soon it was after I knew you that I
began to think of you as playing this part in my life," he said very
softly.

"Did you? I'm so glad." It was hardly more than a whisper.

"Are you glad? I often think a girl little dreams of how often that
vision comes to a man long before she has thought of it at all. I was
only a very young man when I began to think of it. Even when there was
no woman in my mind I used to plan what I would do for my own son when I
should have him. And when I saw you I thought--with the greatest
reverence, darling: 'If _she_ might be my son's mother!'"

He did not need the look her eyes gave him to tell him how this touched
her. When he went quietly away to leave her for the long sleep she
needed it was with the consciousness that the bond between them was
more absolute than it had ever been.

It was in the following June, on the anniversary of the marriage of the
James McKenzie Stuarts, that the Jefferson Craigs had their first
opportunity to see with their own eyes how that marriage was prospering.
Letters from Jeannette had come to Georgiana from time to time, with an
occasional postscript from Stuart, and these letters always breathed of
happiness.

"But one can't be perfectly sure from letters," Georgiana argued. "After
all the opposition and skepticism they would never own to anybody that
life didn't flow like a rose-bordered stream. But one glimpse of their
faces will tell the story. If Jeannette has a certain look I've often
seen on the faces of girls who have been married about a year I shall
guess what causes it. As for Jimps--he will be as easily read as an open
book. Jeff, you won't let anything prevent our being there for the fête
they ask us for?"

"Nothing that I can foresee and provide for," Craig promised. "I'm quite
as eager as you to discover how the transplanting of the hothouse plant
into the hardy outdoor soil of the country has worked out. There are two
results about equally probable in such cases--hardly equally probable,
either. The natural result, I should fear, would be the dwindling and
stunting of the growth, unless protected by expedients not common to
the country, and fertilized until it should be really not growing in
country soil at all."

"But the possible result?" urged Georgiana.

"The one we're hoping for in this case--though I'm not sure how close an
analogy I can draw, being no gardener--is the gradual process of
adaptation to environment, so that the plant takes on a hardier quality,
at an unavoidable sacrifice in size of bloom but with a corresponding
gain in sturdiness and ability to bear the chilling winds and the
beating sunlight of outdoors. Great size in a flower never appealed to
me anyhow. I like a blossom that stands straight and firm upon its stem,
that gives forth a clean, spicy fragrance and doesn't wilt when it has
been an hour in my buttonhole."

"That's the sort Jimps wants, I'm sure. He used to be always tucking one
of his scarlet geranium blossoms into his coat when he came over to see
me. We all think of Jeannette as the frailest sort of an orchid,
beautiful to look at but ready to wither at a touch. This letter of
invitation doesn't sound like that at all. You really think the long
drive won't hurt little son?"

"Not a bit, if you keep from getting tired or overheated yourself. We
can manage that very nicely, with Duncan to drive, Lydia to look after
the boy, and a long stop on the one night we must spend on the way. The
change will do you good, faithful young mother."

This proved quite true, and the two days' journey in the great car was
indeed an easy one for all concerned. Little Jefferson Junior, six
months' old, slept away many hours of the trip, and spent the rest
happily in his nurse's or his mother's lap, watching with big, dark eyes
the spots of colour or life on the summer landscape as it slipped
smoothly past. Georgiana had wanted to bring Father Davy, but though he
had grown considerably stronger during the past year, it had not seemed
worth while to put his endurance to so severe a test. He had not been
left forlorn, however, for the Peter Brandts had taken him to their
home, a welcome and a delighted guest. No doubt but there was a place
for David Warne in the great city, as there had been in the country
village.

On the afternoon of the second day, as they neared the old home village,
to which Georgiana had returned only once since her marriage, she found
herself noting with quickening pulse every familiar landmark.

"It seems so strange to think of my going away from such scenes for good
and all, and Jean's coming to them," she said to herself more than once.
"How little either of us would have believed it, just two short years
ago!"

When they passed the old manse she gazed at it with affectionate eyes.
"Oh, how shabby and poor it looks!" she said under her breath to Craig.
"Did it look like that when you first saw it?"

He nodded, smiling. "Just like that. But the moment the door opened the
first time I knew its shabbiness was just a blind to mislead the
traveler, who might otherwise stop and try to steal the treasure that it
held."

Her eyes were searching next for the chimney tops that should mark the
other home for which they were bound. How often had she looked at those
chimney tops, because they told her where was her best friend during
those solitary days that were already so far past. A moment more and
Georgiana's first exclamation of surprise broke from her lips. There
were to be many before the day was done.

"Look! All those ugly little buildings at the back are gone, and the
house stands all by itself at the top of the slope. Isn't that an
improvement? It's freshly painted, too; how that clear white brings out
the beauty of the old house! It used to be such a dingy slate! I always
knew it was a pleasant place, but I didn't fully appreciate it. The lawn
is as trim as can be, and there's a border of shrubs and flowers all
along the drive. How little real change to make so much! That's Jean, I
know. Oh, and there's Jean herself, running down the steps! She sees
us!"

"Is that really Jeannette Crofton?" Craig doubted. "Yes--for a fact!
Well, well!"

They might easily doubt the evidence of their eyes, for the slim figure
they had known so well had rounded until it showed softly blooming
curves, and colouring which put to blush the cosmetics which the society
girl had not altogether eschewed, though it had been long before the
less sophisticated cousin had found this out. No need for rouge or
powder now, for nature had laid on the lovely face her own unrivalled
tints of rose overlying the soft browns of summer tan.

"Oh, you darlings, to come and bring the baby! Do let me look at
him--the blessed thing! Isn't he a beauty?--but, of course, how could he
help it? Jimps! O Jimps! Here they are!"

Thus cried Jeannette out of sheer exuberance, though the fact of the
arrival was obvious enough, and James Stuart was already dashing across
the lawn from the opposite direction.

As she looked at her cousin, Georgiana's first impression was the one
she had hardly dared hope for, that of Jeannette's entire content and
well-being. Not only was the physical improvement noteworthy but a
certain worn and worldly look had vanished--one which had not affected
her beauty and had been discernible only to the closely observing eye,
but which had been there none the less and was gone now.

This change grew more and more apparent as Georgiana continued to regard
her young hostess. From the moment the party first entered the
wide-thrown front door, it was easy to discover that both Stuart and his
wife were eager as two children for the approval of their guests. Such
approval was not long in appearing.

"How pleasant--how charming!" cried Georgiana, as her quick eye took in
attractive effect after effect. "Oh, you clever things, to do it like
this! How absolutely in keeping it all is, and how quiet, yet how
beautiful!"

"She's done it," vowed James Stuart proudly. "I was a duffer at it till
she showed me what she was after. I wanted to buy brocaded silk
furniture, like that in her home--while my money held out. But she would
have nothing but this sort of thing. Homelike, isn't it?"

It was the word which described it, if one qualified the term by making
it apply only to homes built on foundations of good taste and
suitability to environment. As she looked about her Georgiana saw
everywhere evidences of the use of abundant means, and she realized that
Jeannette had been clever indeed to supply so much without impressing
Stuart with the undoubted fact that she had contributed more than he to
the final result.

The whole effect of the house's interior was one of well-chosen but
unostentatious comfort, and the materials and furnishings used were all
so nicely adapted to their setting that only to more discerning eyes
than those of the Stuarts' neighbours would they have expressed unusual
resources of supply.

"It's an achievement!" Craig declared.

His enlightened gaze traveled from one point to another of the long,
low-ceilinged living-room, sunny with new windows, and with walls and
hangings of soft browns and golden yellows. He noted that Jeannette had
had the good sense to make use of the old furniture the house possessed
wherever it was fit for preservation, and that she had dignified the
walls by retaining certain dim old portraits, done in fading oils, of
Stuart's ancestors. Everywhere could be seen similar interesting
blending of the new and the old, though it was often difficult to tell
which was which.

The elder Stuarts were living in a wing of the house, that being the
portion where they had spent their lives, making little use of the
upright and the corresponding wing, which were now turned over to the
son and his wife. Since the elder people wisely preferred this
semi-independence, the younger were able to be much by themselves,
Stuart explained, though always near and ready to lend a hand at any
hour. Since the stalwart son could not be entirely spared by the
somewhat feeble old couple, the arrangement seemed an admirable one,
and thus far it had worked very well.

"Jean's such a dear with them," Stuart said covertly to Georgiana,
leading her aside for a moment to look at a curious old buffet which had
been long in the family. "They adore her, and she really seems very fond
of them. Of course they have old Eliza to look after them, as they have
had for so long; but we ask them in to dinner every few days, and often
have them sitting by the fire with us here on cool evenings. The funny
part, though, is when Mother Crofton comes. She can't get over it, or
get used to it; she sits and looks at Jean as if she were an actress in
a play, and by and by would take off her make-up and be herself again."

"I wonder how far that is from the real truth," thought Georgiana to
herself, as she watched the young mistress of the place with fascinated
eyes.

Certainly if Jeannette were acting it was very skilfully done. As she
led her guests about the house, and then established them on the lawn,
beneath the great elms which furnished a grateful shade at this
afternoon hour over nearly the whole expanse, she seemed the embodiment
of health and happiness.

By and by, when the Crofton car arrived, bearing Uncle Thomas and Aunt
Olivia, with Rosalie and Chester following a few moments later in
Chester's roadster, Jeannette grew fairly radiant.



CHAPTER XXX

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS


It was not until late that evening that Georgiana had a chance really to
learn the whole state of the case.

During the intervening hours had occurred the event for which they had
all been invited--the entertaining of at least two hundred people from
the surrounding country and the village. For this event, which Stuart
naïvely called a "party," Jeannette a "lawn fête," and the guests
themselves, for the most part, a "picnic," porches, lawn and trees had
been hung with gay lanterns, bonfires had been built, the small village
band engaged, a light but delectable supper provided, and as much
jollity planned as could be crowded into the hours between five o'clock
and eleven.

From the standpoint of those entertaining, at least, the affair had been
a success, for Stuart, long accustomed to the ways of his fellow
countrymen, considered himself fully able to tell from their manner, if
not from their expressions of pleasure, whether they had really found
enjoyment in the efforts of their hosts.

"They had a mighty good time, no doubt about it!" he declared, when the
last reluctant guest had departed in the last small car which had waited
at the edge of the roadway. (Not the least of young Chester Crofton's
enjoyment had been occasioned by the sight of the long row of vehicles,
from two-seated wagons to smart and even expensive motors, which had
lined the road for many rods.) "And a lot of them are well worth
knowing," Stuart added.

His eye chanced to fall on his father-in-law, Mr. Thomas Crofton, as he
made this assertion. The party were sitting in a group upon the
lantern-lighted porch and its steps, and the senior Crofton's face was
plainly visible.

That gentleman nodded. "You're quite right, Jim," he said. "I don't know
when I've had a more interesting conversation with any man than I did
with one of your neighbours, nor found a more intelligent set of
opinions on every subject we touched on. He wasn't the only one, either.
As a rule I found the people who came here to-night possessed of rather
more than the average amount of brains. I should like to try living
among them--for a change, at least."

"I struck a tongue-tied dolt or two," remarked his son Chester, "but
dolts aren't uncommon anywhere, even when not tongue-tied. And I did run
up against some chaps I liked jolly well. One of them invited me up for
a week-end; I nearly fell over when he did it. I didn't know country
people ever talked about week-ends. I thought they called it 'staying
over Sunday.'"

"You mean Wells Lawson," Stuart informed him. "If you could see the list
of newspapers and magazines, not to mention books, that the Lawsons
take, you'd open your eyes. He and his family have traveled a lot more
than I have, and their home is one of the finest model farms in the
county. There's no hayseed in their hair."

"I didn't discover much hayseed in anybody's hair," observed Dr.
Jefferson Craig. "I think it's gone out of fashion."

"There were some of the prettiest girls here to-night I ever saw," was
Rosalie's contribution to the list of comments. A figure of exquisite
modishness, she perched upon the porch rail near Chester. "I did want to
tell them not to let any one young man stick by them every minute the
way they did, but I could hardly blame the young men for wanting to
stick, the girls were so sweet, and some of them were quite stunning."

"You certainly gave them an example of how to make eyes at fifteen or
twenty fellows, one after another," laughed her brother, at her side.
"You'd have had them all coming, Rosy, if they hadn't been tied up to
their respective girls. A lesson or two from you, and those girls would
begin to play 'round in proper shape."

"Rosy's going to stay and take a few lessons herself," insinuated
Jeannette, who sat with her shapely young arm resting upon her father's
knee, as she occupied the step below him. "I'll promise to put some
flesh on her little bones if she's here a month. She's too thin, after
only her second season."

"Oh, I'll stay," promised Rosalie promptly. "I simply love it here; I'm
crazy to stay!"

"It's all very well now," came Aunt Olivia's low murmur in Georgiana's
ear--there had been many of such murmurs in the same ear during the
afternoon and evening, though why, Georgiana herself could not guess,
since the elder woman knew the younger to be unreservedly committed to
upholding Jeannette's whole course--"very well now, in June, with
flowers blooming and friends about, but how the poor child is going to
face a second winter I can't imagine."

"She faced the first one very happily," Georgiana reminded her.

"The first one was a novelty and of course she was determined not to
acknowledge how lonely she must often have been. I do not say that James
Stuart is not a very attractive and trustworthy young man; I am fond of
him myself--very. But I shall always feel that Jeannette has made a
terrible mistake. Brought up as she has been, it is not conceivable
that she should continue to find this sort of life possible."

It was with this moan in her ears that, a few minutes later, Georgiana
listened to James Stuart. He had drawn her away from the group and was
strolling with her across the lawn.

"Well, George, tell me your honest opinion. Is my wife happy?"

It was a blunt question, but Georgiana understood. He asked it not to be
reassured but because he was confident of the answer.

She spoke guardedly: "I never saw her seem more so, Jimps. You are sure
of it yourself?"

"I want you to ask her point-blank. Will you?"

"It's not the sort of question to ask anybody point-blank, is it?"

"It is in this case. Do you think I don't know the doubt in all your
minds?--yes, even yours, for you've become another person since you
married Craig."

"Oh, no!"

"Oh, yes! You've been thinking ever since you came that you're dead
thankful you don't have to come back to it--now, haven't you?"

"Jimps, dear, I lived all my life in the hardest, narrowest economy. If
I had had all this beautiful experience Jean is having----"

"I know. But you wouldn't come back, even to this place of ours----"

"That's begging the question. For Jean it's a wonderful change, and any
one can see what it's done for her."

"Physically, yes. But I want you to find out whether she's actually
happy or not."

"I will," promised his friend with a nod; for she knew James Stuart much
too well to imagine she could put him off without complying with his
expressed desire.

It looked as if Jeannette herself were anxious to assure her cousin's
mind, for Stuart had no sooner brought Georgiana back to the porch than
his wife took possession of her.

"Georgiana, dear, I want you to tell me one thing," began Jeannette, as
the two moved slowly a little away from the rest. "Do you think we are
making a success of it?"

"A wonderful success, Jean. I couldn't have believed it, even what I see
on the surface. How about it--inside? That's a pretty searching
question, and you needn't answer it if you don't want to. Everything
about you seems to answer it."

Jeannette stopped short and turned to face her cousin. "Haven't I
written you the answer, over and over?"

"Yes. That's why I want to hear it from your own lips."

"You shall. First, though--Georgiana, you knew Antoinette Burwell
married Miles Channing last December?"

"I heard of it. How do they come on?"

"Separated; she's gone back to her father. She was the most wildly happy
bride I ever saw. Think of it, George--in six months! What do you
suppose would have happened if you----"

"Don't! I didn't." And Georgiana's grateful thoughts went back to one of
the crises in her life, the one from which Jefferson Craig had rescued
her.

"Do you know the Ralph Hendersons? Married two years now--I'm sure
you've heard me speak of them. Everybody knows they quarrel like cats
and dogs; they're hardly civil to each other in public. And I know
several more of our old set who are none too happy, if one may judge by
their looks. Yet they all married 'in their own class,' as mother is so
fond of saying, as if I didn't!--I married _above_ it! And I am supposed
to have cast away all my chances for this life, not to mention the next,
by marrying my farmer! Georgiana, I'm getting to hate that word
_farmer_! Why isn't there a new word made for the man who reads and
studies and uses the latest modern methods on his farm? There are such a
lot of them now. College graduates, like Jimps, and men who have taken
agricultural courses and are putting their brains into their work. Why
isn't there a new word?"

"The old word must be made to acquire a new dignity," Georgiana
suggested. "Never mind the word; you're glad you married your farmer?"

"Glad! I thank God every night and morning; I thank Him every time I go
running down the lane to meet my husband coming up from the meadow! Of
course I know, Georgiana, that the life I'm living isn't the typical
life of the farmer's wife at all--thanks to Jimps' success and my own
little pocket-book! But it has all outdoors in it and lots of lovely
indoors; and I'm growing so well and strong--you can see that by just
looking at me. And I'm getting to know my neighbours, and like
them--some of them--oh, so much! Life never was so full. Mother talks
about how hard I'll find it to get through my second winter. It doesn't
worry me. We'll order books and books, and we'll go for splendid tramps,
and every now and then we'll run into town--for concerts and plays. And
best of all, Georgiana,"--her voice sank--"I'm sure--sure--Jimps isn't
disappointed in me."

"Disappointed! I should say not--the lucky boy!" Georgiana agreed, all
her fears gone to the winds.

       *       *       *       *       *

When they returned to the porch it was to hear an outcry from
Jeannette's mother: "Chester Crofton! Have you gone absolutely crazy?"

"I think so, mother. Positively dippy. Got it in its worst form. It's
been coming on me for some time, but it's taken me now, for better or
for worse. I'm going to buy that small farm across the road and try what
I can do."

"I'll back you," came in Mr. Thomas Crofton's deepest chest tones.

"Hear, hear!" Dr. Jefferson Craig's shout drowned out Mrs. Crofton's
groan.

"O Ches--I'll come and keep house for you--part of the year, anyhow!"
This was dainty Rosalie, her silk-stockinged ankles swinging wildly, as
she sat upon the porch rail.

Georgiana was laughing, as her eyes met her husband's in a glance of
understanding, but her heart was very warm behind the laughter.

Beyond the gleam of the lanterns she caught the golden glow of a summer
moon rising, to illumine the depths of the country sky--the immense,
star-spangled arch of the heavens. Beneath lay many homes, big and
little, all filled with human lives, each with its chance somehow to
grow; each with its chance, small or great, as a beloved writer has said
inspiringly, "_to love and to work and to play and to look up at the
stars._"

THE END





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