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Title: Different Girls
Author: Various
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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DIFFERENT GIRLS

Harper's Novelettes

Edited by

WILLIAM DEAN HOWELLS and HENRY MILLS ALDEN

Harper & Brothers Publishers
New York and London

1895, 1896, 1897, 1904, 1905, 1906



RICHARD LE GALLIENNE
"THE LITTLE JOYS OF MARGARET"

ELIZABETH JORDAN
"KITTIE'S SISTER JOSEPHINE"

ALICE BROWN
"THE WIZARD'S TOUCH"

CHARLES B. DE CAMP
"THE BITTER CUP"

MARY APPLEWHITE BACON
"HIS SISTER"

ELEANOR A. HALLOWELL
"THE PERFECT YEAR"

WILLIAM DEAN HOWELLS
"EDITHA"

OCTAVE THANET
"THE STOUT MISS HOPKINS'S BICYCLE"

MARY M. MEARS
"THE MARRYING OF ESTHER"

JULIAN RALPH
"CORDELIA'S NIGHT OF ROMANCE"

E. A. ALEXANDER
"THE PRIZE-FUND BENEFICIARY"



Introduction


It is many years now since the American Girl began to engage the
consciousness of the American novelist. Before the expansive period
following the Civil War, in the later eighteen-sixties and the earlier
eighteen-seventies, she had of course been his heroine, unless he went
abroad for one in court circles, or back for one in the feudal ages.
Until the time noted, she had been a heroine and then an American girl.
After that she was an American girl, and then a heroine; and she was
often studied against foreign backgrounds, in contrast with other
international figures, and her value ascertained in comparison with
their valuelessness, though sometimes she was portrayed in those poses
of flirtation of which she was born mistress. Even in these her
superiority to all other kinds of girls was insinuated if not asserted.

The young ladies in the present collection are all American girls but
one, if we are to suppose Mr. Le Gallienne's winning type to be of the
same English origin as himself. We can be surer of him than of her,
however; but there is no question of the native Americanness of Mrs.
Alexander's girl, who is done so strikingly to the life, with courage to
grapple a character and a temperament as uncommon as it is true, which
we have rarely found among our fictionists. Having said this, we must
hedge in favor of Miss Jordan's most autochthonic Miss Kittie, so young
a girl as to be still almost a little girl, and with a head full of the
ideals of little-girlhood concerning young-girlhood. The pendant to her
pretty picture is the study of elderly girlhood by Octave Thanet, or
that by Miss Alice Brown, the one with its ideality, and the other with
its humor. The pathos of "The Perfect Year" is as true as either in its
truth to the girlhood which "never knew an earthly close," and yet had
its fill of rapture. Julian Ralph's strong and free sketch contributes a
fresh East Side flower, hollyhock-like in its gaudiness, to the garden
of American girls, Irish-American in this case, but destined to be
companioned hereafter by blossoms of our Italian-American,
Yiddish-American, and Russian-American civilization, as soon as our
nascent novelists shall have the eye to see and the art to show them.
Meantime, here are some of our Different Girls as far as they or their
photographers have got, and their acquaintance is worth having.

     W.D.H.



The Little Joys of Margaret

BY RICHARD LE GALLIENNE


Margaret had seen her five sisters one by one leave the family nest, to
set up little nests of their own. Her brother, the eldest child of a
family of seven, had left the old home almost beyond memory, and settled
in London. Now and again he made a flying visit to the small provincial
town of his birth, and sometimes he sent two little daughters to
represent him--for he was already a widowed man, and relied occasionally
on the old roof-tree to replace the lost mother. Margaret had seen what
sympathetic spectators called her "fate" slowly approaching for some
time--particularly when, five years ago, she had broken off her
engagement with a worthless boy. She had loved him deeply, and, had she
loved him less, a refined girl in the provinces does not find it easy to
replace a discarded suitor--for the choice of young men is not
excessive. Her sisters had been more fortunate, and so, as I have said,
one by one they left their father's door in bridal veils. But Margaret
stayed on, and at length, as had been foreseen, became the sole nurse of
a beautiful old invalid mother, a kind of lay sister in the nunnery of
home.

She came of a beautiful family. In all the big family of seven there was
not one without some kind of good looks. Two of her sisters were
acknowledged beauties, and there were those who considered Margaret the
most beautiful of all. It was all the harder, such sympathizers said,
that her youth should thus fade over an invalid's couch, the bloom of
her complexion be rubbed out by arduous vigils, and the lines
prematurely etched in her skin by the strain of a self-denial proper, no
doubt, to homely girls and professional nurses, but peculiarly wanton
and wasteful in the case of a girl so beautiful as Margaret.

There are, alas! a considerable number of women predestined by their
lack of personal attractiveness for the humbler tasks of life.
Instinctively we associate them with household work, nursing, and the
general drudgery of existence. One never dreams of their having a life
of their own. They have no accomplishments, nor any of the feminine
charms. Women to whom an offer of marriage would seem as terrifying as a
comet, they belong to the neutrals of the human hive, and are,
practically speaking, only a little higher than the paid domestic.
Indeed, perhaps their one distinction is that they receive no wages.

Now for so attractive a girl as Margaret to be merged in so dreary,
undistinguished a class was manifestly preposterous. It was a stupid
misapplication of human material. A plainer face and a more homespun
fibre would have served the purpose equally well.

Margaret was by no means so much a saint of self-sacrifice as not to
have realized her situation with natural human pangs. Youth only comes
once--especially to a woman; and

    No hand can gather up the withered fallen
        petals of the Rose of youth.

Petal by petal, Margaret had watched the rose of her youth fading and
falling. More than all her sisters, she was endowed with a zest for
existence. Her superb physical constitution cried out for the joy of
life. She was made to be a great lover, a great mother; and to her,
more than most, the sunshine falling in muffled beams through the
lattices of her mother's sick-room came with a maddening summons
to--live. She was so supremely fitted to play a triumphant part in the
world outside there, so gay of heart, so victoriously vital.

At first, therefore, the renunciation, accepted on the surface with so
kind a face, was a source of secret bitterness and hidden tears. But
time, with its mercy of compensation, had worked for her one of its many
mysterious transmutations, and shown her of what fine gold her
apparently leaden days were made. She was now thirty-three; though, for
all her nursing vigils, she did not look more than twenty-nine, and was
now more than resigned to the loss of the peculiar opportunities of
youth--if, indeed, they could be said to be lost already. "An old maid,"
she would say, "who has cheerfully made up her mind to be an old maid,
is one of the happiest, and, indeed, most enviable, people in all the
world."

Resent the law as we may, it is none the less true that renunciation
brings with it a mysterious initiation, a finer insight. Its discipline
would seem to refine and temper our organs of spiritual perception, and
thus make up for the commoner experience lost by a rarer experience
gained. By dedicating herself to her sick mother, Margaret undoubtedly
lost much of the average experience of her sex and age, but almost
imperceptibly it had been borne in upon her that she made some important
gains of a finer kind. She had been brought very close to the mystery of
human life, closer than those who have nothing to do beyond being
thoughtlessly happy can ever come. The nurse and the priest are
initiates of the same knowledge. Each alike is a sentinel on the
mysterious frontier between this world and the next. The nearer we
approach that frontier, the more we understand not only of that world on
the other side, but of the world on this. It is only when death throws
its shadow over the page of life that we realize the full significance
of what we are reading. Thus, by her mother's bedside, Margaret was
learning to read the page of life under the illuminating shadow of
death.

But, apart from any such mystical compensation, Margaret's great reward
was that she knew her beautiful old mother better than any one else in
the world knew her. As a rule, and particularly in a large family,
parents remain half mythical to their children, awe-inspiring presences
in the home, colossal figures of antiquity, about whose knees the
younger generation crawls and gropes, but whose heads are hidden in the
mists of prehistoric legend. They are like personages in the Bible. They
impress our imagination, but we cannot think of them as being quite
real. Their histories smack of legend. And this, of course, is natural,
for they had been in the world, had loved and suffered, so long before
us that they seem a part of that antenatal mystery out of which we
sprang. When they speak of their old love-stories, it is as though we
were reading Homer. It sounds so long ago. We are surprised at the
vividness with which they recall happenings and personalities, past and
gone before, as they tell us, we were born. Before we were born! Yes!
They belong to that mysterious epoch of time--"before we were born"; and
unless we have a taste for history, or are drawn close to them by some
sympathetic human exigency, as Margaret had been drawn to her mother, we
are too apt, in the stress of making our own, to regard the history of
our parents as dry-as-dust.

As the old mother sits there so quiet in her corner, her body worn to a
silver thread, and hardly anything left of her but her indomitable eyes,
it is hard, at least for a young thing of nineteen, all aflush and
aflurry with her new party gown, to realize that that old mother is
infinitely more romantic than herself. She has sat there so long,
perhaps, as to have come to seem part of the inanimate furniture of home
rather than a living being. Well! the young thing goes to her party, and
dances with some callow youth who pays her clumsy compliments, and
Margaret remains at home with the old mother in her corner. It is hard
on Margaret! Yes; and yet, as I have said, it is thus she comes to know
her old mother better than any one else knows her--society perhaps not
so poor an exchange for that of smart, immature young men of one's own
age.

As the door closes behind the important rustle of youthful laces, and
Margaret and her mother are left alone, the mother's old eyes light up
with an almost mischievous smile. If age seems humorous to youth, youth
is even more humorous to age.

"It is evidently a great occasion, Peg," the old voice says, with the
suspicion of a gentle mockery. "Don't you wish you were going?"

"You naughty old mother!" answers Margaret, going over and kissing her.

The two understand each other.

"Well, shall we go on with our book?" says the mother, after a while.

"Yes, dear, in a moment. I have first to get you your diet, and then we
can begin."

"Bother the diet!" says the courageous old lady; "for two pins I'd go to
the ball myself. That old taffeta silk of mine is old enough to be in
fashion again. What do you say, Peg, if you and I go to the ball
together ..."

"Oh, it's too much trouble dressing, mother. What do you think?"

"Well, I suppose it is," answers the mother. "Besides, I want to hear
what happens next to those two beautiful young people in our book. So be
quick with my old diet, and come and read ..."

There is perhaps nothing so lovely or so well worth having as the
gratitude of the old towards the young that care to give them more than
the perfunctory ministrations to which they have long since grown sadly
accustomed. There was no reward in the world that Margaret would have
exchanged for the sweet looks of her old mother, who, being no merely
selfish invalid, knew the value and the cost of the devotion her
daughter was giving her.

"I can give you so little, my child, for all you are giving me," her
mother would sometimes say; and the tears would spring to Margaret's
eyes.

Yes! Margaret had her reward in this alone--that she had cared to
decipher the lined old document of her mother's face. Her other sisters
had passed it by more or less impatiently. It was like some ancient
manuscript in a museum, which only a loving and patient scholar takes
the trouble to read. But the moment you begin to pick out the words, how
its crabbed text blossoms with beautiful meanings and fascinating
messages! It is as though you threw a dried rose into some magic water,
and saw it unfold and take on bloom, and fill with perfume, and bring
back the nightingale that sang to it so many years ago. So Margaret
loved her mother's old face, and learned to know the meaning of every
line on it. Privileged to see that old face in all its private moments
of feeling, under the transient revivification of deathless memories,
she was able, so to say, to reconstruct its perished beauty, and
realize the romance of which it was once the alluring candle. For her
mother had been a very great beauty, and if, like Margaret, you are able
to see it, there is no history so fascinating as the bygone love-affairs
of old people. How much more fascinating to read one's mother's
love-letters than one's own!

Even in the history of the heart recent events have a certain crudity,
and love itself seems the more romantic for having lain in lavender for
fifty years. A certain style, a certain distinction, beyond question, go
with antiquity, and to spend your days with a refined old mother is no
less an education in style and distinction than to spend them in the air
of old cities, under the shadow of august architecture and in the sunset
of classic paintings.

The longer Margaret lived with her old mother, the less she valued the
so-called "opportunities" she had missed. Coming out of her mother's
world of memories, there seemed something small, even common, about the
younger generation to which she belonged,--something lacking in
significance and dignity.

For example, it had been her dream, as it is the dream of every true
woman, to be a mother herself: and yet, somehow--though she would not
admit it in so many words--when her young married sisters came with
their babies, there was something about their bustling and complacent
domesticity that seemed to make maternity bourgeois. She had not dreamed
of being a mother like that. She was convinced that her old mother had
never been a mother like that. "They seem more like wet-nurses than
mothers," she said to herself, with her wicked wit.

Was there, she asked herself, something in realization that inevitably
lost you the dream? Was to incarnate an ideal to materialize it? Did the
finer spirit of love necessarily evaporate like some volatile essence
with marriage? Was it better to remain on idealistic spectator such as
she--than to run the risks of realization?

She was far too beautiful, and had declined too many offers of
commonplace marriage, for such questioning to seem the philosophy of
disappointment. Indeed, the more she realized her own situation, the
more she came to regard what others considered her sacrifice to her
mother as a safeguard against the risk of a mediocre domesticity.
Indeed, she began to feel a certain pride, as of a priestess, in the
conservation of the dignity of her nature. It is better to be a vestal
virgin than--some mothers.

And, after all, the maternal instinct of her nature found an ideal
outlet in her brother's children--the two little motherless girls who
came every year to spend their holidays with their grandmother and their
aunt Margaret.

Margaret had seen but little of their mother, but her occasional
glimpses of her had left her with a haloed image of a delicate,
spiritual face that grew more and more Madonna-like with memory. The
nimbus of the Divine Mother, as she herself had dreamed of her, had
seemed indeed to illumine that grave young face.

It pleased her imagination to take the place of that phantom mother,
herself--a phantom mother. And who knows but that such dream-children,
as she called those two little girls, were more satisfactory in the end
than real children? They represented, so to say, the poetry of children.
Had Margaret been a real mother, there would have been the prose of
children as well. But here, as in so much else, Margaret's seclusion
from the responsible activities of the outside world enabled her to
gather the fine flower of existence without losing the sense of it in
the cares of its cultivation. I think that she comprehended the wonder
and joy of children more than if she had been a real mother.

Seclusion and renunciation are great sharpeners and refiners of the
sense of joy, chiefly because they encourage the habit of attentiveness.

"Our excitements are very tiny," once said the old mother to Margaret,
"therefore we make the most of them."

"I don't agree with you, mother," Margaret had answered. "I think it is
theirs that are tiny--trivial indeed, and ours that are great. People in
the world lose the values of life by having too much choice; too much
choice--of things not worth having. This makes them miss the real
things--just as any one living in a city cannot see the stars for the
electric lights. But we, sitting quiet in our corner, have time to watch
and listen, when the others must hurry by. We have time, for instance,
to watch that sunset yonder, whereas some of our worldly friends would
be busy dressing to go out to a bad play. We can sit here and listen to
that bird singing his vespers, as long as he will sing--and personally I
wouldn't exchange him for a prima donna. Far from being poor in
excitements, I think we have quite as many as are good for us, and those
we have are very beautiful and real."

"You are a brave child," answered her mother. "Come and kiss me," and
she took the beautiful gold head into her hands and kissed her daughter
with her sweet old mouth, so lost among wrinkles that it was sometimes
hard to find it.

"But am I not right, mother?" said Margaret.

"Yes! you are right, dear, but you seem too young to know such wisdom."

"I have to thank you for it, darling," answered Margaret, bending down
and kissing her mother's beautiful gray hair.

"Ah! little one," replied the mother, "it is well to be wise, but it is
good to be foolish when we are young--and I fear I have robbed you of
your foolishness."

"I shall believe you have if you talk like that," retorted Margaret,
laughingly taking her mother into her arms and gently shaking her, as
she sometimes did When the old lady was supposed to have been "naughty."

       *       *       *       *       *

So for Margaret and her mother the days pass, and at first, as we have
said, it may seem a dull life, and even a hard one, for Margaret. But
she herself has long ceased to think so, and she dreads the inevitable
moment when the divine friendship between her and her old mother must
come to an end. She knows, of course, that it must come, and that the
day cannot be far off when the weary old limbs will refuse to make the
tiny journeys from bedroom to rocking-chair, which have long been all
that has been demanded of them; when the brave, humorous old eyes will
be so weary that they cannot keep open any more in this world. The
thought is one that is insupportably lonely, and sometimes she looks at
the invalid-chair, at the cup and saucer in which she serves her
mother's simple food, at the medicine-bottle and the measuring-glass, at
the knitted shawl which protects the frail old form against draughts,
and at all such sad furniture of an invalid's life, and pictures the day
when the homely, affectionate use of all these things will be gone
forever; for so poignant is humanity that it sanctifies with endearing
associations even objects in themselves so painful and prosaic. And it
seems to Margaret that when that day comes it would be most natural for
her to go on the same journey with her mother.

For who shall fill for her her mother's place on earth--and what
occupation will be left for Margaret when her "beautiful old _raison
d'être_," as she sometimes calls her mother, has entered into the sleep
of the blessed? She seldom thinks of that, for the thought is too
lonely, and, meanwhile, she uses all her love and care to make this
earth so attractive and cozy that the beautiful mother-spirit who has
been so long prepared for her short journey to heaven may be tempted to
linger here yet a little while longer. These ministrations, which began
as a kind of renunciation, have now turned into an unselfish
selfishness. Margaret began by feeling herself necessary to her mother;
now her mother becomes more and more necessary to Margaret. Sometimes
when she leaves her alone for a few moments in her chair, she laughingly
bends over and says, "Promise me that you won't run away to heaven while
my back is turned."

And the old mother smiles one of those transfigured smiles which seem
only to light up the faces of those that are already half over the
border of the spiritual world.

Winter is, of course, Margaret's time of chief anxiety, and then her
loving efforts are redoubled to detain her beloved spirit in an
inclement world. Each winter passed in safety seems a personal victory
over death. How anxiously she watches for the first sign of the
returning spring, how eagerly she brings the news of early blade and
bud, and with the first violet she feels that the danger is over for
another year. When the spring is so afire that she is able to fill her
mother's lap with a fragrant heap of crocus and daffodil, she dares at
last to laugh and say,

"Now confess, mother, that you won't find sweeter flowers even in
heaven."

And when the thrush is on the apple bough outside the window, Margaret
will sometimes employ the same gentle raillery.

"Do you think, mother," she will say, "that an angel could sing sweeter
than that thrush?"

"You seem very sure, Margaret, that I am going to heaven," the old
mother will sometimes say, with one of her arch old smiles; "but do you
know that I stole two peppermints yesterday?"

"You did!" says Margaret.

"I did indeed! and they have been on my conscience ever since."

"Really, mother! I don't know what to say," answers Margaret. "I had no
idea that you are so wicked."

Many such little games the two play together, as the days go by; and
often at bedtime, as Margaret tucks her mother into bed, she asks her:

"Are you comfortable, dear? Do you really think you would be much more
comfortable in heaven?"

Or sometimes she will draw aside the window-curtains and say:

"Look at the stars, mother.... Don't you think we get the best view of
them down here?"

So it is that Margaret persuades her mother to delay her journey a
little while.



Kittie's Sister Josephine

BY ELIZABETH JORDAN


Kittie James told me this story about her sister Josephine, and when she
saw my eye light up the way the true artist's does when he hears a good
plot, she said I might use it, if I liked, the next time I "practised
literature."

I don't think that was a very nice way to say it, especially when one
remembers that Sister Irmingarde read three of my stories to the class
in four months; and as I only write one every week, you can see yourself
what a good average that was. But it takes noble souls to be humble in
the presence of the gifted, and enthusiastic over their success, so only
two of my classmates seemed really happy when Sister Irmingarde read my
third story aloud. It is hardly necessary to mention the names of these
beautiful natures, already so well known to my readers, but I will do
it. They were Maudie Joyce and Mabel Blossom, and they are my dearest
friends at St. Catharine's. And some day, when I am a real writer and
the name of May Iverson shines in gold letters on the tablets of fame,
I'll write a book and dedicate it to them. Then, indeed, they will be
glad they knew me in my schoolgirl days, and recognized real merit when
they saw it, and did not mind the queer things my artistic temperament
often makes me do. Oh, what a slave is one to this artistic, emotional
nature, and how unhappy, how misunderstood! I don't mean that I am
unhappy all the time, of course, but I have Moods. And when I have them
life seems so hollow, so empty, so terrible! At such times natures that
do not understand me are apt to make mistakes, the way Sister Irmingarde
did when she thought I had nervous dyspepsia and made me walk three
miles every day, when it was just Soul that was the matter with me.
Still, I must admit the exercise helped me. It is so soothing, so
restful, so calming to walk on dear nature's breast. Maudie Joyce and
Mabel Blossom always know the minute an attack of artistic temperament
begins in me. Then they go away quietly and reverently, and I write a
story and feel better.

So this time I am going to tell about Kittie James's sister Josephine.
In the very beginning I must explain that Josephine James used to be a
pupil at St. Catharine's herself, ages and ages ago, and finally she
graduated and left, and began to go into society and look around and
decide what her life-work should be. That was long, long before our
time--as much as ten years, I should think, and poor Josephine must be
twenty-eight or twenty-nine years old now. But Kittie says she is just
as nice as she can be, and not a bit poky, and so active and interested
in life you'd think she was young. Of course I know such things can be,
for my own sister Grace, Mrs. George E. Verbeck, is perfectly lovely and
the most popular woman in the society of our city. But Grace is married,
and perhaps that makes a difference. It is said that love keeps the
spirit young. However, perhaps I'd better go on about Josephine and not
dwell on that. Experienced as we girls are, and drinking of life in deep
draughts though we do, we still admit--Maudie, Mabel, and I--that we do
not yet know much about love. But one cannot know everything at fifteen,
and, as Mabel Blossom always says, "there is yet time." We all know
just the kind of men they're going to be, though. Mine will be a brave
young officer, of course, for a general's daughter should not marry out
of the army, and he will die for his country, leaving me with a broken
heart. Maudie Joyce says hers must be a man who will rule her with a rod
of iron and break her will and win her respect, and then be gentle and
loving and tender. And Mabel Blossom says she's perfectly sure hers will
be fat and have a blond mustache and laugh a great deal. Once she said
maybe none of us would ever get _any_; but the look Maudie Joyce and I
turned upon her checked her thoughtless words. Life is bitter enough as
it is without thinking of dreadful things in the future. I sometimes
fear that underneath her girlish gayety Mabel Blossom conceals a morbid
nature. But I am forgetting Josephine James. This story will tell why,
with all her advantages of wealth and education and beauty, she remained
a maiden lady till she was twenty-eight; and she might have kept on,
too, if Kittie had not taken matters in hand and settled them for her.

Kittie says Josephine was always romantic and spent long hours of her
young life in girlish reveries and dreams. Of course that isn't the way
Kittie said it, but if I should tell this story in her crude, unformed
fashion, you wouldn't read very far. What Kittie really said was that
Josephine used to "moon around the grounds a lot and bawl, and even try
to write poetry." I understand Josephine's nature, so I will go on and
tell this story in my own way, but you must remember that some of the
credit belongs to Kittie and Mabel Blossom; and if Sister Irmingarde
reads it in class, they can stand right up with me when the author is
called for.

Well, when Josephine James graduated she got a lot of prizes and things,
for she was a clever girl, and had not spent all her time writing poetry
and thinking deep thoughts about life. She realized the priceless
advantages of a broad and thorough education and of association with the
most cultivated minds. That sentence comes out of our prospectus. Then
she went home and went out a good deal, and was very popular and stopped
writing poetry, and her dear parents began to feel happy and hopeful
about her, and think she would marry and have a nice family, which is
indeed woman's highest, noblest mission in life. But Josephine cherished
an ideal.

A great many young men came to see her, and Kittie liked one of them
very much indeed--better than all the others. He was handsome, and he
laughed and joked a good deal, and always brought Kittie big boxes of
candy and called her his little sister. He said she was going to be that
in the end, anyhow, and there was no use waiting to give her the title
that his heart dictated. He said it just that way. When he took
Josephine out in his automobile he'd say, "Let's take the kid, too," and
they would, and it did not take Kittie long to understand how things
were between George Morgan--for that was indeed his name--and her
sister. Little do grown-up people realize how intelligent are the minds
of the young, and how keen and penetrating their youthful gaze! Clearly
do I recall some things that happened at home, and it would startle papa
and mamma to know I know them, but I will not reveal them here. Once I
would have done so, in the beginning of my art; but now I have learned
to finish one story before I begin another.

Little did Mr. Morgan and Josephine wot that every time she refused him
Kittie's young heart burned beneath its sense of wrong, for she did
refuse him almost every time they went out together, and yet she kept
right on going. You would think she wouldn't, but women's natures are
indeed inscrutable. Some authors would stop here and tell what was in
Josephine's heart, but this is not that kind of a story. Kittie was only
twelve then, and they used big words and talked in a queer way they
thought she would not understand; but she did, every time, and she never
missed a single word they said. Of course she wasn't _listening_
exactly, you see, because they knew she was there. That makes it
different and quite proper. For if Kittie was more intelligent than her
elders it was not the poor child's fault.

Things went on like that and got worse and worse, and they had been
going on that way for five years. One day Kittie was playing tennis with
George at the Country Club, and he had been very kind to her, and all of
a sudden Kittie told him she knew all, and how sorry she was for him,
and that if he would wait till she grew up she would marry him herself.
The poor child was so young, you see, that she did not know how
unmaidenly this was. And of course at St. Catharine's when they taught
us how to enter and leave rooms and how to act in society and at the
table, they didn't think to tell us not to ask young men to marry us. I
can add with confidence that Kittie James was the only girl who ever
did. I asked the rest afterwards, and they were deeply shocked at the
idea.

Well, anyhow, Kittie did it, and she said George was just as nice as he
could be. He told her he had "never listened to a more alluring
proposition" (she remembered just the words he used), and that she was
"a little trump"; and then he said he feared, alas! it was impossible,
as even his strong manhood could not face the prospect of the long and
dragging years that lay between. Besides, he said, his heart was already
given, and he guessed he'd better stick to Josephine, and would his
little sister help him to get her? Kittie wiped her eyes and said she
would. She had been crying. It must indeed be a bitter experience to
have one's young heart spurned! But George took her into the club-house
and gave her tea and lots of English muffins and jam, and somehow Kittie
cheered up, for she couldn't help feeling there were still some things
in life that were nice.

Of course after that she wanted dreadfully to help George, but there
didn't seem to be much she could do. Besides, she had to go right back
to school in September, and being a studious child, I need hardly add
that her entire mind was then given to her studies. When she went home
for the Christmas holidays she took Mabel Blossom with her. Mabel was
more than a year older, but Kittie looked up to her, as it is well the
young should do to us older girls. Besides, Kittie had had her
thirteenth birthday in November, and she was letting down her skirts a
little and beginning to think of putting up her hair. She said when she
remembered that she asked George to wait till she grew up it made her
blush, so you see she was developing very fast.

As I said before, she took Mabel Blossom home for Christmas, and Mr. and
Mrs. James were lovely to her, and she had a beautiful time. But
Josephine was the best of all. She was just fine. Mabel told me with her
own lips that if she hadn't seen Josephine James's name on the catalogue
as a graduate in '93, she never would have believed she was so old.
Josephine took the two girls to matinées and gave a little tea for them,
and George Morgan was as nice as she was. He was always bringing them
candy and violets, exactly as if they were young ladies, and he treated
them both with the greatest respect, and stopped calling them the kids
when he found they didn't like it. Mabel got as fond of him as Kittie
was, and they were both wild to help him to get Josephine to marry him;
but she wouldn't, though Kittie finally talked to her long and
seriously. I asked Kittie what Josephine said when she did that, and she
confessed that Josephine had laughed so she couldn't say anything. That
hurt the sensitive child, of course, but grown-ups are all too
frequently thoughtless of such things. Had Josephine but listened to
Kittie's words on that occasion, it would have saved Kittie a lot of
trouble.

Now I am getting to the exciting part of the story. I am always so glad
when I get to that. I asked Sister Irmingarde why one couldn't just make
the story out of the exciting part, and she took a good deal of time to
explain why, but she did not convince me; for besides having the
artistic temperament I am strangely logical for one so young. Some day I
shall write a story that is all climax from beginning to end. That will
show her! But at present I must write according to the severe and
cramping rules which she and literature have laid down.

One night Mrs. James gave a large party for Josephine, and of course
Mabel and Kittie, being thirteen and fourteen, had to go to bed. It is
such things as this that embitter the lives of schoolgirls. But they
were allowed to go down and see all the lights and flowers and
decorations before people began to come, and they went into the
conservatory because that was fixed up with little nooks and things.
They got away in and off in a kind of wing of it, and they talked and
pretended they were _débutantes_ at the ball, so they stayed longer than
they knew. Then they heard voices, and they looked and saw Josephine and
Mr. Morgan sitting by the fountain. Before they could move or say they
were there, they heard him say this--Kittie remembers just what it was:

"I have spent six years following you, and you've treated me as if I
were a dog at the end of a string. This thing must end. I must have you,
or I must learn to live without you, and I must know now which it is to
be. Josephine, you must give me my final answer to-night."

Wasn't it embarrassing for Kittie and Mabel? They did not want to
listen, but some instinct told them Josephine and George might not be
glad to see them then, so they crept behind a lot of tall palms, and
Mabel put her fingers in her ears so she wouldn't hear. Kittie didn't.
She explained to me afterwards that she thought it being her sister made
things kind of different. It was all in the family, anyhow. So Kittie
heard Josephine tell Mr. Morgan that the reason she did not marry him
was because he was an idler and without an ambition or a purpose in
life. And she said she must respect the man she married as well as love
him. Then George jumped up quickly and asked if she loved him, and she
cried and said she did, but that she would never, never marry him until
he did something to win her admiration and prove he was a man. You can
imagine how exciting it was for Kittie to see with her own innocent eyes
how grown-up people manage such things. She said she was so afraid she'd
miss something that she opened them so wide they hurt her afterwards.
But she didn't miss anything. She saw him kiss Josephine, too, and then
Josephine got up, and he argued and tried to make her change her mind,
and she wouldn't, and finally they left the conservatory. After that
Kittie and Mabel crept out and rushed up-stairs.

The next morning Kittie turned to Mabel with a look on her face which
Mabel had never seen there before. It was grim and determined. She said
she had a plan and wanted Mabel to help her, and not ask any questions,
but get her skates and come out. Mabel did, and they went straight to
George Morgan's house, which was only a few blocks away. He was very
rich and had a beautiful house. An English butler came to the door.
Mabel said she was so frightened her teeth chattered, but he smiled when
he saw Kittie, and said yes, Mr. Morgan was home and at breakfast, and
invited them in. When George came in he had a smoking-jacket on, and
looked very pale and sad and romantic, Mabel thought, but he smiled,
too, when he saw them, and shook hands and asked them if they had
breakfasted.

Kittie said yes, but they had come to ask him to take them skating, and
they were all ready and had brought their skates. His face fell, as real
writers say, and he hesitated a little, but at last he said he'd go, and
he excused himself, just as if they had been grown up, and went off to
get ready.

When they were left alone a terrible doubt assailed Mabel, and she asked
Kittie if she was going to ask George again to marry her. Kittie
blushed and said she was not, of course, and that she knew better now.
For it is indeed true that the human heart is not so easily turned from
its dear object. We know that if once one truly loves it lasts forever
and ever and ever, and then one dies and is buried with things the loved
one wore.

Kittie said she had a plan to help George, and all Mabel had to do was
to watch and keep on breathing. Mabel felt better then, and said she
guessed she could do that. George came back all ready, and they started
off. Kittie acted rather dark and mysterious, but Mabel conversed with
George in the easy and pleasant fashion young men love. She told him all
about school and how bad she was in mathematics; and he said he had been
a duffer at it too, but that he had learned to shun it while there was
yet time. And he advised her very earnestly to have nothing to do with
it. Mabel didn't, either, after she came back to St. Catharine's; and
when Sister Irmingarde reproached her, Mabel said she was leaning on the
judgment of a strong man, as woman should do. But Sister Irmingarde made
her go on with the arithmetic just the same.

By and by they came to the river, and it was so early not many people
were skating there. When George had fastened on their skates--he did it
in the nicest way, exactly as if they were grown up--Kittie looked more
mysterious than ever, and she started off as fast as she could skate
toward a little inlet where there was no one at all. George and Mabel
followed her. George said he didn't know whether the ice was smooth in
there, but Kittie kept right on, and George did not say any more. I
guess he did not care much where he went. I suppose it disappoints a man
when he wants to marry a woman and she won't. Now that I am beginning to
study deeply this question of love, many things are clear to me.

Kittie kept far ahead, and all of a sudden Mabel saw that a little
distance further on, and just ahead, there was a big black hole in the
ice, and Kittie was skating straight toward it. Mabel tried to scream,
but she says the sound froze on her pallid lips. Then George saw the
hole, too, and rushed toward Kittie, and quicker than I can write it
Kittie went in that hole and down.

Mabel says George was there almost as soon, calling to Mabel to keep
back out of danger. Usually when people have to rescue others,
especially in stories, they call to some one to bring a board, and some
one does, and it is easy. But very often in real life there isn't any
board or any one to bring it, and this was indeed the desperate
situation that confronted my hero. There was nothing to do but plunge in
after Kittie, and he plunged, skates and all. Then Mabel heard him gasp
and laugh a little, and he called out: "It's all right, by Jove! The
water isn't much above my knees." And even as he spoke Mabel saw Kittie
rise in the water and sort of hurl herself at him and pull him down into
the water, head and all. When they came up they were both half
strangled, and Mabel was terribly frightened; for she thought George was
mistaken about the depth, and they would both drown before her eyes; and
then she would see that picture all her life, as they do in stories, and
her hair would turn gray. She began to run up and down on the ice and
scream; but even as she did so she heard these extraordinary words come
from between Kittie James's chattering teeth:

"_Now you are good and wet_!"

George did not say a word. He confessed to Mabel afterwards that he
thought poor Kittie had lost her mind through fear. But he tried the ice
till he found a place that would hold him, and he got out and pulled
Kittie out. As soon as Kittie was out she opened her mouth and uttered
more remarkable words.

"Now," she said, "I'll skate till we get near the club-house. Then you
must pick me up and carry me, and I'll shut my eyes and let my head hang
down. And Mabel must cry--good and hard. Then you must send for
Josephine and let her see how you've saved the life of her precious
little sister."

Mabel said she was sure that Kittie was crazy, and next she thought
George was crazy, too. For he bent and stared hard into Kittie's eyes
for a minute, and then he began to laugh, and he laughed till he cried.
He tried to speak, but he couldn't at first; and when he did the words
came out between his shouts of boyish glee.

"Do you mean to say, you young monkey," he said, "that this is a put-up
job?"

Kittie nodded as solemnly as a fair young girl can nod when her clothes
are dripping and her nose is blue with cold. When she did that, George
roared again; then, as if he had remembered something, he caught her
hands and began to skate very fast toward the club-house. He was a
thoughtful young man, you see, and he wanted her to get warm. Perhaps he
wanted to get warm, too. Anyhow, they started off, and as they went,
Kittie opened still further the closed flower of her girlish heart. I
heard that expression once, and I've always wanted to get it into one of
my stories. I think this is a good place.

She told George she knew the hole in the ice, and that it wasn't deep;
and she said she had done it all to make Josephine admire him and marry
him.

"She will, too," she said. "Her dear little sister--the only one she's
got." And Kittie went on to say what a terrible thing it would have been
if she had died in the promise of her young life, till Mabel said she
almost felt sure herself that George had saved her. But George
hesitated. He said it wasn't "a square deal," whatever that means, but
Kittie said no one need tell any lies. She had gone into the hole and
George had pulled her out. She thought they needn't explain how deep it
was, and George admitted thoughtfully that "no truly loving family
should hunger for statistics at such a moment." Finally he said: "By
Jove! I'll do it. All's fair in love and war." Then he asked Mabel if
she thought she could "lend intelligent support to the star performers,"
and she said she could. So George picked Kittie up in his arms, and
Mabel cried--she was so excited it was easy, and she wanted to do it all
the time--and the sad little procession "homeward wended its weary way,"
as the poet says.

Mabel told me Kittie did her part like a real actress. She shut her eyes
and her head hung over George's arm, and her long, wet braid dripped as
it trailed behind them. George laughed to himself every few minutes till
they got near the club-house. Then he looked very sober, and Mabel
Blossom knew her cue had come, the way it does to actresses, and she let
out a wail that almost made Kittie sit up. It was 'most too much of a
one, and Mr. Morgan advised her to "tone it down a little," because, he
said, if she didn't they'd probably have Kittie buried before she could
explain. But of course Mabel had not been prepared and had not had any
practice. She muffled her sobs after that, and they sounded lots better.
People began to rush from the club-house, and get blankets and whiskey,
and telephone for doctors and for Kittie's family, and things got so
exciting that nobody paid any attention to Mabel. All she had to do was
to mop her eyes occasionally and keep a sharp lookout for Josephine; for
of course, being an ardent student of life, like Maudie and me, she did
not want to miss what came next.

Pretty soon a horse galloped up, all foaming at the mouth, and he was
pulled back on his haunches, and Josephine and Mr. James jumped out of
the buggy and rushed in, and there was more excitement. When George saw
them coming he turned pale, Mabel said, and hurried off to change his
clothes. One woman looked after him and said, "As modest as he is
brave," and cried over it. When Josephine and Mr. James came in there
was more excitement, and Kittie opened one eye and shut it again right
off, and the doctor said she was all right except for the shock, and her
father and Josephine cried, so Mabel didn't have to any more. She was
glad, too, I can tell you.

They put Kittie to bed in a room at the club, for the doctor said she
was such a high-strung child it would be wise to keep her perfectly
quiet for a few hours and take precautions against pneumonia. Then
Josephine went around asking for Mr. Morgan.

By and by he came down, in dry clothes but looking dreadfully
uncomfortable. Mabel said she could imagine how he felt. Josephine was
standing by the open fire when he entered the room, and no one else was
there but Mabel. Josephine went right to him and put her arms around his
neck.

"Dearest, dearest!" she said. "How can I ever thank you?" Her voice was
very low, but Mabel heard it. George said right off, "There is a way."
That shows how quick and clever he is, for some men might not think of
it. Then Mabel Blossom left the room, with slow, reluctant feet, and
went up-stairs to Kittie.

That's why Mabel has just gone to Kittie's home for a few days. She and
Kittie are to be flower-maids at Josephine's wedding. I hope it is not
necessary for me to explain to my intelligent readers that her husband
will be George Morgan. Kittie says he confessed the whole thing to
Josephine, and she forgave him, and said she would marry him anyhow; but
she explained that she only did it on Kittie's account. She said she did
not know to what lengths the child might go next.

So my young friends have gone to mingle in scenes of worldly gayety,
and I sit here in the twilight looking at the evening star and writing
about love. How true it is that the pen is mightier than the sword!
Gayety is well in its place, but the soul of the artist finds its
happiness in work and solitude. I hope Josephine will realize, though,
why I cannot describe her wedding. Of course no artist of delicate
sensibilities could describe a wedding when she hadn't been asked to it.

Poor Josephine! It seems very, very sad to me that she is marrying thus
late in life and only on Kittie's account. Why, oh, why could she not
have wed when she was young and love was in her heart!



The Wizard's Touch

BY ALICE BROWN


Jerome Wilmer sat in the garden, painting in a background, with the
carelessness of ease. He seemed to be dabbing little touches at the
canvas, as a spontaneous kind of fun not likely to result in anything
serious, save, perhaps, the necessity of scrubbing them off afterwards,
like a too adventurous child. Mary Brinsley, in her lilac print, stood a
few paces away, the sun on her hair, and watched him.

"Paris is very becoming to you," she said at last.

"What do you mean?" asked Wilmer, glancing up, and then beginning to
consider her so particularly that she stepped aside, her brows knitted,
with an admonishing,

"Look out! you'll get me into the landscape."

"You're always in the landscape. What do you mean about Paris?"

"You look so--so travelled, so equal to any place, and Paris in
particular because it's the finest."

Other people also had said that, in their various ways. He had the
distinction set by nature upon a muscular body and a rather small head,
well poised. His hair, now turning gray, grew delightfully about the
temples, and though it was brushed back in the style of a man who never
looks at himself twice when once will do, it had a way of seeming
entirely right. His brows were firm, his mouth determined, and the close
pointed beard brought his face to a delicate finish. Even his clothes,
of the kind that never look new, had fallen into lines of easy use.

"You needn't guy me," he said, and went on painting. But he flashed his
sudden smile at her. "Isn't New England becoming to me, too?"

"Yes, for the summer. It's over-powered. In the winter Aunt Celia calls
you 'Jerry Wilmer.' She's quite topping then. But the minute you appear
with European labels on your trunks and that air of speaking foreign
lingo, she gives out completely. Every time she sees your name in the
paper she forgets you went to school at the Academy and built the fires.
She calls you 'our boarder' then, for as much as a week and a half."

"Quit it, Mary," said he, smiling at her again.

"Well," said Mary, yet without turning, "I must go and weed a while."

"No," put in Wilmer, innocently; "he won't be over yet. He had a big
mail. I brought it to him."

Mary blushed, and made as if to go. She was a woman of thirty-five, well
poised, and sweet through wholesomeness. Her face had been cut on a
regular pattern, and then some natural influence had touched it up
beguilingly with contradictions. She swung back, after her one tentative
step, and sobered.

"How do you think he is looking?" she asked.

"Prime."

"Not so--"

"Not so morbid as when I was here last summer," he helped her out. "Not
by any means. Are you going to marry him, Mary?" The question had only a
civil emphasis, but a warmer tone informed it. Mary grew pink under the
morning light, and Jerome went on: "Yes, I have a perfect right to talk
about it, I don't travel three thousand miles every summer to ask you to
marry me without earning some claim to frankness. I mentioned that to
Marshby himself. We met at the station, you remember, the day I came. We
walked down together. He spoke about my sketching, and I told him I had
come on my annual pilgrimage, to ask Mary Brinsley to marry me."

"Jerome!"

"Yes, I did. This is my tenth pilgrimage. Mary, will you marry me?"

"No," said Mary, softly, but as if she liked him very much. "No,
Jerome."

Wilmer squeezed a tube on his palette and regarded the color frowningly.
"Might as well, Mary," said he. "You'd have an awfully good time in
Paris."

She was perfectly still, watching him, and he went on:

"Now you're thinking if Marshby gets the consulate you'll be across the
water anyway, and you could run down to Paris and see the sights. But it
wouldn't be the same thing. It's Marshby you like, but you'd have a
better time with me."

"It's a foregone conclusion that the consulship will be offered him,"
said Mary. Her eyes were now on the path leading through the garden and
over the wall to the neighboring house where Marshby lived.

"Then you will marry and go with him. Ah, well, that's finished. I
needn't come another summer. When you are in Paris, I can show you the
boulevards and cafés."

"It is more than probable he won't accept the consulship."

"Why?" He held his palette arrested in mid-air and stared at her.

"He is doubtful of himself--doubtful whether he is equal to so
responsible a place."

"Bah! it's not an embassy."

"No; but he fancies he has not the address, the social gifts--in fact,
he shrinks from it." Her face had taken on a soft distress; her eyes
appealed to him. She seemed to be confessing, for the other man,
something that might well be misunderstood. Jerome, ignoring the flag of
her discomfort, went on painting, to give her room for confidence.

"Is it that old plague-spot?" he asked. "Just what aspect does it bear
to him? Why not talk freely about it?"

"It is the old remorse. He misunderstood his brother when they two were
left alone in the world. He forced the boy out of evil associations when
he ought to have led him. You know the rest of it. The boy was
desperate. He killed himself."

"When he was drunk. Marshby wasn't responsible."

"No, not directly. But you know that kind of mind. It follows hidden
causes. That's why his essays are so good. Anyway, it has crippled him.
It came when he was too young, and it marked him for life. He has an
inveterate self-distrust."

"Ah, well," said Winner, including the summer landscape in a wave of his
brush, "give up the consulship. Let him give it up. It isn't as if he
hadn't a roof. Settle down in his house there, you two, and let him
write his essays, and you--just be happy."

She ignored her own part in the prophecy completely and finally. "It
isn't the consulship as the consulship," she responded. "It is the life
abroad I want for him. It would give him--well, it would give him what
it has given you. His work would show it." She spoke hotly, and at once
Jerome saw himself envied for his brilliant cosmopolitan life, the
bounty of his success fairly coveted for the other man. It gave him a
curious pang. He felt, somehow, impoverished, and drew his breath more
meagrely. But the actual thought in his mind grew too big to be
suppressed, and he stayed his hand to look at her.

"That's not all," he said.

"All what?"

"That's not the main reason why you want him to go. You think if he
really asserted himself, really knocked down the spectre of his old
distrust and stamped on it, he would be a different man. If he had once
proved himself, as we say of younger chaps, he could go on proving."

"No," she declared, in nervous loyalty. She was like a bird fluttering
to save her nest. "No! You are wrong. I ought not to have talked about
him at all. I shouldn't to anybody else. Only, you are so kind."

"It's easy to be kind," said Jerome, gently, "when there's nothing else
left us."

She stood wilfully swaying a branch of the tendrilled arbor, and, he
subtly felt, so dissatisfied with herself for her temporary disloyalty
that she felt alien to them both: Marshby because she had wronged him by
admitting another man to this intimate knowledge of him, and the other
man for being her accomplice.

"Don't be sorry," he said, softly. "You haven't been naughty."

But she had swung round to some comprehension of what he had a right to
feel.

"It makes one selfish," she said, "to want--to want things to come out
right."

"I know. Well, can't we make them come out right? He is sure of the
consulship?"

"Practically."

"You want to be assured of his taking it."

She did not answer; but her face lighted, as if to a new appeal. Jerome
followed her look along the path. Marshby himself was coming. He was no
weakling. He swung along easily with the stride of a man accustomed to
using his body well. He had not, perhaps, the urban air, and yet there
was nothing about him which would not have responded at once to a more
exacting civilization. Jerome knew his face,--knew it from their college
days together and through these annual visits of his own; but now, as
Marshby approached, the artist rated him not so much by the friendly as
the professional eye. He saw a man who looked the scholar and the
gentleman, keen though not imperious of glance. His visage, mature even
for its years, had suffered more from emotion than from deeds or the
assaults of fortune. Marshby had lived the life of thought, and,
exaggerating action, had failed to fit himself to any form of it. Wilmer
glanced at his hands, too, as they swung with his walk, and then
remembered that the professional eye had already noted them and laid
their lines away for some suggestive use. As he looked, Marshby stopped
in his approach, caught by the singularity of a gnarled tree limb. It
awoke in him a cognizance of nature's processes, and his face lighted
with the pleasure of it.

"So you won't marry me?" asked Wilmer, softly, in that pause.

"Don't!" said Mary.

"Why not, when you won't tell whether you're engaged to him or not? Why
not, anyway? If I were sure you'd be happier with me, I'd snatch you out
of his very maw. Yes, I would. Are you sure you like him, Mary?"

The girl did not answer, for Marshby had started again. Jerome got the
look in her face, and smiled a little, sadly.

"Yes," he said, "you're sure."

Mary immediately felt unable to encounter them together. She gave
Marshby a good-morning, and, to his bewilderment, made some excuse about
her weeding and flitted past him on the path. His eyes followed her, and
when they came back to Wilmer the artist nodded brightly.

"I've just asked her," he said.

"Asked her?" Marshby was about to pass him, pulling out his glasses and
at the same time peering at the picture with the impatience of his
near-sighted look.

"There, don't you do that!" cried Jerome, stopping, with his brush in
air. "Don't you come round and stare over my shoulder. It makes me
nervous ad the devil. Step back there--there by that mullein. So! I've
got to face my protagonist. Yes, I've been asking her to marry me."

Marshby stiffened. His head went up, his jaw tightened. He looked the
jealous ire of the male.

"What do you want me to stand here for?" he asked, irritably.

"But she refused me," said Wilmer, cheerfully. "Stand still, that's a
good fellow. I'm using you."

Marshby had by an effort pulled himself together. He dismissed Mary from
his mind, as he wished to drive her from the other man's speech.

"I've been reading the morning paper on your exhibition," he said,
bringing out the journal from his pocket. "They can't say enough about
you."

"Oh, can't they! Well, the better for me. What are they pleased to
discover?"

"They say you see round corners and through deal boards. Listen." He
struck open the paper and read: "'A man with a hidden crime upon his
soul will do well to elude this greatest of modern magicians. The man
with a secret tells it the instant he sits down before Jerome Wilmer.
Wilmer does not paint faces, brows, hands. He paints hopes, fears, and
longings. If we could, in our turn, get to the heart of his mystery! If
we could learn whether he says to himself: "I see hate in that face,
hypocrisy, greed. I will paint them. That man is not man, but cur. He
shall fawn on my canvas." Or does he paint through a kind of inspired
carelessness, and as the line obeys the eye and hand, so does the
emotion live in the line?'"

"Oh, gammon!" snapped Wilmer.

"Well, do you?" said Marshby, tossing the paper to the little table
where Mary's work-box stood.

"Do I what? Spy and then paint, or paint and find I've spied? Oh, I
guess I plug along like any other decent workman. When it comes to that,
how do you write your essays?"

"I! Oh! That's another pair of sleeves. Your work is colossal. I'm still
on cherry-stones."

"Well," said Wilmer, with slow incisiveness, "you've accomplished one
thing I'd sell my name for. You've got Mary Brinsley bound to you so
fast that neither lure nor lash can stir her. I've tried it--tried Paris
even, the crudest bribe there is. No good! She won't have me."

At her name, Marshby straightened again, and there was fire in his eye.
Wilmer, sketching him in, seemed to gain distinct impulse from the pose,
and worked the faster.

"Don't move," he ordered. "There, that's right. So, you see, you're the
successful chap. I'm the failure. She won't have me." There was such
feeling in his tone that Marshby's expression softened comprehendingly.
He understood a pain that prompted even such a man to rash avowal.

"I don't believe we'd better speak of her," he said, in awkward
kindliness.

"I want to," returned Wilmer. "I want to tell you how lucky you are."

Again that shade of introspective bitterness clouded Marshby's face.
"Yes," said he, involuntarily. "But how about her? Is _she_ lucky?"

"Yes," replied Jerome, steadily. "She's got what she wants. She won't
worship you any the less because you don't worship yourself. That's the
mad way they have--women. It's an awful challenge. You've got a fight
before you, if you don't refuse it.".

"God!" groaned Marshby to himself, "it is a fight. I can't refuse it."

Wilmer put his question without mercy. "Do you want to?"

"I want her to be happy," said Marshby, with a simple humility afar from
cowardice. "I want her to be safe. I don't see how anybody could be
safe--with me."

"Well," pursued Wilmer, recklessly, "would she be safe with me?"

"I think so," said Marshby, keeping an unblemished dignity. "I have
thought that for a good many years."

"But not happy?"

"No, not happy. She would--We have been together so long."

"Yes, she'd miss you. She'd die of homesickness. Well!" He sat
contemplating Marshby with his professional stare; but really his mind
was opened for the first time to the full reason for Mary's unchanging
love. Marshby stood there so quiet, so oblivious of himself in
comparison with unseen things, so much a man from head to foot, that he
justified the woman's loyal passion as nothing had before. "Shall you
accept the consulate?" Wilmer asked, abruptly.

Brought face to face with fact, Marshby's pose slackened. He drooped
perceptibly. "Probably not," he said. "No, decidedly not."

Wilmer swore under his breath, and sat, brows bent, marvelling at the
change in him. The man's infirmity of will had blighted him. He was so
truly another creature that not even a woman's unreasoning championship
could pull him into shape again.

Mary Brinsley came swiftly down the path, trowel in one hand and her
basket of weeds in the other. Wilmer wondered if she had been glancing
up from some flowery screen and read the story of that altered posture.
She looked sharply anxious, like a mother whose child is threatened.
Jerome shrewdly knew that Marshby's telltale attitude was no unfamiliar
one.

"What have you been saying?" she asked, in laughing challenge, yet with
a note of anxiety underneath.

"I'm painting him in," said Wilmer; but as she came toward him he turned
the canvas dexterously. "No," said he, "no. I've got my idea from this.
To-morrow Marshby's going to sit."

That was all he would say, and Mary put it aside as one of his
pleasantries made to fit the hour. But next day he set up a big canvas
in the barn that served him as workroom, and summoned Marshby from his
books. He came dressed exactly right, in his every-day clothes that had
comfortable wrinkles in them, and easily took his pose. For all his
concern over the inefficiency of his life, as a life, he was entirely
without self-consciousness in his personal habit. Jerome liked that, and
began to like him better as he knew him more. A strange illuminative
process went on in his mind toward the man as Mary saw him, and more and
more he nursed a fretful sympathy with her desire to see Marshby tuned
up to some pitch that should make him livable to himself. It seemed a
cruelty of nature that any man should so scorn his own company and yet
be forced to keep it through an allotted span. In that sitting Marshby
was at first serious and absent-minded. Though his body was obediently
there, the spirit seemed to be busy somewhere else.

"Head up!" cried Jerome at last, brutally. "Heavens, man, don't skulk!"

Marshby straightened under the blow. It hit harder, as Jerome meant it
should, than any verbal rallying. It sent the man back over his own
life to the first stumble in it.

"I want you to look as if you heard drums and fife," Jerome explained,
with one of his quick smiles, that always wiped out former injury.

But the flush was not yet out of Marshby's face, and he answered,
bitterly, "I might run."

"I don't mind your looking as if you'd like to run and knew you
couldn't," said Jerome, dashing in strokes now in a happy certainty.

"Why couldn't I?" asked Marshby, still from that abiding scorn of his
own ways.

"Because you can't, that's all. Partly because you get the habit of
facing the music. I should like--" Wilmer had an unconsidered way of
entertaining his sitters, without much expenditure to himself; he
pursued a fantastic habit of talk to keep their blood moving, and did it
with the eye of the mind unswervingly on his work. "If I were you, I'd
do it. I'd write an essay on the muscular habit of courage. Your coward
is born weak-kneed. He shouldn't spill himself all over the place trying
to put on the spiritual make-up of a hero. He must simply strengthen
his knees. When they'll take him anywhere he requests, without buckling,
he wakes up and finds himself a field-marshal. _Voilà!_"

"It isn't bad," said Marshby, unconsciously straightening. "Go ahead,
Jerome. Turn us all into field-marshals."

"Not all," objected Wilmer, seeming to dash his brush at the canvas with
the large carelessness that promised his best work. "The jobs wouldn't
go round. But I don't feel the worse for it when I see the recruity
stepping out, promotion in his eye."

After the sitting, Wilmer went yawning forward, and with a hand on
Marshby's shoulder, took him to the door.

"Can't let you look at the thing," he said, as Marshby gave one backward
glance. "That's against the code. Till it's done, no eye touches it but
mine and the light of heaven."

Marshby had no curiosity. He smiled, and thereafter let the picture
alone, even to the extent of interested speculation. Mary had
scrupulously absented herself from that first sitting; but after it was
over and Marshby had gone home, Wilmer found her in the garden, under an
apple-tree, shelling pease. He lay down on the ground, at a little
distance, and watched her. He noted the quick, capable turn of her
wrist and the dexterous motion of the brown hands as they snapped out
the pease, and he thought how eminently sweet and comfortable it would
be to take this bit of his youth back to France with him, or even to
give up France and grow old with her at home.

"Mary," said he, "I sha'n't paint any picture of you this summer."

Mary laughed, and brushed back a yellow lock with the back of her hand.
"No," said she, "I suppose not. Aunt Celia spoke of it yesterday. She
told me the reason."

"What is Aunt Celia's most excellent theory?"

"She said I'm not so likely as I used to be."

"No," said Jerome, not answering her smile in the community of mirth
they always had over Aunt Celia's simple speech. He rolled over on the
grass and began to make a dandelion curl. "No, that's not it. You're a
good deal likelier than you used to be. You're all possibilities now. I
could make a Madonna out of you, quick as a wink. No, it's because I've
decided to paint Marshby instead."

Mary's hands stilled themselves, and she looked at him anxiously. "Why
are you doing that?" she asked.

"Don't you want the picture?"

"What are you going to do with it?"

"Give it to you, I guess. For a wedding-present, Mary."

"You mustn't say those things," said Mary, gravely. She went on working,
but her face was serious.

"It's queer, isn't it," remarked Wilmer, after a pause, "this notion
you've got that Marshby's the only one that could possibly do? I began
asking you first."

"Please!" said Mary. Her eyes were full of tears. That was rare for her,
and Wilmer saw it meant a shaken poise. She was less certain to-day of
her own fate. It made her more responsively tender toward his. He sat up
and looked at her.

"No," he said. "No. I won't ask you again. I never meant to. Only I have
to speak of it once in a while. We should have such a tremendously good
time together."

"We have a tremendously good time now," said Mary, the smile coming
while she again put up the back of her hand and brushed her eyes. "When
you're good."

"When I help all the other little boys at the table, and don't look at
the nice heart-shaped cake I want myself? It's frosted, and got little
pink things all over the top. There! don't drop the corners of your
mouth. If I were asked what kind of a world I'd like to live in, I'd say
one where the corners of Mary's mouth keep quirked up all the time.
Let's talk about Marshby's picture. It's going to be your Marshby."

"What do you mean?"

"Not Marshby's Marshby--yours."

"You're not going to play some dreadful joke on him?" Her eyes were
blazing under knotted brows.

"Mary!" Wilmer spoke gently, and though the tone recalled her, she could
not forbear at once, in her hurt pride and loyalty.

"You're not going to put him into any masquerade?--to make him anything
but what he is?"

"Mary, don't you think that's a little hard on an old chum?"

"I can't help it." Her cheeks were hot, though now it was with shame.
"Yes, I am mean, jealous, envious. I see you with everything at your
feet--"

"Not quite everything," said Jerome. "I know it makes you hate me."

"No! no!" The real woman had awakened in her, and she turned to him in a
whole-hearted honesty. "Only, they say you do such wizard things when
you paint. I never saw any of your pictures, you know, except the ones
you did of me. And they're not _me_. They're lovely--angels with women's
clothes on. Aunt Celia says if I looked like that I'd carry all before
me. But, you see, you've always been--partial to me."

"And you think I'm not partial to Marshby?"

"It isn't that. It's only that they say you look inside people and drag
out what is there. And inside him--oh, you'd see his hatred of himself!"
The tears were rolling unregarded down her face.

"This is dreadful," said Wilmer, chiefly to himself. "Dreadful."

"There!" said Mary, drearily, emptying the pods from her apron into the
basket at her side. "I suppose I've done it now. I've spoiled the
picture."

"No," returned Jerome, thoughtfully, "you haven't spoiled the picture.
Really I began it with a very definite conception of what I was going to
do. It will be done in that way or not at all."

"You're very kind," said Mary, humbly. "I didn't mean to act like
this."

"No,"--he spoke out of a maze of reflection, not looking at her. "You
have an idea he's under the microscope with me. It makes you nervous."

She nodded, and then caught herself up.

"There's nothing you mightn't see," she said, proudly, ignoring her
previous outburst. "You or anybody else, even with a microscope."

"No, of course not. Only you'd say microscopes aren't fair. Well,
perhaps they're not. And portrait-painting is a very simple matter. It's
not the black art. But if I go on with this, you are to let me do it in
my own way. You're not to look at it."

"Not even when you're not at work?"

"Not once, morning, noon, or night, till I invite you to. You were
always a good fellow, Mary. You'll keep your word."

"No, I won't look at it," said Mary.

Thereafter she stayed away from the barn, not only when he was painting,
but at other times, and Wilmer missed her. He worked very fast, and made
his plans for sailing, and Aunt Celia loudly bemoaned his stinginess in
cutting short the summer. One day, after breakfast, he sought out Mary
again in the garden. She was snipping Coreopsis for the dinner table,
but she did it absently, and Jerome noted the heaviness of her eyes.

"What's the trouble?" he asked, abruptly, and she was shaken out of her
late constraint. She looked up at him with a piteous smile.

"Nothing much," she said. "It doesn't matter. I suppose it's fate. He
has written his letter."

"Marshby?"

"You knew he got his appointment?"

"No; I saw something had him by the heels, but he's been still as a
fish."

"It came three days ago. He has decided not to take it. And it will
break his heart."

"It will break your heart," Wilmer opened his lips to say; but he dared
not jostle her mood of unconsidered frankness.

"I suppose I expected it," she went on. "I did expect it. Yet he's been
so different lately, it gave me a kind of hope."

Jerome started. "How has he been different?" he asked.

"More confident, less doubtful of himself. It's not anything he has
said. It's in his speech, his walk. He even carries his head
differently, as if he had a right to. Well, we talked half the night
last night, and he went home to write the letter. He promised me not to
mail it till he'd seen me once more; but nothing will make any
difference."

"You won't beseech him?"

"No. He is a man. He must decide."

"You won't tell him what depends on it!"

"Nothing depends on it," said Mary, calmly. "Nothing except his own
happiness. I shall find mine in letting him accept his life according to
his own free will."

There was something majestic in her mental attitude. Wilmer felt how
noble her maturity was to be, and told himself, with a thrill of pride,
that he had done well to love her.

"Marshby is coming," he said. "I want to show you both the picture."

Mary shook her head. "Not this morning," she told him, and he could see
how meagre canvas and paint must seem to her after her vision of the
body of life. But he took her hand.

"Come," he said, gently; "you must."

Still holding her flowers, she went with him, though her mind abode with
her lost cause. Marshby halted when he saw them coming, and Jerome had
time to look at him. The man held himself wilfully erect, but his face
betrayed him. It was haggard, smitten. He had not only met defeat; he
had accepted it. Jerome nodded to him and went on before them to the
barn. The picture stood there in a favoring light. Mary caught her
breath sharply, and then all three were silent. Jerome stood there
forgetful of them, his eyes on his completed work, and for the moment he
had in it the triumph of one who sees intention, brought to fruitage
under perfect auspices. It meant more to him, that recognition, than any
glowing moment of his youth. The scroll of his life unrolled before him,
and he saw his past, as other men acclaimed it, running into the future
ready for his hand to make. A great illumination touched the days to
come. Brilliant in promise, they were yet barren of hope. For as surely
as he had been able to set this seal on Mary's present, he saw how the
thing itself would separate them. He had painted her ideal of Marshby;
but whenever in the future she should nurse the man through the mental
sickness bound always to delay his march, she would remember this moment
with a pang, as something Jerome had dowered him with, not something he
had attained unaided. Marshby faced them from the canvas, erect,
undaunted, a soldier fronting the dawn, expectant of battle, yet with no
dread of its event. He was not in any sense alien to himself. He
dominated, not by crude force, but through the sustained inward strength
of him. It was not youth Jerome had given him. There was maturity in the
face. It had its lines--the lines that are the scars of battle; but
somehow not one suggested, even to the doubtful mind, a battle lost.
Jerome turned from the picture to the man himself, and had his own
surprise. Marshby was transfigured. He breathed humility and hope. He
stirred at Wilmer's motion.

"Am I"--he glowed--"could I have looked like that?" Then in the
poignancy of the moment he saw how disloyal to the moment it was even to
hint at what should have been, without snapping the link now into the
welding present. He straightened himself and spoke brusquely, but to
Mary:

"I'll go back and write that letter. Here is the one I wrote last
night."

He took it from his pocket, tore it in two, and gave it to her. Then he
turned away and walked with the soldier's step home. Jerome could not
look at her. He began moving back the picture.

"There!" he said, "it's finished. Better make up your mind where you'll
have it put. I shall be picking up my traps this morning."

Then Mary gave him his other surprise. Her hands were on his shoulders.
Her eyes, full of the welling gratitude that is one kind of love, spoke
like her lips.

"Oh!" said she, "do you think I don't know what you've done? I couldn't
take it from anybody else. I couldn't let him take it. It's like
standing beside him in battle; like lending him your horse, your sword.
It's being a comrade. It's helping him fight. And he _will_ fight.
That's the glory of it!"



The Bitter Cup

BY CHARLES B. DE CAMP


Clara Leeds sat by the open window of her sitting-room with her fancy
work. Her hair was done up in an irreproachable style, and her
finger-nails were carefully manicured and pink like little shells. She
had a slender waist, and looked down at it from time to time with
satisfied eyes. At the back of her collar was a little burst of chiffon;
for chiffon so arranged was the fashion. She cast idle glances at the
prospect from the window. It was not an alluring one--a row of brick
houses with an annoying irregularity of open and closed shutters.

There was the quiet rumble of a carriage in the street, and Clara Leeds
leaned forward, her eyes following the vehicle until to look further
would have necessitated leaning out of the window. There were two women
in the carriage, both young and soberly dressed. To certain eyes they
might have appeared out of place in a carriage, and yet, somehow, it was
obvious that it was their own. Clara Leeds resumed her work, making
quick, jerky stitches.

"Clara Leeds," she murmured, as if irritated. She frowned and then
sighed. "If only--if only it was something else; if it only had two
syllables...." She put aside her work and went and stood before the
mirror of her dresser. She looked long at her face. It was fresh and
pretty, and her blue eyes, in spite of their unhappy look, were clear
and shining. She fingered a strand of hair, and then cast critical
sidelong glances at her profile. She smoothed her waist-line with a
movement peculiar to women. Then she tilted the glass and regarded the
reflection from head to foot.

"Oh, what is it?" she demanded, distressed, of herself in the glass. She
took up her work again.

"They don't seem to care how they look and ... they do wear shabby
gloves and shoes." So her thoughts ran. "But they are the Rockwoods and
they don't have to care. It must be so easy for them; they only have to
visit the Day Nursery, and the Home for Incurables, and some old, poor,
sick people. They never have to meet them and ask them to dinner. They
just say a few words and leave some money or things in a nice way, and
they can go home and do what they please." Clara Leeds's eyes rested
unseeingly on the house opposite. "It must be nice to have a rector ...
he is such an intellectual-looking man, so quiet and dignified; just the
way a minister should be, instead of like Mr. Copple, who tries to be
jolly and get up sociables and parlor meetings." There were tears in the
girl's eyes.

A tea-bell rang, and Clara went down-stairs to eat dinner with her
father. He had just come in and was putting on a short linen coat.
Clara's mother was dead. She was the only child at home, and kept house
for her father.

"I suppose you are all ready for the lawn-tennis match this afternoon?"
said Mr. Leeds to his daughter. "Mr. Copple said you were going to play
with him. My! that young man is up to date. Think of a preacher getting
up a lawn-tennis club! Why, when I was a young man that would have
shocked people out of their boots. But it's broad-minded, it's
broad-minded," with a wave of the hand. "I like to see a man with ideas,
and if lawn-tennis will help to keep our boys out of sin's pathway,
why, then, lawn-tennis is a strong, worthy means of doing the Lord's
work."

"Yes," said Clara. "Did Mr. Copple say he would call for me? It isn't
necessary."

"Oh yes, yes," said her father; "he said to tell you he would be around
here at two o'clock. I guess I'll have to go over myself and see part of
the athletics. We older folks ain't quite up to taking a hand in the
game, but we can give Copple our support by looking in on you and
cheering on the good work."

After dinner Mr. Leeds changed the linen coat for a cutaway and started
back to his business. Clara went up-stairs and put on a short skirt and
tennis shoes. She again surveyed herself in the mirror. The skirt
certainly hung just like the model. She sighed and got out her
tennis-racquet. Then she sat down and read in a book of poems that she
was very fond of.

At two o'clock the bell jangled, and Clara opened the door for Mr.
Copple herself. The clergyman was of slight build, and had let the hair
in front of his ears grow down a little way on his cheeks. He wore a
blue yachting-cap, and white duck trousers which were rolled up and
displayed a good deal of red and black sock. For a moment Clara imaged a
clear-cut face with grave eyes above a length of clerical waistcoat, on
which gleamed a tiny gold cross suspended from a black cord.

"I guess we might as well go over," she said. "I'm all ready."

The clergyman insisted on carrying Clara's racquet. "You are looking
very well," he said, somewhat timidly, but with admiring eyes. "But
perhaps you don't feel as much like playing as you look."

"Oh yes, I do indeed," replied Clara, inwardly resenting the solicitude
in his tone.

They set out, and the clergyman appeared to shake his mind free of a
preoccupation.

"I hope all the boys will be around," he said, with something of
anxiety. "They need the exercise. All young, active fellows ought to
have it. I spoke to Mr. Goodloe and Mr. Sharp and urged them to let Tom
and Fred Martin off this afternoon. I think they will do it. Ralph
Carpenter, I'm afraid, can't get away from the freight-office, but I am
in hopes that Mr. Stiggins can take his place. Did you know that Mrs.
Thompson has promised to donate some lemonade?"

"That's very nice," said Clara. "It's a lovely day for the match." She
was thinking, "What short steps he takes!"

After some silent walking the clergyman said: "I don't believe you know,
Miss Leeds, how much I appreciate your taking part in these tennis
matches. Somehow I feel that it is asking a great deal of you, for I
know that you have--er--so many interests of your own--that is, you are
different in many ways from most of our people. I want you to know that
I am grateful for the influence--your cooperation, you know--"

"Please, Mr. Copple, don't mention it," said Clara, hurriedly. "I
haven't so many interests as you imagine, and I am not any different
from the rest of the people. Not at all." If there was any hardness in
the girl's tone the clergyman did not appear to notice it. They had
reached their destination.

The tennis-court was on the main street just beyond the end of the
business section. It was laid out on a vacant lot between two brick
houses. A wooden sign to one side of the court announced, "First ----
Church Tennis Club." When Clara and Mr. Copple arrived at the court
there were a number of young people gathered in the lot. Most of them
had tennis-racquets, those of the girls being decorated with bows of
yellow, black, and lavender ribbon. Mr. Copple shook hands with
everybody, and ran over the court several times, testing the consistency
of the earth.

"Everything is capital!" he cried.

Clara Leeds bowed to the others, shaking hands with only one or two.
They appeared to be afraid of her. The finals in the men's singles were
between Mr. Copple and Elbert Dunklethorn, who was called "Ellie." He
wore a very high collar, and as his shoes had heels, he ran about the
court on his toes.

Clara, watching him, recalled her father's words at dinner. "How will
this save that boy from sin's pathway?" she thought. She regarded the
clergyman; she recognized his zeal. But why, why must she be a part of
this--what was it?--this system of saving people and this kind of
people? If she could only go and be good to poor and unfortunate people
whom she wouldn't have to know. Clara glanced toward the street. "I hope
they won't come past," she said to herself.

The set in which Clara and the clergyman were partners was the most
exciting of the afternoon. The space on either side of the court was
quite filled with spectators. Some of the older people who had come with
the lengthening shadows sat on chairs brought from the kitchens of the
adjoining houses. Among them was Mr. Leeds, his face animated. Whenever
a ball went very high up or very far down the lot, he cried, "Hooray!"
Clara was at the net facing the street, when the carriage she had
observed in the morning stopped in view, and the two soberly dressed
women leaned forward to watch the play. Clara felt her face burn, and
when they cried "game," she could not remember whether the clergyman and
she had won it or lost it. She was chiefly conscious of her father's
loud "hoorays." With the end of the play the carriage was driven on.

Shortly before supper-time that evening Clara went to the drug-store to
buy some stamps. One of the Misses Rockwood was standing by the
show-case waiting for the clerk to wrap up a bottle. Clara noted the
scantily trimmed hat and the scuffed gloves. She nodded in response to
Miss Rockwood's bow. They had met but once.

"That was a glorious game of tennis you were having this afternoon,"
said Miss Rockwood, with a warm smile. "My sister and I should like to
have seen more of it. You all seemed to be having such a good time."

"_You all_--"

Clara fumbled her change. "It's--it's good exercise," she said. That
night she cried herself to sleep.


II

The rector married the younger Miss Rockwood. To Clara Leeds the match
afforded painfully pleasurable feeling. It was so eminently fitting; and
yet it was hard to believe that any man could see anything in Miss
Rockwood. His courtship had been in keeping with the man, dignified and
yet bold. Clara had met them several times together. She always hurried
past. The rector bowed quietly. He seemed to say to all the world, "I
have chosen me a woman." His manner defied gossip; there was none that
Clara heard. This immunity of theirs distilled the more bitterness in
her heart because gossip was now at the heels of her and Mr. Copple,
following them as chickens do the feed-box. She knew it from such
transmissions as, "But doubtless Mr. Copple has already told you," or,
"You ought to know, if any one does."

It had been some time apparent to Clara that the minister held her in a
different regard from the other members of his congregation. His talks
with her were more personal; his manner was bashfully eager. He sought
to present the congeniality of their minds. Mr. Copple had a nice taste
in poetry, but somehow Clara, in after-reading, skipped those poems that
he had read aloud to her. On several occasions she knew that a
declaration was imminent. She extricated herself with a feeling of
unspeakable relief. It would not be a simple matter to refuse him. Their
relations had been peculiar, and to tell him that she did not love him
would not suffice in bringing them to an end. Mr. Copple was odious to
her. She could not have explained why clearly, yet she knew. And she
would have blushed in the attempt to explain why; it would have revealed
a detestation of her lot. Clara had lately discovered the meaning of the
word "plebeian"; more, she believed she comprehended its applicableness.
The word was a burr in her thoughts. Mr. Copple was the personification
of the word. Clara had not repulsed him. You do not do that sort of
thing in a small town. She knew intuitively that the clergyman would
not be satisfied with the statement that he was not loved. She also knew
that he would extract part, at least, of the real reason from her. It is
more painful for a lover to learn that he is not liked than that he is
not loved. Clara did not wish to cause him pain.

She was spared the necessity. The minister fell from a scaffolding on
the new church and was picked up dead.

Clara's position was pitiful. Sudden death does not grow less shocking
because of its frequency. Clara shared the common shock, but not the
common grief. Fortunately, as hers was supposed to be a peculiar grief,
she could manifest it in a peculiar way. She chose silence. The shock
had bereft her of much thought. Death had laid a hand over the mouth of
her mind. But deep down a feeling of relief swam in her heart. She gave
it no welcome, but it would take no dismissal.

About a week after the funeral, Clara, who walked out much alone, was
returning home near the outskirts of town. The houses were far apart,
and between them stretched deep lots fringed with flowered weeds
man-high. A level sun shot long golden needles through the blanched
maple-trees, and the street beneath them was filled with lemon-colored
light. The roll of a light vehicle approaching from behind grew distinct
enough to attract Clara's attention. "It is Mrs. Custer coming back from
the Poor Farm," she thought. It was Mrs. Everett Custer, who was
formerly the younger Miss Rockwood, and she was coming from the Poor
Farm. The phaeton came into Clara's sight beside her at the curb. As she
remarked it, Mrs. Custer said, in her thin, sympathetic voice, "Miss
Leeds, won't you drive with me back to town? I wish you would."

An excuse rose instinctively to Clara's lips. She was walking for
exercise. But suddenly a thought came to her, and after a moment's
hesitation, she said: "You are very kind. I am a little tired." She got
into the phaeton, and the sober horse resumed his trot down the yellow
street.

Clara's thought was: "Why shouldn't I accept? She is too well bred to
sympathize with me, and perhaps, now that I am free, I can get to know
her and show her that I am not just the same as all the rest, and
perhaps I'll get to going with her sort of people."

She listened to the rhythm of the horse's hoof-beats, and was not a
little uneasy. Mrs. Custer remarked the beauty of the late afternoon,
the glorious symphonies of color in sky and tree, in response to which
Clara said, "Yes, indeed," and, "Isn't it?" between long breaths. She
was about to essay a question concerning the Poor Farm, when Mrs. Custer
began to speak, at first faltering, in a tone that sent the blood out of
Clara's face and drew a sudden catching pain down her breast.

"I--really, Miss Leeds, I want to say something to you and I don't quite
know how to say it, and yet it is something I want very much for you to
know." Mrs. Custer's eyes looked the embarrassment of unencouraged
frankness. "I know it is presumptuous for me, almost a stranger, to
speak to you, but I feel so deeply on the matter--Everett--Mr. Custer
feels so deeply--My dear Miss Leeds, I want you to know what a grief his
loss was to us. Oh, believe me, I am not trying to sympathize with you.
I have no right to do that. But if you could know how Mr. Custer always
regarded Mr. Copple! It might mean something to you to know that. I
don't think there was a man for whom he expressed greater
admiration--than what, I mean, he expressed to me. He saw in him all
that he lacked himself. I am telling you a great deal. It is difficult
for my husband to go among men in that way--in the way _he_ did. And
yet he firmly believes that the Kingdom of God can only be brought to
men by the ministers of God going among them and being of them. He
envied Mr. Copple his ability to do that, to know his people as one of
them, to take part in their--their sports and all that. You don't know
how he envied him and admired him. And his admiration was my admiration.
He brought me to see it. I envied you, too--your opportunity to help
your people in an intimate, real way which seemed so much better than
mine. I don't know why it is my way, but I mean going about as I do, as
I did to-day to the Poor Farm. It seems so perfunctory.

"Don't misunderstand me, Miss Leeds," and Mrs. Custer laid a hand on
Clara's arm. "There is no reason why you should care what Mr. Custer and
I think about your--about our--all our very great loss. But I felt that
it must be some comfort for you to know that we, my husband and I, who
might seem indifferent--not that--say unaffected by what has
happened,--feel it very, very deeply; and to know that his life, which I
can't conceive of as finished, has left a deep, deep print on ours."

The phaeton was rolling through frequented streets. It turned a corner
as Mrs. Custer ceased speaking.

"I--I must get out here," said Clara Leeds. "You needn't drive me. It is
only a block to walk."

"Miss Leeds, forgive me--" Mrs. Custer's lips trembled with compassion.

"Oh, there isn't anything--it isn't that--good night." Clara backed down
to the street and hurried off through the dusk. And as she went tears
dropped slowly to her cheeks--cold, wretched tears.



His Sister

BY MARY APPLEWHITE BACON


"But you couldn't see me leave, mother, anyway, unless I was there to
go."

It was characteristic of the girl adjusting her new travelling-hat
before the dim little looking-glass that, while her heart was beating
with excitement which was strangely like grief, she could give herself
at once to her stepmother's inquietude and turn it aside with a jest.

Mrs. Morgan, arrested in her anxious movement towards the door, stood
for a moment taking in the reasonableness of Stella's proposition, and
then sank back to the edge of her chair. "The train gets here at two
o'clock," she argued.

Lindsay Cowart came into the room, his head bent over the satchel he had
been mending. "You had better say good-by to Stella here at the house,
mother," he suggested; "there's no use for you to walk down to the depot
in the hot sun." And then he noticed that his stepmother had on her
bonnet with the veil to it--she had married since his father's death and
was again a widow,--and, in extreme disregard of the September heat, was
dressed in the black worsted of a diagonal weave which she wore only on
occasions which demanded some special tribute to their importance.

She began smoothing out on her knees the black gloves which, in her
nervous haste to be going, she had been holding squeezed in a tight ball
in her left hand. "I can get there, I reckon," she answered with mild
brevity, and as if the young man's words had barely grazed her
consciousness.

A moment later she went to the window and, with her back to Lindsay,
poured the contents of a small leather purse into one hand and began to
count them softly.

He looked up again. "I am going to pay for Stella's ticket, mother. You
must not do it," he said.

She replaced the money immediately, but without impatience, and as
acquiescing in his assumption of his sister's future. "You have done so
much already," he apologized; but he knew that she was hurt, and chafed
to feel that only the irrational thing on his part would have seemed to
her the kind one.

Stella turned from the verdict of the dim looking-glass upon her
appearance to that of her brother's face. As she stood there in that
moment of pause, she might have been the type of all innocent and
budding life. The delicacy of floral bloom was in the fine texture of
her skin, the purple of dewy violets in her soft eyes; and this new
access of sadness, which was as yet hardly conscious of itself, had
thrown over the natural gayety of her young girlhood something akin to
the pathetic tenderness which veils the earth in the dawn of a summer
morning.

He felt it to be so, but dimly; and, young himself and already strained
by the exactions of personal desires, he answered only the look of
inquiry in her face,--"Will the merchants here never learn any taste in
dry-goods?"

Instantly he was sick with regret. Of what consequence was the too
pronounced blue of her dress in comparison with the light of happiness
in her dear face? How impossible for him to be here for even these few
hours without running counter to some cherished illusion or dear habit
of speech or manner.

"I tell you it's time we were going," Mrs. Morgan appealed, her anxiety
returning.

"We have thirty-five minutes yet," Lindsay said, looking at his watch;
but he gathered up the bags and umbrellas and followed as she moved
ponderously to the door.

Stella waited until they were out in the hall, and then looked around
the room, a poignant tenderness in her eyes. There was nothing congruous
between its shabby walls and cheap worn furniture and her own beautiful
young life; but the heart establishes its own relations, and tears rose
suddenly to her eyes and fell in quick succession. Even so brief a
farewell was broken in upon by her stepmother's call, and pressing her
wet cheek for a moment against the discolored door-facing, she hurried
out to join her.

Lindsay did not at first connect the unusual crowd in and around the
little station with his sister's departure; but the young people at once
formed a circle around her, into which one and another older person
entered and retired again with about the same expressions of
affectionate regret and good wishes. He had known them all so long! But,
except for the growing up of the younger boys and girls during his five
years of absence, they were to him still what they had been since he was
a child, affecting him still with the old depressing sense of distance
and dislike. The grammarless speech of the men, the black-rimmed nails
of Stella's schoolmaster--a good classical scholar, but heedless as he
was good-hearted,--jarred upon him, indeed, with the discomfort of a new
experience. Upon his own slender, erect figure, clothed in poor but
well-fitting garments, gentleman was written as plainly as in words,
just as idealist was written on his forehead and the other features
which thought had chiselled perhaps too finely for his years.

The brightness had come back to Stella's face, and he could not but feel
grateful to the men who had left their shops and dingy little stores to
bid her good-by, and to the placid, kindly-faced women ranged along the
settees against the wall and conversing in low tones about how she would
be missed; but the noisy flock of young people, who with their chorus of
expostulations, assurances, and prophecies seemed to make her one of
themselves, filled him with strong displeasure. He knew how foolish it
would be for him to show it, but he could get no further in his effort
at concealment than a cold silence which was itself significant enough.
A tall youth with bold and handsome features and a pretty girl in a
showy red muslin ignored him altogether, with a pride which really quite
overmatched his own; but the rest shrank back a little as he passed
looking after the checks and tickets, either cutting short their
sentences at his approach or missing the point of what they had to say.
The train seemed to him long in coming.

His stepmother moved to the end of the settee and made a place for him
at her side. "Lindsay," she said, under cover of the talk and laughter,
and speaking with some difficulty, "I hope you will be able to carry out
all your plans for yourself and Stella; but while you're making the
money, she will have to make the friends. Don't you ever interfere with
her doing it. From what little I have seen of the world, it's going to
take both to carry you through."

His face flushed a little, but he recognized her faithfulness and did it
honor. "That is true, mother, and I will remember what you say. But I
have some friends," he added, in enforced self-vindication, "in Vaucluse
if not here."

A whistle sounded up the road. She caught his hand with a swift
accession of tenderness towards his youth. "You've done the best you
could, Lindsay," she said. "I wish you well, my son, I wish you well."
There were tears in her eyes.

George Morrow and the girl in red followed Stella into the car, not at
all disconcerted at having to get off after the train was in motion.
"Don't forget me, Stella," the girl called back. "Don't you ever forget
Ida Brand!"

There was a waving of hands and handkerchiefs from the little station,
aglare in the early afternoon sun. A few moments later the train had
rounded a curve, shutting the meagre village from sight, and, to Lindsay
Cowart's thought, shutting it into a remote past as well.

He arose and began rearranging their luggage. "Do you want these?" he
inquired, holding up a bouquet of dahlias, scarlet sage, and purple
petunias, and thinking of only one answer as possible.

"I will take them," she said, as he stood waiting her formal consent to
drop them from the car window. Her voice was quite as usual, but
something in her face suggested to him that this going away from her
childhood's home might be a different thing to her from what he had
conceived it to be. He caught the touch of tender vindication in her
manner as she untied the cheap red ribbon which held the flowers
together and rearranged them into two bunches so that the jarring colors
might no longer offend, and felt that the really natural thing for her
to do was to weep, and that she only restrained her tears for his sake.
Sixteen was so young! His heart grew warm and brotherly towards her
youth and inexperience; but, after all, how infinitely better that she
should have cause for this passing sorrow.

He left her alone, but not for long. He was eager to talk with her of
the plans about which he had been writing her the two years since he
himself had been a student at Vaucluse, of the future which they should
achieve together. It seemed to him only necessary for him to show her
his point of view to have her adopt it as her own; and he believed,
building on her buoyancy and responsiveness of disposition, that nothing
he might propose would be beyond the scope of her courage.

"It may be a little lonely for you at first," he told her. "There are
only a handful of women students at the college, and all of them much
older than you; but it is your studies at last that are the really
important thing, and I will help you with them all I can. Mrs. Bancroft
will have no other lodgers and there will be nothing to interrupt our
work."

"And the money, Lindsay?" she asked, a little anxiously.

"What I have will carry us through this year. Next summer we can teach
and make almost enough for the year after. The trustees are planning to
establish a fellowship in Greek, and if they do and I can secure it--and
Professor Wayland thinks I can,--that will make us safe the next two
years until you are through."

"And then?"

He straightened up buoyantly. "Then your two years at Vassar and mine at
Harvard, with some teaching thrown in along the way, of course. And then
Europe--Greece--all the great things!"

She smiled with him in his enthusiasm. "You are used to such bold
thoughts. It is too high a flight for me all at once."

"It will not be, a year from now," he declared, confidently.

A silence fell between them, and the noise of the train made a pleasant
accompaniment to his thoughts as he sketched in detail the work of the
coming months. But always as a background to his hopes was that
honorable social position which he meant eventually to achieve, the
passion for which was a part of his Southern inheritance. Little as he
had yet participated in any interests outside his daily tasks, he had
perceived in the old college town its deeply grained traditions of birth
and custom, perceived and respected them, and discounted the more their
absence in the sorry village he had left. Sometime when he should assail
it, the exclusiveness of his new environment might beat him back
cruelly, but thus far it existed for him only as a barrier to what was
ultimately precious and desirable. One day the gates would open at his
touch, and he and the sister of his heart should enter their rightful
heritage.

The afternoon waned. He pointed outside the car window. "See how
different all this is from the part of the State which we have left," he
said. "The landscape is still rural, but what mellowness it has; because
it has been enriched by a larger, more generous human life. One can
imagine what this whole section must have been in those old days, before
the coming of war and desolation. And Vaucluse was the flower, the
centre of it all!" His eye kindled. "Some day external prosperity will
return, and then Vaucluse and her ideals will be needed more than ever;
it is she who must hold in check the commercial spirit, and dominate, as
she has always done, the material with the intellectual." There was a
noble emotion in his face, reflecting itself in the younger countenance
beside his own. Poor, young, unknown, their hearts thrilled with pride
in their State, with the possibility that they also should give to her
of their best when the opportunity should be theirs.

"It is a wonderful old town," Lindsay went on again. "Even Wayland says
so,--our Greek professor, you know." His voice thrilled with the
devotion of the hero-worshipper as he spoke the name. "He is a Harvard
man, and has seen the best of everything, and even he has felt the charm
of the place; he told me so. You will feel it, too. It is just as if the
little town and the college together had preserved in amber all that was
finest in our Southern life. And now to think you and I are to share in
all its riches!"

His early consecration to such a purpose, the toil and sacrifice by
which it had been achieved, came movingly before her; yet, mingled with
her pride in him, something within her pleaded for the things which he
rated so low. "It used to be hard for you at home, Lindsay," she said,
softly.

"Yes, it was hard." His face flushed. "I never really lived till I left
there. I was like an animal caught in a net, like a man struggling for
air. You can't know what it is to me now to be with people who are
thinking of something else than of how to make a few dollars in a
miserable country store."

"But they were good people in Bowersville, Lindsay," she urged, with
gentle loyalty.

"I am sure they were, if you say so," he agreed. "But at any rate we are
done with it all now." He laid his hand over hers. "At last I am going
to take you into our own dear world."

It was, after all, a very small world as to its actual dimensions, but
to the brother it had the largeness of opportunity, and to Stella it
seemed infinitely complex. She found security at first only in following
minutely the programme which Lindsay had laid out for her. It was his
own as well, and simple enough. Study was the supreme thing; exercise
came in as a necessity, pleasure only as the rarest incident. She took
all things cheerfully, after her nature, but after two or three months
the color began to go from her cheeks, the elasticity from her step; nor
was her class standing, though creditable, quite what her brother had
expected it to be.

Wayland detained him one day in his class-room. "Do you think your
sister is quite happy here, Cowart?" he asked.

The boy thrilled, as he always did at any special evidence of interest
from such a source, but he had never put this particular question to
himself and had no reply at hand.

"I have never thought this absolute surrender to books the wisest thing
for you," Wayland went on; "but for your sister it is impossible. She
was formed for companionship, for happiness, not for the isolation of
the scholar. Why did you not put her into one of the girls' schools of
the State, where she would have had associations more suited to her
years?" he asked, bluntly.

Lindsay could scarcely believe that he was listening to the young
professor whose scholarly attainments seemed to him the sum of what was
most desirable in life. "Our girls' colleges are very superficial," he
answered; "and even if they were not, she could get no Greek in any of
them."

"My dear boy," Wayland said, "the amount of Greek which your sister
knows or doesn't know will always be a very unimportant matter; she has
things that are so infinitely more valuable to give to the world. And
deserves so much better things for herself," he added, drawing together
his texts for the next recitation.

Lindsay returned to Mrs. Bancroft's quiet, old-fashioned house in a sort
of daze. "Stella," he said, "do you think you enter enough into the
social side of our college life?"

"No," she answered. "But I think neither of us does."

"Well, leave me out of the count. If I get through my Junior year as I
ought, I am obliged to grind; and when there is any time left, I feel
that I must have it for reading in the library. But it needn't be so
with you. Didn't an invitation come to you for the reception Friday
evening?"

Her face grew wistful. "I don't care to go to things, Lindsay, unless
you will go with me," she said.

Nevertheless, he had his way, and when once she made it possible,
opportunities for social pleasures poured in upon her. As Wayland had
said, she was formed for friendship, for joy; and that which was her own
came to her unsought. She was by nature too simple and sweet to be
spoiled by the attention she received; the danger perhaps was the less
because she missed in it all the comradeship of her brother, without
which in her eyes the best things lost something of their charm. It was
not merely personal ambition which kept him at his books; the passion of
the scholar was upon him and made him count all moments lost that were
spent away from them. Sometimes Stella sought him as he pored over them
alone, and putting her arm shyly about him, would beg that he would go
with her for a walk, or a ride on the river; but almost always his
answer was the same: "I am so busy, Stella dear; if you knew how much I
have to do you would not even ask me."

There was one interruption, indeed, which the young student never
refused. Sometimes their Greek professor dropped in at Mrs. Bancroft's
to bring or to ask for a book; sometimes, with the lovely coming of the
spring, he would join them as they were leaving the college grounds, and
lead them away into some of the woodland walks, rich in wild flowers,
that environed the little town. Such hours seemed to both brother and
sister to have a flavor, a brightness, quite beyond what ordinary life
could give. Wayland, too, must have found in them his own share of
pleasure, for he made them more frequent as the months went by.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was in the early spring of her second year at Vaucluse that the
accident occurred. The poor lad who had taken her out in the boat was
almost beside himself with grief and remorse.

"We had enjoyed the afternoon so much," he said, trying to tell how it
had happened. "I thought I had never seen her so happy, so gay,--but you
know she was that always. It was nearly sunset, and I remember how she
spoke of the light as we saw it through the open spaces of the woods and
as it slanted across the water. Farther down the river the yellow
jasmine was beginning to open. A beech-tree that leaned out over the
water was hung with it. She wanted some, and I guided the boat under the
branches. I meant to get it for her myself, but she was reaching up
after it almost before I knew it. The bough that had the finest blossoms
on it was just beyond her reach, and while I steadied the boat, she
pulled it towards her by one of the vines hanging from it. She must have
put too much weight on it--

"It all happened so quickly. I called to her to be careful, but while I
was saying the words the vine snapped and she fell back with such force
that the boat tipped, and in a second we were both in the water. I knew
I could not swim, but I hoped that the water so near the bank would be
shallow; and it was, but there was a deep hole under the roots of the
tree."

He could get no further. Poor lad! the wonder was that he had not been
drowned himself. A negro ploughing in the field near by saw the accident
and ran to his help, catching him as he was sinking for the third time.
Stella never rose after she went down; her clothing had been entangled
in the roots of the beech.

Sorrow for the young life cut off so untimely was deep and universal,
and sought to manifest itself in tender ministrations to the brother so
cruelly bereaved. But Lindsay shrank from all offices of sympathy, and
except for seeking now and then Wayland's silent companionship, bore his
grief alone.

The college was too poor to establish the fellowship in Greek, but the
adjunct professor in mathematics resigned, and young Cowart was elected
to his place, with the proviso that he give two months further study to
the subject in the summer school of some university. Wayland decided
which by taking him back with him to Cambridge, where he showed the boy
an admirable friendship.

Lindsay applied himself to his special studies with the utmost
diligence. It was impossible, moreover, that his new surroundings should
not appeal to his tastes in many directions; but in spite of his
response to these larger opportunities, his friend discerned that the
wound which the young man kept so carefully hidden had not, after all
these weeks, begun even slightly to heal.

Late on an August night, impelled as he often was to share the solitude
which Lindsay affected, he sought him at his lodgings, and not finding
him, followed what he knew was a favorite walk with the boy, and came
upon him half hidden under the shadows of an elm in the woods that
skirted Mount Auburn. "I thought you might be here," he said, taking the
place that Lindsay made for him on the seat. Many words were never
necessary between them.

The moon was full and the sky cloudless, and for some time they sat in
silence, yielding to the tranquil loveliness of the scene and to that
inner experience of the soul brooding over each, and more inscrutable
than the fathomless vault above them.

"I suppose we shall never get used to a midnight that is still and at
the same time lustrous, as this is to-night," Wayland said. "The sense
of its uniqueness is as fresh whenever it is spread before us as if we
had never seen it before."

It was but a part of what he meant. He was thinking how sorrow, the wide
sense of personal loss, was in some way like the pervasiveness, the
voiceless speech, of this shadowed radiance around them.

He drew a little nearer the relaxed and slender figure beside his own.
"It is of _her_ you are thinking, Lindsay," he said, gently, and
mentioning for the first time the young man's loss. "All that you see
seems saturated with her memory. I think it will always be so--scenes of
exceptional beauty, moments of high emotion, will always bring her
back."

The boy's response came with difficulty: "Perhaps so. I do not know. I
think the thought of her is always with me."

"If so, it should be for strength, for comfort," his friend pleaded.
"She herself brought only gladness wherever she came."

There was something unusual in his voice, something that for a moment
raised a vague questioning in Lindsay's mind; but absorbed as he was in
his own sadness, it eluded his feeble inquiry. To what Wayland had said
he could make no reply.

"Perhaps it is the apparent waste of a life so beautiful that seems to
you so intolerable--" He felt the strong man's impulse to arrest an
irrational grief, and groped for the assurance he desired. "Yet,
Lindsay, we know things are not wasted; not in the natural world, not in
the world of the spirit." But on the last words his voice lapsed
miserably, and he half rose to go.

Lindsay caught his arm and drew him back. "Don't go yet," he said,
brokenly. "I know you think it would help me if I would talk
about--Stella; if I should tell it all out to you. I thank you for being
willing to listen. Perhaps it will help me."

He paused, seeking for some words in which to express the sense of
poverty which scourged him. Of all who had loved his sister, he himself
was left poorest! Others had taken freely of her friendship, had
delighted themselves in her face, her words, her smile, had all these
things for memories. He had been separated from her, in part by the hard
conditions of their youth, and at the last, when they had been together,
by his own will. Oh, what had been her inner life during these last two
years, when it had gone on beside his own, while he was too busy to
attend?

But the self-reproach was too bitter for utterance to even the kindest
of friends. "I thought I could tell you," he said at last, "but I can't.
Oh, Professor Wayland," he cried, "there is an element in my grief that
is peculiar to itself, that no one else in sorrow ever had!"

"I think every mourner on earth would say that, Lindsay." Again the
younger man discerned the approach of a mystery, but again he left it
unchallenged.

The professor rose to his feet. "Good night," he said; "unless you will
go back with me. Even with such moonlight as this, one must sleep." He
had dropped to that kind level of the commonplace by which we spare
ourselves and one another.

    "'Where the love light never, never dies,'"

The boy's voice ringing out blithely through the drip and dampness of
the winter evening marked his winding route across the college grounds.
Lindsay Cowart, busy at his study table, listened without definite
effort and placed the singer as the lad newly come from the country. He
could have identified any other of the Vaucluse students by connections
as slight--Marchman by his whistling, tender, elusive sounds, flute
notes sublimated, heard only when the night was late and the campus
still; others by tricks of voice, fragments of laughter, by their
footfalls, even, on the narrow brick walk below his study window. Such
the easy proficiency of affection.

Attention to the lad's singing suddenly was lifted above the
subconscious. The simple melody had entangled itself in some forgotten
association of the professor's boyhood, seeking to marshal which before
him, he received the full force of the single line sung in direct
ear-shot. Like the tune, the words also became a challenge; pricked
through the unregarded heaviness in which he was plying his familiar
task, and demanded that he should name its cause.

For him the love light of his marriage had been dead so long! No, not
dead; nothing so dignified, so tragic. Burnt down, smoldered;
suffocated by the hateful dust of the commonplace. There was a touch of
contempt in the effort with which he dismissed the matter from his mind
and turned back to his work. And yet, he stopped a moment longer to
think, for him life without the light of love fell so far below its best
achievement!

The front of his desk was covered with the papers in mathematics over
which he had spent his evenings for more than a week. Most of them had
been corrected and graded, with the somewhat full comment or elucidation
here and there which had made his progress slow. He examined a
half-dozen more, and then in sheer mental revolt against the subject,
slipped them under the rubber bands with others of their kind and
dropped the neat packages out of his sight into one of the drawers of
the desk. Wayland's book on Greece, the fruit of eighteen months'
sojourn there, had come through the mail on the same day when the
calculus papers had been handed in, and he had read it through at once,
not to be teased intolerably by its invitation. He had mastered the
text, avid through the long winter night, but he picked it up again now,
and for a little while studied the sumptuous illustrations. How long
Wayland had been away from Vaucluse, how much of enrichment had come to
him in the years since he had left! He himself might have gone also, to
larger opportunities--he had chosen to remain, held by a sentiment! The
professor closed the book with a little sigh, and taking it to a small
shelf on the opposite side of the room, stood it with a half-dozen
others worthy of such association.

Returning, he got together before him the few Greek authors habitually
in hand's reach, whether handled or not, and from a compartment of his
desk took out several sheets of manuscript, metrical translations from
favorite passages in the tragedists or the short poems of the Anthology.
Like the rest of the Vaucluse professors--a mere handful they were,--he
was straitened by the hard exactions of class-room work, and the book
which he hoped sometime to publish grew slowly. How far he was in actual
miles from the men who were getting their thoughts into print, how much
farther in environment! Things which to them were the commonplaces of a
scholar's life were to him impossible luxuries; few even of their books
found their way to his shelves. At least the original sources of
inspiration were his, and sometimes he felt that his verses were not
without spirit, flavor.

He took up a little volume of Theocritus, which opened easily at the
Seventh Idyl, and began to read aloud. Half-way through the poem the
door opened and his wife entered. He did not immediately adjust himself
to the interruption, and she remained standing a few moments in the
centre of the room.

"Thank you; I believe I will be seated," she said, the sarcasm in her
words carefully excluded from her voice.

He wondered that she should find interest in so sorry a game. "I thought
you felt enough at home in here to sit down without being asked," he
said, rising, and trying to speak lightly.

She took the rocking-chair he brought for her and leaned back in it
without speaking. Her maroon-colored evening gown suggested that whoever
planned it had been somewhat straitened by economy, but it did well by
her rich complexion and creditable figure. Her features were creditable
too, the dark hair a little too heavy, perhaps, and the expression,
defined as it is apt to be when one is thirty-five, not wholly
satisfying. In truth, the countenance, like the gown, suffered a little
from economy, a sparseness of the things one loves best in a woman's
face. Half the sensitiveness belonging to her husband's eyes and mouth
would have made her beautiful.

"It is a pity the Barkers have such a bad night for their party," Cowart
said.

"The reception is at the Fieldings';" and again he felt himself rebuked.

"I'm afraid I didn't think much about the matter after you told me the
Dillinghams were coming by for you in their carriage. Fortunately
neither family holds us college people to very strict social account."

"They have their virtues, even if they are so vulgar as to be rich."

"Why, I believe I had just been thinking, before you came in, that it is
only the rich who have any virtues at all." He managed to speak
genially, but the consciousness that she was waiting for him to make
conversation, as she had waited for the chair, stiffened upon him like
frost.

He cast about for something to say, but the one interest which he would
have preferred to keep to himself was all that presented itself to his
grasp. "I have often thought," he suggested, "that if only we were in
sight of the Gulf, our landscape in early summer might not be very
unlike that of ancient Greece." She looked at him a little blankly, and
he drew one of his books nearer and began turning its leaves.

"I thought you were correcting your mathematics papers."

"I am, or have been; but I am reading Theocritus, too."

"Well, I don't see anything in a day like this to make anybody think of
summer. The dampness goes to your very marrow."

"It isn't the day; it's the poetry. That's the good of there being
poetry."

She skipped his parenthesis. "And you keep this room as cold as a
vault." Not faultfinding, but a somewhat irritating concern for his
comfort was in the complaint.

She went to the hearth and in her efficient way shook down the ashes
from the grate and heaped it with coal. A cabinet photograph of a girl
in her early teens, which had the appearance of having just been put
there, was supported against a slender glass vase. Mrs. Cowart took it
up and examined it critically. "I don't think this picture does
Arnoldina justice," she said. "One of the eyes seems to droop a little,
and the mouth looks sad. Arnoldina never did look sad."

They were on common ground now, and he could speak without constraint.
"I hadn't observed that it looked sad. She seems somehow to have got a
good deal older since September."

"She is maturing, of course." All a mother's pride and approbation, were
in the reserve of the speech. To have put more definitely her estimate
of the sweet young face would have been a clumsy thing in comparison.

Lindsay's countenance lighted up. He arose, and standing by his wife,
looked over her shoulder as she held the photograph to the light. "Do
you know, Gertrude," he said, "there is something in her face that
reminds me of Stella?"

"I don't know that I see it," she answered, indifferently, replacing the
photograph and returning to her chair. The purpose which had brought her
to the room rose to her face. "I stopped at the warehouse this
afternoon," she said, "and had a talk with father. Jamieson really goes
to Mobile--the first of next month. The place is open to you if you want
it."

"But, Gertrude, how should I possibly want it?" he expostulated.

"You would be a member of the firm. You might as well be making money as
the rest of them."

He offered no comment.

"It is not now like it was when you were made professor. The town has
become a commercial centre and its educational interests have declined.
The professors will always have their social position, of course, but
they cannot hope for anything more."

"It is not merely Vaucluse, but the South, that is passing into this
phase. But economic independence has become a necessity. When once it is
achieved, our people will turn to higher things."

"Not soon enough to benefit you and me."

"Probably not."

"Then why waste your talents on the college, when the best years of your
life are still before you?"

"I am not teaching for money, Gertrude." He hated putting into the bald
phrase his consecration to his ideals for the young men of his State; he
hated putting it into words at all; but something in his voice told her
that the argument was finished.

There was a sound of carriage wheels on the drive. He arose and began to
assist her with her wraps. "It is too bad for you to be dependent on
even such nice escorts as the Dillinghams are," he solaced, recovering
himself. "We college folk are a sorry lot."

But when she was gone, the mood for composition which an hour before had
seemed so near had escaped him, and he put away his books and
manuscript, standing for a while, a little chilled in mind and body,
before the grate and looking at the photograph on the mantel. While he
did so the haunting likeness he had seen grew more distinct and by
degrees another face overspread that of his young daughter, the face of
the sister he had loved and lost.

With a sudden impulse he crossed the room to an old-fashioned mahogany
secretary, opened its slanting lid, and unlocking with some difficulty a
small inner drawer, returned with it to his desk. Several packages of
letters tied with faded ribbon filled the small receptacle, but they
struck upon him with the strangeness of something utterly forgotten. The
pieces of ribbon had once held for him each its own association of time
or place; now he could only remember, looking down upon them with tender
gaze, that they had been Stella's, worn in her hair, or at her throat or
waist. Simple and inexpensive he saw they were. Arnoldina would not have
looked at them.

Overcoming something of reluctance, he took one of the packages from its
place. It contained the letters he had found in her writing-table after
her death, most of them written after she had come to Vaucluse by her
stepmother and the friends she had left in the village. He knew there
was nothing in any of them she would have withheld from him; in reading
them he was merely taking back something from the vanished years which,
if not looked at now, would perish utterly from earth. How affecting
they were--these utterances of true and humble hearts, written to one
equally true and good! His youth and hers in the remote country village
rose before him; not now, as once, pinched and narrow, but as salutary,
even gracious. He could but feel how changed his standards had become
since then, how different his measure of the great and the small of
life.

Suddenly, as he was thus borne back into the past, the old sorrow sprang
upon him, and he bowed before it. The old bitter cry which he had been
able to utter to no human consoler swept once more to his lips: "Oh,
Stella, Stella, you died before I really knew you; your brother, who
should have known and loved you best! And now it is too late, too
late."

He sent out as of old his voiceless call to one afar off, in some land
where her whiteness, her budding soul, had found their rightful place;
but even as he did so, his thought of her seemed to be growing clearer.
From that far, reverenced, but unimagined sphere she was coming back to
the range of his apprehension, to comradeship in the life which they
once had shared together.

He trembled with the hope of a fuller attainment, lifting his bowed head
and taking another package of the letters from their place. Her letters!
He had begged them of her friends in his desperate sense of ignorance,
his longing to make good something of all that he had lost in those last
two years of her life. What an innocent life it was that was spread
before him; and how young,--oh, how young! And it was a happy life. He
was astonished, after all his self-reproach, to realize how happy; to
find himself smiling with her in some girlish drollery such as used to
come so readily to her lips. He could detect, too, how the note of
gladness, how her whole life, indeed, had grown richer in the larger
existence of Vaucluse. At last he could be comforted that, however it
had ended, it was he who had made it hers.

He had been feeding eagerly, too eagerly, and under the pressure of
emotion was constrained to rise and walk the floor, sinking at last into
his armchair and gazing with unseeing eyes upon the ruddy coals in the
grate. That lovely life, which he had thought could never in its
completeness be his, was rebuilt before his vision from the materials
which she herself had left. What he had believed to be loss, bitter,
unspeakable even to himself, had in these few hours of the night become
wealth.

His quickened thought moved on from plane to plane. He scanned the
present conditions of his life, and saw with clarified vision how good
they were. What it was given him to do for his students, at least what
he was trying to do for them; the preciousness of their regard; the long
friendship with his colleagues; the associations with the little
community in which his lot was cast, limited in some directions as they
might be; the fair demesne of Greek literature in which his feet were so
much at home; his own literary gift, even if a slender one; his dear,
dear child.

And Gertrude? Under the invigoration of his mood a situation which had
long seemed unamenable to change resolved itself into new and simpler
proportions. The worthier aspects of his home life, the finer traits of
his wife's character, stood before him as proofs of what might yet be.
His memory had kept no record of the fact that when in the first year of
his youthful sorrow, sick for comfort and believing her all tenderness,
he had married her, to find her impatient of his grief, nor of the many
times since when she had appeared almost wilfully blind to his ideals
and purposes. His judgment held only this, that she had never understood
him. For this he had seldom blamed her; but to-night he blamed himself.
Instead of shrinking away sensitively, keeping the vital part of his
life to himself and making what he could of it alone, he should have set
himself steadily to create a place for it in her understanding and
sympathy. Was not a perfect married love worth the minor sacrifices as
well as the supreme surrender from which he believed that neither of
them would have shrunk?

He returned to his desk and began to rearrange the contents of the
little drawer. Among them was a small sandalwood box which had been
their mother's, and which Stella had prized with special fondness. He
had never opened it since her death, but as he lifted it now the frail
clasp gave way, the lid fell back, and the contents slipped upon the
desk. They were few: a ring, a thin gold locket containing the
miniatures of their father and mother, a small tintype of himself taken
when he first left home, and two or three notes addressed in a
handwriting which he recognized as Wayland's. He replaced them with
reverent touch, turning away even in thought from what he had never
meant to see.

By and by he heard in the distance the roll of carriages returning from
the Fieldings' reception. He replenished the fire generously, found a
long cloak in the closet at the end of the hall, and waited the sound of
wheels before his own door. "The rain has grown heavier," he said,
drawing the cloak around his wife as she descended from the carriage.
Something in his manner seemed to envelop her. He brought her into the
study and seated her before the fire. She had expected to find the house
silent; the glow and warmth of the room were grateful after the chill
and darkness outside, her husband's presence after that vague sense of
futility which the evening's gayety had left upon her.

"I suppose I ought to tell you about the party," she said, a little
wearily; "but if you don't mind, I will wait till breakfast. Everybody
was there, of course, and it was all very fine, as we all knew it would
be. I hope you've enjoyed your Latin poets more."

"They are Greek, dear," he said. "I have been making translations from
some of them now and then. Some day we will take a day off and then I'll
read them to you. But neither the party nor the poets to-night. See, it
is almost two o'clock."

"I knew it must be late. But you look as fresh as a child that has just
waked from sleep."

"Perhaps I have just waked."

They rose to go up-stairs. "I will go in front and make a light in our
room while you turn off the gas in the hall."

He paused for a moment after she had gone out and turned to a page in
the Greek Anthology for a single stanza. Shelley's translation was
written in pencil beside it:

    Thou wert the morning star among the living,
      Ere thy fair light had fled;
    Now, having died, thou art as Hesperus giving
      New splendor to the dead.



The Perfect Year

BY ELEANOR A. HALLOWELL


When Dolly Leonard died, on the night of my _débutante_ party, our
little community was aghast. If I live to be a thousand, I shall never
outgrow the paralyzing shock of that disaster. I think that the girls in
our younger set never fully recovered from it.

It was six o'clock when we got the news. Things had been jolly and
bustling all the afternoon. The house was filled with florists and
caterers, and I had gone to my room to escape the final responsibilities
of the occasion. There were seven of us girl chums dressing in my room,
and we were lolling round in various stages of lace and ruffles when the
door-bell rang. Partly out of consideration for the tired servants, and
partly out of nervous curiosity incited by the day's influx of presents
and bouquets, I slipped into my pink eider-down wrapper and ran down to
the door. The hall was startlingly sweet with roses. Indeed, the whole
house was a perfect bower of leaf and blossom, and I suppose I did look
elfish as I ran, for a gruff old workman peered up at me and smiled, and
muttered something about "pinky-posy"--and I know it did not seem
impertinent to me at the time.

At the door, in the chill blast of the night, stood our little old gray
postman with some letters in his hand. "Oh!" I said, disappointed, "just
letters."

The postman looked at me a trifle queerly--I thought it was my pink
wrapper,--and he said, "Don't worry about 'just letters'; Dolly Leonard
is dead!"

"Dead?" I gasped. "Dead?" and I remember how I reeled back against the
open door and stared out with horror-stricken eyes across the common to
Dolly Leonard's house, where every window was blazing with calamity.

"Dead?" I gasped again. "Dead? What happened?"

The postman eyed me with quizzical fatherliness. "Ask your mother," he
answered, reluctantly, and I turned and groped my way leaden-footed up
the stairs, muttering, "Oh, mother, mother, I don't _need_ to ask you."

When I got back to my room at last through a tortuous maze of gaping
workmen and sickening flowers, three startled girls jumped up to catch
me as I staggered across the threshold. I did not faint, I did not cry
out. I just sat huddled on the floor rocking myself to and fro, and
mumbling, as through a mouthful of sawdust: "Dolly Leonard is dead.
Dolly Leonard is dead. Dolly Leonard is dead."

I will not attempt to describe too fully the scene that followed. There
were seven of us, you know, and we were only eighteen, and no young
person of our acquaintance had ever died before. Indeed, only one aged
death had ever disturbed our personal life history, and even that remote
catastrophe had sent us scampering to each other's beds a whole winter
long, for the individual fear of "seeing things at night."

"Dolly Leonard is dead." I can feel myself yet in that huddled news-heap
on the floor. A girl at the mirror dropped her hand-glass with a
shivering crash. Some one on the sofa screamed. The only one of us who
was dressed began automatically to unfasten her lace collar and strip
off her silken gown, and I can hear yet the soft lush sound of a folded
sash, and the strident click of the little French stays that pressed too
close on a heaving breast.

Then some one threw wood on the fire with a great bang, and then more
wood and more wood, and we crowded round the hearth and scorched our
faces and hands, but we could not get warm enough.

Dolly Leonard was not even in our set. She was an older girl by several
years. But she was the belle of the village. Dolly Leonard's gowns,
Dolly Leonard's parties, Dolly Leonard's lovers, were the envy of all
womankind. And Dolly Leonard's courtship and marriage were to us the
fitting culmination of her wonderful career. She was our ideal of
everything that a girl should be. She was good, she was beautiful, she
was irresistibly fascinating. She was, in fact, everything that we
girlishly longed to be in the revel of a ballroom or the white sanctity
of a church.

And now she, the bright, the joyous, the warm, was colder than we were,
and _would never be warm again_. Never again ... And there were garish
flowers down-stairs, and music and favors and ices--nasty shivery
ices,--and pretty soon a brawling crowd of people would come and
_dance_ because I was eighteen--and still alive.

Into our hideous brooding broke a husky little voice that had not yet
spoken:

"Dolly Leonard told my big sister a month ago that she wasn't a bit
frightened,--that she had had one perfect year, and a perfect year was
well worth dying for--if one had to. Of course she hoped she wouldn't
die, but if she did, it was a wonderful thing to die happy. Dolly was
queer about it; I heard my big sister telling mother. Dolly said, 'Life
couldn't always be at high tide--there was only one high tide in any
one's life, and she thought it was beautiful to go in the full flush
before the tide turned.'"

The speaker ended with a harsh sob.

Then suddenly into our awed silence broke my mother in full evening
dress. She was a very handsome mother.

As she looked down on our huddled group there were tears in her eyes,
but there was no shock. I noticed distinctly that there was no shock.
"Why, girls," she exclaimed, with a certain terse brightness, "aren't
you dressed yet? It's eight o'clock and people are beginning to arrive."
She seemed so frivolous to me. I remember that I felt a little ashamed
of her.

"We don't want any party," I answered, glumly. "The girls are going
home."

"Nonsense!" said my mother, catching me by the hand and pulling me
almost roughly to my feet. "Go quickly and call one of the maids to come
and help you dress. Angeline, I'll do your hair. Bertha, where are your
shoes? Gertrude, that's a beautiful gown--just your color. Hurry into
it. There goes the bell. Hark! the orchestra is beginning."

And so, with a word here, a touch there, a searching look everywhere,
mother marshalled us into line. I had never heard her voice raised
before.

The color came back to our cheeks, the light to our eyes. We bubbled
over with spirits--nervous spirits, to be sure, but none the less
vivacious ones.

When the last hook was fastened, the last glove buttoned, the last curl
fluffed into place, mother stood for an instant tapping her foot on the
floor. She looked like a little general.

"Girls," she said, "there are five hundred people coming to-night from
all over the State, and fully two-thirds of them never heard of Dolly
Leonard. We must never spoil other people's pleasures by flaunting our
own personal griefs. I expect my daughter to conduct herself this
evening with perfect cheerfulness and grace. She owes it to her guests;
and"--mother's chin went high up in the air--"I refuse to receive in my
house again any one of you girls who mars my daughter's _débutante_
party by tears or hysterics. You may go now."

We went, silently berating the brutal harshness of grown people. We
went, airily, flutteringly, luminously, like a bunch of butterflies. At
the head of the stairs the music caught us up in a maelstrom of
excitement and whirled us down into the throng of pleasure. And when we
reached the drawing-room and found mother we felt as though we were
walking on air. We thought it was self-control. We were not old enough
to know it was mostly "youth."

My _débutante_ party was the gayest party ever given in our town. We
seven girls were like sprites gone mad. We were like fairy torches that
kindled the whole throng. We flitted among the palms like
will-o'-the-wisps. We danced the toes out of our satin slippers. We led
our old boy-friends a wild chase of young love and laughter, and
because our hearts were like frozen lead within us we sought, as it
were, "to warm both hands at the fires of life." We trifled with older
men. We flirted, as it were, with our fathers.

My _débutante_ party turned out a revel. I have often wondered if my
mother was frightened. I don't know what went on in the other girls'
brains, but mine were seared with the old-world recklessness--"Eat,
drink, and be merry, for to-morrow we die." _We_ die!

I had a lover--a boy lover. His name was Gordon. He was twenty-one years
old, and he had courted me with boyish seriousness for three years.
Mother had always pooh-poohed his love-story and said: "Wait, wait. Why,
my daughter isn't even _out_ yet. Wait till she's out."

And Gordon had narrowed his near-sighted eyes ominously and shut his
lips tight. "Very well," he had answered, "I will wait till she is
out--but no longer."

He was rich, he was handsome, he was well-born, he was strong, but more
than all that he held my fancy with a certain thrilling tenacity that
frightened me while it lured me. And I had always looked forward to my
_débutante_ party on my eighteenth birthday with the tingling
realization, half joy, half fear, that on that day I should have to
settle once and forever with--_man_.

I had often wondered how Gordon would propose. He was a proud,
high-strung boy. If he was humble, and pleaded and pleaded with the hurt
look in his eyes that I knew so well, I thought I would accept him; and
if we could get to mother in the crowd, perhaps we could announce the
engagement at supper-time. It seemed to me that it would be a very
wonderful thing to be engaged on one's eighteenth birthday. So many
girls were not engaged till nineteen or even twenty. But if he was
masterful and high-stepping, as he knew so well how to be, I had decided
to refuse him scornfully with a toss of my head and a laugh. I could
break his heart with the sort of laugh I had practised before my mirror.

It is a terrible thing to have a long-anticipated event finally overtake
you. It is the most terrible thing of all to have to settle once and
forever with _man_.

Gordon came for me at eleven o'clock. I was flirting airily at the time
with our village Beau Brummel, who was old enough to be my grandfather.

Gordon slipped my little hand through his arm and carried me off to a
lonely place in the conservatory. For a second it seemed a beautiful
relief to be out of the noise and the glare--and alone with Gordon. But
instantly my realization of the potential moment rushed over me like a
flood, and I began to tremble violently. All the nervous strain of the
evening reacted suddenly on me.

"What's the matter with you to-night?" asked Gordon, a little sternly.
"What makes you so wild?" he persisted, with a grim little attempt at a
laugh.

At his words, my heart seemed to turn over within me and settle heavily.
It was before the days when we discussed life's tragedies with our best
men friends. Indeed, it was so long before that I sickened and grew
faint at the very thought of the sorrowful knowledge which I kept secret
from him.

Again he repeated, "What's the matter with you?" but I could find no
answer. I just sat shivering, with my lace scarf drawn close across my
bare shoulders.

Gordon took hold of a white ruffle on my gown and began to fidget with
it. I could see the fine thoughts go flitting through his eyes, but when
he spoke again it was quite commonplacely.

"Will you do me a favor?" he asked. "Will you do me the favor of
marrying me?" And he laughed. Good God! he _laughed_!

"A favor" to marry him! And he asked it as he might have asked for a
posie or a dance. So flippantly--with a laugh. "_A favor!_" And Dolly
Leonard lay dead of _her_ favor!

I jumped to my feet--I was half mad with fear and sex and sorrow and
excitement. Something in my brain snapped. And I struck Gordon--struck
him across the face with my open hand. And he turned as white as the
dead Dolly Leonard, and went away--oh, very far away.

Then I ran back alone to the hall and stumbled into my father's arms.

"Are you having a good time?" asked my father, pointing playfully at my
blazing cheeks.

I went to my answer like an arrow to its mark. "I am having the most
wonderful time in the world," I cried; "_I have settled with man_."

My father put back his head and shouted. He thought it was a fine joke.
He laughed about it long after my party was over. He thought my head was
turned. He laughed about it long after other people had stopped
wondering why Gordon went away.

I never told any one why Gordon went away. I might under certain
circumstances have told a girl, but it was not the sort of thing one
could have told one's mother. This is the first time I have ever told
the story of Dolly Leonard's death and my _débutante_ party.

Dolly Leonard left a little son behind her--a joyous, rollicking little
son. His name is Paul Yardley. We girls were pleased with the
initials--P.Y. They stand to us for "Perfect Year."

Dolly Leonard's husband has married again, and his wife has borne him
safely three daughters and a son. Each one of my six girl chums is the
mother of a family. Now and again in my experience some woman has
shirked a duty. But I have never yet met a woman who dared to shirk a
happiness. Duties repeat themselves. There is no duplicate of happiness.

I am fifty-eight years old. I have never married. I do not say whether I
am glad or sorry. I only know that I have never had a Perfect Year. I
only know that I have never been warm since the night that Dolly Leonard
died.



Editha

BY WILLIAM DEAN HOWELLS


The air was thick with the war I feeling, like the electricity of a
storm which has not yet burst. Editha sat looking out into the hot
spring afternoon, with her lips parted, and panting with the intensity
of the question whether she could let him go. She had decided that she
could not let him stay, when she saw him at the end of the still
leafless avenue, making slowly up toward the house, with his head down,
and his figure relaxed. She ran impatiently out on the veranda, to the
edge of the steps, and imperatively demanded greater haste of him with
her will before she called aloud to him, "George!"

He had quickened his pace in mystical response to her mystical urgence,
before he could have heard her; now he looked up and answered, "Well?"

"Oh, how united we are!" she exulted, and then she swooped down the
steps to him. "What is it?" she cried.

"It's war," he said, and he pulled her up to him, and kissed her.

She kissed him back intensely, but irrelevantly, as to their passion,
and uttered from deep in her throat, "How glorious!"

"It's war," he repeated, without consenting to her sense of it; and she
did not know just what to think at first. She never knew what to think
of him; that made his mystery, his charm. All through their courtship,
which was contemporaneous with the growth of the war feeling, she had
been puzzled by his want of seriousness about it. He seemed to despise
it even more than he abhorred it. She could have understood his
abhorring any sort of bloodshed; that would have been a survival of his
old life when he thought he would be a minister, and before he changed
and took up the law. But making light of a cause so high and noble
seemed to show a want of earnestness at the core of his being. Not but
that she felt herself able to cope with a congenital defect of that
sort, and make his love for her save him from himself. Now perhaps the
miracle was already wrought in him, In the presence of the tremendous
fact that he announced, all triviality seemed to have gone out of him;
she began to feel that. He sank down on the top step, and wiped his
forehead with his handkerchief, while she poured out upon him her
question of the origin and authenticity of his news.

All the while, in her duplex emotioning, she was aware that now at the
very beginning she must put a guard upon herself against urging him, by
any word or act, to take the part that her whole soul willed him to
take, for the completion of her ideal of him. He was very nearly perfect
as he was, and he must be allowed to perfect himself. But he was
peculiar, and he might very well be reasoned out of his peculiarity.
Before her reasoning went her emotioning: her nature pulling upon his
nature, her womanhood upon his manhood, without her knowing the means
she was using to the end she was willing. She had always supposed that
the man who won her would have done something to win her; she did not
know what, but something. George Gearson had simply asked her for her
love, on the way home from a concert, and she gave her love to him,
without, as it were, thinking. But now, it flashed upon her, if he could
do something worthy to _have_ won her--be a hero, _her_ hero--it would
be even better than if he had done it before asking her; it would be
grander. Besides, she had believed in the war from the beginning.

"But don't you see, dearest," she said, "that it wouldn't have come to
this, if it hadn't been in the order of Providence? And I call any war
glorious that is for the liberation of people who have been struggling
for years against the cruelest oppression. Don't you think so too?"

"I suppose so," he returned, languidly. "But war! Is it glorious to
break the peace of the world?"

"That ignoble peace! It was no peace at all, with that crime and shame
at our very gates." She was conscious of parroting the current phrases
of the newspapers, but it was no time to pick and choose her words. She
must sacrifice anything to the high ideal she had for him, and after a
good deal of rapid argument she ended with the climax: "But now it
doesn't matter about the how or why. Since the war has come, all that is
gone. There are no two sides, any more. There is nothing now but our
country."

He sat with his eyes closed and his head leant back against the veranda,
and he said with a vague smile, as if musing aloud, "Our country--right
or wrong."

"Yes, right or wrong!" she returned fervidly. "I'll go and get you some
lemonade." She rose rustling, and whisked away; when she came back with
two tall glasses of clouded liquid, on a tray, and the ice clucking in
them, he still sat as she had left him, and she said as if there had
been no interruption: "But there is no question of wrong in this case. I
call it a sacred war. A war for liberty, and humanity, if ever there was
one. And I know you will see it just as I do, yet."

He took half the lemonade at a gulp, and he answered as he set the glass
down: "I know you always have the highest ideal. When I differ from you,
I ought to doubt myself."

A generous sob rose in Editha's throat for the humility of a man, so
very nearly perfect, who was willing to put himself below her.

Besides, she felt that he was never so near slipping through her fingers
as when he took that meek way.

"You shall not say that! Only, for once I happen to be right." She
seized his hand in her two hands, and poured her soul from her eyes into
his. "Don't you think so?" she entreated him.

He released his hand and drank the rest of his lemonade, and she added,
"Have mine, too," but he shook his head in answering, "I've no business
to think so, unless I act so, too."

Her heart stopped a beat before it pulsed on with leaps that she felt in
her neck. She had noticed that strange thing in men; they seemed to feel
bound to do what they believed, and not think a thing was finished when
they said it, as girls did. She knew what was in his mind, but she
pretended not, and she said, "Oh, I am not sure."

He went on as if to himself without apparently heeding her. "There's
only one way of proving one's faith in a thing like this."

She could not say that she understood, but she did understand.

He went on again. "If I believed--if I felt as you do about this war--Do
you wish me to feel as you do?"

Now she was really not sure; so she said, "George, I don't know what you
mean."

He seemed to muse away from her as before. "There is a sort of
fascination in it. I suppose that at the bottom of his heart every man
would like at times to have his courage tested; to see how he would
act."

"How can you talk in that ghastly way!"

"It _is_ rather morbid. Still, that's what it comes to, unless you're
swept away by ambition, or driven by conviction. I haven't the
conviction or the ambition, and the other thing is what it comes to with
me. I ought to have been a preacher, after all; then I couldn't have
asked it of myself, as I must, now I'm a lawyer. And you believe it's a
holy war, Editha?" he suddenly addressed her. "Or, I know you do! But
you wish me to believe so, too?"

She hardly knew whether he was mocking or not, in the ironical way he
always had with her plainer mind. But the only thing was to be outspoken
with him.

"George, I wish you to believe whatever you think is true, at any and
every cost. If I've tried to talk you into anything, I take it all
back."

"Oh, I know that, Editha. I know how sincere you are, and how--I wish I
had your undoubting spirit! I'll think it over; I'd like to believe as
you do. But I don't, now; I don't, indeed. It isn't this war alone;
though this seems peculiarly wanton and needless; but it's every war--so
stupid; it makes me sick. Why shouldn't this thing have been settled
reasonably?"

"Because," she said, very throatily again, "God meant it to be war."

"You think it was God? Yes, I suppose that is what people will say."

"Do you suppose it would have been war if God hadn't meant it?"

"I don't know. Sometimes it seems as if God had put this world into
men's keeping to work it as they pleased."

"Now, George, that is blasphemy."

"Well, I won't blaspheme. I'll try to believe in your pocket
Providence," he said, and then he rose to go.

"Why don't you stay to dinner?" Dinner at Balcom's Works was at one
o'clock.

"I'll come back to supper, if you'll let me. Perhaps I shall bring you a
convert."

"Well, you may come back, on that condition."

"All right. If I don't come, you'll understand?"

He went away without kissing her, and she felt it a suspension of their
engagement. It all interested her intensely; she was undergoing a
tremendous experience, and she was being equal to it. While she stood
looking after him, her mother came out through one of the long windows,
on to the veranda, with a catlike softness and vagueness.

"Why didn't he stay to dinner?"

"Because--because--war has been declared," Editha pronounced, without
turning.

Her mother said, "Oh, my!" and then said nothing more until she had sat
down in one of the large Shaker chairs, and rocked herself for some
time. Then she closed whatever tacit passage of thought there had been
in her mind with the spoken words, "Well, I hope _he_ won't go."

"And _I_ hope he _will_" the girl said, and confronted her mother with a
stormy exaltation that would have frightened any creature less
unimpressionable than a cat.

Her mother rocked herself again for an interval of cogitation. What she
arrived at in speech was, "Well, I guess you've done a wicked thing,
Editha Balcom."

The girl said, as she passed indoors through the same window her mother
had come out by, "I haven't done anything--yet."

       *       *       *       *       *

In her room, she put together all her letters and gifts from Gearson,
down to the withered petals of the first flower he had offered, with
that timidity of his veiled in that irony of his. In the heart of the
packet she enshrined her engagement ring which she had restored to the
pretty box he had brought it her in. Then she sat down, if not calmly
yet strongly, and wrote:

     "GEORGE: I understood--when you left me. But I think we had
     better emphasize your meaning that if we cannot be one in
     everything we had better be one in nothing. So I am sending
     these things for your keeping till you have made up your mind.

     "I shall always love you, and therefore I shall never marry any
     one else. But the man I marry must love his country first of
     all, and be able to say to me,

        "'I could not love thee, dear, so much,
        Loved I not honor more.'

     "There is no honor above America with me. In this great hour
     there is no other honor.

     "Your heart will make my words clear to you. I had never
     expected to say so much, but it has come upon me that I must
     say the utmost.

                         "EDITHA."

She thought she had worded her letter well, worded it in a way that
could not be bettered; all had been implied and nothing expressed.

She had it ready to send with the packet she had tied with red, white,
and blue ribbon, when it occurred to her that she was not just to him,
that she was not giving him a fair chance. He had said he would go and
think it over, and she was not waiting. She was pushing, threatening,
compelling. That was not a woman's part. She must leave him free, free,
free. She could not accept for her country or herself a forced
sacrifice.

In writing her letter she had satisfied the impulse from which it
sprang; she could well afford to wait till he had thought it over. She
put the packet and the letter by, and rested serene in the consciousness
of having done what was laid upon her by her love itself to do, and yet
used patience, mercy, justice.

She had her reward. Gearson did not come to tea, but she had given him
till morning, when, late at night there came up from the village the
sound of a fife and drum with a tumult of voices, in shouting, singing,
and laughing. The noise drew nearer and nearer; it reached the Street
end of the avenue; there it silenced itself, and one voice, the voice
she knew best, rose over the silence. It fell; the air was filled with
cheers; the fife and drum struck up, with the shouting, singing, and
laughing again, but now retreating; and a single figure came hurrying up
the avenue.

She ran down to meet her lover and clung to him. He was very gay, and he
put his arm round her with a boisterous laugh. "Well, you must call me
Captain, now; or Cap, if you prefer; that's what the boys call me. Yes,
we've had a meeting at the town hall, and everybody has volunteered; and
they selected me for captain, and I'm going to the war, the big war, the
glorious war, the holy war ordained by the pocket Providence that
blesses butchery. Come along; let's tell the whole family about it. Call
them from their downy beds, father, mother, Aunt Hitty, and all the
folks!"

But when they mounted the veranda steps he did not wait for a larger
audience; he poured the story out upon Editha alone.

"There was a lot of speaking, and then some of the fools set up a shout
for me. It was all going one way, and I thought it would be a good joke
to sprinkle a little cold water on them. But you can't do that with a
crowd that adores you. The first thing I knew I was sprinkling hell-fire
on them, 'Cry havoc, and let slip the dogs of war.' That was the style.
Now that it had come to the fight, there were no two parties; there was
one country, and the thing was to fight the fight to a finish as quick
as possible. I suggested volunteering then and there, and I wrote my
name first of all on the roster. Then they elected me--that's all. I
wish I had some ice-water!"

She left him walking up and down the veranda, while she ran for the
ice-pitcher and a goblet, and when she came back he was still walking up
and down, shouting the story he had told her to her father and mother,
who had come out more sketchily dressed than they commonly were by day.
He drank goblet after goblet of the ice-water without noticing who was
giving it, and kept on talking, and laughing through his talk wildly.
"It's astonishing," he said, "how well the worse reason looks when you
try to make it appear the better. Why, I believe I was the first convert
to the war in that crowd to-night! I never thought I should like to kill
a man; but now, I shouldn't care; and the smokeless powder lets you see
the man drop that you kill. It's all for the country! What a thing it is
to have a country that _can't_ be wrong, but if it is, is right anyway!"

Editha had a great, vital thought, an inspiration. She set down the
ice-pitcher on the veranda floor, and ran up-stairs and got the letter
she had written him. When at last he noisily bade her father and mother,
"Well, good night. I forgot I woke you up; I sha'n't want any sleep
myself," she followed him down the avenue to the gate. There, after the
whirling words that seemed to fly away from her thoughts and refuse to
serve them, she made a last effort to solemnize the moment that seemed
so crazy, and pressed the letter she had written upon him.

"What's this?" he said. "Want me to mail it?"

"No, no. It's for you. I wrote it after you went this morning. Keep
it--keep it--and read it sometime--" She thought, and then her
inspiration came: "Read it if ever you doubt what you've done, or fear
that I regret your having done it. Read it after you've started."

They strained each other in embraces that seemed as ineffective as their
words, and he kissed her face with quick, hot breaths that were so
unlike him, that made her feel as if she had lost her old lover and
found a stranger in his place. The stranger said, "What a gorgeous
flower you are, with your red hair, and your blue eyes that look black
now, and your face with the color painted out by the white moonshine!
Let me hold you under my chin, to see whether I love blood, you
tiger-lily!" Then he laughed Gearson's laugh, and released her, scared
and giddy. Within her wilfulness she had been frightened by a sense of
subtler force in him, and mystically mastered as she had never been
before.

She ran all the way back to the house, and mounted the steps panting.
Her mother and father were talking of the great affair. Her mother said:
"Wa'n't Mr. Gearson in rather of an excited state of mind? Didn't you
think he acted curious?"

"Well, not for a man who'd just been elected captain and had to set 'em
up for the whole of Company A," her father chuckled back.

"What in the world do you mean, Mr. Balcom? Oh! There's Editha!" She
offered to follow the girl indoors.

"Don't come, mother!" Editha called, vanishing.

Mrs. Balcom remained to reproach her husband. "I don't see much of
anything to laugh at."

"Well, it's catching. Caught it from Gearson. I guess it won't be much
of a war, and I guess Gearson don't think so, either. The other fellows
will back down as soon as they see we mean it. I wouldn't lose any sleep
over it. I'm going back to bed, myself."

       *       *       *       *       *

Gearson came again next afternoon, looking pale, and rather sick, but
quite himself, even to his languid irony. "I guess I'd better tell you,
Editha, that I consecrated myself to your god of battles last night by
pouring too many libations to him down my own throat. But I'm all right,
now. One has to carry off the excitement, somehow."

"Promise me," she commanded, "that you'll never touch it again!"

"What! Not let the cannikin clink? Not let the soldier drink? Well, I
promise."

"You don't belong to yourself now; you don't even belong to _me_. You
belong to your country, and you have a sacred charge to keep yourself
strong and well for your country's sake. I have been thinking, thinking
all night and all day long."

"You look as if you had been crying a little, too," he said with his
queer smile.

"That's all past. I've been thinking, and worshipping _you_. Don't you
suppose I know all that you've been through, to come to this? I've
followed you every step from your old theories and opinions."

"Well, you've had a long row to hoe."

"And I know you've done this from the highest motives--"

"Oh, there won't be much pettifogging to do till this cruel war is--"

"And you haven't simply done it for my sake. I couldn't respect you if
you had."

"Well, then we'll say I haven't. A man that hasn't got his own respect
intact wants the respect of all the other people he can corner. But we
won't go into that. I'm in for the thing now, and we've got to face our
future. My idea is that this isn't going to be a very protracted
struggle; we shall just scare the enemy to death before it conies to a
fight at all. But we must provide for contingencies, Editha. If anything
happens to me--"

"Oh, George!" She clung to him sobbing.

"I don't want you to feel foolishly bound to my memory. I should hate
that, wherever I happened to be."

"I am yours, for time and eternity--time and eternity." She liked the
words; they satisfied her famine for phrases.

"Well, say eternity; that's all right; but time's another thing; and I'm
talking about time. But there is something! My mother! If anything
happens--"

She winced, and he laughed. "You're not the bold soldier-girl of
yesterday!" Then he sobered. "If anything happens, I want you to help my
mother out. She won't like my doing this thing. She brought me up to
think war a fool thing as well as a bad thing. My father was in the
civil war; all through it; lost his arm in it." She thrilled with the
sense of the arm round her; what if that should be lost? He laughed as
if divining her: "Oh, it doesn't run in the family, as far as I know!"
Then he added, gravely, "He came home with misgivings about war, and
they grew on him. I guess he and mother agreed between them that I was
to be brought up in his final mind about it; but that was before my
time. I only knew him from my mother's report of him and his opinions; I
don't know whether they were hers first; but they were hers last. This
will be a blow to her. I shall have to write and tell her--"

He stopped, and she asked, "Would you like me to write too, George?"

"I don't believe that would do. No, I'll do the writing. She'll
understand a little if I say that I thought the way to minimize it was
to make war on the largest possible scale at once--that I felt I must
have been helping on the war somehow if I hadn't helped keep it from
coming, and I knew I hadn't; when it came, I had no right to stay out of
it."

Whether his sophistries satisfied him or not, they satisfied her. She
clung to his breast, and whispered, with closed eyes and quivering lips,
"Yes, yes, yes!"

"But if anything should happen, you might go to her, and see what you
could do for her. You know? It's rather far off; she can't leave her
chair--"

"Oh, I'll go, if it's the ends of the earth! But nothing will happen!
Nothing _can_! I--"

She felt herself lifted with his rising, and Gearson was saying, with
his arm still round her, to her father: "Well, we're off at once, Mr.
Balcom. We're to be formally accepted at the capital, and then bunched
up with the rest somehow; and sent into camp somewhere, and got to the
front as soon as possible. We all want to be in the van, of course;
we're the first company to report to the Governor. I came to tell
Editha, but I hadn't got round to it."

       *       *       *       *       *

She saw him again for a moment at the capital, in the station, just
before the train started southward with his regiment. He looked well, in
his uniform, and very soldierly, but somehow girlish, too, with his
clean-shaven face and slim figure. The manly eyes and the strong voice
satisfied her, and his preoccupation with some unexpected details of
duty flattered her. Other girls were weeping, but she felt a sort of
noble distinction in the abstraction with which they parted. Only at the
last moment he said, "Don't forget my mother. It mayn't be such a
walk-over as I supposed," and he laughed at the notion.

He waved his hand to her, as the train moved off--she knew it among a
score of hands that were waved to other girls from the platform of the
car, for it held a letter which she knew was hers. Then he went inside
the car to read it, doubtless, and she did not see him again. But she
felt safe for him through the strength of what she called her love. What
she called her God, always speaking the name in a deep voice and with
the implication of a mutual understanding, would watch over him and keep
him and bring him back to her. If with an empty sleeve, then he should
have three arms instead of two, for both of hers should be his for life.
She did not see, though, why she should always be thinking of the arm
his father had lost.

There were not many letters from him, but they were such as she could
have wished, and she put her whole strength into making hers such as she
imagined he could have wished, glorifying and supporting him. She wrote
to his mother, but the brief answer she got was merely to the effect
that Mrs. Gearson was not well enough to write herself, and thanking her
for her letter by the hand of some one who called herself "Yrs truly,
Mrs. W.J. Andrews."

Editha determined not to be hurt, but to write again quite as if the
answer had been all she expected. But before it seemed as if she could
have written, there came news of the first skirmish, and in the list of
the killed which was telegraphed as a trifling loss on our side, was
Gearson's name. There was a frantic time of trying to make out that it
might be, must be, some other Gearson; but the name, and the company and
the regiment, and the State were too definitely given.

Then there was a lapse into depths out of which it seemed as if she
never could rise again; then a lift into clouds far above all grief,
black clouds, that blotted out the sun, but where she soared with him,
with George, George! She had the fever that she expected of herself, but
she did not die in it; she was not even delirious, and it did not last
long. When she was well enough to leave her bed, her one thought was of
George's mother, of his strangely worded wish that she should go to her
and see what she could do for her. In the exaltation of the duty laid
upon her--it buoyed her up instead of burdening her--she rapidly
recovered.

Her father went with her on the long railroad journey from northern New
York to western Iowa; he had business out at Davenport, and he said he
could just as well go then as any other time; and he went with her to
the little country town where George's mother lived in a little house on
the edge of illimitable corn-fields, under trees pushed to a top of the
rolling prairie. George's father had settled there after the civil war,
as so many other old soldiers had done; but they were Eastern people,
and Editha fancied touches of the East in the June rose overhanging the
front door, and the garden with early summer flowers stretching from the
gate of the paling fence.

It was very low inside the house, and so dim, with the closed blinds,
that they could scarcely see one another: Editha tall and black in her
crapes which filled the air with the smell of their dyes; her father
standing decorously apart with his hat on his forearm, as at funerals; a
woman rested in a deep armchair, and the woman who had let the strangers
in stood behind the chair.

The seated woman turned her head round and up, and asked the woman
behind her chair, "_Who_ did you say?"

Editha, if she had done what she expected of herself, would have gone
down on her knees at the feet of the seated figure and said, "I am
George's Editha," for answer.

But instead of her own voice she heard that other woman's voice, saying,
"Well, I don't know as I _did_ get the name just right. I guess I'll
have to make a little more light in here," and she went and pushed two
of the shutters ajar.

Then Editha's father said in his public will-now-address-a-few-remarks
tone, "My name is Balcom, ma'am; Junius H. Balcom, of Balcom's Works,
New York; my daughter--"

"Oh!" The seated woman broke in, with a powerful voice, the voice that
always surprised Editha from Gearson's slender frame. "Let me see you!
Stand round where the light can strike on your face," and Editha dumbly
obeyed. "So, you're Editha Balcom," she sighed.

"Yes," Editha said, more like a culprit than a comforter.

"What did you come for?"

Editha's face quivered, and her knees shook. "I came--because--because
George--" She could go no farther.

"Yes," the mother said, "he told me he had asked you to come if he got
killed. You didn't expect that, I suppose, when you sent him."

"I would rather have died myself than done it!" Editha said with more
truth in her deep voice than she ordinarily found in it. "I tried to
leave him free--"

"Yes, that letter of yours, that came back with his other things, left
him free."

Editha saw now where George's irony came from.

"It was not to be read before--unless--until--I told him so," she
faltered.

"Of course, he wouldn't read a letter of yours, under the circumstances,
till he thought you wanted him to. Been sick?" the woman abruptly
demanded.

"Very sick," Editha said, with self-pity.

"Daughter's life," her father interposed, "was almost despaired of, at
one time."

Mrs. Gearson gave him no heed. "I suppose you would have been glad to
die, such a brave person as you! I don't believe _he_ was glad to die.
He was always a timid boy, that way; he was afraid of a good many
things; but if he was afraid he did what he made up his mind to. I
suppose he made up his mind to go, but I knew what it cost him, by what
it cost me when I heard of it. I had been through _one_ war before. When
you sent him you didn't expect he would get killed."

The voice seemed to compassionate Editha, and it was time. "No," she
huskily murmured.

"No, girls don't; women don't, when they give their men up to their
country. They think they'll come marching back, somehow, just as gay as
they went, or if it's an empty sleeve, or even an empty pantaloon, it's
all the more glory, and they're so much the prouder of them, poor
things."

The tears began to run down Editha's face; she had not wept till then;
but it was now such a relief to be understood that the tears came.

"No, you didn't expect him to get killed," Mrs. Gearson repeated in a
voice which was startlingly like George's again. "You just expected him
to kill some one else, some of those foreigners, that weren't there
because they had any say about it, but because they had to be there,
poor wretches--conscripts, or whatever they call 'em. You thought it
would be all right for my George, _your_ George, to kill the sons of
those miserable mothers and the husbands of those girls that you would
never see the faces of." The woman lifted her powerful voice in a
psalmlike note. "I thank my God he didn't live to do it! I thank my God
they killed him first, and that he ain't livin' with their blood on his
hands!" She dropped her eyes which she had raised with her voice, and
glared at Editha. "What you got that black on for?" She lifted herself
by her powerful arms so high that her helpless body seemed to hang limp
its full length. "Take it off, take it off, before I tear it from your
back!"

       *       *       *       *       *

The lady who was passing the summer near Balcom's Works was sketching
Editha's beauty, which lent itself wonderfully to the effects of a
colorist. It had come to that confidence which is rather apt to grow
between artist and sitter, and Editha had told her everything.

"To think of your having such a tragedy in your life!" the lady said.
She added: "I suppose there are people who feel that way about war. But
when you consider how much this war has done for the country! I can't
understand such people, for my part. And when you had come all the way
out there to console her--got up out of a sick bed! Well!"

"I think," Editha said, magnanimously, "she wasn't quite in her right
mind; and so did papa."

"Yes," the lady said, looking at Editha's lips in nature and then at her
lips in art, and giving an empirical touch to them in the picture. "But
how dreadful of her! How perfectly--excuse me--how _vulgar_!"

A light broke upon Editha in the darkness which she felt had been
without a gleam of brightness for weeks and months. The mystery that had
bewildered her was solved by the word; and from that moment she rose
from grovelling in shame and self-pity, and began to live again in the
ideal.



The Stout Miss Hopkins's Bicycle

BY OCTAVE THANET


There was a skeleton in Mrs. Margaret Ellis's closet; the same skeleton
abode also in the closet of Miss Lorania Hopkins.

The skeleton--which really does not seem a proper word--was the dread of
growing stout. They were more afraid of flesh than of sin. Yet they were
both good women. Mrs. Ellis regularly attended church, and could always
be depended on to show hospitality to convention delegates, whether
clerical or lay; she was a liberal subscriber to every good work; she
was almost the only woman in the church aid society that never lost her
temper at the soul-vexing time of the church fair; and she had a larger
clientele of regular pensioners than any one in town, unless it were her
friend Miss Hopkins, who was "so good to the poor" that never a tramp
slighted her kitchen. Miss Hopkins was as amiable as Mrs. Ellis, and
always put her name under that of Mrs. Ellis, with exactly the same
amount, on the subscription papers. She could have given more, for she
had the larger income; but she had no desire to outshine her friend,
whom she admired as the most charming of women.

Mrs. Ellis, indeed, was agreeable as well as good, and a pretty woman to
the bargain, if she did not choose to be weighed before people. Miss
Hopkins often told her that she was not really stout; she merely had a
plump, trig little figure. Miss Hopkins, alas! was really stout. The two
waged a warfare against the flesh equal to the apostle's in vigor,
although so much less deserving of praise.

Mrs. Ellis drove her cook to distraction with divers dieting systems,
from Banting's and Dr. Salisbury's to the latest exhortations of some
unknown newspaper prophet. She bought elaborate gymnastic appliances,
and swung dumb-bells and rode imaginary horses and propelled imaginary
boats. She ran races with a professional trainer, and she studied the
principles of Delsarte, and solemnly whirled on one foot and swayed her
body and rolled her head and hopped and kicked and genuflected in
company with eleven other stout and earnest matrons and one slim and
giggling girl who almost choked at every lesson. In all these exercises
Miss Hopkins faithfully kept her company, which was the easier as Miss
Hopkins lived in the next house, a conscientious Colonial mansion with
all the modern conveniences hidden beneath the old-fashioned pomp.

And yet, despite these struggles and self-denials, it must be told that
Margaret Ellis and Lorania Hopkins were little thinner for their
warfare. Still, as Shuey Cardigan, the trainer, told Mrs. Ellis, there
was no knowing what they might have weighed had they not struggled.

"It ain't only the fat that's _on_ ye, moind ye," says Shuey, with a
confidential sympathy of mien; "it's what ye'd naturally be getting in
addition. And first ye've got to peel off that, and then ye come down to
the other."

Shuey was so much the most successful of Mrs. Ellis's reducers that his
words were weighty. And when at last Shuey said, "I got what you need,"
Mrs. Ellis listened. "You need a bike, no less," says Shuey.

"But I never could ride one!" said Margaret, opening her pretty brown
eyes and wrinkling her Grecian forehead.

"You'd ride in six lessons."

"But how would I _look_, Cardigan?"

"You'd look noble, ma'am!"

"What do you consider the best wheel, Cardigan?"

The advertising rules of magazines prevent my giving Cardigan's answer;
it is enough that the wheel glittered at Mrs. Ellis's door the very next
day, and that a large pasteboard box was delivered by the expressman the
very next week. He went on to Miss Hopkins's, and delivered the twin of
the box, with a similar yellow printed card bearing the impress of the
same great firm on the inside of the box cover.

For Margaret had hied her to Lorania Hopkins the instant Shuey was gone.
She presented herself breathless, a little to the embarrassment of
Lorania, who was sitting with her niece before a large box of
cracker-jack.

"It's a new kind of candy; I was just _tasting_ it, Maggie," faltered
she, while the niece, a girl of nineteen, with the inhuman spirits of
her age, laughed aloud.

"You needn't mind me," said Mrs. Ellis, cheerfully; "I'm eating
potatoes now!"

"Oh, Maggie!" Miss Hopkins breathed the words between envy and
disapproval.

Mrs. Ellis tossed her brown head airily, not a whit abashed. "And I had
beer for luncheon, and I'm going to have champagne for dinner."

"Maggie, how do you dare? Did they--did they taste good?"

"They tasted _heavenly_, Lorania. Pass me the candy. I am going to try
something new--the thinningest thing there is. I read in the paper of
one woman who lost forty pounds in three months, and is losing still!"

"If it is obesity pills, I--"

"It isn't; it's a bicycle. Lorania, you and I must ride! Sibyl Hopkins,
you heartless child, what are you laughing at?"

Lorania rose; in the glass over the mantel her figure returned her gaze.
There was no mistake (except that, as is often the case with stout
people, _that_ glass always increased her size), she was a stout lady.
She was taller than the average of women, and well proportioned, and
still light on her feet; but she could not blink away the records; she
was heavy on the scales. Did she stand looking at herself squarely, her
form was shapely enough, although larger than she could wish; but the
full force of the revelation fell when she allowed herself a profile
view, she having what is called "a round waist," and being almost as
large one way as another. Yet Lorania was only thirty-three years old,
and was of no mind to retire from society, and have a special phaeton
built for her use, and hear from her mother's friends how much her
mother weighed before her death.

"How should _I_ look on a wheel?" she asked, even as Mrs. Ellis had
asked before; and Mrs. Ellis stoutly answered, "You'd look _noble_!"

"Shuey will teach us," she went on, "and we can have a track made in
your pasture, where nobody can see us learning. Lorania, there's nothing
like it. Let me bring you the bicycle edition of _Harper's Bazar_."

Miss Hopkins capitulated at once, and sat down to order her costume,
while Sibyl, the niece, revelled silently in visions of a new bicycle
which should presently revert to her. "For it's ridiculous, auntie's
thinking of riding!" Miss Sibyl considered. "She would be a figure of
fun on a wheel; besides, she can never learn in this world!"

Yet Sibyl was attached to her aunt, and enjoyed visiting Hopkins Manor,
as Lorania had named her new house, into which she moved on the same day
that she joined the Colonial Dames, by right of her ancestor the great
and good divine commemorated by Mrs. Stowe. Lorania's friends were all
fond of her, she was so good-natured and tolerant, with a touch of dry
humor in her vision of things, and not the least a Puritan in her frank
enjoyment of ease and luxury. Nevertheless, Lorania had a good,
able-bodied, New England conscience, capable of staying awake nights
without flinching; and perhaps from her stanch old Puritan forefathers
she inherited her simple integrity so that she neither lied nor
cheated--even in the small, whitewashed manner of her sex--and valued
loyalty above most of the virtues. She had an innocent pride in her
godly and martial ancestry, which was quite on the surface, and led
people who did not know her to consider her haughty.

For fifteen years she had been an orphan, the mistress of a very large
estate. No doubt she had been sought often in marriage, but never until
lately had Lorania seriously thought of marrying. Sibyl said that she
was too unsentimental to marry. Really she was too romantic. She had a
longing to be loved, not in the quiet, matter-of-fact manner of her
suitors, but with the passion of the poets. Therefore the presence of
another skeleton in Mrs. Ellis's closet, because she knew about a
certain handsome Italian marquis who at this period was conducting an
impassioned wooing by mail. Margaret did not fancy the marquis. He was
not an American. He would take Lorania away. She thought his very virtue
florid, and suspected that he had learned his love-making in a bad
school. She dropped dark hints that frightened Lorania, who would
sometimes piteously demand, "Don't you think he _could_ care for
me--for--for myself?" Margaret knew that she had an overweening distrust
of her own appearance. How many tears she had shed first and last over
her unhappy plumpness it would be hard to reckon. She made no account of
her satin skin, or her glossy black hair, or her lustrous violet eyes
with their long, black lashes, or her flashing white teeth; she glanced
dismally at her shape and scornfully at her features, good, honest,
irregular American features, that might not satisfy a Greek critic, but
suited each other and pleased her countrymen. And then she would sigh
heavily over her figure. Her friend had not the heart to impute the
marquis's beautiful, artless compliments to mercenary motives. After
all, the Italian was a good fellow, according to the point of view of
his own race, if he did intend to live on his wife's money, and had a
very varied assortment of memories of women.

But Margaret dreaded and disliked him all the more for his good
qualities. To-day this secret apprehension flung a cloud over the
bicycle enthusiasm. She could not help wondering whether at this moment
Lorania was not thinking of the marquis, who rode a wheel and a horse
admirably.

"Aunt Lorania," said Sibyl, "there comes Mr. Winslow. Shall I run out
and ask him about those cloth-of-gold roses? The aphides are eating them
all up."

"Yes, to be sure, dear; but don't let Ferguson suspect what you are
talking of; he might feel hurt."

Ferguson was the gardener. Miss Hopkins left her note to go to the
window. Below she saw a mettled horse, with tossing head and silken
skin, restlessly fretting on his bit and pawing the dust in front of
the fence, while his rider, hat in hand, talked with the young girl. He
was a little man, a very little man, in a gray business suit of the best
cut and material. An air of careful and dainty neatness was diffused
about both horse and rider. He bent towards Miss Sibyl's charming person
a thin, alert, fair face. His head was finely shaped, the brown hair
worn away a little on the temples. He smiled gravely at intervals; the
smile told that he had a dimple in his cheek.

"I wonder," said Mrs. Ellis, "whether Mr. Winslow can have a penchant
for Sibyl?"

Lorania opened her eyes. At this moment Mr. Winslow had caught sight of
her at the window, and he bowed almost to his saddle-bow; Sibyl was
saying something at which she laughed, and he visibly reddened. It was a
peculiarity of his that his color turned easily. In a second his hat was
on his head and his horse bounded half across the road.

"Hardly, I think," said Lorania. "How well he rides! I never knew any
one ride better--in this country."

"I suppose Sibyl would ridicule such a thing," said Mrs. Ellis,
continuing her own train of thought, and yet vaguely disturbed by the
last sentence.

"Why should she?"

"Well, he is so little, for one thing, and she is so tall. And then
Sibyl thinks a great deal of social position."

"He is a Winslow," said Lorania, archin her neck unconsciously--"a
lineal descendant from Kenelm Winslow, who came over in the _May_--"

"But his mother--"

"I don't know anything about his mother before she came here. Oh, of
course I know the gossip that she was a niece of the overseer at a
village poor-house, and that her husband quarrelled with all his family
and married her in the poor-house, and I know that when he died here she
would not take a cent from the Winslows, nor let them have the boy. She
is the meekest-looking little woman, but she must have an iron streak in
her somewhere, for she was left without enough money to pay the funeral
expenses, and she educated the boy and accumulated money enough to pay
for this place they have.

"She used to run a laundry, and made money; but when Cyril got a place
in the bank she sold out the laundry and went into chickens and
vegetables; she told somebody that it wasn't so profitable as the
laundry, but it was more genteel, and Cyril being now in a position of
trust at the bank, she must consider _him_. Cyril swept out the bank.
People laughed about it, but, do you know, I rather liked Mrs. Winslow
for it. She isn't in the least an assertive woman. How long have we been
up here, Maggie? Isn't it four years? And they have been our next-door
neighbors, and she has never been inside the house. Nor he either, for
that matter, except once when it took fire, you know, and he came in
with that funny little chemical engine tucked under his arm, and took
off his hat in the same prim, polite way that he takes it off when he
talks to Sibyl, and said, 'If you'll excuse me offering advice, Miss
Hopkins, it is not necessary to move anything; it mars furniture very
much to move it at a fire. I think, if you will allow me, I can
extinguish this.' And he did, too, didn't he, as neatly and as coolly as
if it were only adding up a column of figures. And offered me the engine
as a souvenir."

"Lorania, you never told me that!"

"It seemed like making fun of him, when he had been so kind. I declined
as civilly as I could. I hope I didn't hurt his feelings. I meant to pay
a visit to his mother and ask them to dinner, but you know I went to
England that week, and somehow when I came back it was difficult. It
seems a little odd we never have seen more of the Winslows, but I fancy
they don't want either to intrude or to be intruded on. But he is
certainly very obliging about the garden. Think of all the slips and
flowers he has given us, and the advice--"

"All passed over the fence. It is funny our neighborly good offices
which we render at arm's-length. How long have you known him?"

"Oh, a long time. He is cashier of my bank, you know. First he was
teller, then assistant cashier, and now for five years he has been
cashier. The president wants to resign and let him be president, but he
hardly has enough stock for that. But Oliver says" (Oliver was Miss
Hopkins's brother) "that there isn't a shrewder or straighter banker in
the state. Oliver knows him. He says he is a sandy little fellow."

"Well, he is," assented Mrs. Ellis. "It isn't many cashiers would let
robbers stab them and shoot them and leave them for dead rather than
give up the combination of the safe!"

"He wouldn't take a cent for it, either, and he saved ever so many
thousand dollars. Yes, he _is_ brave. I went to the same school with him
once, and saw him fight a big boy twice his size--such a nasty boy, who
called me 'Fatty,' and made a kissing noise with his lips just to scare
me--and poor little Cyril Winslow got awfully beaten, and when I saw him
on the ground, with his nose bleeding and that big brute pounding him, I
ran to the water-bucket, and poured the whole bucket on that big,
bullying boy and stopped the fight, just as the teacher got on the
scene. I cried over little Cyril Winslow. He was crying himself. 'I
ain't crying because he hurt me,' he sobbed; 'I'm crying because I'm so
mad I didn't lick him!' I wonder if he remembers that episode?"

"Perhaps," said Mrs. Ellis.

"Maggie, what makes you think he is falling in love with Sibyl?"

Mrs. Ellis laughed. "I dare say he _isn't_ in love with Sibyl," said
she. "I think the main reason was his always riding by here instead of
taking the shorter road down the other street."

"Does he always ride by here? I hadn't noticed."

"Always!" said Mrs. Ellis. "_I_ have noticed."

"I am sorry for him," said Lorania, musingly. "I think Sibyl is very
much taken with that young Captain Carr at the Arsenal. Young girls
always affect the army. He is a nice fellow, but I don't think he is
the man Winslow is. Now, Maggie, advise me about the suit. I don't want
to look like the escaped fat lady of a museum."

Lorania thought no more of Sibyl's love-affairs. If she thought of the
Winslows, it was to wish that Mrs. Winslow would sell or rent her
pasture, which, in addition to her own and Mrs. Ellis's pastures thrown
into one, would make such a delightful bicycle-track.

The Winslow house was very different from the two villas that were the
pride of Fairport. A little story-and-a-half cottage peeped out on the
road behind the tall maples that were planted when Winslow was a boy.
But there was a wonderful green velvet lawn, and the tulips and
sweet-peas and pansies that blazed softly nearer the house were as
beautiful as those over which Miss Lorania's gardener toiled and
worried.

Mrs. Winslow was a little woman who showed the fierce struggle of her
early life only in the deeper lines between her delicate eyebrows and
the expression of melancholy patience in her brown eyes.

She always wore a widow's cap and a black gown. In the mornings she
donned a blue figured apron of stout and serviceable stuff; in the
afternoon an apron of that sheer white lawn used by bishops and smart
young waitresses. Of an afternoon, in warm weather, she was accustomed
to sit on the eastern piazza, next to the Hopkins place, and rock as she
sewed. She was thus sitting and sewing when she beheld an extraordinary
procession cross the Hopkins lawn. First marched the tall trainer, Shuey
Cardigan, who worked by day in the Lossing furniture-factory, and gave
bicycle lessons at the armory evenings. He was clad in a white sweater
and buff leggings, and was wheeling a lady's bicycle. Behind him walked
Miss Hopkins in a gray suit, the skirt of which only came to her
ankles--she always so dignified in her toilets.

"Land's sakes!" gasped Mrs. Winslow, "if she ain't going to ride a bike!
Well, what next?"

What really happened next was the sneaking (for no other word does
justice to the cautious and circuitous movements of her) of Mrs. Winslow
to the stable, which had one window facing the Hopkins pasture. No cows
were grazing in the pasture. All around the grassy plateau twinkled a
broad brownish-yellow track. At one side of this track a bench had been
placed, and a table, pleasing to the eye, with jugs and glasses. Mrs.
Ellis, in a suit of the same undignified brevity and ease as Miss
Hopkins's, sat on the bench supporting her own wheel. Shuey Cardigan was
drawn up to his full six feet of strength, and, one arm in the air, was
explaining the theory of the balance of power. It was an uncanny moment
to Lorania. She eyed the glistening, restless thing that slipped beneath
her hand, and her fingers trembled. If she could have fled in secret she
would. But since flight was not possible, she assumed a firm expression.
Mrs. Ellis wore a smile of studied and sickly cheerfulness.

"Don't you think it very _high_?" said Lorania. "I can _never_ get up on
it!"

"It will be by the block at first," said Shuey, in the soothing tones of
a jockey to a nervous horse; "it's easy by the block. And I'll be
steadying it, of course."

"Don't they have any with larger saddles? It is a _very_ small saddle."

"They're all of a size. It wouldn't look sporty larger; it would look
like a special make. Yous wouldn't want a special make."

Lorania thought that she would be thankful for a special make, but she
suppressed the unsportsmanlike thought. "The pedals are very small too,
Cardigan. Are you _sure_ they can hold me?"

"They would hold two of ye, Miss Hopkins. Now sit aisy and graceful as
ye would on your chair at home, hold the shoulders back, and toe in a
bit on the pedals--ye won't be skinning your ankles so much then--and
hold your foot up ready to get the other pedal. Hold light on the
steering-bar. Push off hard. _Now!_"

"Will you hold me? I am going--Oh, it's like riding an earthquake!"

Here Shuey made a run, letting the wheel have its own wild way--to reach
the balance. "Keep the front wheel under you!" he cried, cheerfully.
"Niver mind _where_ you go. Keep a-pedalling; whatever you do, keep
a-pedalling!"

"But I haven't got but one pedal!" gasped the rider.

"Ye lost it?"

"No; I _never had_ but one! Oh, don't let me fall!"

"Oh, ye lost it in the beginning; now, then, I'll hold it steady, and
you get both feet right. Here we go!"

Swaying frightfully from side to side, and wrenched from capsizing the
wheel by the full exercise of Shuey's great muscles, Miss Hopkins reeled
over the track. At short intervals she lost her pedals, and her feet,
for some strange reason, instead of seeking the lost, simply curled up
as if afraid of being hit. She gripped the steering-handles with an iron
grasp, and her turns were such as an engine makes. Nevertheless, Shuey
got her up the track for some hundred feet, and then by a herculean
sweep turned her round and rolled her back to the block. It was at this
painful moment, when her whole being was concentrated on the effort to
keep from toppling against Shuey, and even more to keep from toppling
away from him, that Lorania's strained gaze suddenly fell on the
frightened and sympathetic face of Mrs. Winslow. The good woman saw no
fun in the spectacle, but rather an awful risk to life and limb. Their
eyes met. Not a change passed over Miss Hopkins's features; but she
looked up as soon as she was safe on the ground, and smiled. In a
moment, before Mrs. Winslow could decide whether to run or to stand her
ground, she saw the cyclist approaching--on foot.

"Won't you come in and sit down?" she said, smiling. "We are trying our
new wheels."

And because she did not know how to refuse, Mrs. Winslow suffered
herself to be handed over the fence. She sat on the bench beside Miss
Hopkins in the prim attitude which had pertained to gentility in her
youth, her hands loosely clasping each other, her feet crossed at the
ankles.

"It's an awful sight, ain't it?" she breathed, "those little shiny
things; I don't see how you ever git on them."

"I don't get on them," said Miss Hopkins. "The only way I shall ever
learn to start off is to start without the pedals. Does your son ride,
Mrs. Winslow?"

"No, ma'am," said Mrs. Winslow; "but he knows how. When he was a boy
nothing would do but he must have a bicycle, one of those things most as
big as a mill wheel, and if you fell off you broke yourself somewhere,
sure. I always expected he'd be brought home in pieces. So I don't think
he'd have any manner of difficulty. Why, look at your friend; she's
'most riding alone!"

"She could always do everything better than I," cried Lorania, with
ungrudging admiration. "See how she jumps off! Now I can't jump off any
more than I can jump on. It seems so ridiculous to be told to press hard
on the pedal on the side where you want to jump, and swing your further
leg over first, and cut a kind of a figure eight with your legs, and
turn your wheel the way you don't want to go--all at once. While I'm
trying to think of all those directions I always fall off. I got that
wheel only yesterday, and fell before I even got away from the block.
One of my arms looks like a Persian ribbon."

Mrs. Winslow cried out in unfeigned sympathy. She wished Miss Hopkins
would use her liniment that she used for Cyril when he was hurt by the
burglars at the bank; he was bruised "terrible."

"That must have been an awful time to you," said Lorania, looking with
more interest than she had ever felt on the meek little woman; and she
noticed the tremble in the decorously clasped hands.

"Yes, ma'am," was all she said.

"I've often looked over at you on the piazza, and thought how cosey you
looked. Mr. Winslow always seems to be at home evenings."

"Yes, ma'am. We sit a great deal on the piazza. Cyril's a good boy; he
wa'n't nine when his father died; and he's been like a man helping me.
There never was a boy had such willing little feet. And he'd set right
there on the steps and pat my slipper and say what he'd git me when he
got to earning money; and he's got me every last thing, foolish and all,
that he said. There's that black satin gown, a sin and a shame for a
plain body like me, but he would git it. Cyril's got a beautiful
disposition too, jest like his pa's, and he's a handy man about the
house, and prompt at his meals. I wonder sometimes if Cyril was to git
married if his wife would mind his running over now and then and setting
with me awhile."

She was speaking more rapidly, and her eyes strayed wistfully over to
the Hopkins piazza, where Sibyl was sitting with the young soldier.
Lorania looked at her pityingly.

"Why, surely," said she.

"Mothers have kinder selfish feelings," said Mrs. Winslow, moistening
her lips and drawing a quick breath, still watching the girl on the
piazza. "It's so sweet and peaceful for them, they forget their sons may
want something more. But it's kinder hard giving all your little
comforts up at once when you've had him right with you so long, and
could cook just what he liked, and go right into his room nights if he
coughed. It's all right, all right, but it's kinder hard. And beautiful
young ladies that have had everything all their lives might--might not
understand that a homespun old mother isn't wanting to force herself on
them at all when they have company, and they have no call to fear it."

There was no doubt, however obscure the words seemed, that Mrs. Winslow
had a clear purpose in her mind, nor that she was tremendously in
earnest. Little blotches of red dabbled her cheeks, her breath came more
quickly, and she swallowed between her words. Lorania could see the
quiver in the muscles of her throat. She clasped her hands tight lest
they should shake. "He's in love with Sibyl," thought Lorania. "The poor
woman!" She felt sorry for her, and she spoke gently and reassuringly:

"No girl with a good heart can help feeling tenderly towards her
husband's mother."

Mrs. Winslow nodded. "You're real comforting," said she. She was silent
a moment, and then said, in a different tone: "You 'ain't got a large
enough track. Wouldn't you like to have our pasture too?"

Lorania expressed her gratitude, and invited the Winslows to see the
practice.

"My niece will come out to-morrow," she said, graciously.

"Yes? She's a real fine-appearing young lady," said Mrs. Winslow.

Both the cyclists exulted. Neither of them, however, was prepared to
behold the track made and the fence down the very next morning when
they came out, about ten o'clock, to the west side of Miss Hopkins's
boundaries.

"As sure as you live, Maggie," exclaimed Lorania, eagerly, "he's got it
all done! Now that is something like a lover. I only hope his heart
won't be bruised as black and blue as I am with the wheel!"

"Shuey says the only harm your falls do you is to take away your
confidence," said Mrs. Ellis.

"He wouldn't say so if he could see my _knees_!" retorted Miss Hopkins.

Mrs. Ellis, it will be observed, sheered away from the love-affairs of
Mr. Cyril Winslow. She had not yet made up her mind. And Mrs. Ellis, who
had been married, did not jump at conclusions regarding the heart of man
so rapidly as her spinster friend. She preferred to talk of the bicycle.
Nor did Miss Hopkins refuse the subject. To her at this moment the most
important object on the globe was the shining machine which she would
allow no hand but hers to oil and dust. Both Mrs. Ellis and she were
simply prostrated (as to their mental powers) by this new sport. They
could not think nor talk nor read of anything but _the wheel_. This is a
peculiarity of the bicyclist. No other sport appears to make such havoc
with the mind.

One can learn to swim without describing his sensations to every casual
acquaintance or hunting up the natatorial columns in the newspapers. One
may enjoy riding a horse and yet go about his ordinary business with an
equal mind. One learns to play golf and still remains a peaceful citizen
who can discuss politics with interest. But the cyclist, man or woman,
is soaked in every pore with the delight and the perils of wheeling. He
talks of it (as he thinks of it) incessantly. For this fatuous passion
there is one excuse. Other sports have the fearful delight of danger and
the pleasure of the consciousness of dexterity and the dogged
Anglo-Saxon joy of combat and victory; but no other sport restores to
middle age the pure, exultant, muscular intoxication of childhood. Only
on the wheel can an elderly woman feel as she felt when she ran and
leaped and frolicked amid the flowers as a child.

Lorania, of course, no longer jumped or ran; she kicked in the Delsarte
exercises, but it was a measured, calculated, one may say cold-blooded
kick, which limbered her muscles but did not restore her youthful glow
of soul. Her legs and not her spirits pranced. The same thing may be
said for Margaret Ellis. Now, between their accidents, they obtained
glimpses of an exquisite exhilaration. And there was also to be counted
the approval of their consciences, for they felt that no Turkish bath
could wring out moisture from their systems like half an hour's pumping
at the bicycle treadles. Lorania during the month had ridden through one
bottle of liniment and two of witch-hazel, and by the end of the second
bottle could ride a short distance alone. But Lorania could not yet
dismount unassisted, and several times she had felled poor Winslow to
the earth when he rashly adventured to stop her. Captain Carr had a
peculiar, graceful fling of the arm, catching the saddle-bar with one
hand while he steadied the handles with the other. He did not hesitate
in the least to grab Lorania's belt if necessary. But poor modest
Winslow, who fell upon the wheel and dared not touch the hem of a lady's
bicycle skirt, was as one in the path of a cyclone, and appeared daily
in a fresh pair of white trousers.

"Yous have now," Shuey remarked, impressively, one day--"yous have now
arrived at the most difficult and dangerous period in learning the
wheel. It's similar to a baby when it's first learned to walk but
'ain't yet got sense in walking. When it was little it would stay put
wherever ye put it, and it didn't know enough to go by itself, which is
similar to you. When I was holding ye you couldn't fall, but now you're
off alone depindent on yourself, object-struck by every tree, taking
most of the pasture to turn in, and not able to git off save by
falling--"

"Oh, couldn't you go with her somehow?" exclaimed Mrs. Winslow, appalled
at the picture. "Wouldn't a rope round her be some help? I used to put
it round Cyril when he was learning to walk."

"Well, no, ma'am," said Shuey, patiently. "Don't you be scared; the
riding will come; she's getting on grandly. And ye should see Mr.
Winslow. 'Tis a pleasure to teach him. He rode in one lesson. I ain't
learning him nothing but tricks now."

"But, Mr. Winslow, why don't you ride here--with us?" said Sibyl, with
her coquettish and flattering smile. "We're always hearing of your
beautiful riding. Are we never to see it?"

"I think Mr. Winslow is waiting for that swell English cycle suit that I
hear about," said the captain, grinning; and Winslow grew red to his
eyelids.

Lorania gave an indignant side glance at Sibyl. Why need the girl make
game of an honest man who loved her? Sibyl was biting her lips and
darting side glances at the captain. She called the pasture practice
slow, but she seemed, nevertheless, to enjoy herself sitting on the
bench, the captain on one side and Winslow on the other, rattling off
her girlish jokes, while her aunt and Mrs. Ellis, with the anxious, set
faces of the beginner, were pedalling frantically after Cardigan.
Lorania began to pity Winslow, for it was growing plain to her that
Sibyl and the captain understood each other. She thought that even if
Sibyl did care for the soldier, she need not be so careless of Winslow's
feelings. She talked with the cashier herself, trying to make amends for
Sibyl's absorption in the other man, and she admired the fortitude that
concealed the pain that he must feel. It became quite the expected thing
for the Winslows to be present at the practice; but Winslow had not yet
appeared on his wheel. He used to bring a box of candy with him, or
rather three boxes--one for each lady, he said--and a box of peppermints
for his mother. He was always very attentive to his mother.

"And fancy, Aunt Margaret," laughed Sibyl, "he has asked both auntie
and me to the theatre. He is not going to compromise himself by singling
one of us out. He's a careful soul. By the way, Aunt Margaret, Mrs.
Winslow was telling me yesterday that I am the image of auntie at my
age. Am I? Do I look like her? Was she as slender as I?"

"Almost," said Mrs. Ellis, who was not so inflexibly truthful as her
friend.

"No, Sibyl," said Lorania, with a deep, deep sigh, "I was always plump;
I was a chubby _child_! And oh, what do you think I heard in the crowd
at Manly's once? One woman said to another, 'Miss Hopkins has got a
wheel.' 'Miss Sibyl?' said the other. 'No; the stout Miss Hopkins,' said
the first creature; and the second--" Lorania groaned.

"What _did_ she say to make you feel that way?"

"She said--she said, 'Oh my!'" answered Lorania, with a dying look.

"Well, she was horrid," said Mrs. Ellis; "but you know you have grown
thin. Come on; let's ride!"

"I _never_ shall be able to ride," said Lorania, gloomily. "I can get
on, but I can't get off. And they've taken off the brake, so I can't
stop. And I'm object-struck by everything I look at. Some day I shall
look down-hill. Well, my will's in the lower drawer of the mahogany
desk."

Perhaps Lorania had an occult inkling of the future. For this is what
happened: That evening Winslow rode on to the track in his new English
bicycle suit, which had just come. He hoped that he didn't look like a
fool in those queer clothes. But the instant he entered the pasture he
saw something that drove everything else out of his head, and made him
bend over the steering-bar and race madly across the green; Miss
Hopkins's bicycle was running away down-hill! Cardigan, on foot, was
pelting obliquely, in the hopeless thought to intercept her, while Mrs.
Ellis, who was reeling over the ground with her own bicycle, wheeled as
rapidly as she could to the brow of the hill, where she tumbled off, and
abandoning the wheel, rushed on foot to her friend's rescue.

She was only in time to see a flash of silver and ebony and a streak of
brown dart before her vision and swim down the hill like a bird. Lorania
was still in the saddle, pedalling from sheer force of habit, and
clinging to the handle bars. Below the hill was a stone wall, and
farther was a creek. There was a narrow opening in the wall where the
cattle went down to drink; if she could steer through that she would
have nothing worse than soft water and mud; but there was not one chance
in a thousand that she could pass that narrow space. Mrs. Winslow,
horror-stricken, watched the rescuer, who evidently was cutting across
to catch the bicycle.

"He's riding out of sight!" thought Shuey, in the rear. He himself did
not slacken his speed, although he could not be in time for the
catastrophe. Suddenly he stiffened; Winslow was close to the runaway
wheel.

"Grab her!" yelled Shuey. "Grab her by the belt! _Oh, Lord!_"

The exclamation exploded like the groan of a shell. For while Winslow's
bicycling was all that could be wished, and he flung himself in the path
of the on-coming wheel with marvellous celerity and precision, he had
not the power to withstand the never yet revealed number of pounds
carried by Miss Lorania, impelled by the rapid descent and gathering
momentum at every whirl. They met; he caught her; but instantly he was
rolling down the steep incline and she was doubled up on the grass. He
crashed sickeningly against the stone wall; she lay stunned and still
on the sod; and their friends, with beating hearts, slid down to them.
Mrs. Winslow was on the brow of the hill. She blesses Shuey to this day
for the shout he sent up, "Nobody killed, and I guess no bones broken."

When Margaret went home that evening, having seen her friend safely in
bed, not much the worse for her fall, she was told that Cardigan wished
to see her. Shuey produced something from his pocket, saying: "I picked
this up on the hill, ma'am, after the accident. It maybe belongs to him,
or it maybe belongs to her; I'm thinking the safest way is to just give
it to you." He handed Mrs. Ellis a tiny gold-framed miniature of Lorania
in a red leather case.

       *       *       *       *       *

The morning was a sparkling June morning, dewy and fragrant, and the
sunlight burnished handle and pedal of the friends' bicycles standing on
the piazza unheeded. It was the hour for morning practice, but Miss
Hopkins slept in her chamber, and Mrs. Ellis sat in the little parlor
adjoining, and thought.

She did not look surprised at the maid's announcement that Mrs. Winslow
begged to see her for a few moments. Mrs. Winslow was pale. She was a
good sketch of discomfort on the very edge of her chair, clad in the
black silk which she wore Sundays, her head crowned with her bonnet of
state, and her hands stiff in a pair of new gloves.

"I hope you'll excuse me not sending up a card," she began. "Cyril got
me some going on a year ago, and I _thought_ I could lay my hand right
on 'em, but I'm so nervous this morning I hunted all over, and they
wasn't anywhere. I won't keep you. I just wanted to ask if you picked up
anything--a little red Russia-leather case--"

"Was it a miniature--a miniature of my friend Miss Hopkins?"

"I thought it all over, and I came to explain. You no doubt think it
strange; and I can assure you that my son never let any human being look
at that picture. I never knew about it myself till it was lost and he
got out of his bed--he ain't hardly able to walk--and staggered over
here to look for it, and I followed him; and so he _had_ to tell me. He
had it painted from a picture that came out in the papers. He felt it
was an awful liberty. But--you don't know how my boy feels, Mrs. Ellis;
he has worshipped that woman for years. He 'ain't never had a thought
of anybody but her since they was children in school; and yet he's been
so modest and so shy of pushing himself forward that he didn't do a
thing until I put him on to help you with this bicycle."

Margaret Ellis did not know what to say. She thought of the marquis; and
Mrs. Winslow poured out her story: "He 'ain't never said a word to me
till this morning. But don't I _know_? Don't I know who looked out so
careful for her investments? Don't I know who was always looking out for
her interest, silent, and always keeping himself in the background? Why,
she couldn't even buy a cow that he wa'n't looking round to see that she
got a good one! 'Twas him saw the gardener, and kept him from buying
that cow with tuberculosis, 'cause he knew about the herd. He knew by
finding out. He worshipped the very cows she owned, you may say, and
I've seen him patting and feeding up her dogs; it's to our house that
big mastiff always goes every night. Mrs. Ellis, it ain't often that a
woman gits love such as my son is offering, only he da'sn't offer it,
and it ain't often a woman is loved by such a good man as my son. He
'ain't got any bad habits; he'll die before he wrongs anybody; and he
has got the sweetest temper you ever see; and he's the tidiest man
about the house you could ask, and the promptest about meals."

Mrs. Ellis looked at her flushed face, and sent another flood of color
into it, for she said, "Mrs. Winslow, I don't know how much good I may
be able to do, but I am on your side."

Her eyes followed the little black figure when it crossed the lawn. She
wondered whether her advice was good, for she had counselled that
Winslow come over in the evening.

"Maggie," said a voice. Lorania was in the doorway. "Maggie," she said,
"I ought to tell you that I heard every word."

"Then _I_ can tell _you_," cried Mrs. Ellis, "that he is fifty times
more of a man than the marquis, and loves you fifty thousand times
better!"

Lorania made no answer, not even by a look. What she felt, Mrs. Ellis
could not guess. Nor was she any wiser when Winslow appeared at her
gate, just as the sun was setting.

"I didn't think I would better intrude on Miss Hopkins," said he, "but
perhaps you could tell me how she is this evening. My mother told me how
kind you were, and perhaps you--you would advise if I might venture to
send Miss Hopkins some flowers."

Out of the kindness of her heart Mrs. Ellis averted her eyes from his
face; thus she was able to perceive Lorania saunter out of the Hopkins
gate. So changed was she by the bicycle practice that, wrapped in her
niece's shawl, she made Margaret think of the girl. An inspiration
flashed to her; she knew the cashier's dependence on his eye-glasses,
and he was not wearing them.

"If you want to know how Miss Hopkins is, why not speak to her niece
now?" said she.

He started. He saw Miss Sibyl, as he supposed, and he went swiftly down
the street. "Miss Sibyl!" he began, "may I ask how is your aunt?"--and
then she turned.

She blushed, then she laughed aloud. "Has the bicycle done so much for
me?" said she.

"The bicycle didn't need to do _anything_ for you!" he cried, warmly.

Mrs. Ellis, a little distance in the rear, heard, turned, and walked
thoughtfully away. "They're off," said she--she had acquired a sporting
tinge of thought from Shuey Cardigan. "If with that start he can't make
the running, it's a wonder."

"I have invited Mr. Winslow and his mother to dinner," said Miss
Hopkins, in the morning. "Will you come too, Maggie?"

"I'll back him against the marquis," thought Margaret, gleefully.

A week later Lorania said: "I really think I must be getting thinner.
Fancy Mr. Winslow, who is so clear-sighted, mistaking me for Sibyl! He
says--I told him how I had suffered from my figure--he says it can't be
what he has suffered from his. Do you think him so very short, Maggie?
Of course he isn't tall, but he has an elegant figure, I think, and I
never saw anywhere such a rider!"

Mrs. Ellis answered, heartily, "He isn't very small, and he is a
beautiful figure on the wheel!" And added to herself, "I know what was
in that letter she sent yesterday to the marquis! But to think of its
all being due to the bicycle!"



The Marrying of Esther

BY MARY M. MEARS


"Set there and cry; it's so sensible; and I 'ain't said that a June
weddin' wouldn't be a little nicer. But what you goin' to live on? Joe
can't git his money that soon."

"He--said he thought he could manage. But I won't be married at all if I
can't have it--right."

"Well, you can have it right. All is, there are some folks in this town
that if they don't calculate doin' real well by you, I don't feel called
upon to invite."

"I don't know what you mean," sobbed the girl. She sat by the kitchen
table, her face hidden in her arms. Her mother stood looking at her
tenderly, and yet with a certain anger.

"I mean about the presents. You've worked in the church, you've sung in
the choir for years, and now it's a chance for folks to show that they
appreciate it, and without they're goin' to--Boxes of cake would be
plenty if they wa'n't goin' to serve you any better than they did Ella
Plummet."

Esther Robinson lifted her head. She was quite large, in a soft young
way, and her skin was as pure as a baby's. "But you can't know
beforehand how they're going to treat me!"

"Yes, I can know beforehand, too, and if you're set on next month, it's
none too soon to be seein' about it. I've a good mind to step over to
Mis' Lawrence's and Mis' Stetson's this afternoon."

"Mother! You--wouldn't ask 'em anything?"

Mrs. Robinson hung away her dishtowel; then she faced Esther. "Of course
I wouldn't _ask_ 'em; there's other ways of findin' out besides
_asking_. I'd bring the subject round by saying I hoped there wouldn't
be many duplicates, and I'd git out of 'em what they intended givin'
without seemin' to." Esther looked at her mother with a sort of
fascination. "Then we could give some idea about the refreshments; for I
ain't a-goin' to have no elaborate layout without I _do_ know; and it
ain't because I grudge the money, either," she added, in swift
self-defence.

Mrs. Robinson was a good manager of the moderate means her husband had
left her, but she was not parsimonious or inhospitable. Now she was
actuated by a fierce maternal jealousy. Esther, despite her pleasant
ways and her helpfulness, was often overlooked in a social way. This was
due to her mother. The more pretentious laughed about Mrs. Robinson, and
though the thrifty, contented housewife never missed the amenities which
might have been extended to her, she was keenly alive to any slights put
upon her daughter. And so it was now.

Mrs. Lawrence, a rich, childless old lady, lived next door, and about
four o'clock she went over there. The girl watched her departure
doubtfully, but the possibility of not having a large wedding kept her
from giving a full expression to her feelings.

Esther had always dreamed of her wedding; she had looked forward to it
just as definitely before she met Joe Elsworth as after her engagement
to him. There would be flowers and guests and feasting, and she would be
the centre of it all in a white dress and veil.

She had never thought about there being any presents. Now for the first
time she thought of them as an added glory, but her imagination did not
extend to the separate articles or to their givers. Esther never
pictured her uncle Jonas at the wedding, yet he would surely be in
attendance in his rough farmer clothes, his grizzled, keen old face
towering above the other guests. She did not picture her friends as she
really knew them; the young men would be fine gentlemen, and the girls
ladies in wonderful toilets. As for herself and Joe, hidden away in a
bureau drawer Esther had a poster of one of Frohman's plays. It
represented a bride and groom standing together in a drift of orange
blossoms.

Mrs. Robinson did not return at supper-time, and Esther ate alone. At
eight o'clock Joe Elsworth came. She met him at the door, and they
kissed in the entry. Then Joe preceded her in, and hung up his cap on a
projecting knob of the what-not--that was where he always put it. He
glanced into the dining-room and took in the waiting table.

"Haven't you had supper yet!"

"Mother isn't home."

He came towards her swiftly; his eyes shone with a sudden elated
tenderness. She raised her arms and turned away her face, but he swept
aside the ineffectual barrier. When he let her go she seated herself on
the farther side of the room. Her glance was full of a soft rebuke. He
met it, then looked down smilingly and awkwardly at his shoes.

"Where did you say your ma had gone?"

"She's gone to Mis' Lawrence's, and a few other places."

"Oh, calling. Old Mis' Norton goes about twice a year, and I ask her
what it amounts to."

"I guess you'll find ma's calls'll amount to something."

"How's that?" he demanded.

"She's--going to try and find out what they intend giving."

"What they intend giving?"

"Yes. And without they intend giving something worth while, she says she
won't invite 'em, and maybe we won't have a big wedding at all," she
finished, pathetically.

Joe did not answer. Esther stole an appealing glance at him.

"Does it seem a queer thing to do?"

"Well, yes, rather."

Her face quivered. "She said I'd done so much for Mis' Lawrence--"

"Well, you have, and I've wished a good many times that you wouldn't.
I'm sure I never knuckled to her, though she is my great-aunt."

"I never knuckled to her, either," protested Esther.

"You've done a sight more for her than I would have done, fixin' her
dresses and things, and she with more money than anybody else in town.
But your mother ain't going to call on everybody, is she?" he asked,
anxiously.

"Of course she ain't. Only she said, if it was going to be in June--but
I don't want it to be ever," she added, covering her face.

"Oh, it's all right," said Joe, penitently. He went over and put his arm
around her. Nevertheless, his eyes held a worried look.

Joe's father had bound him out to a farmer by the name of Norton until
his majority, when the sum of seven hundred dollars, all the little
fortune the father had left, together with three hundred more from
Norton, was to be turned over to him. But Joe would not be twenty-one
until October. It was going to be difficult for him to arrange for the
June wedding Esther desired. He was very much in love, however, and
presently he lifted his boyish cheek from her hair.

"I think I'll take that cottage of Lanham's; it's the only vacant house
in the village, and he's promised to wait for the rent, so that
confounded old Norton needn't advance me a cent."

Esther flushed. "What do you suppose makes him act so?" she questioned,
though she knew.

Joe blushed too. "He don't like it because I'm going to work in the
factory when it opens. But Mis' Norton and Sarah have done everything
for me," he added, decidedly.

Up to the time of his engagement Joe had been in the habit of showing
Sarah Norton an occasional brotherly attention, and he would have
continued to do so had not Esther and Mrs. Robinson interfered--Esther
from girlish jealousy, and her mother because she did not approve of the
family, she said. She could not say she did not approve of Sarah, for
there was not a more upright, self-respecting girl in the village. But
Sarah, because of her father's miserliness, often went out for extra
work when the neighbors needed help, and this was the real cause of Mrs.
Robinson's feeling. Unconsciously she made the same distinction between
Sarah Norton and Esther that some of the more ambitious of the village
mothers made between their girls and her own daughter. Then it was
common talk that old Jim Norton, for obvious reasons, was displeased
with Joe's matrimonial plans, but Mrs. Robinson professed to believe
that the wife and daughter were really the ones disappointed. Now Esther
began twisting a button of Joe's coat.

"I don't believe mother'll ask either of 'em to the wedding," said she.

When Mrs. Robinson entered, Esther stood expectant and fearful by the
table. Her mother drew up a chair and reached for the bread.

"I didn't stop anywhere for supper. You've had yours, 'ain't you?"

The girl nodded.

"Joe come?"

"He just left."

But Mrs. Robinson was not to be hurried into divulging the result of her
calls. She remained massively mysterious. Esther began to wish she had
not hurried Joe off so unceremoniously. After her first cup of tea,
however, her mother asked for a slip of paper and a pencil. "I want that
pencil in my machine drawer, that writes black, and any kind of paper'll
do," she said.

Esther brought them; then she took up her sewing. She was not without a
certain self-restraint. Mrs. Robinson, between her sips of tea, wrote.
The soft gurgle of her drinking annoyed Esther, and she had a tingling
desire to snatch the paper. After a last misdirected placing of her cup
in her plate, however, her mother looked up and smiled triumphantly.

"I guess we'll have to plan something different than boxes of cake.
Listen to this; Mis' Lawrence--No, I won't read that yet. Mis'
Manning--I went in there because I thought about her not inviting you
when she gave that library party--one salt and pepper with rose-buds
painted on 'em."

Esther leaned forward; her face was crimson.

"You needn't look so," remonstrated her mother. "It was all I could do
to keep from laughing at the way she acted. I just mentioned that we
were only goin' to invite those you were indebted to, and she went and
fetched out that salt and pepper. I believe she said they was intended
in the first place for some relative that didn't git married in the
end."

The girl made an inarticulate noise in her throat. Her mother continued,
in a loud, impressive tone:

"Mis' Stetson--something worked. She hasn't quite decided what, but
she's goin' to let me know about it. Jane Watson--"

"You didn't go _there_, mother!"

Mrs. Robinson treated her daughter to a contemptuous look. "I guess I've
got sense. Jane was at Mis' Stetson's, and when I came away she went
along with me, and insisted that I should stop and see some
lamp-lighters she'd got to copy from--those paper balls. She seemed
afraid a string of those wouldn't be enough, but I told her how pretty
they was, and how much you'd be pleased."

"I guess I'll think a good deal more of 'em than I will of Mis'
Manning's salt and pepper." Esther was very near tears.

"Next I went to the Rogerses, and they've about concluded to give you a
lamp; and they can afford to. Then that's all the places I've been,
except to Mis' Lawrence's, and she"--Mrs. Robinson paused for
emphasis--"she's goin' to give you a silver _tea-set_!"

Esther looked at her mother, her red lips apart.

"That was the first place I called, and I said pretty plain what I was
gittin' at; but after I knew about the water-set, that settled what kind
of weddin' we'd have."

       *       *       *       *       *

But the next morning the world looked different. Her rheumatic foot
ached, and that always affected her temper; but when they sat down to
sew, the real cause of her irascibleness came out.

"Mis' Lawrence wa'n't any more civil than she need be," she remarked. "I
guess she'd decided she'd got to do something, being related to Joe. She
said she supposed you were expecting a good many presents; and I said
no, you didn't look for many, and there were some that you'd done a good
deal for that you knew better than to expect anything from. I was mad.
Then she turned kind of red, and mentioned about the water-set."

And in the afternoon a young girl acquaintance added to Esther's
perturbation. "I just met Susan Rogers," she confided to the other, "and
she said they hated to give that lamp, but they supposed they were in
for it."

Esther was not herself for some days. All her pretty dreams were blotted
out, and a morbid embarrassment took hold of her; but she was roused to
something like her old interest when the presents began to come in and
she saw her mother's active preparations for the wedding--the more so as
over the village seemed to have spread a pleasant excitement concerning
the event. Presents arrived from unexpected sources, so that
invitations had to be sent afterwards to the givers. Women who had
never crossed the Robinson threshold came now like Hindoo gift-bearers
before some deity whom they wished to propitiate. Meeting there, they
exchanged droll, half-deprecating glances. Mrs. Robinson's calls had
formed the subject of much laughing comment; but weddings were not
common in Marshfield, and the desire to be bidden to this one was
universal; it spread like an epidemic.

Mrs. Robinson was at first elated. She overlooked the matter of
duplicates, and accepted graciously every article that was
tendered--from a patch-work quilt to a hem-stitched handkerchief. "You
can't have too many of some things," she remarked to Esther. But later
she reversed this statement. Match-safes, photograph-frames, and pretty
nothings accumulated to an alarming extent.

"Now that's the last pin-cushion you're goin' to take," she declared, as
she returned from answering a call at the door one evening. "There's
fourteen in the parlor now. Some folks seem to have gone crazy on
pin-cushions."

She grew confused, and the next day she went into the parlor, which,
owing to the nature of the display, resembled a booth at a church fair,
and made an accurate list of the articles received. When she emerged,
her large, handsome face was quite flushed.

"Little wabbly, fall-down things, most of 'em. It'll take you a week to
dust your house if you have all those things standin' round."

"Well, I ain't goin' to put none of 'em away," declared Esther. "I like
ornaments."

"Glad you do; you've got enough of 'em, land knows. _Ornaments!_" The
very word seemed to incense her. "I guess you'll find there's something
needed besides _ornaments_ when you come right down to livin'. For one
thing, you're awful short of dishes and bedding, and you can't ever have
no company--unless," she added, with withering sarcasm, "you give 'em
little vases to drink out of, and put 'em to bed under a picture-drape,
with a pin-cushion or a scent-bag for a piller."

And from that time Mrs. Robinson accepted no gift without first
consulting her list. It became known that she looked upon useful
articles with favor, and brooms and flat-irons and bright tinware
arrived constantly. Then it was that the heterogeneous collection began
to pall upon Esther. The water-set had not yet been presented, but its
magnificence grew upon her, and she persuaded Joe to get a
spindle-legged stand on which to place it, although he could not furnish
the cottage until October, and had gone in debt for the few necessary
things. She pictured the combination first in one corner of the little
parlor, then another, finally in a window where it could be seen, from
the road.

Esther's standards did not vary greatly from her mother's, but she had a
bewildered sense that they were somehow stepping from the beaten track
of custom. On one or two points, however, she was firm. The few novels
that had come within her reach she had conned faithfully. Thus, even
before she had a lover, she had decided that the most impressive hour
for a wedding was sunrise, and had arranged the procession which was to
wend its way towards the church. And in these matters her mother,
respecting her superior judgment, stood stanchly by her.

Nevertheless, when the eventful morning arrived she was bitterly
disappointed. She had set her heart on having the church bell rung, and
overlooked the fact that the meeting-house bell was cracked, till Joe
reminded her. Then the weather was unexpectedly chilly. A damp fog, not
yet dispersed by the sun, hung over the barely awakened village, and the
little flower-girl shivered. She had a shawl pinned about her, and when
the procession was fairly started she tripped over it, and there was a
halt while she gathered up the roses and geraniums in her little
trembling hands and thrust them back into the basket. Celia Smith
tittered. Celia was the bridesmaid, and was accompanied by Joe's friend,
red-headed Harry Baker; and Mrs. Robinson and Uncle Jonas, who were far
behind, made the most of the delay. Mrs. Robinson often explained that
she was not a "good walker," and her brother-in-law tried jocularly to
help her along, although he used a cane himself. His weather-beaten old
face was beaming, but it was as though the smiles were set between the
wrinkles, for he kept his mouth sober. He had a flower in his
button-hole, which gave him a festive air, despite the fact that his
clothes were distinctly untidy. Several buttons were off: he had no wife
to keep them sewed on.

Esther had given but one glance at him. Her head under its lace veil
bent lower and lower. The flounces of her skirt stood out about her
like the delicate bell of a hollyhock; she followed the way falteringly.
Joe, his young eyes radiant, inclined his curly head towards her, but
she did not heed him. The little procession was as an awkward garment
which hampered and abashed her; but just as they reached the church the
sun crept above the tree-tops, and from the bleakness of dawn the whole
scene warmed into the glorious beauty of a June day. The guests lost
their aspect of chilled waiting; Esther caught their admiring glances.
For one brief moment her triumph was complete; the next she had
overstepped its bounds. She went forward scarcely touching Joe's arm.
Her great desire became a definite purpose. She whispered to a member of
her Sunday-school class, a little fellow. He looked at her wonderingly
at first, then darted forward and grasped the rope which dangled down in
a corner of the vestibule. He pulled with a will, but even as the old
bell responded with a hoarse clank, his arms jerked upward, and with
curls flying and fat legs extended he ascended straight to the ceiling.

"Oh, suz, the Lord's taking him right up!" shrieked an old woman, the
sepulchral explanation of the broken bell but serving to intensify her
terror; and there were others who refused to understand, even when his
sister caught him by the heels. She was very white, and she shook him
before she set him down. Too scared to realize where he was, he fought
her, his little face quite red, and his blouse strained up so that it
revealed the girth of his round little body in its knitted undershirt.

"Le' me go," he whimpered; "she telled me to do it."

His words broke through the general amazement like a stone through the
icy surface of a stream. The guests gave way to mirth. Some of the young
girls averted their faces; they could not look at Esther. The matrons
tilted their bonneted heads towards one another and shook softly. "I
thought at first it might be a part of the show," whispered one, "but I
guess it wasn't planned."

Esther was conscious of every whisper and every glance; shame seemed to
engulf her, but she entered the church holding her head high. When they
emerged into the sunshine again, she would have been glad to run away,
but she was forced to pause while her mother made an announcement.

"The refreshments will be ready by ten," she said, "and as we calculate
to keep the tables runnin' all day, those that can't come one time can
come another."

After which there was a little rice-throwing, and the young couple
departed. The frolic partly revived Esther's spirits; but her mother,
toiling heavily along with a hard day's work before her, was inclined to
speak her mind. Her brother-in-law, however, restrained her.

"Seems to me I never seen anything quite so cute as that little feller
a-ringin' that bell for the weddin'. Who put him up to it, anyhow?"

"Why, Esther. She was so set on havin' a 'chime,' as she called it."

"Well, it was a real good idee! A _real_ good idee!" and he kept
repeating the phrase as though in a perfect ecstasy of appreciation.

When Esther reached home, she and Joe arranged the tables in the side
yard, but when the first guest turned in at the gate her mother sent her
to the house. "Now you go into the parlor and rest. You can just as well
sit under that dove as stand under it," she said.

The girl started listlessly to obey, but the next words revived her like
wine:

"I declare it's Mis' Lawrence, and she's bringing that water-set; she
hung on to it till the last minit."

Esther flew to her chamber and donned her veil, which she had laid
aside, then sped down-stairs; but when she passed through the parlor she
put her hands over her eyes: she wanted to look at the water-set first
with Joe. He was no longer helping her mother, and she fluttered about
looking for him. The rooms would soon be crowded, and then there would
be no opportunity to examine the wonderful gift.

She darted down a foot-path that crossed the yard diagonally. It led to
a gap in the stone-wall which opened on a lane. Esther and Joe had been
in the habit of walking here of an evening. It was scarcely more than a
grassy way overhung by leaning branches of old fruit trees, but it was a
short-cut to the cottage Joe had rented. Now Esther's feet, of their own
volition, carried her here. She slid through the opening. "Joe!" she
called, and her voice had the tremulous cadence of a bird summoning its
mate; but it died away in a little smothered cry, for not a rod away was
Joe, and sitting on a large stone was Sarah Norton. They had their backs
towards her, and were engaged in such an earnest conversation that they
did not hear her. Sarah's shoulders moved with her quick breathing; she
had a hand on Joe's arm. Esther stood staring, her thin draperies
circling about her, and her childish face pale. Then she turned, with a
swift impulse to escape, but again she paused, her eyes riveted in the
opposite direction. From where she stood the back door of her future
home was visible, and two men were carrying out furniture. Involuntarily
she opened her lips to call Joe, but no sound came. Yes, they had the
bureau; they would probably take the spindle-legged stand next. A strong
protective instinct is part of possession, and to Esther that sight was
as a magnet to steel. Down the grassy lane she sped, but so lightly that
the couple by the wall were as unobservant of her as they were of the
wind stirring the long grass.

Sarah Norton rose. "I run every step of the way to get here in time.
Please, Joe!" she panted.

He shook his head. "It's real kind of you and your mother, Sarah, but I
guess I ain't going to touch any of the money you worked for and earned,
and I can't help but think, when I talk to Lanham--"

"I tell you, you can't reason with him in his state!"

"Well, I'll raise it somehow."

"You'll have to be quick about it, then," she returned, concisely.
"He'll be here in a few minutes, and it's cash down for the first three
months, or he'll let the other party have it."

"But he promised--"

"That don't make any difference. He's drunk, and he thought father'd
offer to make you an advance; but father just told him to come down
here, that you were being married, and say he'd poke all your things out
in the road without you paid."

The young man turned. Sarah blocked his way. She was a tall,
good-looking girl, somewhat older than Joe, and she looked straight up
into his face.

"See here, Joe; you know what makes father act so, and so do I, and so
does mother, and mother and I want you should take this money; it'll
make us feel better." Sarah flushed, but she looked at him as directly
as if she had been his sister.

Joe felt an admiration for her that was almost reverence. It carried him
for the moment beyond the consideration of his own predicament.

"No, I don't know what makes him act so either," he cried, hotly. "Oh
Lord, Sarah, you sha'n't say such a thing!"

She interrupted him. "Won't you take it?"

He turned again: "You're just as good as you can be, but I can manage
some way."

"I'll watch for Lanham," she answered, quietly, "and keep him talking as
long as I can. He's just drunk enough to make a scene."

Half-way to the house, Joe met Harry Barker.

"What did she want?" he inquired, curiously.

When Joe told him he plunged into his pocket and drew out two dollars,
then offered to go among the young fellows and collect the balance of
the amount, but Joe caught hold of him.

"Think of something else."

"I could explain to the boys--"

"You go and ask Mrs. Lawrence if she won't step out on the porch," the
other commanded; "she's my great-aunt, and I never asked anything of her
before."

But Mrs. Lawrence was not sympathetic. She told Joe flatly that she
never lent money, and that the water-set was as much as she could afford
to give. "It ain't paid for, though," she added; "and if you'd rather
have the money, I suppose I can send it back. But seems to me I
shouldn't have been in such an awful hurry to git married; I should 'a'
waited a month or so, till I had something to git married on. But you're
just like your father--never had no calculation. Do you want I should
return that silver?"

Joe hesitated. It was an easy way out of the difficulty. Then a vision
of Esther rose before him, and the innocent preparations she had been
making for the display of the gift; "No," he answered, shortly. And Mrs.
Lawrence, with a shake of the shoulders as though she threw off all
responsibility in her young relative's affairs, bustled away. "I'm going
to keep that water-set if everything else has to go," he declared to the
astonished Harry. "Let 'em set me out in the road; I guess I'll git
along." He had a humorous vision of himself and Esther trudging forth,
with the water-set between them, to seek their fortune.

He flung himself from the porch, and was confronted by Jonas Ingram. The
old fellow emerged from behind a lilac-bush with a guilty yet excited
air.

"Young man, I ain't given to eaves-dropping, but I was strollin' along
here and I heered it all; and as I was calculatin' to give my niece a
present--" He broke off and laid a hand on Joe's arm. "Where is that
dod-blasted fool of a Lanham? I'll pay him; then I'll break every bone
in his dum body!" he exclaimed, waxing profane. "Come here disturbin'
decent folks' weddin's! Where is he?"

He started off down the path, striking out savagely with his stick. Joe
watched him a moment, then put after him, and Harry Barker followed.

"If this ain't the liveliest weddin'!"

Nevertheless, he was disappointed in his expectations of an encounter.
When the trio emerged through the gap in the wall they found only Sarah
Norton awaiting them.

"Lanham's come and gone," she announced. "No, I didn't give him a thing,
except a piece of my mind," she answered, in response to a look from
Joe. "I told him that he was acting like a fool; that father was in for
a thousand dollars to you in the fall, and that you would pay then, as
you promised, and that he'd better clear out."

"Oh, if I could jest git a holt of him!" muttered Jonas Ingram.

"That seemed to sober him," continued the girl; "but he said he wasn't
the only one that had got scared; that Merrill was going for his tables
and chairs; but Lanham said he'd run up to the cottage, and if he was
there, he'd send him off. You see, father threw out as if he wasn't
owing you anything," she added, in a lower voice, "and that's what
stirred 'em up."

Joe turned white, in a sudden heat of anger--the first he had shown,
"I'll stir him--" he began; then his eyes met hers. He reddened. "Oh,
Sarah, I'm ever so much obliged to you!"

"It was nothing. I guess it was lucky I wasn't invited to the wedding,
though." She laughed, and started away, leaving Joe abashed. She glanced
back. "I hope none of this foolishness'll reach Mis' Elsworth's ears,"
she called, in a friendly voice.

"I hope it won't," muttered Joe, fervently, and stood watching her till
the old man pulled his sleeve.

"Lanham may not keep his word to the girl. Best go down there, hadn't
we?"

The young man made no answer, but turned and ran. He longed for some one
to wreak vengeance on. The other two had difficulty in keeping up with
him. The first object that attracted their attention was the bureau. It
was standing beside the back steps. Joe tried the door; it was
fastened. He drew forth the key and fitted it into the lock, but still
the door did not yield. He turned and faced the others. "_Some one's in
there!_"

Jonas Ingram broke forth into an oath. He shook his cane at the house.

"Some one's in there, and they've got the door bolted on the inside,"
continued Joe. His voice had a strange sound even to himself. He seemed
to be looking on at his own wrath. He strode around to a window, but the
blinds were closed; the blinds were closed all over the house; every
door was barred. Whoever was inside was in utter darkness. Joe came back
and gave the door a violent shake; then they all listened, but only the
pecking of a hen along the walk broke the silence.

"I'll get a crowbar," suggested Harry, scowling in the fierce sunlight.
Jonas Ingram stood with his hair blowing out from under his hat and his
stick grasped firmly in his gnarled old hand. He was all ready to
strike. His chin was thrust out rigidly. They both pressed close to Joe,
but he did not heed them. He put one shoulder against a panel; every
muscle was set.

"Whoever you are, if I have to break this door down--"

There was a soft commotion on the inside and the bolt was drawn. Joe,
with the other two at his heels, fairly burst into the darkened place,
just in time to see a white figure dart across the room and cast itself
in a corner. For an instant they could only blink. The figure wrapped
its white arms about some object.

"You can have everything but this table; you can't have--this." The
words ended in a frightened sob.

"_Esther!_"

"_Oh, Joe!_" She struggled to her feet, then shrank back against the
wall. "Oh, I didn't know it was you. Go 'way! go 'way!"

"Why, Esther, what do you mean?" He started towards her, but she turned
on him.

"Where is she?"

"Where's who?"

She did not reply, but standing against the wall, she stared at him with
a passionate scorn.

"You don't mean Sarah Norton?" asked Joe, slowly. Esther quivered. "Why,
she came to tell me of the trouble her father was trying to get me into.
But how did you come here, Esther? How did you know anything about it?"

She did not answer. Her head sank.

"How did you, Esther?"

"I saw--you in the lane," she faltered, then caught up her veil as
though it had been a pinafore. Joe went up to her, and Jonas Ingram took
hold of Harry Barker, and the two stepped outside, but not out of
ear-shot; they were still curious. They could hear Esther's sobbing
voice at intervals. "I tried to make 'em stop, but they wouldn't, and I
slipped in past 'em and bolted the door; and when you came, I thought it
was them--and, oh! ain't they our things, Joe?"

The old man thrust his head in at the door. "Yes," he roared, then
withdrew.

"And won't they take the table away?"

"No," he roared again. "I'd just like to see 'em!"

Esther wept harder. "Oh, I wish they would; I ought to give 'em up. I
didn't care for them after I thought--that. It was just that I had to
have something I wouldn't let go, and I tried to think only of saving
the table for the water-set."

"Come mighty near bein' no water-set," muttered Jonas to himself; then
he turned to his companion. "Young man, I guess they don't need us no
more," he said.

When he regained his sister-in-law's, he encountered that lady carrying
a steaming dish. Guests stood about under the trees or sat at the long
tables.

"For mercy sakes, Jonas, have you seen Esther? She made fuss enough
about havin' that dove fixed up in the parlor, and she and Joe ain't
stood under it a minit yet."

"That's a fact," chuckled the old fellow. "They ain't stood under no
dove of peace yet; they're just about ready to now, I reckon."

       *       *       *       *       *

And up through the lane, all oblivious, the lovers were walking slowly.
Just before they reached the gap in the wall, they paused by common
consent. Cherry and apple trees drooped over the wall; these had ceased
blossoming, but a tangle of wild-rose bushes was all ablush. It dropped
a thick harvest of petals on the ground. Joe bent his head; and Esther,
resting against his shoulder, lifted her eyes to his face. All
unconsciously she took the pose of the woman in the Frohman poster. They
kissed, and then went on slowly.



Cordelia's Night of Romance

BY JULIAN RALPH


Cordelia Angeline Mahoney was dressing, as she would say, "to keep a
date" with a beau, who would soon be waiting on the corner nearest her
home in the Big Barracks tenement-house. She smiled as she heard the
shrill catcall of a lad in Forsyth Street. She knew it was Dutch
Johnny's signal to Chrissie Bergen to come down and meet him at the
street doorway. Presently she heard another call--a birdlike
whistle--and she knew which boy's note it was, and which girl it called
out of her home for a sidewalk stroll. She smiled, a trifle sadly, and
yet triumphantly. She had enjoyed herself when she was no wiser and
looked no higher than the younger Barracks girls, who took up the boys
of the neighborhood as if there were no others.

She was in her own little dark inner room, which she shared with only
two others of the family, arranging a careful toilet by kerosene-light.
The photograph of herself in trunks and tights, of which we heard in the
story of Elsa Muller's hopeless love, was before her, among several
portraits of actresses and salaried beauties. She had taken them out
from under the paper in the top drawer of the bureau. She always kept
them there, and always took them out and spread them in the lamp-light
when she was alone in her room. She glanced approvingly at the portrait
of herself as a picture of which she had said to more than one girlish
confidante that it showed as neat a figure and as perfectly shaped limbs
as any actress's she had ever seen. But the suggestion of a frown
flitted across her brow as she thought how silly she was to have once
been "stage-struck"--how foolish to have thought that mere beauty could
quickly raise a poor girl to a high place on the stage. Julia Fogarty's
case proved that. Julia and she were stage-struck together, and where
was Julia--or Corynne Belvedere, as she now called herself? She started
well as a figurante in a comic opera company up-town, but from that she
dropped to a female minstrel troupe in the Bowery, and now, Lewy Tusch
told Cordelia, she was "tooing ter skirt-tance in ter pickernic parks
for ter sick-baby fund, ant passin' ter hat arount afterwarts." And evil
was being whispered of her--a pretty high price to pay for such small
success; and it must be true, because she sometimes came home late at
night in cabs, which are devilish, except when used at funerals.

It was Cordelia who attracted Elsa Muller's sweetheart, Yank Hurst, to
her side, and left Elsa to die yearning for his return. And it was
Cordelia who threw Hurst aside when he took to drink and stabbed the
young man who, during a mere walk from church, took his place beside
Cordelia. And yet Cordelia was only ambitious, not wicked. Few men live
who would not look twice at her. She was not of the stunted tenement
type, like her friends Rosie Mulvey and Minnie Bechman and Julia
Moriarty. She was tall and large and stately, and yet plump in every
outline. Moreover, she had the "style" of an American girl, and looked
as well in five dollars' worth of clothes--all home-made, except her
shoes and stockings--as almost any girl in richer circles. It was too
bad that she was called a flirt by the young men, and a stuck-up thing
by the girls, when in fact she was merely more shrewd and calculating
than the others, who were content to drift out of the primary schools
into the shops, and out of the shops into haphazard matrimony. Cordelia
was not lovable, but not all of us are who may be better than she. She
was monopolized by the hope of getting a man; but a mere alliance with
trousers was not the sum of her hope; they must jingle with coin.

It was strange, then, that she should be dressing to meet Jerry Donahue,
who was no better than gilly to the Commissioner of Public Works,
drawing a small salary from a clerkship he never filled, while he served
the Commissioner as a second left hand. But if we could see into
Cordelia's mind we would be surprised to discover that she did not
regard herself as flesh-and-blood Mahoney, but as romantic Clarice
Delamour, and she only thought of Jerry as James the butler. The
voracious reader of the novels of to-day will recall the story of
_Clarice, or Only a Lady's-Maid,_ which many consider the best of the
several absorbing tales that Lulu Jane Tilley has written. Cordelia had
read it twenty times, and almost knew it by heart. Her constant dream
was that she could be another Clarice, and shape her life like hers.
The plot of the novel needs to be briefly told, since it guided
Cordelia's course.

Clarice was maid to a wealthy society dowager. James the butler fell in
love with Clarice when she first entered the household, and she, hearing
the servants' gossip about James's savings and salary, had encouraged
his attentions. He pressed her to marry him. But young Nicholas
Stuyvesant came home from abroad to find his mother ill and Clarice
nursing her. Every day he noticed the modest rosy maid moving
noiselessly about like a sunbeam. Her physical perfection profoundly
impressed him. In her presence he constantly talked to his mother about
his admiration for healthy women. Each evening Clarice reported to him
the condition of the mother, and on one occasion mentioned that she had
never known ache, pain, or malady in her life. The young man often
chatted with her in the drawing-room, and James the butler got his
_congé_. Mr. Stuyvesant induced his mother to make Clarice her companion,
and then he met her at picture exhibitions, and in Central Park by
chance, and next--every one will recall the exciting scene--he paid
passionate court to her "in the pink sewing-room, where she had
reclined on soft silken sofa pillows, with her tiny slippers upon the
head of a lion whose skin formed a rug before her." Clarice thought him
unprincipled, and repulsed him. When the widow recovered her health and
went to Newport, the former maid met all society there. A gifted lawyer
fell a victim to Clarice's charms, and, on a moonlit porch overlooking
the sea, warned her against young Stuyvesant. On learning that the
_roué_ had already attempted to weaken the girl's high principles, to
rescue her he made her his wife. He was soon afterward elected Mayor of
New York, but remained a suitor for his beautiful wife's approbation,
waiting upon her in gilded halls with the fidelity of a knight of old.

Cordelia adored Clarice and fancied herself just like her--beautiful,
ambitious, poor, with a future of her own carving. Of course such a case
is phenomenal. No other young woman was ever so ridiculous.

"You have on your besht dresh, Cordalia," said her mother. "It'll soon
be wore out, an' ye'll git no other, wid your father oidle, an' no wan
airnin' a pinny but you an' Johnny an' Sarah Rosabel. Fwhere are ye
goin'?"

"I won't be gone long," said Cordelia, half out of the hall door.

"Cordalia Angeline, darlin'," said her mother, "mind, now, doan't let
them be talkin' about ye, fwherever ye go--shakin' yer shkirts an'
rollin' yer eyes. It doan't luk well for a gyurl to be makin' hersel'
attractive."

"Oh, mother, I'm not attractive, and you know it."

With her head full of meeting Jerry Donahue, Cordelia tripped down the
four flights of stairs to the street door. As Clarice, she thought of
Jerry as James the butler; in fact, all the beaux she had had of late
were so many repetitions of the unfortunate James in her mind. All the
other characters in her acquaintance were made to fit more or less
loosely into her romance life, and she thought of everything she did as
if it all happened in Lulu Jane Tilley's beautiful novel. Let the reader
fancy, if possible, what a feat that must have been for a tenement girl
who had never known what it was to have a parlor, in our sense of the
word, who had never known courtship to be carried on indoors, except in
a tenement hallway, and who had to imagine that the sidewalk flirtations
of actual life were meetings in private parks, that the wharves and
public squares and tenement roofs where she had seen all the young men
and women making love were heavily carpeted drawing-rooms, broad manor,
house verandas, and the fragrant conservatories of luxurious mansions!
But Cordelia managed all this mental necromancy easily, to her own
satisfaction. And now she was tripping down the bare wooden stairs
beside the dark greasy wall, and thinking of her future husband, the
rich Mayor, who must be either the bachelor police captain of the
precinct, or George Fletcher, the wealthy and unmarried factory-owner
near by, or, perhaps, Senator Eisenstone, the district leader, who, she
was forced to reflect, was an unlikely hero for a Catholic girl, since
he was a Hebrew. But just as she reached the street door and decided
that Jerry would do well enough as a mere temporary James the butler,
and while Jerry was waiting for her on the corner, she stepped from the
stoop directly in front of George Fletcher.

"Good evening," said the wealthy, young employer.

"Good evening, Mr. Fletcher."

"It's very embarrassing," said Mr. Fletcher: "I know your given
name--Cordelia, isn't it?--but your last na--Oh, thank you--Miss
Mahoney, of course. You know we met at that very queer wedding in the
home of my little apprentice, Joe--the line-man's wedding, you know."

"Te he!" Cordelia giggled. "Wasn't that a terrible strange wedding? I
think it was just terrible."

"Were you going somewhere?"

"Oh, not at all, Mr. Fletcher," with another nervous giggle or two. "I
have no plans on me mind, only to get out of doors. It's terrible hot,
ain't it?"

"May I take a walk with you, Miss Mahoney?"

It seemed to her that if he had called her Clarice the whole novel would
have come true then and there.

"I can't be out very late, Mr. Fletcher," said she, with a giggle of
delight.

"Are you sure I am not disarranging your plans? Had you no engagements?"

"Oh no," said she; "I was only going out with me lonely."

"Let us take just a short walk, then," said Fletcher; "only you must be
the man and take me in charge, Miss Mahoney, for I never walked with a
young lady in my life."

"Oh, certainly not; you never did--I _don't_ think."

"Upon my honor, Miss Mahoney, I know only one woman in this city--Miss
Whitfield, the doctor's daughter, who lives in the same house with you;
and only one other in the world--my aunt, who brought me up, in
Vermont."

Well indeed did Cordelia know this. All the neighborhood knew it, and
most of the other girls were conscious of a little flutter in their
breasts when his eyes fell upon them in the streets, for it was the
gossip of all who knew his workmen that the prosperous ladder-builder
lived in his factory, where his had spent the life of a monk, without
any society except of his canaries, his books, and his workmen.

"Well, I declare!" sighed Cordelia. "How terrible cunning you men are,
to get up such a story to make all the girls think you're romantic!"

But, oh, how happy Cordelia was! At last she had met her prince--the
future Mayor--her Sultan of the gilded halls. In that humid, sticky,
midsummer heat among the tenements, every other woman dragged along as
if she weighed a thousand pounds, but Cordelia felt like a feather
floating among clouds.

The babel--did the reader ever walk up Forsyth Street on a hot night,
into Second Avenue, and across to Avenue A, and up to Tompkins Park?
The noise of the tens of thousands on the pavements makes a babel that
drowns the racket of the carts and cars. The talking of so many persons,
the squalling of so many babies, the mothers scolding and slapping every
third child, the yelling of the children at play, the shouts and loud
repartee of the men and women--all these noises rolled together in the
air makes a steady hum and roar that not even the breakers on a hard
sea-beach can equal. You might say that the tenements were empty, as
only the very sick, who could not move, were in them. For miles and
miles they were bare of humanity, each flat unguarded and unlocked, with
the women on the sidewalks, with the youngest children in arms or in
perambulators, while those of the next sizes romped in the streets; with
the girls and boys of fourteen giggling in groups in the doorways (the
age and places where sex first asserts itself), and only the young men
and women missing; for they were in the parks, on the wharves, and on
the roofs, all frolicking and love-making.

And every house front was like a Russian stove, expending the heat it
had sucked from the all-day sun. And every door and window breathed bad
air--air without oxygen, rich and rank and stifling.

But Cordelia was Clarice, the future Mayoress. She did not know she was
picking a tiresome way around the boys at leap-frog, and the mothers and
babies and baby-carriages. She did not notice the smells, or feel the
bumps she got from those who ran against her. She thought she was in the
blue drawing-room at Newport, where a famous Hungarian count was
trilling the soft prelude to a _csárdás_ on the piano, and Mr.
Stuyvesant had just introduced her to the future Mayor, who was
spellbound by her charms, and was by her side, a captive. She reached
out her hand, and it touched Mr. Fletcher's arm (just as a ragamuffin
propelled himself head first against her), and Mr. Fletcher bent his
elbow, and her wrist rested in the crook of his arm. Oh, her dream was
true; her dream was true!

Mr. Fletcher, on the other hand, was hardly in a more natural relation.
He was trying to think how the men talked to women in all the literature
he had read. The myriad jokes about the fondness of girls for ice-cream
recurred to him, and he risked everything on their fidelity to fact.

"Are you fond of ice-cream?" he inquired.

"Oh no; I _don't_ think," said Cordelia. "What'll you ask next? What
girl ain't crushed on ice-cream, I'd like to know?"

"Do you know of a nice place to get some?"

"Do I? The Dutchman's, on the av'noo, another block up, is the finest in
the city. You get mo--that is, you get everything 'way up in G there,
with cakes on the side, and it don't cost no more than anywhere else."

So to the German's they went, and Clarice fancied herself at the Casino
in Newport. All the girls around her, who seemed to be trying to swallow
the spoons, took on the guise of blue-blooded belles, while the noisy
boys and young men (calling out, "Hully gee, fellers! look at Nifty
gittin' out der winder widout payin'!" and, "Say, Tilly, what kind er
cream is dat you're feedin' your face wid?") seemed to her so many
millionaires and the exquisite sons thereof. To Mr. Fletcher the
German's back-yard saloon, with its green lattice walls, and its rusty
dead Christmas trees in painted butter-kegs, appeared uncommonly
brilliant and fine. The fact that whenever he took a swallow of water
the ice-cream turned to cold candle-grease in his mouth made no
difference. He was happy, and Cordelia was in an ecstasy by the time he
had paid a shock-headed, bare-armed German waiter, and they were again
on the avenue side by side. She put out her hand and rested it on his
arm again--to make sure she was Clarice.

One would like to know whether, in the breasts of such as these,
familiar environment exerts any remarkable influence. If so, it could
have been in but one direction. For that part of town was one vast
nursery. Everywhere, on every side, were the swarming babies--a baby for
every flag-stone in the pavements. Babies and babies, and little besides
babies, except larger children and the mothers. Perambulators with two,
even three, baby passengers; mothers with as many as five children
trailing after them; babies in broad baggy laps, babies at the breast,
babies creeping, toppling, screaming, overflowing into the gutters. Such
was the unbroken scene from the Big Barracks to Tompkins Square; ay, to
Harlem and to the East River, and almost to Broadway. In the park, as if
the street scenes had been merely preliminary, the paths were alive,
wriggling, with babies of every age, from the new-born to the children
in pigtails and knickerbockers--and, lo! these were already paired and
practising at courtship. The walk that Cordelia was taking was amid a
fever, a delirium, of maternity--a rhapsody, a baby's opera, if one
considered its noise. In that vast region no one inquired whether
marriage was a failure. Nothing that is old and long-beloved and human
is a failure there.

In Tompkins Park, while they dodged babies and stepped around babies and
over them, they saw many happy couples on the settees, and they noticed
that often the men held their arms around the waists of their
sweethearts. Girls, too, in other instances, leaned loving heads against
the young men's breasts, blissfully regardless of publicity. They passed
a young man and a woman kissing passionately, as kissing is described by
unmarried girl novelists. Cordelia thought it no harm to nudge Mr.
Fletcher and whisper:

"Sakes alive! They're right in it, ain't they. 'It's funny when you feel
that way,' ain't it?"

As many another man who does not know the frankness and simplicity of
the plain people might have done, Mr. Fletcher misjudged the girl. He
thought her the sort of girl he was far from seeking. He grew instantly
cold and reserved, and she knew, vaguely, that she had displeased him.

"I think people who make love in public should be locked up," said he.

"Some folks wants everybody put away that enjoys themselves," said
Cordelia. Then, lest she had spoken too strongly, she added, "Present
company not intended, Mr. Fletcher, but you said that like them mission
folks that come around praising themselves and tellin' us all we're
wicked."

"And do you think a girl can be good who behaves so in public?"

"I know plenty that's done it," said she; "and I don't know any girls
but what's good. They 'ain't got wings, maybe, but you don't want to
monkey with 'em, neither."

He recollected her words for many a year afterward and pondered them,
and perhaps they enlarged his understanding. She also often thought of
his condemnation of love-making out-of-doors. Kissing in public,
especially promiscuous kissing, she knew to be a debatable pastime, but
she also knew that there was not a flat in the Big Barracks in which a
girl could carry on a courtship. Fancy her attempting it in her front
room, with the room choked with people, with the baby squalling, and her
little brothers and sisters quarrelling, with her mother entertaining
half a dozen women visitors with tea or beer, and with a man or two
dropping in to smoke with her father! Parlor courtship was to her, like
precise English, a thing only known in novels. The thought of novels
floated her soul back into the dream state.

"I think Cordelia's a pretty name," said Fletcher, cold at heart but
struggling to be companionable.

"I don't," said Cordelia. "I'm not at all crushed on it. Your name's
terrible pretty. I think my three names looks like a map of Ireland when
they're written down. I know a killin' name for a girl. It's Clarice.
Maybe some day I'll give you a dare. I'll double dare you, maybe, to
call me Clarice."

Oh, if he only would, she thought--if he would only call her so now! But
she forgot how unelastic his strange routine of life must have left him,
and she did not dream how her behavior in the park had displeased him.

"Cordelia is a pretty name," he repeated. "At any rate, I think we
should try to make the most and best of whatever name has come to us. I
wouldn't sail under false colors for a minute."

"Oh!" said she, with a giggle to hide her disappointment; "you're so
terrible wise! When you talk them big words you can pass me in a walk."

Anxious to display her great conquest to the other girls of the Barracks
neighborhood, Cordelia persuaded Mr. Fletcher to go to what she called
"the dock," to enjoy the cool breath of the river. All the piers and
wharves are called "docks" by the people. Those which are semi-public
and are rented to miscellaneous excursion and river steamers are crowded
nightly.

The wharf to which our couple strolled was a mere flooring above the
water, edged with a stout string-piece, which formed a bench for the
mothers. They were there in groups, some seated on the string-piece with
babes in arms or with perambulators before them, and others, facing
these, standing and joining in the gossip, and swaying to and fro to
soothe their little ones. Those who gave their offspring the breast did
so publicly, unembarrassed by a modesty they would have considered
false. A few youthful couples, boy by girl and girl by boy, sat on the
string-piece and whispered, or bandied fun with those other lovers who
patrolled the flooring of the wharf. A "gang" of rude young
men--toughs--walked up and down, teasing the girls, wrestling,
scuffling, and roaring out bad language. Troops of children played at
leap-frog, high-spy, jack-stones, bean-bag, hop-scotch, and tag. At the
far end of the pier some young men and women waltzed, while a lad on the
string-piece played for them on his mouth-organ. A steady, cool,
vivifying breeze from the bay swept across the wharf and fanned all the
idlers, and blew out of their heads almost all recollection of the
furnacelike heat of the town.

Cordelia forgot her desire to display her conquest. She forgot her true
self. She likened the wharf to that "lordly veranda overlooking the
sea," where the future Mayor begged Clarice to be his bride. She knew
just what she would say when her prince spoke his lines. She and Mr.
Fletcher were just about to seat themselves on the great rim of the
wharf, when an uproar of the harsh, froglike voices of half-grown men
caused them to turn around. They saw Jerry Donahue striding towards
them, but with difficulty, because half a dozen lads and youths were
endeavoring to hold him back.

"Dat's Mr. Fletcher," they said. "It ain't his fault, Jerry. He's dead
square; he's a gent, Jerry."

The politician's gilly tore himself away from his friends. The gang of
toughs gathered behind the others. Jerry planted himself in front of
Cordelia. Evidently he did not know the submissive part he should have
played in Cordelia's romance. James the butler made no out-break, but
here was Jerry angry through and through.

"You didn't keep de date wid me," he began.

"Oh, Jerry, I did--I tried to, but you--" Cordelia was red with shame.

"The hell you did! Wasn't I--"

"Here!" said Mr. Fletcher; "you can't swear at this lady."

"Why wouldn't I?" Jerry asked. "What would you do?"

"He's right, Jerry. Leave him be--see?" said the chorus of Jerry's
friends.

"A-a-a-h!" snarled Jerry. "Let him leave me be, then. Cordelia, I heard
you was a dead fraud, an' now I know it, and I'm a-tellin' you so,
straight--see? I was a-waitin' 'cross der street, an' I seen you come
out an' meet dis mug, an' you never turned yer head to see was I on me
post. I seen dat, an' I'm a-tellin' yer friend just der kind of a racket
you give me, der same's you've give a hundred other fellers. Den, if he
likes it he knows what he's gittin'."

Jerry was so angry that he all but pushed his distorted face against
that of the humiliated girl as he denounced her. Mr. Fletcher gently
moved her backward a step or two, and advanced to where she had stood.

"That will do," he said to Jerry. "I want no trouble, but you've said
enough. If there's more, say it to me."

"A-a-a-h!" exclaimed the gilly, expectorating theatrically over his
shoulder. "Me friends is on your side, an' I ain't pickin' no muss wid
you. But she's got der front of der City Hall to do me like she done.
And say, fellers, den she was goin' ter give me a song an' dance 'bout
lookin' fer me. Ba-a-a! She knows my 'pinion of her--see?"

The crowd parted to let Mr. Fletcher finish his first evening's
gallantry to a lady by escorting Cordelia to her home. It was a chilly
and mainly a silent journey. Cordelia falteringly apologized for Jerry's
misbehavior, but she inferred from what Mr. Fletcher said that he did
not fully join her in blaming the angry youth. Mr. Fletcher touched her
fingertips in bidding her good-night, and nothing was said of a meeting
in the future. Clarice was forgotten, and Cordelia was not only herself
again, but quite a miserable self, for her sobs awoke the little brother
and sister who shared her bed.



The Prize-Fund Beneficiary

BY E.A. ALEXANDER


Miss Snell began to apologize for interrupting the work almost before
she came in. The Painter, who grudgingly opened one half of the
folding-door wide enough to let her pass into the studio, was annoyed to
observe that, in spite of her apologies, she was loosening the furs
about her throat as if in preparation for a lengthy visit. Then for the
first time, behind her tall, black-draped figure, he caught sight of her
companion, who was shorter, and whose draperies were of a less ample
character--for Miss Snell, being tall and thin, resorted to voluminous
garments to conceal her slimness of person. A large plumed hat
accentuated, her sallowness and sharpness of feature, and her dark eyes,
set under heavy black brows, intensified her look of unhealthy pallor.

She was perfectly at her ease, and introduced her companion, Miss
Price, in a few words, explaining that the latter had come over for a
year or so to study, and was anxious to have the best advice about it.

"So I brought her straight here," Miss Snell announced, triumphantly.

Miss Price seemed a trifle overcome by the novelty of her surroundings,
but managed to say, in a high nasal voice, that she had already begun to
work at Julian's, but did not find it altogether satisfactory.

The Painter, looking at her indifferently, was roused to a sudden
interest by her face. Her features and complexion were certainly
pleasing, but the untidy mass of straggling hair topped by a battered
straw sailor hat diverted the attention of a casual observer from her
really unusual delicacy of feature and coloring. She was tall and slim,
although now she was dwarfed by Miss Snell's gaunt figure. A worn dress
and shabby green cape fastened at the neck by a button hanging
precariously on its last thread completed her very unsuitable winter
attire. Outside the great studio window a cold December twilight was
settling down over roofs covered with snow and icicles, and the Painter
shivered involuntarily as he noticed the insufficiency of her wraps for
such weather, and got up to stir the fire which glowed in the big stove.

In one corner his model waited patiently for the guests to depart, and
he now dismissed her for the day, eliciting faint protestations from
Miss Snell, who, however, was settling down comfortably in an easy-chair
by the fire, with an evident intention of staying indefinitely. Miss
Price's large, somewhat expressionless blue eyes were taking in the
whole studio, and the Painter could feel that she was distinctly
disappointed by her inspection. She had evidently anticipated something
much grander, and this bare room was not the ideal place she had fancied
the studio of a world-renowned painter would prove to be.

Bare painted walls, a peaked roof with a window reaching far overhead, a
polished floor, one or two chairs and a divan, the few necessary
implements of his profession, and many canvases faced to the wall, but
little or no bric-à-brac or delightful studio properties. The Painter
was also conscious that her inspection included him personally, and was
painfully aware that she was regarding him with the same feeling of
disappointment; she quite evidently thought him too young and
insignificant looking for a person of his reputation.

Miss Snell had not given him time to reply to Miss Price's remark about
her study at Julian's, but prattled on about her own work and the
unsurmountable difficulties that lay in the way of a woman's successful
career as a painter.

"I have been studying for years under ----," said Miss Snell, "and
really I have no time to lose. It will end by my simply going to him and
saying, quite frankly: 'Now, Monsieur ----, I have been in your atelier
for four years, and I can't afford to waste another minute. There are no
two ways about it. You positively must tell me how to do it. You really
must not keep me waiting any longer. I insist upon it.' How discouraging
it is!" she sighed. "It seems quite impossible to find any one who is
willing to give the necessary information."

Miss Price's wandering eyes had at last found a resting-place on a
large, half-finished canvas standing on an easel. Something attractive
in the pose and turn of her head made the Painter watch her as he lent a
feeble attention to Miss Snell's conversation.

Miss Price's lips were very red, and the clear freshness of extreme
youth bloomed in her cheeks; she was certainly charming. During one of
Miss Snell's rare pauses she spoke, and her thin high voice came with
rather a shock from between her full lips.

"May I look?" was her unnecessary question, for her eyes had never left
the canvas on the easel since they had first rested there. She rose as
she spoke, and went over to the painting.

The Painter pulled himself out of the cushions on the divan where he had
been lounging, and went over to push the big canvas into a better light.
Then he stood, while the girl gazed at it, saying nothing, and
apparently oblivious to everything but the work before him.

He was roused, not by Miss Price, who remained admiringly silent, but by
the enraptured Miss Snell, who had also risen, gathering furs and wraps
about her, and was now ecstatically voluble in her admiration. English
being insufficient for the occasion, she had to resort to French for the
expression of her enthusiasm.

The Painter said nothing, but watched the younger girl, who turned away
at last with a sigh of approbation. He was standing under the window,
leaning against a table littered with paints and brushes.

"Stay where you are!" exclaimed Miss Snell, excitedly. "Is he not
charming, Cora, in that half-light? You must let me paint you just so
some day--you must indeed." She clutched Miss Price and turned her
forcibly in his direction.

The Painter, confused by this unexpected onslaught, moved hastily away
and busied himself with a pretence of clearing the table.

"I--I should be delighted," he stammered, in his embarrassment, and he
caught Miss Price's eye, in which he fancied a smile was lurking.

"But you have not given Miss Price a word of advice about her work,"
said Miss Snell, as she fastened her wraps preparatory to departure. She
seemed quite oblivious to the fact that she had monopolized all the
conversation herself.

He turned politely to Miss Price, who murmured something about Julian's
being so badly ventilated, but gave him no clew as to her particular
branch of the profession. Miss Snell, however, supplied all details. It
seemed Miss Price was sharing Miss Snell's studio, having been sent over
by the Lynxville, Massachusetts, Sumner Prize Fund, for which she had
successfully competed, and which provided a meagre allowance for two
years' study abroad.

"She wants to paint heads," said Miss Snell; and in reply to a remark
about the great amount of study required to accomplish this desire,
surprised him by saying, "Oh, she only wants to paint them well enough
to teach, not well enough to sell."

"I'll drop in and see your work some afternoon," promised the Painter,
warmed by their evident intention of leaving; and he escorted them to
the landing, warning them against the dangerous steepness of his
stairway, which wound down in almost murky darkness.

Ten minutes later the centre panel of his door displayed a card bearing
these words: "At home only after six o'clock."

"I wonder I never thought of doing this before," he reflected, as he lit
a cigarette and strolled off to a neighboring restaurant; "I am always
out by that hour."

       *       *       *       *       *

Several weeks elapsed before he saw Miss Price again, for he promptly
forgot his promise to visit her studio and inspect her work. His own
work was very absorbing just then, and the short winter days all too
brief for its accomplishment. He was struggling to complete the large
canvas that Miss Snell had so volubly admired during her visit, and it
really seemed to be progressing. But the weather changed suddenly from
frost to thaw, and he woke one morning to find little runnels of dirty
water coursing down his window and dismally dripping into the muddy
street below. It made him feel blue, and his big picture, which had
seemed so promising the day before, looked hopelessly bad in this new
mood. So he determined to take a day off, and, after his coffee,
strolled out into the Luxembourg Gardens. There the statues were green
with mouldy dampness, and the paths had somewhat the consistency of very
thin oatmeal porridge. Suddenly the sun came out brightly, and he found
a partially dry bench, where he sat down to brood upon the utter
worthlessness of things in general and the Luxembourg statuary in
particular. The sunny façade of the palace glittered in the brightness.
One of his own pictures hung in its gallery. "It is bad," he said to
himself, "hopelessly bad," and he gloomily felt the strongest proof of
its worthlessness was its popularity with the public. He would probably
go on thinking this until the weather or his mood changed.

As his eyes strayed from the palace, he glanced up a long vista between
leafless trees and muddy grass-plats. A familiar figure in a battered
straw hat and scanty green cloak was advancing in his direction; the
wind, blowing back the fringe of disfiguring short hair, disclosed a
pure unbroken line of delicate profile, strangely simple, and recalling
the profiles in Botticelli's lovely fresco in the Louvre. Miss Price,
for it was she, carried a painting-box, and under one arm a stretcher
that gave her infinite trouble whenever the wind caught it. As she
passed, the Painter half started up to join her, but she gave him such a
cold nod that his intention was nipped in the bud. He felt snubbed, and
sank back on his bench, taking a malicious pleasure in observing that,
womanlike, she ploughed through all the deepest puddles in her path,
making great splashes about the hem of her skirt, that fluttered out
behind her as she walked, for her hands were filled, and she had no
means of holding it up.

The Painter resented his snubbing. He was used to the most humble
deference from the art students of the quarter, who hung upon his
slightest word, and were grateful for every stray crumb of his
attention.

He now lost what little interest he had previously taken in his
surroundings. Just before him in a large open space reserved for the
boys to play handball was a broken sheet of glistening water reflecting
the blue sky, the trees rattled their branches about in the wind, and
now and then a tardy leaf fluttered down from where it had clung
desperately late into the winter. The gardens were almost deserted. It
was too early for the throng of beribboned nurses and howling infants
who usually haunt its benches. One or two pedestrians hurried across the
garden, evidently taking the route to make shortcuts to their
destinations, and not for the pleasure of lounging among its blustery
attractions.

After idling an hour on his bench, he went to breakfast with a friend
who chanced to live conveniently near, and where he made himself very
disagreeable by commenting unfavorably on the work in progress and
painting in particular. Then he brushed himself up and started off for
the rue Notre Dame des Champs, where Miss Snell's studio was situated.
It was one of a number huddled together in an old and rather dilapidated
building, and the porter at the entrance gave him minute directions as
to its exact location, but after stumbling up three flights of dark
stairs he had no trouble in finding it, for Miss Snell's name, preceded
by a number of initials, shone out from a door directly in front of him
as he reached the landing.

He knocked, and for several minutes there was a wild scurrying within
and a rattle and clash of crockery. Then Miss Snell appeared at the
door, and exclaimed, in delighted surprise:

"How _do_ you do? We had quite given you up."

She looked taller and longer than ever swathed in a blue painting-apron
and grasping her palette and brushes. She had to apologize for not
shaking hands with him, because her fingers were covered with paint that
had been hastily but ineffectually wiped off on a rag before she
answered his knock.

He murmured something about not coming before because of his work, but
she would not let him finish, saying, intensely,

"We know how precious every minute is to you."

Miss Price came reluctantly forward and shook hands; she had evidently
not been painting, for her fingers were quite clean. Short ragged hair
once more fell over her forehead, and the Painter felt a shock of
disappointment, and wondered why he had thought her so fine when she
passed him in the morning.

"I was just going to paint Cora," announced Miss Snell. "She is taking a
holiday this afternoon, and we were hunting for a pose when you
knocked."

"Don't let me interrupt you," he said, smiling. "Perhaps I can help."

Miss Snell was in a flutter at once, and protested that she should be
almost afraid to work while he was there.

"In that case I shall leave at once," he said; but his chair was
comfortable, and he made no motion to go.

"What a queer little place it is!" he reflected, as he looked about.
"All sorts of odds and ends stuck about helter-skelter, and the
house-keeping things trying to masquerade as bric-à-brac."

Cora Price looked decidedly sulky when she realized that the Painter
intended to stay, and seeing this he became rooted in his intention. He
wondered why she took this particular attitude towards him, and
concluded she was piqued because of his delay in calling. She acted like
a spoiled child, and caused Miss Snell, who was overcome by his
condescension in staying, no little embarrassment.

It was quite evident from her behavior that Miss Price was impressed
with her own importance as the beneficiary of the Lynxville Prize Fund,
and would require the greatest deference from her acquaintances in
consequence.

"Here, Cora, try this," said Miss Snell, planting a small three-legged
stool on a rickety model-stand.

"Might I make a suggestion?" said the Painter, coolly. "I should push
back all the hair on her forehead; it gives a finer line."

"Why, of course!" said Miss Snell. "I wonder we never thought of that
before. Cora dear, you are much better with your hair back."

Cora said nothing, but the Botticelli profile glowered ominously against
a background of sage-green which Miss Snell was elaborately draping
behind it.

"If I might advise again," the Painter said, "I would take that down and
paint her quite simply against the gray wall."

Miss Snell was quite willing to adopt every suggestion. She produced her
materials and a fresh canvas, and began making a careful drawing, which,
as it progressed, filled the Painter's soul with awe.

"I feel awfully like trying it myself," he said, after watching her for
a few moments. "Can I have a bit of canvas?"

"Take anything," exclaimed Miss Snell; and he helped himself, refusing
the easel which she wanted to force upon him, and propping his little
stretcher up on a chair. Miss Snell stopped her drawing to watch him
commence. It made her rather nervous to see how much paint he squeezed
out on the palette; it seemed to her a reckless prodigality.

He eyed her assortment of brushes dubiously, selecting three from the
draggled limp collection.

Cora was certainly a fine subject, in spite of her sulkiness, and he
grew absorbed in his work, and painted away, with Miss Snell at his
elbow making little staccato remarks of admiration as the sketch
progressed. Suddenly he jumped up, realizing how long he had kept the
young model.

"Dear me," he cried, "you must be exhausted!" and he ran to help her
down from the model-stand.

She did look tired, and Miss Snell suggested tea, which he stayed to
share. Cora became less and less sulky, and when at last he remembered
that he had come to see her work, she produced it with less
unwillingness than he had expected.

He was rather floored by her productions. As far as he could judge from
what she showed him, she was hopelessly without talent, and he could
only wonder which of these remarkably bad studies had won for her the
Lynxville Sumner Prize Fund.

He tried to give her some advice, and was thanked when she put her
things away.

Then they all looked at his sketch, which Miss Snell pronounced "too
charming," and Cora plainly thought did not do her justice.

"I wish you would pose a few times for me, Miss Price," he said, before
leaving. "I should like very much to paint you, and it would be doing me
a great favor."

The girl did not respond to this request with any eagerness. He fancied
he could see she was feeling huffy again at his meagre praise of her
work.

Miss Snell, however, did not allow her to answer, but rapturously
promised that Cora should sit as often as he liked, and paid no
attention to the girl's protest that she had no time to spare.

"This has been simply in-spiring!" said Miss Snell, as she bade him
good-bye, and he left very enthusiastic about Cora's profile, and with
his hand covered with paint from Miss Snell's door-knob.

       *       *       *       *       *

In spite of Miss Snell's assurance that Cora would pose, the Painter was
convinced that she would not, if a suitable excuse could be invented.
Feeling this, he wrote her a most civil note about it. The answer came
promptly, and did not surprise him.

She was very sorry indeed, but she had no leisure hours at her disposal,
and although she felt honored, she really could not do it. This was
written on flimsy paper, in a big unformed handwriting, and it caused
him to betake himself once more to Miss Snell's studio, where he found
her alone--Cora was at Julian's.

She promised to beg Cora to pose, and accepted an invitation for them to
breakfast with him in his studio on the following Sunday morning.

He carefully explained to her that his whole winter's work depended upon
Cora's posing for him. He half meant it, having been seized with the
notion that her type was what he needed to realize a cherished ideal,
and he told this to Miss Snell, and enlarged upon it until he left her
rooted in the conviction that he was hopelessly in love with Cora--a
fact she imparted to that young woman on her return from Julian's.

Cora listened very placidly, and expressed no astonishment. He was not
the first by any means; other people had been in love with her in
Lynxville, Massachusetts, and she confided the details of several of
these love-affairs to Miss Snell's sympathetic ears during the evening.

Meanwhile, the Painter did nothing, and a fresh canvas stood on his
easel when the girls arrived for breakfast on Sunday morning. The big
unfinished painting was turned to the wall; he had lost all interest in
it.

"When I fancy doing a thing I am good for nothing else," he explained to
Cora, after she had promised him a few sittings. "So you are really
saving me from idleness by posing."

Cora laughed, and was silent. The Painter blessed her for not being
talkative; her nasal voice irritated him, although her beautiful
features were a constant delight.

Miss Snell had succeeded in permanently eliminating the disfiguring
bang, and her charming profile was left unmarred.

"I want to paint you just as you are," he said, and noticing that she
looked rather disdainfully at her shabby black cashmere, added, "The
black of your dress could not be better."

"We thought," said Miss Snell, deprecatingly, "that you might like a
costume. We could easily arrange one."

"Not in the least necessary," said the Painter. "I have set my heart on
painting her just as she is."

The girls were disappointed in his want of taste. They had had visions
of a creation in which two Liberty scarfs and a velveteen table cover
were combined in a felicitous harmony of color.

"When can I have the first sitting?" he asked.

"Tuesday, I think," said Miss Snell, reflectively.

"Heavens!" thought the Painter. "Is Miss Snell coming with her?" And the
possibility kept him in a state of nervousness until Tuesday afternoon,
when Cora appeared, accompanied by the inevitable Miss Snell.

It turned out, however, that the latter could not stay. She would call
for Cora later; just now her afternoons were occupied. She was doing a
pastel portrait in the Champs Elysées quarter, so she reluctantly left,
to the Painter's great relief.

He did not make himself very agreeable during the sittings which
followed. He was apt to get absorbed in his work and to forget to say
anything. Then Miss Snell would appear to fetch her friend, and he would
apologize for being so dull, and Cora would remark that she enjoyed
sitting quietly, it rested her after the noise and confusion at
Julian's.

"If she talked much I could not paint her, her voice is so irritating,"
he confided to a friend who was curious and asked all sorts of questions
about his new sitter.

The work went well but slowly, for Cora sat only twice a week. She felt
obliged to devote the rest of her time to study, as she was living on
the prize fund, and she even had qualms of conscience about the two
afternoons she gave up to the sittings.

During all this time Miss Snell continued to weave chapters of romance
about Cora and the Painter, and the girls talked things over after each
sitting when they were alone together.

Spring had appeared very early in the year, and the public gardens and
boulevards were richly green. Chestnut-trees blossomed and gaudy
flower-beds bloomed in every square. The Salons opened, and were
thronged with an enthusiastic public, although the papers as usual
denounced them as being the poorest exhibitions ever given.

The Painter had sent nothing, being completely absorbed in finishing
Cora's portrait, to the utter exclusion of everything else.

Cora did the exhibitions faithfully. It was one of the duties she owed
to the Lynxville fund, and which she diligently carried out. The Painter
bothered and confused her by many things; he persistently admired all
the pictures she liked least, and praised all those she did not care
for. She turned pale with suppressed indignation when he differed from
her opinion, and resented his sweeping contempt of her criticisms.

On the strength of a remittance from the prize fund, and in honor of the
season, she discarded the sailor hat for a vivid ready-made creation
smacking strongly of the Bon Marché. The weather was warm, and Cora wore
mitts, which the Painter thought unpardonable in a city where gloves are
particularly cheap. The mitts were probably fashionable in Lynxville,
Massachusetts. Miss Snell, who rustled about in stiff black silk and
bugles, seemed quite oblivious to her friend's want of taste; she was
all excitement, for her pastel portrait--by some hideous mistake--had
been accepted and hung in one of the exhibitions, and the girls went
together on varnishing-day to see it. There they met the Painter
prowling aimlessly about, and Miss Snell was delighted to note his
devotion to Cora. It was a strong proof of his attachment to her, she
thought. The truth was he felt obliged to be civil after her kindness in
posing. He wished he could repay her in some fashion, but since his
first visit to Miss Snell's she had never offered to show him her work
again, or asked his advice in any way, and he felt a delicacy about
offering his services as a teacher when she gave him so little
encouragement. He fancied, too, that she did not take much interest in
his work, and knew she did not appreciate his portrait of her, which was
by far the best thing he had ever done.

Her lack of judgment vexed him, for he knew the value of his work, and
every day his fellow-painters trooped in to see it, and were loud in
their praises. It would certainly be the _clou_ of any exhibition in
which it might be placed.

During one sitting Cora ventured to remark that she thought it a pity he
did not intend to make the portrait more complete, and suggested the
addition of various accessories which in her opinion would very much
improve it.

"It's by far the most complete thing I have ever done," he said. "I
sha'n't touch it again," and he flung down his brushes in a fit of
temper.

She looked at him contemptuously, and putting on her hat, left the
studio without another word; and for several weeks he did not see her
again.

Then he met her in the street, and begged her to come and pose for a
head in his big picture, which he had taken up once more. His apologies
were so abject that she consented, but she ceased to be punctual, and he
never could feel quite sure that she would keep her appointments.

Sometimes he would wait a whole afternoon in vain, and one day when she
failed to appear at the promised hour he shut up his office and strolled
down to the Seine. There he caught sight of her with a gay party who
were about to embark on one of the little steamers that ply up and down
the river.

He shook his fist at her from the quay where he stood, and watched her
and her party step into the boat from the pier.

"She thinks little enough of the Lynxville Prize Fund when she wants an
outing," he said to himself, scornfully.

After fretting a little over his wasted afternoon, he forgot all about
her, and set to work with other models. Then he left Paris for the
summer.

       *       *       *       *       *

A few hours after his return, early in the fall, there came a knock at
his door. He had been admiring Cora's portrait, which to his fresh eye
looked exceptionally good.

Miss Snell, with eyes red and tearful, stood on his door-mat when he
answered the tap.

"Poor dear Cora," she said, had received a notice from the Lynxville
committee that they did not consider her work sufficiently promising to
continue the fund another year.

"She will have to go home," sobbed Miss Snell, but said: "I am forced to
admit that Cora has wasted a good deal of time this summer. She is so
young, and needs a little distraction, now and then," and she appealed
to the Painter for confirmation of this undoubted fact.

He was absent-minded, but assented to all she said. In his heart he
thought it a fortunate thing that the prize fund should be withdrawn.
One female art student the less: he grew pleased with the idea. Cora had
ceased to interest him as an individual, and he considered her only as
one of an obnoxious class.

"I thought you ought to be the first to know about it," said Miss Snell,
confidentially, "because you might have some plan for keeping her over
here." Miss Snell looked unutterable things that she did not dare to put
into words.

She made the Painter feel uncomfortable, she looked so knowing, and he
became loud in his advice to send Cora home at once.

"Pack her off," he cried. "She is wasting time and money by staying. She
never had a particle of talent, and the sooner she goes back to
Lynxville the better."

Miss Snell shrank from his vehemence, and wished she had not insisted
upon coming to consult him. She had assured Cora that the merest hint
would bring matters to a crisis. Cora would imagine that she had bungled
matters terribly, and she was mortified at the thought of returning with
the news of a repulse.

As soon as she had gone, the Painter felt sorry he had been so hasty. He
had bundled her unceremoniously out of the studio, pleading important
work.

He called twice in the rue Notre Dame des Champs, but the porter would
never let him pass her lodge, and he at last realized that she had been
given orders to that effect. A judicious tip extracted from her the fact
that Miss Price expected to leave for America the following Saturday,
and, armed with an immense bouquet, he betook himself to the St. Lazare
station at the hour for the departure of the Havre express.

He arrived with only a minute to spare before the guard's whistle was
answered by the mosquitolike pipe that sets the train in motion.

The Botticelli profile was very haughty and cold. Miss Snell was there,
of course, bathed in tears. He had just time enough to hand in his huge
bouquet through the open window before the train started. He caught one
glimpse of an angry face within, when suddenly his great nosegay came
flying out of the compartment, and striking him full in the face, spread
its shattered paper and loosened flowers all over the platform at his
feet.





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