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Title: I've Married Marjorie
Author: Widdemer, Margaret, 1884-1978
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "I've Married Marjorie" ***

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I'VE MARRIED MARJORIE

by

MARGARET WIDDEMER

Author of
  "Why Not," "The Wishing Ring Man," "You're Only
  Young Once," "The Boardwalk," etc.



A. L. Burt Company
Publishers
New York
Published by arrangement with Harcourt, Brace and Howe

Copyright, 1920, by
The Crowell Publishing Company

Copyright, 1920, by
Harcourt, Brace and Howe, Inc.



I'VE MARRIED MARJORIE


CHAPTER I

The sun shone, that morning, and even from a city office window the
Spring wind could be felt, sweet and keen and heady, making you feel
that you wanted to be out in it, laughing, facing toward the exciting,
happy things Spring was sure to be bringing you, if you only went a
little way to meet them--just a little way!

Marjorie Ellison, bending over a filing cabinet in a small and solitary
room, felt the wind, and gave her fluffy dark head an answering,
wistful lift.  It was a very exciting, Springy wind, and winds and
weathers affected her too much for her own good.  Therefore she gave
the drawer she was working on an impatient little push which nearly
shook the Casses down into the Cats--she had been hunting for a very
important letter named Cattell, which had concealed itself
viciously--and went to the window as if she was being pulled there.

She set both supple little hands on the broad stone sill, and looked
downward into the city street as you would look into a well.  The wind
was blowing sticks and dust around in fairy rings, and a motor car or
so ran up and down, and there were the usual number of the usual kind
of people on the sidewalks; middle-aged people principally, for most of
the younger inhabitants of New York are caged in offices at ten in the
morning, unless they are whisking by in the motors.  Mostly elderly
ladies in handsome blue dresses, Marjorie noticed.  She liked it, and
drew a deep, happy breath of Spring air.  Then suddenly over all the
pleasure came a depressing black shadow.  And yet what she had seen was
something which made most people smile and feel a little happier; a
couple of plump, gay young returned soldiers going down the street arm
in arm, and laughing uproariously at nothing at all for the sheer
pleasure of being at home.  She turned away from the window feeling as
if some one had taken a piece of happiness away from her, and snatched
the nearest paper to read it, and take the taste of what she had seen
out of her mouth.  It was a last night's paper with the back page full
of "symposium."  She read a couple of the letters, and dropped the
paper and went back desperately to her filing cabinet.

"Cattell--Cattell----" she whispered to herself very fast, riffling
over the leaves desperately.  Then she reverted to the symposium and
the soldiers.  "Oh, dear, everybody on that page was writing letters to
know why they didn't get married," she said.  "I wish somebody would
write letters telling why they _did_, or explain to those poor girls
that say nobody wants to marry a refined girl that they'd better leave
it alone!"

After that she hunted for the Cattell letter till she found it.  Then
she took it to her superior, in the next room.  Then she returned to
her work and rolled the paper up into a very small ball and dropped it
into the big wastebasket, and pushed it down with a small, neat
oxford-tied foot.  Then she went to the window again restlessly, looked
out with caution, as if there might be more soldiers crossing the
street, and they might spring at her.  But there were none; only a fat,
elderly gentleman gesticulating for a taxi and looking so exactly like
a _Saturday Evening Post_ cover that he almost cheered her.  Marjorie
had a habit of picking up very small, amusing things and being amused
by them.  And then into the office bounced the one girl she hadn't seen
that day.

"Oh, Mrs. Ellison, congratulations!  I just got down, or I'd have been
here before!" she gasped, kissing Marjorie hard three times.  Then she
stood back and surveyed Marjorie tenderly until she wanted to pick the
wad of paper out of the basket and throw it at her.  "Coming back to
you!" she said softly.  "Oh, you must be thrilled!"  She put her head
on one side--she wore her hair in a shock of bobbed curls which
Marjorie loathed anyway, and they flopped when she wished to be
emphatic--and surveyed Marjorie with prolonged, tender interest.  "Any
time now!" she breathed.

"Yes," said Marjorie desperately.  "The ship will be in some time next
week.  Yes, I'm thrilled.  It's--it's wonderful.  Thank you, Miss
Kaplan, I knew you would be sympathetic."

One hand was clenching and unclenching itself where Miss Kaplan,
fortunately a young person whose own side of emotions occupied her
exclusively, could not see it.

Miss Kaplan kissed her, quite uninvited, again, said "_Dear_ little
war-bride!" and--just in time, Marjorie always swore, to save herself
from death, fled out.

It is all very well to be a war-bride when there's a war, but the war
was over.

"And I'm married," Marjorie said when the door had swung to behind Miss
Kaplan, "for life!"

She was twenty-one.  She was little and slender, with a wistful, very
sweet face like a miniature; big dark-blue eyes, a small mouth that
tipped down a little at the indented corners, and a transparently rose
and white skin.  She looked a great deal younger even than she was, and
her being Mrs. Ellison had amused every one, including herself, for the
last year she had used the name.  As she sat down at her desk again,
and looked helplessly at the keen, dark young face surmounted by an
officer's cap, that for very shame's sake she had not taken away from
her desk, she looked like a frightened little girl.  And she _was_
frightened.

It had been very thrilling, if scary, to be married to Francis Ellison,
when he wasn't around.  The letters--the _dear_ letters!--and the
watching for mails, and being frightened when there were battles, and
wearing the new wedding-ring, had made her perfectly certain that when
Francis came back she would be very glad, and live happily ever after.
And now that he was coming she was just plain frightened,
suffocatingly, abjectly scared to death.

"I mustn't be!" she told herself, trying to give herself orders to feel
differently.  "I _must_ be very glad!"  But it was impossible to do
anything with herself.  She continued to feel as if her execution was
next week, instead of her reunion with a husband who wrote that he was
looking forward to----

"If he didn't describe kissing me," shivered poor little Marjorie to
herself, "so accurately!"

She had met Francis just about a month before they were married.  He
had come to see her with her cousin, who was in the same company at
Plattsburg.  Her cousin was engaged to a dear friend of hers, and it
had made it very nice for all four of them, because Billy and Lucille
weren't war-fiancés by any means.  They had been engaged for a couple
of years, in a more or less silent fashion, and the war had given them
a chance to marry.  One doesn't think so much about ways and means when
the man is going to war and can send you an allotment.

Francis, dark, quick, decided, with a careless gaiety that was like
that of a boy let out from school, had been a delightful person to pair
off with.  And then the other two had been so wrapped up in the
wonderful chance to get married which opened out before them, that
marriage--a beautiful, golden, romantic thing--had been in the air.
One felt out of it if one didn't marry.  Everybody else was marrying in
shoals.  And Francis had been crazy over little Marjorie from the
moment he saw her--over her old-fashioned, whimsical ways, her small
defiances that covered up a good deal of shyness, over the littleness
and grace that made him want to pick her up and pet her and protect
her, he said . . .  Marjorie could remember, even yet, with pleasure,
the lovely things he had said to her in that tense way he had on the
rare occasions when he wasn't laughing.  She had fought off marrying
him till the very last minute.  And then the very day before the
regiment sailed she had given in, and the other two--married two weeks
by then--had whisked her excitedly through it.  And then they'd
recalled him--just two hours after they were married, while Marjorie
was sitting in the suite at the hotel, with Francis kneeling down by
her in his khaki, his arms around her waist, looking up at her
adoringly.  She could see his face yet, uplifted and intense, and the
way it had turned to a mask when the knock came that announced the
telegram.

And it seemed now almost indecent that she should have let him kneel
there with his head against her laces, calling her his wife.  She had
smiled down at him, then, shyly, and--half-proud, half-timid--had
thought it was very wonderful.

"When I see him it will be all right!  When we meet it will all come
back!" she said half-aloud, walking restlessly up and down the office.
"It must.  It will have to."

But in her heart she knew that she was wishing desperately that the war
had lasted ages longer, that he had been kept a year after the end of
the war instead of eight months; almost, down deep in her heart where
she couldn't get at it enough to deny it, that he had been
killed. . . .  Well, she had a week longer, anyway.  You can do a great
deal with yourself in a week if you bully hard.  And the ships were
almost always a much longer time getting in than anybody said they
would be, and then they sent you to camps first.

Marjorie had the too many nerves of the native American, but she had
the pluck that generally goes with them.  She forced herself to sit
quietly down and work at her task, and wished that she could stop being
angry at herself for telling Lucille that Francis had written he was
coming home.  Because Lucille worked where she did, and had promptly
spread the glad tidings from the top of the office to the bottom, and
her morning had been a levee.  Even poor little Mrs. Jardine, whose boy
had been killed before he had been over two weeks, had spoken to
Marjorie brightly, and said how glad she was, and silent, stiff Miss
Gardner, who was said never to have had any lovers in her life, had
looked at her with an envy she tried to hide, and said that she
supposed Marjorie was glad.

"Well, it's two weeks, maybe.  Two weeks is ages."

Marjorie dived headfirst into the filing cabinet again, and was saying
to herself very fast, "Timmins, Tolman, Turnbull--oh, dear,
_Turnbull_----" when, very softly, the swinging-door that shut her off
from the rest of the office was pushed open again, and some one crossed
sharply to her side.  She flung up her head in terror.  Suppose it
should be Francis--

Well, it was.

She had no more than time for one gasp before he very naturally had her
in his arms, as one who has a right, and was holding her so tight she
could scarcely breathe.  She tried to kiss him back, but it was
half-hearted.  She hoped, her mind working with a cold, quick
precision, that he could not tell that she did not love him.  And
apparently he could not.  He let her go after a minute, and flung
himself down by her in just the attitude that the knock on the door,
fifteen months ago, had interrupted.  And Marjorie tried not to stiffen
herself, and not to wonder if anybody was coming in, and not to feel
that a perfect stranger was doing something he had no right to.

It was to be supposed that she succeeded more or less, because when he
finally let her go, he looked at her as fondly as he had when he
entered, and began to talk, without much preface, very much as if he
had only been gone a half hour.

"They'll let you off, won't they, for the rest of the day?  But of
course they will!  I almost ran over an old gentleman outside here, and
it comes to me now that he said something like 'take your wife home for
to-day, my boy!'  I was in such a hurry to get at you, Marge, that I
didn't listen.  My wife!  Good Lord, to think I have her again!"

She got her breath a little, and stopped shivering, and looked at him.
He had not changed much; one does not in fifteen months.  It was the
same eager, dark young face, almost too sharply cut for a young man's,
with very bright dark eyes.  The principal difference was in his
expression.  Before he went he had had a great deal of expression, a
face that showed almost too much of what he thought.  That was gone.
His face was younger-looking, because the flashing of changes over it
was gone.  He looked wondering, very tired, and dulled somehow.  And he
spoke without the turns of speech that she and her friends amused each
other with, the little quaintnesses of conscious fancy.  "As if he'd
been talking to children," she thought.

Then she remembered that it was not that.  He had been giving orders,
and taking them, and being on firing-lines; all the things that he had
written her about, and that had seemed so like story-books when she got
the letters.  His being so changed made it real for the first
time. . . .  And then an unworthy feeling--as if she simply could not
face the romantic and tender eyes of all the office--everybody having
the same feelings about her that Miss Kaplan had, even if they were
well-bred enough to phrase them politely.

"Shall we go?" she asked abruptly, while this feeling was strong in her.

"Not for a minute.  I want to see the place where my wife has spent her
last year . . ."

He stood with his arm still around her--would he never stop touching
her?--and surveyed the office with the same sort of affectionate
amusement he might have given to a workbasket of hers, or a piece of
embroidery.  Marjorie slipped from under his arm and put her hat on.

"I'm ready now," she said.

They walked out of the little office, and through the long aisle down
the center of the floor of the office-building, Marjorie, still
miserably conscious of the eyes, and the emotions behind the eyes, and
quite as conscious that they were emotions that she ought to be ashamed
of minding.

"Now where shall we go for luncheon?" demanded Francis joyously, as
they got outside.  He caught her hand in his surreptitiously and said
"You darling!" under his breath.  For a minute the old magic of his
swift courtship came back to her, and she forgot the miserable
oppression of facing fifty years of wedded life with a stranger; and
she smiled up at him.  Then, as he caught her hand in his, quite
undisguisedly this time, and held it under his arm, the repulsion came
back.

"Anywhere you like," she answered his question.

"We'll go to the biggest, wildest, wooliest place in the city, where
the band plays the most music," he announced.  "Going to celebrate.
Come on, honey.  And then I have a fine surprise for you, as soon as we
go back to the flat.  Lucille won't be back till five, will she?  And
thank goodness for that!"

Lucille and Marjorie, pending the return of their husbands, shared a
tiny flat far uptown on the west side.  Marjorie had described it at
length in her letters, until Francis had said that he could find his
way around it if he walked in at midnight.  But his intimacy with it
made her feel that there was no place on earth she could call her own.

"Tell me now," she demanded.

Francis laughed again, and shook his head.

"It will do you good to guess.  Come now, which--Sherry's or the Plaza
or the Ritz?"

"Sherry's--they're going to close it soon, poor old place!"

"Then we'll celebrate its obsequies," said Francis, grinning cheerfully.

Before he went he had smiled, somehow, as if he had been to a very
excellent college and a super-fine prep school of many traditions--as,
indeed, he had--but now it was exactly the grin, Marjorie realized,
still with a feeling of unworthiness, of the soldier, sailor, and
marine grinning so artlessly from the War Camp Community posters.  In
his year of foreign service, Francis had shaken off the affectations of
his years, making him, at twenty-five, a much older and more valuable
man than Marjorie had parted with.  But she didn't like it, or what she
glimpsed of it.  Whether he was gay in this simple, new way, or grave
in the frighteningly old one, he was not the Francis she had built up
for herself from a month's meetings and a few memories.

He smiled at her flashingly again as they settled themselves at the
little table in just the right spot and place they had chosen.

"Wondering whether I'll eat with my knife?" he demanded, quite at
random as it happened, but altogether too close to Marjorie's feelings
to be comfortable.

She colored up to her hair.

"No--no!  I _know_ you wouldn't do that!" she asseverated so earnestly
that he went off into another gale of affectionate laughter.

And then he addressed himself to the joyous task of planning a luncheon
that they would never of them either forget, he said.  He took the
waiter into their confidence to a certain degree, and from then on a
circle of silent and admiring service inclosed them.

"But you needn't think we're going to linger over it, Marjorie," he
informed her.  "I want to get up to where you live, and be alone with
you."

"Of course," said Marjorie mechanically, saying a little prayer to the
effect that she needed a great deal of help to get through this
situation, and she hoped it would come in sight soon.  She could not
eat very much.  It was all very good, and the band played ravishingly
to the ears of Francis, who sent buoyantly across and demanded such
tunes as he was fondest of.  There was one which they played to which
he sang, under his breath, a profane song which ran in part:

  "And we'll all come home
    And get drunk on ginger pop--
  For the slackers voted the country dry
    While we went over the top."


And then, when the meal was two-thirds over, Marjorie wished she hadn't
offered up any prayers for help to get through the situation.  Because
softly up to their table strolled a tall, thin young man with a cane,
gray silk gloves, and a dreamy if slightly nervous look, and said
discontentedly, "Marjorie Ellison!  How wonderful to find you here!
You will let me sit down at your table, won't you, and meet your
soldier-friend?"

If Marjorie had never written to Francis about Bradley Logan it would
have been all right, quite a rescue, in fact.  But in those too fatally
discursive letters; the letters which had come finally to feel like a
sympathetic diary with no destination, she had rather enlarged on him.
He had been admiring her at disconnected intervals ever since she first
met him.  He had not been able to get in the army because of some
mysterious neurasthenic ailment about which he preserved a hurt
silence, as to details, but mentioned a good deal in a general way.  It
kept him from making engagements, it made him unable to go long
distances; Marjorie had described all the scattered hints about it in
her letters to Francis, who had promptly written back that undoubtedly
the little friend had fits; and referred to him thereafter, quite
without malice, as, "your fit-friend."  She had an insane terror, as
she introduced him, lest she should explain him to Francis in an
audible aside by that name.  However, it was unnecessary.  Francis
placed him immediately, it was to be seen, and was cold almost to
rudeness.  Logan did not notice it much.  He sat down with them,
declined the food Marjorie offered, ordered himself three slivers of
dry toast and a cup of lemonless and creamless tea, and sipped them and
nibbled them as if even they were a concession to manners.

What really was the matter with Logan Marjorie was doomed never to
know.  Francis told her afterwards, with a certain marital brevity,
that it was a combination of dry toast and thinking too much about
French poets.  His literary affiliations, which he earned his living
by, had stopped short at the naughty nineties, when everybody was very
unhealthy and soulful and hinted darkly at tragedies; the period of the
Yellow Book and Aubrey Beardsley and Arthur Symons and Dowson, and the
last end of Wilde.  He undoubtedly had the charming and fluent manners
of his time, anachronism though he was.  And he talked a great deal,
and very brilliantly, if a bit excitedly.  He plunged now, in his
charming, high, slightly too mannered voice, into a discussion with
Marjorie on the absolute rottenness of the modern magazine, considered
from the viewpoint of style.  He overwhelmed them with instances of how
all magazines were owned by persons who neither had cultivation nor
desired any.  Francis answered him very little, so Marjorie, wifely
before her time, found herself trying nervously to keep up with Logan,
and hurling more thoughts at him about Baudelaire than she had known
she possessed.  As a matter of fact she'd never read any of him, but
Logan thought she had to his dying day, which says a good deal for her
brains.  Presently Francis summoned the waiter in rather a martial
voice, demanded a taxi of him efficiently, and Marjorie found herself
swept away from Logan and taxi-ing extravagantly uptown before she knew
what she was at.

Francis wasn't cross, it appeared.  The first thing he did when he got
her in the cab was to sweep her close to him--the second to burst into
a peal of delighted laughter, and quote

  "I had a cow, a gentle cow, who browsed beside my door,
  Did not think much of Maeterlinck, and would not, furthermore!"


"Heavens!" he ended, "that fool and his magazine editors!  Nobody but
you could have been so patient with the poor devil, Marge."

He leaned her and himself back in the cab, and stared contemplatively
out at New York going by.  "And to think--and--to--think--that while
half of decent humanity has been doing what it's been doing to keep the
world from going to hell, that fool--that _fool_--has been sitting at
home nibbling toast and worrying about what is style! . . .  I'll tell
him!  Style is what I'll have when I get these clothes off, and some
regular ones.  You'll have to help me pick 'em out, Marge.  You'll find
I've no end of uses for a wife, darling."

"I hope you'll make me useful," she answered in a small voice.
Fortunately she saw the ridiculousness of what she had said herself
before the constrained note of her voice reached her husband, and
began, a little nervously, to laugh at herself.  So that passed off all
right.

"Will life be just one succession of hoping things pass off all right?"
she wondered.  And she did wish Francis wasn't so scornful about all
the things Logan said.  For Logan, in spite of his mysterious
disability, was very brilliant; he wrote essays for real magazines that
you had to pay thirty-five cents for, and when Marjorie said she knew
him people were always very respectful and impressed.  Marjorie had
been brought up to respect such things very much, herself, in a pretty
Westchester suburb, where celebrities were things which passed through
in clouds of glory, lecturing for quite as much as the club felt it
could afford.  A celebrity who let you talk to him, nay, seemed
delighted when you let him talk to you, couldn't be as negligible as
Francis seemed to think him. . . .  Francis didn't seem as if he had
ever read _anything_. . . .  It was a harmless question to ask, at
least.

"What did you read, over there?" she asked him.

"We read anything we could get hold of that would take our minds," was
the answer, rather grimly.  Then, more lightly, "When I wasn't reading
detective stories I was studying books on forestry.  Did you know you
had married a forester bold, Marge?"

"Of course I remembered you said that was what you did," she answered,
relieved that the talk was veering away, for one moment, from
themselves.

"Poor little girl, you haven't had a chance to know very much about
me," he said tenderly.  "Well, I know a lot more about it than I did
when I went away.  Oh, the trees in France, dear!  It's worse to think
of the trees than of the people, I think sometimes.  I suppose that's
because they always meant a lot to me--very much as a jeweler would
feel badly about all the spoons the Crown Prince took home with
him. . . .  Anyway, they wanted me to stay over there and do
reforestation.  Big chances.  But I didn't feel as if I could stay away
from little old New York--naturally Marge had nothing to do with
it--another hour.  Would you have liked to go to Italy and watch me
re-forest, Marjorie?"

Marjorie's "Oh, _no_!" was very fervent.  She also found herself
thinking stealthily that even any one as efficient as Francis could not
reforest the city of New York, and that therefore any position he had
would very likely let her off.  Maybe he might go very soon.

With this thought in her mind she led the way up the three flights of
stairs to the tiny apartment she and Lucille Strong shared.  If Francis
had not spoken as they reached the door she might have carried it
through.  But just as she fitted her key in the door he did speak,
behind her, an arm about her.

"In another minute you and I will be alone together; in our own
home--my wife----"

He took the key gently from her hand; he unlocked the door, and drew
her in, with his arms around her.  He pushed the door to behind them,
and bent down to kiss her again, very tenderly and reverently.  And in
that instant Marjorie's self-control broke.



CHAPTER II

"Oh, please don't touch me, just for a minute!" she exclaimed.
"Please--please--just stop a _minute_!"

She did not realize that her tone was very much that of a patient
addressing a dentist.  Francis's arms dropped, and he looked at her,
all the light going out of his face, and showing its weary lines.  He
closed the door entirely, carefully.  He went mechanically over to a
chair and sat down on it, always with that queer carefulness; he laid
his cap beside him, and looked at Marjorie, crouched against the door.

"Please come over here and sit down," he said very courteously, but
with the boyishness gone from his voice even more completely than
Marjorie had wished.

She came very meekly and sat opposite him, with a little queer cold
feeling around her heart.

"Please look at me," he asked gently.  She lifted her blue eyes
miserably to his, and tried to smile.  But unconsciously she shrank a
little as she did so, and he saw it.

"I won't touch you--not until you want me to," he began.  "What's the
matter, Marjorie?  Is it nerves, or are you afraid of me, or----"

"It--it was just your coming so suddenly," she lied miserably.  "It
upset me.  That was all."

In her mind there was fixed firmly the one thing, that she mustn't be a
coward, she must go through with it, she must pretend well enough to
make Francis think she felt the way she ought to.  The Francis of
pre-war times would have been fooled; but this man had been judging men
and events that took as keen a mind as seeing through a frightened
girl.  He looked at her musingly, his face never changing.  She rose
and came over to him and put her hand on his shoulder.  She even
managed to laugh.

"Do you mind my being upset?" she asked.

"No," he said, "if that's all it is.  But you have a particular kind of
terror about you that I don't like.  Or I think you have."

She took her hand away, hurt by the harshness of his voice--then,
seeing his face, understood that he was not knowingly harsh.  She had
hurt him terribly by that one unguarded moment, and she would have to
work very hard to put it out of sight.

"I--I haven't any terror----" she began to say.

He made himself smile a little at that.

"You mustn't have," he said.  "We'll sit down on the davenport over
there that Lucille's grandmother gave her for a wedding-present--you
see how well I remember the news about all the furniture?  And we'll
talk about it all quietly."

"There's nothing to talk about," said Marjorie desperately.  She went
obediently over to the davenport and sat down by him.

"You were upset at seeing me?" he began.

"It was--well, it was so sudden!" dimpled Marjorie, quoting the tag
with the sudden whimsicality which even death would probably find her
using.

"And I still seem--do I seem like a strange person to you, dear?" he
asked wistfully.  "You don't seem strange to me, you know.  You seem
like the wife I love."

The worst of it was that when Francis was gay and like a playmate, as
he had been at their luncheon before Logan came, she could feel that
things were nearly all right.  But when he spoke as he was speaking now
the terror of him came back worse than ever.

"No.  No, you don't seem strange at all," she said.  "Why should you?"
But while she spoke the words she knew they were not true.  She looked
at him, and his face was like a stranger's face.  She had known other
men as well as she had known her husband, except for the brief while
when she had promised to marry him.  She took stock of his features;
the straight, clearly marked black brows under the mark the cap made on
his forehead; the rather high cheekbones, the clear-cut nose and chin,
the little line of black mustache that did not hide his hard-set and
yet sensitive lips; the square, rather long jaw--"He'll have deep lines
at the sides of his mouth in a few more years," she thought, and--"He's
much darker than I remembered him.  But he has no color under the
brown.  I thought he had a good deal of color . . ."  She appraised his
face, not liking it altogether, as if she had never seen it before.
His hand, long, narrow, muscular, burned even more deeply than his
face, and with a fine black down lying close over it, seemed a hand she
had never seen or been touched by before.  But that was his
wedding-ring--her wedding-ring--on the thin third finger.  She even
knew that inside it was an inscription--"Marjorie--Francis----" and the
date of their wedding.  Hers was like it.  He had bought them and had
them inscribed with everything but the actual date before she had given
in; that had been put in, of course, the week before their marriage.
Oh, what _right_ had he to be wearing her wedding-ring?

"Would you like a little time to think it over?" he asked heavily.

She was irrationally angry at him.  What right had he to think she
needed time to think it over?  Why hadn't he the decency to be deceived
by her behavior?  Then she stole another look at him, with all the
gaiety and youth gone out of his face, and made up her mind that the
anger ought to be on his side.  But it apparently was not.

"Oh, _please_ don't mind!" she begged him, abandoning some of her
defenses.  "It's true, I do feel a little strange, but I'm sure it will
all come straight if--if I wait a little.  You see, you were gone so
long."

"Yes.  I worried a lot about it on shipboard," he answered her
directly.  His face did not lighten, but there was a sort of relief in
his tone, as if actually knowing the truth was better than being fenced
with.  "I thought to myself--'I hurried her into it so.  I wonder if
she really will care when I come back.'  It was such a long time.  But
then your letters were so sweet and loving, and I cared such a lot----"

His voice broke.  He had been talking on a carefully emotionless dead
level, but now he suddenly stopped as if he had come to the end of his
control.  But he was only silent a moment, and went on:

"I cared so much that I thought you must.  That's a queer thing, isn't
it?  You've known all your life that other people think if they care
enough the other person will care, and you know they're idiots.  And
then your time comes, and you go and are the same old idiot
yourself. . . .  Queer.  Well, I'm sorry, Marjorie.  Shall I go now?
We can think about what we'd better do next time we talk it over."

"Oh, please, please!" begged Marjorie.  "Oh, Francis, I feel like a
dog--a miserable, little coward-dog.  And--and I don't know why you're
making all this up.  I--I haven't said anything like what----"

He put his arm around her, not in the least as if he were her lover.
It only felt protecting, not like a man's touch.

"I would be glad to think you cared for me.  But I am almost sure you
don't.  Everything you have said, and every one of your actions since
we came in, have seemed to me as if you didn't.  It isn't your fault,
poor little thing.  It's mine for hurrying you into it. . . .
Marjorie, Marjorie--_do_ you?"

There was an intense entreaty in his tone.  But she knew that only the
truth would do.

"No," she said, dropping her head.

"I thought not," he said, rising stiffly and crossing to the door.
"Well, I'll go now.  I'll come back some time to-morrow, whenever it's
most convenient for you, and we'll discuss details."

She ran after him.  She did feel very guilty.

"Oh, Francis--Francis!  Please don't go!  I'm sure I'll feel the way I
should when I've tried a little longer!"

He stopped for a moment, but only to write something down on a piece of
paper.

"There's my telephone number," he said.  "No, Marjorie, I can't stay
any longer.  This has been pretty bad.  I've got to go off and curl up
a minute, I think, if you don't mind. . . .  Oh, dearest, don't you see
that I _can't_ stay?  I'll have myself straightened out by to-morrow,
but----"

He had been acting very reasonably up to now.  But now he flung himself
out the door like a tornado.  It echoed behind him.  Marjorie did not
try to keep him.  She sat still for a minute longer, shivering.  Then
she began to cry.  She certainly did not want him for her husband, but
equally she did not want him to go off and leave her.  So she went over
to the davenport again, where she could cry better, and did wonders in
that line, in a steady, low-spirited way, till Lucille came breezily in.

Lucille Strong was a plump, exuberant person with corn-colored hair and
bright blue eyes and the most affectionate disposition in the world.
She also had a quick, fly-away temper, and more emotions than
principles.  But her sense of humor was so complete, and her sunniness
so steady that nobody demanded great self-sacrifice from her.  Who
wouldn't give anybody the biggest piece of cake and the best chair and
the most presents, for the sake of having a Little Sunshine in the
home?  At least, that was the way Billy Strong had looked at it.  He
had been perfectly willing to put off his marriage until Lucille
decreed that there was money enough for her to have her little luxuries
after marriage, in order to eventually possess Lucille.  People always
and automatically gave her the lion's share of all material things, and
she accepted them quite as automatically.  She was a very pleasant
housemate, and if she coaxed a little, invisibly, in order to acquire
the silk stockings and many birthday presents and theater tickets which
drifted to her, why, as she said amiably, people value you more when
they do things for you than when you do things for them.

"Why, you poor _lamb_!" she said with sincere sympathy, pouncing on the
desolate and very limp Marjorie.  "What's the matter?  Did Francis have
to go away from you?  Look here, honey, you can have my----"

What Lucille was about to offer was known only to herself, because she
never got any farther.  Marjorie sat up, her blue eyes dark-circled
with tears, and perhaps with the strain she had been undergoing.

"Yes," she said in a subdued voice.  "He--he had to go.  He'll be back
to-morrow."

Lucille pounced again, and kissed Marjorie rapturously, flushed with
romance.

"Oh, isn't it wonderful to have him back!  And Billy may be back any
minute, too!  Marge, what on earth shall we do about the apartment?  It
isn't big enough for three; and I can't keep it on alone.  And the
wretched thing's leased for six months longer.  You know we thought
they'd be coming back together.  But you and Francis can take it
over----"

"I--I don't think we need to worry about that," said Marjorie, "for a
while longer.  I've made up my mind to go on working.  I'd be restless
without my work.  Filing's really _very_ exciting when you're
accustomed to it----"

Lucille released her housemate and leaned back on the davenport, the
better to laugh.  As she did so she flung off her coat and dropped it
on the floor, in the blessed hope that Marjorie would pick it up, which
usually happened.  But Marjorie did not.

"Filing," Lucille said through her laughter, "is undoubtedly the most
stimulating amusement known to the mind of man.  I wonder they pay you
for doing it--they ought to offer it as a reward!  Oh, Marge, you'll
kill me!  Now, you might as well be honest, my child.  You know you
always tell me things eventually--why not now?  What are your plans,
and did Francis bring any souvenirs?  I told him to be sure to bring
back some of that French perfume that you wouldn't let him get you
because it was too expensive for his income.  I wonder he ever
respected you again after that, incidentally.  Did he?"

"Did he respect me?  I don't know, I'm sure," said Marjorie
dispiritedly.  She knew that she would tell Lucille all about it in two
more minutes, and she did not want to.

"No, darling!  Did he bring the perfume?"

"I don't know," said Marjorie.  "Lucille, you haven't had your bath
yet."

"Did you light the hot water for me?"

"No, I forgot," said Marjorie.

"All right, I'll light it," said Lucille amiably.  She was deflected by
this, and trotted out into the tiny kitchen to light the gas under the
hot water heater.  She came back in an exquisite blue crêpe negligee,
and curled herself back of Marjorie on the davenport while she waited
for the water to heat, and for Marjorie to tell her about it all.

"I wish my hair curled naturally," she said idly, slipping her fingers
up the back of Marjorie's neck, where little fly-away rings always
curled.

"I wish it did," said Marjorie with absent impoliteness.

Lucille laughed again.

"Come back, dear!  Remember, I haven't any happy reunion to weep over
yet, and be sympathetic.  And I have an engagement for dinner, and how
will I ever keep it if you don't tell me everything Francis said?  When
did he see Billy last?"

"He didn't say."

"What _did_ he say?"

"He said," said Marjorie, turning around with blazing eyes and pouring
forth her words like a fountain, "that he'd wondered if I really loved
him, and now he was sure I didn't.  And that he'd come back some time
to-morrow and discuss details.  And he gave me his telephone number,
and said he couldn't stay any longer, and it was pretty bad, and he had
to curl up----"

"Marjorie!  Marjorie!  Stop!  This is a bad dream you've had, or
something out of _Alice in Wonderland_!  Francis never said he had to
curl up.  Curl up _what_?"

"Curl up himself, I suppose," said Marjorie with something very like a
sob.  "I was perfectly rational and it made me feel dreadful to hear
him say it, and I knew just what he meant.  Curl up like a dog when
it's hurt.  Curl _up_!"

"_Don't_!  I _am_!" said Lucille.  "If you issue any more orders in
that tone I'll look like a caterpillar.  Now, what really did happen,
Marjorie?" she ended in a gentler tone and more seriously.

She pulled Marjorie's head over on to her own plump shoulder, and put
an arm round her.

"It was all my fault.  I don't love him any more.  I don't want to be
married to him.  I didn't mean to show it, I meant to be very good
about it, but he knows so much more than he did when he went away.  He
knew it directly.  And now he's dreadfully hurt."

"You poor little darling!  What a horrid time you've been having all
this time everybody's been thinking you were looking forward to his
coming home.  Why, you must have nearly gone crazy!"

"It's worse for him," said Marjorie in a subdued voice, nestling down
on Lucille's shoulder.

"Oh, I don't know," said Lucille comfortably.  "Men can generally take
care of themselves. . . .  But are you sure you don't love him the
least little bit?"

"I'm afraid of him.  He's like somebody strange. . . .  It's so long
ago."

"So long ago an' so far away, le's hope it ain' true!" quoted Lucille
amiably.  "Well, darling, if you don't want to marry him you needn't--I
mean, if you don't want to stay married to him you needn't.  I'm sure
something can be done.  Francis is perfectly sure to do anything you
like, he adores you so."

But this didn't seem to give comfort, either.  And as the boiler was
moaning with excess of heat, Lucille dashed for the bathtub.  She
talked to Marjorie through the flimsy door as she splashed, to the
effect that Marjorie had much better let her call up another man and go
out on a nice little foursome, instead of staying at home.  But there
Marjorie was firm.  She would have preferred anything to her own
society, but she felt as if any sort of a party would have been like
breaking through first mourning.

So she saw Lucille, an immaculate vision of satins and picture hats, go
off gaily with her cavalier, and remained herself all alone in the
little room, lying on the sofa, going over everything that had happened
and ending it differently.  She was very tired, and felt guiltier and
guiltier as time went on.  Finally she rose and went to the telephone
and called the number Francis had left.

The voice that answered her was very curt and very quiet.

"Yes. . . .  This is Captain Ellison.  Yes, Marjorie?  What is it?"

It seemed harder than ever to say what she had to say in the face of
that distant, unemotional voice.  But Marjorie had come to a resolve,
and went steadily on.

"I called up to say, Francis, that I am ready to go with you anywhere
you want to, at any time.  I will try to be a good wife to you."

She clung to the telephone, her heart beating like a triphammer there
in the dark, waiting for his answer.  It seemed a long time in coming.
When it did, it was furious.

"I don't want you to go with me anywhere, at any time.  I don't want a
wife who has to try to be a good wife to me."

He hung up with an effect of flinging the receiver in her face.

Marjorie almost ran back to the davenport--she was beginning to feel as
if the davenport was the nearest she had to a mother--and flung herself
on it in a storm of angry tears.  He was unjust.  He was violent.  She
didn't want a man like that--what on earth had she humiliated herself
that way for, anyway?  What was the use of trying to be honorable and
good and fair and doing things for men, when they treated you like
that?  Francis had proposed and proposed and proposed--she hadn't been
so awfully keen on marrying him. . . .  It had just seemed like the
sort of thing it would be thrilling to do.  Well, thank goodness he did
feel that way.  She was better off without people like that, anyhow.
She would go back home to Westchester, and live a patient, meek,
virtuous life under Cousin Anna Stevenson's thumb, as she had before
she got the position at the office or got married.  She certainly
couldn't go back to the office and explain it all to them.  At least,
she wouldn't.  It would be better, even if Cousin Anna did treat
everybody as if they were ten and very foolish. . . .  And she had
refused the offer of a nice foursome and one of Lucille's cheerful
friends, to stay home and be treated this way!

She rose and went to the telephone again, with blazing cheeks.

She called up, on the chance, Logan's number; and amazingly got him.
And she invited him on the spot to come over the next evening and have
something in a chafing-dish with Lucille and herself.  Lucille, she
knew, had no engagement for that evening, and could produce men,
always, out of thin air.  Marjorie chose Logan because Francis had said
he didn't like him.  She had been a little too much afraid, before
that, of Logan's literariness to dare call him up.  But that night she
would have dared the Grand Cham of Tartary, if that dignitary had had a
phone number and been an annoyance to Francis Ellison.

Logan, to her surprise, accepted eagerly, and even forgot to be
mannered.  He did, it must be said, keep her at the telephone, which
was a stand-up one, for an hour, while he talked brilliantly about the
Italian renaissance in its ultimate influence on the arts and crafts
movement of the present day.  To listen to Logan was a liberal
education at any moment, if a trifle too much like attending a lecture.
But at least he didn't expect much answering.

She went to the office, next day, in more or less of a dream.  She was
very quiet, and worked very hard.  Nobody said much to her; she took
care not to let them.  When stray congratulations came her way, as they
were bound to, and when old Mr. Morrissey, the vice-head, said, "I
suppose we can't hope to keep you long now," and beamed, she answered
without any heartbeatings or difficulty.  She was quite sure she would
never feel gay again; she had had so much happen to her.  But it was
rather pleasant not to be able to have any feelings, if a little
monotonous.  The only thing at all on her mind was the question as to
how much cheese a party of four needed for a rarebit, and whether Logan
would or could eat rarebits at night.  And even that was to a certain
degree a matter of indifference.

She finally decided that scallops à la King might be more what he would
eat.  She bought them on her way home, together with all the rest of
the things she needed.  Lucille had produced a fourth person with her
usual lack of effort, and it promised to be--if anything in life could
have been anything but flavorless--rather a good party.

In fact, it was.  It was a dear little apartment that the girls shared,
with a living-room chosen especially for having nice times in.  It was
lighted by tall candles, and had a gas grate that was almost human.
There was a grand piano which took up more than its share of room,
there was the davenport aforesaid, there were companionable chairs and
taborets acquired by Lucille and kept by Marjorie in the exact places
where they looked best; there were soft draperies, also hemmed and put
up by Marjorie.  The first thing visitors always said about it was that
it made them feel comfortable and at home.  They generally attributed
the homelikeness to Lucille, who was dangerously near looking matronly,
rather than to Marjorie, who would be more like a firefly than a matron
even when she became a grandmother.

Marjorie, with cooking to do, tied up in a long orange colored apron,
almost forgot things.  She loved to make things to eat.  Lucille,
meanwhile, sat on the piano-stool and played snatches of "The Long,
Long Trail," and the men, Lucille's negligible one and Marjorie's Mr.
Logan, made themselves very useful in the way of getting plates and
arranging piles of crackers.  The small black kitten which had been a
present to Lucille from the janitor, who therefore was a mother to it
while the girls were out, sat expectantly on the edge of all the places
where he shouldn't be, purring loudly and having to be put down at
five-minute intervals.

"I suppose this is a sort of celebration of your having your husband
back," said the Lucille man presently to Marjorie.  He had been told
so, indeed, by Lucille, who was under that impression herself, Logan
looked faintly surprised.  He, to be frank, had forgotten all about
Marjorie's having a husband who had to be celebrated.

Marjorie nearly spilled the scallops she was serving at that moment,
and the kitten, losing its self-control entirely, climbed on the table
with a cry of entreaty for the excellent fish-smelling dishful of
things to eat.  It was lucky for Marjorie that he did, because while
she was struggling with him Lucille answered innocently for her.

"Yes, more or less.  But he's late.  Where's your perfectly good
husband, Marge?"

"Late, I'm afraid," Marjorie answered, smiling, and wondering at
herself for being able to smile.  "We aren't to wait for him."

"Sensible child," Lucille answered.  "I'm certainly very hungry."

She drew her chair up to the low table the men had pushed into the
center of the room, sent one of them to open the window, rather than
turn out the cheerful light of the gas grate, and the real business of
the party began.

It was going on very prosperously, that meal; even Mr. Logan was
heroically eating the same things the rest did, and not taking up more
than his fair share of the conversation, when there was a quick step on
the stairs.  Nobody heard it but Marjorie, who stood, frozen, just as
she had risen to get a fork for somebody.  She knew Francis's step, and
when he clicked the little knocker she forced herself to go over and
let him in.

He came in exactly as if he belonged there; but after one quick glance
at the visitors he drew Marjorie aside into the little inner room.

"Marjorie, I've come to say I was unkind and unfair over the telephone.
I've made up my mind that you are fonder of me than you know.  I think
it will be all right--it was foolish of me to be too proud to take you
unless you were absolutely willing.  Let me take back what I said, and
forgive me.  I know it will be all right--Marjorie!"

She gave him a furious push away from her.  Her eyes blazed.

"It never will be all right!  It isn't going to have a chance to be!"
she told him, as angry as he had been when she called him up.  "You had
your chance and you wouldn't take it.  I don't want to be your wife,
and I never will be.  That's all there is to say."

She took a step in the direction of the outer room.  He put out a hand
to detain her.

"Marjorie!  Marjorie!  Don't!"

"I'm going out there, and going to keep on having the nice time I had
before you came.  If you try to do anything I'll probably make a scene."

"You're going to give me one more chance," he said.  "That's settled."

She looked at him defiantly.

"Try to make me," was all she said, wrenching her wrist out of his hand.

"I will," said Francis grimly.

She smiled at him brilliantly as he followed her into the room where
the others were.

"I'm afraid there isn't any way," she said sweetly.

Lucille, who had not seen Francis before, flew at him now with a
welcome which was affectionate enough to end effectually any further
ardors or defiances.

"And you're in time for your own party after all," she ended, smiling
sunnily at him and pushing him into a chair.  She gave him a plate of
scallops and a fork, and the party went on as it had before.  Only
Marjorie eyed him with nervous surprise.  "What will he do next?" she
wondered.



CHAPTER III

What he did was to eat his scallops à la King with appetite, fraternize
cheerfully with Lucille's friend, whose name was Tommy Burke, and who
was an old acquaintance of his, speak to Marjorie occasionally in the
most natural way in the world, and altogether behave entirely as if it
really was his party, and he was very glad that there was a party.  It
is to be said that he ignored Logan rather more than politeness
demanded.  But Logan was so used to being petted that he never knew it.
Marjorie did, and lavished more attention on him defiantly to try to
make up for it.  She thought that the evening never would end.

After the food was finished it was to be expected that Lucille would go
to the piano, and play some more, and that the men would sit about
smoking on the davenport and the taborets, and that every one would be
pleasantly quiet.  But Lucille did not.  Instead, she and Francis
retired to the back room, leaving Marjorie and the others to amuse each
other, and talk for what seemed to Marjorie's strained nerves an
eternity of time.  It was Francis who had called Lucille, moreover, and
not Lucille who had summoned Francis, as could have been expected.

Finally the other men rose to go.  Francis came out of the inner room
and went with them.  Before he went he stopped to say to Marjorie:

"I told you I wanted to talk things over with you.  I'll be back in a
half-hour.  You seem to be so popular that the only way to see you
alone is to get you in a motor-car, so if you aren't too tired to drive
around with me to-night, to a place where I have to go, I'll bring you
home safely. . . .  I didn't mean to speak so sharply to you, Marjorie,
over the telephone.  Please forgive me."

"Certainly," said Marjorie coldly and tremulously.  It could be seen
that she did not forgive him in the least.

He went downstairs with the others, laughing with Burke, who had a
dozen army reminiscences to exchange with him, and bidding as small a
good-by as decency permitted to Logan.  Marjorie heard him dash up
again, and then run down, as if he had left something outside the door
and forgotten it.  Lucille came over to her and began to fuss at her
about changing her frock for a heavier one, and taking enough wraps.

"Why, it's only a short drive," Marjorie expostulated.  "And I'm not
sure that I want to go, anyway.  I don't think there's anything more to
be said than we have said."

Francis, with that disconcerting swiftness which he possessed, had come
back as she spoke.

He came close to her, and spoke softly.

"You used to like the boy you married, Marjorie.  For his sake won't
you do this one thing?  Give me a hearing--one more hearing."

Lucille had come back again with a big loose coat, and she was wrapping
it round her friend with a finality that meant more struggle than poor
tired Marjorie was capable of making.  After all, another half-hour of
discussion would not matter.  The end would be the same.  She went down
with them to the big car that stood outside, and even managed to say
something flippant about its looking like a traveling house, it was so
big.  Francis established her in the front seat, by him, tucked a rug
around her, for the night was sharp for May, and drove to Fifth Avenue,
then uptown.

She waited, wearily and immovable, for him to argue with her further,
but he seemed in no hurry to commence.  They merely drove on and on,
and Marjorie was content not to talk.  It was a clear, beautiful night,
too late for much traffic, so they went swiftly.  The ride was
pleasant.  All that she had been through had tired her so that she
found the silence and motion very pleasant and soothing.

Finally he turned to her, and she braced herself for whatever he might
want to say.

"Would you mind if we drove across the river for a little while?" he
asked.

"Why--no," she said idly.  "Out in the country, you mean?"

He assented, and they drove on, but not to the ferry.  They turned, and
went up Broadway, far, far again.

"Where are we?" asked Marjorie finally.  "Isn't it time you turned
around and took me back?  And didn't you have something you wanted to
say to me?"

"Yes----" he said absently.  "No, we have all the time in the world.
There's no scandal possible in being out motoring with your husband,
even if you shouldn't get home till daylight."

"But where _are_ we?" demanded Marjorie again.

"The Albany Post Road," said Francis.  This meant very little to
Marjorie, but she waited another ten minutes before she asked again.

"Just the same post road as before," said Francis preoccupiedly,
letting the machine out till they were going at some unbelievable speed
an hour.  "The Albany.  Not the Boston."

"Well, it doesn't matter to me _what_ post road," remonstrated
Marjorie, beginning rather against her will to laugh a little, as she
had been used to do with Francis.  "I want to go home."

"You are," said he.

"Oh, is this one of those roads that turns around and swallows its own
tail?" she demanded, "and brings you back where you started?"

"Just where you started," he assented, still in the same preoccupied
voice.

She accepted this quietly for the moment.

"Francis," she said presently, "I mean it.  I want to go home."

"You are going home," said Francis.  "But not just yet."

It seemed undignified to row further.  She was so tired--so very tired!

Francis did not speak again, and after a little while she must have
dropped off to sleep; for when she came to herself again the road was a
different one.  They were traveling along between rows of pines, and
the road stretched ahead of them, empty and country-looking.  She
turned and asked sleepily, "What time is it, Francis, please?"

He bent a little as he shot his wrist-watch forward enough to look at
the phosphorescent dial.

"Twenty minutes past three," he said as if it was the most commonplace
hour in the world to be driving through a country road.

For a moment she did not take it in.  Then she threw dignity to the
winds.  She was rested enough to have some fight in her again.

"I'm going home!  I'm going home if I have to walk!" she said wildly.
She started to spring up in the car, with some half-formed intention of
forcing him to stop by jumping out.

"Now, Marjorie, don't act like a movie-heroine," he said
commonplacely--and infuriatingly.  He also took one hand off the
steering-wheel and put it around her wrist.  "You can't go back to New
York unless I take you.  We're fifty miles up New York State, and there
isn't a town near at all."

Marjorie sat still and looked at him.  The car went on.

"I don't understand," she said.  "You can't be going to abduct me,
Francis?"

Francis, set as his face was, smiled a little at this.

"That isn't the word, because you don't abduct your lawful wife.  But I
do want you to try me out before you discard me entirely.  And
apparently this is the only way to get you to do it."

"What are you going to do?" she asked.

"Want the cards on the table?"

She nodded.

"All the cards--now?  Or would you rather take things as they come?"

All this time the car was going ahead full speed in the moonlight.

"Everything--now!" she said tensely.

He never looked at her as he talked.  His eyes were on the road ahead.

"Just now--as soon as we get to a spot where it seems likely to be
comfortable, we're going to unship a couple of pup-tents from the back
of the car, and sleep out here.  I have all your things in the back of
the car.  If you'd rather, you can sleep in the car; you're little and
I think you could be comfortable on the back seat."

She interrupted him with a cry of injury.

"My things?  Where did you get them?"

"Lucille packed them.  She worked like a demon to get everything ready.
She was thrilled."

"Thrilled!" said Marjorie resentfully.  "I'm so sick of people being
thrilled I don't know what to do.  _I'm_ not thrilled. . . .  I might
have known it.  It's just the sort of thing Lucille would be crazy over
doing.  I suppose she feels as if she were in the middle of a
melodrama."

"I'm sorry, Marjorie, but there's something about you that always makes
people feel romantic. . . ."  His voice softened.  "I remember the
first time I saw you, coming into that restaurant a little behind
Lucille, it made me feel as if the fairy-stories I'd stopped believing
in had come true all over again.  You were so little and so graceful,
and you looked as if you believed in so many wonderful things----"

"Stop!" said Marjorie desperately.  "It isn't fair to talk that way to
me.  I won't have it.  If you feel that way you ought to take me back
home."

"On the contrary, just the reverse," quoted Francis, who seemed to be
getting cooler as Marjorie grew more excited.  "You said you'd listen.
Be a sport, and do listen."

"Very well," said Marjorie sulkily.  She _was_ a sport by nature, and
she was curious.

"I've taken a job in Canada--reforesting of burned-over areas.  I had
to go to-night at the latest.  It seemed to me that we hadn't either of
us given this thing a fair try-out.  I hadn't a chance with you unless
I took this one.  My idea is for you to give me a trial, under any
conditions you like that include our staying in the same house a couple
of months.  I'm crazy over you.  I want to stay married to you the
worst way.  You're all frightened of me, and marriage, and everything,
now.  But it's just possible that you may be making a mistake, not
seeing it through.  It's just possible that I may be making a mistake,
thinking that you and I would be happy."

Marjorie gave a little tense jerk of outraged pride at this rather
tactless speech.  It sounded too much as if Francis might possibly tire
of _her_--which it wasn't his place to do.

"And so," Francis went on doggedly, "my proposition is that you go up
to Canada with me.  There's a fairly decent house that goes with the
job.  There won't be too much of my society.  You need a rest anyhow.
I won't hurry you, or do anything unfair.  Only let us try it out, and
see if we wouldn't like being married, exactly as if we'd had a chance
to be engaged before."

"And if we don't?" inquired Marjorie.

"And if we don't, I'll give you the best divorce procurable this side
of the water."

"You sound as if it was a Christmas present," said Marjorie.

She thought she was temporizing, but Francis accepted it as willingness
to do as he suggested.

"Then you will?" he asked.

"But--it's such an awful step to take!"

Francis leaned back--she could feel him do it, in the dark--and began
to argue as coolly as if it were not three o'clock in the morning, on
an unfrequented road.

"The most of the step is taken.  You haven't anything to do but just go
on as you are--no packing or walking or letter-writing or anything of
the sort.  Simply stay here in the car with me and end at the place in
Canada, live there and let me be around more or less.  If there's
anything you want at home that Lucille has forgotten----"

"Knowing Lucille, there probably is," said Marjorie.

"----we'll write her and get it. . . .  Well?"

Marjorie took a long breath, tried to be very wide-awake and firm, and
fell silent, thinking.

She was committed, for one thing.  People would think it was all right
and natural if she went on with Francis, and be shocked and upset and
everything else if she didn't.  Cousin Anna Stevenson would write her
long letters about her Christian duty, and the office would be
uncomfortable.  And Lucille--well, Lucille was a blessed comfort.  She
didn't mind what you did so long as it didn't put her out personally.
She at least--but Lucille had packed the bag!  And you couldn't go and
fling yourself on the neck of as perfidious a person as _that_.

And--it would be an adventure.  Francis was nice, or at least she
remembered it so; a delightful companion.  He wasn't rushing her.  All
he wanted was a chance to be around and court her, as far as she could
discover.  True, he was appallingly strange, but--it seemed a
compromise.  And she had always liked the idea of Canada.  As for
eventually staying with Francis, that seemed very far off.  It did not
seem like a thing she could ever do.  Being friends with him she might
compass.  Of course, you couldn't say that it was a fair deal to
Francis, but he was bringing it on himself, and really, he deserved the
punishment.  For of course, Marjorie's vain little mind said
irrepressibly to itself, he would be fonder of her at the end of the
try-out than at the beginning. . . .  And then a swift wave of anger at
him came over her, and she decided on the crest of it.  She would never
give in to Francis's courtship.  He wasn't the sort of man she liked.
He wasn't congenial.  She had grown beyond him.  But he deserved what
he was going to get. . . .  And she spoke.

"It isn't fair to you, Francis, because it isn't going to end the way
you hope.  But I'll go to Canada with you . . ."

For a moment she was very sorry she had said it, because Francis forgot
himself and caught her in his arms tight, and kissed her hard.

"If you do that sort of thing I _won't_!" she said.  "That wasn't in
the bargain."

"I know it wasn't," said Francis contritely.  "Only you were such a
good little sport to promise.  I won't do it again unless you say I
may.  Honestly, Marjorie.  Not even before people."

This sounded rather topsy-turvy, but after awhile it came to Marjorie
what he meant--just about the time she climbed out of the car, sat on
its step, and watched Francis competently unfurling and setting up two
small and seemingly inadequate tents and flooring them with balsam
boughs.  He meant that there would have to be at least a semblance of
friendliness on account of the people they lived among.  She felt more
frightened than ever.

Francis came up to her as if he had felt the wave of terror that went
over her.

"Now you aren't to worry.  I'm going to keep my word.  You're safe with
me, Marge.  I'm going to take care of you as if I were your brother and
your father and your cousin Anna----"

She broke in with an irrepressible giggle.

"Oh, please don't go that far!  Two male relatives will be
plenty. . . .  I--I really got all the care from Cousin Anna that I
wanted."

He looked relieved at her being able to laugh, and bent over the tents
again in the moonlight.

"There you are.  And here are the blankets.  We're near enough to the
road so you won't be frightened, and enough in the bushes so we'll be
secluded.  Good-night.  I'll call you to-morrow, when it's time to go
on.  I know this part of the country like my hand, and here's some
water in case you're thirsty in the night.  Oh, and here are towels."

This last matter-of-fact touch almost set Marjorie off again in
hysterical laughter.  Being eloped with by a gentleman who thoughtfully
set towels and water outside her door was really _too_ much.  She
pinned the tent together with a hatpin, slipped off some of her
clothes--it did not seem enough like going to bed to undress
altogether, and she mistrusted the balsam boughs with blankets over
them that pretended to be a bed in the corner--and flung herself down
and laughed and laughed and laughed till she nearly cried.

She did not quite cry.  The boughs proved to have been arranged by a
master hand, and she was very tired and exceedingly sleepy.  She pulled
hairpins out of her hair in a half-dream, so that they had to be sought
for painstakingly next morning when she woke.  She burrowed into the
blankets, and knew nothing of the world till nine next morning.

"I can't knock on a tent-flap," said Francis's buoyant voice outside
then.  "But it's time we were on our way, Marjorie.  There ought to be
a bathrobe in that bundle of Lucille's.  Slip it on and I'll show you
the brook."

She reached for a mirror, which showed that, though tousled, she was
pretty, took one of the long breaths that seemed so frequently
necessary in dealing with Francis, said "in for a penny, in for a
pound," and did as she was directed.  The bath-robe wasn't a bath-robe,
but something rather more civilized, which had been, as a matter of
fact, part of her trousseau, in that far-off day when trousseaux were
so frequently done, and seemed such fun to buy.  She came out of the
tent rather timidly.  "Good gracious, child, that wasn't what I meant!"
exclaimed Francis, seeming appallingly dressed and neat and ready for
life.  "It's too cold for that sort of thing.  Here!"

He picked up one of the blankets, wrapped it around her, gave her a
steer in a direction away from the road, and vanished.

She went down the path he had pushed her toward, holding the towels
tight in one hand and her blanket around her in the other.  It was
fresh that morning, though it was warm for May.  And Francis seemed to
think that she was going to take a bath in the brook, which even he
could not have had heated.  She shivered at the idea as she came upon
it.

It was an alluring brook, in spite of its unheated state.  It was very
clear and brown, with a pebbled bottom that you could see into, and a
sort of natural round pool, where the current was partly dammed, making
it waist-deep.  She resolved at first to wash just her face and hands;
then she tried an experimental foot, and finished by making a bold
plunge straight into the ice-cold middle of it.  She shrieked when she
was in, and came very straight out, but by the time she was dry she was
warmer than ever.  She ran back to the tent, laughing in sheer
exuberance of spirits, and dressed swiftly.  The plunge had stimulated
her so that when Francis appeared again she ran toward him, feeling as
friendly as if he weren't married to her at all.

"It was--awfully cold--but I'm just as hungry as I can be!" she called.
"Was there anything to eat in the car, along with the towels?"

Francis seemed unaccountably relieved by her pleasantness.  This had
been something of a strain on him, after all, though it was the first
time such a thought had occurred to Marjorie.  His thin, dark face
lighted up.

"Everything, including thermos bottles," he called back.  "We won't
stop to build a fire, because we have to hurry; but Lucille----"

"Lucille!" said Marjorie.  "Well, I certainly never knew what a wretch
that girl was."

"Oh, not a wretch.  Only romantic," said Francis, grinning.  "I tell
you again, Marjorie, you have a fatal effect on people.  Look at me--a
matter-of-fact captain of doughboys--and the minute I see that you
won't marry me--stay married to me, I mean--I elope with you in a coach
and four!"

"I don't think you ought to laugh about it," said Marjorie, sobering
down and stopping short in her tracks.

"Well, I shouldn't," said Francis penitently.  "Only I'm relieved, and
a little excited, I suppose.  You see, I like your society a lot, and
the idea of having it for maybe three months, on any terms you like, is
making me so pleased I'm making flippant remarks.  I won't any more, if
I remember."

And he apparently meant it, for he busied himself in exploring the car,
which seemed as inexhaustible as the Mother's Bag in the Swiss Family
Robinson, for the food he had spoken of.  There was a large basket,
which he produced and set on a stump, and from which he took
sandwiches, thermos flasks, and--last perfidy of Lucille!--a tin box of
shrimps à la King, carefully wrapped, and ready for reheating.  He did
it in a little ready-heat affair which also emerged from the basket,
and which Marjorie knew well.  It was her own, in fact.  Reheated
shrimps should have killed them both, more especially for breakfast.
But they never thought of that till some days later.  Marjorie was so
overcome by finding her own shrimps facing her, so to speak, that
nothing else occurred to her--except to eat them.  They made a very
good breakfast, during which Francis was never flippant once.  They
talked decorously about the natural scenery--fortunately for the
conversation there was a great deal of natural scenery in their
vicinity--and somewhat about pup-tents, and a little about how nice the
weather was.  After that they cleared up the pieces, repacked
everything like magic, and went on their way very amicably.



CHAPTER IV

"And now that things are more or less settled, wouldn't you like to
know what we are going to do?" inquired Francis.

"Haven't I anything to do with it?" inquired Marjorie, not crossly, but
as one seeking information.

"Almost everything.  But you don't know the road to Canada.  I thought
we'd take it straight through in the car, but to-night we will be in
more civilized parts--in an hour or so, in fact--and you can get
straightened up a little--not that you look as if you needed to, but
after a night in the open one does feel more or less tossed about, I
imagine."

Marjorie considered.  Ordinarily at this hour she would be walking into
the office.  She would be speaking with what politeness one can muster
up in the morning to Miss Kaplan, who was quite as exuberant at five as
at seven in the evening; she would be hoping desperately that she
wasn't late, and that if she was she would escape Mr. Wildhack, who
glared terrifyingly at such young women who didn't get down on schedule
time.  Marjorie was not much on schedule time, but she always felt that
the occasions when she got there too late really ought to be balanced
by those when she came too early.  Instead of all this, she was racing
north with the fresh wind blowing against her face, with no duties and
no responsibilities, and something that, but for the person who shared
it with her, promised to be rather fun.  Just then something came to
her.  She had an engagement for tea with Bradley Logan.

Suddenly that engagement seemed exceedingly important, and something
that she should on no account have missed.  But at least she could
write to him and explain.

"Have you a fountain-pen?" she inquired of Francis, "and can I write
sitting here?"

"If you don't mind writing on a leaf from my notebook.  It's all I
have."

She was privately a little doubtful as to the impression that such a
note would make on Mr. Logan, for she remembered one wild tale she had
heard from him about a man who spent his whole life in a secluded room
somewhere in France, experimenting on himself as to what sort of
perfumes and colors and gestures made him happiest.  None of them had
made him happy at all, to the best of her remembrance; but the idea Mr.
Logan left her with was that he was that sort of person himself, and
that the wrong kind of letter-paper could make him suffer acutely.  She
was amused at it, really, but a bit impressed, too.  One doesn't want
to be thought the kind of person who does the wrong thing because of
knowing no better.  Still, it was that or nothing.

"Dear Mr. Logan," she began, more illegibly than she knew because of
the car's motion, "I am so sorry that I have not been able to tell you
in advance that I couldn't take tea with you.  But Mr. Ellison has
taken me away rather suddenly.  He had to go to Canada to take a
position.  We hope we will see you when we get back."

She did not know till much later that owing to the thank-you-ma'am
which they reached simultaneously with the word "suddenly" that when
Mr. Logan got that note he thought it was "severely," and that the bad
penmanship and generally disgraceful appearance of the loose-leaf
sheet, the jerky hand, and the rather elderly envelope which was all
Francis could find--it had been living in a pocket with many other
things for some time--gave him a wrong idea.  Mr. Logan, to anticipate
a little, by this erroneous means, acquired an idea very near the
truth.  He thought that Marjorie Ellison was being kidnapped against
her will, and made it the subject of much meditation.  His nervous
ailment prevented him from dashing after her.

Marjorie fortunately knew nothing of all this, for she was proud to the
core, and she would rather have died than let any one but Lucille, of
necessity in on it, know anything but that she was spending the most
delightful and willing of honeymoons.

So when they found a little up-state town with a tavern of exceeding
age and stiffness, and alighted in search of luncheon, the landlord and
landlady thought just what Marjorie wanted them to think; that all was
well and very recent.

She sank into one of the enormous walnut chairs, covered with
immaculate and flaring tidies which reminded her of Cousin Anna and
stuck into the back of her neck, and viewed the prospect with pleasure.
For the moment she almost forgot Francis, and the problem of managing
just the proper distance from him.  There was a stuffed fish,
glassy-eyed and with cotton showing from parts of him, over the
counter.  There were bills of forgotten railroads framed and hung in
different places.  There was a crayon portrait of a graduated row of
children from the seventies hung over the fireplace, four of them, on
the order of another picture, framed and hanging in another part of the
room, and called "A Yard of Kittens."  Marjorie wondered with pleasure
why they hadn't added enough children to bring it up to a yard, and
balanced things properly.  The fireplace itself was bricked up, all
except a small place where a Franklin stove sat, with immortelles
sticking out of its top as if they aimed at being fuel.  Marjorie had
seen immortelles in fireplaces before, but in a Franklin they were new
to her.  She made up her mind to find out about it before she was
through.

"Why--why, I'm not worrying about being carried off by Francis!" she
remembered suddenly.  She had been quite forgetful of him, and of
anything but the funny, old-fashioned place she was in.  She lay back
further in the walnut chair, quite sleepily.

"Would you like to go upstairs now, ma'am?" the landlord said.  She
looked around for Francis, but he was nowhere to be seen.  She picked
up the handkerchief which had slipped from her lap, cast a regretful
look at the yard of kittens, and followed him.

"Here it is, ma'am," said the landlord, and set the suitcase he had
been carrying down inside the door.  She shut the door after her, and
made for the mirror.  Then she said "Oh!" in a surprised voice, because
Francis was standing before it, brushing his hair much harder than such
straight black hair needed to be brushed.

He seemed as much surprised as she.

"Good heavens, I beg your pardon, Marjorie!" he said.  "This isn't your
room.  Yours is the next one."

"I beg _your_ pardon, then," said Marjorie, with a certain iciness.

"You can have this one if you like it better.  They're next door to
each other.  You know"--Francis colored--"we have to seem more or less
friendly.  Really I didn't know----"

He was moving away into the other room as he spoke, having laid down
his brush on her bureau as if he had no business with it at all.

"This isn't my brush," she said, standing at the connecting door and
holding it out at arm's length.

"No," said Francis.  "I didn't know I'd left it.  Thank you."

He took it from her, and went into his own room.  She pushed the door
to between them, and went slowly back and sat down on the bed.  A quite
new idea had just come to her.

Francis wasn't a relentless Juggernaut, or a tyrant, or a cave-man, or
anything like that really.  That is, he probably did have moments of
being all of them.  But besides that--it was a totally new idea--he was
a human being like herself.  Sometimes things embarrassed him;
sometimes they were hard for him; he didn't always know what to do next.

She had never had any brothers, and not very much to do with men until
she got old enough for them to make love to her.  The result was that
it had never occurred to her particularly that men were people.  They
were just--men.  That is, they were people you had nothing in common
with except the fact that you did what they said if they were fathers,
or married them when the time came, if they weren't.  But she had
actually felt sorry for Francis; not sorry, in a vague, rather pitying
way because she didn't love him--but sorry for him as if he had been
Lucille, when he was so embarrassed that he walked off forgetting his
own brush.  She smiled a little at the remembrance.  She really began
to feel that he was a friend.

So when he tapped at her outside door presently and told her that
luncheon was ready, and that they had better go down and eat it,
instead of the severity for which Francis had braced himself, she
smiled at him in a very friendly fashion, and they went down together,
admiring the wallpaper intensely on their way, for it consisted of fat
scarlet birds sitting on concentric circles, and except for its age was
almost exactly like some that Lucille and Marjorie hadn't bought
because it was two dollars a yard.

Luncheon proved to be dinner, but they were none the less glad of it
for that.  And instead of freezing every time the landlord was
tactlessly emotional, Marjorie found that she could be amused at it,
and that her being amused helped Francis to be amused.

She always looked back tenderly to that yard of kittens, and to those
other many yards of impossible and scarlet birds.  They gave her the
first chance at carrying through her wild flight with Francis decently
and without too much discomfort.

The rest of the trip to Canada was easier and easier.  Once admitting
that Francis and she were friends--and you can't spend three days
traveling with anybody without being a friend or an enemy--she had a
nice enough time.  She kept sternly out of her mind the recollection
that he was in love with her.  When she thought of that she couldn't
like him very much.  But then she didn't have to think of it.

"Here we are," said Francis superfluously as they stopped at the door
of a big house that was neither a log cabin nor a regular house.

Marjorie gave a sigh of contentment.

"I admit I'm glad to get here," she said.

She slipped out of the car in the sunset, and stood drooping a minute,
waiting for her bag to be lifted down.  She was beginning to feel
tired.  She was lonely, too.  She missed everything acutely and all at
once--New York, the little apartment, Lucille, being free from
Francis--even the black kitten seemed to her something that she could
not live one moment longer without.  She turned and looked at Francis,
trim and alert as ever, just steering the car around the side of the
house, and found herself hating him for the moment.  He was so at home
here.  And she hadn't even carfare to run away if she wanted to!

"Well, now, you poor lamb!" said somebody's rich, motherly voice with a
broad Irish brogue.  "You're tired enough to die, and no wonder.  Come
along with me, darlin'."

She looked up with a feeling of comfort into the face of a
black-haired, middle-aged Irishwoman, ample and beaming.

"I'm Mrs. O'Mara, an' I know yer husband well.  I kep' house for him
an' the other young gintlemen when they were workin' up here before the
fightin' began.  So he got me to come an' stay wid the two of ye, me
an' Peggy.  An' I don't deny I'm glad to see ye, for there does be a
ghost in this house!"

The ending was so unexpected and matter-of-fact that Marjorie forgot to
feel lost and estranged, and even managed to laugh.  Even a ghost
sounded rather pleasant and friendly, and it was good to see a woman's
face.  Who or what Peggy might be she did not know or care.  Mrs.
O'Mara picked up the suitcase with one strong arm, and, putting the
other round Marjorie in a motherly way, half led her into the house.

"Ye'll excuse me familiarity, but it's plain to see ye're dead,
Miss--ma'am, I mean.  Come yer ways in to the fire."

Marjorie had been feeling that life would be too hard to bear if she
had to climb any stairs now; so it was very gladly that she let Mrs.
O'Mara establish her in a rude chaise-longue sort of thing, facing a
huge fire in a roughly built fireplace.  The housekeeper bent over her,
loosening knots and taking off wraps in a very comforting way.  Then
she surrounded her with pillows--not too many, or too much in her
way--and slipped from the room to return in a moment with tea.

Marjorie drank it eagerly, and was revived by it enough to look around
and see the place where she was to dwell.  It looked very attractive,
though it was not in the least like anything she had ever seen.

Where she lay she stared straight into a fire of great logs that
crackled and burned comfortingly.  The mantel over it was roughly made
of wood, and its only adornment was a pipe at one side, standing up on
its end in some mysterious manner, and a pile of Government reports at
the other.  The walls were plastered and left so.  Here and there were
tacked photographs and snapshots, and along one wall--she had to screw
her neck to see it--some one had fastened up countless sheets from a
Sunday supplement--war photographs entirely.  She wondered who had done
it, because what she had seen of returned soldiers had shown her that
the last thing they wanted to see or hear about was the war.

There were couches around the walls, the other chairs were lounging
chairs also.  There was fishing-tackle in profusion, and a battered
phonograph on a table.  It looked as if men had made themselves
comfortable there, without thinking much about looks.  The only thing
against this was one small frilled chair.  It was a most absurd chair,
rustic to begin with, with a pink cushion covered with white net and
ruffled, and pink ribbons anchoring another pink and net cushion at its
back.  Mrs. O'Mara, hovering hospitably, saw Marjorie eying it, and
beamed proudly.

"That's Peggy's chair," she said.  "Peggy's me little daughter."

"Oh, that's nice," said Marjorie.  "How old is she?"

"Just a young thing," said Mrs. O'Mara.  "She'll be in in a minute."

Marjorie leaned back again, her tea consumed, and rested.  She was not
particularly interested in Peggy, because she was not very used to
children.  She liked special ones sometimes, but as a rule she did not
quite know what to do with them.  After a few sentences exchanged, and
an embarrassed embrace in which the children stiffened themselves,
children and Marjorie were apt to melt apart.  She hoped Peggy wouldn't
be the kind that climbed on you and kicked you.

A wild clattering of feet aroused her from these half-drowsy
meditations.

"Here's Francis, mother!  Here's Francis!" called a joyous young voice,
and Marjorie turned to see Francis, his eyes sparkling and his whole
face lighted up, dashing into the room with an arm around one of the
most beautiful girls she had ever seen, a tall, vivid creature who
might have been any age from seventeen to twenty, and who brought into
the room an atmosphere of excitement and gaiety like a wind.

"And here's Peggy!" said Francis gaily, pausing in his dash only when
he reached Marjorie's side.  "She's all grown up since I went away, and
isn't she the dear of the world?"

"Oh, but so's your wife, Francis!" said Peggy naïvely, slipping her arm
from around his shoulder and dropping on her knees beside Marjorie.
"You don't mind if I kiss you, do you, please?  And must I call her
Mrs. Ellison, Francis?"

"Peggy, child, where's your manners?" said her mother from the
background reprovingly, but with an obvious note of pride in her voice.

"Where they always were," said Peggy boldly, laughing, and staying
where she was.

She was tall and full-formed, with thick black hair like her mother's,
not fluffy and waving like Marjorie's, but curling tight in rings
wherever it had the chance.  Her eyes were black and her cheeks and
lips a deep permanent red.  She looked the picture of health and
strength, and Marjorie felt like a toy beside her--fragile to the
breaking-point.  She seemed much better educated than her mother, and
evidently on a footing of perfect equality and affection with Francis.

Marjorie was drawn to her, for the girl had vitality and charm; but she
found herself wondering why Francis had never told her about this
Peggy, and why he had never thought of marrying her.

"You wouldn't think this young wretch was only sixteen, would you?"
said Francis, answering her silent question.  "Look at her--long
dresses and hair done up, and beaux, I hear, in all directions!"

Of course.  If Peggy had been scarcely past fourteen when Francis saw
her last, he couldn't have considered marrying her.  Marjorie tried to
think that she wished he had, but found that she did not like to cease
owning anything that she had ever possessed, even such a belonging as
Francis Ellison.

"That's very nice," she said inadequately, smiling at Peggy in as
friendly a manner as so tired a person could manage.  "I'm glad I shall
have Peggy to be friends with while I'm up here."

"Oh, me dear, ye'll be up here forever an' the day after, be the looks
of the job Mr. Francis has on his hands," said Mrs. O'Mara.

"No, I won't," she began to say hurriedly, and then stopped herself.
She had no right to tell any one about her bargain with Francis.  She
didn't want to, anyway.

"The poor child's tired," said Mrs. O'Mara, whom, in spite of her
relation to Peggy, Marjorie was beginning to regard as a guardian
angel.  "Come upstairs to yer room, me dear."

Marjorie rose, with Francis and Peggy hovering about her, carrying
wraps and hats and suitcases; and Mrs. O'Mara led the way to a room on
the floor above, reached by a stair suspiciously like a ladder.

"Here ye'll be comfortable," said Mrs. O'Mara, "and rest a little till
we have supper.  Peggy will get you anything you want."

But Marjorie declined Peggy.  All she wanted was to rest a little
longer.

She flung herself on the softly mattressed cot in one corner of the
room; and nearly went to sleep.

She was awakened--it must have been quite sleep--by Francis, on the
threshold.  His eyes were blazing, and he was evidently angry at her to
the last degree--angrier even than he had been that time in the city
when he nearly threw the telephone at her.

"Is this the sort of person you are?" he demanded furiously.  "Look at
this telegram!"

Marjorie, frightened, rose from the couch with her heart beating like a
triphammer.

"Let me see," she asked.

He handed the telegram to her with an effect of wanting to shake her.

"Am coming up to arrange with you about Mrs. Ellison," it said.  "Know
all."

It was signed by Logan.

"Good heavens!" said Marjorie helplessly.

"Knows all!" said Francis bitterly.  "And that's the sort of girl you
are!"



CHAPTER V

Marjorie froze in consternation.  She had forgotten to allow for
Francis's gusts of anger; indeed, there had been no need, for since his
one flare-up over the telephone he had been perfectly gentle and
courteous to her.

She stared at him, amazed.

"But I didn't do anything to make that happen!" she protested.  "I
never dreamed--why, I'd have too much pride----"

"Pride!" thundered Francis.  "It's plain cause and effect.  You write
to that pup in New York, and I give you the envelope and paper--help
you straight through it, good heavens!--and you use my decency to
appeal to him for help, after you've agreed to try it out and see it
through!"

Marjorie stiffened with anger.

"I _was_ going to try it out and see it through," she countered with
dignity.  "But if you treat me this way I see no reason why I should.
Even this housekeeper of yours would give me money to escape with."

"Escape!  You act as if you were in a melodrama!" said Francis angrily.
"We made a bargain, that's all there is to it; and the first chance you
get, you smash it.  I suppose that's the way women act. . . .  I don't
know much about women, I admit."

"You don't know much about me," said Marjorie icily, "if you jump to
conclusions like that about me.  Whatever that Logan man knows he
doesn't know from me.  Have you forgotten Lucille?"

"Lucille wouldn't----" began Francis, and stopped.

"And why wouldn't she?  Didn't she tell me that I was a poor little
pet, and that men could always take care of themselves and, then turn
around and help you carry me away?  And it was carrying me away--it was
stealing me, as if I were one of those poor Sabine women in the history
book."

They were fronting each other across the threshold all this time,
Francis with his face rigid and pale with anger, his wife flushed and
quivering.

"I admit I hadn't thought of that," said Francis, referring presumably
to Lucille's possibilities as an informer, and not to Marjorie's being
a Sabine woman.

Marjorie moved back wearily and sat on the bed.

"And you were just getting to be such a nice friend," she mourned.  "I
was getting so I _liked_ you.  There never was anybody pleasanter than
you while we were coming up from New York.  Why, you weren't like a
person one was married to, at all!"

"More like a friend nor a 'usband," quoted Francis unexpectedly.

Marjorie looked at him in surprise.  Any one who could stop in the
middle of a very fine quarrel to see the funny side of things that way
wasn't so bad, her mind remarked to itself before she could stop it.

"What do you mean?" she asked, mitigating her wrath a little.

"Why, you know the story; the cockney woman who had a black eye, and
when the settlement worker asked her if her husband had given it to her
said, 'Bless you, no, miss--'e's more like a friend nor a 'usband!'"

"Oh," said Marjorie, smiling a little.  Then she remembered, her eyes
falling on the yellow paper Francis still held.  There was still much
to be settled between them.

"But, as you were saying about Mr. Logan----"

"I was saying a lot I hadn't any business to about Mr. Logan," said
Francis frankly.

"Then it's all right?" said Marjorie.  "At least as far as you're
concerned?"

He nodded.

"Well," said she most unfairly, "it isn't, as far as I am.  Francis, I
don't think we'd better think any more of ever trying to be married to
each other.  It's too hard on the nervous system."

Francis colored deeply.

"What do you want to do?" he demanded.

Marjorie paused a minute before she answered.  The truth was, she
didn't know.  She had definitely given up her New York position.  She
liked it up here, very much indeed.  She liked the O'Maras and the
house, and she was wild to get outdoors and explore the woods.  Leaving
Francis out of the question, she was freer than she had been for years.
Altogether it was a bit hard to be entirely moved by lofty
considerations.  She wanted to stay; she knew that.

"Canada's a nice place," she began, dimpling a little and looking up at
Francis from under her eyelashes.

"Oh, then----" he began eagerly.

"And I want to stay, for perfectly selfish reasons," she went on
serenely.  "But if my staying makes you think that there is any hope
of--of eventualities--I think I'd better go.  In other words, I like
the idea of a vacation here.  That's all.  If you are willing to have
me as selfish as all that, why, it's up to you.  I think myself I'm a
pig."

"You will stay, but not with any idea of learning to like me better--is
that it?"

"That's it," she said.  "And, as I said, I feel colossally selfish--a
regular Hun or something."

"That's because you used the word 'colossal,'" he said absently.  "They
did, a lot.  All right, my dear.  That's fair enough.  Yes, I'm
willing."

"But no tempers, mind, and no expectations!" said Marjorie firmly,
making hay while the sun shone.

"No," said Francis.  He looked at her appraisingly.  "You know," he
remarked, "the gamble isn't all one way.  It's just possible that I may
be as glad as you not to see the thing through when we've seen
something of each other.  I don't feel that way now, but there's no
telling."

She sprang to her feet, angry as he had been.  But he had turned, after
he said that, and gone quietly downstairs.

The idea was new to her, and correspondingly annoying.
Francis--Francis, who had been spending all his time since he got back
trying to win her--Francis suggesting that he might tire of her!  Why,
people didn't _do_ such things!  And if he expected to tire of her what
did he want her for at all?

She sprang up and surveyed herself in the glass that hung against the
rough wall, over a draped dressing-table which had apparently once been
boxes.  Yes, she did look tired and draggled.  Her wild-rose color was
nearly gone, and there were big circles under her eyes.  And there was
a smudge on her face that nobody had told her a thing about.  And her
hair was mussed too much to be becoming, even to her, who looked best
with it tossed a little.  And there was not a sign of water to wash in
anywhere, and the room had no furniture except the cot and the
dressing-table----

Another knock stopped her here, and she turned to see young Peggy,
immaculate and blooming, at the door.

"I just came to bring you towels, and to see that everything was all
right, and show you the way to the bathroom," she said most
opportunely.  "We have a bathtub, you know, even up here in the wilds!"

Marjorie forgot everything; home, husband, problems, life in
general--what were they all to the chance at a real bathtub?  She
followed Peggy down the hall as a kitten follows a friend with a bowl
of milk.

"O-o! a bathtub!" she said rapturously.

Peggy threw open a door where, among wooden floor and side-wall and
ceiling and everything else of the most primitive, a real and most
enticingly porcelain bathtub sat proudly awaiting guests.

"It'll not be so good as you've been used to," she said with more
suggestion of Irishry than Marjorie had yet heard, "but I guess you'll
be glad of it."

"Glad!" said Marjorie.  And she almost shut the door in Peggy's face.

She lingered over it and over the manicuring and hairdressing and
everything else that she could linger over, and dressed herself in the
best of her gowns, a sophisticated taupe satin with slippers and
stockings to match.  She'd show Francis what he was perhaps going to be
willing to part with!  So when Mrs. O'Mara's stentorian voice called
"Supper!" up the stair, she had not quite finished herself off.  The
sophisticated Lucille had tucked in--it was a real tribute of
affection--her own best rouge box; and Marjorie was on the point of
adding the final touch to beauty, as the advertisement on the box said,
when she heard the supper call.  She was too genuinely hungry to stop.
She raced down the stairs in a most unsophisticated manner, nearly
falling over Francis and Peggy, who were also racing for the
dining-room.

They caught her to them in a most unceremonious way, each with an arm
around her, and sped her steps on.  She found herself breathless and
laughing, dropped into a big wooden chair with Francis facing her and
Peggy and her mother at the other two sides.  It was a small table,
wooden as to leg under its coarse white cloth; but, oh, the beauty of
the sight to Marjorie!  There were such things as pork and beans, and
chops, and baked potatoes, and apple sauce, and various vegetables, and
on another table--evidently a concession to manners--was to be seen a
noble pudding with whipped cream thick above it.

"The food looks good, now, doesn't it?" beamed Mrs. O'Mara.  "I'll bet
ye're hungry enough to eat the side o' the house.  Pass me yer plate to
fill up, me dear."

Marjorie ate--she remembered it vaguely afterwards, in her sleep--a
great deal of everything on the table.  It did not seem possible, when
she remembered, also vaguely, all the things there had been; but the
facts were against her.  She finished with a large cup of coffee, which
should have kept her awake till midnight; and lay back smiling drowsily
in her chair.

The last thing she remembered was somebody picking her up like a small
baby and carrying her out of the dining-room and up the stairs to her
own bed, and laying her down on it; and a heavy tread behind her
carrier, which must have been Mrs. O'Mara's, for a rich voice that
belonged to it had said, "Shure it's a lovely sight, yer carryin' her
around like a child.  It's the lovely pair yez make, Mr. Francis!"  And
then she remembered a tightening of arms around her for an instant,
before she was laid carefully on her own cot and left alone.

Mrs. O'Mara undressed her and put her to bed, she told her next
morning; but Marjorie remembered nothing at all of that.  All she knew
was that the lady's voice, raised to say that it was time to get up,
wakened her about eight next day.

It is always harder to face any situation in the morning.  And
theoretically Marjorie's situation was a great deal to face.  Here she
was alone, penniless, at the mercy of a determined young man and his
devoted myrmidons--whatever myrmidons were.  Marjorie had always heard
of them in connections like these, and rather liked the name.  Mr.
Logan was imminent at any moment, and a great deal of disagreeableness
might be looked for when he turned up and had it out with Francis.
Altogether the Sabine lady felt that she ought to be in a state of
panic terror.  But she had slept well,--it was an excellent cot--the
air was heavenly bracing, Mrs. O'Mara was a joy to think of, with her
brogue and her affectionate nature, and altogether Marjorie Ellison
found herself wondering hungrily what there would be for breakfast, and
dressing in a hurry so that she could go down and eat it.

Peggy, rosy and exuberant, rushed at her and kissed her when she got to
the foot of the stairs.

"Oh, isn't it lovely to think you're here, and I've got somebody to
have fun with, and Francis has to be out a lot of the time?  Do you
like to dance?  There's a French-Canadian family down the road, two
girls and three boys, and seven or eight other men out working with
Francis, and under him, and if you only say you like to dance I'll
telephone them to-night.  Mother said I was too young to dance--and me
three years learning at the convent!--but with you here sure she can't
say a word.  Oh, do say you'll have a little dance to-night!  Francis
dances, too, if you haven't stopped it in him."

She stopped for a minute to take breath, and Marjorie clapped her hands.

"I love to dance!  Do have them up!  Never mind whether Francis likes
it or not!"

"Sure you have to mind what your own wedded husband likes," said the
Irish girl, shocked a little.  "But unless he's been more sobered
than's likely by the big war, he'll be as crazy over it all as we are.
There's a dozen grand dance records on the phonograph, and sure a bit
of rosin on the floor and it'll be as fine as silk.  Let's try them
now."

She made for the phonograph and had a dance-record on it before
Marjorie could answer, and in another minute had picked the smaller
girl up and was dancing over the rough floor with her.  And so Francis,
coming in a little apprehensively, found them flushed and laughing, and
whirling wildly around to the music of a record played much too fast.
Peggy, in an effort to show off heavily before Francis, came a cropper
over a stool at his feet, pulling Marjorie down in her fall; both of
them laughing like children as they fell, so that they could scarcely
disentangle themselves, and had to be unknotted by Francis.

"Come on to breakfast now, you young wild animals," said he, his thin,
dark face sparkling all over with laughter as Marjorie had never seen
it.

"I'm killed entirely," said Peggy.  "I have to be taken."

She made herself as limp and heavy as possible, and it ended in a
free-for-all scuffle which was finally shepherded into the dining-room
by Mrs. O'Mara, who was laughing so herself that she had to stop and
catch her breath.

So there was little time to think of one's sad lot at breakfast,
either.  And Peggy was so keen on the dance proposition that it took
all breakfast time to discuss it.

"I'm taking the motor-cycle over to the clearing, and I don't think
I'll be back till night," said Francis unexpectedly when breakfast was
over.

Peggy made a loud outcry.

"Is this your idea of a honeymoon?  Well, when my time comes may I have
a kinder man than you!  And poor Marjorie sitting home darning your
socks, I suppose!"

"No.  Not at all.  I have to go over first to take some things.  When I
come back I'll take her, too, if she'd like to go.  Think you'd enjoy
it, Marjorie?"

"What is it?" she asked cautiously, not particularly willing to
implicate herself.

"Well, it's a little cabin--or two little cabins, rather, and a
lean-to--several miles away.  A motor-cycle can go there by taking its
life in its hands.  It's in the middle of a clearing, so to speak; but
it's also in the middle of a pretty thick patch of woods around the
clearing.  There's a spring, and a kettle, and we make open fires.
There are provisions in the lean-to, locked up so the deer can't get
them--yes, deer like things to eat.  We go there to stay when there's
such work to do that it isn't convenient to come back and forth at
night.  There are lots of rabbits and birds, and once in a while a
harmless little green snake--do you mind harmless snakes, my
dear?--comes and looks affectionately at you, finds you're a human
being, and goes away again rather disappointed.  Once in a long while
an old bear comes and sniffs through the cracks of the lean-to in hopes
of lunch, and goes away again disconsolately like the snake.  But only
once since I can remember.  I tell you, Marjorie, I don't ever remember
having a better time than when I'd built a fire out there in an open
spot near the trees, and just lay on the ground with my hands behind my
head, all alone, and everything in the whole world so far away that
there wasn't a chance of its bothering me!  Just trees and sky and
wood-smoke and the ground underneath--there's nothing like it in the
world!"

He had flushed up with enthusiasm.  Marjorie looked at him admiringly.
This was a new Francis, one she had never met.  She had not realized
that any one could love that sort of thing--indeed, no one had ever
told her that such things existed.  Her life had been spent between
Cousin Anna's little prim house with a pavement in front of it and a
pocket-handkerchief of lawn behind, and the tiny New York flat she had
occupied with Lucille.  She had never really been out-of-doors in her
life.

"Oh, please do take me!" she cried.

He seemed extremely pleased at her asking.

"I can't this first trip; the side-car will be full of junk that I have
to get over there.  But I _would_ like to take you on my second trip,
about noon to-day.  Or it may be later when I get back--it's quite a
distance."

"That will be all right," said Marjorie sedately.  "I'd like to rest a
little this morning, anyway."

So Francis, with a light in his eyes, and whistling happily, fussed
about for a while assembling a mysterious collection of tools and
curious bundles, and rode blithely off in the general direction of what
looked like virgin forest.

"And now we'll plan all about the dance," said Peggy gaily.

"You will not, Miss!  You'll plan how to help me clean the back cellar
this beautiful sunny morning that was just made for it," said her
mother sternly, appearing on the scene, and carrying off a protesting
Peggy.

Marjorie, left alone, addressed herself to resting up in preparation
for the afternoon's trip.  There was a big hammock on the porch, and
thither, wrapped in her heavy coat, she went to lie.  She tried to
think out some plans for her future life without Francis; but the plans
were hard to make.  There were so many wild things to watch; even the
clouds and sky seemed different up here.  And presently when Peggy, no
more than healthfully excited by her hard morning's work on the cellar,
came prancingly out to enjoy more of her guest's society, she found her
curled up, asleep, one hand under her cheek, looking about ten years
old and very peaceful.

"Isn't she the darling!" she breathed to her mother.

"She is that!" said Mrs. O'Mara heartily.  "But they've both got fine
young tempers of their own, for all they're so gay and friendly.
Somebody's going to learn who's rulin' the roost, when the first edge
of the honeymoon's off.  And it's in me mind that the under-dog won't
be Mr. Francis."

"Oh, mother!  How can you talk so horridly?" remonstrated Peggy.  "As
if they ever had any chance of quarreling!"

"There's none," said Mrs. O'Mara wisely, "but has the chancet of
quarrelin' when they're man an' wife.  An' why not?  Sure it brightens
life a bit!  'Tis fine when it's over, as the dentist said to me whin
he pulled out the big tooth in me back jaw."

"Well, I know _I'm_ never going to quarrel," said Peggy vehemently.

"Then ye'd be a reformed character itself, an' why not start to curb
yer temper now?" said her mother.  "I can mind a certain day----"

But Peggy engulfed her mother in a violent embrace, holding her mouth
shut as she did so, and as Peggy was even taller than Mrs. O'Mara and
quite as strong, the ensuing struggle and laughter woke Marjorie.

"Now, see that!  An' take shame to yerself!" said Mrs. O'Mara
apologetically.  "'Twas me angel girl here, Mrs. Ellison, explainin' by
fine arguments how peaceful-minded she is.  Now let me away, Peggy, for
there's the meal to make."

Peggy, laughing as usual, sat down unceremoniously by Marjorie.

"I was just saying that I didn't see why married people should
quarrel," she explained, "and mother says that they all have to do some
of it, just to keep life amusing.  _I_ think you and Francis get along
like kittens in a basket."

"And does she think we quarrel?" inquired Marjorie sleepily, yet with
suspicion.

Peggy shook her head with indubitable honesty.

"No, she only says you will sooner or later.  But that's because she's
Irish, I think; you know Irish people do like a bit of a shindy once in
awhile.  I admit I don't mind it myself.  But you Americans born are
quieter.  When you quarrel you seem to take no pleasure whatever in it,
for all I can see!"

Marjorie laughed irrepressibly.

"Oh, Peggy, I do love you!" she said.  "It's true, I don't like
quarreling a bit.  It always makes me unhappy.  It's my Puritan
ancestry, I suppose."

"Well, you can't help your forebears," said Peggy sagely.

"And now shall I call up the folks for the dance to-night?"

"Oh, yes, do!" begged Marjorie, who had slept as much as she wanted to
and felt ready for anything in the world.

She lay on in the khaki hammock in a happy drowsiness.  The wind and
sunshine alone were enough to make her happy.  And there was going to
be a dance to-night, and she could wear a little pink dress she
remembered . . . and pretty soon there would be luncheon, and after
that she was going off on a gorgeous expedition with Francis, where
there was a fire, and rabbits and maybe a nice but perfectly harmless
little green snake that would look at her affectionately . . . but
everybody looked at you affectionately, once you were married . . . it
was very warming and comforting. . . .

She was asleep again before she knew it.  It was only Francis's quick
step on the porch that woke her--Francis, very alert and flushed, and
exceedingly hungry.

"Yes, yes, Mr. Francis, the food's been waitin' you this long time,"
said Mrs. O'Mara, evidently in answer to a soul-cry of Francis's, for
he had not had time to say anything aloud.  "Bring yer wife an' come
along an' eat."

So they went in without further word spoken, and after all Marjorie
found herself the possessor of as good an appetite as she'd had for
breakfast.

"Be sure to get back in time to dress for the dance," Peggy warned them
as they started off in the motor-cycle.  "It's to be a really fine
dance, with the girls in muslin dresses, not brogans and shirtwaists!"

"The girls?" asked Marjorie of Francis wonderingly.

"I think she means that the men aren't to wear brogans, or the girls
shirtwaists," he explained, as they whizzed down what seemed invisible
tracks in a trackless forest.  "Smell the pines--aren't they good?"

Marjorie looked up, beaming.

"Stunning!" she said.  "I don't see how you ever wanted to come to New
York, after you'd had this."

"After a long time of this New York is pleasant again," he said.  "But
I hope you won't tire of this, my dear."

"Oh, no!" she said fervently.  "I'm crazy to go on, and see the cabins
you told me about.  I can amuse myself there the whole afternoon, if
you have other things you want to do."

"You dear!" said Francis.

After that they were quiet, and rode on together, enjoying the glorious
afternoon.

"Here we are," said Francis after about two hours on the motor-cycle.
He slipped off and held the machine for her to get out.

"Oh," said Marjorie, "it's like something out of a fairy-book!"



CHAPTER VI

They had gone through what seemed to Marjorie's city-bred eyes a dense
forest, but which Francis had assured her was only a belt of
woodland--quite negligible.  And they had come out, now, on what
Francis called a clearing.  It was thick with underbrush, little trees,
and saplings; while bloodroot flowered everywhere, and the gleam of
thickly scattered red berries showed even as they rode quickly over the
grass.  In the center of things were the two cabins Francis had spoken
of; one quite large--Francis seemed given to understatement--and the
other of the conventional cabin size.

"The larger one is where my men stay," he explained.  "Two of them are
there now.  That's why you see a red shirt through the window.  Pierre
is probably leaving it there to dry.  I'll take you through if you
like, but it's just a rough sort of place.  The lean-to is the
cook-place.  All that cabin has inside is bunks, and a table or two to
play cards on, as far as I remember.  The other cabin----"

He stopped short, and turned away, pretending to fuss over his
motor-cycle, which he had already laid down tenderly in just the right
spot and the right position.  Marjorie, eager and swift, sprang close
to him like a squirrel.  She did not look unlike one for the moment,
wrapped in the thick brown coat with its furry collar.

"The other one!  Oh, show me that, and tell me all about it!" she
demanded ardently.

"The other one----" he said.  "Well--it's nothing.  That's where I
wanted to bring you to stay--before I knew there wasn't anything to it
but--this.  I--fixed it up for--us."

In spite of all the things she had against Francis, Marjorie felt for
the moment as if there was something hurting her throat.  She was sorry
for him, not in a general, pitying way, but the close way that hurts;
as if he was her little boy, and something had hurt him, and she
couldn't do anything about it.

"I'm--I'm sorry," she faltered, not looking at him.

He had evidently expected her to be angry--could she have been angry so
much as all that?--for he looked up with a relieved air.

"I thought you might like to go in there and rest while I went over to
where the work is being done," he said matter-of-factly.  "I can't get
back to you or to the Lodge till just in time for Peggy's dance.  But
you'll find things in the little cabin to amuse you, perhaps."

"Oh, I don't need things in the cabin to amuse me!" said Marjorie
radiantly.  "There's enough outside of it to keep me amused for a whole
afternoon!  But I do want to see in."

He took a key out of his pocket, and together they crossed the clearing
to where the little cabin stood, its rustic porch thick with vines.
Francis stood very still for a moment before he bent and put the key
into the padlock, and Marjorie saw with another tug at her heart that
his face was white, and held tense.  She felt awed.  Had it meant so
much to him, then?

She followed him in, subdued and yet somehow excited.  He moved from
her side with a sort of push, and flung open the little casement
windows.  The scented gloom, heavy with the aromatic odors of
life-everlasting and sweet fern, gave place to the fresh keen wind with
new pine-scents in it, and to the dappled sunshine.

"Oh, how _lovely_!" said Marjorie.  "Oh, Francis!  Do you know what
this place is?  It's the place I've always planned I'd make for myself,
way off in the woods somewhere, when I had enough money.  Only I
thought I'd never really see it, you know. . . .  And here it is!"

He only said "Is it?" in a sort of suppressed way; but she said no
more.  She only stood and looked about her.

There was a broad window-seat under the casement windows he had just
thrown open.  It was cushioned in leaf-brown.  A book lay on it, which
Marjorie came close to and looked at curiously.

"Oh--my own pet 'Wind in the Willows!'" she said delightedly.  "How
queer!"

"No, not queer," said Francis quietly, from where he was unlocking an
inner door.

So Marjorie said no more.  She laid the book down a little shyly and
investigated further.  The walls were of stained wood, but apparently
there were two thicknesses, with something between to keep the heat and
cold out, for she could see a depth of some inches at the door.  There
was a perfectly useless and adorable and absurd balcony over the
entrance, and a sort of mezzanine and a stair by which you could get to
it; something like what a child would plan in its ideas of the kind of
house it wanted.  There was a door at the farther end leading into
another room, and crossing the wooden floor, with its brown fiber rug,
Marjorie opened it and entered a little back part where were packed
away most surprisingly a kitchen, a bathroom, and a bedroom.

"Why, it isn't a cabin--it's a bungalow!" she said, surprised.  "And
what darling furniture!"

The furniture was all in keeping, perfectly simple and straight-built,
of brown-stained wood.  There was a long chair at one side of the
window-seat, with a stool beside it, and a magazine thrown down on the
stool.  Everything looked as if it had just been lived in, and by some
one very much like Marjorie.

"When did you do all this?" she asked curiously.

"I didn't know you'd had any time for ages and ages.  Was it----"

"Was it for some other girl," was hovering on her lips.  But she did
not ask the question.  As a matter of fact, she didn't want to hear the
answer if it was affirmative.  "You don't remember," he said quietly.
"I put in some time training recruits not far from here.  No, of course
you don't remember, because I never told you.  It was in between my
first seeing you, and the other time when I was going around with you
and Billy and Lucille.  After I saw you that first time, when I had to
come back here, near as it was to my old haunts,--well, I didn't know,
of course, whether I was ever going to marry you or not.  But--there
was the cabin, my property, and I had time off occasionally and nothing
to do with it.  So--well, it was for the you I thought might possibly
be.  It made you realer, don't you see?"

Marjorie sank down as he finished, on the broad, soft window-seat; and
began to cry uncontrollably.

"Oh--oh--it seems so pitiful!" he made out that she was saying finally.
"I--I'm so sorry!"

Francis laughed gallantly.

"Oh, you needn't be sorry!" he said, smiling at her, though with an
obvious effort.  "I had a mighty good time doing it, my dear.  Why, the
things you said, and the way you acted while I was doing it for
you--you've no idea how nice they were.  You sat just----"

"Oh, that was why the book was on the window-seat, and the other
things----"

"That was why," nodded Francis.

"And the stool close up to the lounge-chair----"

He nodded.

"You lay there and I sat by you on the stool," he said.  "And you
whispered the most wonderful things to me----"

"I didn't!" said Marjorie, flushing suddenly.  "You know perfectly well
all the time that was going on I--the real Me--was being a filing-clerk
in New York, and running around with Lucille, and being bored with
fussy people in the office, and hunting up letters for employers and
hoping they wouldn't discover how much longer it took me to find them
than it did really intelligent people----"

"No," said Francis, suddenly dejected, "you didn't.  But--it was a nice
dream.  And I think, considering all that's come and gone, you needn't
begrudge it to me."

"I don't," said Marjorie embarrassedly.  "I--I only wish you wouldn't
talk about it, because it partly makes me feel as if my feelings were
hurt, and partly makes me feel terribly self-conscious."

"Then perhaps it _was_ you, a little," said Francis quietly.

Marjorie moved away from him, and went into the kitchen again, with her
head held high to hide the fact that her cheeks were burning.  He
hadn't any right to do that to her.  Why, any amount of men might be
making desperate love to dream-Marjories--Mr. Logan, for
instance,--only his love-making would probably be exceedingly full of
quotations, and rather slow and involved.

She turned, dimpling over her shoulder at Francis, who had been
standing in rather a dream, where she had left him.

"Francis!  Do you suppose any other men are doing that?" she asked
mischievously.  "Supposing our good friend Mr. Logan, for instance, has
installed me in a carved renaissance chair in his apartment, and is
saying nice things to me----"

"Marjorie!"

"Well, you see!" said Marjorie.  "It isn't a good precedent."

"Well, I'm your husband," muttered Francis quite illogically.

"Oh, this has gone far enough," said Marjorie with determination.  And
she went back to the kitchen.

"I'll leave you here, if that's the case," said Francis in a friendly
enough way.  "I have to go over to the other cabin and see how things
are and then out to where some work is going on.  Can you find
amusement here for awhile?"

"Oh, yes," said Marjorie.  She felt a little tired, after all; and a
little desirous of getting away from Francis.

"Well, if you're hungry, I think there are some things in the kitchen;
and the stove is filled, and there are matches," he said in a
matter-of-fact way.  She wondered if he intended her to get herself a
large and portentous meal.  She did not feel at all hungry.

"If you'll tell me when you think you'll be back for me I'll have a
little lunch ready for you before we go," she was inspired to say.

"That's fine," said Francis with the gratitude which any mention of
food always inspires in a man.  "Don't overwork yourself, though.  You
must be tired yet from your trip."

She smiled and shook her head.  She went over to the door with him, and
watched him as he went away, as bonny and loving a wife to all
appearances as any man need ask for.  Pierre, who had been dwelling in
the cabin along with his red shirt, for the purpose of doing a
much-needed housecleaning for himself and his mates, looked out at them
with an emotional French eye.

"By gar, it's tarn nice be married!" he sighed, for his last wife had
been dead long enough to have blotted out in his amiable mind the
recollection of her tongue, and he was thinking over the acquirement of
another one.

Meanwhile Marjorie went back to the cabin that had been built around
the dream of her, picked up "The Wind in the Willows," and tried to
read.  But it was difficult.  Life, indeed, was difficult--but
interesting, in spite of everything.  Francis was nice in places, after
all, if only he wouldn't have those terrifying times of being too much
in earnest, and over her.  It was embarrassing, as she had said.  She
rose up and walked through the place again.  It was so dainty and so
friendly and so clean, so everything that she had always wanted--how
_had_ Francis known so much about what she liked?

She curled down on the window-seat, tired of thinking, and finally
slept again.  It was the change to the crisp Canada air that made her
sleep so much of the time.

She sprang up in a little while conscious that there was something on
her mind to do.  Then she remembered.  She had promised to get
luncheon--or afternoon tea--or a snack--for Francis before he went.
She felt as if she could eat something herself.

"At this rate," she told herself, "I'll be as fat as a _pig_!"

She thought, as she moved about, to look down at the little wrist-watch
that had been one of Francis's ante-bellum gifts to her.  And it was
half-past five o'clock.  Then it came to her that by the time she had
something cooked and they had made the distance back to the lodge it
would be time for the dance, and therefore that this meal would have to
be supper at least.  It was more fun than cooking in the kitchenette of
the apartment, because there was elbow-room.  Marjorie's housewifely
soul had always secretly chafed under having to prepare food in a
kitchen that only half of you could be in at a time.

There was a trusty kerosene stove here, and a generous white-painted
cupboard full of stores and of dishes.  She had another threatening of
emotion for a minute when she saw that the dishes were some yellow
Dutch ones that she remembered admiring.  But she decided that it was
no time to feel pity--or indeed any emotion that would interfere with
meal-getting--and continued prospecting for stores.  Condensed milk,
flour, baking-powder, and a hermetically-sealed pail of lard suggested
biscuits, if she hurried; cocoa and tins of bacon and preserved fruit
and potatoes offered at least enough food to keep life alive, if
Francis would only stay away the half-hour extra that he might.

Heaven was kind, and he did.  The biscuits and potatoes were baked, the
fruit was opened and on the little brown table with the yellow dishes,
and the bacon was just frizzling curlily in the pan when Francis walked
into the kitchen.

If it seemed pleasantly domestic to him he was wise enough not to say
so.  He only stated in an unemotional manner that there were eggs put
down in water-glass in the entry back; and as this conveyed nothing to
Marjorie he went and got some and fried them, and they had supper
together.

"You're a bully good cook," he told her, and she smiled happily.
Anybody could tell you that much, and it meant nothing.  Sometimes
dealing with Francis reminded her of a Frank Stockton fairy-tale in her
childhood, where some monarch or other went out walking with a Sphinx,
and found himself obliged to reply "Give it up!" to every remark of the
lady's, in order not to be eaten.

"We won't have time to clear up much," was his next remark, looking
pensively at a table from which they had swept everything but one
biscuit and a lonely little baked potato which had what Marjorie termed
"flaws," and they had had to avoid.  "But then, I suppose you might say
there wasn't much to clear.  We'll stack these dishes and let Pierre or
somebody wash 'em.  Us for the dance."

They piled the yellow dishes in a gleeful hurry, and Francis went out
and disposed of the scraps and did mysterious things to the kerosene
stove.  They were whizzing back the way they had come before Marjorie
had more than caught her breath.

"We'll be a little late, if you have to do anything in the dressing
line.  I have to shave," said Francis.

Marjorie, who really wasn't used to men, colored a little at this
marital remark, and then said that she supposed that it must have been
hard not to do it in the trenches.

"Oh, that was only the poilus," said Francis, and went on into a flood
of details about keeping the men neat for the sake of their morale.  It
was interesting; but Marjorie thought afterward that perhaps it was
because anything would have been while she was whirring along through
the darkening woods in the keen, sharp-scented air.  She loved it more
and more, the woods and the atmosphere, and the memory of the little
cabin.  She promised herself that she would try some day to find the
place by herself.  Maybe she could borrow a horse or a bicycle or some
means of locomotion and go seeking it in the forest.

"Now hurry!" admonished Francis as he landed her neatly by the veranda.
"Don't let them stop you for anything to eat, as Mother O'Mara will
want to."

So she scurried up to her room, not even waiting to hear the voice of
temptation, and began hunting her belongings through for something.  It
was foolish, but she was more excited over the thought of this rough,
impromptu backwoods dance than she ever had been in the city by real
dances, or out with Cousin Anna at the carefully planned subscription
dances where you knew just who was coming and just what they were going
to wear.

Finally she gave up her efforts at decision, and went out to find
Peggy.  Her room, she knew, was on the third floor.

"Come in!" said Peggy's joyous voice.  Marjorie entered, and found
Peggy in the throes of indecision herself.

"You're just what I wanted to see!" said she.  "Would you wear this
green silk that's grand and low, but a bit short for the last styles,
or this muslin that I graduated in, and it's as long as the moral law,
and I slashed out the neck--but a bit plain?"

"Why, that's just what I came to ask you," said Marjorie.  "What kind
of clothes do you wear for dances like these?"

"Well, the grander the better, to-night, as I was telling everybody
over the telephone.  Mrs. Schneider, now, the priest's housekeeper, she
has a red satin that she'll be sure to wear,--and the saints keep her
from wearing her pink satin slippers with it, but I don't think they
can.  It would be a strong saint at the least," said Peggy
thoughtfully.  "I'd better be in my green."

"Then I can wear----" said Marjorie, and stopped to consider.  She had
one frock that was very gorgeous, and she decided to wear it.  It would
certainly seem meek contrasted with Mrs. Schneider's red satin.

"Come on, and I'll bring this, and we can hook each other up," Peggy
proposed ardently, and followed her down in a kimono.

So they hooked each other up, except where there were snappers, and
admired each other exceedingly.  Marjorie's frock was a yellow one that
Lucille had hounded her into buying, and she looked as vivid in it as a
firefly.

Francis had been given orders to wear his uniform, which he was doing.
He looked very natural that way to Marjorie; there were others of the
men in uniform as well.  There were perhaps twenty people already
arrived when the girls came downstairs, seven or eight girls and twelve
or fourteen men.  And Marjorie discovered that young persons in the
backwoods believed in dressing up to their opportunities.  Some of the
frocks were obviously home-made, but all were gorgeous, even in the
case of one black-eyed _habitant_ damsel who had constructed a
confection, copied accurately and cleverly from some advanced
fashion-paper, out of cheesecloth and paper muslin!

One of the men was sacrificed to the phonograph, and for hours it never
stopped going.  Records had been brought by others of the men and
girls, and Marjorie had never seen such gay and unwearied dancing.  She
was tossed and caught from one big backwoodsman to another, the dances
being "cut-in" shamelessly, because the women were fewer than the men.
They nearly all danced well, French or Yankee or Englishmen.  There
were a couple of young Englishmen whom she particularly liked, who had
ridden twenty miles, she heard, to come and dance.  And finally she
found herself touched on the shoulder by her own husband, and dancing
smoothly away with him.

"This isn't much like the last time and place where we danced," he
said, smiling down at her and then glancing at the big, bare room with
its kerosene lamps and bough-trimmed walls.  "Do you remember?"

She laughed and nodded.  "Maxim's, wasn't it?  But I like this best.
There's something in the air here that keeps you feeling so alive all
the time, and so much like having fun.  In spite of all our tragedies,
and your very bad temper"--she laughed up at him impertinently--"I'm
enjoying myself as much as Peggy is, though I probably don't look it."

"There isn't so much of you to look it," explained Francis.  Their eyes
both followed young Peggy, where, magnificent in her green gown and
gold slippers, she was frankly flirting with a French-Canadian who was
no match for her, but quite as frankly overcome by her charms.  "But
what there is," he added politely, "is very nice indeed."

They laughed at this like a couple of children, and moved on toward a
less frequented part of the floor, for there was a big man in khaki,
one of Francis's men, who was coming dangerously near, and had in his
eye a determination to cut in.  Francis and Marjorie moved downwards
till they were almost opposite the door.  And as they were dancing
across the space before the door there was a polite knock on it.  They
stood still, still interlaced, as an unpartnered man lounging near it
threw it open.  And on the threshold, like a ghost from the past, stood
Mr. Logan.  In spite of his mysterious nervous ailment he had nerved
himself to make the journey after Marjorie, and walked in, softly and
slowly, indeed, and somewhat travel-soiled, but very much himself, and
apparently determined on a rescue.  Marjorie stared at him in horror.
Rescue was all right theoretically; but not in the middle of as good a
party as this.  And what could Francis do to her now?

What he did was to release her with decision, and come forward with the
courtesy he was quite capable of at any crisis, and welcome Logan to
their home.

"You've caught us in the middle of a party," he concluded cordially,
"but I don't suppose you feel much like dancing.  Perhaps after a
little something to eat and drink you'd like to rest a bit.  Come speak
to Mr. Logan, my dear," he finished, with what Marjorie stigmatized as
extreme impudence; and Marjorie, in her firefly draperies, came forward
with as creditable a calm as her husband, and greeted Mr. Logan, after
which Francis called Mrs. O'Mara to show him to a room where he could
rest.

"I came to talk to you----" began Mr. Logan as he was led hospitably
away.

"I'll be at your service as soon as you've had a little rest and food,"
said Francis in his most charming manner.

He actually put his arm about Marjorie again and was going on with the
dance, when the telephone rang.  The woman nearest it answered it, and
called Francis over excitedly.  Marjorie, too proud to ask any
questions, was nevertheless eaten up with curiosity, and finally edged
near enough to hear above the phonograph.

"You'll be all right till to-morrow?  Very well--I'll be out then and
see what to do."

"What's the matter?" demanded Peggy, who had no pride to preserve.

Francis smiled, but looked a little worried, too.

"Nothing very serious, but inconvenient.  Pierre, the cook for the
outfit, suddenly decided to leave to-day, and did.  He said he thought
it was time he got married again, and has gone in quest of a bride, I
suppose.  The deuce of it is, we're so short-handed.  Well, never
mind----"

"If mother wasn't so silly about the ghosts," began Peggy.

"Well, she is, if ye call it silly," said Mrs. O'Mara from where she
stood with her partner in all the glory of a maroon satin that fitted
her as if she were an upholstered sofa.  "I'd no more go live in that
clearin' with the Wendigees, or whatever 'tis the Canucks talk about,
than in Purgatory itself.  Wendigees is Injun goblins," she explained
to her partner, "and there's worse nor them, too."

She crossed herself expertly, and in almost the same movement swept her
partner, not of the tallest, away in a fox-trot.  She fox-trotted very
well.

Marjorie went on dancing, and hoping that Mr. Logan would go to bed and
to sleep, or have a fit of nerves that would incapacitate him from
further interfering with her.  But the hope was in vain, for Francis
appeared from nowhere in about fifteen minutes, and beckoned her to
follow him to where she knew Logan was waiting.

The two men sat down gravely in the little wooden room where Logan had
been shown.  It was Francis who spoke first.

"Mr. Logan insists, Marjorie, that you appealed to him for rescue.  He
puts it to me, I must say, very reasonably, that no sensible man would
travel all this way to bring back a girl unless she had asked him to.
He says that you wrote him that you were being treated severely."

"I didn't!  I never did!" exclaimed outraged Marjorie, springing up and
standing before them.  "Show me my letter!"

"Unfortunately," said Mr. Logan wistfully, "I destroyed it, because I
have always found that the wisest thing to do with letters.  But I am
prepared to take my oath that you wrote me, asking me to help you.  I
am extremely sorry to find that you are in such a position as
to--forgive me, Mr. Ellison, but it seems rather like it--to be so
dominated by this gentleman as not to even admit----"

"You see what it looks like," broke in Francis, turning to his wife
furiously.  "Never ask me to believe you again.  I don't trust you--I
never will trust you.  Nobody will, if you keep on as you've begun.  Go
back with him, then--you're not my slave, much as you may pretend it."

"I won't!" said Marjorie spiritedly.  "I've had enough of this.  I'll
stay here, if it takes ten years, till you admit that you've treated me
horribly, and misjudged me.  I've played fair.  I've no way of proving
it, against you two men, but I have!  I'll prove it by any test you
like."

"There's only one way you can convince me that one word you've said
since you came up here was the truth," he told her, suddenly quiet and
cold.  "If you stay, of your own free will, out there in the clearing;
if you take over the work that Pierre fell down on this evening, and
stay there looking after me and my men--I'll believe you.  There's no
fun to doing that, just work; it stands to reason that you wouldn't do
that for any reason unless to clear yourself.  If you don't want to do
that, you may go home with this gentleman; indeed, I won't let you do
anything else.  Take your choice."

Marjorie looked at him for a moment as if she wanted to do something
violent to him.  Then she spoke.



CHAPTER VII

"I see what you mean," she said.  "I wasn't sporting in the first
place--I wouldn't live up to my bargain.  That's made you more apt to
believe that I've been acting the same way ever since.  You don't think
I can see _any_thing through.  Well--not particularly for your
sake--more for my own, I guess--I'm going to see this through, if I die
doing it.  I'll stay--and take Pierre's place, Francis."

Francis's severe young face did not change at all.

"Very well," he said.

"But you understand," she went on, "that I'm not doing this to win
anything but my own self-respect.  And at the end of the three months,
of course, I shall go back to New York.  And you'll let me go, and see
that I get free."

"I wouldn't do anything else for the world," said Francis in the same
unmoved voice.

"Very well, then--we understand each other."  She turned to Logan, who
had sprung to his feet and tried to interfere a couple of times while
she talked.  "And please remember that this arrangement does not go
beyond us three," she said.  "I would prefer that no one else knew how
matters stood."

Logan looked a little baffled.  He was ten years older than either of
them, but so many actual clashing things happening had never come his
way before.  His ten years' advantage had been spent writing stylistic
essays, and such do not fit one for stepping down into the middle of a
lot of primitive young emotions.  He felt suddenly helpless before
these passionate, unjust, emotional young people.  He felt a little
forlorn, too, as if the main currents of things had been sweeping them
by while he stood carefully on the bank, trying not to get his feet
wet.  A very genuine emotion of pity for Marjorie had brought him up
here, pity more mixed with something else than he had been willing to
admit.  It was the first thing he had done for a long, long time that
was romantic and unconsidered and actual.  And it appeared that, after
all, he wasn't needed.  Concentration on the nuances of minor
fifteenth-century poets had unfitted him for being swept on, as these
had been, by the world-currents.  They had married each other, pushed
by the mating instinct in the air--the world's insistence on marriage
to balance the death that had swept it.  Now they were struggling to
find their balance against each other, to be decent, to be fair, to
make themselves and each other what they thought they ought to be.  He
could see what they were doing and why much more clearly than they
could themselves.  But he couldn't be a part of it--he had stood aside
from life too long, with his nerves and his passion for artistic
details and pleasures of the intellect.

But he bowed quietly, and smiled a little.  He felt suddenly very tired.

"Certainly it shall go no farther," he assured her.  "And I owe you an
apology for the trouble which I fear I have ignorantly brought upon
you.  If there is anything I can say----"

She shook her head proudly, and Francis, fronting them both, made a
motion of negation, too.

"You must be tired," he added to his gesture.  "Or would you care to
watch the dancers awhile?"

"No, I thank you," said Mr. Logan courteously in his turn.  "If you
will tell me of some near-by hotel----"

"There's only this," explained Francis.  "But I think your room is
ready by now.  Miss O'Mara--I'll call her--will show you to it."

Peggy, summoned by a signal whistle from the ballroom, convoyed Logan
upstairs with abundant good-will and much curiosity.  She had never
seen any one like him before, and took in his looks and belongings with
the intense and frank absorption of an Indian.  Indeed, as she
explained to Marjorie, whom she met at the foot of the stairs, it was
only by the help of the saints and her own good decency that she didn't
follow him into his room and stay there to watch him unpack.

"With the charming, purry voice he has, and all the little curlicues
when he finishes his words, and the little cane--does he never sleep
without it, would you say?--and the little Latin books he reads----"

But here Marjorie pulled her up.

"How on earth do you know he reads little Latin books?"

Peggy flushed generously.

"Well, if you must know, I gave one teeny weeny peek through the crack
in the door after I left him, and he was thrown down across his cot
like a long, graceful tomcat or leopard or something, and he pulled a
little green leather book out of his pocket and went to reading it on
the spot.  'Pervigilium Veneris,' its name was.  All down the side."

Marjorie had heard of it; in fact, in pursuance of her education Mr.
Logan had made her read several translations of it.  It had bored her a
little, but she had read it dutifully, because she had felt at that
time that it would be nice to be intellectually widened, and because
Logan had praised it so highly.

"Oh, yes, I know," she said.

"And is it a holy book?" Peggy inquired.

"Just a long Latin poem about people running around in the woods at
night and having a sort of celebration of Venus's birthday," said
Marjorie absently.  It occurred to her Logan would have been worse
shocked if he could have heard her offhand summing-up of his pet poem
than he had been by her attitude about going back to New York with him.
But she had more important things on her mind than Latin poetry.  When
Peggy met her she was on her way to go off and think them out.

"Good-night, Peggy," she said.  "I'm going to bed.  I have to get up
early and go to work."

Peggy laughed.

"Don't talk nonsense.  The dance isn't half over, and everybody's crazy
to dance with you.  You can sleep till the crack of doom to-morrow, and
with not a soul to stop you."

Marjorie shook her head, smiling a little.

"No.  I'm going over to the clearing to do the cooking for the men.  I
told Francis I would, tonight."

Peggy made the expected outcry.

"To begin with, I'll wager you can't cook--a little bit of a thing like
you, that I could blow away with a breath!  And you'd be all alone
there.  Mother won't do it because she's afraid of wraiths"--Peggy
pronounced it "wraths," and it was evidently a quotation from Mrs.
O'Mara--"and it would be twice as scary for you.  Though, to be sure, I
suppose you'd have Francis.  I suppose that's your reason, the both of
you--it sounds like the bossy sort of plan Francis makes."

This had not occurred to Marjorie.  But she saw now that the only
plausible reason not the truth that they could give for her taking
Pierre's job was her desire to see more of her husband.

"Well, it's natural we should want to see more of each other," she
began lamely.

"Oh, I suppose so," said Peggy offhandedly, and with one ear pricked
toward the music.  "But when my time comes I hope I won't be that bad
that I drag a poor girl off to do cooking, so I can see the more of
her."

"You're getting your sexes mixed," said Francis coolly, strolling up
behind the girls.  "Peggy, your partner is looking for you.  I'll take
you over after luncheon to-morrow, Marjorie."

"Very well," she said.  "Good-night."

If his heart smote him, as Marjorie's little, indomitable figure
mounted the stairs, shoulders back and head high, he made no sign of
it.  Instead, in spite of the preponderance of men, he went back to the
dance, and danced straight through till the end had come.

Marjorie went to bed, as she had said she would do.  She did not go to
sleep.  Marjorie, as has been said, was not brave--that is, she could
and did do brave things, but she always did them with her heart in her
slippers.  She did not know what the cooking would be, but she was sure
it would be worse than she could imagine, and too much for her
strength.  The only comfort was the recollection that the dear brown
cabin was hers to live in, every moment that she was not at work.  She
would have that rest and comfort.  There was the shelf of books chosen
for her by the far-off Francis who was not doubtful of her, and loved
her and dreamed about her, and built a house all around the vision of
her.  And there might be times when she could hurry up a great deal,
and lie on the window-seat and look out at the woodlands and dream.

She finally went to sleep.  She wakened with a start, early, vaguely
remembering that there was a great deal to do.  Full remembrance came
as she sprang out of bed and ran down the hall to her bath.  She had to
pack, and after luncheon Francis would carry her off to imprisonment
with hard labor.  And--why on earth was she doing it, when she could
still go back with Logan?  For a long half hour she struggled with
herself, one minute deciding; to go back, the next deciding to stay.
Finally she faced the thing.  She would see it through, if it killed
her.  She would make Francis respect her, if it took six months instead
of three at hard labor.  She would take the wages for the work she had
done, and go back home a free, self-respecting woman.

She dressed herself quickly, and went down to breakfast, braced to play
her part before the O'Maras.  Short as her time with them, she was fond
of them already.

"I think your devotion is a bit hard on yer wife," remarked Mrs.
O'Mara, whom Peggy had put in possession of the facts.  "If I were her,
I'd value an affection more that had less o' dishwashin' in it!"

"She's helping me over a pretty hard place." Francis said this calmly.
But he flushed in a way that, as Marjorie knew, meant he was disturbed.
"You know every man counts just now, and labor is cruelly scarce.  I'm
doing mine and a day-laborer's work besides, now.  And the contract has
to be finished."

"Well, of course, there's a gown or so for her in it," said Mrs. O'Mara
comfortably.  "And 'tis no more than a woman should do, to help out her
man if he needs it.  Have ye any aprons or work-dresses, me dear, for
if not Peggy and me will make ye some.  We've a bolt of stuff."

"No, and I'd be very glad if you would," said Marjorie, feeling the
thing more irrevocable every moment.

"And rest this morning, and I'll pack for you," said Peggy
affectionately.  She led Marjorie out to the swing herself, and went
upstairs to pack before she went to help her mother with the breakfast
dishes.

Marjorie was too restless to lie still.  She went out and walked about
the place, and came back and lay down, and so put in the interminable
hours till luncheon.  After luncheon Francis appeared like the
messenger of doom he was, put her and a small bag in the side-car and
carried her off to her place of servitude.

The ride, in spite of all, was pleasant.  For a while neither of them
spoke.  Then Francis did.

"I feel as if this was unfair to you--for apparently the O'Maras think,
and I suppose everybody will, that you really are doing this to show
your fondness for me.  I shall have to ask you to let them think so."

"I have," she answered curtly.

"You don't understand.  I--I am going to have to stay in the cabin with
you. . . .  There is the little upstairs balcony, I can bunk in that.
You know--the one over the door, with the little winding stair leading
up to it.  I--I'm sorry."

This was one more thing Marjorie hadn't counted on.  But after all what
did it matter?  She expected to be so deadly tired from the work she
had promised to do that she would never know whether Francis was in the
house at all.  And if there really were bears once in awhile it would
really be better not to be all alone with them.

"Very well," she said.  She looked hungrily at the thick trees they
were speeding through.  She supposed she would never have time to lie
out under a tree, or go hunting for flowers and new little wood-paths
again.  She had read stories of lone, draggled women in logging-camps,
toiling so hard they hadn't even time to comb their hair, but always
wore it pulled back tight from their forehead.  This wasn't a
logging-camp, but she supposed there was very little difference.

She was very quiet for awhile.  Francis, turning finally, a little
uneasy, found that she was quietly crying.  It happened that he had
never seen her cry before.

"Please, Marjorie!" he begged in a terrified voice.  "Please stop!  Is
there anything I can do?"

"You have done everything," she said in a little quiet voice that tried
not to break, but did, most movingly, on the last word.

She said nothing more after that.  After awhile she got hold of
herself, dried her eyes, and began to watch the woods desperately
again, as if she would never see them any more.  If she had but known
it, she was making Francis suffer as much as she was suffering herself.

"I'll bring the rest of your things over now," he said, when he had
carried her little bag in and put it on her bed.  He went out and left
her alone, in the little wood-walled bedroom with its high, latticed
windows, and Indian blankets and birch-bark trimmings.  She lay on the
bed apathetically awhile, then she began to notice things a little.
There was a kodak on her bureau.  There were snowshoes, too small for a
man surely--if you could tell of a thing the size of snowshoes--hanging
on the wall.  There was a fishing-rod case, with something hanging near
it that she imagined was a flybook.  There was a little trowel, and a
graceful birch-bark basket, as if some one might want to go out and
bring home plants.  She got up finally, her curiosity stronger than her
unhappiness, and investigated.

There was dust on everything.  That is, except in one particular.  On
top of each article she had noticed was a square, clean place about the
size of an envelope.  There had been a note lying or pinned to each one
of the things.

It occurred to Marjorie that a man who had not noticed the dust might
have overlooked one of the notes; and she commenced a detailed and
careful search.  The kodak told no tales, nor the snowshoes.  The
fishing-rod was only explanatory to the extent of being too light and
small for a man, and the basket's only contents were two pieces of
oilcloth, apparently designed to keep wet plants from dripping too much.

She rose and tiptoed out into the living-room.  There might be more
notes there.  Her spirits had gone up, and she was laughing to herself
a little--it felt like exploring Bluebeard's castle.  She investigated
the book case, shaking out every book.  She ran up to the toy balcony
and even pushed out the couch there, noticing for the first time that
the balcony had curtains which could be drawn.  But there was nothing
behind couch or curtains.  She put her hands on the little railing and
looked down at the room below her, to see if she had missed anything.
And her eyes fell on a cupboard which was level with the wall at one
side, and had so escaped her eye heretofore.  Also there was a
scrapbasket which might tell tales.

She dashed down the little stair, and made for the scrapbasket, but
Francis was more thorough than she had thought, and it was empty.  She
opened the cupboard and looked in--there was a little flashlight lying
near it, and she illuminated the dark with it.  There in the cupboard
lay a banjo.

"Gracious!" breathed Marjorie.  "What a memory!"  For she _could_ play
the banjo, and it appeared that she must have said so to Francis in
those first days.  "He must have dashed home and made out lists every
night!" she concluded as she dragged it out.  It was unstrung, but new
strings lay near it, coiled in their papers.  And under the papers, so
like them that he had forgotten to destroy it, lay a veritable note.

"It isn't really from him to me," she thought, her heart beating
unaccountably as she sat back on her heels and tore the envelope open.
"It's from the Francis he thought he was, to the Marjorie he thought I
was."

But she read it just the same.

"For my dear little girl, if she comes true," was the superscription.

"I don't know whether you'll find this first or last, honey.  But it's
for you to play on, sometimes, in the evenings, sitting on the
window-seat with me, or out on the veranda if you'd rather.  But
wherever you sit to play it, I may stay quite close to you, mayn't I?"

She was tired and overstrained.  That was probably why she put both
arms around the banjo as if it was somebody that loved her, and cried
on it very much as if it were a baby.  And when she went back to her
room to replace things as she had found them she carried it with her.

She was calmer after that, for some reason.  She had the illogical
feeling that some one had been kind to her.  She put her things away in
the drawers, and even had the courage to lay out for herself the
all-enveloping gingham apron, much shortened, which Mrs. O'Mara had
loaned her till she and Peggy could run up some more.  She supposed
Francis would want her to start in with the cooking that night.  So she
put on her plainest dress and easiest shoes, and then, there being
nothing else to do, took the banjo out into the sitting-room and began
to string it.  And as she strung she thought.

She was going to have to be pretty close to Francis till her term of
service was up; she might as well not fight him.  It would make things
easier all round if she didn't, as long as she had to keep on friendly
terms before people.

The truth was, that she couldn't but feel softened to the man who had
written that boyish, loving note.  "Even if it wasn't to the her he
knew now, it was to the Marjorie of last year, and she was a near
relation," thought the Marjorie of this year whimsically.

So when Francis came back with the rest of her baggage he found her on
the window-seat with the banjo in her lap, fingering it softly, and
smiling at him.  She could see that he was a little startled, but he
had himself in hand directly, and came forward, saying, "So you found
the banjo.  I got it for you in the first place.  Is it any good?"

"Oh, did you?" inquired his wife innocently.  "Yes, it's a very good
banjo.  Maybe I'll find time to play it some day when the housework for
the men is out of the way.  What do I do when I begin?  And hadn't we
better go over now?"

"I didn't expect you to start till to-morrow," he explained.  "I've
taken one of the men off his regular work to attend to it till then."

"Oh, that's kind of you," she answered, still friendly and smiling to a
degree that seemed to perplex him.  "But perhaps you could take me over
to-night and show me.  I'll get supper for us two here, if you like,
and afterward we can go over, and you can introduce me to your men as
the new cook.  I hope they'll like me as well as Pierre."

He looked at her still as if she were behaving in a very unexpected
way.  A tamed Marjorie was something new in his experience; and
tameness at this juncture was particularly surprising.  Francis was
beginning to feel like a brute, which may have been what his wife
intended.

"That's very kind of you," he managed to say.  "You're sure you are not
too tired for any of that?"

"Being tired isn't going to count, is it?" she asked, smiling.  "No, I
don't mind doing it.  It will be like playing with a doll-house.  You
know, I love this little place."

In her wicked heart she was thinking, "He shall miss me--oh, if I can
keep my temper and be perfectly lovely for three months he shall miss
me so when I go and get my divorce that he will want to _die_!"  And
she looked up at him, one hand on the banjo, as if they were the best
friends in the world.

"It isn't time to get supper yet, is it?" she pursued.  "You used to
like to hear me sing.  Don't you want to sit down here by me while I
see how the banjo works, just for a little while?"

"No!" said Francis abruptly.  "I have to--I have to go and see after a
lot more work."

He flung out the door, and it crashed after him.  And Marjorie laughed
softly and naughtily to herself over the banjo, and pushed the note
that had dwelt within farther down inside her dress.  "I wish I had the
rest!" said she.  "Let me see.  The kodak was for both of us to go out
and take pictures together, of course.  The snowshoes--that would have
had to wait till winter.  The basket and trowel were so we could plant
lots of lovely woodsy things we found around the cabin, to see if they
would take root.  And he must have been going to teach me to fish.  I
wonder why he wasn't going to teach me to shoot.  There must be a rifle
somewhere--maybe it hasn't lost its note, if it was hidden hard enough.
And he remembered how I liked 'surprises.'  He certainly would have
made a good lover if I hadn't----"

She did not finish.  She got up and hunted for the rifle, which was not
to be found.  Then she went into the kitchen and hunted for stores, and
wondered how on earth a balanced menu could be evolved from cans and
dried things exclusively.  But the discovery of a cache of canned
vegetables helped her out, and as she really was a good cook, and loved
cooking, what Francis returned to was not supper, but a very excellent
little dinner.  And his wife had found time, as well, to dress herself
in the most fluffy and useless-looking of rosy summer frocks, with
white slippers.  She looked more fragile and decorative and childish
than he had ever seen her, leaning across the little table talking
brightly to him about her adventures in the discovery of the things
that made up the meal.

An old quotation about "breaking a butterfly upon a wheel" came to him
as she chattered on, telling him delightedly how she had made up her
mind to surprise him with tomato bisque if it was her last act, and how
she had discovered a box that was labeled "condensed milk," and opened
it with infinite pains and a hatchet; and how after she had nearly
killed herself struggling with it, she had finally opened it, and found
that what it really contained was deviled ham in small, vivid tins; and
how she triumphed over Fate by using the ham with other things for
_hors d'oeuvres_; and how she finally found powdered milk in other
tins, and achieved her goal after all.

She was exactly as she would have been if all had gone well; and it is
not to be supposed that Francis could help feeling it.  At first he was
quiet, almost gloomy; but presently, as she talked gaily on about all
the trifles she could think of--domestic trifles all of them, or things
to do with the cabin and its surroundings--he gave himself up to the
enjoyment of the hour.  It was as if he said to himself, "I'll forget
for this little space of time that it isn't real."  He looked
absorbedly into the little vivid face at the other side of the table,
and once, before he thought, put out his hand to take her hand where it
lay, little and slim and fragile-looking, on the table.  He drew it
back quickly, but not before Marjorie had seen the instinctive motion.

She smiled at him brilliantly, and touched him lightly on the shoulder
as she passed.

"Come, help me, Francis," she said.  "This is our house, you know, and
I mustn't do everything alone.  And then I must hurry over to the other
cabin, and look over my new kingdom, and it would be a shame to do it
after your faithful slaves had gone to bed.  They would have to get up
and dress and stand at attention, wouldn't they, when they heard your
august footstep?"

She laughed openly at him as she went into the kitchen, and he followed
her and helped her clear away obediently and smiling.

"And now, we'll go over," she said, when everything was in place again.
"Get me my long blue cape, Francis, please.  It's hanging against the
door in my room."

He came and wrapped her in it, and crossed with her the space between
the two cabins.

"They're up yet," he said, and knocked on the door.



CHAPTER VIII

There was nothing surprising or exciting to behold when the door flew
open, and the two entered.

"Oh, I've met you before," said Marjorie politely to the man who had
opened it.  She had danced with him the night before, and it was
pleasant to find that she had not to deal entirely with strangers.  He
was a tired-looking, middle-aged Englishman, with a tanned, plump face
that had something whimsical and what Marjorie characterized to herself
as motherly about it.  And the fact that he was clad in a flannel shirt
and very disreputable overalls did not make him the less distinctively
gentle-bred.  He greeted her courteously, and took out his pipe--a pipe
that was even more disreputable than his clothes.

"Mrs. Ellison wanted to come over to-night and see what she had to do,"
Francis explained.

"You mean that you were in earnest about her volunteering to take
Pierre's place?" demanded the Englishman, looking at the little smiling
figure in pink organdy.

"I know I look useless," interposed Marjorie for herself.  "But Mr.
Ellison will tell you that I really can work hard.  If somebody will
only show me a little about the routine I'll be all right."

"I've taken over Pierre's job for the moment," he replied.  "Assuredly
I'll show you all I can.  But it's rough work for a girl."

Marjorie smiled on.

"Very well, show me, please," she demanded, as she would if the
question had been one of walking over red-hot plowshares.

She stood and looked about her as he answered her, so intent that she
did not hear what he replied.

The place had rows of bunks in various stages of untidiness.  It was
lighted by two very smoky kerosene lamps, and had in its middle a table
with cards on it.  Three men sat about the table, as if they did not
quite know whether to come forward and be included in the conversation
or not.  At the further end Marjorie could see the door that led to the
cooking-place, and eyed it with interest.

"These are all of the men who are here," Francis explained.  "There is
another camp some miles further in the forest."

"Am I to cook for them as well?" demanded Marjorie coolly.

"Oh, no," the Englishman answered.  He seemed deeply shocked at the
idea.  "They have a cook.  By the way, Mrs. Ellison, it is only poetic
justice that you should have taken over this job; for do you know that
the reason Pierre gave for his sudden flight in the direction of
marriage was that you and Mr. Ellison looked so happy he got lonesome
for a wife!"

"Good gracious!" gasped Marjorie before she remembered herself. . . .
"That is--I didn't know our happiness showed as far off as that."

She did not dare to look at Francis, whom she divined to be standing
rigidly behind her.  "And now could you show me the place where I have
to cook, and the things to cook with?"

Mr. Pennington--Harmsworth-Pennington was his veritable name, as she
learned later--took the hint and swept her immediately off to the
lean-to.  The _tout-ensemble_ was not terrifying.  It consisted of a
kerosene stove of two burners, another one near it for emergencies, a
wooden cupboard full of heavy white dishes, and a lower part to it
where the stores were.

"The hardest thing for you will be getting up early," he said
sympathetically.  "The men have to have breakfast and be out of here by
seven o'clock.  And they take dinner-pails with them.  Then there's
nothing to get till the evening meal."

"Of course there'd be tidying to do," suggested Marjorie avidly, for
she hated disorder, and saw a good deal about her.

"If you had the strength for it," said Pennington doubtfully.

"Francis thinks I have," she answered with a touch of wickedness.

Francis, behind her, continued to say nothing at all.

She spent five minutes more in the lean-to with the opportune
Pennington, and gathered from him, finally, that next morning there
would have to be a big pot of oatmeal cooked, and bacon enough fried
for five hungry men.  Griddle cakes, flapjacks, or breadstuff of some
kind had to be produced also; coffee in a pot that looked big enough
for a hotel, with condensed milk, and a meal apiece for their
dinner-hour.

"I just give 'em anything cold that's left over," said Pennington
unsympathetically.  "There has to be lots of it, that's all."

Marjorie cried out in horror.

"Oh, they mustn't have those cold!  But--do they have to have all that
every morning?"

"Great Scott, no!" exclaimed the scandalized Pennington.  "Some days
they just have flapjacks, and some days just bacon and eggs and bread.
And sometimes oatmeal extra.  I didn't mean that all these came at
once."

She felt a bit relieved.

"I'll be in to-morrow at six," she assured him, still smiling bravely.
"I think I can manage it alone."

"One of us can always do the lifting for you, and odd chores," he told
her.

After that she met the other men, and went back to the cabin.  Francis
was still following her in silence.

"How nice they are, even the grumpy ones!"

she told him radiantly.  "Don't forget to knock on my door in time
to-morrow, Francis."

She gave him no time to reply.  She simply went to bed.  And in spite
of all that had come and gone she was so tired that she fell asleep as
soon as she was there.

She was awakened by Francis's knock at what seemed to her the middle of
the night.  Then she remembered that the pines shut off the light so
that it was high daylight outside before it was in here.  A vague
feeling of terror came over her before she remembered why; and for a
moment she lay still in the unfamiliar bed, trying to remember.  When
she did remember she was so much more afraid that she sprang out
hurriedly, because things, for some reason, are always worse when you
aren't quite awake.  Or better.  But there was nothing to be better
just now.

She bathed and dressed with a dogged quickness, trying meanwhile to
reassure herself.  After all, it was only cooking on a little larger
scale than she was used to.  After all, it was only for a few months.
After all, she mightn't be broken down by it.  And--this was the only
thing that was any real comfort--it would free her so completely of
Francis, this association with him, and the daily, hourly realization
that he had treated her in a cruel, unjust way, that when she went back
she would be glad to forget that he had ever lived; even the days when
he had been so pleasant and comforting.

If Francis knew that the little aproned figure, with flushed cheeks and
high-held head, was terrified and homesick under the pride, he said
nothing.  Nothing, that is, beyond the ordinary courtesies.  He offered
to help her on with her cloak.  After one indignant look at him she let
him.  The indignation would have puzzled him; but Marjorie's feeling
was that a man who would doom you to this sort of a life, put you to
such a test as Francis had, was adding insult to injury in helping you
on and off with wraps.  He, of course, couldn't grasp all this, and
felt a little puzzled.

She walked out and over to the door of the lean-to, leaving him to
follow.

Pennington's kind and motherly face was peering anxiously out.  It came
to Marjorie that she was going to have a good deal of trouble keeping
him from taking too much work off her shoulders.  Some men have the
maternal instinct strongly developed, and of such, she was quite sure,
was Pennington.  She wondered what he was doing so far from England,
and what she could do to pay him back for his friendliness--for she
felt instinctively that she had a friend in him.

Sure enough, he had started the big pot of water boiling for the
oatmeal, and was salting it as she entered.

"Oh, let me!" she cried, and before his doubting eyes she began to stir
the oatmeal in.

"I suppose there never was a double boiler big enough," she began
doubtfully.  "It would save so much trouble."

"We might make one out of a dishpan, perhaps, swung inside this pot,"
he said.

"And I always thought Englishmen weren't resourceful!" she commented,
smiling at him.  "We'll try it to-morrow."

Meanwhile, having stirred in all the oatmeal necessary, she lowered the
burners a little and began on the coffee.  Then she saw the point of
the other stove, for she found she needed it for the bacon and
biscuits.  The actual work was not so complicated; the thing that
appalled her was Pennington's insistence on the awful amount of food
needed for the six men and herself.  But, of course, as she reminded
herself, there _was_ a difference between cooking for Cousin Anna and
herself on the maid's day out, or for Lucille and herself, and cooking
for six hungry men who worked in the open air at reforesting.  She did
not quite know how people reforested, but she had a vague image in her
mind of people going along with armfuls of trees which they stuck in
holes.

Presently the breakfast was prepared, and Pennington banged briskly on
a dishpan and howled "Chow!" in a way that was most incongruous.  He
really should have been a Rural Dean, by his looks and his gentle,
almost clergymanly genial manners, and every time Marjorie looked at
him in his rough clothes she got a shock because he wasn't one.

There was a long trestled table down the middle of the men's cabin, and
each man, streaming out, picked up a plate and got it filled with food,
and sat himself down in what seemed to be an appointed place.  There
were mugs for coffee, and Marjorie, under Pennington's direction, set
them at all the places, and then went up and down filling them.  There
was a tin of condensed milk on the table, set there by Pennington's
helpful hand.

She ran up and down, waiting on her charges, and feeling very much as
if she were conducting a Sunday-school class picnic.  The men, except
Pennington and the other young Englishman, who never talked to the last
day she knew him, seemed struck into terrified silence by their new
cook.

And then a terrible thought came over her--it was rather a funny one,
though, for the excitement of doing all this new work had stirred her
up, rather than saddened her.  She had never prepared any dinner-pails
for them.  She fled back into the cook-place precipitately, snatched
the pails down from the shelf, and began feverishly spreading large
biscuits with butter and bacon.

"There's marmalade in the big tin back of you," said Pennington's
softly cultivated Oxford voice from the doorway.  "And if you fill the
small buckets with coffee they will take them, together with the rest
of their dinners."

"But is that enough variety, just bacon and marmalade sandwiches?" she
asked.

He nodded.

"There are tinned vegetables that you can give them to-night, if you
wish."

So, he helping her, they got the last dinner-pail filled before the
hungry horde poured out again.  Each passed with a sheepish or
courteous word of thanks, took his pail and went on.  It did not occur
to Marjorie till she saw Pennington go, eating as he went a large
biscuit, that he must have cut his own meal very short in order to help
her.

"What nice people there are in the world!" she breathed, sinking on the
doorstep a minute to think and take breath.

She sat there longer than she really should, because the air was so
crisp and lovely, and just as she was beginning to rise and go in to
the summoning dishes, a small striped squirrel trotted across the grass
and requested scraps with impudent wavings of his two small front paws.
So she really had to stay and feed him.  And after that there was a
bird that actually seemed as if it was going to walk up to her, almost
as the squirrel had done.  He flew away just at the most exciting
moment, but Marjorie didn't hold it against him.  And then--why, then,
she felt suddenly sleepy and lay down with her cloak swathed around
her, under a tree, for just a minute.  And when she looked at her
wrist-watch it was eleven o'clock.

She felt guilty to the last degree.  What would they say at the office
to a young woman who took naps in the morning?

And then the blessed memory that there was no reason why she shouldn't
do exactly as she pleased with her time, so long as the dishes were
done after awhile, came to her.

"There's no clock in the forest," she thought, smiling drowsily; and
lay serenely on the pine-needles for another half hour.

When she did go in, the quantity of dishes wasn't so terrific.  There
had been no courses.  Each man had left behind him an entirely empty
plate and mug and knife and fork; that was all.  And Marjorie seemed to
have more energy and delight in running about and doing things than she
had ever known she possessed, in the heavy New York air.  She washed
the dishes and swept out the cabin with a gay good will that surprised
herself.  She tried to feel like Cinderella or Bluebeard's wife or some
of the oppressed heroines who had loomed large in her past, but it
wasn't to be done.  After that she was so hungry--her own breakfast had
been taken in bites, on the run--that she ate up all the remaining
biscuits, after toasting them and making herself bacon sandwiches as
she had for the men; quite forgetting that her own abode lay near,
filled to repletion with stores of a quite superior kind.  The bacon
sandwiches and warmed-over coffee tasted better than anything she had
ever eaten in her life.

And then there was a whole long afternoon ahead of her, before she had
to do a solitary thing for the men's supper!

"I must have 'faculty'!" said Marjorie to herself proudly, thinking
more highly of her own talents than she ever had before.  The fact that
as a filing-clerk she had not shone had made her rather meek about her
own capacities.  She had always taken it impudently for granted that
she was attractive, because the fact had been, so to speak, forced on
her.  But there had been a very humble-minded feeling about her
incapacity for a business life.  Miss Kaplan, for instance, she of the
exuberant emotions and shaky English, had a record for accuracy and
speed in her particular line which was unsullied by a single lapse.
And Lucille, lazy, luxury-loving Lucille, concealed behind her
fluffinesses an undoubted and remorseless executive ability.  Compared
to them Marjorie had always felt herself a most useless person.  That
was why she always was meeker in office hours than out of them.  And to
find herself swinging this work, even for one meal, without a feeling
of incapacity and unworthiness, made her very cheered indeed.  The
truth was, she was doing a thing she had a talent for.

"And I'm not tired!" she marveled.  The change of air was responsible
for that, of course.

She went back to her forgotten cabin, singing beneath her breath.  It
had a rather tousled air, but in her new enthusiasm she went through it
like a whirlwind.  She attacked her own room first, and created
spotless order in it.  Then she went at the living-room.  Then--it was
with a curious reluctance--she climbed the stairs to Francis's absurd
little curtained balcony.

Francis, evidently, did not sleep so very well, or he had not that
night at all events.  The couch was very tossed, one pillow lay on the
ground with a dent in its midst as if an angry hand had thrust it
there, and, most unfairly, hit it after it was down.  The covers were
"every which way," as Marjorie said, picking them up and shaking them
out with housewifely care.  Francis's pajamas and a shabby brown terry
bath-robe lay about the floor, the bathrobe in a ridiculously lifelike
position with both its sleeves thrown forward over the pillow, as if it
were trying to comfort it for all it had been through.

Everything had aired since morning, so she disguised the couch again in
its slip-cover, put the cretonne covers back on the pillows, and the
couch stood decorous and daytime-like again.  She laid her hand on the
pillow for a moment after she was all through, as if she were touching
something she was sorry for.

"Poor Francis!" she said softly, smiling a little.  "After all, he
isn't so terribly much older than I am."  She felt suddenly motherly
toward him, and like being very kind.  That maltreated pillow was so
funny and boylike.  "It isn't a bit like the storybooks," she mused.
"In them you get all thrilled because a man is so masterful.  Well,"
Marjorie tried to be truthful, even when she was alone with herself and
the couch, "I guess I was thrilled, a little, when he carried me off
that way.  I certainly couldn't have gone if I'd known about the
housework business.  But now, the only part of him I like is when he
_isn't_ sitting on me. . . .  I wonder if I'll ever be the same person,
after all this?"

She never would.  But, though she wondered, she did not really think
that she was changing or would change.  As a matter of fact, she had
made more decisions, gone through more emotions, and become more of a
woman in the little time since Francis had carried her off than in all
her life before.  The Marjorie of a year ago would not have answered
the challenge of her husband to prove herself an honorable woman by
taking over a long, hard, uncongenial task.  She would have picked up
her skirts and fled back to New York with Logan.

"I suppose it's the war," said Marjorie uncomfortably.  "Dear me, I did
think that when the war was over it would be over.  And everything
seems so _real_ yet.  I wonder if when I'm an old, old lady talking to
Lucille's grandchildren I shall tell them, 'Ah, yes, my dears, your
Grand-aunt Marjorie was a very different person in the days before the
war!  In those days you didn't have to be in earnest about anything.
You didn't even to have any principles that showed.  Life wasn't real
and earnest a bit.  People just went to tea-dances and talked
flippantly, and some of the men had drinks.  And everybody laughed a
great deal, and it was decadent, and the end of an era, and a lot of
shocking things--but it wasn't half as hard as living now, because
there weren't standards, except when they were had by aunts and
employers and such people.  Ah, them was the days!'  And the
grand-nieces, or whatever relation they'll be to me, will look shocked,
because they'll be children of their time, and it will still be
fashionable to be earnest, and they'll say, 'Dear me, what a terrible
time to have lived in!'  And they'll be a little bit envious.  And
they'll say, 'And were even you frivolous?'  And I'll sigh, and say,
'Yes, indeed, my dears!  I married a worthy young man (as young men
went then) in a thoughtless moment, and then when he came back I
wouldn't stay married to him.  But by that time the war was over, and
we'd all stopped being flippant and frivolous.  So I washed dishes for
him three months before I went and left him.'  And they'll commend me
faintly for doing that much, and go away secretly shocked."

Marjorie was so cheered up by her own fervent imaginings by this time
that she stopped to sit down on the arm of a chair, all by herself, and
laugh out loud.  And so Francis saw her, as he came in for something,
and looked up, guided by her laugh.  He had scarcely heard her laugh
before for some time.  She was perched birdlike on the arm of the chair
at the foot of his couch, just to be glimpsed between the draperies of
the balcony.  She looked, to his eyes, like something too fragile and
lovely to be real.  And she was laughing!  That did not seem real,
either.  She might have been pleasant, even cheerful, but this sprite,
swinging there and laughing at nothing whatever, almost frightened him.
For an awful moment he wondered if he had driven Marjorie mad. . . .
He had been unkind to her--hard on her, he knew.

Before he could stop himself he had rushed up the stairs to the little
balcony.

"Marjorie--Marjorie!  What were you laughing about?" he demanded in
what seemed to her a very surprising way.

"Why, don't you want me to laugh?" she demanded in her turn, very
naturally.

"I--why--yes!  But you frightened me, laughing all by yourself that
way."

"Oh, I see!" said Marjorie, looking a little embarrassed.  "People
often look surprised when I forget, and do it on the street.  I think
about things, and then when they seem funny to me I laugh.  Don't you
ever have thoughts all by yourself that you laugh over, when you're
alone?"

Francis shook his head.  He had a good mind, and a quick one, but he
did not use it as something to amuse himself with, as Marjorie did with
hers.  He used it to work with.

"I beg your pardon for startling you," he said.  "But----"

"I know.  It looked queer.  I was just thinking how different everybody
and everything is since the war.  We're all so much more grown up, and
responsible.  And I was hearing myself talk to Lucille's grandchildren,
and tell them all about the days before the war, when everybody said
they just didn't care. . . .  Aren't things different?"

Francis nodded.

"Yes, they're different.  I don't know exactly how, but they are.  And
we are."

"Do you think you are?"

Francis sat down on the couch, looked at her, bright-eyed and grave,
and nodded again.

"Yes.  All the values are changed.  At least they are for me and most
of the men I came across.  I don't think the women are so different;
you see, the American women didn't have anything much to change them,
except the ones who went over.  We were in such a little while it
didn't have time to go deep."

He meant no disparagement, but Marjorie flared up.

"You mean me--and Lucille--and all the rest!" she accused him.  "You're
quite wrong.  That was just what I was telling Lucille's grandchildren.
We are different.  Why, do you think I would have thought I owed you
anything--owed it to you to stay up here and drudge--before the war?  I
never thought about being good, particularly, or honorable, or owing
things to people.  Oh, I suppose I did, in a way, because I'd always
been brought up to play fair.  But never with the top of my mind.  You
know yourself, all anybody wanted was a good time.  If anybody had told
me, when I was seventeen--I was seventeen when the war started, wasn't
I?--that I'd care more about standards than about fun, I'd have just
thought they were lying, or they didn't know.  And right and wrong have
come to matter in the most curious way."

"I think perhaps," he answered her--they had quite forgotten that they
were enemies by now--"that the war was in the air.  Maybe the world
felt that there wouldn't be much chance for good times for it--for our
generation--again, and snatched at it.  You know, for a good many years
things won't be the same, even for us in America, who suffered less,
perhaps, than any other nation in the world.  Life's harder, and it
will be."

"Oh, always?" demanded Marjorie.  "You know, Francis, I always wanted
good times worse than anything in the world, but that isn't saying I
had them.  I didn't.  Won't I ever have any more?  That few weeks when
I raced around with you and Billy and Lucille was really the first time
I'd been free and had fun with people I liked, ever since I'd been
born.  And--and I suppose it went to my head a little bit."

She looked up at him like a child who has been naughty and is sorry,
and he looked over at her, his face going tense, as it did when he felt
things.

"I don't think we were exactly free agents," he said musingly.
"Something was pushing us.  I'm not sorry . . . except that it was
hardly fair to you----"

She leaned toward him impulsively, holding out her hand.  He bent
toward her, flushing.  They were nearer than they had been since that
day when his summons to war came.  And then Fate--as Mr. Logan might
have said--knocked at the door.



CHAPTER IX

The two on the balcony moved a little away from each other.  Then
Marjorie, coloring for no reason whatsoever, stepped down the toy
stairs that wound like a doll's-house staircase, and went to the door.

It was Peggy O'Mara, no more and no less, but what a Peggy!  She looked
like an avenging goddess.  But it was not at Marjorie that her
vengeance was directed, it was plainly to be seen, for she swept the
smaller girl to her bosom with one strong and emotional arm, and said,
"You poor abused little lamb!  I've come to tell you that I know all
about it!"

Marjorie jerked herself away in surprise.  For one thing, she had been
very much interested in the conversation she had been carrying on with
Francis, and had entirely forgotten that she might ever have had any
claim to feel abused.  For another thing, Peggy knew more than she
should, if Logan had kept his promise.

"Won't--won't you come in?" she asked inadequately.  "And please tell
me what you mean."

"Mean!  I mean I know all about it!" said Peggy, who was sixteen only,
in spite of her goddess-build, and romantic.

She came in, nevertheless, holding tight to Marjorie as if she might
faint, unaided; guided her to the downstairs couch, and sat down with
her, holding tight to her still.

"Yes," said Marjorie, with a certain amount of coldness, considering
that she was being regarded as an abused lamb, "you said that before.
And now please tell me what it is that you know all about."

"Well, if that's the way you take being defended," said Peggy with a
certain amount of temper, "I'll just go back the way I came!"

"But, Peggy, I don't know anything about it!" she pleaded.  "Please
tell me everything."

"There's nothing much to tell," said Peggy, quite chilly in her turn.
But now she had more to face than Marjorie.  Francis, militant and
stern, strode down the steps and planted himself before the girls.  He
fixed his eye on Peggy in a way that she clearly was not used to stand
up under, and said, "Out with it, Peggy!"

So Peggy, under his masculine eye, "made her soul."

"It's nothing that concerns you, Francis Ellison!" she began.  "It's
simply that I've learned how a man can treat a woman.  And you--you
that I've known since I was a child!  And telling me fairy-tales of
bold kidnapers and cruel husbands and all, and I never knowing that you
were going to grow up and be one!"

Marjorie laughed--she couldn't help it, Peggy was so severe.  Francis
looked at her again in some surprise, and Peggy was plainly annoyed.

"I should say," said Francis with perfect calm, "that our honorable
friend Mr. Logan had been confiding in you.  His attitude is a little
biased; however, let that pass.  Just what did he say?"

"Just nothing at all, except that you were a charming young man, and he
wished that he were as able to face the world and its problems as you,"
Peggy answered spiritedly.  "None of your insinuations about his honor,
please.  And shame on you to malign a sick man!"

"Oh, is Mr. Logan sick?" asked Marjorie, forgetting other interests.
She turned to Francis, forgetting their feud again, in a common and
inexcusable curiosity.  "Francis!  Now we'll know what it really was
that ailed him--the nervous spells, you know?  I always _told_ you it
wasn't fits!"

"How do you know it isn't?" said Francis.  "Peggy hasn't said."

"She wouldn't be so interested if it was," said Marjorie triumphantly.
"It takes an old and dear wife to stand _that_ in a man."

They had no business to be deflected from Peggy and her temper by any
such consideration; but it was a point which had occupied their letters
for a year, off and on, and there had been bets upon it.

"Let me see, I suppose those wagers stand--was it candy, or a Hun
helmet?" said Francis.

"Candy," said Marjorie.  "But it was really the principle of the thing.
Ask her."

Francis turned back to Peggy, who was becoming angrier and angrier; for
when you start forth to rescue any one, it is annoying, even as Logan
found it, to have the rescue act as if it were nothing to her whether
she was rescued or not.

"Now, what really does ail him, Pegeen?" he asked affectionately.  "Did
you see him, or don't you know?"

"Of course I saw him--am I not nursing him?  And of course I know!
Poor man, the journey up here nearly killed him."

"How?  It seemed like a nice journey to me," said Marjorie
thoughtlessly.

"There's no use pretending you're happy," said Peggy relentlessly.  "I
know you're not.  It's very brave, but useless."

"But has he fits?" demanded Marjorie with unmistakable intensity.

"He has not," said Peggy scornfully.  "I don't know where you'd get the
idea.  He fainted this morning when he tried to get up.  He didn't come
down to breakfast, and we thought him tired out, and let him lie.  But
after awhile, perhaps at nine or so, we thought it unnatural that any
one should be asleep so long.  So I tiptoed up, because when you're as
fat as mother it does wear you to climb more stairs than are needful.
And there was the poor man, all dressed beautifully, even to his
glasses with the black ribbon, lying across the bed, in a faint."

"Are you sure it was a faint?" the Ellisons demanded with one voice.

Peggy looked more scornful, if possible, than she had for some time.

"We had to bring him to with aromatic spirits of ammonia, and slapping
his hands.  And the doctor says it's his heart.  That is, it isn't
really his heart, but his nerves are so bad that they make some sort of
a condition that it's just as bad as if he had heart-trouble really.
Simulated heart-trouble, the doctor called it.  You understand, he
doesn't pretend, himself; his heart makes his nerves pretend, as well
as I can make it out.  Sure it must be dreadful to have nerves that act
that way to you.  I wonder what nerves feel like, anyway."

Peggy herself was getting off the topic, through her interest in the
subject.

"But how did you find out that I was beating Marjorie?" inquired
Francis calmly, pulling her back.

She shot a furious glance at him.

"I wish you hadn't reminded me.  I'd forgotten all about hating you for
your horrid ways.  It was just before he came to.  He thought he was
talking to you, and he said, 'You had no right to force her to do that
work, Ellison, it will kill her.'"

"And was that all?" asked Marjorie.

"Wasn't that enough?  And I ask you, Marjorie Ellison, isn't it true?
Hasn't Francis forced you to come over here and do his cooking for him?
Oh, Francis, I can't understand it in you," said poor Peggy, looking up
at him appealingly.  "You that were always so tender and kind with
every one, to make a poor little thing like Marjorie work at cooking
and cleaning for great rough men."

Francis had colored up while she spoke.  One hand, behind his back, was
clenching and unclenching nervously.  He was fronting the two girls,
but turned a little away from Marjorie and toward Peggy, so Marjorie
could see it.  Aside, from that he was perfectly quiet, and so far as
any one could see, entirely unmoved.  Only Marjorie knew he was not
unmoved.  That dark, thin, clenching hand--she had seen it before,
restless and betraying, and she knew it meant that Francis was angry or
unhappy.  She felt curiously out of it all.  She had made up her mind
once and for all to go through with her penance, if one could call it
that.  Her mind was so unsettled and hard to make up that, once made up
on this particular point, she felt it would be more trouble to stop
than to go on.  She leaned a little back against Peggy's guarding arm,
and let the discussion flow on by her.

"Marjorie is free to go at any time; she knows that," he said.

Marjorie looked at him full.  She said nothing whatever.  But Peggy's
Irish wit jumped at the right solution.

"Yes, free to go, no doubt, but with what kind of a string to it?" she
demanded triumphantly.  "I'll wager it's like the way mother makes me
free of things.  'Oh, sure ye can smoke them little cigarette things if
ye like--_but_ if ye do it's out of my door ye'll go!'"

Marjorie thought it was time to take a hand here.  Francis was standing
there, still, not trying to answer Peggy.  He seemed to Marjorie
pitifully at their mercy; why, she did not know, for he had neither
said nor looked anything but the utmost sternness.  And Marjorie
herself knew that he was not being kind or fair--that he had not been,
in his exaction.  Still she looked at that hand, moving like a sentient
thing, and spoke.

"Peggy, some day I'll tell you all about it, or Francis will.  You and
Francis have been friends for a long, long time, and I don't want you
to be angry with him because of me--just a stranger.  And for the
present, I can tell you only this, that Francis is right, I am doing
this of my own free will.  You are a darling to come and care about
what happens to me."

Peggy was softened at once.  She pulled Marjorie to her and gave her a
sounding kiss.

"And you're a darling, too, and you're not a stranger--don't we love
you for Francis's sake--oh, there, and I was forgetting!  I suppose I'm
not to be down on you, Francis.  But I couldn't help thinking things
were queer.  It's not the customary way to let your bride spend her
honeymoon, from all I've heard.  Oh, and it's five o'clock, and it
takes an hour and a half to get back, though I borrowed the priest's
housekeeper's bicycle."

She sprang up, dropping from her lap the bundle of aprons which
Marjorie had waited for.

"Mind, Francis, I've not forgiven you yet," she called back.  "When
poor Mr. Logan is better I'll have the whole story out of him, or my
name's not Margaret O'Mara."

She was on her bicycle and away before they could answer her.

"And it's time I went over to the cook-shed," said Marjorie evenly,
rising, too, and beginning to unfasten the bundle of aprons.  They were
a little hard to unfasten, from the too secure knots Mrs. O'Mara had
made, and she dropped down again, bending intently over them to get
them free.  Suddenly they were pushed aside, and Francis had flung
himself down by her, with his head on her knees, holding her fast.

"Oh, Marjorie, Marjorie!" he said.  "Don't stay.  I can't bear to have
you acting like this--like an angel.  I've been unfair and unkind--it
didn't need Peggy to tell me that.  Go on away from me.  And forgive
me, if you can, some time."

She looked down at the black head on her knees.  It was victory,
then--of a sort.  And suddenly her perverse heart hardened.

"Please get up, Francis," she said in the same cold and even voice she
had used before.  "I haven't time for this sort of thing; it's time I
went over and got the men their supper.  They'll be ready for it at
six, Pennington said."

He rose quietly and stood aside, while she took off the apron of Mrs.
O'Mara's that she had been making shift with, and put one of the new
ones on in its place, and went out of their cabin.  She never looked
back.  She went swiftly and straight to the cook-shed and began work on
the evening meal.  There was a feeling of triumph in her heart.  And
nothing on earth would tempt her to go now.  Francis was beginning to
feel his punishment.  And she wasn't through with him yet.

She found an oven which sat on top of the burners, and had just managed
to lift it into its place when Pennington walked leisurely in behind
her.

"I had to come back to get your husband," he explained, "and I thought
I'd see if you were in any troubles.  Let me set that straight for you."

He adjusted it as it should be, and lingered to tell her anything else
she might wish to know.

"I'm going to give them codfish cakes for breakfast," she confided to
him, "a great many!  But what on earth can I have for their dinners?"

"There is canned corn beef hash," he suggested.  "That would do all
right for to-night.  Or you might have fish."

"Where would I get it?"

"Indians.  They come by with strings of fish to sell, often.  I think I
can go out and send one your way."

"You speak as if there were Indians around every corner," she said.

"No-o, not exactly," he answered her slowly.  "But the truth is that I
saw one, with a string of fish, crossing up from the stream, not long
ago.  As I was riding and he walking, I think it likely that I shall
intercept him on my way back.  That is, if you want the fish."

"Oh, indeed, I do," she assured him eagerly.  "That is--do you think
the Indian--he won't hurt me, will he?  And do you think he would clean
them for me?"

"I think I can arrange that with him," Pennington, who was rapidly
assuming the shape of a guardian angel to Marjorie, assured her.

"And now I must go and tell your husband that he's wanted down where
the men are."

"Thank you," she said, looking up at his plump, tanned, rather quaint
face--so like, as she always thought, a middle-aged rector's in an
English novel--with something grotesque and yet pathetic about it.  "I
don't know what I'd do without your help.  In a day or so I may get to
the point where I'll be very clever, and very independent."

She smiled up at him, and he looked down at her with what she
characterized in her own mind as his motherly expression.  "You're such
a little thing!" he said as if he couldn't help it.  Then, after a
hasty last inquiry as to whether there was anything more he could do,
he went off in search of Francis.

She looked after him with a feeling of real affection.

"He's the nearest I have to a mother!" she said to herself whimsically,
as she addressed herself to the preparation of the evening meal.  She
had conceived the brilliant plan of doing the men's lunches, where it
was possible, the night before.  In this way, she thought, though it
might take a little more time in the afternoon, it would make things
easier in the mornings.  Such an atmosphere of hurry as she had lived
in that morning, while it had been rather fun for once, would be too
tiring in the long run, she knew.  And the run would be long--three
months.

The Indian came duly with the fish, all cleaned and ready to fry.  She
was baking beans in the oven for to-morrow's luncheons.  So she baked
the potatoes, too, and hunted up some canned spinach, and then--having
miscalculated her time--conceived the plan of winning the men's hearts
with a pudding.  She was sure Pierre's cookery had never run to such
delicacies.  And even then there was time to spare.  The men were late,
or something had happened.  So she looked to be sure that there was
nothing more she could do, and then strayed off to the edges of the
woods, looking for flowers.  She found clumps of bloodroot, great
anemone-flowers that she picked by the handful.  There were some little
blue flowers, also, whose name she did not know; and sprays of
wintergreen berries and long grasses.  Greatly daring, she put one of
the low, flat vases she had found in her cabin in the center of the
men's trestle-table, and filled it with her treasure-trove.  Then, a
little tired, she sat down by the table herself, resting for a moment
before the drove should come home.

They were in on her before she knew it.  She thought afterward that she
must have fallen asleep.  How dainty and how winning a picture of home
she made for the rough men, she never thought.  But the men did, and
the foremost one, a big, rough Yankee, instinctively halted on tiptoe
as he saw her, leaning back in her chair with her eyes shut.  Marjorie
was not in the least fragile physically, but she was so little and
slender that, in spite of her wild-rose flush and her red lips, she
always impressed men with a belief in her fragility.

"Look at there, boys!" he half said, half whispered; and the crew
halted behind him, looking at Marjorie as if she were some very
wonderful and lovely thing.

The steps, or perhaps the eyes fixed admiringly on her, woke Marjorie.
She opened her eyes, and smiled a little.  She had gone to sleep very
pleased, on account of the flowers, and of having arranged her work so
it fitted in properly.

"Oh, you've come!" she said, smiling at them as a friendly child might
smile, flushed with sleep.  "Did you have a hard day?  Everything's
ready."

She was up and out in the cook-shed, half-frightened of their friendly
eyes, before they could say any more.  That is, to her.

"Gosh, that's some wife of yours!" said one of them to Francis, who was
a little in the rear of the others.  "But ain't she a little thing?"

Francis simply said "Yes" constrainedly.  He had heard all that before.
Pennington, who did not as a rule like girls, had been telling him what
a lucky devil he was, as they went over to the working place together.
He also had said that Marjorie was a little thing.  And the note in his
voice as he said it had insinuated to Francis, who was all too
sensitive for such insinuations, that she was scarcely the type of
woman to cook for a men's camp.  Francis felt quite remorseful enough
already.  He sat down with the rest, while Marjorie brought in first
the big platter of fish, then the vegetables, and a big pitcher of
cocoa which she had made.

"Some eats!" said another of the crew, and Marjorie dimpled
appreciatively.  While she went out again, after something she had
forgotten, one of the Frenchmen whispered bashfully to Pennington, who
was Francis's assistant.  He smiled his slow, half-mocking, half-kindly
smile, and passed it on to Francis.

"Ba'tiste says that he wonders if the lady would sit down and eat with
us.  Do you think she would, Ellison?  It's a long time since any of us
had a lady keep house for us."

"I'll ask her," said Francis, the taciturn.  He would rather have done
a good many things than go to Marjorie with a request, as things stood
between them, but there was nothing else for it.  He came on her,
standing on tiptoe at the cupboard, like a child, trying to reach down
a cup.  She had counted one too few.

He stood behind her and took it down, reaching over her head.

"Oh, thank you, Mr. Pennington!" she said, taking it for granted that
it was her accustomed helper.

"It isn't Pennington; it's--me," said Francis.  "I--I wouldn't have
bothered you, but you see the men sent me out here on an errand."

"The men sent you on an errand?" she said wonderingly.  "That sounds
topsy-turvy.  I thought you sent them on errands."

"Not this kind.  They want to know if you won't sit down and eat with
them to-night.  The flowers and the food made a hit, and they agree
with everybody else in the world, as far as I can see," said Francis,
with bitterness in his voice, "that this is no work for you to be
doing."

"Did they dare to say so?" said Marjorie angrily.

"No--oh, no.  Don't mind me, Marjorie.  I'm a little tired and nervous,
I expect--like Logan," he ended, trying to smile.  "Will you come?"

"Why, of course!" said Marjorie instantly.  "And I think it's _sweet_
of them to want me!  Tell them just to wait till I take my apron off,
and I'll be with them."

He went back and she followed him and sat down.  At first she felt
embarrassed, a little--she felt as if she were entertaining a large
dinner-party, and most of them strangers.  But Pennington, her
unfailing comfort, was at one side of her, and the friendly, if
inarticulate, Ba'tiste at the other; and presently she was chattering
on, and liking it very much.

None of the men had seen much of women for a long time.  A couple of
the better-class ones went into town, or what passed for it,
occasionally, to such dances as the few women near by could get up.
But that was practically all they saw of girls.  And this "little
thing"--it was a phrase they always used in speaking of her, till the
very last--with her pretty face and pretty, shy ways, and excellent
cooking--and more than all, her pluck--won them completely.

And when she finally, with obvious delight in their delight, produced
the pudding, everything was over but the shouting, as they told her
husband afterward.  She had been a bit apprehensive about it, but it
proved to be a good pudding, and large enough.  Just large enough,
though.  They finished it to the very last crumb, sauce and all, and
thanked her almost with tears.  Pierre, it appeared, had not cooked
with any art, he had merely seen to it that there was enough stoking
material three times a day.  From the moment of that meal on, anything
that Marjorie wanted of those men, to the half of their weekly wages,
was hers for the asking.

She liked it very much.  Everybody likes to be admired and appreciated.
She could not help casting a glance of triumph over at Francis, where
he sat maritally at the other end of the table, the most silent person
present.

Pennington helped her clear away after supper.  Indeed, competition to
help Marjorie clear away was so strong that Pennington had to use his
authority before the men settled down to their usual routine of
card-playing or lounging about on the grass outside.  She accepted his
help gratefully, for she was beginning to feel as if she had always
known him.  She did not think of him in the least as a man.  He seemed
more like an earthly providence.

"You know, I really am very strong," she explained to him as he said
something that betrayed his feeling that this work would be too much
for her.  "I think I shall be able to do all this.  Really, it isn't
anything more than lots of women have to do who keep boarders.  And it
isn't for----"

She stopped herself.  She had been on the point of saying, "And it
isn't for long, anyway."  She did not know what Francis had told the
men about their plans, or his plans for her cooking, and she was
resolved to be absolutely loyal to him.  When she went he should have
nothing to say about her but that she had behaved as well as any woman
could.

"If you're ready, we'll go back to the cabin, Marjorie," said Francis,
appearing on the edge of the threshold, looking even more like a
thundercloud than normal lately.

She hung up the dishcloth, gave Pennington a last grateful smile, and
followed Francis back.

"Pennington's a good fellow," he said abruptly as they gained their own
porch, "but I don't want you to have too much to do with him.  He's
kindly and all that, but he's a remittance man."

Marjorie's eyes opened wide with excitement at this.  She had heard of
remittance men, but never seen one before.

"How perfectly thrilling!" she said.



CHAPTER X

Francis looked at her as if she had said something very surprising.

"Thrilling?" he said, apparently considering it the wrong adjective.

She nodded.

"Why, yes.  I've read of remittance men all my life, but I never
dreamed I'd meet one.  And--I always wanted to know, Francis," said
she, as she opened the door and walked in and settled herself cozily on
the window-seat.  "What does he remit?  They never say."

"He doesn't remit," explained Francis rather disgustedly, following her
over and sitting down by her at the other corner of the seat.  "Other
people do it."

"'Curiouser and Curiouser!  I begin to think I'm in Wonderland!'" she
quoted.  "I think the easiest way for you to do will be just to tell me
all about remittance men, the way you do a child when it starts to ask
questions.  Just what are they, and do they all look like Pennington,
and are they trained to be it, or does it come natural?"

"A remittance man," Francis explained again, "is a term, more or less,
of disgrace.  He is a man who has done something in his own country
which makes his relatives wish him out of it.  So they remit money to
him as long as he stays away."

If he expected to make Marjorie feel shocked at Pennington by this tale
he was quite disappointed.

"And does Pennington get money for staying away, besides what he helps
you and gets?" she demanded.  "What does he do with it all?"

"I don't suppose it's a great deal," said Francis reluctantly.

"Well, all I have to say is, I'm perfectly certain that if anybody's
paying Pennington to stay away from England, they're some horrid kind
of person that just is disagreeable, and doesn't know his real worth.
Why, Francis, he's helped me learn the ways here, and looked after me,
as if he was my mother.  He's exactly like somebody's mother."

Francis could not help smiling a little.  Marjorie, when she wanted to
be--sometimes when she did not want to be--was irresistible.

"But, Marjorie," he began to explain to her very seriously, "however
much he may seem like a mother, he isn't one.  He's a man, though he's
rather an old one.  And he did do things in England so he had to leave.
I don't want him to fall in love with you; it would be embarrassing for
several reasons."

"But why should he fall in love with me?" she demanded innocently.
"Lots of people don't."

"But, Marjorie," her husband remonstrated, "they do.  Look at Logan,
now.  No reason on earth would have brought him up here but being in
love with you.  You might as well admit it."

"All I ever did was to listen to him when he talked," said Marjorie,
shrugging one shoulder.  She liked what Francis was saying, but she
felt in honor bound to be truthful about such things.  "And besides
you, there was only one other man ever asked me to marry him--I mean,
not counting Logan, if you do count him.  Oh, yes, and then there was
another one yet, with a guitar.  He always said he proposed to me.  He
wrote me a letter all mixed up, about everything in the world; and I
was awfully busy just then, selling tickets for a church fair of Cousin
Anna's.  I never was any good selling tickets anyhow," explained
Marjorie, settling herself more nestlingly in her corner of the
window-seat; "and so when he said somewhere in the letter that anything
he could ever do for me he would do on the wings of the wind, I wrote
back and said yes, he could buy two tickets for the church fair.  And,
oh, but he was furious!  He sent the check for the tickets with the
maddest letter you ever saw; and he accused me of refusing him in a
cold and ignoring manner.  And I'd torn up the letter, the way I always
do, and so I couldn't prove anything about it to him.  But he didn't
come to the fair.  Ye-es, I suppose that was a proposal.  The man ought
to know, shouldn't he?"

Francis was tired; he had a consciousness of having behaved unkindly
that weighed him down and made for gloom.  He had come in with Marjorie
for the purpose of delivering an imposing warning.  But he couldn't
help laughing.

"I suppose so," he acknowledged.  "Never mind, Marjorie, you didn't
really want him, did you?"

She shook her head.

"Oh, no.  Nobody could.  Or--wait, somebody must, because I think he's
married.  But he wasn't the kind a girl that cared what she got wanted."

But Francis went back to Pennington.

"About Pennington," he began again.  "You don't know how easy it is for
you to let a man think you're encouraging him, when you really aren't
saying a word or doing a thing, or think you aren't.  I want you to
promise me you'll be very careful where he's concerned, even cold."

"Cold!" she said indignantly.  "But I'm married!  You seem to forget
that!"

Francis had not forgotten it in the least.  He forgot it all too little
for his own comfort, he might have told her.  But he was rebuked.

"I didn't know you went on the principle that you had to act exactly
like a regular married woman," he apologized with meekness.

"I do," she said shortly.

He rose and went over to where the banjo lay and brought it back to
her.  It was growing dusk now in the little cabin.

"Play for me, and sing, won't you, Marjorie?" he asked abruptly.  "I
haven't heard you for a long time."

In Marjorie's mind there arose the memory of that boyish, loving little
note that she had found under the banjo, and for a minute her throat
clutched so that she couldn't answer.  She had moments of being so
intolerably sorry for Francis that it hurt; quite irrational moments,
when he seemed to need it not at all.  This was one.

"Yes," she said, pulling herself together.  "That is, if you will take
my word for it that I have no designs on poor old Mr. Pennington."

"Of course I know you haven't," he said.  "It was the other way about
that I was afraid of."

"His having designs on me?"

She laughed aloud as she began tuning her strings.  It did seem like
the funniest thing she had ever heard.  The picture of Pennington, girt
with a sack for an apron, with that plump, quaint face of his, and
those kindly, fussy ways, drying cups for her and having designs while
he did it--it was enough to make even Logan laugh, and _he_ had never
been known to be amused by anything that wasn't intellectual humor.

  "Just a-wearyin' for you,"

she began, in her soft little sympathetic voice, that wasn't much good
for anything but just this sort of thing, but could pull the
heartstrings out of you at it, and sang it through.  She went on after
that without being asked, just because she liked it.  She knew where
the simple chords were in the dark, and she sang everything she wanted
to, forgetting finally Francis, and the woods, and everything else in
the world except the music and the old things she was singing.

When she had finally done, after an hour or so, and laid the banjo
across her lap and leaned back with a little laugh, saying "There!  You
must be tired by this time!" Francis rose with scarcely a thank-you,
and walked out of the door.

"I want a turn in the air before I come to bed," he said.

Marjorie said nothing.  She was sleepy, as usual--would she never get
over being sleepy up here?--and she laid the instrument on the floor
and stretched out thoughtlessly on the window-seat, instead of going
off to bed as she had been intending to do.  As for her husband, he
walked across the veranda straight into a group of his listening men.
The music had drawn them over, and, regardless of mosquitoes, they were
sitting about on the steps, liking the concert.

"We owe you a vote of thanks for importing that little wife of yours,
Ellison," said Pennington, getting up and stretching himself widely in
the moonlight.  "Maybe if I do some more dishes for her, she'll come
and sing for us when she knows it, sometime soon."

Francis had an irrational wish to hit Pennington.  But there was no
reason why he should.  Pennington's particular kind of flippancy was
merely a result of his having been, in those far days before he was a
remittance man, an Oxford graduate.  So was his soft and charmingly
inflected voice.  But, quite reasonlessly, it was all Francis could do
to respond with the politeness which is due to your almost
irreplaceable second-in-command on a rush job.  His manners once made,
he decided that he didn't want the air, after all.  He faced about,
saying good-night to the risen men, who responded jovially or
respectfully, according to their temperaments, and returned to the
cabin where he was, for all they knew, living an idyllic life with the
wife he adored and who adored him.

He went over, drawn in spite of himself, to the window-seat where
Marjorie lay.  There was enough moonlight to see her dimly, and he
could tell that she had, all in a minute, fallen asleep.  She looked
very young and tired and childish in the shadows, with her lips just
parted, and her hands out and half open at her sides.

"Marjorie!  Marjorie, dear!" he said.  "Wake up!  It's time you were in
bed."

He spoke to her affectionately, scarcely knowing that he said it.  She
was very tired, and she did not wake till he put his hand on her
shoulder.  Even then she just moved a little, and turned back to her
old position.

He finally bent and lifted her to a sitting position, but she only lay
against him, heavy still with sleep.

"Don't want to get up," she murmured, like a child.  So finally he had
to do as he had done the night he brought her home, pick her up bodily
and lay her on her own bed.  Her arms fell from his shoulders as he
straightened himself from laying her down.  "'Night," she said, still
sleepily and half-affectionately; and Francis did not kiss her
good-night.  But he did want to badly.  Francis, unlike Marjorie, was
not sleeping well these nights.

But then he was used to his work and she was not used to hers.  He
called her quite unemotionally next morning, and she rose and went
through her routine as usual.  All the camp watched its mascot
apprehensively, as if she might break--well, not every one, for two of
them were tough old souls who thought that hard work was what women
were "fur."  But, aside from these unregenerates, they did more.  Fired
by Pennington's example of unremitting help, they did everything for
her that thought could suggest.  They brought her in posies for the
table; they swept out the cabin for her; they dried her dishes in
desperate competition; they filled the kerosene stoves so thoroughly
that there was always a dripping trail of oil on the floor, and
Pennington had to lay down the law about it; they ate what she fed them
gladly, and even sometimes forbore to ask for more out of a wish to
seem mannerly.

And Marjorie liked it to the core.  The lightening of the work was a
help, and it made things so that she was not more than healthfully
tired, though sometimes she felt that she was more than that; but,
being a woodland queen, as Pennington called it, was pleasantest of
all.  She came to feel as the time went on, there alone in the clearing
with them, that they were all her property.  She mended their clothes
for them, she settled their disputes, she heard their confidences and
saw the pictures of their sweethearts and wives, or, sometimes,
photographs of movie queens who were the dream-ideals of these simple
souls.  Sometimes she went out to the place where they worked, before
the work moved too far away for her to reach it in a short time.  And,
curiously enough, she found that she was not lonely, did not miss New
York, and--it seemed to her that it was a rather shocking way to
feel--she did not in the least feel a "lack of woman's nursing, or
dearth of woman's tears."

She got along excellently without Lucille, Cousin Anna, and the girls
in the office.  And, thinking it over sometimes at twilight, in those
rare moments when there weren't from one to three of the men grouped
adoringly around her, and Francis wasn't chaperoning her silently in
the background, she felt that the work was a small price to pay for the
pleasantness of the rest of her life there.  Always before she had been
a cog in the machinery, wherever she had been.  At Cousin Anna's she
was a little girl, loved and dominated.  With Lucille she was free, but
Lucille, in compensation, helped herself to the ungrudgingly given
foreground.  But here she was lady and mistress, and pet besides.  In
short, the punishment Francis had laid out for her was only a
punishment to him.  She could see that he felt guilty by spells.  She
thought, too, that he had times of being fond of her.  How much they
meant she could not tell.  But in spite of his warnings she became
better and better friends with Pennington, always exactly, at least as
far as she was concerned, as if he were a maiden aunt of great kindness
and experience.  Indeed, Pennington, she thought, was what kept her
from missing girls so.

He never told her anything about himself.  He might or might not have
been a remittance man; but he mentioned no remittances, at least.  Once
he spoke of his childhood, the kind of childhood she had read sometimes
in English children's books, not like her own prim American suburban
memories of Sunday-school and being sent to school and store, and
sometimes playing in her back yard with other little girls.  He had had
a pony, and brothers and sisters to play with, and a governess, she
gathered; and an uncle who was an admiral, and came home once to them
in his full uniform, as a treat, so they could see how he looked in it.
And there had been a nurse, and near by was a park where the tale went
that there were goblins.  But it all must have been very long ago, she
thought, because Pennington looked forty and over.  And all his stories
stopped short before he was ten.  After that he went to Eton, he told
her, and told her no more.

She did not ask.  She liked him, but, after all, he was not an
important figure in her life.  The goal she never forgot was Francis's
admission that she was an honorable woman; and, underneath that,
Francis's missing her terribly when she was through and left.  Still,
when Pennington would come and demand tea from her of a Sunday, and she
would sit in her little living-room, or out on the veranda, with the
quaint yellow tea-set that was a part of the furnishings, and pour it
for him and one or two of the other men, she would like having him
about.  He talked as interestingly as Logan, but not as egotistically.
She felt as if she were quite a wonderful person when he sat on the
step below her, and surrounded her with a soft deference that was
almost caressing, but not quite.  And in spite of Francis's warnings
she made more and more of a friend of him.

The explosion came one Sunday afternoon in June.  She came out on the
veranda, as usual, with her tea-tray, about four, and waited for her
court.  Peggy came over once in awhile on Sundays, too.  Logan never
came.  Peggy had never said any more about him since her one outburst,
but Marjorie knew that he was ill yet, and being nursed by the O'Maras.
This day no Peggy appeared.  Indeed, nobody appeared for some time, and
Marjorie began to think of putting away the tea-things and considering
the men's supper.  And then, just as she had come to this resolve,
Pennington came through the woods.

He was not sauntering in a seemingly aimless manner, as he usually did.
He was walking straight for her, as if she were something he had been
aiming for for hours.  And he did not drop at her feet negligently on
the steps, as he usually did, and call her some fanciful name like
"Queen of the Woodlands," or "Lady Marjorie."  He sat erectly on a
chair across from her, and Marjorie bethought herself that he was very
much like a curate making a call.  The kindly expression was always on
his face, even when he was most deeply in earnest, and he was
apparently in earnest to-day.

"I stopped the other men from coming," began Pennington with no
preface.  "I wanted to have a long talk with you.  I want to tell you a
story."

"I wish you would," she said, though she had had so many scenes of late
that, without any idea what was coming, a little tremor of terror crept
around her heart.  She leaned back in her rustic rocker, there on the
veranda, and looked at him in her innocent, friendly fashion.  He
paused a little before he began.

"Once upon a time," he began abruptly, "there was a man who had a very
fair start in life.  His people saw to it that everything was smooth
for him--too smooth, perhaps.  He didn't realize that he could ever be
in a position where they wouldn't be able to straighten things out for
him.  He was a decent enough chap; weak, perhaps, but kind, at least.
He went to school and college, and finally took orders, and was given a
living in a county near where his people lived.  Life went along easily
enough for him, and perhaps a bit stupidly.  Too stupidly.  He got
bored by it.  So after a while he gambled.  He played the stock-market.
Presently he used some money that was not his--that had been intrusted
to him by another.  He lost that.  So he had to give up
everything--home, friends, profession, country--and go and live in a
strange country.  His people, good always, straightened things out for
him, at a great sacrifice; but they made it a condition that he should
stay where he was.  Time went on, and things were forgotten.  And the
people who had made him promise not to return died.  They left him, in
dying, some money.  Not a great deal, but enough to keep him
comfortably.  And he didn't know what to do.  He was happy, for the
first time in his life, with a little friend he had found, some one
almost like a daughter, some one who seemed, in humble ways, to need
him to help her in what wasn't a very easy part of her life.  So he
stayed yet a little longer.  And presently he found that he was in
danger of something happening.  He had never been very good at making
himself feel as he wished to feel, or at holding his feelings to what
they should be, let us say.  And his feelings for this little daughter
were not quite, he was afraid, like a father's.  But he still did not
know what to do, Marjorie.  She would never care, and there were
reasons why he did not want or expect her to.  It was only that he
wondered which was right--which he ought to do."

Pennington stopped.

Marjorie colored up.

"What--what do you mean?  Why--why do you tell me about it?"

"Because," said Pennington, "I would like to know what you think that
man ought to do.  Ought he to go back home, against his people's wish,
but where he belongs, and try to pick up the rest of his life there, or
do you think that the need of him over here is enough to counterbalance
the danger he runs?  You see, it's rather a problem."

Marjorie was a perfectly intelligent girl.  She knew very well that
Pennington was, at last, telling her the outlines of his own pitiful
story.  And he was leaving the decision in her hands.

She sat quietly for awhile, and tried to think.  It was hard to think,
because there was a queer, hazy feeling in her head, and her hands were
hot.  She had felt unusually excited and energetic and gay earlier in
the day, but that was all gone, and only the hazy feeling left.  She
did not want to move, or, particularly, to speak.  She wondered if a
trip she had made that afternoon before to a little swampy place, where
she had sat and strung berries for an hour, had been bad for her.

But there was Pennington--he looked very large, suddenly, and then
seemed to fade away far off for a minute, and have to be focused with
an effort--and he had to be answered.

"I think," she said hesitatingly, "that he ought to do what seemed to
him right, without thinking of his feelings, or--or any one else's."

"But that's just the trouble.  He couldn't see which _was_ right."

Marjorie tried to focus harder than ever.  She wanted to be unselfish,
and tell him the thing that was right to do, at any cost--though she
had not realized how much Pennington's help and society had been to
her.  She felt a terror at the idea of his going, the more because she
felt ill.  But that didn't count--that mustn't count.  You have no
right to let a man stay where he may fall in love with you, merely
because you need him for a maiden aunt or something of the sort.  And
that was the ultimate and entire extent of her affection for him,
strong though it had come to be.

"I think--I think that man had better go back to the place where he had
really belonged at first," she said in a low voice.  "No matter how
much the girl missed him, or needed him, she had no right to want him
to be hurt by staying near her."

"You really think that?" he said.

"Yes," she answered.  And then incoherently, "Oh, Mr. Pennington, I do
want to be good!"

She meant that she had done enough wrong, in acting as she had toward
Francis in the first place.  She felt now, very strongly, that all the
trouble had come from her cowardice when Francis came home.  She should
have shut her teeth and gone through the thing, no matter what her
personal feelings had been at first.  It would all have come out right
then.  She knew now that she and Francis, the plunge once taken, could
have stood each other.  And she would have kept her faith.  She had
learned the meaning of honor.

"You are good," said Pennington in a moved tone.  "Then--I have my
answer.  Yes--I'll go back."

She leaned her heavy head on the chair-back again.  He seemed once more
suddenly remote.

"I--I wish you weren't going," she said, only half conscious of what
she said.

He leaned forward, suddenly moved, and caught her hand hard.  Still in
that dream, she felt him kiss it.  She did not care.  And then, still
in the dream, Francis's quick tread up the steps, and his sharp voice--

"And I believed in you!"



CHAPTER XI

She looked at him in a blind sort of way.  His words made only a hazy
impression; but neither of the men could know that.

"Believed in me?" she echoed, smiling faintly.  "Why, did you?"

"Yes," said Francis with a concentrated fury that reached even her
confused senses.  "But I never will again!  I thought--I was beginning
to think--you were the sort of woman you said.  But you're just a
flirt.  Any man is better than the one you're married to."

"I--I think you want me to go," she said, trying to see him.  She could
see two Francises, as a matter of fact, neither of them clearly.

"Yes, I do.  Either of these men you've befooled can see you on your
way.  And I'll start divorce proceedings, or you may, immediately."

He said more than that; but that was all she could get.  The words hurt
her, in spite of their lack of meaning.  Francis hated her; he thought
she was a bad girl, who never kept her word.  And she wasn't.

"I--I want to be good," she said aimlessly, as she had said to
Pennington a little earlier.  "I"--she lost the thread again--"I'll go."

She rose, dropping the cup and saucer on her knee, and not stopping to
pick them up.  She caught hold of the doorpost to carry her in, and
dropped down on a seat inside.  It was not that she was weak, but she
felt giddy.  She wondered again if it was the swamp.  Probably.  She
finally made her way back to her own room, mixed herself some spirits
of ammonia and took it, and sat down to pull herself together.  Through
the wooden partition she could hear the furious voices of the men on
the porch outside.  She wondered if Francis would say more dreadful
things to her while he took her over in the side-car.  She hoped not.

Presently the dizziness departed for a few minutes, and she tried to
pack.  She did not seem able to manage it.  If she was allowed to stay
at the Lodge with the O'Maras, she could send Peggy over to gather up
her things.  Yes, that would be the best way to do.

She pinned on her hat and drew her cloak around her, just as she was,
and came out.  Pennington and Francis were standing up, facing her, and
having a quarrel which might last some time.

"I'm ready," she said weakly.

She knew she should have stood up there, and told Francis how unkind
and unjust and bad-tempered and jealous he was, and defend herself from
his accusations.  But she was too tired to do it; and besides, words
seemed so far away, and feelings seemed far away, too.  Francis and the
work at the cabin and Pennington, with his kind, plump, rueful face,
and even the O'Maras and Logan, seemed suddenly unreal and of little
account.  The only thing that really mattered was a chance to go
somewhere and lie down and sleep.  Perhaps she could lean back a little
in the side-car as he took her over.

Francis broke off short in what he was saying, and went without looking
at her toward the place where he kept his motor-cycle.  Perhaps he
thought that it did not matter, now, whether he left her with
Pennington or not.

Pennington, for his part, turned around--he had been standing so that
his back was toward her--and began to speak.  Marjorie thought he was
saying something to the effect that he was very sorry that he had made
this trouble for her, and that he had been trying to explain; and
thought he could make Francis hear reason when he had cooled off.

"It doesn't really matter," she said wearily.  "Only tell him to hurry,
because I'm--so--sleepy."

She sank into the chair where she had been sitting before Francis
appeared, and leaned back and shut her eyes.  Pennington, with a
concerned look on his face, came nearer her at that, and looked down at
her, reaching down to feel her pulse.  She moved her hand feebly away.

"Francis--wouldn't like it," she said; and that was the last thing she
remembered distinctly, though afterwards when she tried she seemed to
recall hearing Pennington, very far off in the distance, calling
peremptorily, "Ellison!  Ellison!  Come here at once!"

She wondered faintly why Pennington should want to hurry him up.  It
was about this time that she quietly slipped sidewise from her chair,
and was in a little heap on the veranda before he could turn and catch
her, or Francis could respond to the summons.

"This is what you've done," was what Pennington said quietly when
Francis reappeared.  He did not offer to touch Marjorie or pick her up.

Francis flung himself down on his knees beside his wife.  Then he
looked up at Pennington, with a last shade of suspicion in his eyes.

"What do you think it is?" he asked.  "Is she really fainting?"

"You young fool, no!" said Pennington.  "She's ill."

"Ill!" said Francis, and gathered her up and laid her on the settee at
the other end of the porch.  "What's the matter, do you think?  Is it
serious?"

His words were quiet enough, but there was a note of anguish in his
voice which made Pennington sorry for him in spite of himself.  But he
did not show much mercy.

"It is probably overwork," he said.  "We've all done what we could to
spare her, but a child like this shouldn't be put at drudgery, even to
satisfy the most jealous or selfish man.  You've had a china cup, my
lad, and you've used it as if it was tin.  And it's broken, that's all."

Francis looked down at Marjorie, holding her head in his arms.  It lay
back limply.  Her eyes were half open, and her heart, as he put his
hand over it, was galloping.  Her cheeks were beginning to be scarlet,
and her hand, when he reached down and touched it, burned.  He looked
up at Pennington with an unconscious appeal, unmindful of the older
man's harsh words.

"Do you think she'll die?" he asked.

"I have no way of knowing.  If she does, you have the consolation of
knowing that you've done what you could toward it."

"Oh, my God, don't, Pennington!" cried out Francis, clutching Marjorie
tighter unconsciously.  "It's as true as gospel.  But let up now.  Get
somebody.  Do something, for heaven's sake!  You know about medicine a
little, don't you?"

"Take her inside and put her to bed," Pennington commanded shortly.
"I'll take your motor-cycle and go for Mother O'Mara.  I can get a
doctor from there by to-morrow, perhaps."

Francis gathered the limp little body up again without a word.  Only he
turned at the door for a last appeal.

"Can't you tell at all what it is?"

"Fever, I think.  She's caught malarial fever, perhaps.  She wouldn't
have done if she'd been stronger.  Take her in."

So Francis carried his wife over the threshold, into the little brown
room he had decked for her so long ago, and laid her down again.  Her
head fell back on the pillow, and her hands lay as he dropped them.  He
stood back and looked at her, a double terror in his heart.  She would
never love him again.  How could she?  And she would die--surely she
would die, and he had killed her.

"I'm--going," she said very faintly, as a sleep-talker speaks.  She was
not conscious of what she said, but it was the last straw for Francis.
He had not slept nor eaten lately, and he had worked double time all
day to keep his mind from the state of things, ever since he had
brought her back.  So perhaps it was not altogether inexcusable that he
flung himself on the floor by the bedside and broke down.

He was aroused after awhile by the touch of Marjorie's hand.  He lifted
his head, thinking she had come to and touched him knowingly.  But he
saw that it was only that she was tossing a little, with the
restlessness of the fever, and his heart went down again.

He pulled himself up from the bedside, and went doggedly at his work of
undressing her and putting her to bed.

She was as easy to handle as a child; and once or twice, when he had to
lift or turn her in the process of undressing, he could feel how light
she was, and that she was thinner.  She had always been a little thing,
but the long weeks of work had made her almost too thin--not too thin
for her own tastes, because, like all the rest of the women of the
present, she liked it; but thin enough to give Francis a fresh pang of
remorse.  He felt like a slave-driver.

When he had finished his task, he stood back, and wondered if there was
anything else he could do before Pennington came back with Mrs. O'Mara,
and with or without a doctor.  He felt helpless, and as if he had to
stand there and watch her die.  He got water and tried to make her
drink it--ineffectually--he filled a hot water bottle and brought it
in, and then thought better of it.  She had a fever already.  Then he
thought of bathing her in cold water; but he could not bring himself to
do that.  He had already done enough that she would hate him for, in
the way of undressing her.  He must never tell her he had done
that. . . .  But she would hate him anyway.  So he ended by sitting
miserably down on the floor beside her, and waiting the interminable
hours that the time seemed until the others returned.

He had expected Mrs. O'Mara to reproach him, as Pennington had, as
being the person to blame for Marjorie's state.  But the dear soul,
comforting as always, said nothing of the sort.  She said very little
of any sort, indeed; she merely laid off the bonnet and cloak she had
come in, and went straight at her work of looking after Marjorie.  Only
on her way she stopped to give Francis a comforting pat on the shoulder.

"It's not so bad but it might be worse," she said.  "Anybody might git
them fevers without a stroke of work done.  An' she's young an' strong."

Francis looked up at her in mute gratitude from where he sat.

"An' now clear out, lie down and rest, down on the couch or annywhere
ye like, till I see what's to be done to this girl," she went on.

He went out without a word, and sat down on the window-seat, where the
banjo lay, still, and picked it up mechanically.  He could see
Marjorie, now, with it in her hands, singing to it for the men--or,
sometimes, just for him.  How gay she had been through everything, and
how plucky, and how sweet!  And just because she was gay he had thought
she was selfish and fickle, and didn't care.  And because she had never
said anything about how hard the work was, he had thought--he could
forgive himself even less for this--that it wasn't hard.  Looking back,
he could see not one excuse for himself except in his carrying her off.
That might have worked all right, if he could have kept his temper.  He
let his mind stray back over what might have been; suppose he had
accepted Logan's following her up here as just what it was--the whim of
a man in love with Marjorie.  Suppose he had believed that Pennington
could kiss his wife's hand without meaning any harm; suppose, in fine,
that he had believed in Marjorie's desire and intention to do right,
even if she had been a coward for a few minutes to begin with?

Then--why, then--

By this time, perhaps, he could have won her back.  If he had not laid
down the law to her--if he had not put her to the test.  What business
had a man in love to make terms, anyhow?  It was for him to accept what
terms Marjorie had chosen to make for him.

He flung himself down on his knees by the window-seat, heedless of any
one who might come or go.

"Oh, God," prayed Francis passionately, as he did everything.  "Give me
another chance!  Let her get well, and give me one little chance then
to have her forgive me!  I don't care what else happens if that only
does!"

He did not know how long he knelt there, praying with such intensity
that he sprang aside when some one touched him on the shoulder.

"She's goin' to be all right in the long run," said Mrs. O'Mara.  "I
gev' her a wee drink o' water, an' she kem to herself fur a minute.
An' I says, 'Me dear, where did ye git yer fever?'  An' she says, 'The
swamp, I think.  Don't I have to travel to-day?  I'm in bed.'  An' I
says, 'Not to-day nor anny day till ye want, me child,' and she turns
over an' snuggles down like a lamb.  An' I've sponged her off with cool
water, an' she feels better, though she's off agin, an' I'm afraid the
fever'll be runnin' up on us before the doctor can git here."

"You mean she isn't sensible now?" demanded Francis, whose eyes had
lighted up with hope when she began to speak.

"Well, not so's ye could talk to her.  An' ye might excite her.  Them
they loves does often."

"Then I wouldn't," said Francis recklessly.  "Oh, Mother O'Mara, I've
been such a brute----"

"Hush, hush now, don't ye be tellin' me.  Sure we're all brutes wanst
in awhile.  Ye feel that way because the child's sick.  Now go out and
watch fer the doctor, or do annything else that'll amuse ye."

He obeyed her as if he were a little boy.  He was so miserable that he
would have done what any one told him just then--if Logan, even, with
his cane and his superciliousness, had given him a direction he would
probably have obeyed it blindly.

Mrs. O'Mara went back to the sick-room.  How much she knew of the
situation she never told.  But Peggy was not a secretive person, and
Peggy had arrived at a point with Logan where he told her a good deal,
if she coaxed.  They never got it out of the old lady, at any rate.

Marjorie was quieter, but still not herself.  Mrs. O'Mara, who was an
experienced nurse, did not like the way she had collapsed so
completely.  She was afraid it was going to be a hard illness, and she
knew Francis was breaking his heart over it.

"Still it may be a blessin' in a way," she said half aloud.  "You never
can tell in this world o' grief and danger.  I wonder has she people
besides Mr. Francis.  They've never either of them said."

The doctor came and went, and Monday morning dawned, when Francis had
to go to work whether or no.  And Pennington quietly took over
Marjorie's duties again, and the men tiptoed up to the cabin where she
lay, and asked about her anxiously, and young Peggy came over and took
turns with her mother in the nursing, and Logan, much more robust and
tanned than he had been in several years of New York life in heated
apartments, came with her and sat on the porch waiting till she came
out; and Francis saw him there, and thought nothing of it except that
he was grateful to him for being interested in Marjorie.

He realized now that it was all he need ever have thought.  But he
realized so many things now, when it might be too late!

The days went on relentlessly.  Finally they decided to send for her
cousin, the only relative she had.  Francis was a little doubtful as to
the wisdom of this, for he knew that Marjorie had never been very happy
with her cousin, but it was one of those things which seem to have to
be done.  And just as they had come to this resolution; a resolution
which felt to Francis like giving up all hope, Marjorie took a little
turn for the better.

It was not much to see.  She was a little quieter, that was all, and
the nursing did not have to be so intensive.  Mrs. O'Mara and Peggy did
not feel that they had to sit with her all the time; there were periods
when she was left alone.  Francis felt more bitterly than anything else
that he had to go on with his work, instead of staying in the house
every moment, but it was better for him.  He would have driven the
O'Maras mad, they told him frankly, walking up and down, looking
repentant.  Peggy was not quite softened to him yet; but the older
woman was so sorry for him that any feelings she may have had about the
way he had behaved were swallowed up in sympathy.

"And it isn't as if he weren't gettin' his comeuppance, Peg," she
reminded her intolerant young daughter.  "Sure annything he made her
suffer he's payin' for twice over and again to that."

"And a very good thing, too," retorted Peggy, who was just coming off
duty, and casting an eye toward the window to see where Logan was.  He
was exactly where she wished, waiting with what, for him, was
eagerness, to go off through the woods with her.

"I suppose, now ye've a man trailin' ye, there's nothin' ye don't
know," said her mother.  "And him a heretic, if not a heathen itself.
I've only to say to ye, keep yer own steps clean, Peggy."

"He is a heathen--he doesn't believe a blessed thing; he said so
himself!" said Peggy with what sounded like triumph.  "The more reason
for me to convert him, poor dear!  Empty things are easier filled than
full ones.  If he was like them in there, with a religion of his own, I
wouldn't have a show.  But as it is, I have my hopes."

"Oh, it's converting him you are!  Tell that to the pigs!" said her
mother scornfully.  "And now go on; I suppose you're taking a prayer
book and a rosary along with you in that picnic basket."

"No," said Peggy reluctantly.  "I'm softening his heart first."

She had the grace to giggle a little as she said it, and the O'Mara
sense of humor rode triumphant over both of them then, and they parted,
laughing.  Francis, entering on one of his frequent flying trips from
work to see how Marjorie was, felt as if they were heartless.

Mrs. O'Mara, at the sight of his tired, unhappy young face, sobered
down with one of her quick Irish transitions.

"Ah, sure now it's the best of news.  The doctor's been, and he says
she's better.  So it won't be necessary to send after the old aunt or
cousin or whatever, that ye say she wasn't crazy over.  Come in an' see
her."

Francis, a new hope in his heart, tiptoed into the little brown bedroom
where Marjorie lay.  It was too much to hope that she would know him.
She had been either delirious or asleep--under narcotics--through the
days of her fever.  And once or twice when she had spoken rationally,
it had never been Francis who had happened to be near at the time.

She lay quite quietly, with her eyes shut, and her long lashes trailing
on her cheeks.  When Francis came in she opened her eyes as if it was a
trouble to make that much effort.  She was very weak.  But she looked
at him intelligently, and even lifted one hand a little from the
coverlet, as if she wanted to be polite and welcome him.  He had been
warned not to make any fuss or say anything exciting, if this should
come; so he only sat down across from her and tried to speak naturally.

"Do you know me, Marjorie?" he asked, trying to make his voice sound as
it always sounded.  But it was a little hoarse.

She spoke, in a thread of a voice, that yet had a little mockery in it.
She seemed to have taken things up where she dropped them.

"Yes, thank you.  You're my sort of husband.  This--this is really too
bad of me, Francis.  But, anyway, it was your swamp!"

Just the old, mocking, smiling Marjorie, or her shadow.  But it did not
make him angry now; it seemed so piteous that he should have brought
her to this.  The swamp faded to nothingness as a cause of her illness
when he compared it to his own behavior.

"Marjorie," he asked, very gently so as not to disturb her, "would it
be too exciting if I talked to you a little bit about things, and told
you how sorry I was?"

"Why--no," she said weakly, shutting her eyes.

"I was wrong, from start to finish," he said impetuously.  "I'm sorry.
I want you to forgive me."

"Why, certainly," she said, so indifferently that his heart sank.  It
did not occur to him that he had never said that he cared for her at
all.

"Is there anything I could get you?" he asked futilely as he felt.

"I'd like to see Mr. Pennington.  He was kind to me."

"Marjorie, Marjorie, won't you ever forgive me for the way I acted?"

"Oh, yes," she said, lying with shut eyes, so quiet that her lips
scarcely moved when she talked.  "I said so.  But you haven't been
kind.  It's like--don't you know, when you get a little dog used to
being struck it gets so it cowers when you speak to it, no matter if
you aren't going to strike it that time.  I don't want to be hurt any
more.  I don't love Pennington--he's too funny-looking, and awfully
old.  But he was kind--he never hurt my feelings. . . ."

She spoke without much inflection, and using as few words as she could.
When she had finished she still lay there, as silent and out of
Francis's reach as if she were dead.  He tiptoed out with a sick
feeling that everything was over, which he had never had before.  She
was so remote.  She cared so little about anything.

He went back to work, and told Pennington that Marjorie wanted to see
him.  When the day was over he returned to the cabin again, and found
Mrs. O'Mara on duty once more.  Pennington sat by Marjorie, holding her
hand in his, and speaking to her occasionally.  Francis looked at him,
and spoke to him courteously.  Pennington smiled at him, and stayed
where he was.  Marjorie, Mrs. O'Mara said, seemed to cling to him, and
his presence did her good.  And--she broke it as gently as she
could--though the patient was on the road to getting well now, she was
disturbed by his coming in and out.  She seemed afraid of him.

Francis took it very quietly.  After that he only came to the bedroom
door to ask, and stepped as softly as he could, so that she would not
even know he had been there.  And time went on, and she got better, and
presently could be dressed in soft, loose, fluffy things, and lie out
on the veranda during the warmest part of the day, and see people for a
little while each.  It was about this time that Francis went to sleep
at the bunk-house.

"Why doesn't Francis ever come to see me?" she asked finally.  "There
are a great many things I want to know about."

Pennington, whom she had asked, told her gently.

"We thought--the physician thought--that he upset you a little when you
were beginning to be better.  He is staying away on purpose.  Would you
like to see him?"

"Yes, I think I would," she said.  "Can Peggy come talk to me?"

Peggy could, of course.  She came dashing up, from some sylvan nook
where she had been secluded, presumably with Logan, fell on Marjorie
with hearty good-will and many kisses, and demanded to know what she
could do.

"I--I want to see Francis and talk to him about a lot of things," said
Marjorie, "and I thought perhaps if you'd get me a mirror and a little
bit of powder, and----"

"Say no more!" said Peggy.  "I know what you want as well as if you'd
told me all.  I'll be out in a minute with everything in the world."

She returned with her arms full of toilet things, and for fifteen
minutes helped Marjorie look pretty.  She finished by brushing out her
hair and arranging it loosely in curls, with a big ribbon securing it,
like Mary Pickford or one of her rivals.  She touched Marjorie's face
with a little perfume to flush it, and draped her picturesquely against
the back of the long chair, with a silk shawl over her instead of the
steamer rug which Mrs. O'Mara, less artistic than utilitarian, had
provided.

"There," she said, "you look like a doll, or an angel, or anything else
out of a storybook.  Now I'll get Francis."



CHAPTER XII

Marjorie waited, with a quietness which was only outward, for Francis.
She did not even know whether he would come; she had only seen him
once; he had said he was sorry for the way he had acted, and asked her
to forgive him, but then it wasn't the first time he had done that.

"It's getting to be just a little morning custom of his," said Marjorie
to herself, trying to laugh.  But she was in earnest about seeing him.
Away down deep in her she was not quite sure why she wanted to.  She
was not angry with him--she seemed to herself past that.  Of course,
there were things to arrange.

It seemed like a sorry ending to it all.  She had meant to ride
triumphantly through the work, and walk off leaving a crushed Francis
behind her; and make such a success of something back in New York that
he would spend years being very, very sorry. . . .  Well, he did seem
sorry.  But it was only because he felt guilty about her being ill,
not, so far as she could tell, because he cared a bit about her any
more.  And it really was not his fault, her illness.  She had been well
and happy, and even liked the work.  The doctor had said that the
miasma in the swamp, and her sitting by it for hours, making a wreath
of flowers like a small girl, were alone responsible.  And even if he
was softening the blow, she had been tired and worried before she came
up; the housework at the cabin wouldn't have been enough.  She must
tell Francis so.  He _did_ take things so hard.

When he came, led by Peggy, neither of them seemed to know what to say
for a little while.  Francis sat down by her and spoke constrainedly,
and then merely stared and stared.

"Well, what is it then?" demanded Peggy, who was hovering about, and,
unlike the Ellisons, seemed to have no emotions to disturb her.  "Has
she two heads, or had you forgotten her looks entirely?"

"I think I must have forgotten her looks entirely," he answered slowly,
never taking his eyes off Marjorie.  "You know--well, I hadn't seen
you, Marjorie, for some time.  But you always were beautiful."

Marjorie turned pink up to the ribbon bow that sat out like a little
girl's at one temple.

"Was I?" was all she found to say.

"Yes," he said, and said no more.

At this juncture Peggy rose.

"Well, I'm sorry not to stay here and help you carry on this fluent
conversation," she said, tossing her head.  "But I have an engagement
elsewhere.  If you want me ring the bell."

This was more or less metaphorical--probably a quotation from
Thackeray--because there was no bell in sight.  But at any rate Peggy
left with one of her goddess-like sweeps, and was to be heard
thereafter calling Mr. Logan with a good-will.  Presently the others,
sitting silently, heard his voice answer gaily, and then no more.  They
had met and were off together as usual.

"You see," said Marjorie, "he really didn't care for me.  I think he
and Peggy will marry each other one of these days, even if she is only
sixteen."

"She will get over being sixteen, of course," said Francis, still in
the preoccupied voice.  "I suppose it's her superb vitality that
attracts him.  She is actually making him almost human."

Marjorie smiled faintly at that.

"You don't like him much, do you?" she said.

"Do you remember, in your letters, how you always called him 'your
friend with the fits?'"

"Well, wasn't he?" said Francis defensively.

"Well, I don't think it was fits," she answered, balancing her ideas as
if they had met only to discuss Logan; "it was some sort of a nervous
seizure.  At any rate, Peggy nursed him through one of the attacks, so
if she does marry him she knows the worst.  But maybe they won't be
married.  I remember, now, he told me once that an emotion to be really
convincing must be only touched lightly and foregone."

"That man certainly talks a lot of rot," said Francis.  It was curious
how, whenever they were together, they fell into intimate
conversation--even if everything in the world had been happening the
minute before.  The thought came to Marjorie.  "Now, my emotions,"
Francis went on, "have certainly been too darn convincing for comfort
for the last year.  If I could have touched any of them lightly and
foregone them I'd have been so proud you couldn't see me for dust.  But
they weren't that kind. . . .  Marjorie, I've been through hell this
last while that you've been sick."

"I'm sorry," she said.  It gave her the opening she had been looking
for.  "But that partly was what I sent for you to talk about.  Not
hell--I mean--well, our affairs.  I'm well enough now to be quite quiet
and calm about them, and I think you are, too.  That is," she added,
half laughing, "if you could ever be quiet and calm about anything.
What I've seen of you has either been when you've been repressing
yourself so hard that I could see the emotions bubble underneath, or
when you'd stopped repressing, and were telling me what you really
thought of me."

"Oh, don't!" he said, wincing.

"Well, why not, Francis?  You see, it's sort of as if we were both dead
now, and talking things over calmly on the golden shore. . . .  Isn't
it lovely here!  Oh, you don't know how nice it is to be getting well!"

"And I made you go through all that," he said chokingly, reaching out
instinctively for one of the thin little hands that lay contentedly
outside the silk shawl, and then pulling back again.

Marjorie looked at him consideringly.  She couldn't help thinking, for
a moment, how lovely this would be if it wasn't a case of the golden
shore; if Francis and she hadn't messed things up so; if they had come
up here because they loved each other, and trusted each other to make
happiness; and if Francis, instead of taking his hand back that way,
had held hers as if he had the right to.  And she remembered suddenly
their marriage night.  He had flung himself down beside her and wrapped
her in his arms, and she had not quite liked it; she had shrunk away
from him.  She was so weak now, and it felt a little lonely--if he put
his arms around her now she thought she would like it.  But then she
was ill yet, and emotional; probably it was the same feeling that made
men propose to their nurses when they were convalescing.  A nurse had
told her about it once, and added that it was considered very unethical
to take a man up on that sort of a proposal.  That was it--you just
wanted somebody to be kind to you.

"Perhaps if I had a cat," said Marjorie inadvertently, aloud.

"Would you like one?" demanded Francis.  "I'll get it this afternoon."

"Yes, I guess so," she answered, coloring again.  "But what made you
think of a cat?"

"Oh, I just did," she answered untruthfully.  "You see--you see, I'm
not strong yet, and my mind rambled around in an inconsequent sort of
way.  It just happened on cats.  But, Francis, you mustn't reproach
yourself.  I know you are feeling altogether too badly about what you
did.  But you mustn't.  That's just the way you're made.  You haven't
nice tame emotions, and in a way you're better so.  Why, people like
you, all energy and force and attraction, get so much farther in life.
You're going to be a wonderful success, I know, just because you are so
intense.  You meant all right.  I know lots of girls who would have
been awfully flattered at your being so jealous.  They'd have thought
it meant you were in love with them terribly."

"They'd have thought right," he said.

She looked at him--she had been talking with her eyes on a green tree
over in the distance.  His head was bowed, and his hands clenched on
his knees, and he had spoken again in the muttering voice he had begun
with.

"I suppose you were," she said with a little wistful note in her voice
that neither of them knew was there.  "But never mind; I want to talk
now about what we are both to do next.  If you are really feeling as
badly as you say about my being sick, I don't suppose you mind how long
I take to get well.  I'm afraid it will be quite a little while longer."

He started to speak, but she held up one hand and stopped him.

"And after that I'll go back to Lucille, if Billy isn't home."

"He is," said Francis.  "He came over in one of the transports in July,
while you were ill.  That was the only reason I didn't drag Lucille up
here."

"Where are they?" demanded Marjorie a little blankly.  But after all
she should have expected this.

"In the flat you and Lucille had.  Lucille likes it."

"How can she?" sighed Marjorie.  "Well, she's never tried this. . . .
I wonder what I'd better do?  I think I heard something about a place
where they have flats just for business women.  Perhaps Billy could
arrange for me to get one before they're all gone.  He always loved
attending to things like that for people.  I can't go back to Cousin
Anna.  I've been through too much.  Why, you mayn't think it, but I'm
grown up, Francis!  I'm about twenty years older than that foolish
little girl you married.  I--I wonder I haven't wrinkles and a little
wisp of fuzzy gray hair!" she added, trying to smile.

"Don't!" said Francis again, looking at her childish face, with its
showers of loose curls, that was trying to be so brave.  He dropped his
eyes again to the clenched hands that were tensed, one on either knee.
"I was foolish and young, too, then," he added.  "I think I'm older,
too."

"Yes . . . it was a mistake," she said in a far-off voice.

"I wish it hadn't been," he said.

"Why, I was thinking that, too!" she said.  "Isn't it a pity that we
weren't as old then as we are now!  Responsible, I mean, and wanting as
much to do right things.  That was one thing about it all.  I want to
do right more than anything else these days; and I think you do, too.
And it wasn't in style then--do you remember our talking it over up
here once, when we were having a little friendly spat?  But I
suppose----"

"I suppose you would never have married me if you'd been so old and
wise," he said.

She considered.

"But neither would you have," she objected.

Francis looked up at her suddenly, flashingly.  "You know better," he
burst out.  "You know I'd marry you over again if I were forty years
old, and as wise as Solomon.  The kind of love I had for you isn't the
kind that gets changed."

Marjorie lay for a minute silently.  Then she looked at him
incredulously.

"But you said----" she began very softly.

"I said things that I ought to be horsewhipped for.  I loved you so
much that I was jealous.  I do think I've learned a little better.
Why, if you wanted to talk to some other man now, even if I knew you
loved him madly, if it would make you happier I think I'd get him for
you. . . .  No.  No, I don't believe I could.  I want you too much
myself.  But--I've learned a better kind of love, at least, than the
kind that only wants to make you miserable.  I _did_ get Pennington for
you when you were so ill, and wanted him instead of me.  Count that to
me for righteousness, Marge, when you think about me back there in the
city."

"Then--you mean--that you love me just as much as ever?"

She lay there, wide-eyed, flushed and unbelieving.

"As much?  A thousand times more--you know it.  Good heavens, how could
any one live in the house with you and not care more and more for you
all the time?"

"But, then, why did you----"

"Because I was a brute.  I've told you that.  And because it made me
unhappier and unhappier to see you drifting away from me, and then,
every time I could have done anything to draw you a little closer I'd
lash out and send you farther away with my selfishness and jealousy.  I
didn't know it was any surprise to you.  It's been the one thing you've
known from the beginning----"

She shook her head.

"Every time you lost your temper you said you'd stopped loving me.  And
that nobody could love the bad girl I was, to flirt and deceive you----"

"I've no excuse.  I haven't even the nerve to ask you to try it a
little longer.  But believe this, Marjorie; the very hardest thing you
could ask me to do----"

She laughed a little, starry-eyed,

"If I asked you to go and do the cooking and cleaning for your beloved
men, that you made me do?" she asked whimsically.

He nodded matter-of-coursely.

"It would mean Pennington doing my directing, and I don't think he's up
to it; he's a fine second in command, but he can't plan.  Yes, I'd do
it in a minute, though it would probably mean the job I'm making my
reputation on going smash.  Do you want me to?  If the whole thing went
to the devil it would be a small price to pay for getting even another
half-chance to make good with you.  May I, Marjorie?  Say I may!"

He was bending forward, alert and passionate, as if it were a chance to
own the world that he was begging for.  She told him so.

"It is--my world.  I mean it, Marjorie.  I don't deserve it, and I
don't see how you can trust me, but let me do that.  Or anything.  I
don't care how hard or how ridiculous, if it would mean that some day I
could come back to you and you'd consider--just consider--being my
wife."

"But, Francis!  But, Francis, I don't want you to be ridiculous!  I
don't want you to fall down on your work.  I don't want you to do
anything----"

"I know you don't.  That's the worst of it.  And it's coming to me."

She was silent for a little while.

"It hadn't occurred to you, then, that perhaps--perhaps living in the
house with you might have made me--well, a little fonder of you?"

She did not know what she had expected him to do when she said that.
Anything but what he did do--sit perfectly still and unbelieving, and
look as if she had stabbed him.

"No," he said finally.  "That couldn't happen.  Don't talk to me that
way, Marjorie.  It's cruel.  Not that you haven't the right to be
cruel."

It was Marjorie's time of triumph, that she had planned for so long, in
those days when the work was hard and things were lonely sometimes.
But she did not take it.  She only put out one shy hand, for it was a
little hard for her to go on talking, she was getting so tired, and
said timidly:

"But it is true, Francis.  I--I am fond of you.  And if there's
anything to forgive, I have.  You know you can't be so dreadfully angry
with people when--when you like them.  You--why, you don't have to wait
and have tests.  I'll stay with you now, if you want me."

He stared at her a little longer, still incredulous.  Then with an
inarticulate cry he was down on his knees beside her long chair, and he
had her in his arms, just as he had held her the night before he went
away, just after they were married.  No, not just the same; for though
he held her as closely and as tenderly, there was something of fear
still in the way he kept his arms about her; as if he did not really
think it was true.  He knelt there for a long time, and neither of them
moved.  He did not call her affectionate names; he only kept repeating,
"Marjorie!  Marjorie!  Marjorie!" over and over again, as if her name
would keep her close to him, and hold her real.

She laughed a little again presently.

"It's really so, you know, Francis."

"I don't believe it in the least!" said Francis, in a more assertive
voice than he had used yet.  He laughed, too.  She looked at the dark,
vivid face so near hers, and so changed from what it had been five
minutes before.

"Well, you did take a lot of convincing!" she said demurely.  "I felt
so bold----"

"Darling," said Francis, kissing her parenthetically, "do you think it
would be too much for you if you sat on my knees a little while?  I
can't get at half enough of you where you are.  And doctors say that
being too long in one position is very bad for invalids."

"You might try," said Marjorie docilely; "though, honestly, Francis, I
don't feel any more like an invalid than you do.  I feel perfectly well
and strong--let me see if I can stand up!"

He really shouldn't--Mrs. O'Mara told him that severely two hours
afterwards--but at that particular moment he would have done anything
in the world Marjorie requested.  He lifted her to a standing position
very carefully, and held her supported while she tried how she felt
being really on her feet again.  It was the first time.  Until now,
Pennington had carried her in and out, while Francis felt a deadly envy
in his heart.

"See, I'm all well!" she said triumphantly, looking exactly, as he told
her, like a doll, with her lacy draperies and her shoulder-length
curls, and her slim arms thrown out to balance herself.  He let her
stand there a minute or so, and then pulled her gently over and held
her for a while.

At least, they thought it was a while.  It was much more like two
hours; there was so much to talk over, and explain, and arrange for
generally.  They decided to stay just where they were, for a little
while at least, after Francis's work was done.  Marjorie was to get
strong as quickly as possible, and they were both, after their long
practice at being unhappy, to try to be as happy as possible.  And the
very first time that Francis was jealous, or objected to any one
kissing her hand or traveling from New York to take her away from a
cruel husband, Marjorie was to leave him forever.  This was his
suggestion.

"But I don't think I would," said Marjorie thoughtfully, lifting her
head a little from his shoulder.  "I never did, did I, no matter what
you did to me?  You couldn't even make me go when you sent me--I
preferred malarial fever."

Francis said nothing to that, except to suddenly tighten his arms about
her.  He was not yet at the point where he could make a joke of her
illness.  She had been too near the Valley of the Shadow for that.

So they were still sitting very comfortably together, discussing their
mutual life--they had planned as far as the tenth year of their
marriage--when Peggy descended upon them again.

Marjorie flushed and made a faint effort to escape, but Francis sat
immovably, exactly as if Peggy were not there at all.

"Oh!" said Peggy.

"We've made up," said Francis coolly.

"Then I suppose you won't be wanting me on the premises," said Peggy,
making a dive for the door.

"I would be delighted if there was a whole procession of you, like a
frieze," said Francis, "walking by and seeing how happy I am."

"Oh, but I wouldn't!" protested Marjorie.  "Do let me get up and be
respectable, Francis.  There _will_ be a procession going by
presently--you know the men all come and ask how I am every day."

At that reluctantly he did put her back in her chair, where she lay for
a little longer, starry-eyed and quite unlike an invalid.  Peggy went
inside, judging that in spite of Francis's protests they would be
perfectly happy alone; and, besides, she wanted to tell her mother.
The two on the veranda stayed where they were.

"But what about the cooking?" demanded Marjorie presently.

"It's been all right while you were sick.  We are going to get through
sooner than I thought."

"Oh, I'm so glad," she sighed.  "I really did want you to get the work
done, and succeed--I never hated you that much, at the worst."

"Don't talk about the work!" he said passionately.  "The work didn't
matter a bit.  And I tell you this, Marjorie, if I can help it you
shall never do another stroke of work as long as you live!"

"That's going too far, as usual," said Marjorie calmly.  "You certainly
are a tempestuous person, Francis Ellison!  I'd be unhappy without
something to do. . . .  May I play on the banjo sometimes in the
evening, and will you stay quite close to me when I do?"

"You mean----" he asked.

"I mean that you didn't destroy all those notes when you lost your
temper with me.  To begin with, you left note-shaped places in the
dust, on all the things you had put there for me--you really will have
to let me do a little dusting occasionally, dear!--and so I hunted.
One note was under the fresh banjo strings. . . .  And you may well be
glad you forgot it."

"Why, dearest?  Did it make you a little sorry for me?"

"Oh, so sorry!  In spite of all you'd said and done, somehow--somehow
when I read that I think I began to fall in love with you all over
again. . . .  I cried, I know.  I didn't know then that was what was
the matter with me, but I know now it was.  You had wanted me so much,
there in our dear little cabin; and try as I would to keep telling
myself that it was a last year's you, it kept feeling like a this
year's."

"It was," he said fervently.  "It was this year's, and every year's, as
long as we both live."

"As long as we both live," echoed Marjorie.

They were both quiet for a while.  The sun was setting, and the rays
shone down through the trees; through a gap they could see the west,
scarlet and gold and beautiful.  Things felt very solemn.  Marjorie put
out one hand mutely, and Francis took it and held it closely.  It was
more really their marriage day than the one in New York, when they were
both young and reckless, and scarcely more than bits of flotsam in the
tremendous world-current that set toward mating and replacement.  They
belonged together now, willingly and deliberately; set to go forward
with what love and forbearance and earnestness of purpose they could,
all the days of their life.  They both felt it, and were still.

But presently Marjorie's laughter awakened Francis from his muse.  He
had been promising himself that he would make up to her--that he would
try to erase all his wild doings from her mind.  She should forget some
day that he had ever put her in an automobile, and borne her away,
Sabine fashion, to where he could dominate her into submission and
wifehood.  He had gone very far into himself, and that light laugh of
hers, that he loved, drew him back from the far places.

"What is it, dear?" he asked.

"I was just thinking--I was just thinking what awfully good common
sense you showed, carrying me off that way.  And how proud of it I'll
be as long as I live!" said Marjorie.





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