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Title: The Sick-a-Bed Lady - And Also Hickory Dock, The Very Tired Girl, The Happy-Day, Something That Happened in October, The Amateur Lover, Heart of The City, The Pink Sash, Woman's Only Business
Author: Abbott, Eleanor Hallowell, 1872-1958
Language: English
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*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "The Sick-a-Bed Lady - And Also Hickory Dock, The Very Tired Girl, The Happy-Day, Something That Happened in October, The Amateur Lover, Heart of The City, The Pink Sash, Woman's Only Business" ***

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[Illustration: "_That_ will help you remember where your mouth is"]


And Also
Hickory Dock, The Very Tired Girl, The Happy-Day,
Something That Happened in October, The Amateur Lover,
Heart of The City, The Pink Sash, Woman's Only Business



Author of "Molly Make-Believe"


New York
The Century Co.

Copyright, 1911, by
The Century Co.

Copyright, 1905, 1907, by P. F. Collier & Son
Copyright, 1905, by J. B. Lippincott Company
Copyright, 1906, 1907, 1908, 1909, 1910, by The Ridgway Company
Copyright, 1910, by The Success Company

Published, October, 1911

          THE MEMORY OF
          TWO FATHERS


    THE SICK-A-BED LADY                                        3
    HICKORY DOCK                                              33
    THE VERY TIRED GIRL                                       57
    THE HAPPY-DAY                                             89
    THE RUNAWAY ROAD                                         127
    SOMETHING THAT HAPPENED IN OCTOBER                       161
    THE AMATEUR LOVER                                        195
    HEART OF THE CITY                                        253
    THE PINK SASH                                            291
    WOMAN'S ONLY BUSINESS                                    331


  "_That_ will help you remember where your mouth is"     _Frontispiece_
                                                            FACING PAGE
  With no other object, except to get home                           58
  The blue ocean was the most wonderful thing of all                 96
  Instinctively she clasped it to her                               146
  The four of us who remained huddled very close around the fire    164
  "Hello, all you animals!" she cried                               244
  The lone, accentuated figure of a boy violinist                   256
  "Is--a--pink--sash--exactly a--a--passion?"                       298
  "Oh, I wish I had a sister," fretted the boy                      364


THE Sick-A-Bed Lady lived in a huge old-fashioned mahogany bedstead,
with solid silk sheets, and three great squashy silk pillows edged with
fluffy ruffles. On a table beside the Sick-A-Bed Lady was a tiny little,
shiny little bell that tinkled exactly like silver raindrops on a golden
roof, and all around this Lady and this Bedstead and this Bell was a
big, square, shadowy room with a smutty fireplace, four small paned
windows, and a chintzy wall-paper showered profusely with high-handled
baskets of lavender flowers over which strange green birds hovered

       *       *       *       *       *

The Sick-A-Bed Lady, herself, was as old as twenty, but she did not look
more than fifteen with her little wistful white face against the creamy
pillows and her soft brown hair braided in two thick pigtails and tied
with great pink bows behind each ear.

When the Sick-A-Bed Lady felt like sitting up high against her pillows,
she could look out across the footboard through her opposite window. Now
through that opposite window was a marvelous vista--an old-fashioned
garden, millions of miles of ocean, and then--France! And when the wind
was in just the right direction there was a perfectly wonderful smell to
be smelled--part of it was Cinnamon Pink and part of it was
Salt-Sea-Weed, but most of it, of course, was--France. There were days
and days, too, when any one with sense could feel that the waves beat
perkily against the shore with a very strong French accent, and that all
one's French verbs, particularly "_J'aime_, _Tu aimes_, _Il aime_," were
coming home to rest. What else was there to think about in bed but funny
things like that?

It was the Old Doctor who had brought the Sick-A-Bed Lady to the big
white house at the edge of the Ocean, and placed her in the cool, quaint
room with its front windows quizzing dreamily out to sea, and its side
windows cuddled close to the curving village street. It was a long,
tiresome, dangerous journey, and the Sick-A-Bed Lady in feverish fancy
had moaned: "I shall die, I shall die, I shall _die_," every step of the
way, but, after all, it was the Old Doctor who did the dying! Just like
a snap of the finger he went at the end of two weeks, and the
Sick-A-Bed Lady rallied to the shock with a plaintive: "Seems to me he
was in an _awful_ hurry," and fell back on her soft bed into days of
unconsciousness that were broken only by riotous visions day and night
of an old man rushing frantically up to a great white throne yelling:
"One, two, three, for Myself!"

Out of this trouble the Sick-A-Bed Lady woke one day to find herself
quite alone and quite alive. She had often felt alone before, but it was
a long time since she had felt alive. The world seemed very pleasant.
The flowers on the wall-paper were still unwilted, and the green paper
birds hung airily without fatigue. The room was full of the most
enticing odor of cinnamon pinks, and by raising herself up in bed the
merest trifle she could get a smell of good salt, a smell which somehow
you couldn't get unless you actually _saw_ the Ocean, but just as she
was laboriously tugging herself up an atom higher, trying to find the
teeniest, weeniest sniff of France, everything went suddenly black and
silver before her eyes, and she fell down, down, down, as much as forty
miles into Nothing At All.

When she woke up again all limp and wappsy there was a Young Man's Face
on the Footboard of the bed; just an isolated, unconnected sort of face
that might have blossomed from the footboard, or might have been merely
a mirage on the horizon. Whatever it was, though, it kept staring at
her fixedly, balancing itself all the while most perfectly on its chin.
It was a funny sight, and while the Sick-A-Bed Lady was puckering her
forehead trying to think out what it all meant the Young Man's Face
smiled at her and said "_Boo!_" and the Sick-A-Bed Lady tiptilted her
chin weakly and said--"Boo _yourself_!" Then the Sick-A-Bed Lady fell
into her fearful stupor again, and the Young Man's Face ran home as fast
as it could to tell its Best Friend that the Sick-A-Bed Lady had spoken
her first sane word for five weeks. He thought it was a splendid
victory, but when he tried to explain it to his friend, he found that
"Boo _yourself_!" seemed a fatuous proof of so startling a truth, and
was obliged to compromise with considerable dignity on the statement:
"Well, of course, it wasn't so much what she said as the _way_ she said

For days and days that followed, the Sick-A-Bed Lady was conscious of
nothing except the Young Man's Face on the footboard of the bed. It
never seemed to wabble, it never seemed to waver, but just stayed there
perfectly balanced on the point of its chin, watching her gravely with
its blue, blue eyes. There was a cleft in its chin, too, that you could
have stroked with your finger if--you could have. Of course, there were
some times when she went to sleep, and some times when she just seemed
to go _out_ like a candle, but whenever she came back from _anything_
there was always the Young Man's Face for comfort.

The Sick-A-Bed Lady was so sick that she thought all over her body
instead of in her head, so that it was very hard to concentrate any
particular thought in her mouth, but at last one afternoon with a mighty
struggle she opened her half-closed eyes, looked right in the Young
Man's Face and said: "Got any arms?"

The Young Man's Face nodded perfectly politely, and smiled as he raised
two strong, lean hands to the edge of the footboard, and hunched his
shoulders obligingly across the sky line.

"How do you feel?" he asked very gently.

Then the Sick-A-Bed Lady knew at once that it was the Young Doctor, and
wondered why she hadn't thought of it before.

"Am I pretty sick?" she whispered deferentially.

"Yes--I think you are _very pretty_--sick," said the Young Doctor, and
he towered up to a terrible, leggy height and laughed joyously, though
there was almost no sound to his laugh. Then he went over to the window
and began to jingle small bottles, and the Sick-A-Bed Lady lay and
watched him furtively and thought about his compliment, and wondered why
when she wanted to smile and say "Thank you" her mouth should shut
tight and her left foot wiggle, instead.

When the Young Doctor had finished jingling bottles, he came and sat
down beside her and fed her something wet out of a cool spoon, which she
swallowed and swallowed and swallowed, feeling all the while like a very
sick brown-eyed dog that couldn't wag anything but the far-away tip of
its tail. When she got through swallowing she wanted very much to stand
up and make a low bow, but instead she touched the warm little end of
her tongue to the Young Doctor's hand. After that, though, for quite a
few minutes her brain felt clean and tidy, and she talked quite
pleasantly to the Young Doctor: "Have you got any bones in your arms?"
she asked wistfully.

"Why, yes, indeed," said the Young Doctor, "rather more than the usual
number of bones. Why?"

"I'd give my life," said the Sick-A-Bed Lady, "if there were bones in my
silky pillows." She faltered a moment and then continued bravely: "Would
you mind--holding me up stiff and strong for a second? There's no bottom
to my bed, there's no top to my brain, and if I can't find a hard edge
to something I shall topple right off the earth. So would you mind
holding me like an _edge_ for a moment--that is--if there's no lady to
care? I'm not a little girl," she added conscientiously--"I'm twenty
years old."

So the Young Doctor slipped over gently behind her and lifted her limp
form up into the lean, solid curve of his arm and shoulder. It wasn't
exactly a sumptuous corner like silken pillows, but it felt as glad as
the first rock you strike on a life-swim for shore, and the Sick-A-Bed
Lady dropped right off to sleep sitting bolt upright, wondering vaguely
how she happened to have two hearts, one that fluttered in the usual
place, and one that pounded rather noisily in her back somewhere between
her shoulder-blades.

On his way home that day the Young Doctor stopped for a long while at
his Best Friend's house to discuss some curious features of the Case.

"Anything new turned up?" asked the Best Friend.

"Nothing," said the Young Doctor, pulling moodily at his cigar.

"Well, it certainly beats _me_," exclaimed the Best Friend, "how any
long-headed, shrewd old fellow like the Old Doctor could have brought a
raving fever patient here and installed her in his own house under that
clumsy Old Housekeeper without once mentioning to any one who the girl
was, or where to communicate with her people. Great Heavens, the Old
Doctor knew what a poor 'risk' he was. He knew absolutely that that
heart of his would burst some day like a firecracker."

"The Old Doctor never was very communicative," mused the Young Doctor,
with a slight grimace that might have suggested professional memories
not strictly pleasant. "But I'll surely never forget him as long as
ether exists," he added whimsically. "Why, you'd have thought the old
chap invented ether--you'd have thought he ate it, drank it, bathed in
it. I hope the _smell_ of my profession will never be the only part of
it I'm willing to share."

"That's all right," said the Best Friend, "that's all right. If he
wanted to go off every Winter to the States and work in the Hospitals,
and come back every Spring smelling like a Surgical Ward, with a lot of
wonderful information which he kept to himself, why, that was his own
business. He was a plucky old fellow anyway to go at all. But what I'm
kicking at is his wicked carelessness in bringing this young girl here
in a critical illness without taking a single soul into his confidence.
Here he's dead and buried for weeks, and the Girl's people are probably
worrying themselves crazy about not hearing from her. But why don't they
write? Why in thunder don't they write?"

"Don't ask me!" cried the Young Doctor nervously. "I don't know! I don't
know anything about it. Why, I don't even know whether the Girl is
going to live. I don't even know whether she'll ever be sane again. How
can I stop to quiz about her name and her home, when, perhaps, her whole
life and reason rests in my foolish hands that have never done anything
yet much more vital than usher a perfectly willing baby into life, or
tinker with croup in some chunky throat? There's only one thing in the
case that I'm sure of, and that is that she doesn't know herself who she
is, and the effort to remember might snap her utterly. She's just a

"I have an idea--" the Young Doctor shook his shoulders as though to
shake off his more somber thoughts--"I have an idea that the Old Doctor
rather counted on building up a sort of informal sanitarium here. He was
daft, you know, about the climate on this particular stretch of coast.
You remember that he brought home some athlete last Summer--pretty bad
case of breakdown, too, but the Old Doctor cured him like a magician;
and the Spring before that there was a little lad with epilepsy, wasn't
there? The Old Doctor let me look at him once just to tease me. And
before that--I can count up half-a-dozen people of that sort, people
whom you would have said were 'gone-ers,' too. Oh, the Old Doctor would
have brought home a dead man to cure if any one had 'stumped' him. And
I guess this present case was a 'stump' fast enough. Why, she was raging
like a prairie fire when they brought her here. No other man would have
dared to travel. And they put her down in a great silk bed like a
fairy-story, and the Old Doctor sat and watched her night and day
studying her like a fiend, and she got better after a while: not keen,
you know, but funny like a child, cooing and crooning over her pretty
room, and tickled to pieces with the ocean, and vain as a kitten over
her pink ribbons--the Old Doctor wouldn't let them cut her hair--and
everything went on like that, till in a horrid flash the Old Doctor
dropped dead that morning at the breakfast table, the little girl went
loony again, and every possible clew to her identity was wiped off the

"No baggage?" suggested the Best Friend.

"Why, of course, there was baggage!" the Young Doctor exclaimed, "a
great trunk. Haven't the Housekeeper and I rummaged and rummaged it till
I can feel the tickle of lace across my wrists even in my sleep? Why,
man alive! she's a _rich_ girl. There never were such clothes in our
town before. She's no free hospital pauper whom the Old Doctor
obligingly took off their hands. That is, I don't see how she can be!

"Oh, well," he continued bitterly, "everybody in town calls her just the
Sick-A-Bed Lady, and pretty soon it will be the Death-Bed Lady, and
then it will be the Dead-and-Buried Lady--and that's all we'll ever know
about it." He shivered clammily as he finished and reached for a
scorching glass of whisky on the table.

But the Young Doctor did not feel so lugubrious the next day and the
next and the next, when he found the Sick-A-Bed Lady rallying slowly but
surely to the skill of his head and hands. To be frank, she still lay
for hours at a time in a sort of gentle daze watching the world go by
without her, but little by little her body strengthened as a wilted
flower freshens in water, and little by little she struggled harder for
words that even then did not always match her thoughts.

The village continued to speculate about her lost identity, but the
Young Doctor seemed to worry less and less about it as time went on. If
the sweetest little girl you ever saw knew perfectly whom you meant when
you said "Dear," what was the use of hunting up such prosy names as May
or Alice? And as to her funny speeches, was there anything in the world
more piquant than to be called a "beautiful horse," when she meant a
"kind doctor"? Was there anything dearer than her absurd wrath over her
blunders, or the way she shook her head like an angry little heifer,
when she occasionally forgot altogether how to talk? It was at one of
these latter times that the Young Doctor, watching her desperate
struggle to focus her speech, forgot all about her twenty years and
stooped down suddenly and kissed her square on her mouth.

"There," he laughed, "_that_ will help you remember where your mouth
is!" But it was astonishing after that how many times he had to remind

He couldn't help loving her. No man could have helped loving her. She
was so little and dear and gentle and--lost.

The Sick-A-Bed Lady herself didn't know who she was, but she would have
perished with fright if she had realized that no one in the village, and
not even the Young Doctor himself, could guess her identity.

The Young Doctor knew everything else in the world; why shouldn't he
know who she was? He knew all about France being directly opposite the
house; he had known it ever since he was a boy, and had been glad about
it. He stopped her trying to count the green birds on the wall-paper
because he "knew positively" that there were four hundred and seventeen
whole birds, and nineteen half birds cut off by the wainscoting. He
never laughed at her when she slid down the side of her bed by the
village street window, and went to sleep with her curly head pillowed on
the hard, white sill. He never laughed, because he understood perfectly
that if you hung one white arm down over the sidewalk when you went to
sleep, sometimes little children would come and put flowers in your
hand, or, more wonderful still, perhaps, a yellow collie dog would come
and lick your fingers.

Nothing could surprise the Young Doctor. Sometimes the Sick-A-Bed Lady
took thoughts she did have and mixed them up with thoughts she didn't
have, and _sprung_ them on the poor Young Doctor, but he always said,
"Why, of _course_," as simply as possible.

But more than all the other wise things he knew was the wise one about
smelly things. He knew that when you were very, very, _very_ sick,
nothing pleased you so much as nice, smelly things. He brought wild
strawberries, for instance, not so much to eat as to smell, but when he
wasn't looking she gobbled them down as fast as she could. And he
brought her all kinds of flowers, one or two at a time, and seemed so
disappointed when she just sniffed them and smiled; but one day he
brought her a spray of yellow jasmine, and she snatched it up and kissed
it and cried "_Home_," and the Young Doctor was so pleased that he wrote
it right down in a little book and ran away to study up something. He
let her smell the fresh green bank-notes in his pocketbook. Oh, they
were good to smell, and after a while she said "Shops." He brought her
a tiny phial of gasoline from his neighbor's automobile, and she
crinkled up her nose in disgust and called it "gloves" and slapped it
playfully out of his hand. But when he brought her his riding-coat she
rubbed her cheek against it and whispered some funny chirruppy things.
His pipe, though, was the most confusing symbol of all. It was his best
pipe, too, and she snuggled it up to her nose and cried "_You, y-o-u_!"
and hid it under her pillow and wouldn't give it back to him, and though
he tried her a dozen times about it, she never acknowledged any
association except that joyous, "_Y-o-u_!"

So day by day she gained in consecutive thought till at last she grew so
reasonable as to ask: "Why do you call me _Dear_?"

And the Young Doctor forgot all about his earliest reason and answered
perfectly simply: "Because I love you."

Then some of the evenings grew to be almost sweetheart evenings, though
the Sick-A-Bed Lady's fragile childishness keyed the Young Doctor into
an almost uncanny tenderness and restraint.

Those were wonderful evenings, though, after the Sick-A-Bed Lady began
to get better and better. A good deal of the Young Doctor's practice was
scattered up and down the coast, and after the dust and sweat and glare
and rumble of his long day he would come back to the sleepy village in
the early evening, plunge for a freshening swim into the salt water,
don his white clothes and saunter round to the quaint old house at the
edge of the ocean. Here in the breezy kitchen he often sat for as long
as an hour, talking with the Old Housekeeper, till the Sick-A-Bed Lady's
tiny silver bell rang out with absurd peremptoriness. Then for as much
time as seemed wise he went and sat with the Sick-A-Bed Lady.

One night, one full-moon night, he came back from his day's work
extraordinarily tired and fretted after a series of strident
experiences, and hurried to the old house as to a veritable Haven of
Refuge. The Housekeeper was busy with village company, so he postponed
her report and went at once to the Sick-A-Bed Lady's room.

Only fools lit lights on such a night as that, and he threw himself down
in the big chair by the bedside, and fairly basked in peacefulness and
moonlight and content, while the Sick-A-Bed Lady leaned over and stroked
his hair with her little white fingers, crooning some pleasant, childish
thing about "nice, smoky Boy." There was no fret or fuss or even sound
in the room, except the drowsy murmur of voices in the Garden, and the
churky splash of little waves against the shore.

"Hear the French Verbs," said the Sick-A-Bed Lady, at last, with
deliberate mischief. Then she shut her lips tight and waved her hands
distractedly after a manner she had when she wished to imply that she
was suddenly stricken dumb. The Young Doctor laughed and reached over
and kissed her.

"_J'aime_," he said.

"_J'aime_," the Sick-A-Bed Lady repeated.

"_Tu aimes_," he persisted.

"_Tu aimes_," she echoed on his lips.

--Then--"There'll be no '_he_ loves' to our story," he cried suddenly,
and caught her so fiercely to his breast that she gave a little quick
gasp of pain and struggled back on her pillows, and the Young Doctor
jumped up in bitter, stinging contrition and strode out of the room.
Just across the threshold he met the Old Housekeeper with a clattering
tray of dishes.

"I'm going down to the Library to smoke," he said huskily to her. "Come
there when you've finished. I want to talk with you."

His thoughts of himself were not kind as he wandered into the library
and settled down in the first big chair that struck his fancy.

Then he fell to wondering whether there was anything gross about his
love, because it took no heed of mental qualifications. He thought of at
least three houses in the village where that very night he would have
found lights and laughter and clever talk, and the prodding sympathy of
earnest women who made the sternest happening of the day seem nothing
more than a dress rehearsal for the evening's narration of it. Then he
thought again of the big, quiet room upstairs, with its unquestioning
peace and love and restfulness and content. What was the best thing
after all that a woman could bring to a man? Yet a year ago he had
bragged of the blatant braininess of his best woman friend! He began to
laugh at himself.

Slowly the incongruities of the whole situation bore in upon him, and he
sat and smoked and smiled in moody silence, staring with skeptical
interest at the dimly lighted room around him. It was certainly the Old
Doctor's private study, and realization of just what that meant came
over him ironically.

The Old Doctor had been very stingy with his house and his books and his
knowledge and his patients. It was natural perhaps under the
professional circumstances of waning Age and waxing Youth. Yet the fact
remained. Never before in five years of village association had the
Young Doctor crossed the threshold of the Old Doctor's home, yet now he
came and went like the Man of the House. Here he sat at this instant in
the Old Doctor's private study, in the Old Doctor's chair, his feet upon
the Old Doctor's table, and the whole great room with its tier after
tier of bookcases, and its drawer after drawer of probable memoranda
_free_ before him. He could imagine the Old Doctor's impotent wrath over
such a contingency, yet he felt no sentimental mawkishness over his own
position. As far as he knew the Dead were dead.

Sitting there in the Old Doctor's study, he conjured up scene after
scene of the Old Doctor's irascibility and exclusiveness. Even as late
as the Sick-A-Bed Lady's arrival, the Old Doctor had snubbed him
unmercifully before a crowd of people. It was at the station when the
little sick stranger was being taken off the car and put into a
carriage, and the Old Doctor had hailed the Younger with unwonted

"I've got a case in there that would make you famous if you could master
it," he said.

The Young Doctor remembered perfectly how he had walked into the trap.

"What is it?" he had cried eagerly.

"That's none of your business," chuckled the Old Doctor, and drove away
with all the platform loafers shouting with delight.

Well, it seemed to be the Young Doctor's business _now_, and he got up,
turned the lamp higher and began to hunt through the Old Doctor's rarest
books for some light on certain curious developments in the Sick-A-Bed
Lady's case.

He was just in the midst of this hunt when the Old Housekeeper glided
in like a ghost and startled him.

"Sit down," he said absent-mindedly, and went on with his reading. He
had almost forgotten her presence when she coughed and said: "Excuse me,
sir, but I've something very special to say to you."

The Young Doctor looked up in surprise and saw that the Woman's face was
ashy white.

"I--don't--think--you quite--understand the case," she stammered. "I
think the little lady upstairs is going to be a Mother!"

The Young Doctor put his hand up to his face, and his face felt like
parchment. He put his hand down to the book again, and the book cover
quivered like flesh.

"What do you m-e-a-n?" he asked.

"I'll tell you what I mean," said the Old Housekeeper, and led him back
to the sick room.

Two hours later the Young Doctor staggered into his Best Friend's house
clutching a sheet of letter paper in his hand. His shoulders dragged as
though under a pack, and every trace of boyishness was wrung like a rag
out of his face.

"For Heaven's sake, what's the matter?" cried his friend, starting up.

"Nothing," muttered the Young Doctor, "except the Sick-A-Bed Lady."

"When did she die? What happened?"

The Young Doctor made a gesture of dissent and crawled into a chair and
began to fumble with the paper in his hand. Then he shivered and stared
his Best Friend straight in the face.

"You might say," he stammered, "that I have just heard from the
Sick-A-Bed Lady's Husband--" he choked at the word, and his Friend sat
up with astonishment: "You heard me _say_ I had heard from the
Sick-A-Bed Lady's Husband?" he persisted. "_You_ heard me say it, mind
you. You heard me say that her Husband is sick in Japan--detained
indefinitely--so we are afraid he won't get here in time for her

The sweat broke out in great drops on his forehead, and his hand that
held the sheet of paper shook like a hand that has strained its muscles
with heavy weights.

The Best Friend took a scathing glance at the scribbled words on the
paper and laughed mirthlessly.

"You're a good fool," he said, "a good fool, and I'll publish your
blessed lie to the whole stupid village, if that's what you want."

But the Young Doctor sat oblivious with his head in his hands,
muttering: "Blind fool, blind fool, how could I have been such a blind

"What is it to _you_?" asked his Best Friend abruptly.

The Young Doctor jumped to his feet and squared his shoulders.

"It's _this_ to me," he cried, "that I wanted her for my own! I could
have cured her. I tell you I could have cured her. I wanted her for my

"She's only a waif," said the Best Friend tersely.

"Waif?" cried the Young Doctor, "_waif_? No woman whom I love is a
_waif_!" His face blazed furiously. "The woman I _love_--that little
gentle girl--a waif?--without a home?--I would make a cool home for her
out of Hell itself, if it was necessary! Damn, damn, _damn_ the brute
that deserted her, but _home is all around her_ NOW! Do I think the Old
Doctor guessed about it? _N-o!_ Nobody could have guessed about it.
Nobody could have known about it much before this. You say _again_ she
isn't _anybody's_? I'll prove to you as soon as it's decent that she's

His Best Friend took him by the shoulder and shook him roughly.

"It is no time," he said, "for you to be courting a woman."

"I'll court my Sweetheart when and where I choose!" the Young Doctor
answered defiantly, and left the house.

The night seemed a thousand miles long to him, but when he slept at
last and woke again, the air was fresh and hopeful with a new day. He
dressed quickly and hurried off to the scene of last night's tragedy,
where he found the Old Housekeeper arguing in the doorway with a small
boy. She turned to the Doctor complacently. "He's begging for the
postage stamp off the Japanese letter," she exclaimed, "and I'm just
telling him I sent it to my Sister's boy in Montreal."

There was no slightest trace of self-consciousness in her manner, and
the Young Doctor could not help but smile as he beckoned her into the
house and shut the door.

Then, "Have you told her?" he asked eagerly.

The Old Housekeeper humped her shoulders against the door and folded her
arms sumptuously. "No, I haven't told her," she said, "and I'm not going
to. I don't dar'st! I help you out about your business same as I helped
the Old Doctor out about his business. That's all right. That's as it
should be. And I'll go skipping up those stairs to tell the little lady
any highfaluting, pleasant yarn that you can invent, but I don't budge
one single step to tell that poor, innocent, loony Lamb--the _truth_. It
isn't ugliness, Doctor. I haven't got the strength, that's all!"

Just then the little silver bell tinkled, and the Doctor went heavily up
the few steps that swung the Sick-A-Bed Lady's room just out of line of
real upstairs or downstairs.

The Sick-A-Bed Lady was lying in glorious state, arrayed in a wonderful
pale green kimono with shimmering silver birds on it.

"You stayed too long downstairs," she asserted and went on trying to cut
out pictures from a magazine.

The Young Doctor stood at the window looking out to sea as long as his
legs would hold him, and then he came back and sat down on the edge of
the bed.

"What's your name, Honey?" he asked with a forced smile.

"Why, 'Dear,' of course," she answered and dropped her scissors in

"What's my name?" he continued, fencing for time.

"Just '_Boy_,'" she said with sweet, contented positiveness.

The Young Doctor shivered and got up and started to leave the room, but
at the threshold he stopped resolutely and came back and sat down again.

This time he took his Mother's wedding ring from his little finger and
twirled it with apparent aimlessness in his hands.

Its glint caught the Sick-A-Bed Lady's eye, and she took it daintily in
her fingers and examined it carefully. Then, as though it recalled some
vague memory, she crinkled up her forehead and started to get out of
bed. The Young Doctor watched her with agonized interest. She went
direct to her bureau and began to search diligently through all the
drawers, but when she reached the lower drawer and found some
bright-colored ribbons she forgot her original quest, whatever it was,
and brought all the ribbons back to bed with her.

The Young Doctor started to leave her again, this time with a little
gesture which she took to be anger, but he had not gone further than the
head of the stairs before she called him back in a voice that was
startlingly mature and reasonable.

"Oh, Boy, come back," she cried. "I'll be good. What do you want?"

The Young Doctor came doubtfully.

"Do you understand me to-day?" he asked in a voice that sent an ominous
chill to her heart. "Can you think pretty clearly to-day?"

She nodded her head. "Yes," she answered; "it's a good day."

"Do you know what marriage is?" he asked abruptly.

"Oh, yes," she said, but her face clouded perceptibly.

Then he took her in his arms and told her plainly, brutally, clumsily,
without preface, without comment: "Honey, you are going to have a

For a second her mind wavered before him. He could actually see the
totter in her eyes, and braced himself for the final hopeless crash, but
suddenly all her being focused to the realization of his words, and she
pushed at him with her hands and cried: "No--No--Oh, my God--_n-o_!" and
fainted in his arms.

When she woke up again the little-girl look was all gone from her face,
and though the Young Doctor smiled and smiled and smiled, he could not
smile it back again. She just lay and watched him questioningly.

"Sweetheart," he whispered at last, "do you remember what I told you?"

"Yes," she answered gravely, "I remember that, but I don't remember what
it means. Is it all right? Is it all right to _you_?"

"Yes," said the Young Doctor, "it's--all--right to--me."

Then the Sick-A-Bed Lady turned her little face wearily away on her
pillow and went back to those dreams of hers which no one could fathom.

For all the dragging weeks and months that followed she lay in her bed
or groped her way round her room in a sort of timid stupor. Whenever the
Young Doctor was there she clung to him desperately and seemed to find
her only comfort in his presence, but when she talked to him it was
babbling talk of things and places he could not understand. All the
village feared for the imminent tragedy in the great white house, and
mourned the pathetic absence of the young husband, and the Young Doctor
went his sorrowful way cursing that other "boy" who had wrought this
final disaster on a girl's life.

But when the Sick-A-Bed Lady's hour of trial came and some one held the
merciful cone of ether to her face, the Sick-A-Bed Lady took one deep,
heedless breath, then gave suddenly a great gasp, snatched the cone from
her face, struggled up and stretched out her arms and cried, "Boy--Boy!"

The Young Doctor came running to her and saw that her eyes were big and
startled and sharp with terror:

"Oh, Boy--_Boy_," she cried, "the Ether!--I remember _everything_
now--I--was his wife--the Old Doctor's Wife!"

The Young Doctor tried to replace the cone, but she beat at him
furiously with her hands, crying:

"No, No, No!--If you give me Ether I shall die thinking of him!--Oh,

The Young Doctor's face was like chalk. His knees shook under him.

"My God!" he said, "what _can_ I give you!"

The Sick-A-Bed Lady looked up at him and smiled a tortured, gallant
smile. "Give me something to keep me here," she gasped! "Give me a token
of you! Give me your little briarwood pipe to smell--and give it to


Used by permission of _Lippincott's Magazine_.

THIS is the story of Hickory Dock, and of a Man and a Girl who trifled
with Time.

Hickory Dock was a clock, and, of course, the Man, being a man, called
it a clock, but the Girl, being a girl, called it a Hickory Dock for no
more legitimate reason than that once upon a time

          "Hickory, Dickory, Dock,
           A Mouse ran up the Clock."

--Girls are funny things.

The Man and the Girl were very busy collecting a Home--in one room. They
were just as poor as Art and Music could make them, but poverty does not
matter much to lovers. The Man had collected the Girl, a wee diamond
ring, a big Morris chair, two or three green and rose rugs, a shiny
chafing-dish, and various incidentals. The Girl was no less
discriminating. She had accumulated the Man, a Bagdad couch-cover,
half-a-dozen pictures, a huge gilt mirror, three or four bits of fine
china and silver, and a fair-sized boxful of lace and ruffles that
idled under the couch until the Wedding-Day. The room was strikingly
homelike, masculinely homelike, in all its features, but it was by no
means home--yet. No place is home until _two_ people have latch-keys.
The Girl wore _her_ key ostentatiously on a long, fine chain round her
neck, but its mate hung high and dusty on a brass hook over the
fireplace, and the sight of it teased the Man more than anything else
that had ever happened to him in his life. The Girl was easily mistress
of the situation, but the Man, you see, was not yet Master.

It was tacitly understood that if the Wedding-Day _ever_ arrived, the
Girl should slip the extra key into her husband's hand the very first
second that the Minister closed his eyes for the blessing. She would
have chosen to do this openly in exchange for her ring, but the Man
contended that it might not be legal to be married with a
latch-key--some ministers are so particular. It was a joke,
anyway--everything except the Wedding-Day itself. Meanwhile Hickory Dock
kept track of the passing hours.

When the Man first brought Hickory Dock to the Girl, in a mysteriously
pulsating tissue-paper package, the Girl pretended at once that she
thought it was a dynamite bomb, and dropped it precipitously on the
table and sought immediate refuge in the Man's arms, from which
propitious haven she ventured forth at last and picked up the package
gingerly, and rubbed her cheek against it--after the manner of girls
with bombs. Then she began to tug at the string and tear at the paper.

"Why, it's a Hickory Dock!" she exclaimed with delight,--"a real, live
Hickory Dock!" and brandished the gift on high to the imminent peril of
time and chance, and then fled back to the Man's arms with no excuse
whatsoever. She was a bold little lover.

"But it's a _c-l-o-c-k_," remonstrated the Man with whimsical
impatience. He had spent half his month's earnings on the gift. "Why
can't you call it a clock? Why can't you _ever_ call things by their
right names?"

Then the Girl dimpled and blushed and burrowed her head in his shoulder,
and whispered humbly, "Right name? Right names? Call things by their
right names? Would you rather I called _you_ by your right name--Mr.
James Herbert Humphrey Jason?"

_That_ settled the matter--settled it so hard that the Girl had to
whisper the Man's wrong name seven times in his ear before he was
satisfied. No man is practical about everything.

There are a good many things to do when you are in love, but the Girl
did not mean that the _Art of Conversation_ should be altogether lost,
so she plunged for a topic.

"I think it was beautiful of you to give me a Hickory Dock," she
ventured at last.

The Man shifted a trifle uneasily and laughed. "I thought perhaps it
would please you," he stammered. "You see, now I have given you _all my

The Girl chuckled with amused delight. "Yes--all your time. And it's
nice to have a Hickory Dock that says 'Till he comes! Till he comes!
Till he comes!'"

"Till he comes to--_stay_," persisted the Man. There was no sparkle in
his sentiment. He said things very plainly, but his words drove the Girl
across the room to the window with her face flaming. He jumped and
followed her, and caught her almost roughly by the shoulder and turned
her round.

"Rosalie, Rosalie," he demanded, "will you love me till the _end of
time_?" There was no gallantry in his face but a great, dogged
persistency that frightened the Girl into a flippant answer. She brushed
her fluff of hair across his face and struggled away from him.

"I will love you," she teased, "until--the clock stops."

Then the Man burst out laughing, suddenly and unexpectedly, like a boy,
and romped her back again across the room, and snatched up the clock and
stole away the key.

"Hickory Dock shall _never_ stop!" he cried triumphantly. "I will wind
it till I die. And no one else must ever meddle with it."

"But suppose you forget?" the Girl suggested half wistfully.

"I shall _never_ forget," said the Man. "I will wind Hickory Dock every
week as long as I live. I _p-r-o-m-i-s-e_!" His lips shut almost

"But it isn't fair," the Girl insisted. "It isn't fair for me to let you
make such a long promise. You--might--stop--loving me." Her eyes filled
quickly with tears. "Promise me just for one year,"--she stamped her
foot,--"I won't take any other promise."

So, half provoked and half amused, the Man bound himself then and there
for the paltry term of a year. But to fulfil his own sincerity and
seriousness he took the clock and stopped it for a moment that he might
start it up again with the Girl close in his arms. A half-frightened,
half-willing captive, she stood in her prison and looked with furtive
eyes into the little, potential face of Hickory Dock.

"You--and I--for--_all time_," whispered the Man solemnly as he started
the little mechanism throbbing once more on its way, and he stooped
down to seal the pledge with a kiss, but once more the significance of
his word and act startled the Girl, and she clutched at the clock and
ran across the room with it, and set it down very hard on her desk
beside the Man's picture. Then, half ashamed of her flight, she stooped
down suddenly and patted the little, ticking surface of ebony and glass
and silver.

"It's a wonderful little Hickory Dock," she mused softly. "I never saw
one just like it before."

The Man hesitated for a second and drew his mouth into a funny twist. "I
don't believe there _is_ another one like it in all the world," he
acknowledged, half laughingly,--"that is, not _just_ like it. I've had
it fixed so that it won't strike _eleven_. I'm utterly tired of having
you say 'There! it's eleven o'clock and you've _got_ to go home.' _Now_,
after ten o'clock nothing can strike till twelve, and that gives me two
whole hours to use my own judgment in."

The Girl took one eager step towards him, when suddenly over the city
roofs and across the square came the hateful, strident chime of
midnight. Midnight? _Midnight?_ The Girl rushed frantically to her
closet and pulled the Man's coat out from among her fluffy dresses and
thrust it into his hands, and he fled distractedly for his train without

That was the trouble with having a lover who lived so far away and was
so busy that he could come only one evening a week. Long as you could
make that one evening, something always got crowded out. If you made
love, there was no time to talk. If you talked, there was no time to
make love. If you spent a great time in greetings, it curtailed your
good-by. If you began your good-by any earlier, why, it cut your evening
right in two. So the Girl sat and sulked a sad little while over the
general misery of the situation, until at last, to comfort herself with
the only means at hand, she went over to the closet and opened the door
just wide enough to stick her nose in and sniff ecstatically.

"Oh! O--h!" she crooned. "O--h! What a nice, smoky smell."

Then she took Hickory Dock and went to bed. This method of bunking was
nice for her, but it played sad havoc with Hickory Dock, who lay on his
back and whizzed and whirred and spun around at such a rate that when
morning came he was minutes and hours, not to say days, ahead of time.

This gain in time seemed rather an advantage to the Girl. She felt that
it was a good omen and must in some manner hasten the Wedding-Day, but
when she confided the same to the Man at his next visit he viewed the
fact with righteous scorn, though the fancy itself pleased him
mightily. The Girl learned that night, however, to eschew Hickory Dock
as a rag doll. She did not learn this, though, through any particular
solicitude for Hickory Dock, but rather because she had to stand by
respectfully a whole precious hour and watch the Man's lean, clever
fingers tinker with the little, jeweled mechanism. It was a fearful
waste of time. "You are so kind to _little_ things," she whispered at
last, with a catch in her voice that made the Man drop his work suddenly
and give all his attention to _big_ things. And another evening went,
while Hickory Dock stood up like a hero and refused to strike eleven.

So every Sunday night throughout the Winter and the Spring and the
Summer, the Man came joyously climbing up the long stairs to the Girl's
room, and every Sunday night Hickory Dock was started off on a fresh
round of Time and Love.

Hickory Dock, indeed, became a very precious object, for both Man and
Girl had reached that particular stage of love where they craved the
wonderful sensation of owning some vital thing together. But they were
so busy loving that they did not recognize the instinct. The man looked
upon Hickory Dock as an exceedingly blessed toy. The Girl grew gradually
to cherish the little clock with a certain tender superstition and
tingling reverence that sent her heart pounding every time the Man's
fingers turned to any casual tinkering.

And the Girl grew so exquisitely dear that the Man thought all women
were like her. And the Man grew so sturdily precious that the Girl knew
positively there was no person on earth to be compared with him. Over
this happiness Hickory Dock presided throbbingly, and though he balked
sometimes and bolted or lagged, he never stopped, and he never struck

Thus things went on in the customary way that things do go on with men
and girls--until the Chronic Quarrel happened. The Chronic Quarrel was a
trouble quite distinct from any ordinary lovers' disturbance, and it was
a very silly little thing like this: The Girl had a nature that was
emotionally apprehensive. She was always looking, as it were, for "dead
men in the woods." She was always saying, "Suppose you get tired of me?"
"Suppose I died?" "Suppose I found out that you had a wife living?"
"Suppose you lost all your legs and arms in a railroad accident when you
were coming here some Sunday night?"

And one day the Man had snapped her short with "Suppose? Suppose? What
arrant nonsense! Suppose?--Suppose I fall in love with the Girl in the

It seemed to him the most extravagant supposition that he could
possibly imagine, and he was perfectly delighted with its effect on his
Sweetheart. She grew silent at once and very wistful.

After that he met all her apprehensions with "Suppose?--Suppose I fall
in love with the Girl in the Office!"

And one day the Girl looked up at him with hot tears in her eyes and
said tersely, "Well, why don't you fall in love with her if you _want_

That, of course, made a little trouble, but it was delicious fun making
up, and the "Girl in the Office" became gradually one of those
irresistibly dangerous jokes that always begin with laughter and end
just as invariably with tears. When the Girl was sad or blue the Man was
clumsy enough to try and cheer her with facetious allusions to the "Girl
in the Office," and when the Girl was supremely, radiantly happy she
used to boast, "Why, I'm so happy I don't care a _rap_ about your old
'Girl in the Office.'" But whatever way the joke began, it always ended
disastrously, with bitterness and tears, yet neither Man nor Girl could
bear to formally taboo the subject lest it should look like the first
shirking of their perfect intimacy and freedom of speech. The Man felt
that in love like theirs he ought to be able to say anything he wanted
to, so he kept on saying it, while the Girl claimed an equal if more
caustic liberty of expression, and the Chronic Quarrel began to fester
a little round its edges.

One night in November, when Hickory Dock was nearly a year old in love,
the Chronic Quarrel came to a climax. The Man was very listless that
evening, and absent-minded, and altogether inadequate. The Girl accused
him of indifference. He accused her in return of a shrewish temper. She
suggested that perhaps he regretted his visit. He failed to contradict
her. Then the Girl drew herself up to an absurd height for so small a
creature and said stiffly,--

"You don't have to come next Sunday night if you don't want to."

At her scathing words the Man straightened up very suddenly in his chair
and gazed over at the little clock in a startled sort of way.

"Why, of course I shall come," he retorted impulsively, "Hickory Dock
needs me, if you don't."

"Oh, come and wind the clock by all means," flared the Girl. "I'm glad
_something_ needs you!"

Then the Man followed his own judgment and went home, though it was only
ten o'clock.

"I'm not going to write to him this week," sobbed poor Rosalie. "I think
he's very disagreeable."

But when the next Sunday came and the Man was _late_, it seemed as
though an Eternity had been tacked onto a hundred years. It was fully
quarter-past eight before he came climbing up the stairs.

The Girl looked scornfully at the clock. Her throat ached like a bruise.
"You didn't hurry yourself much, did you?" she asked spitefully.

The Man looked up quickly and bit his lip. "The train was late," he
replied briefly. He did not stop to take off his coat, but walked over
to the table and wound Hickory Dock. Then he hesitated the smallest
possible fraction of a moment, but the Girl made no move, so he picked
up his hat and started for the door.

The Girl's heart sank, but her pride rose proportionally. "Is that all
you came for?" she flushed. "Good! I am very tired to-night."

Then the Man went away. She counted every footfall on the stairs. In the
little hush at the street doorway she felt that he must surely turn and
come running back again, breathless and eager, with outstretched arms
and all the kisses she was starving for. But when she heard the front
door slam with a vicious finality she went and threw herself, sobbing on
the couch. "Fifty miles just to wind a clock!" she raged in grief and
chagrin. "I'll punish him for it if that's all he comes for."

So the next Sunday night she took Hickory Dock with a cruel jerk, and
put him on the floor just outside her door, and left a candle burning so
that the Man could not possibly fail to see what was intended. "If all
he comes for is to wind the clock, just because he _promised_, there's
no earthly use of his coming in," she reasoned, and went into her room
and shut and locked her door, waiting nervously with clutched hands for
the footfall on the stairs. "He loves some one else! He loves some one
else!" she kept prodding herself.

Just at eight o'clock the Man came. She heard him very distinctly on the
creaky board at the head of the stairs, and her heart beat to
suffocation. Then she heard him come close to the door, as though he
stooped down, and then he--laughed.

"Oh, very well," thought the Girl. "So he thinks it's funny, does he? He
has no business to laugh while I am crying, even if he does love some
one else.--I _hate him_!"

The Man knocked on the door very softly, and the Girl gripped tight hold
of her chair for fear she should jump up and let him in. He knocked
again, and she heard him give a strange little gasp of surprise. Then he
tried the door-handle. It turned fatuously, but the door would not open.
He pushed his weight against it,--she could almost feel the soft whirr
of his coat on the wood,--but the door would not yield.--Then he turned
very suddenly and went away.

The Girl got up with a sort of gloating look, as though she liked her
pain. "Next Sunday night is the last Sunday night of his year's
promise," she brooded; "then everything will be over. He will see how
wise I was not to let him promise forever and ever. I will send Hickory
Dock to him by express to save his coming for the final ceremony." Then
she went out and got Hickory Dock and brought him in and shook him, but
Hickory Dock continued to tick, "Till he comes! Till he comes! Till he

It was a very tedious week. It is perfectly absurd to measure a week by
the fact that seven days make it--some days are longer than others. By
Wednesday the Girl's proud little heart had capitulated utterly, and she
decided not to send Hickory Dock away by express, but to let things take
their natural course. And every time she thought of the "natural course"
her heart began to pound with expectation. Of course, she would not
acknowledge that she really expected the Man to come after her cruel
treatment of him the previous week. "Everything is over. Everything is
over," she kept preaching to herself with many gestures and
illustrations; but next to God she put her faith in promises, and hadn't
the Man promised a great, sacred lover's promise that he would come
every Sunday for a year? So when the final Sunday actually came she went
to her wedding-box and took out her "second best" of everything, silk
and ruffles and laces, and dressed herself up for sheer pride and joy,
with tingling thoughts of the night when she should wear her "first
best" things. She put on a soft, little, white Summer dress that the Man
liked better than anything else, and stuck a pink bow in her hair, and
big rosettes on her slippers, and drew the big Morris chair towards the
fire, and brought the Man's pipe and tobacco-box from behind the gilt
mirror. Then she took Hickory Dock very tenderly and put him outside the
door, with two pink candles flaming beside him, and a huge pink rose
over his left ear. She thought the Man could smell the rose the second
he opened the street door. Then she went back to her room, and left her
door a wee crack open, and crouched down on the floor close to it, like
a happy, wounded thing, and _waited_--

But the Man did not come. Eight o'clock, nine o'clock, ten o'clock,
eleven o'clock, twelve o'clock, she waited, cramped and cold, hoping
against hope, fearing against fear. Every creak on the stairs thrilled
her. Every fresh disappointment chilled her right through to her heart.
She sat and rocked herself in a huddled heap of pain, she taunted
herself with lack of spirit, she goaded herself with intricate
remorse--but she never left her bitter vigil until half-past two. Then
some clatter of milkmen in the street roused her to the realization of a
new day, and she got up dazed and icy, like one in a dream, and limped
over to her couch and threw herself down to sleep like a drunken person.

Late the next morning she woke heavily with a vague, dull sense of loss
which she could not immediately explain. She lay and looked with
astonishment at the wrinkled folds of the white mull dress that bound
her limbs like a shroud. She clutched at the tightness of her collar,
and fingered with surprise the pink bow in her hair. Then slowly, one by
one, the events of the previous night came back to her in all their
significance, and with a muffled scream of heartbreak she buried her
face in the pillow. She cried till her heart felt like a clenched fist
within her, and then, with her passion exhausted, she got up like a
little, cold, rumpled ghost and pattered out to the hall in her
silk-stockinged feet, and picked up Hickory Dock with his wilted pink
rose and brought him in and put him back on her desk. Then she brought
in the mussy, pink-smooched candlesticks and stowed them far away in her
closet behind everything else. The faintest possible scent of
tobacco-smoke came to her from the closet depths, and as she reached
instinctively to take a sad little whiff she became suddenly conscious
that there was a strange, uncanny _hush_ in the room, as though a soul
had left its body. She turned back quickly and cried out with a
smothered cry. Hickory Dock had stopped!

"Until--the--end--of--Time," she gasped, and staggered hard against the
closet-door. Then in a flash she burst out laughing stridently, and
rushed for Hickory Dock and grabbed him by his little silver handle,
opened the window with a bang, and threw him with all her might and main
down into the brick alley four stories below, where he fell with a
sickening crash among a wee handful of scattered rose petals.

--The days that followed were like horrid dreams, the nights, like
hideous realities. The fire would not burn. The sun and moon would not
shine, and life itself settled down like a pall. Every detail of that
Sunday night stamped and re stamped itself upon her mind. Back of her
outraged love was the crueller pain of her outraged faith. The Man of
his own free will had made a sacred promise and broken it! She realized
now for the first time in her life why men went to the devil because
women had failed them--not disappointed them, but _failed_ them! She
could even imagine how poor mothers felt when fathers shirked their
fatherhood. She tasted in one week's imagination all possible woman
sorrows of the world.

At the end of the second week she began to realize the depth of
isolation into which her engagement had thrown her. For a year and a
half she had thought nothing, dreamed nothing, cared for nothing except
the Man. Now, with the Man swept away, there was no place to turn either
for comfort or amusement.

At the end of the third week, when no word came, she began to gather
together all the Man's little personal effects, and consigned them to a
box out of sight--the pipe and tobacco, a favorite book, his soft
Turkish slippers, his best gloves, and even a little poem which he had
written for her to set to music. It was a pretty little love-song that
they had made together, but as she hummed it over now for the last time
she wondered if, after all, _woman's music_ did not do more than man's
words to make love Singable.

When a month was up she began to strip the room of everything that the
Man had brought towards the making of their Home. It was like stripping
tendons. She had never realized before how thoroughly the Man's
personality had dominated her room as well as her life. When she had
crowded his books, his pictures, his college trophies, his Morris chair,
his rugs, into one corner of her room and covered them with two big
sheets, her little, paltry, feminine possessions looked like chiffon in
a desert.

While she was pondering what to do next her rent fell due. The month's
idling had completely emptied her pewter savings-bank that she had been
keeping as a sort of precious joke for the Honeymoon. The rent-bill
startled her into spasmodic efforts at composition. She had been quite
busy for a year writing songs for some Educational people, but how could
one make harmony with a heart full of discord and all life off the key.
A single week convinced her of the utter futility of these efforts. In
one high-strung, wakeful night she decided all at once to give up the
whole struggle and go back to her little country village, where at least
she would find free food and shelter until she could get her grip again.

For three days she struggled heroically with burlap and packing-boxes.
She felt as though every nail she pounded was hurting the Man as well as
herself, and she pounded just as hard as she possibly could.

When the room was stripped of every atom of personality except her
couch, and the duplicate latch-key, which still hung high and dusty, a
deliciously cruel thought came to the Girl, and the irony of it set her
eyes flashing. On the night before her intended departure she took the
key and put it into a pretty little box and sent it to the Man.

"He'll know by that token," she said, "that there's no more 'Home' for
him and me. He will get his furniture a few days later, and then he will
see that everything is scattered and shattered. Even if he's married by
this time, the key will hurt him, for his wife will want to know what it
means, and he never can tell her."

Then she cried so hard that her overwrought, half-starved little body
collapsed, and she crept into her bed and was sick all night and all the
next day, so that there was no possible thought or chance of packing or
traveling. But towards the second evening she struggled up to get
herself a taste of food and wine from her cupboard, and, wrapping
herself in her pink kimono, huddled over the fire to try and find a
little blaze and cheer.

Just as the flames commenced to flush her cheeks the lock clicked. She
started up in alarm. The door opened abruptly, and the Man strode in
with a very determined, husbandly look on his haggard face. For the
fraction of a second he stood and looked at her pitifully frightened and
disheveled little figure.

"Forgive me," he cried, "but I _had_ to come like this." Then he took
one mighty stride and caught her up in his arms and carried her back to
her open bed and tucked her in like a child while she clung to his neck
laughing and sobbing and crying as though her brain was turned. He
smoothed her hair, he kissed her eyes, he rubbed his rough cheek
confidently against her soft one, and finally, when her convulsive
tremors quieted a little, he reached down into his great overcoat pocket
and took out poor, battered, mutilated Hickory Dock.

"I found him down in the Janitor's office just now," he explained, and
his mouth twitched just the merest trifle at the corners.

"Don't smile," said the Girl, sitting up suddenly very straight and
stiff. "Don't smile till you know the whole truth. _I_ broke Hickory
Dock. I threw him _purposely_ four stories down into the brick alley!"

The Man began to examine Hickory Dock very carefully.

"I should judge that it was a _brick_ alley," he remarked with an odd
twist of his lips, as he tossed the shattered little clock over to the
burlap-covered armchair.

Then he took the Girl very quietly and tenderly in his arms again, and
gazed down into her eyes with a look that was new to him.

"Rosalie," he whispered, "I will mend Hickory Dock for you if it takes
a thousand years,"--his voice choked,--"but I wish to God I could mend
my broken promise as easily!"

And Rosalie smiled through her tears and said,--

"Sweetheart-Man, you do love me?"

"With all my heart and soul and body and breath, and past and present
and future I _love you_!" said the Man.

Then Rosalie kissed a little path to his ear, and whispered, oh, so

"Sweetheart-Man, I love _you_ just that same way."

And Hickory Dock, the Angel, never ticked the passing of a single
second, but lay on his back looking straight up to Heaven with his two
little battered hands clasped eternally at Love's _high noon_.


ON one of those wet, warm, slushy February nights when the vapid air
sags like sodden wool in your lungs, and your cheek-bones bore through
your flesh, and your leaden feet seem strung directly from the roots of
your eyes, three girls stampeded their way through the jostling, peevish
street crowds with no other object in Heaven or Earth except just to

It was supper time, too, somewhere between six and seven, the caved-in
hour of the day when the ruddy ghost of Other People's dinners flaunts
itself rather grossly in the pallid nostrils of Her Who Lives by the

One of the girls was a Medical Masseuse, trained brain and brawn in the
German Hospitals. One was a Public School Teacher with a tickle of chalk
dust in her lungs. One was a Cartoon Artist with a heart like chiffon
and a wit as accidentally malicious as the jab of a pin in a flirt's

All three of them were silly with fatigue. The writhing city cavorted
before them like a sick clown. A lame cab horse went strutting like a
mechanical toy. Crape on a door would have plunged them into hysterics.
Were you ever as tired as that?

It was, in short, the kind of night that rips out every one according to
his stitch. Rhoda Hanlan the Masseuse was ostentatiously sewed with
double thread and backstitched at that. Even the little Teacher, Ruth
MacLaurin, had a physique that was embroidered if not darned across its
raveled places. But Noreen Gaudette, the Cartoon Drawer, with her
spangled brain and her tissue-paper body, was merely basted together
with a single silken thread. It was the knowledge of being only basted
that gave Noreen the droll, puckered terror in her eyes whenever Life
tugged at her with any specially inordinate strain.

Yet it was Noreen who was popularly supposed to be built with an
electric battery instead of a heart.

The boarding-house that welcomed the three was rather tall for beauty,
narrow-shouldered, flat-chested, hunched together in the block like a
prudish, dour old spinster overcrowded in a street car. To call such a
house "Home" was like calling such a spinster "Mother." But the three
girls called it "Home" and rather liked the saucy taste of the word in
their mouths.

Across the threshold in a final spurt of energy the jaded girls pushed
with the joyous realization that there were now only five flights of
stairs between themselves and their own attic studio.

On the first floor the usual dreary vision greeted them of a hall table
strewn with stale letters--most evidently bills, which no one seemed in
a hurry to appropriate.

It was twenty-two stumbling, bundle-dropping steps to the next floor,
where the strictly Bachelor Quarters with half-swung doors emitted a
pleasant gritty sound of masculine voices, and a sumptuous cloud of
cigarette smoke which led the way frowardly up twenty-two more toiling
steps to the Old Maid's Floor, buffeted itself naughtily against the
sternly shut doors, and then mounted triumphantly like sweet incense to
the Romance Floor, where with door alluringly open the Much-Loved Girl
and her Mother were frankly and ingenuously preparing for the
Monday-Night-Lover's visit.

The vision of the Much-Loved Girl smote like a brutal flashlight upon
the three girls in the hall.

Out of curl, out of breath, jaded of face, bedraggled of clothes, they
stopped abruptly and stared into the vista.

Before their fretted eyes the room stretched fresh and clean as a newly
returned laundry package. The green rugs lay like velvet grass across
the floor. The chintz-covered furniture crisped like the crust of a
cake. Facing the gilt-bound mirror, the Much-Loved Girl sat joyously in
all her lingerie-waisted, lace-paper freshness, while her Mother hovered
over her to give one last maternal touch to a particularly rampageous
blond curl.

[Illustration: With no other object, except to get home]

The Much-Loved Girl was a cordial person. Her liquid, mirrored
reflection nodded gaily out into the hall. There was no fatigue in the
sparkling face. There was no rain or fog. There was no street-corner
insult. There was no harried stress of wherewithal. There was just
Youth, and Girl, and Cherishing.

She made the Masseuse and the little School Teacher think of a pale-pink
rose in a cut-glass vase. But she made Noreen Gaudette _feel_ like a
vegetable in a boiled dinner.

With one despairing gasp--half-chuckle and half-sob--the three girls
pulled themselves together and dashed up the last flight of stairs to
the Trunk-Room Floor, and their own attic studio, where bumping through
the darkness they turned a sulky stream of light upon a room more
tired-looking than themselves, and then, with almost fierce abandon,
collapsed into the nearest resting-places that they could reach.

It was a long time before any one spoke.

Between the treacherous breeze of the open window and a withering
blast of furnace heat the wilted muslin curtain swayed back and forth
with languid rhythm. Across the damp night air came faintly the
yearning, lovery smell of violets, and the far-off, mournful whine of a
sick hand-organ.

On the black fur hearth-rug Rhoda, the red-haired, lay prostrated like a
broken tiger lily with her long, lithe hands clutched desperately at her

"I am so tired," she said. "I am so tired that I can actually feel my
hair fade."

Ruth, the little Public School Teacher, laughed derisively from her
pillowed couch where she struggled intermittently with her suffocating
collar and the pinchy buckles on her overshoes.

"That's nothing," she asserted wanly. "I am so tired that I would like
to build me a pink-wadded silk house, just the shape of a slipper, where
I could snuggle down in the toe and go to sleep for a--million years. It
isn't to-morrow's early morning that racks me, it's the thought of all
the early mornings between now and the Judgment Day. Oh, any sentimental
person can cry at night, but when you begin to cry in the morning--to
lie awake and cry in the morning--" Her face sickened suddenly. "Did you
see that Mother downstairs?" she gasped, "fixing that curl? Think of
having a Mother!"

Then Noreen Gaudette opened her great gray eyes and grinned
diabolically. She had a funny little manner of cartooning her emotions.

"Think of having a Mother?" she scoffed. "What nonsense!--_Think of
having a c-u-r-l!_

"You talk like Sunday-Paper débutantes," she drawled. "You don't know
anything about being tired. Why, I am so tired--I am so tired--that I
wish--I wish that the first man who ever proposed to me would come back
and ask me--_again_!"

It was then that the Landlady, knocking at the door, presented a card,
"Mr. Ernest T. Dextwood," for Miss Gaudette, and the innocent-looking
conversation exploded suddenly like a short-fused firecracker.

Rhoda in an instant was sitting bolt upright with her arms around her
knees rocking to and fro in convulsive delight. Ruth much more
thoughtfully jumped for Noreen's bureau drawer. But Noreen herself,
after one long, hyphenated "Oh, my _H-e-a-v-e-n-s_!" threw off her damp,
wrinkled coat, stalked over to the open window, and knelt down
quiveringly where she could smother her blazing face in the inconsequent

For miles and miles the teasing lights of Other Women's homes stretched
out before her. From the window-sill below her rose the persistent
purple smell of violets, and the cooing, gauzy laughter of the
Much-Loved Girl. Fatigue was in the damp air, surely, but Spring was
also there, and Lonesomeness, and worst of all, that desolating sense of
patient, dying snow wasting away before one's eyes like Life itself.

When Noreen turned again to her friends her eyelids drooped defiantly
across her eyes. Her lips were like a scarlet petal under the bite of
her teeth. There in the jetty black and scathing white of her dress she
loomed up suddenly like one of her own best drawings--pulseless ink and
stale white paper vitalized all in an instant by some miraculous
emotional power. A living Cartoon of "_Fatigue_" she stood
there--"_Fatigue_," as she herself would have drawn it--no flaccid
failure of wilted bone and sagging flesh, but _Verve_--the taut Brain's
pitiless rally of the Body that can not afford to rest--the verve of
Factory Lights blazing overtime, the verve of the Runner who drops at
his goal.

"All the time I am gone," she grinned, "pray over and over, 'Lead Noreen
not into temptation.'" Her voice broke suddenly into wistful laughter:
"Why to meet again a man who used to love you--it's like offering
store-credit to a pauper."

Then she slammed the door behind her and started downstairs for the
bleak, plush parlor, with a chaotic sense of absurdity and bravado.

But when she reached the middle of the bachelor stairway and looked down
casually and spied her clumsy arctics butting out from her wet-edged
skirt all her nervousness focused instantly in her shaking knees, and
she collapsed abruptly on the friendly dark stair and clutching hold of
the banister, began to whimper.

In the midst of her stifled tears a door banged hard above her, the
floor creaked under a sturdy step, and the tall, narrow form of the
Political Economist silhouetted itself against the feeble light of the
upper landing.

One step down he came into the darkness--two steps, three steps, four,
until at last in choking miserable embarrassment, Noreen cried out

"Don't step on me--I'm _crying_!"

With a gasp of astonishment the young man struck a sputtering match and
bent down waving it before him.

"Why, it's _you_, Miss Gaudette," he exclaimed with relief. "What's the
matter? Are you ill? What are you crying about?" and he dropped down
beside her and commenced to fan her frantically with his hat.

"What _are_ you crying about?" he persisted helplessly, drugged
man-like, by the same embarrassment that mounted like wine to the
woman's brain.

Noreen began to laugh snuffingly.

"I'm not crying about anything special," she acknowledged. "I'm just
crying. I'm crying partly because I'm tired--and partly because I've got
my overshoes on--but _mostly_"--her voice began to catch again--"but
mostly--because there's a _man_ waiting to see me in the parlor."

The Political Economist shifted uneasily in his rain coat and stared
into Noreen's eyes.

"Great Heavens!" he stammered. "Do you always cry when men come to see
you? Is that why you never invited _me_ to call?"

Noreen shook her head. "I never have men come to see me," she answered
quite simply. "I go to see _them_. I study in their studios. I work on
their newspapers. I caricature their enemies. Oh, it isn't _men_ that
I'm afraid of," she added blithely, "but _this_ is something particular.
_This_ is something really very funny. Did you ever make a wish that
something perfectly preposterous would happen?"

"Oh, yes," said the Political Economist reassuringly. "This very day I
said that I wished my Stenographer would swallow the telephone."

"But she didn't swallow it, did she?" persisted Noreen triumphantly.
"Now I said that I wished some one would swallow the telephone and she
_did_ swallow it!"

Then her face in the dusky light flared piteously with harlequined
emotions. Her eyes blazed bright with toy excitement. Her lips curved
impishly with exaggerated drollery. But when for a second her head
drooped back against the banister her jaded small face looked for all
the world like a death-mask of a Jester.

The Political Economist's heart crinkled uncomfortably within him.

"Why, you poor little girl," he said. "I didn't know that women got as
tired as that. Let me take off your overshoes."

Noreen stood up like a well-trained pony and shed her clumsy footgear.

The Man's voice grew peremptory. "Your skirt is sopping wet. Are you
crazy? Didn't have time to get into dry things? Nonsense! Have you had
any supper? What? _N-o?_ Wait a minute."

In an instant he was flying up the stairs, and when he came back there
was a big glass of cool milk in his hand.

Noreen drank it ravenously, and then started downstairs with abrupt,
quick courage.

When she reached the ground floor the Political Economist leaned over
the banisters and shouted in a piercing whisper:

"I'll leave your overshoes outside my door where you can get them on
your way up later."

Then he laughed teasingly and added:

And Noreen, cleaving for one last second to the outer edge of the
banisters, smiled up at him, so strainingly _up_, that her face, to the
man above her, looked like a little flat white plate with a
crimson-lipped rose wilting on it.

Then she disappeared into the parlor.

With equal abruptness the Political Economist changed his mind about
going out, and went back instead to his own room and plunged himself
down in his chair, and smoked and thought, until his friend, the Poet at
the big writing-desk, slapped down his manuscript and stared at him

"Lord Almighty! I wish I could draw!" said the Political Economist. It
was not so much an exclamation as a reverent entreaty. His eyes narrowed
sketchily across the vision that haunted him. "If I could draw," he
persisted, "I'd make a picture that would hit the world like a knuckled
fist straight between its selfish old eyes. And I'd call that picture
'Talent.' I'd make an ocean chopping white and squally, with _black_
clouds scudding like fury across the sky, and no land in sight except
rocks. And I'd fill that ocean full of sharks and things--not showing
too much, you know, but just an occasional shimmer of fins through the
foam. And I'd make a sailboat scooting along, tipped 'way over on her
side toward you, with just a slip of an eager-faced girl in it. And I'd
wedge her in there, wind-blown, spray-dashed, foot and back braced to
the death, with the tiller in one hand and the sheet in the other, and
weather-almighty roaring all around her. And I'd make the riskiest
little leak in the bottom of that boat rammed desperately with a box of
chocolates, and a bunch of violets, and a large paper compliment in a
man's handwriting reading: 'Oh, how _clever_ you are.' And I'd have that
girl's face haggard with hunger, starved for sleep, tense with fear,
ravished with excitement. But I'd have her chin _up_, and her eyes
_open_, and the tiniest tilt of a quizzical smile hounding you like mad
across the snug, gilt frame. Maybe, too, I'd have a woman's magazine
blowing around telling in chaste language how to keep the hair 'smooth'
and the hands 'velvety,' and admonishing girls above all things not to
be eaten by sharks! Good Heavens, Man!" he finished disjointedly, "a
girl doesn't know how to sail a boat anyway!"

"_W-h-a-t_ are you talking about?" moaned the Poet.

The Political Economist began to knock the ashes furiously out of his

"What am I talking about?" he cried; "I'm talking about _girls_. I've
always said that I'd gladly fall in love if I only could decide what
kind of a girl I wanted to fall in love with. Well, I've decided!"

The Poet's face furrowed. "Is it the Much-Loved Girl?" he stammered.

The Political Economist's smoldering temper began to blaze.

"No, it isn't," ejaculated the Political Economist. "The Much-Loved Girl
is a sweet enough, airy, fairy sort of girl, but I'm not going to fall
in love with just a pretty valentine."

"Going to try a 'Comic'?" the Poet suggested pleasantly.

The Political Economist ignored the impertinence. "I am reasonably well
off," he continued meditatively, "and I'm reasonably good-looking, and
I've contributed eleven articles on 'Men and Women' to modern economic
literature, but it's dawned on me all of a sudden that in spite of all
my beauteous theories regarding life in general, I am just one big shirk
when it comes to life in particular."

The Poet put down his pen and pushed aside his bottle of rhyming fluid,
and began to take notice.

"Whom are you going to fall in love with?" he demanded.

The Political Economist sank back into his chair.

"I don't quite know," he added simply, "but she's going to be some
tired girl. Whatever else she may or may not be, she's got to be a tired

"A tired girl?" scoffed the Poet. "That's no kind of a girl to marry.
Choose somebody who's all pink and white freshness. That's the kind of a
girl to make a man happy."

The Political Economist smiled a bit viciously behind his cigar.

"Half an hour ago," he affirmed, "I was a beast just like you. Good
Heavens! Man," he cried out suddenly, "did you ever see a girl cry?
Really cry, I mean. Not because her manicure scissors jabbed her thumb,
but because her great, strong, tyrant, sexless brain had goaded her poor
little woman-body to the very cruelest, last vestige of its strength and
spirit. Did you ever see a girl like that Miss Gaudette upstairs--she's
the Artist, you know, who did those cartoons last year that played the
devil itself with 'Congress Assembled'--did you ever see a girl like
_that_ just plain thrown down, tripped in her tracks, sobbing like a
hurt, tired child? Your pink and white prettiness can cry like a rampant
tragedy-queen all she wants to over a misfitted collar, but my hand is
going here and now to the big-brained girl who cries like a child!"

"In short," interrupted the Poet, "you are going to help--Miss Gaudette
sail her boat?"

"Y-e-s," said the Political Economist.

"And so," mocked the Poet, "you are going to jump aboard and steer the
young lady adroitly to some port of your own choosing?"

The older man's jaws tightened ominously. "No, by the Lord Almighty,
that's just what I am not going to do!" he promised. "I'm going to help
her sail to the port of her own choosing!"

The Poet began to rummage in his mind for adequate arguments. "Oh,
allegorically," he conceded, "your scheme is utterly charming, but from
any material, matrimonial point of view I should want to remind myself
pretty hard that overwrought brains do not focus very easily on domestic
interests, nor do arms which have tugged as you say at 'sheets' and
'tillers' curve very dimplingly around youngsters' shoulders."

The Political Economist blew seven mighty smoke-puffs from his pipe.

"That would be the economic price I deserve to pay for not having
arrived earlier on the scene," he said quietly.

The Poet began to chuckle. "You certainly are hard hit," he scoffed.

          "Political Economy
           Gone to rhyme with Hominy!

It's an exquisite scheme!"

"It's a rotten rhyme," attested the Political Economist, and strode over
to the mantelpiece, where he began to hunt for a long piece of twine.

"Miss Gaudette," he continued, "is downstairs in the parlor now
entertaining a caller--some resurrected beau, I believe. Anyway, she
left her overshoes outside my door to get when she comes up again, and
I'm going to tie one end of this string to them and the other end to my
wrist, so that when she picks up her shoes a few hours later it will
wake me from my nap, and I can make one grand rush for the hall and--"

"Propose then and there?" quizzed the Poet.

"No, not exactly. But I'm going to ask her if she'll let me fall in love
with her."

The Poet sniffed palpably and left the room.

But the Political Economist lay back in his chair and went to sleep with
a great, pleasant expectancy in his heart.

When he woke at last with a sharp, tugging pain at his wrist the room
was utterly dark, and the little French clock had stopped aghast and
clasped its hands at eleven.

For a second he rubbed his eyes in perplexity. Then he jumped to his
feet, fumbled across the room and opened the door to find Noreen staring
with astonishment at the tied overshoes.

"Oh, I wanted to speak to you," he began. Then his eyes focused in
amazement on a perfectly huge bunch of violets which Noreen was clasping
desperately in her arms.

"Good Heavens!" he cried. "Is anybody dead?"

But Noreen held the violets up like a bulwark and commenced to laugh
across them.

"He did propose," she said, "and I accepted him! Does it look as though
I had chosen to be engaged with violets instead of a ring?" she
suggested blithely. "It's only that I asked him if he would be apt to
send me violets, and when he said: 'Yes, every week,' I just asked if I
please couldn't have them all at once. There must be a Billion dollars'
worth here. I'm going to have a tea-party to-morrow and invite the
Much-Loved Girl." The conscious, childish malice of her words twisted
her lips into an elfish smile. "It's Mr. Ernest Dextwood," she rattled
on: "Ernest Dextwood, the Coffee Merchant. He's a widower now--with
three children. Do--you--think--that--I--will--make--a--good--stepmother?"

The violets began to quiver against her breast, but her chin went higher
in rank defiance of the perplexing _something_ which she saw in the
Political Economist's narrowing eyes. She began to quote with playful
recklessness Byron's pert parody:

          "There is a tide in the affairs of women
           Which taken at its flood leads--God Knows Where."

But when the Political Economist did not answer her, but only stared
with brooding, troubled eyes, she caught her breath with a sudden
terrifying illumination. "Ouch!" she said. "O-u-c-h!" and wilted
instantly like a frost-bitten rose under heat. All the bravado, all the
stamina, all the glint of her, vanished utterly.

"Mr. Political Economist," she stammered, "Life--is--too--hard--for--me.
I am not Rhoda Hanlan with her sturdy German peasant stock. I am not
Ruth MacLaurin with her Scotch-plaited New Englandism. Nationality
doesn't count with me. My Father was a Violinist. My Mother was an
Actress. In order to marry, my Father swapped his music for discordant
factory noises, and my Mother shirked a dozen successful rôles to give
one life-long, very poor imitation of Happiness. My Father died of too
much to drink. My Mother died of too little to eat. And I was bred, I
guess, of very bitter love, of conscious sacrifice--of thwarted
genius--of defeated vanity. Life--is--too--hard--for--me--_alone_. I can
not finance it. I can not safeguard it. I can not weather it. _I am not
seaworthy!_ You might be willing to risk your _own_ self-consciousness,
but when the dead begin to come back and clamor in you--when you laugh
unexpectedly with your Father's restive voice--when you quicken
unexplainably to the Lure of gilt and tinsel--" A whimper of pain went
scudding across her face, and she put back her head and grinned--"You
can keep my overshoes for a souvenir," she finished abruptly. "I'm not
allowed any more to go out when it storms!" Then she turned like a flash
and ran swiftly up the stairs.

When he heard the door slam hard behind her, the Political Economist
fumbled his way back through the darkened room to his Morris chair, and
threw himself down again. Ernest Dextwood? He knew him well, a
prosperous, kindly, yet domestically tyrannical man, bright in the
office, stupid at home. Ernest Dextwood! So much less of a girl would
have done for him.

A widower with three children? The eager, unspent emotionalism of
Noreen's face flaunted itself across his smoky vision. All that hunger
for Life, for Love, for Beauty, for Sympathy, to be blunted once for all
in a stale, misfitting, ready-made home? A widower with three children!
God in Heaven, was she as tired as that!

It was a whole long week before he saw Noreen again. When he met her at
last she had just come in from automobiling, all rosy-faced and out of
breath, with her thin little face peering almost plumply from its heavy
swathings of light-blue veiling, and her slender figure deeply wrapped
in a wondrous covert coat.

Rhoda Hanlan and Ruth MacLaurin were close behind her, much more
prosaically garnished in golf capes and brown-colored mufflers. The
Political Economist stood by on the stairs to let them pass, and Noreen
looked back at him and called out gaily:

"It's lots of fun to be engaged. We're all enjoying it very much. It's

The next time he saw her she was on her way downstairs to the parlor, in
a long-tailed, soft, black evening gown that bothered her a bit about
managing. Her dark hair was piled up high on her head, and she had the
same mischievous, amateur-theatrical charm that the blue chiffon veil
and covert coat had given her.

Quite frankly she demanded the Political Economist's appreciation of her

"Just see how nice I can look when I really try?" she challenged him,
"but it took me all day to do it, and my work went to smash--and my
dress cost seventy dollars," she finished wryly.

But the Political Economist was surly about his compliment.

"No, I like you better in your little business suit," he attested
gruffly. And he lied, and he knew that he lied, for never before had he
seen the shrewd piquancy of her eyes so utterly swamped by just the
wild, sweet lure of girlhood.

Some time in May, however, when the shop windows were gay with women's
luxuries, he caught a hurried glimpse of her face gazing rather
tragically at a splurge of lilac-trimmed hats.

Later in the month he passed her in the Park, cuddled up on a bench,
with her shabby business suit scrunched tight around her, her elbows on
her knees, her chin burrowed in her hands, and her fiercely narrowed
eyes quaffing like some outlawed thing at the lusty new green grass, the
splashing fountain, the pinky flush of flowering quince. But when he
stopped to speak to her she jumped up quickly and pleaded the haste of
an errand.

It was two weeks later in scorching June that the biggest warehouses on
the river caught fire in the early part of the evening. The day had been
as harsh as a shining, splintery plank. The night was like a gray silk
pillow. In blissful, soothing consciousness of perfect comfort every one
in the boarding-house climbed up on the roof to watch the gorgeous,
fearful conflagration across the city. The Landlady's voice piped high
and shrill discussing the value of insurance. The Old Maids scuttled
together under their knitted shawls. The Much-Loved Girl sat amiably
enthroned among the bachelors with one man's coat across her shoulders,
another man's cap on her yellow head, and two deliciously timid hands
clutched at the coat-sleeves of the two men nearest her. Whenever she
bent her head she trailed the fluff of her hair across the enraptured
eyelids of the Poet.

Only Noreen Gaudette was missing.

"Where is Miss Gaudette?" probed the Political Economist.

The Masseuse answered vehemently: "Why, Noreen's getting ready to go to
the fire. Her paper sent for her just as we came up. There's an awful
row on, you know, about the inefficiency of the Fire Department, and
there's no other person in all the city who can make people look as
silly as Noreen can. If this thing appeals to her to-night, and she gets
good and mad enough, and keeps her nerve, there'll be the biggest
overhauling of the Fire Department that _you_ ever saw! But I'm sorry it
happened. It will be an all-night job, and Noreen is almost dead enough
as it is."

"An 'all-night job'?" The Much-Loved Girl gasped out her startled sense
of propriety, and snuggled back against the shoulder of the man who sat
nearest to her. She was very genuinely sorry for any one who had to be

The Political Economist, noting the incident in its entirety, turned
abruptly on his heel, climbed down the tremulous ladder to the
trunk-room floor and knocked peremptorily at Noreen's door.

In reply to the answer which he thought he heard, he turned the handle
of the door and entered. The gas jet sizzled blatantly across the room,
and a tiny blue flame toiled laboriously in a cooking lamp beneath a pot
of water. The room was reeking strong with the smell of coffee, the rank
brew that wafted him back in nervous terror to his college days and the
ghastly eve of his final examinations. A coat, a hat, a mouse-gray
sweater, a sketch-book, and a bunch of pencils were thrown together on
the edge of the divan. Crouched on the floor with head and shoulders
prostrate across her easel chair and thin hands straining at the
woodwork was Noreen Gaudette. The startled face that lifted to his was
haggard with the energy of a year rallied to the needs of an hour.

"I thought you told me to come in," said the Political Economist. "I
came down to go to the fire with you."

Noreen was on her feet in an instant, hurrying into her hat and coat,
and quaffing greedily at the reeking coffee.

"You ought to have some one to look after you," persisted the man.
"Where's Mr. Dextwood?"

Noreen stood still in the middle of the floor and stared at him.

"Why, I've broken my engagement," she exclaimed, trying hard to speak
tamely and reserve every possible fraction of her artificial energy.

"Oh, yes," she smiled wanly, "I couldn't afford to be engaged! I
couldn't afford the time. I couldn't afford the money. I couldn't afford
the mental distraction. I'm working again now, but it's horribly hard to
get back into the mood. My drawing has all gone to smash. But I'll get
the hang of it again pretty soon."

"You look in mighty poor shape to work to-night," said the Political
Economist. "What makes you go?"

"What makes me go?" cried Noreen, with an extravagant burst of
vehemence. "What makes me go?--Why, if I make good to-night on those
Fire-Department Pictures I get a Hundred Dollars, as well as the
assurance of all the Republican cartooning for the next city election.
It's worth a lot of money to me!"

"Enough to kill yourself for?" probed the Man.

Noreen's mouth began to twist. "Yes--if you still owe for your
automobile coat, and your black evening gown, and your room rent and a
few other trifles of that sort. But come on, if you'll promise not to
talk to me till it's all over." Like a pair of youngsters they scurried
down the stairs, jumped into the waiting cab, and galloped off toward
the river edge of the city.

True to his promise, the Political Economist did not speak to her, but
he certainly had not promised to keep his eyes shut as well as his
mouth. From the very first she sat far forward on the seat where the
passing street-lights blazed upon her unconscious face. The Man, the
cab, love-making, debt-paying, all were forgotten in her desperate
effort to keep keyed up to the working-point. Her brain was hurriedly
sketching in her backgrounds. Her suddenly narrowed eyes foretold the
tingling pride in some particular imagining. The flashing twist of her
smile predicted the touch of malice that was to make her pictures the
sensation of--a day.

The finish of the three-mile drive found her jubilant, prescient,
pulsing with power. The glow from the flames lit up the cab like a room.
The engine bells clanged around them. Sparks glittered. Steam hissed.
When the cabman's horse refused to scorch his nose any nearer the
conflagration, Noreen turned to the Political Economist with some
embarrassment. "If you really want to help me," she pleaded, "you'll
stay here in the cab and wait for me."

Then, before the Political Economist could offer his angry protest, she
had opened the door, jumped from the step, and disappeared into the
surging, rowdy throng of spectators. A tedious hour later the cab door
opened abruptly, and Noreen reappeared.

Her hat was slouched down over her heat-scorched eyes. Her shoulders
were limp. Her face was dull, dumb, gray, like a Japanese lantern robbed
of its candle. Bluntly she thrust her sketch-book into his hands and
threw herself down on the seat beside him.

"Oh, take me home," she begged. "Oh, take me home _quick_. It's no use,"
she added with a shrug, "I've seen the whole performance. I've been
everywhere--inside the ropes--up on the roofs--out on the waterfront.
The Fire Department Men are not 'inefficient.' They're simply _bully_!
_And I make no caricatures of heroes!_"

The lurch of the cab wheel against a curbstone jerked a faint smile into
her face. "Isn't it horrid," she complained, "to have a Talent and a
Living that depend altogether upon your _getting mad_?" Then her eyes
flooded with worry. "What _shall_ I do?"

"You'll marry me," said the Political Economist.

"Oh, no!" gasped Noreen. "I shall never, never marry any one! I told you
that I couldn't afford to be engaged. It takes too much time, and
besides," her color flamed piteously, "I didn't like being engaged."

"I didn't ask you to be engaged," persisted the Political Economist. "I
didn't ask you to serve any underpaid, ill-fed, half-hearted
apprenticeship to Happiness. I asked you to be married."

"Oh, no!" sighed Noreen. "I shall never marry any one."

The Political Economist began to laugh. "Going to be an old maid?" he

The high lights flamed into Noreen's eyes. She braced herself into the
corner of the carriage and fairly hurled her defiance at him.
Indomitable purpose raged in her heart, unutterable pathos drooped
around her lips. Every atom of blood in her body was working instantly
in her brain. No single drop of it loafed in her cheeks under the flimsy
guise of embarrassment.

"I am not an 'Old Maid!' I am not! No one who creates anything is an
'Old Maid'!"

The passion of her mood broke suddenly into wilful laughter. She shook
her head at him threateningly.

"Don't you ever dare to call me an 'Old Maid' again.--But I'll tell you
just what you can call me--Women are supposed to be the Poetry of Life,
aren't they--the Sonnet, the Lyric, the Limerick? Well--I am blank
verse. _That_ is the trouble with me. I simply _do not rhyme_.--That is

"Will you marry me?" persisted the Political Economist.

Noreen shook her head. "No!" she repeated. "You don't seem to
understand. Marriage is not for me. I tell you that I am Blank Verse. I
am _Talent_, and I do not _rhyme_ with Love. I am _Talent_ and I do not
rhyme with _Man_. There is no place in my life for you. You can not come
into my verse and rhyme with me!"

"Aren't you a little bit exclusive?" goaded the Political Economist.

Noreen nodded gravely. "Yes," she said, "I am brutally exclusive. But
everybody isn't. Life is so easy for some women. Now, the Much-Loved
Girl is nothing in the world except 'Miss.' She rhymes inevitably with
almost anybody's kiss.--_I_ am not just '_Miss_.' The Much-Loved Girl is
nothing in the world except 'Girl.'--She rhymes inevitably with 'Curl.'
_I_ am not just '_Girl_.' She is 'Coy' and rhymes with 'Boy.' She is
'Simple' and rhymes with 'Dimple.' _I am none of those things!_ I
haven't the Lure of the Sonnet. I haven't the Charm of the Lyric. I
haven't the Bait of the Limerick. At the very best I am 'Brain' and
rhyme with 'Pain.' And I wish I was _dead_!"

The Political Economist's heart was pounding like a gong smothered in
velvet. But he stooped over very quietly and pushed the floor cushion
under her feet and snuggled the mouse-gray sweater into a pillowed roll
behind her aching neck. Then from his own remotest corner he reached out
casually and rallied her limp, cold hand into the firm, warm clasp of
his vibrant fingers.

"Of course, you never have rhymed," he said. "How could you possibly
have rhymed when--_I am the missing lines of your verse_?" His clasp
tightened. "Never mind about Poetry to-night, Dear, but _to-morrow_
we'll take your little incomplete lonesome verse and quicken it into a
Love-Song that will make the Oldest Angel in Heaven sit up and


IT was not you, yourself, who invented your Happy-day. It was your
Father, long ago in little-lad time, when a Happy-Day or a Wooden
Soldier or High Heaven itself lay equally tame and giftable in the
cuddling, curving hollow of a Father's hand.

Your Father must have been a very great Genius. How else could he have
invented any happy thing in the black-oak library?

The black-oak library was a cross-looking room, dingy, lowering, and
altogether boggy. You could not stamp your boot across the threshold
without joggling the heart-beats out of the gaunt old clock that loomed
in the darkermost corner of the alcove. You could not tiptoe to the
candy box without plunging headlong into a stratum of creakiness that
puckered your spine as though an electric devil were pulling the very
last basting thread out of your little soul. Oh, it must have been a
very, very aged room. The darkness was abhorrent to you. The dampness
reeked with the stale, sad breath of ancient storms. Worst of all,
blood-red curtains clotted at the windows; rusty swords and daggers hung
most imminently from the walls, and along the smutted hearth a huge,
moth-eaten tiger skin humped up its head in really terrible ferocity.

Through all the room there was no lively spot except the fireplace

Usually, white birch logs flamed on the hearth with pleasant, crackling
cheerfulness, but on this special day you noted with alarm that between
the gleaming andirons a soft, red-leather book writhed and bubbled with
little gray wisps of pain, while out of a charry, smoochy mass of
nothingness a blue-flowered muslin sleeve stretched pleadingly toward
you for an instant, shuddered, blazed, and was--gone.

It was there that your Father caught you, with that funny, strange sniff
of havoc in your nostrils.

It was there that your Father told you his news.

When you are only a little, little boy and your Father snatches you
suddenly up in his arms and tells you that he is going to be married
again, it is very astonishing. You had always supposed that your Father
was perfectly married! In the dazzling sunshine of the village church
was there not a thrilly blue window that said quite distinctly, "Clarice
Val Dere" (that was your Mother) "Lived" (_Lived_, it said!) "June,
1860--December, 1880"? All the other windows said "Died" on them. Why
should your Father marry again?

In your Dear Father's arms you gasped, "Going to be _married_?" and your
two eyes must have popped right out of your head, for your Father
stooped down very suddenly and kissed them hard--whack, whack, back into

"N--o, not going to be married," he corrected, "but going to be

He spoke as though there were a great difference; but it was man-talk
and you did not understand it.

Then he gathered you into the big, dark chair and pushed you way out on
his knees and scrunched your cheeks in his hands and ate your face all
up with his big eyes. When he spoke at last, his voice was way down deep
like a bass drum.

"Little Boy Jack," he said, "you must never, never, never forget your
Dear Mother!"

His words and the bir-r-r of them shook you like a leaf.

"But what was my Dear Mother like?" you whimpered. You had never seen
your Mother.

Then your Father jumped up and walked hard on the creaky floor. When he
turned round again, his eyes were all wet and shiny like a brown
stained-glass window.

"What was your Dear Mother like?" he repeated. "Your Dear Mother was
like--was like--the flash of a white wing across a stormy sea. And your
Dear Mother's name was 'Clarice.' I give it to you for a Memorial. What
better Memorial could a little boy have than his Dear Mother's name? And
there is a date--" His voice grew suddenly harsh and hard like iron, and
his lips puckered on his words as with a taste of rust--"there is a
date--the 26th of April--No, that is too hard a date for a little boy's
memory! It was a Thursday. I give you Thursday for your--Happy-Day.
'Clarice' for a Memorial, and Thursday for your Happy-Day." His words
began to beat on you like blows. "As--long--as--you--live," he cried,
"be very kind to any one who is named 'Clarice.' And no matter what Time
brings you--weeks, months, years, centuries--_keep Thursday for your
Happy-Day_. No cruelty must ever defame it, no malice, no gross

Then he crushed you close to him for the millionth, billionth fraction
of a second, and went away, while you stayed behind in the scary
black-oak library, feeling as big and achy and responsible as you used
to feel when you and your Dear Father were carrying a heavy suit-case
together and your Dear Father let go his share just a moment to light
his brown cigar. It gave you a beautiful feeling in your head, but way
off in your stomach it tugged some.

So you crept away to bed at last, and dreamed that on a shining path
leading straight from your front door to Heaven you had to carry all
alone two perfectly huge suit-cases packed tight with love, and one of
the suit-cases was marked "Clarice" and one was marked "Thursday." Tug,
tug, tug, you went, and stumble, stumble, stumble, but your Dear Father
could not help you at all because he was perfectly busy carrying a fat
leather bag, some golf sticks, and a bull-terrier for a strange lady.

It was not a pleasant dream, and you screamed out so loud in the night
that the Housekeeper-Woman had to come and comfort you. It was the
Housekeeper-Woman who told you that on the morrow your Father was going
far off across the salt seas. It was the Housekeeper-Woman who told you
that you, yourself, were to be given away to a Grandmother-Lady in
Massachusetts. It was also the Housekeeper-Woman who told you that your
puppy dog Bruno--Bruno the big, the black, the curly, the waggy, was not
to be included in the family gift to the Grandmother-Lady. Everybody
reasoned, it seemed, that you would not need Bruno because there would
be so many other dogs in Massachusetts. That was just the trouble. They
_would_ all be "other dogs." It was Bruno that you wanted, for he was
the only _dog_, just as _you_ were the only _boy_ in the world. All the
rest were only "other boys." You could have explained the matter
perfectly to your Father if the Housekeeper-Woman had not made you cry
so that you broke your explainer. But later in the night the most
beautiful thought came to you. At first perhaps it tasted a little bit
sly in your mouth, but after a second it spread like ginger, warm and
sweet over your whole body except your toes, and you crept out of bed
like a flannel ghost and fumbled your way down the black hall to your
Dear Father's room and woke him shamelessly from his sleep. His eyes in
the moonlight gleamed like two frightened dreams.

"Dear Father," you cried--you could hardly get the words fast enough out
of your mouth--"Dear--Father--I--do--not--think--Bruno--is--a--very--good

That was how you and Bruno-Clarice happened to celebrate together your
first Happy-Day with a long, magic, joggling train journey to
Massachusetts--the only original _boy_ and the only original _dog_ in
all the world.

The Grandmother-Lady proved to be a very pleasant purple sort of
person. Exactly whose Grandmother she was, you never found out. She was
not your Father's mother. She was not your Mother's mother. With these
links missing, whose Grandmother could she be? You could hardly press
the matter further without subjecting her to the possible mortification
of confessing that she was only adopted. Maybe, crudest of all, she was
just a Paid-Grandmother.

The Grandmother-Lady lived in a perfectly brown house in a perfectly
green garden on the edge of a perfectly blue ocean. That was the Sight
of it. Salted mignonette was the Smell of it. And a fresh wind flapping
through tall poplar trees was always and forever the Sound of it.

The brown house itself was the living image of a prim, old-fashioned
bureau backed up bleakly to the street, with its piazza side yanked out
boldly into the garden like a riotous bureau drawer, through which the
Rising Sun rummaged every morning for some particular new shade of
scarlet or yellow nasturtiums. As though quite shocked by such bizarre
untidiness, the green garden ran tattling like mad down to the ocean and
was most frantically shooed back again, so that its little trees and
shrubs and flowers fluttered in a perpetual nervous panic of not knowing
which way to blow.

[Illustration: The blue ocean was the most wonderful thing of all]

But the blue ocean was the most wonderful thing of all. Never was there
such an ocean! Right from the far-away edge of the sky it came, roaring,
ranting, rumpling, till it broke against the beach all white and frilly
like the Grandmother-Lady's best ruching. It was morning when you saw
the ocean first, and its pleasant waters gleamed like a gorgeous,
bright-blue looking-glass covered with paper ships all filled with Other
Boys' fathers. It was not till the first night came down--black and
mournful and moany--it was not till the first night came down that you
saw that the ocean was Much Too Large. There in your chill linen bed,
with the fear of Sea and Night and Strangers upon you, you discovered a
very strange droll thing--that your Father was a Person and might
therefore leave you, but that your Mother was a _feeling_ and would
never, never, never forsake you. Bruno-Clarice, slapping his fat, black
tail against your bedroom floor, was something of a _feeling_ too.

Most fortunately for your well-being, the Grandmother-Lady's house was
not too isolated from its neighbors. To be sure, a tall, stiff hedge
separated the green garden from the lavender-and-pink garden next door,
but a great scraggly hole in the hedge gave a beautiful prickly zest to
friendly communication.

More than this, two children lived on the other side of the hedge.
You had never had any playmates before in all your life!

One of the children was just Another Boy--a duplicate of you. But the
other one was--_the only original girl_. Next to the big ocean, she was
the surprise of your life. She wore skirts instead of clothes. She wore
curls instead of hair. She wore stockings instead of legs. She cried
when you laughed. She laughed when you cried. She was funny from the
very first second, even when the Boy asked you if your big dog would
bite. The Boy stood off and kept right on asking: "Will he bite? Will he
bite? _W-i-l-l_ he _bite_?" But the Girl took a great rough stick and
pried open Bruno-Clarice's tusky mouth _to see if he would_, and when he
_g-r-o-w-l-e-d_, she just kissed him smack on his black nose and called
him "A Precious," and said, "Why, of course he'll bite."

The Boy was ten years old--a year older, and much fatter than you. His
name was Sam. The Girl was only eight years old, and you could not tell
at first whether she was thin or fat, she was so ruffledy. She had a
horrid dressy name, "Sophia." But everybody called her Ladykin.

Oh, it is fun to make a boat that will flop sideways through the waves.
It is fun to make a windmill that will whirl and whirl in the grass. It
is fun to make an education. It is fun to make a fortune. But most of
anything in the world it is fun to make a _friend_!

You had never made a _friend_ before. First of all you asked, "How old
are you?" "Can you do fractions?" "Can you name the capes on the west
coast of Africa?" "What is your favorite color? Green? Blue? Pink? Red?
Or yellow?" Sam voted for green. Ladykin chose green _and_ blue _and_
pink _and_ red _and_ yellow, _also_ purple. Then you asked, "Which are
you most afraid of, the Judgment Day or a Submarine Boat?" Sam chose the
Submarine Boat right off, so you had to take the Judgment Day, which was
not a very pleasant fear to have for a pet. Ladykin declared that she
wasn't afraid of anything in the world except of Being Homely. Wasn't
that a silly fear? Then you got a little more intimate and asked, "What
is your Father's business?" Sam and Ladykin's Father kept a huge candy
store. It was mortifying to have to confess that your Father was only an
Artist, but you laid great stress on his large eyes and his long

Then you three went off to the sandy beach and climbed up on a great
huddly gray rock to watch the huge yellow sun go down all shiny and
important, like a twenty-dollar gold piece in a wad of pink cotton
batting. The tide was going out, too, the mean old "injun-giver,"
taking back all the pretty, chuckling pebbles, the shining ropes of
seaweed, the dear salt secrets it had brought so teasingly to your feet
a few hours earlier. You were very lonesome. But not till the gold and
pink was almost gone from the sky did you screw your courage up to its
supreme point. First you threw four stones very far out into the surf,

"What--is--your--Mother--like?" you whispered.

Ladykin went to her answer with impetuous certainty:

"Our Mother," she announced, "is fat and short and wears skin-tight
dresses, and is President of the Woman's Club, and is sometimes cross."

A great glory came upon you and you clutched for wonder at the choking
neck of your little blouse.

"M-y Mother," you said, "m-y Mother is like the Flash of a White Wing
across a Stormy Sea!"

You started to say more, but with a wild war-whoop of amusement, Sam
lost his balance and fell sprawling into the sand. "Oh, what a funny
Mother!" he shouted, but Ladykin jumped down on him furiously and began
to kick him with her scarlet sandals. "Hush! hush!" she cried, "Jack's
Mother is dead!" and then in an instant she had clambered back to your
side again and snuggled her little soft girl-cheek close against yours,
while with one tremulous hand she pointed way out beyond the surf line
where a solitary, snow-white gull swooped down into the Blue. "Look!"
she gasped, "L-o-o-k!" and when you turned to her with a sudden gulping
sob, she kissed you warm and sweet upon your lips.

It was not a Father kiss with two tight arms and a scrunching pain. It
was not a Grandmother-Lady kiss complimenting your clean face. It was
not a Bruno-Clarice kiss, mute and wistful and lappy. There was no pain
in it. There was no compliment. There was no doggish fealty. There was
just _sweetness_.

Then you looked straight at Ladykin, and Ladykin looked straight at you,
looked and _looked_ and LOOKED, and you both gasped right out loud
before the first miracle of your life, the Miracle of the Mating of
Thoughts. Without a word of suggestion, without a word of explanation,
you and Ladykin clasped hands and tiptoed stealthily off to the very
edge of the water, and knelt down slushily in the sand, and stooped way
over, oh, way, way over, with the cold waves squirting up your cuffs;
and kissed two perfectly round floaty kisses out to the White Sea-Gull,
and after a minute the White Gull rose in the sky, swirled round and
round and round, stopped for a second, and then with a wild cry swooped
down again into the blue--Once! Twice! and then with a great fountainy
splash of wings rose high in the air like a white silk kite and went
scudding off like mad into the Grayness, then into the Blackness, then
into the Nothingness of the night. And you stayed behind on that
pleasant, safe, sandy edge of things with all the sweetness gone from
your lips, and nothing left you in all the world but the thudding of
your heart, and a queer, sad, salty pucker on your tongue that gave you
a thirst not so much for water as for _life_.

Oh, you learned a great deal about living in those first few days and
weeks and months at the Grandmother-Lady's house.

You learned, for instance, that if you wanted to _do_ things, Boys were
best; but if you wanted to _think_ things, then Girls were infinitely
superior. You, yourself, were part Thinker and part Doer.

Sam was a _doer_ from start to finish, strong of limb, long of wind,
sturdy of purpose. But Sam was certainly prosy in his head. Ladykin, on
the contrary, had "gray matter" that jumped like a squirrel in its cage,
and fled hither and yon, and turned somersaults, and leaped through
hoops, and was altogether alert beyond description. But she could not
_do_ things. She could not stay in the nice ocean five minutes without
turning blue. She could not climb a tree without falling and bumping
her nose. She could not fight without getting mad. Out of these proven
facts you evolved a beautiful theory that if Thinky-Girls could only be
taught to _do_ things, they would make the most perfect playmates in all
the wide, wide world. Yet somehow you never made a theory to improve
Sam, though Sam's inability to think invariably filled you with a very
cross, unholy contempt for him, while Ladykin's inability to _do_ only
served to thrill you with the most delicious, sweet, puffy pride in

Sam was very evidently a Person. Ladykin was a Feeling. You began almost
at once to distinguish between Persons and Feelings. Anything that
straightened out your head was a Person. Anything that puckered up your
heart was a Feeling. Your Father, you had found out, was a Person. The
Grandmother-Lady was a Person. Sam was a Person. Sunshine was a Person.
A Horse was a Person. A Chrysanthemum was a Person. But your Mother was
a Feeling. And Ladykin was a Feeling. And Bruno-Clarice was a Feeling.
And the Ocean Blue was a Feeling. And a Church Organ was a Feeling. And
the Smell of a June Rose was a Feeling. Perhaps your Happy-Day was the
biggest Feeling of All.

Thursday, to be sure, came only once a week, but--_such a Thursday_!
Even now, if you shut your eyes tight and gasp a quick breath, you can
sense once more the sweet, crisp joy of fresh, starched clothes, and
the pleasant, shiny jingle of new pennies in your small white cotton
pockets. White? Yes; your Father had said that always on that day you
should go like a little white Flag of Truce on an embassy to Fate. And
Happiness? Could anything in the world make more for happiness than to
be perfectly clean in the morning and perfectly dirty at night, with
something rather frisky to eat for dinner, and Sam and Ladykin
invariably invited to supper? Your Happy-Day was your Sacristy, too.
Nobody ever punished you on Thursday. Nobody was ever cross to you on
Thursday. Even if you were very black-bad the last thing Wednesday
night, you were perfectly, blissfully, lusciously safe until Friday

Oh, a Happy-Day was a very simple thing to manage compared with the
terrible difficulties of being kind to everybody named "Clarice." There
was _nobody_ named Clarice! In all the town, in all the directory, in
all the telephone books, you and Ladykin could not find a single person
named Clarice. Once in a New York newspaper you read about a young
Clarice-Lady of such and such a street who fell and broke her hip; and
you took twenty shiny pennies of your money and bought a beautiful,
hand-painted celluloid brush-holder and sent it to her; but you never,
never heard that it did her any good. You did not want your Father to
be mad at you, but Ladykin reasoned you out of your possible worry by
showing you how if you ever saw your Father again you could at least
plant your feet firmly, fold your arms, puff out your chest, and affirm
distinctly: "Dear Father, I have _never_ been cruel to _any one_ named
'Clarice.'" Ladykin knew perfectly well how to manage it. Ladykin knew
perfectly well how to manage everything.

Sam was the stupid one. Sam took a certain pleasure in Bruno-Clarice,
but he never realized that Bruno-Clarice was a sacred dog. Sam thought
that it was very fine for you to have a Happy-Day, with Clean Clothes,
and Ice-Cream, and Pennies, but he never almost _burst_ with the wonder
of the day.

Sam thought that it was pleasant enough for you to have a dead Mother
who was like "the flash of a white wing across a stormy sea," but he did
not see any possible connection between that fact and stoning all the
white sea-gulls in sight. Ladykin, on the contrary, told Sam distinctly
that she'd knock his head off if he ever hit a gull, but fortunately--or
unfortunately--Ladykin's aim was not so sure as Sam's. It was you who
had to stay behind on the beach and pommel more than half the life out
of Sam while Ladykin, pink as a posy in her best muslin, scared to death
of wet and cold, plunged out to her little neck in the chopping waves
to rescue a quivering fluff of feathers that struggled broken-winged
against the cruel, drowning water. "Gulls are gulls!" persisted Sam with
every blubbering breath. "Gulls are _Mothers_!" gasped Ladykin,
staggering from the surf all drenched and dripping like a bursted
water-pail. "Well, boy-gulls are gulls!" Sam screamed in a perfect
explosion of outraged _truth_. But Ladykin defied him to the last.
Through chattering teeth her vehement reassertion sounded like some
horrid, wicked blasphemy: "Nnnnnnnnnnnn-oo! Bbb-o-y ggggg-ggulls are
MMMMMM-Mothers too!" Then with that pulsing drench of feathers cuddled
close to her breast, she struggled off alone to the house to have the
Croup, while you and Sam went cheerily up the beach to find some shiners
and some seaweed for your new gull hospital. Not till you were quite an
old boy did you ever find out what became of that gull. Sacred
Bruno-Clarice ate him. Ladykin, it seems, knew always what had happened
to him, but she never dreamed of telling you till you were old enough to
bear it. To Ladykin, Truth out of season was sourer than strawberries at
Christmas time.

Sam would have told you _anything_ the very first second that he found
it out. Sam was perfectly great for Truth. He could tell more Great
Black Truths in one day than there were thunder-clouds in the whole hot
summer sky. This quality made Sam just a little bit dangerous in a
crowd. He was always and forever shooting people with Truths that he
didn't know were loaded. He was always telling the Grandmother-Lady, for
instance, that her hair looked _exactly_ like a wig. He was always
telling Ladykin that she smelled of raspberry jam. He was always telling
you that he didn't believe your Father really loved you. Oh, everything
that Sam said was as straight and lank and honest as a lady's hair when
it's out of crimp. Nothing in the world could be straighter than that.

But sometimes, when you had played sturdily with Sam for a good many
hours, you used to coax Ladykin off all alone to the puffy,
scorchy-looking smoke tree, where you could cuddle up on the rustic seat
and rest your Honesty. And when you were thoroughly rested, you used to
stretch your little arms behind your yawning face and beg:

"Oh, Ladykin, wouldn't you, couldn't you _please_ say something curly?"

Ladykin's mind seemed to curl perfectly naturally. The crimp of it never
came out. Almost any time you could take her words that looked so little
and tight, and unwind them and unwind them into yards and yards and
yards of pleasant, magic meanings.

There were no magic meanings in Sam's words. Sam, for instance, could
throw as many as a hundred stones into the water, yet when he got
through he just lay down in the sand and groaned, "Oh, how tired I am!
Oh, how tired I am!" But Ladykin, after she'd thrown only two
stones--one that hit the beach, and one that hit you--would stand right
up and declare that her arm was "_be_-witched." Tired? No, not a bit of
it, but "_be_-witched!" Hadn't she seen, hadn't you seen, hadn't
everybody seen that _perfectly awful_ sea-witch's head that popped out
of the wave just after she had thrown her first stone? Oh, indeed, and
it wasn't the first time either that she had been so frightened! Once
when she was sitting on the sand counting sea-shells, hadn't the Witch
swooped right out of the water and grabbed her legs? So, now if you
wanted to break the cruel spell, save Ladykin's life, marry Ladykin, and
live in a solid turquoise palace--where all the walls were papered with
foreign postage-stamps, and no duplicates--you, not Sam, but _you_,
_you_, chosen of all the world, must go down to the little harbor
between the two highest, reariest rocks and stick a spiked stick through
every wave that came in. There was no other way! Now you, yourself,
might possibly have invented the witch, but you never, never would have
thought of harpooning the waves and falling in and drowning your best
suit, while Ladykin rested her arms.

Yet in the enforced punishment of an early bedtime you were not
bereaved, but lay in rapturous delight untangling the minutest detail of
Ladykin's words, till turquoise cities blazed like a turquoise
flashlight across your startled senses, wonderful little princes and
princesses kowtowed perpetually to royal Mother Ladykin and royal Father
Yourself, and life-sized postage-stamps loomed so lusciously large that
envelopes had to be pasted to the corners of stamps instead of stamps to
the corners of envelopes. And before you had half straightened out the
whole thought, you were fast asleep, and then fast awake, and it was
suddenly morning! Oh, it is very comforting to have a playmate who can
say curly things.

Sometimes, too, when Sam's and Ladykin's Mother had been rude to them
about brushing their teeth or tracking perfectly good mud into the
parlor, and Sam had gone off to ease his sorrow, scating hens or stoning
cats, you and Ladykin would steal down to the gray rock on the beach to
watch the white, soft, pleasant sea-gulls. There were times, you think,
when Ladykin wished that _her_ Mother was a sea-gull. Then you used to
wonder and wonder about your own Mother, and tell Ladykin all over
again about the creaky, black-oak library, and the smoky, smelly
hearth-fire with the hurt red book, and the blue-flowered muslin sleeve
beckoning and beckoning to you; and Ladykin used to explain to you how,
very evidently, you were the only souvenir that your Father did not
burn. With that thought in mind, you used to try and guess what could
possibly have happened long ago on a Thursday to make a Happy-Day
forever and ever. Ladykin said that of course it was something about
"Love," but when you ran off to ask the Grandmother-Lady just exactly
what Love was, the Grandmother-Lady only laughed and said that Love was
a fever that came along a few years after chicken-pox and measles and
scarlet fever. Ladykin was saucy about it. "That may be _true_," Ladykin
acknowledged, "but _t'aint so_!" Then you went and found Sam and asked
him if he knew what Love was. Sam knew at once. Sam said that Love was
the feeling that one had for mathematics. Now that was all _bosh_, for
the feeling that you and Ladykin had for Mathematics would not have made
a Happy-Day for a cow.

But even if there were a great many things that you could not find out,
it was a good deal of fun to grow up. Apart from a few stomach-aches
and two or three gnawing pains in the calves of your legs, aging was a
most alluring process.

Springs, summers, autumns, winters, went hurtling over one another, till
all of a sudden, without the slightest effort on your part, you were
fifteen years old, Bruno-Clarice had grown to be a sober, industrious,
middle-aged dog, Sam was idolatrously addicted to geometry, and Ladykin
subscribed to a fashion magazine for the benefit of her paper dolls.

Most astonishing of all, however, your Father had invited you to go to
Germany and visit him. It was a glorious invitation. You were all
athrill with the geography and love of it. Already your nostrils
crinkled to the lure of tar and oakum. Already your vision feasted on
the parrot-colored crowds of Come-igrants and Go-igrants that huddled
along the wharves with their eager, jabbering faces and their soggy,
wadded feet.

Oh, the prospect of the journey was a most beautiful experience, but
when the actual Eve of Departure came, the scissors of separation
gleamed rather hard and sharp in the air, and you hunched your neck a
little bit wincingly before the final crunching snip. That last evening
was a dreadful evening. The Cook sat sobbing in the kitchen. The
Grandmother-Lady's eyes were red with sewing. The air was all heavy with
_goingawayness_. To escape the strangle of it, you fled to the beach
with Bruno-Clarice tagging in mournful excitement at your heels, his
smutty nose all a-sniff with the foreboding leathery smell of trunks and
bags. There on the beach in a scoopy hollow of sand backed up against
the old gray rock were Sam and Ladykin. Sam's round, fat face was
fretted like a pug-dog's, and Ladykin's eyes were blinky-wet with tears.

It was not a pleasant time to say good-by. It had been a beautiful,
smooth-skied day, crisp and fresh and bright-colored as a "Sunday
supplement"; but now the clouds piled gray and crumpled in the west like
a poor stale, thrown-away newspaper, with just a sputtering blaze in one
corner like the kindling of a half-hearted match.

"_Please_ be kind to Bruno-Clarice," you began; "I shall miss you very
much--very, very much. But I will come back--"

"N--o, I do not think you will come back," said Ladykin. "You will go to
Germany to live with your Father and your Play-Mother, and you will
gargle all your words like a throat tonic till you don't know how to be
friends in English any more; and even if you did come back Bruno-Clarice
would bark at you, and I shall be married, and Sam will have a long,
black beard."

Now you could have borne Ladykin's marriage; you could even have borne
Bruno-Clarice's barking at you; but you could not, simply could not bear
the thought of Sam's growing a long black beard without you. Even
Ladykin with all her wonderfulness sat utterly helpless before the
terrible, unexpected climax of her words. It was Sam who leaped into the
breach. The clutch of his hand was like the grit of sand-paper. "Jack,"
he stammered, "Jack, I promise you--anyhow I won't _cut_ my beard until
you come!"

       *       *       *       *       *

It was certainly only the thought of Sam's faithful beard that sustained
you on your rough, blue voyage to Germany. It was certainly only the
thought of Sam's faithful beard that rallied your smitten forces when
you met your Father face to face and saw him reel back white as chalk
against the silky shoulder of your Play-Mother, and hide his eyes behind
the crook of his elbow.

It is not pleasant to make people turn white as chalk, even in Germany.
Worse yet, every day your Father grew whiter and whiter and whiter, and
every day your pretty Play-Mother wrinkled her forehead more and more in
a strange, hurty sort of trouble. Never once did you dare think of
Ladykin. Never once did you dare think of Bruno-Clarice. You just named
all your upper teeth "Sam," and all your lower teeth "Sam," and ground
them into each other all day long--"Sam! Sam! Sam!" over and over and
over. There were also no Happy-Days in Germany, and nobody ever spoke of

You were pretty glad at last after a month when your Father came to you
with his most beautiful face and his most loving hands, and said:

"Little Boy Jack, there is no use in it. You have got to go away again.
You are a wound that will not heal. It is your Dear Mother's eyes. It is
your Dear Mother's mouth. It is your Dear Mother's smile. God forgive
me, but I cannot bear it! I am going to send you away to school in

You put your finger cautiously up to your eyes and traced their round,
firm contour. Your Mother's eyes? They felt like two heaping
teaspoonfuls of tears. Your Mother's mouth? Desperately you poked it
into a smile. "Going to send me away to school in England?" you
stammered. "Never mind. Sam will not cut his beard until I come."

"_What?_" cried your Father in a great voice. "_W-h-a-t?_"

But you pretended that you had not said anything, because it was
boy-talk and your Father would not have understood it.

Never, never, never had you seen your Father so suffering; yet when he
took you in his arms and raised your face to his and quizzed you:
"Little Boy Jack, do you love me? Do you love me?" you scanned him out
of your Mother's made-over eyes and answered him out of your Mother's
made-over mouth:

"N--o! N--o! I _don't_ love you!"

And he jumped back as though you had knifed him, and then laughed out
loud as though he were glad of the pain.

"But I ask you this," he persisted, and the shine in his eyes was like a
sunset glow in the deep woods, and the touch of his hands would have
lured you into the very heart of the flame. "It is not probable," he
said, "that your Dear Mother's child and mine will go through Life
without knowing Love. When your Love-Time comes, if you understand all
Love's tragedies _then_, and forgive me, will you send me a message?"

"Oh, yes," you cried out suddenly. "Oh, yes! Oh, yes! Oh, yes!" and
clung to him frantically with your own boyish hands, and kissed him with
your Mother's mouth. But you did not love him. It was your Mother's
mouth that loved him.

So you went away to school in England and grew up and up and up some
more; but somehow this latter growing up was a dull process without
savor, and the years went by as briefly and inconsequently as a few
dismissing sentences in a paragraph. There were plenty of people to work
with and play with, but almost no one to think with, and your
hard-wrought book knowledge faded to nothingness compared to the three
paramount convictions of your youthful experience, namely, that neither
coffee nor ocean nor Life tasted as good as it smelled.

And then when you were almost twenty-one you met "Clarice"!

It was a Christmas supper party in a café. Some one looked up suddenly
and called the name "Clarice! Clarice!" and when your startled eyes shot
to the mark and saw her there in her easy, dashing, gorgeous beauty,
something in your brain curdled, and all the lonesomeness, all the
mystery, all the elusiveness of Life pounded suddenly in your heart like
a captured Will-o'-the-Wisp. "Clarice?" Here, then, was the end of your
journey? The eternal kindness? The flash of a white wing across _your_
stormy sea? "Clarice!" And you looked across unbidden into her eyes and
smiled at her a gaspy, astonished smile that brought the strangest light
into her face.

Oh, but Clarice was very beautiful! Never had you seen such a type. Her
hair was black and solemn as crape. Her eyes were bright and noisy as
jet. Her heart was barren as a blot of ink. And she took your dreamy,
paper-white boy life and scourged it like a tongue of flame across a
field of Easter lilies!

And when the wonder of the flame was gone, you sat aghast in your room
among the charred, scorched fragments of your Youth. The thirst for
death was very strong upon you, and the little, long, narrow cup of your
revolver gleamed very brimming full of death's elixir. Even the
June-time could not save you. Your Mother's name was an agony on your
lips. The frenzied reiteration of your thoughts scraped on your brain
like a sledge on gravel. You would drink very deep, you thought, of your
little slim cup of death. Yet the thing that was tortured within you was
scarcely Love, and you had no message of understanding for your Father.
Just with wrecked life, wrecked faith, wrecked courage, you huddled at
your desk, catching your breath for a second before you should reach out
your fretted fingers for the little cool cunning, toy hand of Death.

"Once again," you said to yourself, "once again I will listen to the
children's voices in the garden. Once again I will lure the smell of
June roses into my heart." The children prattled and passed. Your hand
reached out and fumbled. Once more you shut your scalding eyes, hunched
up your shoulders, and breathed in like an ultimate tide the ravishing
sweetness of the June--one breath, another, another--longer--longer. Oh,
God in Heaven, if one could only die of such an anesthetic--smothered
with sweetbrier, spiced with saffron, buried in bride roses. _Die?_ Your
wild hand leaped to the task and faltered stricken before the strange,
grim fact that blazed across your consciousness. It was Thursday. It was
your "Happy-Day!" Your Father's words came pounding back like blows into
your sore brain! Your "Happy-Day!" "No cruelty must ever defame it, no
malice, no gross bitterness!" Somewhere in air or sky or sea there was a
Mother-Woman who must not be _hurt_. Your "Happy-Day?" HAPPY-DAY? Rage
and sorrow broke like a fearful storm across your senses, and you put
down your head and cried like a child.

Tears? Again you felt on your lips that queer, sad, salty pucker, that
taste of the sea that gave you a thirst not so much for water as for
Life. _Life?_ _Life?_ The thought thrilled through you like new nerves.
Your ashy pulses burst into flame. Your dull heart jumped. Your vision
woke. Your memory quickened. You saw the ocean, blue, blue, blue before
you. You saw a small, rude boy lie sprawling in the sand. You saw a
little girl's face, wild with wonder, tremulous with sweetness. You felt
again the flutter of a kiss against your cheek. The little girl
who--understood. Your salt lips puckered into a smile, and the smile ran
back like a fuse into the inherent happiness of your heart. Sam?
Ladykin? Home? You began to laugh! Haggard, harried, wrecked, ruined,
you began to laugh! Then, faltering like a hysterical girl, you
staggered down the stairs, out of the house, along the streets to the
cable office, and sent a message to Sam.

"How long is your beard?" the message said. "How long is your beard?"
Just that silly, magic message across miles and miles and miles of waves
and seaweeds. How the great cable must have simpered with the
foolishness of it. How the pink coral must have chuckled. How the big,
tin-foiled fishes must have wondered.

You did not wait for an answer. What answer was there? You could picture
Sam standing in stupefied awkwardness before the amazing nothingness of
such a message. But Ladykin would remember. Oh, yes, Ladykin would
remember. You could see her peering past Sam's shoulder and snatching
out suddenly for the fluttering paper. Ladykin would remember. What were
six years?

Joy sang in your heart like a purr of a sea-shell. The blue blur of
ocean, the dear green smell of mignonette, the rush of wind through the
poplar trees were tonic memories to you. You did not wait to pack your
things. You did not wait to notify your Father. You sped like a wild boy
to the first wharf, to the first steamer that you could find.

The week's ocean voyage went by like a year. The silly waves dragged on
the steamer like a tired child on the skirts of its mother. Haste raged
in your veins like a fever. You wanted to throw all the fat, heavy
passengers overboard. You wanted to swim ahead with a towing rope in
your teeth. You wanted to kill the Captain when he stuttered. You wanted
to flay the cook for serving an extra course for dinner. Yet all the
while the huge machinery throbbed in rhythm, "Time _will_ pass. It
_always does_. It _always does_. It _always does_."

And then at last you stood again on your Native Land, _alive, well,
vital, at home_!

With the sensation of an unbroken miracle, you found your way again to
the little Massachusetts sea town, along the peaceful village walk to
the big brown house that turned so bleakly to the street. There on the
steps, wonder of wonders, you found two elderly people, Bruno-Clarice
and the Grandmother-Lady, and your knees gave out very suddenly and you
sank down beside Bruno-Clarice and smothered the bark right out of him.

"Good lack!" cried the Grandmother-Lady, "Good _lack_!" and made so
much noise that Sam himself came running like mad from the next house;
and though he had no beard, you liked him very much and shook and shook
his hand until he squealed.

With the Grandmother-Lady plying you with questions, and Sam feeling
your muscle, and Bruno-Clarice trying to crawl into your lap like a
pug-dog baby, it was almost half an hour before you had a chance to ask,

"Where is Ladykin?"

"She's down on the beach," said Sam. "I'll go and help you find her."

You looked at Sam speculatively. "I'll give you ten dollars if you
won't," you said.

Sam considered the matter gravely before he began to grin. "I wouldn't
think of charging you more than five," he acquiesced.

So you went off with Bruno-Clarice hobbling close at your heels to find
Ladykin for yourself. When you saw her she was perched up on the very
top of the huddly gray rock playing tinkle tunes on her mandolin, and
you stole up so quietly behind her that she did not see you till you
were close beside her.

Then she turned very suddenly and looked down upon you and pretended
that she did not know you, with her color coming and going all luminous
and intermittent like a pink and white flashlight. In six years you had
not seen such a wonderful playmatey face.

"Who are you?" she asked. "Who are you?"

"I am 'Little Boy Jack' come back to marry you," you began, but
something in the wistful, shy girl-tenderness of her face and eyes
choked your bantering words right off in your throat.

"Yes, Ladykin," you said, "I have come home, and I am very tired, and I
am very sad, and I am very lonesome, and I have not been a very good
boy. But please be good to me! I am so lonesome I cannot wait to make
love to you. Oh, _please_, _please_ love me _n-o-w_. I _need_ you to
love me N-O-W!"

Ladykin frowned. It was not a cross frown. It was just a sort of a cosy
corner for her thoughts. Surprise cuddled there, and a sorry feeling,
and a great tenderness.

"You have not been a very good boy?" she repeated after you.

The memory of a year crowded blackly upon you. "No," you said, "I have
not been a very good boy, and I am very suffering-sad. But _please_ love
me, and forgive me. No one has ever loved me!"

The surprise and the sorry feeling in Ladykin's forehead crowded
together to make room for something that was just _womanliness_. She
began to smile. It was the smile of a hurt person when the opiate first
begins to overtake the pain.

"Oh, I'm sure it was an accidental badness," she volunteered softly. "If
I were accidentally bad, you would forgive _me_, wouldn't you?"

"Oh, yes, yes, yes," you stammered, and reached up your lonesome hands
to her.

"Then you don't have to make love," she whispered. "It's all made," and
slipped down into your arms.

But something troubled her, and after a minute she pushed you away and
tried to renounce you.

"But it is not Thursday," she sobbed; "it is Wednesday; and my name is
not 'Clarice'; it is Ladykin."

Then all the boyishness died out of you--the sweet, idle reveries, the
mystic responsibilities. You shook your Father's dream from your eyes,
and squared your shoulders for your own realities.

"A Man must make his own Happy-Day," you cried, "and a Man must choose
his own Mate!"

Before your vehemence Ladykin winced back against the rock and eyed you

"Oh, I will love you and cherish you," you pleaded.

But Ladykin shook her head. "That is not enough," she whispered. There
was a kind of holy scorn in her eyes.

Then a White Gull flashed like an apparition before your sight.
Ladykin's whole figure drooped, her cheek paled, her little mouth
quivered, her vision narrowed. There with her eyes on the White Gull and
your eyes fixed on hers, you saw her shy thoughts journey into the
Future. You saw her eyes smile, sadden, brim with tears, smile again,
and come homing back to you with a timid, glad surprise as she realized
that your thoughts too had gone all the long journey with her.

She reached out one little hand to you. It was very cold.

"If I should pass like the flash of a white wing," she questioned,
"would you be true to me--and _mine_?"

The Past, the Present, the Future rushed over you in tumult. Your lips
could hardly crowd so big a vow into so small a word. "Oh, YES, YES,
YES!" you cried.

In reverent mastery you raised her face to yours. "A Man must make his
own Happy-Day," you repeated. "A Man must make his own Happy-Day!"

Timorously, yet assentingly, she came back to your arms. The whisper of
her lips against your ear was like the flutter of a rose petal.

"It will be Wednesday, then," she said, "for us and--ours."

Clanging a strident bell across the magic stillness of the garden, Sam
bore down upon you like a steam-engine out of tune.

"Oh, I say," he shouted, "for heaven's sake cut it out and come to

The startled impulse of your refusal faded before the mute appeal in
Ladykin's eyes.

"All right," you answered; "but first I must go and cable 'love' to my

"Oh, hurry!" cried Ladykin. Her word was crumpled and shy as a kiss.

"Oh, hurry!" cried Sam. His thought was straight and frank as a knife
and fork.

Joy sang in your heart like a prayer that rhymed. Your eager heart was
pounding like a race horse. The clouds in the sky were scudding to
sunset. The surf on the beach seemed all out of breath. The green meadow
path to the village stretched like the paltriest trifle before a man's
fleet running pace.

"But I can't hurry," you said, for Bruno-Clarice came poking his
grizzled old nose into your hand. "Oh, wait for me," he seemed to plead.
"Oh, please, _please_ wait for me."


THE Road ran spitefully up a steep, hot, rocky, utterly shadeless hill,
and then at the top turned suddenly in a flirty little green loop, and
looked back, and called "Follow me!"

Wouldn't you have considered that a dare?

The Girl and the White Pony certainly took it as such, and proceeded at
once to "follow," though the White Pony stumbled clatteringly on the
rolling stones, and the Girl had to cling for dear life to the rocking
pommels of her saddle.

It was a cruel climb, puff--pant--scramble--dust--glare--every step of
the way, but when the two adventurers really reached the summit at last,
a great dark chestnut-tree loomed up for shade, every sweet-smelling
breeze in the world was there to welcome them, and the whole green
valley below stretched out before them in the shining, woodsy wonder of
high noon and high June.

You know, yourself, just how the world looks and feels and smells at
high noon of a high June!

Even a pony stands majestically on the summit of a high hill--neck
arched, eyes rolling, mane blowing, nostrils quivering. Even a girl
feels a tug of power at her heart.

And still the Road cried "Follow me!" though it never turned its head
again in doubt or coquetry. It was a kind-looking Road now, all gracious
and sweet and tender, with rustly green overhead, and soft green
underfoot, and the pleasant, buzzing drone of bees along its clovered

"We might just as well follow it and see," argued the Girl, and the
White Pony took the suggestion with a wild leap and cantered eagerly
along the desired way.

It was such an extraordinarily lonesome Road that you could scarcely
blame it for picking up companionship as best it might. There was
stretch after stretch of pasture, and stretch after stretch of woodland,
and stretch after stretch of black-stumped clearing--with never a house
to cheer it, or a human echo to break its ghostly stillness. Yet with
all its isolation and remoteness the landscape had that certain vibrant,
vivid air of self-consciousness that thrills you with an uncanny sense
of an invisible presence--somewhere. It's just a trick of June!

Tramps, pirates, even cannibals, seemed deliciously imminent. The Girl
remembered reading once of a lonely woman bicyclist who met a runaway
circus elephant at the turn of a country road. Twelve miles from home is
a long way off to have anything happen.

Her heart began to quicken with the joyous sort of fear that is one of
the prime sweets of youth. It's only when fear reaches your head that it
hurts. The loneliness, the mystery, the uncertainty, were tonic to her.
The color spotted in her cheeks. Her eyes narrowed defensively to every
startling detail of woods or turf. Her ears rang with the sudden, new
acuteness of her hearing. She felt as though she and the White Pony were
stalking right across the heartstrings of the earth. Once the White Pony
caught his foot and sent a scared sob into her throat.

Oh, everything was magic! A little brown rabbit reared up in the Road as
big as a kangaroo, and beckoned her with his ears. A red-winged
blackbird bulky as an eagle trumpeted a swamp-secret to her as he
passed. A tiny chipmunk in the wall loomed like a lion in his lair, and
sent a huge rock crashing like an avalanche into the field. The whole
green and blue world seemed tingling with toy noises, made suddenly big.

The White Pony's mouth was frothing with the curb. The White Pony's
coat was reeking wet with noon and nervousness, but the Girl sat tense
and smiling and important in her saddle, as though just once for all
time she was the only italicized word in the Book of Life.

"It's just the kind of a road that I like to travel alone," she gasped,
a little breathlessly, "but if I were engaged and my man let me do it, I
should consider him--careless."

That was exactly the sort of Road it was!

Yet after three or four miles the White Pony shook all the skittishness
out of his feet, and settled down to a zigzag, browsing-clover gait, and
the Girl relaxed at last, and sat loosely to ease her own muscles, and
slid the bridle trustingly across the White Pony's neck.

Then she began to sing. Never in all her life had she sung outside the
restricting cage of house or church. A green and blue loneliness on a
June day is really the only place in the world that is big enough for
singing! In dainty ballad, in impassioned hymn, in opera, in anthem, the
Girl's voice, high and sweet and wild as a boy's, rang out in fluttering
tremolo. Over and over again, as though half unconscious of the words,
but enraptured with the melody, she dwelt at last on that dream-song of
every ecstatic young soul who tarries for a moment on the edge of an
unfocused exultation:

          The King of Love my Shepherd is
            Whose Goodness faileth never,
          I nothing lack if I am _his_
            And he is _mine f-o-r-e-v-e-r_!
            Forever!----Is _mine f-o-r-e-v-e-r_!

Her pulsing, passionate crescendo came echoing back to her from a gray
granite hillside, and sent a reverent thrill of power across her senses.

Then--suddenly--into her rhapsody broke the astonishing, harsh clash and
clatter of a hay-rake. The White Pony lurched, stood stock-still, gave a
hideous snort of terror, grabbed the bit in his teeth, and bolted like
mad on and on and on and on till a quick curve in the Road dashed him
into the very lap of a tiny old gray farmhouse that completely blocked
the way.

In another second he would have stumbled across the threshold and hurled
his rider precipitously into the front hall if she had not at that very
second recovered her "yank-hold" on his churning mouth and wrenched him
back so hard that any animal but a horse would have sat down.

Then the girl straightened up very tremblingly in her saddle and said

Some one had to say something, for there in the dooryard close beside
her were an Artist, a Bossy, and a White Bulldog, who all
instantaneously, without the slightest cordiality or greeting, stopped
whatever they were doing and began to stare at her.

Now it's all very well to go dashing like mad into a person's front yard
on a runaway horse. Anybody could see that you didn't do it on purpose;
but when at last you have stopped dashing, what are you going to do
next, particularly when the Road doesn't go any farther? Shall you say,
"Isn't this a pleasant summer?" or "What did you really like best at the
theater last winter?" If you gallop out it looks as though you were
frightened. If you amble out, you might hear some one laugh behind your
back, which is infinitely worse than being grabbed on the stairs.

The situation was excessively awkward. And the Artist evidently was not
clever in conversational emergencies.

The Girl straightened her gray slouch hat. Then she ran the cool metal
butt of her riding-whip back and forth under the White Pony's sweltering
mane. Then she swallowed very hard once or twice and remarked inanely:

"Did the Road go right into the house?"

"Yes," said the Artist, with a nervous blue dab at his canvas.

The Girl's ire rose at his churlishness. "If that is so," she announced,
"if the Road really went right into the house, I'll just wait here a
minute till it comes out again."

But the Artist never smiled an atom to make things easier, though the
Bossy began to tug most joyously at his chain, and the White Bulldog
rolled over and over with delight.

The Girl would have given anything now to escape at full speed down the
Road along which she had come, but escape of that sort had suddenly
assumed the qualities of a panicky, ignominious retreat, so she parried
for time by riding right up behind the Artist and watching him change a
perfectly blue canvas sky into a regular tornado.

"Oh, do you think it's going to rain as hard as that?" she teased.
"Perhaps I'd better settle down here until the storm is over."

But the Artist never smiled or spoke. He just painted and sniffed as
though he worked by steam, and when his ears had finally grown so
crimson that apoplexy seemed impending, she took pity on his miserable
embarrassment and backed even the shadow of her pony out of his sight.
Then with a desperate effort at perfect ease she remarked:

"Well--I guess I'll ride round to your back door. Perhaps the Road came
out that way and went on without me."

But though she and the White Pony hunted in every direction through
white birch and swaying alders, they found no possible path by which the
Road could have escaped, and were obliged at last to return with some
hauteur, and make as dignified an exit as possible from the scene.

The Artist bowed with stiff relief at their departure, but the White
Bulldog preceded them with friendly romps and yells, and the Bossy
pulled up his iron hitching stake and chain and came clanking after them
with furious bounds and jingles.

No one but the White Pony would have stood the racket for a moment, and
even the White Pony began to feel a bit staccato in his feet. The Girl
kept her saddle like a circus rider, but the amusement on her face was
just a trifle studied. It was a fine procession, clamor and all, with
the Bulldog scouting ahead, the White Pony following skittishly, and the
Bossy see-sawing behind, clanking a dungeon chain that left a cloud of
dust as far as you could see.

It must have startled the Youngish Man who loomed up suddenly at a bend
of the Road and caught the wriggling Bulldog in his arms.

"Who comes here?" he cried with a regular war-whoop of a challenge. "Who
comes here?"

"Just a lady and a bossy," said the Girl, as she reined in the Pony
abruptly, and sent the Bossy caroming off into the bushes.

"But it's my brother's Bossy," protested the Youngish Man.

"Oh, no, it isn't," the Girl explained a little wearily. "It's mine now.
It chose between us."

The Youngish Man eyed her with some amusement.

"Did you really see my brother at the house?" he probed.

The Girl nodded, flushing. It was very hot, and she was beginning to
feel just a wee bit faint and hungry and irritable.

"Yes, I saw your brother," she reiterated, "but I didn't seem to care
for him. I rode by mistake right into the picture he was painting.
There's probably paint all over me. It was very awkward, and he didn't
do a thing to make it easier. I abominate that kind of person. If a man
can't do anything else he can always ask you if you wouldn't like a
drink of water!" She scowled indignantly. "It was the Road's fault
anyway! I was just exploring, and the Road cried 'Follow me,' and I
followed--a little faster than I meant to--and the Road ran right into
your house and shut the door. Oh, _slammed_ the door right in my face!"

"Would you like a drink of water, _now_?" suggested the Youngish Man.

"No, I thank you," said the Girl, with stubborn dignity, and then
weakened to the alluring offer with "But my White Pony is very cruelly

Both adventurers looked pretty jaded with heat and dust.

The Youngish Man led the way into a tiny, pungent wood-path that ended
in a gurgling spring-hole, where the White Pony nuzzled his nose with
deep-breathed, dripping satisfaction, while the Girl kept to her saddle
and looked down on the Youngish Man with frank interest.

He looked very picturesque and brown and clever in his khaki suit with a
game bag slung across his shoulder.

"You're not a hunter," she exclaimed impulsively. "You're not a
hunter--because you haven't any gun."

"No," said the Man, "I'm a collector."

The Girl cried out with pleasure and clapped her hands. "A
collector?--oh, goody! So am I! What do you collect? Minerals? Oh--dear!
_Mine_ is lots more interesting. I collect adventures."

"Adventures?" The Man made no slightest effort to conceal his amused
curiosity. "Adventures? Now I call that a jolly thing to collect. Is it
a good country to work in? And what have you found?"

The Girl smiled at him appreciatively--a little flitting, whimsical
sort of smile, and commenced to rummage in the blouse of her white
shirt-waist, from which she finally produced a small, red-covered
notebook. She fluttered its diminutive pages for a second, and then
began to laugh:

"You'd better sit down if you really want to hear what I've found."

The Man dropped comfortably into place beside the spring and watched
her. She was very watchable. Some people have to be beautiful to rivet
your attention. Some people _don't_ have to be. It's all a matter of
temperament. Her hair was very, very brown, though, and her eyes were
deep and wide and hazel, and the red in her cheeks came and went with
every throb of her heart.

"Of course," she explained apologetically, "of course I haven't found a
lot of things yet--I've only been working at it a little while. But I've
collected a 'Runaway Accident with the Rural Free-Delivery Man.' It was
awfully scary and interesting. And I've collected a 'Den of Little Foxes
Down in the Woods Back of My House,' and 'Two Sunrises with a Crazy
Woman who Thinks that the Sun Can't Get Up Until She Does,' and I've
collected a 'Country Camp-Meeting all Hallelujahs and By Goshes,' and a
'Circus Where I Spent All Day with the Snake-Charmer,' and a 'Midnight
Ride Alone through the Rosedale Woods in a Thunder-Storm.' Of course,
as I say, I haven't found a lot of things yet, but then it's only the
middle of June and I have two more weeks' vacation yet."

The Man put back his head and laughed, but it was a pleasant sort of
laugh that flooded all the stern lines in his face.

"I'm sure I never thought of making a regular business of collecting
adventures," he admitted, "but it certainly is a splendid idea. But
aren't you ever afraid?" he asked. "Aren't you ever afraid, for
instance, riding round on a lonesome trip like this?"

The Girl laughed. "Yes," she acknowledged, "I'm often afraid
of--squirrels--and falling twigs--and black-looking stumps. I'm often
afraid of toy noises and toy fears--but I never saw a real fear in all
my life. Even when you jumped up in the Road I wasn't afraid of
you--because you are a gentleman--and--gentlemen are my friends."

"Have you many friends?" asked the Man. The question seemed amusingly
justifiable. "You look to me about eighteen. Girls of your age are
usually too busy collecting Love to collect anything else--even ideas.
Have you collected any Love?"

The Girl threw out her hands in joking protest. "Collected any Love?
Why, I don't even know what Love looks like! Maybe what I'd collect
would be--poison ivy." Her eyes narrowed a little. Her voice quivered
the merest trifle. "There's a Boy at Home--who talks--a little--about
it. But how can I tell that it's Love?"

Her sudden vehemency startled him. "Where _is_ 'Home'?" he asked.

For immediate answer the Girl slipped down from the White Pony's back,
and loosened the saddle creakingly before she helped herself to a long,
dripping draught from the birch cup that hung just over the spring.

"You're nice to talk to," she acknowledged, "and almost no one is nice
to talk to. It's a whole year since I've talked right out to any one!
Where do I live? Well, my headquarters are in New York, but my
heartquarters are over at Rosedale. There's quite a difference, you

"Yes," said the Man, "I remember--there used to--be--quite a difference.
But how did you ever happen to think of collecting adventures?"

The girl pulled at the White Pony's mane for a long, hesitating moment,
then she turned and looked searchingly into the Man's face. She very
evidently liked what she saw.

"I collect adventures because I am lonesome!" Her voice shook a little,
but her eyes were frankly untroubled. "I collect adventures because the
life that interests me doesn't happen to come to me, and I have to go
out and search for it!--I'm companion all the year to a woman who
doesn't know right from wrong in any dear, big sense, but who could
define propriety and impropriety to you till your ears split. And all
her friends are just like her. They haven't any mental muscle to them.
It's just dress and etiquette, dress and etiquette, dress and etiquette!
So I have to live all alone in my head, and think and think and think,
till my poor brain churns and overlaps like a surf without any shore. Do
you know what I mean? Then when my June vacation comes, I run right off
to Rosedale and collect all the adventures I possibly can to take back
with me for the long dreary year. Things to think about, you know, when
I have to sit up at night giving medicine, or when I have to mend heavy
black silk clothes, or when the dinners are so long that I could scream
over the extra delay of a salad course. So I make June a sort of pranky,
fancy-dress party for my soul. Do you know what I mean?"

"Yes, I know what you mean," said the Man. "I know just what you mean.
You mean you're eighteen. That's the whole of it. You mean that there's
no fence to your pasture, no bottom to your cup, no crust to your bread.
You mean that you can't sleep at night for the pounding of your heart.
You mean most of all that there's no limit to your vision. You're
inordinately keen after life. That's all. You'll get over it!"

"_I won't get over it!_" There was fire in the Girl's eyes and she drew
her breath sharply. "I say I _won't_ get over it! There's nothing on
earth that could stale me! If I live to be a hundred I sha'n't
wither!--why, how could I?"

Buoyant, blooming, aquiver with startled emotions, she threw out her
hands with a passionate gesture of protest.

The Man shook his shoulders and jumped up. "Perhaps you're right," he
muttered. "Perhaps you _are_ the kind that won't ever grow old. If you
are--Heaven help you! Youth's nothing but a wound, anyway. Do you want
to be a wound that never heals?" He laughed stridently.

Then the Girl began to fumble through sudden tears at the buckles of her
saddle. Her growing hunger and faintness and the heat of the day were
telling on her.

"You must think me a crazy fool," she confessed, "the way I have plunged
into personalities. Why, I could go a whole year with an alien
running-mate and never breathe a word or a sigh about myself, but with
some people--the second you see them you know they are part of your
chord. Chord is the only term in music that I understand, and I
understand that as though I had made the word myself." She tried to
laugh. "Now I'm going home! I've had a good time. You seem almost like a
friend. I've never had a talky friend."

And she was in her saddle and half-way down the wood-path before his
mind quickened to cry out "Stop! Wait a minute!"

A little out of breath he caught up with her, and stood for a moment
like an embarrassed schoolboy, though his face in the sunlight was as
old as young forty.

"I'm afraid you haven't had much of an adventure this morning," he
volunteered whimsically. "If you really want an adventure why don't you
come back to the house and have dinner with my brother and me? There's
no one else there. Think how it would tease my brother! You're twelve or
fifteen miles from home, and it's already two o'clock and very hot. My
brother has done some pictures that are going to be talked about next
winter, and I--I've got rather a conspicuous position ahead of me in
Washington. Wouldn't it amuse you a little bit afterward, if any one
spoke of us, to remember our little farmhouse dinner to-day?--Would you
be afraid to come?" His last question was very direct.

A look came into the Girl's eyes that was very good for a man to see.

"Why, of course I wouldn't be afraid to come," she said. "Gentlemen are
my friends."

But she was shy about going, just the same, with a certain frank, boyish
shyness that only served to emphasize the general artlessness of her

With a quick dive into the bushes the Man collared the Bossy and
transferred his clanking chain to the bit of the astonished White Pony.

"Now you've got to come," he laughed up at her, and the whole party
started back for the tiny old gray farmhouse where the Artist greeted
them with sad concern.

"I've brought Miss Girl back to have dinner with us," announced the
Pony-leader cheerfully, relying on his brother's serious nature to
overlook any strangeness of nomenclature. "You evidently didn't remember
meeting her at Mrs. Moyne's house-party last spring?"

The Girl fell readily into the game. She turned the White Pony loose in
the dooryard, and then went into the queer old kitchen, rolled up her
sleeves, wound herself round with a blue-checked apron, and commenced to
work. She had a deft touch at household matters, and the Man followed
her about as humbly as though he himself had not been adequately
providing meals for the past two months.

The color rose high in the Girl's cheeks, and her voice took on the
thrill and breathiness of amused excitement. Wherever she found a huddle
of best china or linen or silver she raided it for her use, and the
table flared forth at last with a dainty, inconsequent prettiness that
quite defied the Artist's prescribed rules for beauty.

It was a funny dinner, with an endless amount of significant bantering
going on right under the Artist's sunburned nose. Yet for all the mirth
of the situation, the Girl had quite a chance to study the face of her
special host, in all its full detail of worldliness, of spirituality, of
hardness, of sweetness. Her final impression, as her first one, was of a
wonderful affinity and congeniality. "His face is like a harbor for all
my stormy thoughts," was the way she described it to herself.

After dinner the three washed up the dishes as sedately as though they
had been working together day-in, day-out through the whole season, and
after that the Artist escaped as quickly as possible to catch a cloud
effect which he seemed to consider preposterously vital.

Then with a dreary little feeling of a prize-pleasure all spent and
gone, the Girl went over to the mirror in the sitting-room and pinned on
her gray slouch hat and patted her hair and straightened her belt.

But it was not her own reflection that interested her most. The mirror
made a fine frame for the whole quaint room, with its dingy landscape
wall-paper from which the scarlet petticoat of a shepherdess or the
vivid green of a garland stood out with cheerful crudity. The battered,
blackened fireplace was lurid here and there with gleams of copper
kettles, and a huge gray cat purred comfortably in the curving seat of a
sun-baked rocking-chair.

It was a good picture to take home in your mind for remembrance, when
walls should be brick and rooms ornate and life hackneyed, and the Girl
shut her eyes for a second, experimentally, to fix the vision in her

When she opened her eyes again the Man was struggling through the
doorway dragging a small, heavy trunk.

"Oh, don't go yet!" he exclaimed. "Here are a lot of your things in this
trunk. I brought them in to show you."

And he dragged the trunk to the middle of the room and knelt down on the
floor and commenced to unlock it.

"_My_ things?" cried the Girl in amazement, and ran across the room and
sat down on the floor beside him. "_My_ things?"

There was a funny little twist to the Man's mouth that never relaxed all
the time he was tinkering with the lock. "Yes--_your_ things," was all
he said till the catch yielded finally, and he raised the cover to
display the full contents to his companion's curious eyes.

[Illustration: Instinctively she clasped it to her]

"Oh--_books_!" she cried out, with a sudden, sweeping flush of
comprehension, and darted her hand into the dusty pile and pulled out a
well-worn copy of the Rubaiyat. Instinctively she clasped it to her.

"I thought so!" said the Youngish Man quizzically. "I thought that was
one of your books.

          "When Time lets slip a little, perfect hour,
           Oh, take it--for it will not come again."

His eyes narrowed, and his hands reached nervously to regain possession
of the volume. Then he laughed.

"_I_, also, used to think that Life was made for me," he scoffed
teasingly. "It's a glorious idea--as long as it lasts! You take every
harsh old happening and every flimsy friendship and line it with your
own silk, and then sit by and say, 'Oh, _isn't_ the World a rustly,
shimmery, luxurious place!' And all the time the happening _is_ harsh,
and the friendship _is_ flimsy, and it's just your own perishable silk
lining that does the rustle and the shimmer and the luxury act. Oh, I
suppose that's 'woman talk' about silk linings, but I know a thing or
two, even if I am a man."

But the radiancy of the Girl's face defied his cynicism utterly. Her
eyes were absolutely fathomless with Youth.

Then his mood changed suddenly. He reached out with a little brooding
gesture of protection. "These are my college books," he confided, "my
Dream Library. I've scarcely thought of them for a dozen years. I don't
meet many dreamers nowadays. You've probably got a lot of newer books
than these, but I'll wager you anything in the world that every book
here is a precious friend to you. I shouldn't wonder if your own copies
opened exactly to the same places. Here's young Keats with his shadowing
tragedy. How you have mooned over it. And here's Tennyson. What about
the starlit vision:

          "And on her lover's arm she leant,
            And round her waist she felt it fold,--"

The Girl took up the words softly in unison:

          "And far across the hills they went
           To that new world which is the old."

In rushing, eager tenderness she browsed through one book after another,
sometimes silently, sometimes with a little crooning quotation, where
corners were turned down. And when she had quite finished, her eyes
were like stars, and she looked up tremulously, and whispered:

"Why, we--like--just--the--same--things."

But the Youngish Man did not smile back at her. His face in that second
turned suddenly old-looking and haggard and gray. He threw the books
back into their places, and slammed the trunk-cover with a bang.

For just the infinitesimal fraction of a second the Man and the Girl
looked into each other's eyes. For just that infinitesimal fraction of a
second the Man's eyes were as unfathomable as the Girl's.

Then with a great sniff and scratching and whine, the White Bulldog
pushed his way into the room, and the Girl jumped up in alarm to note
that the sun was dropping very low in the west, and that the shadows of
late afternoon crept palpably over her companion's face.

For a moment the two stood awkwardly without a word, and then the Girl
with a conscious effort at lightness queried:

"But _where_ did the Runaway Road go to? I _must_ find out."

The Youngish Man turned as though something had startled him.

"Wouldn't you rather leave things just as they are?" he asked.

"NO!" The Girl stamped her foot vehemently. "NO! I want everything. I
want the whole adventure."

"The whole adventure?" The Youngish Man winced at the phrase, and then
laughed to cover his seriousness.

"All right," he acquiesced. "I'll show you just where the Runaway Road
goes to."

Without further explanation he stepped to the dooryard and scooped up
two heaping handfuls of gravel from the Road. As he came back into the
room he trailed a little line of earth across the floor to the foot of
the stairs, and threw the remaining handful up the steps just as a
heedless child might have done.

"Go follow your Runaway Road," he smiled, "and see where it leads to, if
you are so eager! I'm going down to the woods to see if my brother is
quite lost in his clouds."

Wasn't that _another_ dare? It seemed a craven thing to tease for a
climax and then shirk it. She had never shirked anything yet that was
right, no matter how unusual it was.

She started for the stairs. One step, two steps, three steps, four
steps--her riding-boots grated on the gravel. "Oh, you funny Runaway
Road," she trembled, "where _do_ you go to?"

At the top stairs a tiny waft of earth turned her definitely into the
first doorway.

She took one step across the threshold, and then stood stock-still and
stared. It was a _woman's room_. And from floor to ceiling and from wall
to wall flaunted an incongruous, moneyed effort to blot out all
temperament and pang and trenchant life-history from one spot at least
of the little old gray farmhouse. Bauble was there, and fashion and
novelty, but the whole gay decoration looked and felt like the sumptuous
dressing of a child whom one _hated_.

With a gasp of surprise the Girl went over and looked at herself in the

"Wouldn't I look queer in a room like this?" she whispered to herself.
But she didn't look queer at all. She only felt queer, like a flatted

Then she hurried right down the stairs again, and went out in the yard,
and caught the White Pony, and climbed up into her saddle.

The Youngish Man came running to say good-by.

"Well?" he said.

The Girl's eyes were steady as her hand. If her heart fluttered there
was no sign of it.

"Why, it was a _woman's_ room," she answered to his inflection.

"Yes," said the Youngish Man quite simply. "It is my wife's room. My
wife is in Europe getting her winter clothes. All people do not

The Girl put out her hand to him with bright-faced friendliness.

"In Europe?" she repeated. "Indeed, I shall not be so local when I think
of her. Wherever she is--all the time--I shall always think of your wife
as being--most of anything else--_in luck_."

She drew back her hand and chirruped to the White Pony, but the Youngish
Man detained her.

"Wait a second," he begged. "Here's a copy of Matthew Arnold for you to
take home as a token, though there's only one thing in it for us, and
you won't care for that until you are forty. You can play it's about the
mountains that you pass going home. Here it is:

          "Unaffrighted by the silence round them,
             Undistracted by the sights they see,
          _THESE_ demand not that the things about them
             Yield them love, amusement, sympathy."

"Rather cracked-ice comfort, isn't it?" the Girl laughed as she tucked
the little book into her blouse.

"Rather," said the Youngish Man, "but cracked ice is good for fevers,
and Youth is the most raging fever that I know about."

Then he stood back from the White Pony, and smiled quizzically, and the
Girl turned the White Pony's head, and started down the Road.

Just before the first curve in the alders, she whirled in her saddle and
looked back. The Youngish Man was still standing there watching her, and
she held up her hand as a final signal. Then the Road curved her out of

It was chilly now in the gloaming shade of the woods, and home seemed a
long way off. After a mile or two the White Pony dragged as though his
feet were sore, and when she tried to force him into a jarring canter
the sharp corners of the Matthew Arnold book goaded cruelly against her

"It isn't going to be a very pleasant ride," she said. "But it was quite
an adventure. I don't know whether to call it the 'Adventure of the
Runaway Road' or the 'Adventure of the Little Perfect Hour.'"

Then she shivered a little and tried to keep the White Pony in the
rapidly fading sun spots of the Road, but the shadows grew thicker and
cracklier and more lonesome every minute, and the only familiar sound of
life to be heard was 'way off in the distance, where some little lost
bossy was calling plaintively for its mother.

There were plenty of unfamiliar sounds, though. Things--nothing special,
but just Things--sighed mournfully from behind a looming boulder.
Something dark, with gleaming eyes, scudded madly through the woods. A
ghastly, mawkish chill like tomb-air blew dankly from the swamp. Myriads
of tiny insects droned venomously. The White Pony shied at a flash of
heat lightning, and stumbled bunglingly on a rolling stone. Worst of
all, far behind her, sounded the unmistakable tagging step of some
stealthy creature.

For the first time in her life the girl was frightened--hideously,
sickeningly frightened of Night!

Back in the open clearing round the tiny farmhouse, the light, of
course, still lingered in a lulling yellow-gray. It would be an hour
yet, she reasoned, before the great, black loneliness settled there. She
could picture the little, simple, homely, companionable activities of
early evening--the sputter of a candle, the good smell of a pipe, the
steamy murmur of a boiling kettle. O--h! But could one go back wildly
and say: "It is darker and cracklier than I supposed in the woods, and I
am a wilful Girl, and there are fifteen wilful miles between me and
home--and there is a cemetery on the way, and a new grave--and a
squalid camp of gypsies--and a broken bridge--_and I am afraid! What
shall I do?_"

She laughed aloud at the absurdity, and cut at the White Pony sharply
with her whip. It would be lighter, she thought, on the open village
road below the hill.

Love? Amusement? Sympathy? She shook her young fist defiantly at the
hulking contour of a stolid, bored old mountain that loomed up through a
gap in the trees. "_Drat_ Self-sufficiency," she cursed, with a vehement
little-girl curse. "I won't be a bored old Mountain. I _won't_! I
_won't_! I _won't_!"

All her short, eager life, it seemed, she had been floundering like a
stranger in a strange land--no father or mother, no chum, no friend, no
lover, no anything--and now just for a flash, just for one "little,
perfect hour" she had found a voice at last that _spoke her own
language_, and the voice belonged to a Man who belonged to another

She remembered her morning's singing with a bitter pang. "_Nothing_ is
mine forever. Nothing, _nothing_, NOTHING!" she sobbed.

A great, black, smothering isolation like a pall settled down over her,
and seemed to pin itself with a stab through her heart. Everybody, once
in his time, has tried to imagine his Dearest-one absolutely
nonexistent, unborn, and tortured himself with the possibility of such a
ghostly vacuum in his life. To the Girl suddenly it seemed as though
puzzled, lonely, unmated, all her short years, she had stumbled now
precipitously on the Great Cause Of It--a _vacuum_. It was not that she
had lost any one, or missed any one. _It was simply that some one had
never been born!_

The thought filled her with a whimsical new terror. She pounded the
White Pony into a gallop and covered the last half-mile of the Runaway
Road. At the crest of the hill the valley vista brightened palely and
the White Pony gave a whimper of awakened home instinct. Cautiously,
warily, with legs folding like a jack-knife he began the hazardous

Was he sleepy? Was he clumsy? Was he footsore? Just before the Runaway
Road smoothed out into the village highway his knees wilted suddenly
under him, and he pitched headlong with a hideous lurch that sent the
Girl hurtling over his neck into a pitiful, cluttered heap among the
dust and stones, where he came back after his first panicky run, and
blew over her with dilated nostrils, and whimpered a little before he
strayed off to a clover patch on the highway below.

Twilight deepened to darkness. Darkness quickened at last to stars. It
was Night, real Night, black alike in meadow, wood, and dooryard,
before the Girl opened her eyes again. Part of an orange moon, waning,
wasted, decadent, glowed dully in the sky.

For a long time, stark-still and numb, she lay staring up into space,
conscious of nothing except consciousness. It was a floaty sort of
feeling. Was she dead? That was the first thought that twittered in her
brain. Gradually, though, the reassuring edges of her cheeks loomed into
sight, and a beautiful, real pain racked along her spine and through her
side. It was the pain that whetted her curiosity. "If it's my neck
that's broken," she reasoned, "it's all over. If it's my heart it's only
just begun."

Then she wriggled one hand very cautiously, and a White Doggish
Something came over and licked her fingers. It felt very kind and

Now and then on the road below, a carriage rattled by, or one voice
called to another. She didn't exactly care that no one noticed her, or
rescued her--indeed, she was perfectly, sluggishly comfortable--but she
remembered with alarming distinctness that once, on a scorching city
pavement, she had gone right by a bruised purple pansy that lay wilting
underfoot. She could remember just how it looked. It had a funny little
face, purple and yellow, and all twisted with pain. And she had gone
right by. And she felt very sorry about it now.

She was still thinking about that purple pansy an hour later, when she
heard the screeching toot of an automobile, the snort of a horse, and
the terrified clatter of hoofs up the hill. Then the White Doggish
Something leaped up and barked a sharp, fluttery bark like a signal.

The next thing she knew, pleasant voices and a lantern were coming
toward her. "They will be frightened," she thought, "to find a body in
the Road." So, "Coo-o! Coo-o!" she cried in a faint little voice.

Then quickly a bright light poured into her face, and she swallowed very
hard with her eyes for a whole minute before she could see that two men
were bending over her. One of the men was just a man, but the other one
was the Boy From Home. As soon as she saw him she began to cry very
softly to herself, and the Boy From Home took her right up in his great,
strong arms and carried her down to the cushioned comfort of the

"Where--did--you--come--from?" she whispered smotheringly into his

The harried, boyish face broke brightly into a smile.

"I came from Rosedale to-night, to find _you_!" he said. "But they sent
me up here on business to survey a new Road."

"To survey a new Road?" she gasped. "That's--good. All the Roads that I
know--go--to--Other People's Homes."

Her head began to droop limply to one side. She felt her senses reeling
away from her again. "If--I--loved--you," she hurried to ask,
"would--you--make--me--a--safe Road--_all my own_?"

The Boy From Home gave a scathing glance at the hill that reared like a
crag out of the darkness.

"If I couldn't make a safer Road than _that_--" he began, then stopped
abruptly, with a sudden flash of illumination, and brushed his trembling
lips across her hair.

"I'll make you the safest, smoothest Road that ever happened," he said,
"if I have to dig it with my fingers and gnaw it with my teeth."

A little, snuggling sigh of contentment slipped from the Girl's lips.

"Do--you--suppose," she whispered,
"do--you--suppose--that--after--all--_this_--was--the real--end--of--the
Runaway Road?"


MONDAY, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, it had rained. Day in, day
out, day in, day out, day in, it had rained and rained and rained and
rained and rained, till by Friday night the great blue mountains loomed
like a chunk of ruined velvet, and the fog along the valley lay thick
and gross as mildewed porridge.

It was a horrid storm. Slop and shiver and rotting leaves were rampant.
Even in Alrik's snug little house the chairs were wetter than moss.
Clothes in the closets hung lank and clammy as undried bathing-suits.
Worst of all, across every mirror lay a breathy, sad gray mist, as
though ghosts had been back to whimper there over their lost faces.

It had never been so before in the first week of October.

There were seven of us who used to tryst there together every year in
the gorgeous Scotch-plaid Autumn, when the reds and greens and blues
and browns and yellows lapped and overlapped like a festive little kilt
for the Young Winter, and every crisp, sweet day that dawned was like
the taste of cider and the smell of grapes.

That is the kind of October well worth living, and seven people make a
wonderfully proper number to play together in the country, particularly
if six of you are men and women, and one of you is a dog.

Yet, after all, it was October, and October alone, that lured us. We
certainly differed astonishingly in most of our other tastes.

Three of us belonged to the peaceful Maine woods--Alrik and Alrik's Wife
and his Growly-Dog-Gruff. Four of us came from the rackety cities--the
Partridge Hunter, the Blue Serge Man, the Pretty Lady, and Myself--a
newspaper woman.

Incidentally, I may add that the Blue Serge Man and the Pretty Lady were
husband and wife, but did not care much about it, having been married,
very evidently, in some gorgeously ornate silver-plated emotion that
they had mistaken at the time for the "sterling" article. The shine and
beauty of the marriage had long since worn away, leaving things quite a
little bit edgy here and there. Alrik's young spouse was, wonder of
wonders, a transplanted New York chorus girl. No other biographical
data are necessary except that Growly-Dog-Gruff was a brawling, black,
fat-faced mongrel whose complete sense of humor had been slammed in the
door at a very early age. For some inexplainable reason, he seemed to
hold all the rest of the crowd responsible for the catastrophe, but was
wildly devoted to me. He showed this devotion by never biting me as hard
as he bit the others.

Yet even with Growly-Dog-Gruff included among our assets, we had always
considered ourselves an extremely superior crowd.

There were seven of us, I said, who _used_ to tryst there together every
autumn. But now, since the year before, three of us had _gone_, Alrik's
Wife, Alrik's Dog, and the Blue Serge Man. So the four of us who
remained huddled very close around the fire on that stormy, dreary,
ghastly first night of our reunion, and talked-talked-talked and
laughed-laughed-laughed just as fast as we possibly could for fear that
a moment's silence would plunge us all down, whether or no, into the
sorrow-chasm that lurked so consciously on every side. Yet we certainly
looked and acted like a very jovial quartet.

The Pretty Lady, to be sure, was a black wisp of crape in her prim,
four-footed chair; but Alrik's huge bulk tipped jauntily back against
the wainscoting in a gaudy-colored Mackinaw suit, with merely a broad
band of black across his left sleeve--as one who, neither affirming nor
denying the formalities of grief, would laconically warn the public at
large to "Keep Off My Sorrow." I liked Alrik, and I had liked Alrik's
Wife. But I had loved Alrik's Dog. I do not care especially for temper
in women, but a surly dog, or a surly man, is as irresistibly funny to
me as Chinese music, there is so little plot to any of them.

[Illustration: The four of us who remained huddled very close around the

But now on the hearth-rug at my feet the Partridge Hunter lay in amiable
corduroy comfort, with the little puff of his pipe and his lips
throbbing out in pleasant, dozy regularity. He had traveled in Japan
since last we met, and one's blood flowed pink and gold and purple,
one's flesh turned silk, one's eyes onyx, before the wonder of his

No one was to be outdone in adventurous recital. Alrik had spent the
summer guiding a party of amateur sports along the Allagash, and his
garbled account of it would have stocked a comic paper for a month. The
Pretty Lady had christened a warship, and her eager, brooky voice went
rippling and churtling through such major details as blue chiffon velvet
and the goldiest kind of champagne. Even Alrik's raw-boned Old Mother,
clinking dirty supper dishes out in the kitchen, had a crackle-voiced
tale of excitement to contribute about a floundering spring bear that
she had soused with soap-suds from her woodshed window.

But all the time the storm grew worse and worse. The poor, tiny old
house tore and writhed under the strain. Now and again a shutter blew
shrilly loose, or a chimney brick thudded down, or a great sheet of rain
sucked itself up like a whirlpool and then came drenching and hurtling
itself in a perfect frenzy against the frail, clattering window-panes.

It was a good night for four friends to be housed together in a red, red
room, where the low ceiling brooded over you like a face and the warped
floor curled around you like the cuddle of a hand. A living-room should
always be red, I think, like the walls of a heart, and cluttered, as
Alrik's was, with every possible object, mean or fine, funny or
pathetic, that typifies the owner's personal experience.

Yet there are people, I suppose, people stuffed with arts, not hearts,
who would have monotoned Alrik's bright walls a dull brain-gray, ripped
down the furs, the fishing-tackle, the stuffed owls, the gaudy
theatrical posters, the shelf of glasses, the spooky hair wreaths, the
really terrible crayon portrait of some much-beloved ancient grandame;
and, supplementing it all with a single, homesick Japanese print,
yearning across the vacuum at a chalky white bust of a perfect stranger
like Psyche or Ruskin, would have called the whole effect more
"successful." Just as though the crudest possible room that represents
the affections is not infinitely more worth while than the most esoteric
apartment that represents the intellect.

There were certainly no vacuums in Alrik's room. Everything in it was
crowded and scrunched together like a hard, friendly hand-shake. It was
the most fiercely, primitively sincere room that I have ever seen, and
king or peasant therefore would have felt equally at home in it. Surely
no mere man could have crossed the humpy threshold without a blissful,
instinctive desire to keep on his hat and take off his boots. Alrik knew
how to make a room "homeful." Alrik knew everything in the world except

Red warmth, yellow cheer, and all-colored jollity were there with us.

Faster and faster we talked, and louder and louder we laughed, until at
last, when the conversation lost its breath utterly, Alrik jumped up
with a grin and started our old friend the phonograph. His first choice
of music was a grotesque _duo_ by two back-yard cats. It was one of
those irresistibly silly minstrel things that would have exploded any
decent bishop in the midst of his sermon. Certainly no one of us had
ever yet been able to withstand it. _But now no bristling, injuriated
dog jumped from his sleep and charged like a whole regiment on the
perfectly innocent garden._ And the duo somehow seemed strangely flat.

"Here is something we used to like," suggested Alrik desperately, and
started a splendid barytone rendering of "Drink to Me Only with Thine
Eyes." _But no high-pitched, mocking tenor voice took up the solemn
velvet song and flirted it like a cheap chiffon scarf._ And the Pretty
Lady rose very suddenly and went out to the kitchen indefinitely "for a
glass of water." It was funny about the Blue Serge Man. I had not liked
him overmuch, but I missed _not-liking-him_ with a crick in my heart
that was almost sorrow.

"Oh, for heaven's sake try some other music!" cried the Partridge Hunter
venomously, and Alrik clutched out wildly for the first thing he could
reach. It was "Give My Regards to Broadway." We had practically worn out
the record the year before, but its mutilated remains whirred along,
dropping an occasional note or word, with the same cheerful spunk and
unconcern that characterized the song itself:

          "Give my regards to Broadway,
           Remember me to Herald Square,
           Tell all the--whirry--whirry, whirrrrry--whirrrrrrr
           That I will soon be there."

The Partridge Hunter began instantly to beat muffled time with his soft
felt slippers. Alrik plunged as usual into a fearfully clever and
clattery imitation of an ox shying at a street-car. _But what of it? No
wakened, sparkling-eyed girl came stealing forth from her corner to
cuddle her blazing cheek against the cool, brass-colored jowl of the
phonograph horn._ An All-Goneness is an amazing thing. It was strange
about Alrik's Wife. Her presence had been as negative as a dead gray
dove. But her _absence_ was like scarlet strung with bells!

The evening began to drag out like a tortured rubber band getting ready
to snap.

It was surely eleven o'clock before the Pretty Lady returned from the
kitchen with our hot lemonades. The tall glasses jingled together
pleasantly on the tray. The height was there, the breadth, the precious,
steaming fragrance. _But the Blue Serge Man had always mixed our
nightcaps for us._

With grandiloquent pleasantry, the Partridge Hunter jumped to his feet,
raised his glass, toasted "Happy Days," choked on the first swallow,
bungled his grasp, and dropped the whole glass in shattering, messy
fragments to the floor.

"Lord," he muttered under his breath, "one could stand missing a fellow
in a church or a graveyard or a mournful sunset glow--but to miss him
in a foolish, folksy--hot lemonade!--Lord!" And he shook his shoulders
almost angrily and threw himself down again on the hearth-rug.

The darkening room was warm as an oven now, and the great, soft, glowing
pile of apple-wood embers lured one's drowsy eyes like a flame-colored
pillow. No one spoke at all until midnight.

But the clock had only just finished complaining about the hour when the
Partridge Hunter straightened up abruptly and cried out to no one in

"Well, I simply can't bluff this out any longer. I've just _got_ to know
how it all happened!"

No one stopped to question his meaning. No one stopped to parry with
word or phrase. Like two tense music-boxes wound to their utmost
resonance, but with mechanism only just that instant released, Alrik and
the Pretty Lady burst into sound.

The Pretty Lady spoke first. Her breath was short and raspy and cross,
like the breath of a person who runs for a train--and misses it.

"It was--in--Florida," she gasped, "the--last--of March. The sailboat
was a dreadful, flimsy, shattered thing. But he _would_ go out in
it--_alone_--storm or no storm!" She spoke with a sudden sense of
emotional importance, with a certain strange, fierce, new pride in the
shortcomings of her Man. "He must have swamped within an hour. They
found his boat. But they never found his body. Just as one could always
find his pocket, but never his watch--his purse, but never his money--his
song, but never his soul." Her broken self-control plunged deeper and
deeper into bitterness. "It was a stupid--wicked--wilful--accident,"
she persisted, "and I can see him in his last, smothery--astonished--
Do you think for an instant that he would swallow even--Death--without
making a fuss about it? Can't you hear him rage and sputter: '_This_ is
too salt! _This_ is too cold! Take it away and bring me another!' While
all the time his frenzied mind was racing up and down some precious,
memoried playground like the Harvard Stadium or the New York Hippodrome,
whimpering, 'Everybody'll be there except--_me_--except M-E!'"

The Pretty Lady's voice took on a sudden hurt, left-out resentment. "Of
course," she hurried on, "he wasn't exactly sad to go--nothing could
make him sad. But I know that it must have made him very _mad_. He had
just bought a new automobile. And he had rented a summer place at
Marblehead. And he wanted to play tennis in June--"

She paused for an instant's breath, and Alrik crashed like a moose into
the silence.

"It was lung trouble!" he attested vehemently. "Cough, cough, cough, all
the time. It came on specially worse in April, and she died in May. She
wasn't never very strong, you know, but she'd been brought up in your
wicked old steam-heated New York, and she would persist in wearing
tissue-paper clothes right through our rotten icy winters up here. And
when I tried to dose her like the doctor said, with cod-liver oil or any
of them thick things, I couldn't fool her--she just up an' said it was
nothin' but liquid flannel, and spit it out and sassed me. And
Gruff--Growly-Dog-Gruff," he finished hastily, "I don't know what ailed
him. He jus' kind of followed along about June."

The Partridge Hunter drew a long, heavy breath. When he spoke at last,
his voice sounded like the voice of a man who holds his hat in his hand,
and the puffs of smoke from his pipe made a sort of little halo round
his words.

"Isn't it nice," he mused, "to think that while we four are cozying
here to-night in the same jolly old haunts, perhaps they three--Man,
Girl, and Dog--are cuddling off together somewhere in the big,
spooky Unknown, in the shade of a cloud, or the shine of a

The whimsical comfort of the thought pleased me. I did not want any one
to be alone on such a night.

But Alrick's tilted chair came crashing down on the floor with a
resounding whack. His eyes were blazing.

"She _ain't_ with him!" he cried. "She _ain't_, she AIN'T, she A-I-N-'T!
I won't have it. Why, it's the middle of the night!"

And in that electric instant I saw the Pretty Lady's face set rigidly,
all except her mouth, which twisted in my direction.

"I'll wager she _is_ with him," she whispered under her breath. "She
always did tag him wherever he went!"

Then I felt the toe of my slipper meet the recumbent elbow of the
Partridge Hunter. Had I reached out to him? Or had he reached back to
me? There was no time to find out, for the smooth, round conversation
shattered prickingly in the hand like a blown-glass bauble, and with
much nervous laughter and far-fetched joke-making, we rose, rummaged
round for our candles, and climbed upstairs to bed.

Alrik's Old Mother burrowed into a corner under the eaves.

The Pretty Lady had her usual room, and mine was next to hers. For a
lingering moment I dallied with her, craving some tiny, absurd bit of
loving service. First, I helped her with a balky hook on her collar.
Then I started to put her traveling coat and hat away in the closet. On
the upper shelf something a little bit scary brushed my hands. _It was
the Blue Serge Man's cap, with a ragged gash across it where
Growly-Dog-Gruff had worried it on a day I remembered well._ With a
hurried glance over my shoulder to make sure that the Pretty Lady had
not also spied it, I reached up and shoved it--oh, 'way, 'way back out
of sight, where no one but a detective or a lover could possibly find

Then I hurried off to my room with a most garish human wonder: How could
a _man_ be all gone, but his silly cap _last_?

My little room was just as I remembered it, bare, bleak, and gruesomely
clean, with a rag rug, a worsted motto, and a pink china vase for really
sensuous ornamentation. I opened the cheap pine bureau to stow away my
things. _A trinket jingled--a tawdry rhinestone side-comb. Caught in the
setting was a tiny wisp of brown hair._ I slammed the drawer with a
bang, and opened another. _Metal and leather slid heavily along the
bottom._ It might have been my beast's collar, if distinctly across the
name-plate had not run the terse phrase "Alrik's Cross Dog." I did not
like to have my bureau haunted! When I slammed that drawer, it cracked
the looking-glass.

Then, with candle burning just as cheerfully as possible, I lay down on
the bed in all my clothes and began to _wake up_--wider and wider and

My reason lay quite dormant like some drugged thing but my memory,
photographic as a lens, began to reproduce the ruddy, blond face of the
Blue Serge Man beaming across a chafing-dish; the mournful, sobbing
sound of a dog's dream; the crisp, starched, Monday smell of the blue
gingham aprons that Alrik's Wife used to wear. The vision was altogether
too vivid to be pleasant.

Then the wet wind blew in through the window like a splash of alcohol,
chilling, revivifying, stinging as a whip-lash. The tormented candle
flame struggled furiously for a moment, and went out, hurtling the black
night down upon me like some choking avalanche of horror. In utter
idiotic panic I jumped from my bed and clawed my way toward the feeble
gray glow of the window-frame. The dark dooryard before me was drenched
with rain. The tall linden trees waved and mourned in the wind.

"Of course, of course, there are no ghosts," I reasoned, just as one
reasons that there is no mistake in the dictionary, no flaw in the
multiplication table. But sometimes one's fantastically jaded nerves think
they have found the blunder in language, the fault in science. Ghosts
or no ghosts--if you _thought_ you saw one, wouldn't it be just as bad?
My eyes strained out into the darkness. Suppose--I--should--_think_--that
I heard the bark of a dog? Suppose--suppose--that from that black shed
door where the automobile used to live, I should _think_--even T-H-I-N-K
that I saw the Blue Serge Man come stumbling with a lantern? The black
shed door burst open with a bang-bang-bang, and I screamed, jumped,
snatched a blanket, and fled for the lamp-lighted hall.

A little dazzled by the sudden glow, I shrank back in alarm from a
figure on the top stair. It was the Pretty Lady. Wrapped clumsily like
myself in a big blanket, she sat huddled there with the kerosene lamp
close beside her, mending the Blue Serge Man's cap. On the step below
her, smothered in a soggy lavender comforter, crouched Alrik's Old
Mother, her dim eyes brightened uncannily with superstitious excitement.
I was evidently a welcome addition to the party, and the old woman
cuddled me in like a meal-sack beside her.

"Naw one could sleep a night like this," she croaked.

"_Sleep?_" gasped the Pretty Lady. Scorn infinite was in her tone.

But comfortably and serenely from the end of the hall came the heavy,
regular breathing of the Partridge Hunter, and from beyond that, Alrik's
blissful, oblivious snore. Yet Alrik was the only one among us who
claimed an agonizing, personal sorrow.

I began to laugh a bit hysterically. "Men are funny people," I

Alrik's Old Mother caught my hand with a chuckle, then sobered suddenly,
and shook her wadded head.

"Men _ain't_ exactly--people," she confided. "Men _ain't_ exactly
people--at all!"

The conviction evidently burned dull, steady, comforting as a
night-light, in the old crone's eighty years' experience, but the Pretty
Lady's face grabbed the new idea desperately, as though she were trying
to rekindle happiness with a wet match. Yet every time her fretted lips
straightened out in some semblance of Peace, her whole head would
suddenly explode in one gigantic sneeze. There was no other sound, I
remember, for hours and hours, except the steady, monotonous, slobbery
swash of a bursting roof-gutter somewhere close in the eaves.

Certainly Dawn itself was not more chilled and gray than we when we
crept back at last to our beds, thick-eyed with drowsy exhaustion,
limp-bodied, muffle-minded.

But when we woke again, the late, hot noonday sun was like a scorching
fire in our faces, and the drenched dooryard steamed like a dye-house in
the sudden burst of unseasonable heat.

After breakfast, the Pretty Lady, in her hundred-dollar ruffles, went
out to the barn with shabby Alrik to help him mend a musty old plow
harness. The Pretty Lady's brains were almost entirely in her fingers.
So were Alrik's. The exclusiveness of their task seemed therefore to
thrust the Partridge Hunter and me off by ourselves into a sort of
amateur sorrow class, and we started forth as cheerfully as we could to
investigate the autumn woods.

Passing the barn door, we heard the strident sound of Alrik's
complaining. Braced with his heavy shoulders against a corner of the
stall, he stood hurling down his new-born theology upon the glossy blond
head of the Pretty Lady who sat perched adroitly on a nail keg with two
shiny-tipped fingers prying up the corners of her mouth into a smile.
One side of the smile was distinctly wry. But Alrik's face was deadly
earnest. Sweat bubbled out on his forehead like tears that could not
possibly wait to reach his eyes.

"There ought to be a separate heaven for ladies and gentlemen," he was
arguing frantically. "'Tain't fair. 'Tain't right. I won't have it! I'll
see a priest. I'll find a parson. If it ain't proper to live with
people, it ain't proper to die with 'em. I tell you I won't have Amy
careerin' round with strange men. She always was foolish about men. And
I'm breakin' my heart for her, and Mother's gettin' old, and the house
is goin' to rack and ruin, but how--_how_ can a man go and get married
comfortable again when his mind's all torturin' round and round and
round about his first wife?"

The Partridge Hunter gave a sharp laugh under his breath, yet he did not
seem exactly amused. "Laugh for _two_!" I suggested, as we dodged out of
sight round the corner and plunged off into the actual Outdoors.

The heat was really intense, the October sun dazzlingly bright. Warmth
steamed from the earth, and burnished from the sky. A plushy brown
rabbit lolling across the roadway dragged on one's sweating senses like
overshoes in June. Under our ruthless, heavy-booted feet the wet green
meadow winced like some tender young salad. At the edge of the forest
the big pines darkened sumptuously. Then, suddenly, between a scarlet
sumach and a slim white birch, the cavernous wood-path opened forth
mysteriously, narrow and tall and domed like the arch of a cathedral.
Not a bird twitted, not a leaf rustled, and, far as the eye could reach,
the wet brown pine-needles lay thick and soft and padded like tan-bark,
as though all Nature waited hushed and expectant for some exquisitely
infinitesimal tragedy, like the travail of a squirrel.

With brain and body all a-whisper and a-tiptoe, the Partridge Hunter and
I stole deeper and deeper into the Color and the Silence and the
Witchery, dazed at every step by the material proof of autumn warring
against the spiritual insistence of spring. It was the sort of day to
make one very tender toward the living just because they were living,
and very tender toward the dead just because they were dead.

At the gurgling bowl of a half-hidden spring, we made our first
stopping-place. Out of his generous corduroy pockets the Partridge
Hunter tinkled two drinking-cups, dipped them deep in the icy water, and
handed me one with a little shuddering exclamation of cold. For an
instant his eyes searched mine, then he lifted his cup very high and
stared off into _Nothingness_.

"To the--_All-Gone People_," he toasted.

I began to cry. He seemed very glad to have me cry. "Cry for two," he
suggested blithely, "cry for two," and threw himself down on the twiggy
ground and began to snap metallically against the cup in his hand.

"Nice little tin cup," he affirmed judicially. "The Blue Serge Man gave
it to me. It must have cost as much as fifteen cents. And it will last,
I suppose, till the moon is mud and the stars are dough. But the Blue
Serge Man himself is--quite _gone_. Funny idea!" The Partridge Hunter's
forehead began to knit into a fearful frown. "Of course it _isn't_ so,"
he argued, "but it would certainly seem sometimes as though a man's
_things_ were the only really immortal, indestructible part of him, and
that Soul was nothing in the world but just a composite name for the
S-ouvenirs, O-rnaments, U-tensils, L-itter that each man's personality
accumulates in the few years' time allotted to him. The man himself, you
see, is wiped right off the earth like a chalk-mark, but you can't
escape or elude in a million years the wizened bronze elephant that he
brought home from India, or the showy red necktie that's down behind his
bureau, or the floating, wind-blown, ash-barrel bill for violets that
turns up a generation hence in a German prayer-book at a French

"And isn't Death a teasing teacher? Holds up a personality suddenly like
a map--makes you learn by heart every possible, conceivable pleasant
detail concerning that personality, and then, when you are fairly
bursting with your happy knowledge, tears up the map in your face and
says, 'There's no such country any more, so what you've learned won't do
you the slightest good.' And there you'd only just that moment found out
that your friend's hair was a beautiful auburn instead of 'a horrid
red'; that his blessed old voice was hearty, not 'noisy'; that his table
manners were quaint, not 'queer'; that his morals were broad, not

The Partridge Hunter's mouth began to twist. "It's a horrid thing to
say," he stammered, "but there ought to be a sample shroud in every
home, so that when your husband is late to dinner, or your daughter
smokes a cigarette, or your son decides to marry the cook, you could get
out the shroud and try it on the offender, and make a few experiments
concerning--well, _values_. Why, I saw a man last week dragged by a
train--jerked in and out and over and under, with his head or his heels
or the hem of his coat just missing Death every second by the
hundred-millionth fraction of an inch. But when he was rescued at last
and went home to dinner--shaken as an aspen, sicker than pulp,
tongue-tied like a padlock--I suppose, very likely, his wife scolded him
for having forgotten the oysters."

The Partridge Hunter's face flushed suddenly.

"I didn't care much for Alrik's Wife," he attested abruptly. "I always
thought she was a trivial, foolish little crittur. But if I had known
that I was never going to see her again--while the sun blazed or the
stars blinked--I should like to have gone back from the buckboard that
last morning and stroked her brown hair just once away from her eyes.
Does that seem silly to you?"

"Why, no," I said. "It doesn't seem silly at all. If I had guessed that
the Blue Serge Man was going off on such a long, long, never-stop
journey, I might even have kissed him good-by. But I certainly can't
imagine anything that would have provoked or astonished him more! People
can't go round petting one another just on the possible chance of never
meeting again. And goodness gracious! nobody wants to. It's only that
when a person actually _dies_, a sort of subtle, holy sense in you wakes
up and wishes that just once for all eternity it might have gotten a
signal through to that subtle, holy sense in the other person. And of
course when a youngster dies, you feel somehow that he or she must have
been different all along from other people, and you simply wish that you
might have guessed that fact sooner--before it was too late."

The Partridge Hunter began to smile. "If you knew," he teased, "that I
was going to be massacred by an automobile or crumpled by an elevator
before next October--would you wish that you had petted me just a little

"Yes," I acknowledged.

The Partridge Hunter pretended he was deaf. "Say that once again," he

"Y-e-s," I repeated.

The Partridge Hunter put back his head and roared. "That's just about
like kissing through the telephone," he said. "It isn't particularly
satisfying, and yet it makes a desperately cunning sound."

Then I put back my head and laughed, too, because it is so thoroughly
comfortable and pleasant to be friends for only one single week in all
the year. Independence is at best such a scant fabric, and every new
friendship you incur takes just one more tuck in that fabric, till
before you know it your freedom is quite too short to go out in. The
Partridge Hunter felt exactly the same way about it, and after each
little October playtime we ripped out the thread with never a scar to

Even now while we laughed, we thought we might as well laugh at
everything we could think of, and get just that much finished and out of
the way.

"Perhaps," said the Partridge Hunter, "perhaps the Blue Serge Man was
_glad_ to see Amy, and perhaps he was rattled, no one can tell. But
I'll wager anything he was awfully mad to see Gruff. There were lots of
meteors last June, I remember. I understand now. It was the Blue Serge
Man raking down the stars to pelt at Gruff."

"Gruff was a very--nice dog," I insisted.

"He was a very growly dog," acceded the Partridge Hunter.

"If you growl all the time, it's almost the same as a purr," I argued.

The Partridge Hunter smiled a little, but not very generously. Something
was on his mind. "Poor little Amy," he said. "Any man-and-woman game is
playing with fire, but it's foolish to think that there are only two
kinds, just Hearth-Fire and Hell-Fire. Why, there's 'Student-lamp' and
'Cook-stove' and 'Footlights.' Amy and the Blue Serge Man were playing
with 'Footlights,' I guess. She needed an audience. And he was New York
to her, great, blessed, shiny, rackety New York. I believe she loved
Alrik. He must have been a pretty picturesque figure on that first and
only time when he blazed his trail down Broadway. But _happy_ with
him--H-E-R-E? Away from New York? Five years? In just green and brown
woods where the posies grow on the ground instead of on hats, and even
the Christmas trees are trimmed with nothing except real snow and live
squirrels? G-L-O-R-Y! Of course her chest caved in. There wasn't kinky
air enough in the whole state of Maine to keep her kind of lungs active.
Of course she starved to death. She needed her meat flavored with harp
and violin; her drink aerated with electric lights. We might have done
something for her if we'd liked her just a little bit better. But I
didn't even know her till I heard that she was dead."

He jumped up suddenly and helped me to my feet. Something in my face
must have stricken him. "Would you like my warm hand to walk home with?"
he finished quite abruptly.

Even as he offered it, one of those chill, quick autumn changes came
over the October woods. The sun grayed down behind huge, windy clouds.
The leaves began to shiver and shudder and chatter, and all the gorgeous
reds and greens dulled out of the world, leaving nothing as far as the
eye could reach but dingy squirrel-colors, tawny grays and dusty
yellows, with the far-off, panting sound of a frightened brook dodging
zigzag through some meadow in a last, desperate effort to escape winter.
As a draft from a tomb the cold, clammy, valley twilight was upon us.

Like two bashful children scuttling through a pantomime, we hurried out
of the glowery, darkening woods, and then at the edge of the meadow
broke into a wild, mirthful race for Alrik's bright hearth-fire, which
glowed and beckoned from his windows like a little tame, domesticated
sunset. The Partridge Hunter cleared the porch steps at a single bound,
but I fell flat on the bruising doormat.

Nothing really mattered, however, except the hearth-fire itself.

Alrik and the Pretty Lady were already there before us, kneeling down
with giggly, scorching faces before a huge corn-popper foaming white
with little muffled, ecstatic notes of heat and harvest.

The Pretty Lady turned a crimson cheek to us, and Alrik's tanned skin
glowed like a freshly shellacked Indian. Even the Old Mother's asthmatic
breath purred from the jogging rocker like a specially contented

Nothing in all the room, I remember, looked pallid or fretted except the
great, ghastly white face of the clock. I despise a clock that looks
worried. It wasn't late, anyway. It was scarcely quarter-past four.

Indeed, it was only half-past four when the company came. We were making
such a racket among ourselves that our very first warning was the
sudden, blunt, rubbery _m-o-o_ of an automobile directly outside. Mud
was the first thing I thought of.

Then the door flew open peremptorily, and there on the threshold stood
the Blue Serge Man--not dank and wet with slime and seaweed, but fat and
ruddy and warm in a huge gray 'possum coat. Only the fearful, stilted
immovability of him gave the lie to his reality.

_It was a miracle!_ I had always wondered a great deal about miracles. I
had always longed, craved, prayed to experience a miracle. I had always
supposed that a miracle was the supreme sensation of existence, the
ultimate rapture of the soul. But it seems I was mistaken. A miracle
doesn't do anything to your soul for days and days and days. Your heart,
of course, may jump, and your blood foam, but first of all it simply
makes you very, very sick in the pit of your stomach. It made a man like
Alrik clutch at his belt and jump up and down and "holler" like a
lunatic. It smote the Partridge Hunter somewhere between a cramp and a
sob. It ripped the Old Mother close at her waist-line, and raveled her
out on the floor like a fluff of gray yarn.

But the Pretty Lady just stood up with her hands full of pop-corn, and
stared and stared and stared and STARED. From her shining blond head to
her jet-black slippers she was like an exploded pulse.

The Blue Serge Man stepped forward into the room and faltered. In that
instant's faltering, Alrik jumped for him like a great, glad, loving
dog, and ripped the coat right off his shoulders.

The Blue Serge Man's lips were all a-grin, but a scar across his
forehead gave a certain tense, stricken dignity to his eyes. Very
casually, very indolently, he began to tug at his gloves, staring all
the while with malevolent joy on the fearful crayon portrait of the
ancient grandame.

"That's the very last face I thought of when I was drowning," he
drawled, "and there wasn't room enough in all heaven for the two of us.
Bully old face, I'm glad I'm here. I've been in Cuba," he continued
quite abruptly, "and I meant to play dead forever and ever. But there
was an autumn leaf--a red autumn leaf in a lady's hat--and it made me
homesick." His voice broke suddenly, and he turned to his wife with
quick, desperate, pleading intensity. "I'm not--much--good," he gasped.
"But I've--_come back_!"

I saw the flaky white pop-corn go trickling through the Pretty Lady's
fingers, but she just stood there and shook and writhed like a tightly
wrung newspaper smoldering with fire. Then her face flamed suddenly with
a light I had never, never seen since my world was made.

"I don't care whether you're any good or not," she cried. "You're alive!
You're alive! You're alive! You're _alive_! You're--ALIVE!"

I thought she would never stop saying it, on and on and on and on.
"You're alive, you're alive, you're alive." Like a defective phonograph
disk her shattered sense caught on that one supreme phrase, "You're
alive! You're alive! You're alive! You're alive!"

Then the blood that had blazed in her face spread suddenly to her
nerveless hands, and she began to pluck at the crape ruffles on her
gown. Stitch by stitch I heard the rip-rip-rip like the buzz of a
fishing-reel. But louder than all came that maddening, monotonous cry,
"You're alive! You're alive! You're alive!" I thought her brain was

Then the Blue Serge Man sprang toward her, and I shut my eyes. But I
caught the blessed, clumsy sound of a lover's boot tripping on a
ruffle--the crushing out of a breath--the smother of a half-lipped word.

I don't know what became of Alrik. I don't know what became of Alrik's
Old Mother. But the Partridge Hunter, with his arm across his eyes, came
groping for me through the red, red room.

"Let's get out of this," he whispered. "Let's get out of this."

So once again, amateurs both in sorrow and in gladness, the Partridge
Hunter and I fled fast before the Incomprehensible. Out we ran through
Amy's frost-blighted rose-garden, _where no gay, shrill young voice
challenged our desecration_, out through the senile old apple orchard,
_where no suspicious dog came bristling forth to question our innocent
intrusion_, up through the green-ribbon roadway, up through the
stumbling wood-path, to the safe, sound, tangible, moss-covered
pasture-bars, where the warm, brown-fur bossies, sweet-breathed and
steaming, came lolling gently down through the gauzy dusk to barter
their pleasant milk for a snug night's lodging and a troughful of yellow

A dozen mysterious wood-folk crackled close within reach, as though all
the little day-animals were laying aside their starched clothes for the
night; and the whole earth teemed with the exquisite, sleepy,
nestling-down sound of fur and feathers and tired leaves. Out in the
forest depths somewhere a belated partridge drummed out his excuses.
Across on the nearest stone wall a tawny marauder went hunching his way
along. It might have been a fox, it might have been Amy's thrown-away
coon-cat. Short and sharp from the house behind us came the fast,
furious crash of Alrik's frenzied young energies, chopping wood enough
to warm a dozen houses for a dozen winters for a dozen new brides. But
high above even the racket of his ax rang the sweet, wild, triumphant
resonance of some French Canadian _chanson_. His heart and his lungs
seemed fairly to have exploded in relief.

And over the little house, and the dark woods, and the mellow pasture,
and the brown-fur bossies, broke a little, wee, tiny prick-point of a
star, as though some Celestial Being were peeping down whimsically to
see just what the Partridge Hunter and I thought of it all.


WITH every night piercing her like a new wound, and every morning
stinging her like salt in that wound, Ruth Dudley's broken engagement
had dragged itself out for four long, hideous months. There's so much
fever in a woman's sorrow.

At first, to be sure, there had been no special outward and visible sign
of heartbreak except the thunderstorm shadows under the girl's blue
eyes. Then, gradually, very gradually, those same plucky eyes had dulled
and sickened as though every individual thought in her brain was
festering. Later, an occasional loosened finger ring had clattered off
into her untouched plate or her reeking strong cup of coffee. At the end
of the fourth month the family doctor was quite busy attesting that she
had no tubercular trouble of any sort. There never yet was any
stethoscope invented that could successfully locate consumption of the

It was about this time that Ruth's Big Brother, strolling smokily into
her room one evening, jumped back in tragic dismay at the astonishing
sight that met his eyes. There, like some fierce young sacrificial
priestess, with a very modern smutty nose and scorched cheeks, Ruth
knelt on the hearth-rug, slamming every conceivable object that she
could reach into the blazing fire. The soft green walls of the room were
utterly stripped and ravished. The floor in every direction lay
cluttered deep with books and pictures and clothes and innumerable small
bits of bric-a-brac. Already the brimming fireplace leaked forth across
the carpet in little gray, gusty flakes of ash and cinder.

The Big Brother hooted right out loud. "Why, Ruthy Dudley," he gasped.
"What _are_ you doing? You look like the devil!"

Blissfully unconscious of smoke or smut, the girl pushed back the
straggling blond hair from her eyes and grinned, with her white teeth
shot like a bolt through her under lip to keep the grin in place.

"I'm not a 'devil,'" she explained. "I'm a god! And what am I doing? I'm
creating a new heaven and a new earth."

"You won't have much left to create it with," scoffed the Big Brother,
kicking the tortured wreck of a straw hat farther back into the flames.

The girl reached up impatiently and smutted her other hand across her
eyes. "Nothing left to create it with?" she mocked. "Why, if I had
anything left to create it with, I'd be only a--mechanic!"

Then, blackened like a coal-heaver and tousled like a Skye terrier, she
picked up the scarlet bellows and commenced to pump a savage yellow
flame into a writhing, half-charred bundle of letters.

Through all the sweet, calm hours of that warm June night the sacrifice
progressed with amazing rapacity. By midnight she had just finished
stirring the fire-tongs through the ghostly, lacelike ashes of her
wedding gown. At two o'clock her violin went groaning into the flames.
At three her Big Brother, yawning sleepily back in his nightclothes,
picked her up bodily and dumped her into her bed. He was very angry.
"Little Sister," he scolded, "there's no man living worth the fuss
you're making over Aleck Reese!" And the little sister sat up and rubbed
her smutty, scorched cheek against his cool, blue-shaven face as she
tilted the drifting ashes from the bedspread. "I'm not making any
'fuss,'" she protested. "I'm only just--burning my bridges." It was the
first direct allusion that she had ever made to her trouble.

Twice after that--between three o'clock and breakfast time--the Big
Brother woke from his sleep with a horrid sense that the house was on
fire. Twice between three o'clock and breakfast time he met the
Housekeeper scuttling along the halls on the same sniffy errand. Once
with a flickering candle-light Ruth herself crept out to the doorway and
laughed at them. "The house isn't on fire, you sillies," she cried.
"Don't you know a burnt bridge when you smell it?" But the doctor had
said quite distinctly: "You must watch that little girl. Sorrow in the
tongue will talk itself cured, if you give it a chance; but sorrow in
the eyes has a wicked, wicked way now and then of leaking into the

It was the Housekeeper, though, whose eyes looked worried and tortured
at breakfast time. It was the Big Brother's face that showed a bit sharp
on the cheek-bones. Ruth herself, for the first time in a listless,
uncollared, unbelted, unstarched month, came frisking down to the table
as white and fresh and crisp as linen and starch and curls could make

"I'm going to town this morning," she announced nonchalantly to her
relieved and delighted hearers. The eyes that turned to her brother's
were almost mischievous. "Couldn't you meet me at twelve o'clock," she
suggested, "and take me off to the shore somewhere for lunch? I'll be
shopping on Main Street about that time, so suppose I meet you at Andrew
Bernard's office."

Half an hour later she was stealing out of the creaky back door into
the garden, along the gray, pebbly gravel walk between the tall tufts of
crimson and purple phlox, to the little gay-faced plot of heart's-ease
where the family doctor, symbolist and literalist, had bade her dig and
delve every day in the good, hot, wholesome, freckly sunshine. Close by
in the greensward an absurd pet lamb was tugging and bouncing at the end
of its stingy tether. In a moment's time the girl had transferred the
clumsy iron tether-stake to the midst of her posy bed. Then she started
for the gate.

Pausing for just one repentant second with her hand on the gate latch,
she turned and looked back to the ruthlessly trodden spot where the
bland-eyed lamb stood eyeing her quizzically with his soft, woolly mouth
fairly dripping with the tender, precious blossoms. "Heart's-ease.
B-a-a!" mocked the girl, with a flicker of real amusement.
"Heart's-ease. B-a-a-a!" scoffed the lamb, just because his stomach and
his tongue happened to be made like that. Then with a quick dodge across
the lane she ran to meet the electric car and started off triumphantly
for the city, shutting her faint eyes resolutely away from all the
roadside pools and ponds and gleams of river whose molten, ultimate
peace possibilities had lured her sick mind so incessantly for the past
dozen weeks.

Two hours later, with a hectic spurt of energy, she was racing up three
winding, dizzy flights of stairs in a ponderous, old-fashioned office

Before a door marked "Andrew Bernard, Attorney at Law," she stopped and
waited a frightened moment for breath and courage. As though the
pounding of her heart had really sounded as loud as it felt, the door
handle turned abruptly, and a very tall, broad-shouldered, grave-faced
young man greeted her with attractive astonishment.

"Good morning, Drew," she began politely. "Why, I haven't seen you for a
year." Then, with alarming vehemence, she finished: "Are you all alone?
I want to talk with you."

Her breathlessness, her embarrassment, her fragile intensity sobered the
young man instantly as he led her into his private office and stood for
a moment staring inquiringly into her white face. Her mouth was just as
he had last seen it a year ago, fresh and whimsical and virginal as a
child's; but her eyes were scorched and dazed like the eyes of a
shipwreck survivor or any other person who has been forced unexpectedly
to stare upon life's big emotions with the naked eye.

"I hear you've been ill this spring," he began gently. "If you wanted to
talk with me, Ruthy, why didn't you let me come out to the house and see
you? Wouldn't it have been easier?"

She shook her head. "No," she protested, "I wanted to come here. What
I've got to talk about is very awkward, and if things get too
awkward--why, an embarrassed guest has so much better chance to escape
than an embarrassed host." She struggled desperately to smile, but her
lips twittered instead into a frightened quiver. With narrowing eyes the
young man drew out his big leather chair for her. Then he perched
himself on the corner of his desk and waited for her to speak.

"Ruthy dear," he smiled, "what's the trouble? Come, tell your old chum
all about it."

The girl scrunched her eyes up tight, like a person who starts to jump
and doesn't care where he lands. Twice her lips opened and shut without
a sound. Then suddenly she braced herself with an intense effort.

"Drew," she blurted out, "do you remember--three years ago--you asked me

"Do I remember it?" gasped Drew. The edgy sharpness of his tone made the
girl open her eyes and stare at him. "Yes," he acknowledged, "I remember

The girl began to smooth her white skirts with excessive precision
across her knees. "What made you--ask me?" she whispered.

"What made me ask you?" cried the man.

"What made me ask you? Why, I asked you because I love you."

The girl bent forward anxiously as though she were deaf. "You asked me
because--_what_?" she quizzed him.

"Because I love you," he repeated.

She jumped up suddenly and ran across the room to him. "Because
you--love me?" she reiterated. "'Love?' Not 'loved'? Not past tense? Not
all over and done with?"

There was no mistaking her meaning. But the man's face did not kindle,
except with pain. Almost roughly he put his hands on her shoulders and
searched down deep into her eyes. "Ruth," he probed, "what are you
trying to do to me? Open an old wound? You know I--love you."

The girl's mouth smiled, but her eyes blurred wet with fright and tears.

"Would you care anything--about--marrying me--now?" she faltered.

Drew's face blanched utterly, and the change gave him such a horridly
foreign, alien look that the girl drew away from his hands and scuttled
back to the big chair, and began all over again to smooth and smooth the
garish white skirt across her knees. "Oh, Drew, Drew," she pleaded,
"please look like--_you_. Please--please--don't look like anybody

But Drew did not smile at her. He just stood there and stared in a
puzzled, tortured sort of way.

"What about Aleck Reese?" he began with fierce abruptness.

The girl met the question with unwonted flippancy. "I've broken my
engagement to Aleck Reese," she said coolly. "Broken it all to smash."

But the latent tremor in her voice did not satisfy the man. "Why did you
break it?" he insisted. "Isn't Aleck Reese the man you want?"

Her eyes wavered and fell, and then rallied suddenly to Drew's utmost

"Yes, Drew," she answered ingenuously, "Aleck Reese _is_ the man I want,
_but he's not the kind of man I want_!" As the telltale sentence left
her lips, every atom of strength wilted out of her, and she sank back
into her chair all sick and faint and shuddery.

The impulsive, bitter laugh died dumb on Drew's lips. Instantly he was
at her side, gentle, patient, compassionate, the man whom she knew so
well. "Do you mean," he stammered in a startled sort of way, "do you
mean that--love or no love--I, I am the kind of man that you do want?"

Her hand stole shyly into his and she nodded her head. But her eyes were
turned away from him.

For the fraction of a second he wondered just what the future would hold
for him and her if he should snatch the situation into his arms and
crush her sorrow out against his breast. Then in that second's hesitancy
she shook her hair out of her eyes and looked up at him like a sick,
wistful child.

"Oh, Drew," she pleaded, "you've never, never failed me yet--all my hard
lessons, all my Fourth-of-July accidents, all my broken sleds and lost
skates. Couldn't you help me now we're grown up? I'm so unhappy."

The grimness came back to Drew's face.

"Has Aleck Reese been mean to you?" he asked.

Her eyebrows lifted in denial. "Oh, no--not specially," she finished a
trifle wearily. "I simply made up my mind at last that I didn't want to
marry him."

Drew's frown relaxed. "Then what's the trouble?" he suggested.

Her eyebrows arched again. "What's the trouble?" she queried. "Why, I
happen to love him. That's all."

She took her hand away from Drew and began to smooth her skirt once

"Yes," she repeated slowly, "as long ago as last winter I made up my
mind that I didn't want to marry him--but I didn't make up my courage
until Spring. My courage, I think, is just about six months slower than
my mind. And then, too, my 'love-margin' wasn't quite used up, I
suppose. A woman usually has a 'love-margin,' you know, and, besides,
there's always so much more impetus in a woman's love. Even though she's
hurt, even though she's heartbroken, even though, worst of all, she's a
tiny bit bored, all her little, natural love courtesies go on just the
same of their own momentum, for a day or a week, or a month, or half a
lifetime, till the love-flame kindles again--or else goes out
altogether. Love has to be like that. But if I were a man, Drew, I'd be
awfully careful that that love-margin didn't ever get utterly exhausted.
Aleck, though, doesn't understand about such things. I smoothed his
headaches just as well, and listened to his music just as well, so he
shiftlessly took it for granted that I loved him just as well. What
nonsense! 'Love?'" Her voice rose almost shrilly. "'Love?' Bah! What's
love, anyway, but a wicked sort of hypnotism in the way that a mouth
slants, or a cheek curves, or a lock of hair colors? Listen to me. If
Aleck Reese were a woman and I were a man, I certainly wouldn't choose
his type for a sweetheart--irritable, undomestic, wild for excitement.
How's that for a test? And if Aleck Reese and I were both women, I
certainly shouldn't want him for my friend. Oughtn't that to decide it?
Not a vital taste in common, not a vital interest, not a vital ideal!"

She began to laugh hysterically. "And I can't sleep at night for
remembering the droll little way that his hair curls over his forehead,
or the hurt, surprised look in his eyes when he ever really did get
sorry about anything. My God! Drew, look at me!" she cried, and rolled
up her sleeves to her elbow. The flesh was gone from her as though a
fever had wasted her.

The muscles in Drew's throat began to twitch unpleasantly. "Was Aleck
Reese mean to you?" he persisted doggedly.

A little faint, defiant smile flickered across her lips. "Never mind,
Drew," she said, "whether Aleck Reese was mean to me or not. It really
doesn't matter. It doesn't really matter at all just exactly what a man
does or doesn't do to a woman as long as, by one route or another,
before her wedding day, he brings her to the place where she can
honestly say in her heart, 'This man that I want is not the kind of man
that I want.' Honor, loyalty, strength, gentleness--why, Drew, the man I
marry has _got_ to be the kind of man I want.

"I've tried to be fair to Aleck," she mused almost tenderly. "I've tried
to remember always that men are different from women, and that Aleck
perhaps is different from most men. I've tried to remember always that
he is a musician--a real, real musician with all the ghastly, agonizing
extremes of temperament. I've tried to remember always that he didn't
grow up here with us in our little town with all our fierce, little-town
standards, but that he was educated abroad, that his whole moral,
mental, and social ideals are different, that the admiration and
adulation of--new--women is like the breath of life to him--that he
simply couldn't live without it any more than I could live without the
love of animals, or the friendship of children, or the wonderfulness of
outdoors, all of which bore _him_ to distraction.

"Oh, I've reasoned it all out, night after night after night, fought it
out, _torn_ it out, that he probably really and truly did love me quite
a good deal--in his own way--when there wasn't anything else to do. But
how can it possibly content a woman to have a man love her as well as
_he_ knows how--if it isn't as well as _she_ knows how? We won't talk
about--Aleck Reese's morals," she finished abruptly. "Fickleness,
selfishness, neglect, even infidelity itself, are such purely minor,
incidental data of the one big, incurably rotten and distasteful fact
that--such and such a man is _stupid in the affections_."

With growing weakness she sank back in her chair and closed her eyes.

For an anxious moment Drew sat and watched her. "Is that all?" he asked
at last.

She opened her eyes in surprise. "Why, yes," she said, "that's all--that
is, it's all if you understand. I'm not complaining because Aleck Reese
didn't love me, but because, loving me, he wasn't _intelligent_ enough
to be true to me. You do understand, don't you? You understand that it
wasn't because he didn't pay his love bills, but because he didn't know
enough to pay them. He took my loyalty without paying for it with his;
he took my devotion, my tenderness, my patience, without ever, ever
making any adequate return. Any girl ought to be able to tell in six
months whether her lover is using her affection rightly, whether he is
taking her affection and investing it with his toward their mutual
happiness and home. Aleck invested nothing. He just took all my love
that he could grab and squandered it on himself--always and forever on
himself. A girl, I say, ought to be able to tell in six months. But I am
very stupid. It has taken me three years."

"Well, what do you want _me_ to do?" Drew asked a bit quizzically.

"I want you to advise me," she said.

"Advise you--_what_?" persisted Drew.

The first real flicker of comedy flamed in the girl's face. Her white
cheeks pinked and dimpled. "Why, advise me to--marry _you_!" she
announced. "WELL, WHY NOT?" She fairly hurled the three-word bridge
across the sudden, awful chasm of silence that yawned before her.

Drew's addled mind caught the phrase dully and turned it over and over
without attempting to cross on it. "Well, why not? Well, why not?" he
kept repeating. His discomfiture filled the girl with hysterical
delight, and she came and perched herself opposite him on the farther
end of his desk and smiled at him.

"It seems to me perfectly simple," she argued. "Without any doubt or
question you certainly are the kind of man whom I should like to marry.
You are true and loyal and generous and rugged about things. And you
like the things that I like. And I like the people that you like. And,
most of anything in the world, you are _clever in the affections_. You
are heart-wise as well as head-wise. Why, even in the very littlest,
silliest thing that could possibly matter, you wouldn't--for
instance--remember George Washington's birthday and forget mine. And you
wouldn't go away on a lark and leave me if I was sick, any more than
you'd blow out the gas. And you wouldn't--hurt me about--other
women--any more than you'd eat with your knife." Impulsively she reached
over and patted his hand with the tips of her fingers. "As far as I can
see," she teased, "there's absolutely no fault in you that matters to me
except that I don't happen to love you."

Quick as her laugh the tears came scalding back to her eyes.

"Why, Drew," she hurried on desperately, "people seem to think it's a
dreadful thing to marry a man whom you don't love; but nobody questions
your marrying _any_ kind of a man if you do love him. As far as I can
make out, then, it's the love that matters, not the man. Then why not
love the right man?" She began to smile again. "So here and now, sir, I
deliberately choose to love _you_."

But Drew's fingers did not even tighten over hers.

"I want to be a happy woman," she pleaded. "Why, I'm only twenty-two. I
can't let my life be ruined now. There's _got_ to be some way out. And
I'm going to find that way out if I have to crawl on my hands and knees
for a hundred years. I'm luckier than some girls. I've got such a
shining light to aim for."

Almost roughly Drew pulled his hand away, the color surging angrily into
his cheeks. "I'm no shining light," he protested hotly, "and you shall
never, never come crawling on your hands and knees to me."

"Yes, I shall," whispered the girl. "I shall come creeping very humbly,
if you want me. And you do want me, don't you? Oh, please advise me. Oh,
please play you are my Father or my Big Brother and advise me to--marry

Drew laughed in spite of himself. "Play I was your Father or your Big
Brother?" Mimicry was his one talent. "Play I was your Father or your
Big Brother and advise you to marry me?"

Instantly his fine, straight brows came beetling down across his eyes in
a fierce paternal scrutiny. Then, quick as a wink, he had rumpled his
hair and stuck out his chest in a really startling imitation of Big
Brother's precious, pompous importance. But before Ruth could clap her
hands his face flashed back again into its usual keen, sad gravity, and
he shook his head. "Yes," he deliberated, "perhaps if I truly were your
Father or your Brother, I really should advise you to marry--me--not
because I amount to anything and am worth it, but because I honestly
believe that I should be good to you--and I know that Aleck Reese
wouldn't be. But if I'm to advise you in my own personal capacity--no,
Ruthy, I don't want to marry you!"

"What? What?" Staggering from the desk, she turned and faced him, white
as her dress, blanched to her quivering lips.

But Drew's big shoulders blocked her frenzied effort to escape.

"Don't go away like that, Little Girl," he said. "You don't understand.
It isn't a question of caring. You know I care. But don't you, don't you
understand that a man doesn't like to marry a woman who doesn't love

Her face brightened piteously. "But I _will_ love you?" she protested.
"I _will_ love you. I promise. I promise you faithfully--I will love
you--if you'll only give me just a little time." The old flicker of
mischief came back to her eyes, and she began to count on her fingers.
"Let me see," she said. "It's June now--June, July, August, September,
October, November--six months. I promise you that I will love you by

"I don't believe it." Drew fairly slashed the words into the air.

Instantly the hurt, frightened look came back to her eyes. "Why, Drew,"
she whispered, "if it were money that I wanted, if I were starving, or
sick, or any all-alone anything, you wouldn't refuse to help me just
because you couldn't possibly see ahead just how I was ever going to pay
you. Drew, I'm very unhappy and frightened and lost-feeling. I just want
to borrow your love. I promise you I will pay it back to you. You won't
be sorry. You won't. You won't!"

Drew's hand reached up and smothered the words on her lips. "You can't
borrow my love," he said sternly. "It's yours, always, every bit of it.
But I won't marry you unless you love me. I tell you it isn't fair to

Impulsively she took his hand and led him back to the big chair and
pushed him gently into it, and perched herself like a little child on a
pile of bulky law books at his feet. The eyes that looked up to his were
very hopeful.

"Don't you think, Drew," she argued, "that just being willing to marry
you is love enough?"

He scanned her face anxiously for some inner, hidden meaning to her
words, some precious, latent confession; but her eyes were only blue,
and just a little bit shy.

She stooped forward suddenly, and took Drew's hand and brushed it across
her cheek to the edge of her lips. "I feel so safe with you, Drew," she
whispered, "so safe, and comforted always. Oh, I'm sure I can teach you
how to make me love you--and you're the only man in the world that I'm
willing to teach." Her chin stiffened suddenly with renewed
stubbornness. "_You_ are the Harbor that was meant for me, and Aleck
Reese is nothing but a--Storm. If you know it, and I know it, what's the
use of dallying?"

Drew's solemn eyes brightened. "Do you truly think," he said, "that
Aleck Reese is only an accident that happened to you on your way to me?"

She nodded her head. Weakness and tears were only too evidently
overtaking her brave little theories.

"And there's something else, too," she confided tremulously. "My head
isn't right. I have such hideous dreams when I do get to sleep. I dream
of drowning myself, and it feels good; and I dream of jumping off high
buildings, and it feels good; and I dream of throwing myself under
railroad trains, and it feels good. And I see the garish announcement in
the morning papers, and I picture how Uncle Terry would look when he got
the news, and I cry and cry and cry, and it feels good. Oh, Drew, I'm so
bored with life! It isn't right to be so bored with life. But I can't
seem to help it. Nothing in all the world has any meaning any more.
Flowers, sunshine, moonlight--everything I loved has gone stale. There's
no taste left to anything; there's no fragrance, there's no rhyme. Drew,
I could stand the sorrow part of it, but I simply can't stand the
emptiness. I tell you I _can't_ stand it. I wish I were dead; and, Drew,
there are so many, many easy ways all the time to make oneself dead. I'm
not safe. Oh, please take me and make me safe. Oh, please take me and
make me want to live!"

Driven almost distracted by this final appeal to all the chivalrous love
in his nature, Drew jumped up and paced the floor. Perplexity,
combativeness, and ultimate defeat flared already in his haggard face.

The girl sensed instantly the advantage that she had gained. "Of
course," she persisted, "of course I see now, all of a sudden, that I'm
not offering you very much in offering you a wife who doesn't love you.
You are quite right; of course I shouldn't make you a very good wife at
first--maybe not for quite a long, long time. Probably it would all be
too hard and miserable for you--"

Drew interrupted her fiercely. "Great heavens!" he cried out, "my part
would be easy, comfortable, serene, interesting, compared to yours.
Don't you know it's nothing except _sad_ to be shut up in the same
house, in the same life, with a person you love who doesn't love you?
Nothing but sad, I tell you; and there's no special nervous strain about
being sad. But to be shut up day and night--as long as life lasts--with
a person who takes the impudent liberty of loving you against your wish
to be loved--oh, the spiritual distastefulness of it, and the physical
enmity, and the ghastly, ghastly ennui! That's your part of it. Flower
or book or jewel or caress, no agonizing, heart-breaking, utterly
wholesome effort to please, but just one hideously chronic, mawkishly
conscientious effort to _be_ pleased, to act pleased--though it blast
your eyes and sear your lips--to _look_ pleased. I tell you I won't have

"I understand all that," said Ruth gravely. "I understand it quite
perfectly. But underneath it all--I would rather--you had taken me in
your arms--as though I were a little, little hurt girl--and comforted

But before Drew's choking throat-cry had reached his lips she had sprung
from her seat and was facing him defiantly. Across her face flared
suddenly for the first time the full, dark flush of one of Life's big
tides, and the fear in her hands reached up and clutched at Drew's
shoulders. The gesture tipped her head back like a fagged swimmer's
struggling in the water.

"I am pleading for my life, Drew," she gasped, "for my body, for my
soul, for my health, for my happiness, for home, for safety!"

He snatched her suddenly into his arms. "My God! Ruth," he cried, "what
do you want me to do?"

Triumph came like a holiday laugh to her haggard face.

"What do I want you to do?" she dimpled. "Why, I want you to come with
me now and get a license. I want to be married right away this

"What!" Drew hurled the word at her like a bomb, but it did not seem to

Laughingly, flushingly, almost delightedly, she stood and watched the
anger rekindle in his face.

"Do you think I am going to take advantage of you like this?" he asked
hotly. "You would probably change your mind to-morrow and be very, very

She tossed her head. It was a familiar little gesture. "I fully and
confidently expect to be sorry to-morrow," she affirmed cheerfully.
"That's why I want to be married to-day, this afternoon, this minute, if
possible, before I have had any chance to change my mind."

Then, with unexpected abruptness, she shook her recklessness aside and
walked back to him childishly, pulling a long, loose wisp of hair across
her face. "See," she said. "Smell the smoke in my hair. It's the smoke
from my burned bridges. I sat up nearly all night and burned everything
I owned, everything that could remind me of Aleck Reese, all my dresses,
all my books, all my keepsakes, all my doll houses that ever grew up
into dreams. So if you decide to marry me I shall be very expensive.
You'll have to take me just as I am--quite a little bit crumpled, not an
extra collar, not an extra hairpin, not anything. Aleck Reese either
loved or hated everything I owned. I haven't left a single bridge on
which one of my thoughts could even crawl back to him again--"

Half quizzically, half caressingly, Drew stooped down and brushed his
lips across the lock of hair. Fragrant as violets, soft as the ghost of
a kiss, the little curl wafted its dearness into his senses. But ranker
than violets, harsher than kisses, lurked the blunt, unmistakable odor
of ashes.

He laughed. And the laugh was bitter as gall. "Burning your bridges," he
mused. "It's a good theory. But if I take your life into my bungling
hands and sweat my heart out trying to make you love me, and come home
every night to find you crying with fear and heartbreak, will you still
protest that the sting in your eyes is nothing in the world except the
_smudge_ from those burnt bridges? Will you promise?"

With desperate literalness she clutched at the phrase. Everything else
in the room began to whirl round and round like prickly stars. "I
promise, I promise," she gasped. Then sight--not air, but just
sight--seemed to be smothered right out of her, and her brain reeled,
and she wilted down unconscious on the floor.

Cursing himself for a brute, Drew snatched her up in a little, white,
crumpled heap and started for the window. Halfway there, the office
door opened abruptly and Ruth's Big Brother stood on the threshold.
Surprise, anxiety, ultimate relief chased flashingly across the
newcomer's face, and in an instant both men were working together over
the limp little body.

"Well, old man," said the Big Brother, "I'm glad she was here safe with
you when she fainted." His spare arm clapped down affectionately across
Drew's shoulders and jarred Drew's fingers brownly against the
death-like pallor of the girl's throat. The Big Brother gave an ugly
gasp. "Damn Aleck Reese," he said.

Drew's eyes shut perfectly tight as though he was smitten by some
unbearable agony. Then suddenly, without an instant's warning, he pulled
himself together and burst out laughing uproariously like a schoolboy.

"Oh, what's the use of damning Aleck Reese?" he cried. "Aleck Reese is
as stale an issue as yesterday morning's paper. If you've no particular
objection to me as a brother-in-law as well as a tennis chum, Ruth and I
were planning to marry each other this afternoon. Maybe I was just a
little bit too vehement about it."

       *       *       *       *       *

Three hours later, in a dusty, musty, mid-week church vestry, an
extraordinarily white and extraordinarily vivacious girl was quite busy
assuring a credulous minister and a credulous sexton and a credulous Big
Brother that she would love till death hushed her the perfectly
incredulous bridegroom who stood staring down upon her like a very tall
man in a very short dream.

And then, because neither groom nor bride could think of anything
specially married to say to each other, they kidnapped Big Brother and
bore him away in an automobile to a nervous, rollicking, wonderfully
entertaining "shore dinner," where they sat at an open window round a
green-tiled table in a marvelously glowering, ice-cool, artificial
grotto, and ate bright scarlet lobsters while the great, hot, blowzy
yellow moon came wallowing up out of the night-shadowed sea, and the
thrilly, thumpy brass band played "I Love You So"; and the only, only
light in the whole vague, noisy room seemed to be Big Brother's beaming,
ecstatic face gleaming like some glad phosphorescent thing through the
clouds of murky tobacco smoke.

Not till the wines and dines and roses and posies and chatter and
clatter were all over, and the automobile had carried Big Brother off to
his railroad station and whisked the bride and groom back to the wobbly
city pavements, did Drew begin to realize that the frolicking, jesting,
crisp-tongued figure beside him had wilted down into a piteous little
hunch of fear. Stooping to push her slippery new suit case closer under
her feet, he caught the sharp, shuddering tremor of her knees, and as
the automobile swayed finally into the street that led to his apartment,
her lungs seemed to crumple up in a paroxysm of coughing. Under the
garish lights that marked his apartment-house doorway her slight figure
drooped like a tired flower, and the footsteps that tinkled behind him
along the stone corridor rang in his ears with a dear, shy, girlish
reluctance. The elevator had stopped running. One flight, two flights,
three, four, five they toiled up the harsh, cool, metallic stairway.
Four times Ruth stopped to get her breath, and twice to tie her shoe.
Drew laughed to himself at the delicious subterfuge of it.

Then at the very top of the strange, gloomy, midnight building, when
Drew's nervous fingers fumbled a second with his door-lock, without the
slightest possible warning she reached out suddenly with one mad,
frenzied impulse and struck the key from his hand. To his startled eyes
she turned a face more wild, more agonized than any terror he had ever
dreamed in his most hideous, sweating nightmare. Instantly her hands
went clutching out to him.

"Oh, Drew, for God's sake take me home!" she gasped. "What have I done?
What have I done? What have I done? Oh, ALECK!"

Wrenching himself free from her hands, Drew dropped down on the floor
and began to hunt around for the key. The blood surged into his head
like a hot tide, and he felt all gritty-lunged and smothered, as though
he were crawling under water. After a minute he stumbled to his feet and
slipped the recreant key smoothly into the lock, and swung his door wide
open, and turned back to Ruth. She stood facing him defiantly, her eyes
blazing, her poor hands twisting.

Drew nodded toward the door, and shoved the suit case with his foot
across the threshold. His face was very stern and set.

"You want me to take you 'home'?" he said. "_This_ is home. What do you
mean? Take you back to your Brother's house? You can't go back to your
Brother's house on your wedding day. It wouldn't be fair to me. And I
won't help you do an unfair thing _even_ to me. You've _got_ to give me
a chance!"

He nodded again toward the open door, but the girl did not budge. His
face brightened suddenly, and he stepped back to where she was standing,
and lifted her up in his arms and swung her to his shoulder and stumbled
through the pitch-black doorway. "Do you remember," he cried, "the day
at your grammar-school picnic when I carried you over the railroad
trestle because the locomotive that was swooping down upon us round the
curve had scared all the starch out of your legs? Look out for your head
now, honey, and I'll give you a very good imitation of a cave man
bringing home his bride."

In another moment he had switched a blaze of electric light into his
diminutive library, and deposited his sobbing burden none too formally
in the big easy chair that blocked almost all the open space between his
desk and his bookcases. "What! Aren't you laughing, too?" he cried in
mock alarm. But the crumpled little figure in the big chair did not
answer to his raillery.

Until it seemed as though he would totter from his wavering foothold,
Drew stood and watched her dumbly. Then a voice that sounded strange
even to himself spoke out of his lips.

"Ruth--come here," he said.

She raised her rumpled head in astonishment, gaged for a throbbing
instant the new authoritative glint in his eyes, and then slipped
cautiously out of her chair and came to him, reeking with despair. For a
second they just stood and stared at each other, white face to white
face, a map of anger confronting a map of fear.

"You understand," said Drew, "that to-day, by every moral, legal,
religious right and rite, you have delivered your life over utterly into
my hands?" His voice was like ice.

"Yes, I understand," she answered feebly, with the fresh tears gushing
suddenly into her eyes.

Drew's mouth relaxed. "You understand?" he repeated. "Well--forget it!
And never, never, never, as long as you and I are together, never, I
say, understand anything but this: you can cry about Aleck Reese all you
want to, but you sha'n't cry about me. You can count on that anyway." He
started to smile, but his mouth twitched instead with a wince of pain.
"And I thought I could really bring you heart's-ease," he scoffed.
"Heart's-ease? Bah!"

"Heart's-ease. Bah!" The familiar phrase exploded Ruth's inflammable
nerves into hysterical laughter. "Why, that's what the lamb said," she
cried, "when I fed him on my pansy posies. 'Heart's-ease. B-a-h!'" And
her sudden burst of even unnatural delight cleared her face for the
moment of all its haggard tragedy, and left her once more just a very
fragile, very plaintive, very helpless, tear-stained child. "You _b-a-a_
exactly like the lamb," she suggested with timid, snuffling pleasantry;
and at the very first suspicion of a reluctant twinkle at the corner of
Drew's eyes she reached up her trembling little hands to his shoulders
and held him like a vise with a touch so light, so faint, so timorous
that it could hardly have detained the shadow of a humming-bird.

For a moment she stared exploringly round the unfamiliar, bright little
room crowded so horribly, cruelly close with herself, her mistake, and
the life-long friend loomed so suddenly and undesirably into a man. Then
with a quick, shuddery blink her eyes came flashing back wetly and
wistfully to the unsolved, inscrutable face before her. Her fingers dug
themselves frantically into his cheviot shoulders.

"Oh, Drew, Drew," she blurted out, "I am so
very--very--very--frightened! Won't you please take me and play you are

"Play I am your Mother? _Play I am your Mother!_" The phrase ripped out
of Drew's lips like an oath, and twitched itself just in time into
explosive, husky mirth. "Play I am your Mother?" The teeniest grimace
over his left shoulder outlined the soft silken swish and tug of a
lady's train. A most casual tap at his belt seemed to achieve instantly
the fashionable hour-glass outline of feminine curves. "Play I am your
Mother!" He smiled and, stooping down, took Ruth's scared white face
between his hands, and his smile was as bright--and just about as
pleasant--as a zigzag of lightning from a storm-black sky.

"Ruthy dear," he said, "I don't feel very much like your Mother. Now if
it was a cannibal that you wanted, or a pirate, or a kidnapper, or a
body-snatcher, or a general all-round robber of widows and orphans,
why, here I am, all dressed and trained and labeled for the part. But a
_Mother_--" The smile went zigzagging again across his face just as a
big, wet, scalding tear came trickling down the girl's cheek into his
fingers. The feeling of that tear made his heart cramp unpleasantly.
"Oh, hang it all," he finished abruptly, "what does a Mother do,

The little white face in his hands flooded instantly with a great
desolation. "I don't know," she moaned wearily. "I _never_ knew."

For some inexplainable reason Aleck Reese's devilish, insolent beauty
flaunted itself suddenly before Drew's vision, and he gave a bitter
gasp, and turned away fiercely, and brushed his arm potently across his
forehead as though Sex, after all, were nothing but a trivial mask that
fastened loosely to the ears.

When he turned round again, his conquered face had that strange, soft,
shining, translucent wonder-look in it which no woman all her life long
may reap twice from a man's face. Tenderly, serenely, uncaressingly,
without passion and without playfulness, he picked up his sad little
bride and carried her back to the big, roomy, restful chair, and
snuggled her down in his long arms, with her smoke-scented hair across
his cheek, and told her funny, giggly little stories, and crooned her
funny, sleepy little songs, till her shuddering sobs soothed
themselves--oh, so slowly--into lazy, languid, bashful little smiles,
and the lazy, languid, bashful little smiles droned off at last into
nestling, contented little sighs, and the nestling, contented little
sighs blossomed all of a sudden into merciful, peaceful slumber.

Then, when the warm, gray June dawn was just beginning to flush across
the roofs of the city, he put her softly down and slipped away, and took
his smallest military brushes, and his smallest dressing-gown, and his
smallest slippers, and carried them out to his diminutive guest-room.
"It isn't a very big little guest-room," he mused disconsolately, "but
then, she isn't a very big little guest. It will hold her, I guess, as
long as she's willing to stay."

"As long as she's willing to stay." The phrase puckered his lips. Again
Aleck Reese's face flashed before him in all its amazing beauty and
magical pathos, a face this time staring across a tiny, ornate café
table into the jaded, world-wise eyes of some gorgeous woman of the
theatrical demi-monde. At the vision Drew's shoulders squared suddenly
as though for a fair fight to the finish, and then wilted down with
equal abruptness as his eyes met accidentally in the mirror his own
plain, matter-of-fact reflection. The sight fairly mocked him. There was
no beauty there. No magic. No brilliance. No talent. No compelling
moodiness. No possible promise of "Love and Fame and Far Lands."
Nothing. Just eyes and nose and mouth and hair and an ugly baseball scar
on his left cheek. Merciful heavens! What had he to fight Aleck Reese
with, except the only two virtues that a man may not brag of--a decently
clean life and an unstaled love!

Grinning to rekindle his courage, he started tiptoeing back along the
hall to his bedroom and his kitchen, and rolled up his sleeves and began
to clean house most furiously; for even if you are quite desperately in
love, and a fairly good man besides, it is just a little bit
crowded-feeling and disconcerting to have the lady walk unannounced
right into your life and your neckties and your pictures, to say nothing
of your last week's unwashed cream-jars.

Frantically struggling with his coffee-pot at seven o'clock, he had
almost forgotten his minor troubles when a little short, gaspy breath
sound made him look up. Huddling her tired-out dress into the ample
folds of his dressing-gown, Ruth stood watching him bashfully.

"Hello!" he said. "Who are you?"

"I'm--Mrs.--Andrew Bernard, attorney at law," she announced with
stuttering nonchalance, and started off exploringly for the cupboard to
find Drew's best green Canton china to deck the kitchen breakfast
table. All through the tortuous little meal she sat in absolute
tongue-tied gravity, carving her omelet into a hundred infinitesimal
pieces and sipping like a professional coffee-taster at Drew's over-rank
concoction. Only once did her solemn face lighten with an inspirational
flash that made Drew's heart jump. Then, "Oh, Drew," she exclaimed, "do
you think you could go out to the house to-day and see if they fed the

"No, I don't," said Drew bluntly, and poured himself out his fifth cup
of coffee.

After breakfast, all the time that he was shaving, she came and sat on
the edge of a table and watched him with the same maddening gravity, and
when he finally started off for his office she followed him down the
whole length of his little hallway. "I like my cave!" she volunteered
with sudden sociability, and then with a great, pink-flushing wave of
consciousness she lifted up her face to him and stammered, "Do I kiss
you good-by?"

Drew shook his head and laughed. "No," he said, "you don't even have to
do that; I'm not much of a kisser," and turned abruptly and grabbed at
the handle of the door.

But before he had crossed the threshold she reached out and pulled him
back for a moment, and he had to stoop down very far to hear what she
wanted to tell him. "It's nothing much, Drew," she whispered. "It's
nothing much at all. I just wanted to say that--considering how strong
they are, and how--wild--and strange--I think men are--very--_gentle_
creatures. Thank you." And in another instant she had gone back alone to
face by crass daylight the tragedy that she had brought into three
people's lives.

Certainly in all the days and weeks that followed, Drew never failed to
qualify as a "gentle creature." Not a day passed at his office that he
did not telephone home with the most casual-sounding pleasantry, "Is
everything all right? Any burnt-bridge smoke in the air?" Usually, clear
as his own voice, and sometimes even with a little giggle tucked on at
the end, the answer came, "Yes, everything's all right." But now and
then over that telephone wire a minor note flashed with unmistakably
tremulous vibration: "N-o, Drew. Oh, could you come right home--and take
me somewhere?"

Drew's brown cheeks hollowed a bit, perhaps, as time went on, but always
smilingly, always frankly and jocosely, he met the occasionally
recurrent emergencies of his love-life. Underneath his smile and
underneath his frankness his original purpose never flinched and never
wavered. With growing mental intimacy and absolute emotional aloofness
he forced day by day the image and the consciousness of his personality
upon the girl's plastic mind: his picture, for instance, as a matter of
course for her locket; his favorite, rather odd, colors for her clothes;
his sturdy, adventuresome, fleet-footed opinions to run ahead and break
in all her strange new thought-grounds for her. More than this, in every
possible way that showed to the world he stamped her definitely as the
most carefully cherished wife among all her young married mates.

At first the very novelty of the situation had fed his eyes with rapture
and fired the girl's face with a feverish excitement almost as pink as
happiness. The surprise and congratulations of their friends, the speech
of the janitor, the floral offering of the elevator boy, the long
procession of silver spoons and cut-glass dishes, had filled their days
with interest and laughter. Trig in her light muslin house gowns or her
big gingham aprons, Ruth fluttered blissfully around her house like a
new, brainy sort of butterfly. By some fine, instinctive delicacy,
shrewder than many women's love, she divined and forestalled Drew's
domestic tastes and preferences, and lined his simplest, homespun needs
with all the quiver and sheen of silk. Resting his weariness, spurring
his laziness; equally quick to divine the need of a sofa pillow or a
joke; equally interested in his food and his politics; always ready to
talk, always ready to keep still; cramping her free suburban ways into
his hampered accommodations; missing her garden and her pets and her
piazzas without ever acknowledging it--she tried in every plausible way
except loving to compensate Drew for the wrong she had done him.

Only once did Drew's smoldering self-control slip the short leash he had
set for himself. Just once, round the glowing coziness of a rainy-night
open fire, he had dropped his book slammingly on the floor and reached
out his hand to her soft hair that brightened like bronze in the
lamplight. "Are you happy?" he had probed before he could fairly bite
the words back; and she had jumped up, and tossed her hair out of her
eyes, and laughed as she started for the kitchen. "No, I'm not exactly
happy," she had said. "But I'm awfully--interested."

So June budded into July, and July bloomed into August, and August
wilted into September, and September brittled and crisped and flamed at
last into October. Tennis and boating and picnics and horseback riding
filled up the edges of the days. Little by little the bright, wholesome
red came back to live in Ruth's rounding cheeks. Little by little the
good steady gleam of normal interests supplanted the wild
will-o'-the-wisp lights in her eyes. Little by little her accumulating
possessions began to steel shyly out from her tiny room and make
themselves boldly at home in the places where hitherto they had ventured
only as guests. Her workbasket crowded Drew's tobacco-jar deliberately
from the table to the top of the bookcase. Her daring hands nonchalantly
replaced a brutally clever cartoon with a soft-toned sketch of a little
child. Once, indeed, an ostentatiously freshly laundered dress, all lace
and posies and ruffles, went and hung itself brazenly in Drew's roomy
closet right next to his fishing clothes.

And then, just as Drew thought that at last he saw Happiness stop and
turn and look at him a bit whimsically, Aleck Reese came back to
town--Aleck Reese, not as Fate should have had him, drunken with
flattery, riotous with revelry, chasing madly some new infatuation, but
Aleck Reese sobered, dazed, temporarily purified by the shock of his
loss, if not by the loss itself.

For a week, blissfully unconscious of any cause, Drew had watched with
growing perplexity and anxiety the sudden, abrupt flag in the girl's
health and spirits and general friendliness. Flowers, fruit, candy,
books, excursion plans had all successively, one by one, failed to rouse
either her interest or her ordinary civility. And then one night,
dragging home extra late from a worried, wearisome day at the office,
faint for his dinner, sick for his sleep, he found the apartment
perfectly dark and cheerless, the fire unlighted, the table unset, and
Ruth herself lying in a paroxysm of grief on the floor under his
stumbling feet. With his dizzy head reeling blindly, and his hands
shaking like an aspen, he picked her up and tried to carry her to the
couch; but she wrenched herself away from him, and walked over to the
window and halfway back again before she spoke.

"Aleck Reese has come home," she announced dully, and reached up
unthinkingly and turned a blast of electric light full on her ghastly

Drew clutched at the back of the nearest chair. "Have you seen him?" he
almost whispered.

The girl nodded. "Yes. He's been here a week. I've seen him twice.
Once--all day at the tennis club--and this afternoon I met him on the
street, and he came home with me to get--a book."

"Why didn't you tell me before that he was here?"

She shrugged her shoulders wearily. "I thought his coming wasn't going
to matter," she faltered, "but--"

"But what?" said Drew.

Her arms fell limply down to her sides and her chin began to quiver.

"He kissed me this afternoon," she stammered, "and I--kissed him. And,
worse than that, we were both--glad."

Trying to brush the fog away from his eyes, Drew almost sprang across
the room at her, and she gave a queer little cry and fled, not away
from him, but right into his arms, as though _there_ was her only haven.
"Would you be apt to hurt me?" she gasped with a funny-sad sort of
inquisitiveness. Then she backed away and held out her hand like a man's
to Drew's shaking fingers. "I'm very much ashamed," she said, "about
this afternoon. Oh, very, very, very much ashamed. I haven't ever been a
really good wife to you, you know, but I never have cheated before until
to-day. I promise you faithfully that it sha'n't happen again. But,
Drew"--her face flushed utterly crimson--"but, Drew--I honestly think
that it _had_ to happen to-day."

Drew's tortured eyes watched her keenly for a second and then his look
softened. "Will you please tell Aleck," he suggested, "that you told me
all about it and that I--laughed?"

It was not till some time in December, however, after a nervous,
evasive, speechless sort of week, that Ruth appeared abruptly one day at
Drew's office, looking for all the world like the frightened child who
had sought him out there the June before.

"Drew, you're five years older than I am, aren't you?" she began
disconnectedly. "And you've always been older than I am, and stronger
than I am, and wiser than I am. And you've always gone ahead in school
and play and everything, and learned what you wanted to and then come
back--and gotten me. And it always made everything--oh, so much easier
for me--and I thought it was a magic scheme that simply couldn't fail to
work. But I'm afraid I'm not quite as smart as I used to be--I can't
seem to catch up with you this time."

"What do you mean?" said Drew.

She began to fidget with her gloves. "Do you know what month it is?" she
asked abruptly.

"Why, yes," said Drew, just a bit drearily. "It's December. What of it?"

Her eyes blurred, but she kept them fixed steadily on her husband. "Why,
don't you remember," she gasped, "that when we were married I promised
you faithfully that I would love you within six months? The six months
were up in November--but I find I'm not quite ready--yet. You'll have to
give me a little more time," she pleaded. "You'll have to renew my
love-loan. Will you?"

Drew slammed down his law books and forced his mouth into a grin. "I'd
forgotten all about that arrangement," he said. "Of course I'll renew
what you call your 'love-loan.' Really and truly I didn't expect you to
love me before a full year was up. Heart-wounds don't ever even begin to
heal until their first anniversaries are passed--all the Christmases and
birthdays and Easters. And, really, I'd quite as soon anyway that you
didn't love me till Spring," he added casually. "I'm so hideously busy
and worried just now with business things."

She gave him an odd little look that barely grazed his face and settled
flutteringly on the book in his hand. It was a ponderous-looking
treatise on "The Annulment of Marriage." Her heart began to pound
furiously. "Drew!" she blurted out, "I simply can't stand things any
longer. I shall go mad. I've tried and tried and tried to be good, and
it's no use. I must be stupid. I must be a fool. BUT I WANT TO GO HOME!"

"All right," said Drew very quietly, "you--can--go--home."

In another instant, without good-by or regret, she had flashed out of
the office and was racing down the stairs. Halfway to the street she
missed her handkerchief, and started reluctantly back to get it. The
office door was locked, but she tiptoed round to a private side entrance
and opened the door very cautiously and peeped in.

Prostrate across his great, cluttered desk, Drew, the serene, the
laughing, the self-sufficient, lay sobbing like a woman.

Startled as though she had seen a ghost, the girl backed undetected out
of the door, and closed it very softly behind her, nor did she stop
tiptoeing until she had reached the street floor. Then, dropping down
weak-kneed upon the last step, she sat staring out into the dingy patch
of snow that flared now and then through the swinging doorway. Somewhere
out in that vista Aleck Reese was waiting and watching for her. Two or
three of her husband's business acquaintances paused and accosted her.
"Anything the matter?" they probed.

"Oh, no," she answered brightly. "I'm just thinking."

After a while she jumped up abruptly and stole back through a
box-cluttered hall to the rear door of the building, and slid out
unnoticed into a side street, gathering her great fur coat--Drew's
latest gift--closer and closer around her shivering body. The day was
gray and bleak and scarily incomplete, like the work of some amateur
creator who had slipped up on the one essential secret of how to make
the sun shine. The jingliest sound of sleigh-bells, the reddest flare of
holiday shop windows, could not cheer her thoughts away from the
stinging, shuddering memory of Drew's crumpled shoulders, the gasping
catch of his breath, the strange new flicker of gray at his temples.
Over and over to herself she kept repeating dully: "I've hurt Drew just
the way that Aleck hurt me. It mustn't be. It mustn't be--it mustn't!
There's got to be some way out!"

Then most unexpectedly, at the first street corner she was gathered up
joyously by a crowd of her young married chums who were starting off in
an automobile for their sewing-club in Ruth's own old-home suburb
fifteen miles away. It was a long time since she had played very freely
with women, and the old associations caught her interest with a novel
charm. Showered with candy, gay with questions, happy with laughter, the
party whizzed up at last to the end of its journey, and tumbled out rosy
with frost and mischief to join the women who had already arrived. From
every individual corner of the warm, lazy sewing-room some one seemed to
jump up and greet Ruth's return. "Oh, you pampered young bride!" they
teased, and "Will you look at the wonderful fur coat and hat that have
happened to Ruth!" Even the sad-faced, widowed little dressmaker who
always officiated professionally at the club wriggled out of her seat
and brought her small boy 'way across the room to stroke the girl's
sumptuous mink-brown softness.

"Why, am I so very wonderful?" stammered Ruth, staring down with her
hands in her pockets at the great fur length and breadth of her.

"Well, if I had a coat like that," scoffed a shrill voice from the sofa,
"I should think that it was the most wonderful thing in life that could
happen to me."

Standing there scorching herself in the fire-glow, Ruth looked up
suddenly with a fierce sort of intentness. "You wise old married
people," she cried, "tell me truly what really is the most wonderful
thing in life that can happen to a woman?"

"Goodness, is it a new riddle?" shouted her hostess, and instantly a
dozen noisy answers came rollicking into the contest. "Money!" cried the
extravagant one. "A husband who goes to the club every night!" screamed
the flirt. "Health!" "Curls!" "Dresden china!" "Single blessedness!" the
suggestions came piling in. Only the dressmaker's haggard face whitened
comprehendingly to the hunger underneath Ruth's laughing eyes. Staring
scornfully at the heaping luxuries all around her, the shabby,
widow-marked woman snatched up her child and cuddled it to her breast.
"The most wonderful thing in life that can happen to a woman?" she
quoted passionately. "I'll tell you what it is. It's being able to hope
that your son will be _exactly_ like his father."

"Exactly like his father?" The shrewd sting and lash of the words ripped
through Ruth's senses like the scorch of a red-hot fuse. Strength,
tenderness, patience, love, loyalty flamed up before her with such
dazzling brilliance that she could scarcely fathom the features behind
them, and the room whirled dizzily with sudden excessive heat. "Exactly
like his father." A dozen feminine voices caught up the phrase and
dropped it blisteringly. The wife of the town's _bon vivant_ winced a
trifle. The most radiant bride of the year jabbed her fingers
accidentally with her scissors. Some one started to sigh and laughed
instead. A satirical voice suggested, "Well, but of course there's got
to be some improvement in every generation."

Smothering for air, Ruth reached up bunglingly and fastened her big fur
collar and started for the door. "Oh, no," she protested to every one's
detaining hands, "honestly I didn't intend to stay. I've got to hurry
over to the house and get some things before dark," and, pleading
several equally legitimate excuses, she bolted out into the snowy fields
to take the quickest possible short cut to her Big Brother's house.

Every plowing step drove her heart pounding like an engine, and every
lagging footfall started her scared thoughts throbbing louder than her
heart. Hurry as fast as she could, stumbling over drift-hidden rocks or
floundering headlong into some hollow, she could not seem to outdistance
the startling, tumultuous memory of the little dressmaker's
passion-glorified eyes staring scornfully down on the slowly sobering
faces of the women around her. The vision stung itself home to the girl
like sleet in her eyes.

"O-h!" she groaned. "What a wicked thing Life is--wasting a man like
Drew on a girl--like me. 'To be able to hope that your son will be
exactly like his father!'" Her heart jumped. Merciful heavens! If
Happiness were really--only as simple a thing as that--just to look in
your husband's eyes and find them good. Years and years hence, perhaps,
she herself might have a son--with all his father's blessed, winsome
virtues. Her eyes flooded suddenly with angry tears. "Oh, could Fate
possibly, possibly be so tricky as to make a woman love her son because
he _was_ like his father, and yet all, all the long years make that
woman just miss loving the father himself?"

With a little frightened gasp she began to run. "If I only can get to
the house," she reasoned, "then everything will be all right. And I'll
never leave it again."

Half an hour later, panting and flushing, she twisted her latch-key
through the familiar home door. No one was there to greet her. From
attic to cellar the whole house was deserted. At first the emptiness and
roominess seemed to ease and rest her, but after a little while she
began to get lonesome, and started out to explore familiar corners, and
found them unfamiliar. "What an ugly new wall-paper!" she fretted; "and
what a silly way to set the table!" Her old room smote upon her with
strange surprise--not cunningly, like one's funny little baby clothes,
but distastefully, like a last year's outgrown coat. In the large, light
pantry a fresh disappointment greeted her. "What an insipid salad!" she
mourned. "It isn't half as nice as the salad Drew makes." Cookies,
cakes, doughnuts failed her successively. "And I used to think they were
the best I ever tasted," she puzzled. In the newly upholstered parlor a
queer unrest sickened her. "Why, the house doesn't seem quite to--fit me
any more," she acknowledged, and bundled herself into her coat again,
and stuffed her pockets with apples, and started off more gladly for the

As she pushed back the heavy sliding doors a horse whinnied, possibly
for welcome, but probably for oats. Teased by the uncertainty, the girl
threw back her head and laughed. "Hello, all you animals," she cried; "I
have come home. Isn't it fine?"

Up from the floor of his pen the lamb rose clatteringly like a
mechanical toy, and met the glad news with a peculiarly disdainful
"B-a-a-a!" Back to the sheltering wood-pile her old friends the
kittens--little cats now--fled from her with precipitous fear. The
white-nosed cow reared back with staring eyes. The pet horse snapped at
her fingers instead of the apple. The collie dog, to be sure, came
jumping boisterously, but the jumpiness was unmistakably because he was
"Carlo," and not because she was "Ruth." And yet only six months before
every animal on the place had looked like her with that strange, absurd
mimicry of human expression that characterizes the faces of all
much-cherished birds or beasties. And now even the collie dog had
reverted to the plain, blank-featured canine street type--and the pet
horse looked like the hired man.

[Illustration: "Hello, all you animals," she cried]

The girl's forehead puckered up into a bewildered sort of frown. "I
don't quite seem to belong anywhere," she concluded. The thought was
unpleasant. Worst of all, the increasing, utterly unexplainable sob in
her throat made her feel very reluctant to go back into the house and
wait for her Brother and the Housekeeper and the inevitable questions.
Dallying there on the edge of the wheelbarrow, munching her red-cheeked
apples, it was almost eight o'clock before her mind quickened to a
solution of her immediate difficulties. She would hide in the hay all
night, there in the sweetness and softness of last summer's beautiful
grass, and think out her problems and decide what to do.

Deep in the hay she burrowed out a nest, and lined it with the biggest
buffalo robe and the thickest carriage rug. Then one by one she carried
up the astonished kittens, and the heavy, fat lamb, and the
scrambling collie dog to keep her company, and snuggled herself down,
warm and content, to drowse and dream amidst the musty cobwebs, and the
short, sharp snap of straws, and the soothing sighs of the sleepy cow,
and the stamp, stamp of the horse, and all the extra, indefinite, scary,
lonesome night noises that keep your nerves exploding intermittently
like torpedoes and start your common sense scouring like a silver polish
at all the tarnished values of your everyday life.

Midnight found her lying wide awake and starry-eyed, with her red lips
twisted into an oddly inscrutable smile. Close in her left hand the
collie dog nestled his grizzly nose. Under her right arm the woolly lamb
slumbered. Over her quiet feet the little cats purred with fire-gleaming

Attracted by the barking of his new bulldog, Big Brother came out in the
early morning and discovered her in the hay.

"Well, for heaven's sake!" he began. "Where did you come from? Where
does Drew think you are? He's been telephoning here all night trying to
find you. I guess he's scared to death. Great Scott! what's the matter?
What are you hiding out here for? Have you had any trouble with Drew?"

She slid down out of her nest with the jolliest sort of a laugh. "Of
course I haven't had any trouble with Drew. I just wanted to come home.
That's all. Drew buys me everything else," she dimpled, "but he simply
won't buy me any hay--and I'm such a donkey."

Big Brother shrugged his shoulders. "You're just as foolish as ever," he
began, and then finished abruptly with "What a perfectly absurd way to
do your hair! It looks like fury."

An angry flush rose to her cheeks, and she reached up her hands
defensively. "It suits Drew all right," she retorted.

Big Brother laughed. "Well, come along in the house and get your
breakfast and telephone Drew."

The funniest sort of an impulse smote suddenly upon Ruth's mind. "I
don't want any breakfast," she protested, "and I don't want any
telephone. I'm going home this minute to surprise Drew. We were going
to have broiled chicken, and a new dining-room table, and a pot of
primroses as big as your head. Shall I have time to wash my face before
the car comes?"

Ten minutes after that she was running like mad to the main street. An
hour later the big, whizzing electric car that was speeding her back to
the city crashed headlong at a curve into another brittling, splintering
mass of screams and blood and broken glass and shivering woodwork.

When she came to her senses she was lying in her blood-stained furs on
some one's piazza floor, and the horrid news of the accident must have
traveled very quickly, for a great crowd of people was trampling round
over the snowy lawn, and Big Brother and Aleck Reese and the old family
doctor seemed to have dropped down right out of the snow-whirling sky.
Just as she opened her eyes, Aleck Reese, haggard with fear and
dissipation, was kneeling down trying to slip his arms under her.

With the mightiest possible effort she lifted her forefinger warningly.

"Don't you dare touch me," she threatened. "I promised Drew--"

The doctor looked up astonished into her wide-open eyes. "Now, Ruth," he
begged, "don't you make any fuss. We've got to get you into a carriage.
We'll try not to hurt you any more than is absolutely necessary."

Her shattered nerves failed her utterly. "What nonsense!" she sobbed.
"You don't have to hurt me at all. My own man never hurts me at all. I
tell you I want my own man."

"But we can't find Drew," protested the doctor.

Then the blood came gushing back into her eyes and some wicked brute
took her bruised knees, and her wrenched back, and her broken collar
bone, and her smashed head, and jarred them all up together like a bag
of junk, and she gave one awful, blood-curdling yell--and a horse
whinnied--and everything in the world stopped happening like a run-down

When Time began to tick normally again, she found herself lying with an
almost solid cotton face in a pleasant, puffy bed that seemed to rock,
and roll, and tug against her straining arm that clutched its fingers
like an anchor into somebody's perfectly firm, kind hand. As far away as
a voice on a shore, tired, hoarse, desperately incessant, some one was
signaling reassurance to her: "You're all right, honey, You're all
right, honey."

After a long time her fingers twittered in the warm grasp. "Who are
you?" she stammered perplexedly.

"Just your 'own man,'" whispered Drew.

The lips struggling out from the edge of the bandage quivered a little.
"My 'own man'?" she repeated with surprise. "Who was the tattletale that
told you?" She began to shiver suddenly in mental or physical agony.
"Oh, I remember it all now," she gasped. "Was the little boy killed who
sat in the corner seat?"

"Why, I don't know," said Drew, and his voice rasped unexpectedly with
the sickening strain of the past few hours.

At the sound she gave a panic-stricken sob. "I believe I'm dead myself,
Drew," she cried, "and you're trying to keep it from me. Where am I?
Tell me instantly where I am."

Drew's laugh rang out before he could control it. "You're here in your
own little room," he assured her.

"Prove it," she whimpered hysterically. "Tell me what's on my bureau."

He jumped up and walked across the room to make sure. "Why, there's a
silver-backed mirror, and a box of violet powder, and a package of
safety pins."

"Pshaw!" she said. "Those might be on any angel's bureau. What else do
you see?"

He fumbled a minute among the glass and silver and gave a quick sigh of
surprise. "Here's your wedding ring."

"Bring it to me," she pleaded, and took the tiny golden circlet blindly
from his hand and slipped it experimentally once or twice up and down
her finger. "Yes, that's it," she assented, and handed it back to him.
"Hurry--quick--before anybody comes."

"What do you want?" faltered Drew.

She reached up wilfully and yanked the bandage away from the corner of
one eye.

"Why, put the ring back on my finger where it belongs!" she said.
"We're going to begin all over again. Play that I am your wife!" she
demanded tremulously.

Drew winced like raw flesh. "You are my wife," he cried. "You are! You
are! You are!"

With all the strength that was left to her she groped out and drew his
face down to her lips.

"Oh, I've invented a lots better game than that," she whispered. "If
we're going to play any game at all--let's--play--that--I--love--you!"


THE dining-room was green, as green could be. Under the orange-colored
candle-light, the walls, rugs, ceiling, draperies, ferns, glowed
verdant, mysterious, intense, like night woods arching round a camp
fire. Into this fervid, pastoral verdure the round white table,
sparkling with silver, limpid with wine-lights, seemed to roll forth
resplendent and incongruous as a huge, tinseled snowball.

Outside, like fire engines running on velvet wheels, the automobiles
went humming along the pavement. Inside, the soft, narrow, ribbony voice
of a violin came whimpering through the rose-scented air.

It was the midst of dinner-party time. In the oak-paneled hallway a
shadowy, tall clock swallowed gutturally on the verge of striking nine.

The moment was distinctly nervous. The _entrée_ course was late, and the
Hostess, gesticulating tragically to her husband, had slipped one
chalky white shoulder just a fraction of an inch too far out of its
jeweled strap. The Host, conversing every second with exaggerated
blandness about the squirrels in Central Park, was striving frantically
all the while with a desperately surreptitious, itchy gesture to signal
to his mate. Worse than this, a prominent Sociologist was audibly
discussing the American penal system with a worried-looking lady whose
brother was even then under indictment for some banking fraud. Some one,
trying to kick the Sociologist's ankle bone, had snagged his own foot
gashingly through the Woodland Girl's skirt ruffle, and the Woodland
Girl, blush-blown yet with country breezes, clear-eyed as a trout pool,
sweet-breathed as balsam, was staring panic-stricken around the table,
trying to locate the particular man's face that could possibly connect
boot-wise with such a horridly profane accident. The sudden, grotesque
alertness of her expression attracted the laggard interest of the young
Journalist at her left.

"What brought you to New York?" the Journalist asked abruptly. "You're
the last victim in from the country, so you must give an account of
yourself. Come 'fess up! What brought you to New York?"

The Journalist's smile was at least as conscientious as the smile of
daylight down a city airshaft, and the Woodland Girl quickened to the
brightening with almost melodramatic delight, for all previous
conversational overtures from this neighbor had been about actors that
she had never heard of, or operas that she could not even pronounce, and
before the man's scrutinizing, puzzled amazement she had felt convicted
not alone of mere rural ignorance, but of freckles on her nose.

"What brought me to New York?" she repeated with vehement new courage.
"Do you really want to know? It's quite a speech. What brought me to New
York? Why, I wanted to see the 'heart of the city.' I'm twenty years
old, and I've never in all my life been away from home before. Always
and always I've lived in a log bungalow, in a wild garden, in a pine
forest, on a green island, in a blue lake. My father is an invalid, you
know, one of those people who are a little bit short of lungs but
inordinately long of brains. And I know Anglo-Saxon and Chemistry and
Hindoo History and Sunrises and Sunsets and Mountains and Moose, and
such things. But I wanted to know People. I wanted to know Romance. I
wanted to see for myself all this 'heart of the city' that you hear so
much about--the great, blood-red, eager, gasping heart of the city. So I
came down here last week to visit my uncle and aunt."

[Illustration: "The lone, accentuated figure of a boy violinist"]

Her mouth tightened suddenly, and she lowered her voice with ominous
intensity. "But there _isn't_ any heart to, your city--no!--there is no
heart at all at the center of things--just a silly, pretty, very much
decorated heart-shaped box filled with candy. If you shake it hard
enough, it may rattle, but it won't throb. And I hate--hate--hate your
old city. It's utterly, hopelessly, irremediably jejune, and I'm going
home to-morrow!" As she leaned toward the Journalist, the gold locket on
her prim, high-necked gown swung precipitously forth like a wall picture
in a furious little earthquake.

The Journalist started to laugh, then changed his mind and narrowed his
eyes speculatively toward something across the room. "No heart?" he
queried. "No Romance?"

The Woodland Girl followed his exploring gaze. Between the plushy green
_portières_ a dull, cool, rose-colored vista opened forth refreshingly,
with a fragment of bookcase, the edge of a stained glass window, the
polished gleam of a grand piano, and then--lithe, sinuous, willowy, in
the shaded lamplight--the lone, accentuated figure of a boy violinist.
In the amazing mellow glow that smote upon his face, the Woodland Girl
noted with a crumple at her heart the tragic droop of the boy's dark
head, the sluggish, velvet passion of his eyes, the tortured mouth,
the small chin fairly worn and burrowed away against his vibrant
instrument. And the music that burst suddenly forth was like scalding
water poured on ice--seething with anguish, shuddering with ecstasy,
flame at your heart, frost at your spine.

The Girl began to shiver. "Oh, yes, I know," she whispered. "He plays,
of course, as though he knew all sorrows by their first names, but
that's Genius, isn't it, not Romance? He's such a little lad. He can
hardly have experienced much really truly emotion as yet beyond
a--stomach ache--or the loss of a Henty book."

"A stomach ache! A Henty book!" cried the Journalist, with a bitter,
convulsive sort of mirth. "Well, I'm ready to admit that the boy is
scarcely eighteen. But he happens to have lost a wife and a son within
the past two months! While some of us country-born fellows of
twenty-eight or thirty were asking our patient girls at home to wait
even another year, while we came over to New York and tried our
fortunes, this little youngster of scarcely eighteen is already a
husband, a father, and a widower.

"He's a Russian Jew--you can see that--and one of our big music people
picked him up over there a few months ago and brought him jabberingly to
America. But the invitation didn't seem to include the wife and
baby--genius and family life aren't exactly guaranteed to develop very
successfully together--and right there on the dock at the very last
sailing moment the little chap had to choose between a small, wailing
family and a great big, clapping New York--just temporarily, you
understand, a mere matter of immediate expediency; and families are
supposed to keep indefinitely, you know, and keep sweet, too, while
everybody knows that New York can go sour in a single night, even in the
coldest weather. And just as the youngster was trying to decide,
wavering first one way and then the other, and calling on high every
moment to the God of all the Russias, the old steamer whistle began to
blow, and they rustled him on board, and his wife and the kid pegged
back alone to the province where the girl's father lived, and they got
snarled up on the way with a band of Cossack soldiers, and the little
chap hasn't got any one now even as far off as Russia to hamper his
musical career.... So he's playing jig-tunes to people like us that are
trying to forget our own troubles, such as how much we owe our tailors
or our milliners. But sometimes they say he screams in the night, and
twice he has fainted in the midst of a concert.

"No heart in the city? No Romance? Why, my dear child, this whole
city fairly teems with Romance. The automobiles throb with it. The
great, roaring elevated trains go hustling full of it. There's
Romance--Romance--Romance from dawn to dark, and from dark to dawn
again. The sweetness of the day-blooming sunshine, the madness of the
night-blooming electric lights, the crowds, the colors, the music, the
perfume--why, the city is _Romance-mad_! If you stop anywhere for even
half an instant to get your breath, Romance will run right over you.
It's whizzing past you in the air. It's whizzing past you in the street.
It's whizzing past you in the sensuous, ornate theaters, in the jaded
department stores, in the calm, gray churches. Romance?--Love?

"The only trouble about New York Romance lies just in the fact that it
is so whizzingly premature. You've simply got to grab Love the minute
before you've made up your mind--because the minute after you've made
up your mind, it won't be there. Grab it--or lose it. Grab it--or
lose it. That's the whole Heart-Motto of New York. Sinner or
Saint--RUSH--RUSH--RUSH--like Hell!"

"Grab it--or lose it. Grab it, or--l-o-s-e it." Like the impish raillery
of a tortured devil, the violin's passionate, wheedling tremolo seemed
to catch up the phrase, and mouth it and mock it, and tear it and tease
it, and kiss it and curse it--and SMASH it at last into a great,
screeching crescendo that rent your eardrums like the crash of steel

With strangely parched lips, the Woodland Girl stretched out her small
brown hand to the fragile, flower-stemmed glass, and tasted for the
first time in her life the sweety-sad, molten-gold magic of champagne.
"Why, what is it?" she asked, with the wonder still wet on her lips.
"Why, what is it?"

The Journalist raised his own glass with staler fingers, and stared for
a second through narrowing eyes into the shimmering vintage. "What is
it?" he repeated softly. "This particular brand? The Italians call it
'_Lacrymæ Christi_.' So even in our furies and our follies, in our cafés
and carousals, in our love and all our laughter--we drink--you
see--the--'Tears of Christ.'" He reached out suddenly and covered the
Girl's half-drained glass with a quivering hand. "Excuse me," he
stammered. "Maybe--our thirst is partly of the soul; but '_Lacrymæ
Christi_' was never meant for little girls like you. _Go back to your

Scuttle as it might, the precipitate, naked passion in his voice did not
quite have time to cover itself with word-clothes. A little gasping
breath escaped. And though the Girl's young life was as shiningly empty
as an unfinished house, her brain-cells were packed like an attic with
all the inherent experiences of her mother's mother's mother, and she
flinched instinctively with a great lurch of her heart.

"Oh, let's talk about something--dressy," she begged. "Let's talk about
Central Park. Let's talk about the shops. Let's talk about the subway."
Her startled face broke desperately into a smile. "Oh, don't you think
the subway is perfectly dreadful," she insisted. "There's so much
underbrush in it!" Even as she spoke, her shoulders hunched up the
merest trifle, and her head pushed forward, after the manner of people
who walk much in the deep woods. The perplexity in her eyes spread
instantly to her hands. Among the confusing array of knives and forks
and spoons at her plate, her fingers began to snarl nervously like a
city man's feet through a tangle of blackberry vines.

With a good-natured shrug of his shoulders, the Journalist turned to his
more sophisticated neighbor, and left her quite piteously alone once
more. An enamored-looking man and woman at her right were talking
transmigration of souls, but whenever she tried to annex herself to
their conversation they trailed their voices away from her in a sacred,
aloof sort of whisper. Across the table the people were discussing city
politics in a most clandestine sort of an undertone. Altogether it was
almost half an hour before the Journalist remembered to smile at her
again. The very first flicker of his lips started her red mouth mumbling

"Were you going to say something?" he asked.

She shook her head drearily. "No," she stammered. "I've tried and tried,
but I can't think of anything at all to say. I guess I don't know any

The Journalist's keen eyes traveled shrewdly for a second round the
cautious, worldly-wise table, and then came narrowing back rather
quizzically to the Woodland Girl's flushing, pink and white face.

"Oh, I don't know," he smiled. "You look to me like a little girl who
might have a good many secrets."

She shook her head. "No," she insisted, "in all the whole wide world I
don't know one single thing that has to be whispered."

"No scandals?" teased the Journalist.


"No love affairs?"


The Journalist laughed. "Why, what do you think about all day long up in
your woods?" he quizzed.

"Anglo-Saxon and Chemistry and Hindoo History and Sunsets and Mountains
and Moose," she repeated glibly.

"Now you're teasing me," said the Journalist.

She nodded her head delightedly. "I'm trying to!" she smiled.

The Journalist turned part way round in his chair, and proffered her a
perfectly huge olive as though it had been a crown jewel. When he spoke
again, his voice was almost as low as the voice of the man who was
talking transmigration of souls. But his smile was a great deal kinder.
"Don't you find any Romance at all in your woods?" he asked a bit

"No," said the Girl; "that's the trouble. Of course, when I was small it
didn't make any difference; indeed, I think that I rather preferred it
lonesome then. But this last year, somehow, and this last autumn
especially--oh, I know you'll think I'm silly--but two or three times
in the woods--I've hoped and hoped and hoped--at the turn of a trail, or
the edge of a brook, or the scent of a camp fire--that I might run right
into a real, live Hunter or Fisherman. And--one night I really prayed
about it--and the next morning I got up early and put on my very best
little hunting suit--all coats and leggings and things just like yours,
you know--and I stayed out all day long--tramping--tramping--tramping,
and I never saw _any one_. But I did get a fox. Yes!--and then--"

"And then what?" whispered the Journalist very helpfully.

The Girl began to smile, but her lips were quite as red as a blush.
"Well--and--then," she continued softly, "it occurred to me all of a
sudden that the probable reason why the Man-Who-Was-Meant-for-Me didn't
come was because he--_didn't know I was there_!" She began to laugh,
toying all the while a little bit nervously with her ice-cream fork. "So
I thought that perhaps--if I came down to New York this winter--and then
went home again, that maybe--not probably you know, but just
possibly--some time in the spring or summer--I might look up suddenly
through the trees and he _would_ be there! But I've been ten days in New
York and I haven't seen one single man whom I'd exactly like to meet in
the woods--in my little hunting suit."

"Wouldn't you be willing to meet me?" pried the Journalist

The Girl looked up and faltered. "Why, of course," she hurried, "I
should be very glad to see you--but I had always sort of hoped that the
man whom I met in the woods wouldn't be bald."

The Journalist choked noisily over his salted almonds. His heightened
color made him look very angry.

"Oh, I trust I wasn't rude," begged the Woodland Girl. Then as the
Journalist's galloping laughter slowed down into the gentlest sort of a
single-foot smile, her eyes grew abruptly big and dark with horror.
"Why, I never thought of it," she stammered, "but I suppose that what I
have just said about the man in the woods and my coming to New York
is--'husband hunting.'"

The Journalist considered the matter very carefully. "N--o," he answered
at last, "I don't think I should call it 'husband hunting' nor yet,
exactly, 'the search for the Holy Grail'; but, really now, I think on
the whole I should call it more of a sacrament than a sport."

"O--h," whispered the Girl with a little sigh of relief.

It must have been fully fifteen minutes before the Journalist spoke to
her again. Then, in the midst of his salad course, he put down his fork
and asked quite inquisitively: "Aren't there any men at all up in your
own special Maine woods?"

"Oh, yes," the Girl acknowledged with a little crinkle of her nose,
"there's Peter."

"Who's Peter?" he insisted.

"Why, Peter," she explained, "is the Philadelphia boy who tutors with
my father in the summers."

Her youthfulness was almost as frank as fever, and, though taking
advantage of this frankness seemed quite as reprehensible as taking
advantage of any other kind of babbling delirium, the Journalist felt
somehow obliged to pursue his investigations.

"Nice boy?" he suggested tactfully.

The Girl's nose crinkled just a little bit tighter.

The Journalist frowned. "I'll wager you two dozen squirrels out of
Central Park," he said, "that Peter is head over heels in love with

The Girl's mouth twisted a trifle, but her eyes were absolutely solemn.
"I suppose that he is," she answered gravely, "but he's never taken the
trouble to tell me so, and he's been with us three summers. I suppose
lots of men are made like that. You read about it in books. They want to
sew just as long--long--long a seam as they possibly can without tying
any knot in the thread. Peter, I know, wants to make perfectly
Philadelphia-sure that he won't meet any girl in the winters whom he
likes better."

"I think that sort of thing is mighty mean," interposed the Journalist

"Mean?" cried the Girl. "Mean?" Her tousley yellow hair seemed fairly
electrified with astonishment, and her big blue eyes brimmed suddenly
with uproarious delight. "Oh, of course," she added contritely, "it may
be mean for the person who sews the seam, but it's heaps of fun for the
cloth, because after awhile, you know, Pompous Peter will discover that
there isn't any winter girl whom he likes better, and in the general
excitement of the discovery he'll remember only the long, long
seam--three happy summers--and forget altogether that he never tied any
knot. And then! And then!" her cheeks began to dimple. "And then--just
as he begins triumphantly to gather me in--all my yards and yards and
yards of beautiful freedom fretted into one short, puckery, worried
ruffle--then--Hooray--swish--slip--slide--_out comes the thread_--and
Mr. Peter falls right over bump-backward with surprise. Won't it be

"Fun?" snapped the Journalist. "What a horrid, heartless little cynic
you are!"

The Girl's eyebrows fairly tiptoed to reach his meaning. "Cynic?" she
questioned. "You surely don't mean that I am a cynic? Why, I think men
are perfectly splendid in every possible way that--doesn't matter to a
woman. They can build bridges and wage wars, and spell the hardest,
homeliest words. But Peter makes life so puzzling," she added wryly.
"Everybody wants me to marry Peter; everybody says 'slow but sure,'
'slow but sure.' But it's a lie!" she cried out hotly. "Slow is _not_
sure. It is not! It is not! The man who isn't excited enough to _run_ to
his goal is hardly interested enough to walk. And yet"--her forehead
crinkled all up with worry--"and yet--you tell me that 'quick' isn't
sure, either. _What is sure?_"

"Nothing!" said the Journalist.

She tossed her head. "All the same," she retorted, "I'd rather have a
man propose to me three years before, rather than three years after, I'd
made up my mind whether to accept him or not."

"Don't--marry--Peter," laughed the Journalist.

"Why not?" she asked--so very bluntly that the Journalist twisted a bit

"Oh--I--don't--know," he answered cautiously. Then suddenly his face
brightened. "Any trout fishing up in your brooks about the first of
May?" he asked covertly.

Again the knowledge of her mother's mother's mother blazed red-hot in
the Girl's cheeks. "Y--e--s," she faltered reluctantly, "the
trout-fishing is very generous in May."

"Will Peter be there?" persisted the Journalist.

Her eyes began to shine again with amusement. "Oh, no," she said. "Peter
never comes until July." With mock dignity she straightened herself up
till her shoulder almost reached the Journalist's. "I was very foolish,"
she attested, "even to mention Peter, or mankind--at all. Of course, I'm
commencing to realize that my ideas about men are exceedingly
countrified--'disgustingly countrified,' my aunt tells me. Why, just
this last week at my aunt's sewing club I learned that the only two real
qualifications for marriage are that a man should earn not less than a
hundred dollars a week, and be a perfectly kind hooker."

"A perfectly kind hooker?" queried the Journalist.

"Why, yes," she said. "Don't you know--now--that all our dresses fasten
in the back?" Her little tinkling, giggling laugh rang out with
startling incongruity through the formal room, and her uncle glanced at
her and frowned with the slightest perceptible flicker of irritation.
She leaned her face a wee bit closer to the Journalist. "Now, uncle, for
instance," she confided, "is not a particularly kind hooker. He's
accurate, you understand, but not exactly kind."

The Journalist started to smile, but instantly her tip-most finger ends
brushed across his sleeve. "Oh, please, don't smile any more," she
pleaded, "because every time you smile you look so pleasant that some
lady sticks out a remark like a hand and grabs you into her own
conversation." But the warning came too late. In another moment the
Journalist was most horridly involved with the people on his left in a
prosy discussion regarding Japanese servants.

For another interminable length of time the Woodland Girl sat in
absolute isolation. Some of the funerals at home were vastly more
social, she thought--people at least inquired after the health of the
survivors. But now, even after she had shredded all her lettuce into a
hundred pieces and bitten each piece twice, she was still quite alone.
Even after she had surreptitiously nibbled up all the cracker crumbs
around her own plate and the Journalist's plate, she was still quite
alone. Finally, in complete despair, she folded her little, brown,
ringless hands and sat and stared frankly about her.

Across the sparkly, rose-reeking table a man as polished as poison ivy
was talking devotedly to a white-faced Beauty in a most exciting gown
that looked for all the world like the Garden of Eden struck by
lightning--black and billowing as a thunder cloud, zigzagged with
silver, ravished with rose-petals, rain-dropped with pearls. Out of the
gorgeous, mysterious confusion of it the Beauty's bare shoulders leaped
away like Eve herself fleeing before the storm. But beyond the
extravagant sweep of gown and shoulder the primitive likeness ended
abruptly in one of those utterly well-bred, worldly-wise, perfected
young faces, with that subtle, indescribable sex-consciousness of
expression which makes the type that men go mad over, and the type that
older women tersely designate as looking just a little bit "too kissed."

But the Woodland Girl did not know the crumpled-rose-leaf stamp of face
which characterizes the coquette. Utterly fascinated, tremulous with
excitement, heartsick with envy, she reached out very softly and knocked
with her finger on the Journalist's plate to beg readmission to his

"Oh, who is that beautiful creature?" she whispered.

"Adele Reitzen," said the Journalist, "your uncle's ward."

"My own uncle's ward?" The Woodland Girl gave a little gasp. "But why
does she worry so in her eyes every now and then?" she asked abruptly.

Even as she asked, Adele Reitzen began to cough. The trouble started
with a trivial clearing of her throat, caught up a disjointed swallow or
two, and ended with a rack that seemed to rip like a brutal knife right
across her silver-spangled lungs. Somebody patted her on the back.
Somebody offered her a glass of water. But in the midst of the choking
paroxysm she asked to be excused for a moment and slipped away to the
dressing-room. The very devoted man seemed rather piteously worried by
the incident, and the Hostess looked straight into his eyes and shook
her head ominously.

"I hope you are planning a southern wedding trip next week," she said.
"I don't like that cough of Adele's. I've sat at three dinner parties
with her this week, and each individual night she has had an attack like
this and been obliged to leave the table."

In the moment's lull, the butler presented a yellow telegram on a shiny,
Sheffield tray, and the Hostess slipped her pink fingers rustlingly
through the envelope and brightened instantly. "Oh, here's a surprise
for you, Chloe," she called to the Woodland Girl. "Peter is coming over
to-night to see you." Like a puckering electric tingle the simple
announcement seemed to run through the room, and a little wise,
mischievous smile spread from face to face among the guests. In another
instant everybody turned and peeped at the Woodland Girl, and the
Woodland Girl felt her good cool, red blood turn suddenly to bubbling,
boiling water, and steam in horrid, clammy wetness across her forehead
and along the prickling palms of her hands, and the Journalist laughed
right out loud, and the whole green, definite room swam dizzily like
the flaunting scarlet messiness of a tropical jungle.

Every nook and corner of the house, indeed, was luxuriously heated, but
when Adele Reitzen came sauntering back to her seat, pungent around her,
telltale as an alien perfume, lurked the chill, fresh aroma of the
wintry, blustering street. Only the country girl's smothering lungs
noted the astonishing fact. Like a little caged animal scenting the
blessed outdoors, her nostrils began to crinkle, and she straightened up
with such abrupt alertness that she loomed to Adele Reitzen's startled
senses like the only visible person at the table, and for just the
fraction of a heart-beat the two girls fathomed down deep and
understandingly into each other's eyes, before Adele Reitzen fluttered
her white lids with a little piteous gesture of appeal.

Breathlessly the Woodland Girl turned to the Journalist, and touched his
arm. "New York _is_ interesting, isn't it!" she stammered. "I've decided
just this minute to stay another week."

"Oh, ho," said the Journalist. "So you love it better than you did an
hour ago?"

"No!" cried the Woodland Girl. "I love it worse. I love it worse every
moment like a--ghost story, but I'm going to stick it out a week longer
and see how it ends. And I've learned one clue to New York's plot this
very night. I've learned that most every face is a 'haunted house.' The
mouths slam back and forth all the time like pleasant doors, and the
jolliest kind of speeches come prancing out, and all that--but in the
eyes ghosts are peering out the windows every minute."

"Cheerful thought," said the Journalist, taking off his glasses. "Who's
the ghost in my eyes?"

The Woodland Girl stared at him wonderingly. "The ghost in your eyes?"
she blundered. "Why--I guess--it's 'the patient girl at home' whom you
asked to wait 'even another year.'"

Like two fever spots the red flared angrily on the Journalist's cheek

Not even the Journalist spoke to her again.

Finally, lonesome as a naughty child, she followed the dozen dinner
guests back into the huge drawing-room, and wandered aimlessly around
through the incomprehensible mysteries of Chinese idols and teakwood
tabourets and soft, mushy Asiatic rugs. Then at last, behind a dark,
jutting bookcase, in a corner most blissfully safe and secret like a
cave, she stumbled suddenly upon a great, mottled leopard skin with its
big, humpy head, and its sad glass eyes yearning out to her
reproachfully. As though it had been a tiny, lost kitten, she gave a wee
gasp of joy, and dropped down on the floor and tried to cuddle the huge,
felt-lined, fur bulk into her lap. Just as the clumsy face flopped
across her knees, she heard the quick swish of silk, and looked up to
see Adele Reitzen bending over her.

The older girl's eyes were tortured with worry, and her white fingers
teased perpetually at the jeweled watch on her breast. "Chloe Curtis,"
she whispered abruptly, "will you do something for me? Would you be
afraid? You are visiting here in the house, so no one would question
your disappearance. Will you go up to the dressing-room--quick--and get
my black evening coat--the one with the gold embroidery and the big
hood--and go out to the street corner where the cars stop--and tell the
man who is waiting there--that I couldn't--simply couldn't--get out
again? Would you be afraid?"

The Woodland Girl jumped to her feet. At that particular instant the
lump in her throat seemed the only really insurmountable obstacle in the
whole wide world. "Would I be afraid?" she scoffed. "Afraid of what? Of
New York? Of the electric lights? Of the automobiles? Of the cross
policemen? Afraid of nothing!" Her voice lowered suddenly. "Is
it--Love?" she whispered.

The older girl's face was piteous to see. "Y--e--s," she stammered. "It
is Love."

The Woodland Girl's eyes grew big with wonder. "But the other man?" she
gasped. "You are going to be married next week!"

Adele Reitzen's eyes blurred. "Yes," she repeated, "I am going to be
married next week." A little shiver went flickering across her

The Woodland Girl's heart began to plunge and race. "What's the matter
with the man out on the street corner?" she asked nervously.

Adele Reitzen caught her breath. "He's a civil engineer," she said. "His
name is Brian Baird. He's just back from Central America. I met him on
the steamer once. He was traveling second cabin. My--family--won't--let

The Woodland Girl threw back her head and laughed, and smothered her
laugh contritely with her hand. "Your family won't let you have him?"
she mumbled. "What a funny idea! What has your family got to do about
it?" Her breath began to quicken, and she reached out suddenly and
clutched Adele Reitzen's shoulder. "Do you know where my uncle's musty
old law library is?" she hurried. "It's downstairs, you know, close to
the store room--nobody ever uses it. You go down there just as fast as
you possibly can, and wait there, and I'll be back in five minutes with
the--Love Man."

Before Adele Reitzen's feebler courage could protest, the Woodland Girl
was scurrying up the short flight to the dressing-room and pawing like a
prankish terrier through the neatly folded evening coats that snuggled
across the bed. Tingling with excitement, she arrayed herself finally in
the luxuriantly muffling black and gold splendor, and started cautiously
down the long, creaky front stairs.

Like the inimitable, familiar thrill of little wild, phosphorescent eyes
looming suddenly out of the black night-woods at home, the adventure
challenged her impetuous curiosity. Bored puzzlingly by the big city's
utter inability to reproduce the identical, simple lake-and-forest
emotionalism that was the breath of life to her, she quickened now
precipitately to the possible luring mystery in human eyes. Through the
dark mahogany stripes of the balustrade, the drawing-room candles flared
and sputtered like little finger-pinches of fluid flame, and the
violin's shuddering voice chased after her, taunting, "Hurry! Hurry! Or
it won't be there!" Beyond the lights and music, and the friendly
creaking stairs, the strange black night opened forth like the scariest
sort of a bottomless pit; but as yet, in all the girl's twenty coltish
years nothing except headache and heart-beat had ever made her feel
perfectly throbbing-positive that she was alive. She could spare the
headache, but she could not spare the heart-beat. Paddling with
muscle-strained shoulder and heaving breast across a November-tortured
lake, or huddling under forbidden pine trees in a rackety August
thunder storm, or floundering on broken snowshoes into the antlered
presence of an astounded moose--Fun and Fear were synonymous to her.

Once on the street, like water to thirst, the cold night air freshened
and vivified her. Over her head the electric lights twinkled giddily
like real stars. On either side of her the huge, hulking houses reared
up like pleasant imitation mountains. Her trailing cloak slipped now and
then from her clutching fingers, but she trudged along toward the corner
with just one simple, supreme sense of pleasurable excitement--somewhere
out of the unfathomed shadows a real, live Adventure was going to rise
up and scare her.

But the man, when he came, did not scare her one hundredth part as much
as she scared him, though he jumped at her from the snuggling fur robe
of a stranded automobile, and snatched at her arm with an almost
bruising intensity.

"Oh, Adele," he cried huskily, "I thought you had failed me again."

The Woodland Girl threw back her somber hood and stood there all blonde
and tousle-haired and astonishing under the electric light. "I'm not
your Adele," she explained breathlessly. "I'm just Chloe Curtis. Adele
sent me out to tell you that she absolutely couldn't--couldn't come.
You yourself would have seen that it was horridly impossible. But you
are to go back to the house now with me--to my uncle's old unused
library and see Adele yourself for as much as fifteen minutes. No
one--oh, I'm sure that no one--could persuade a woman to be brave--on a
street corner; but I think that perhaps if you had a chance to see Adele
all alone, she would be very--extraordinarily brave."

Anger, resentment, confusion, dismay flared like successive explosions
in the man's face, and faded again, leaving his flesh utter ash gray.

"It was plucky of you to come," he muttered grimly, "but I haven't quite
reached the point yet--thank you--where I go sneaking round people's
unused rooms to meet any one!"

"Is it so very different from sneaking round street corners?" said the
Woodland Girl.

The man's head lifted proudly. "I don't go 'sneaking' round street
corners," he answered simply. "All Outdoors _belongs_ to me! But I won't
go secretly to any house that doesn't welcome me."

The Woodland Girl began to stamp her foot. "But the house does welcome
you," she insisted. "It's my visity-house, and you are to come there as
my friend."

In her ardor she turned and faced him squarely under the light, and
winced to see how well worth facing he was--for the husband of a
coward. There was no sleek New York about him, certainly, but rather the
merge of all cities and many countries, a little breath of unusualness,
a touch of mystery, a trifling suggestion, perhaps, of more dusty roads
than smug pavements, twenty-eight or thirty years, surely, of
adventurous youth. Impulsively she put out her hand to him. "Oh, please
come," she faltered. "I--think you are so nice."

With a little laugh that had no amusement in it, nor pleasure, nor
expectation, nor any emotion that the Woodland Girl had ever
experienced, he stood and stared at her with some sudden impulse. "Does
Adele really want me to come?" he asked trenchantly.

"Why yes," insisted the Woodland Girl. "It's life or death for you and

Ten minutes later, standing on guard at the edge of the library door,
the Woodland Girl heard, for the first time in her life, the strange,
low, vibrant, mysterious mate-tone of a human voice. If she had burrowed
her head in a dozen pillows, she could not have failed to sense the
amazing wonder of the sound, though the clearer-worded detail of hurried
plans and eager argument and radiant acquiescence passed by her
unobserved. "But I must be perfectly sure that you love me," persisted
the man's voice.

"You and--you only," echoed the woman's passion.

Then suddenly, like a practical joke sprung by a half-witted Fate, the
store room door opened with casual, exploring pleasantness, and the
Journalist and Adele Reitzen's promised husband and big Peter himself
stepped out into the hallway.

Before the surprised greeting in two men's faces the Woodland Girl
retreated step by step, until at last with a quick turn she whirled back
into the dingy, gas-lit library--her chalky face, her staring eyes
proclaiming only too plainly the calamity which she had no time to stuff
into words.

Close behind her followed the three smiling, unsuspicious intruders.
Even then the incident might have passed without gross awkwardness if
the Woodland Girl's uncle and aunt had not suddenly joined the company.
From the angry, outraged flush on the two older faces it was perfectly
evident that these two, at least, had been waylaid by kitchen gossip.

Brian Baird laughed. Like a manly lover goaded and hectored and cajoled
too long into unworthy secrecy, his pulses fairly jumped to meet the
frank, forced issue. But with a quick, desperate appeal Adele Reitzen
silenced the triumphant speech on his lips. "Let me manage it!" she
whispered, so vehemently that the man yielded to her, and stepped back
against the fireplace, and spread his arms with studied, indolent ease
along the mantel, like a rustic cross tortured out of a supple willow
withe. One of his hands played teasingly with a stale spray of Christmas
greens. Nothing but the straining, white-knuckled grip of his other hand
modified the absolute, wilful insolence of his pose.

As for Adele, her face was ghastly.

With crude, uncontrolled venom the Woodland Girl's aunt plunged into the
emergency. "Adele," she cried shrilly, "I think you owe your _fiancé_ an
explanation! You promised us faithfully last year that you would never,
never see Mr. Baird again--and now to-night our chauffeur saw you steal
out to the street corner to meet him--like a common shop-girl. And you
dare to bring him back--to my house! What have you to say for yourself?"

For the fraction of a moment Adele Reitzen's superb beauty straightened
up to its full majestic height, and all the love-pride that was in her
white, white flesh flamed gloriously in her face. Then her sleek,
prosperous, arrogant city lover stepped suddenly forward where the
yellow light struck bleakly across his shrewd, small eyes and his thin,
relentless mouth.

"I should be very glad, indeed, to hear what you have to say," he
announced, and his voice was like a nicked knife blade.

Flush by flush by flush the red glory fled from Adele Reitzen's face.
Her throat began to flutter. Her knees crumpled under her. Fear went
over her like a gray fog.

With one despairing hand she reached back to the Woodland Girl. "Oh,
tell them it was you," she whispered hotly. "Oh, tell them it was you."
Her scared face brightened viciously. "It _was_ you--you know! Tell
them--oh, tell them anything--only save me!"

The Woodland Girl's eyes were big with horror. She started to speak, she
started to protest, but before the jumbled words could leave her lips
Adele Reitzen turned to the others and blurted out hysterically:

"Surely I can't be expected to keep even a love-secret under
these--distressing circumstances. _It was Chloe who went out to the
street corner to-night--like a common shop-girl--to meet Brian Baird.
She wore my cloak on purpose to disguise her._"

Like the blaring scream of a discordant trumpet, the treacherous,
flatted truth crashed into the Woodland Girl's startled senses, and the
man in the shape of a sagging willow cross started up and cried out, "My

For a second the Woodland Girl stood staring into his dreadful, chaotic
face, then she squared her shoulders and turned to meet the wrathful,
contemptuous surprise in her uncle's and aunt's features.

"So it was you," sneered the uncle, "embroiling our decent household in
a common, vulgar intrigue?"

"So it was you," flamed her aunt, "you who have been posing all these
days as an Innocent?"

Frantic with perplexity, muddled with fear, torn by conflicting
chivalries, the Woodland Girl stared back and forth from Adele Reitzen's
agonized plea to the grim, inscrutable gleam in Brian Baird's eyes. As
though every living, moving verb had been ripped out of that night's
story, and all the inflexible nouns were printing themselves slam-bang
one on top of another--Roses, Wine, Music, Silver, Diamonds, Fir-Balsam
telescoped each other in her senses.

"Your father sent you down here," persisted her aunt brutally, "on the
private plea to me that he was planning to be married again--but I can
readily see that perhaps no one would exactly want you."

The Woodland Girl's heart began to pound.

"We--are--waiting," prodded her uncle's icy voice.

Suddenly the Girl's memory quickened. Once, long ago, her father had
said to her: "Little Daughter, if you are ever in fear and danger by sea
or land--or city, which is neither sea nor land--turn always to that
man, and to that man only, whom you would trust in the deep woods. Put
your imagination to work, not your reason. You have no reason!"

Desperately she turned to Peter. His face, robbed utterly of its
affection, was all a-shock with outraged social proprieties, merging the
merest bit unpleasantly into the racy appreciation of a unique
adventure. Panic-stricken, she turned to the Journalist. Already across
the Journalist's wine-flushed face the pleasant, friendly smile was
souring into worldly skepticism and mocking disillusionment.

She shut her eyes. "O Big Woods, help me!" she prayed. "O Cross Storm,
warn me! O Rough Trail, guide me!"

Behind her tightly scrunched lids her worried brain darkened like a
jumbled midnight forest. Jaded, bedraggled, aching with storm and
terror, she saw herself stumbling into the sudden dazzling splurge of a
stranger's camp fire. Was it a man like Peter? Was it the Journalist?
She began to shiver. Then her heart gave a queer, queer jump, and she
opened her eyes stark wide and searched deep into Brian Baird's livid
face. One of his hands still strained at the wooden mantel. The other
still bruised the pungent balsam tip between its restive fingers. His
young hair was too gray about his temples. His shoulders were too tired
with life's pack burdens. His eyes had probably grown more bitter that
night than any woman's lips could ever sweeten again. And yet--

Down from the far-away music room floated the quavering, passionate
violin wail of the boy who had dared to temporize with Fate. Up from the
close-nudging street crashed the confusing slap of hoofs and the mad
whir of wheels racing not so much for the Joy of the Destination as for
the Thrill of the Journey. She gave a little gasping sob, and Brian
Baird stooped forward incredulously, as though from the yellow glare of
his camp fire he had only just that instant sensed the faltering
footfall of a wayfarer in acute distress, and could scarcely distinguish
even yet through the darkness the detailed features of the apparition.

For a second, startled eyes defied startled eyes, and then suddenly, out
of his own meager ration of faith or fortune or immediate goodness, the
man straightened up, and _smiled_--the simple, honest, unquestioning
camp-fire smile--the smile of food and blanket, the smile of welcome,
the smile of shelter, the signal of the gladly-shared crust--and the
Woodland Girl gave a low, wild cry of joy, and ran across the room to
him, and wheeled back against him, close, tight, with her tousled hair
grazing his haggard cheek and her brown hands clutching hard at the
sweep of his arms along the mantel.

"Adele Reitzen is right," she cried out triumphantly. "This is


NO man could have asked the question more simply. The whole gaunt,
gigantic Rocky Mountain landscape seemed indeed most peculiarly
conducive to simple emotions.

Yet Donas Guthrie's original remark had been purely whimsical and
distinctly apropos of nothing at all. The careless knocking of his pipe
against the piazza's primitive railing had certainly not prepared the
way for any particularly vital statement.

"Up--to--the--time--he's--thirty," drawled the pleasant, deep,
distinctly masculine voice, "up--to--the--time--he's--thirty, no man has
done the things that he's really wanted to do--but only the things that
happened to come his way. He's forced into business to please his
father, and cajoled into the Episcopal Church to gratify his mother, and
bullied into red neckties to pacify his sister Isabel. But once having
reached the grown-up, level-headed, utterly independent age of thirty, a
man's a fool, I tell you, who doesn't sit down deliberately, and roll
up his sleeves, and square his jaw, and list out, one by one, the things
that _he_ wants in the presumable measure of lifetime that's left
him--and go ahead and get them!"

"Why, surely," said the young woman, without the slightest trace of
surprise. Something in her matter-of-fact acquiescence made Donas
Guthrie smile a trifle shrewdly.

"Oh! So you've got your own list all made out?" he quizzed. Around the
rather tired-looking corners of Esther Davidson's mouth the tiniest
possible flicker of amusement began to show.

"No, not all made out," she answered frankly. "You see, I wasn't
thirty--until yesterday."

Stooping with cheerful unconcern to blow a little fluff of tobacco ash
from his own khaki-colored knees to hers, Guthrie eyed her delightedly
from under his heavy brows.

"Oh, this is working out very neatly and pleasantly," he mused, all
agrin. "Ever since you joined our camping party at Laramie, jumping off
the train as white-faced and out of breath as though you'd been running
to catch up with us all the way from Boston--indeed, ever since you
first wrote me at Morristown, asking full particulars about the whole
expedition and begging us to go to the Sierra Nevadas instead and
blotted 'Sierra' twice and crossed it out once--and then in final
petulance spelled it with three 'r's,' I've been utterly consumed with
curiosity to know just how old you are."

"Thirty years--and one morning," said the young woman--absent-mindedly.

"W-h-e-w!" gasped Guthrie. "But that's a ripe old age! Surely, you've no
time to lose!"

Rummaging through his pockets with mock intensity he thrust into her
hands, at last, a small pad of paper and a pencil.

"Now quick!" he insisted. "Make out your list before it's too late to
profit by it!"

The woman was evidently perfectly willing to comply with every playful
aspect of his mood, but it was equally evident that she did not intend
to be hurried about it. Quite perversely she began to dally with the

"But, you see, I don't know exactly just what kind of a list you mean,"
she protested.

"Oh, shucks!" laughed the man. "Here, give me the paper! Now--head it
like this: 'I, Esther Davidson, spinster, _æt._ thirty years and a few
minutes over, do hereby promise and attest that no matter how unwilling
to die I may be when my time comes, I shall, at least, not feel that
life has defrauded me if I have succeeded in achieving and possessing
the following brief list of experiences and substances.' There!" he
finished triumphantly. "Now do you see how easy and business-like it
all is? Just the plainest possible rating of the things you'd like to
have before you're willing to die."

Cautiously Esther Davidson took the paper from his hand and scanned it
with slow-smiling eyes.

"The--things--I'd--like to have--before I'm--willing--to--die," she
mused indolently. Then suddenly into her placid face blazed an
astonishing flame of passion that vanished again as quickly as it came.
"My God!" she said. "The things I've _got_ to have before I'm willing to

Stretching the little paper taut across her knees, she began to scribble
hasty, impulsive words and phrases, crossing and recrossing, making and
erasing, now frowning fiercely down on the unoffending page, now staring
off narrow-eyed and smilingly speculative into the blue-green spruce

It was almost ten minutes before she spoke again. Then: "How do you
spell amethyst?" she asked meditatively.

The man gave a groan of palpable disgust. "Oh, I say," he reproached
her. "You're not playing fair! This was to be a really _bona fide_
statement you know."

Without looking up the young woman lifted her hand and gesticulated
across the left side of her mannish, khaki-colored flannel shirt.

"Cross my heart!" she affirmed solemnly. "This is a perfectly
'honest-injun' list!"

Then she tore up everything she had written and began all over again,
astonishingly slowly, astonishingly neatly, on a fresh sheet of paper.

"Of course, at first," she explained painstakingly, "you think there are
just about ten thousand things that you've simply got to have, but when
you really stop to sort them out, and pick and choose a bit, and narrow
them all down to actual essentials; narrow them all down to just the
'Passions of the Soul,' as it were, why, then, there really aren't so
many after all! Only one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight,"
she counted on her fingers. "At first, for instance," she persisted
frankly, "it seemed to me that I could never, never die happy until I
had possessed a very large--oh, I mean an inordinately large amethyst
brooch that simply wallowed in pearls, but honestly now as a real
treasure-trove, I can see that I'd infinitely rather be able to remember
that once upon a time I'd--stroked a lion's face; just one, long, slow,
soft-furred, yellow stroke from the browny-pink tip of his nose to the
extremest shaggy end of his mane--and he hadn't bitten me!"

"My Heavens!" gasped the man. "Are you crazy? What kind of a list have
you been making out anyway?"

A little acridly she thrust both her list and her hands into the side
pockets of her riding skirt.

"What kind of a list did you think I would make out?" she asked sharply.
"Something all about machinery? And getting a contract for city paving
stones? Or publicly protesting the new football rules? Goodness! Does it
have to be a 'wise' list? Does it have to be a worthy list? Something
that would really look commendable in a church magazine? This was all
your idea, you know! You asked me, didn't you, to write out, just for
fun, the things I'd got to have before I'd be willing to die?"

"Oh, come now," laughed the man. "Please don't get stuffy about it. You
surprised me so about stroking the lion's face that I simply had to
chaff you a little. Truly, I care a great deal about seeing that list.
When you got off the train that day it rattled me a confounded lot to
see that your camping togs were cut out of exactly the same piece of
cloth that mine were. Professor Ellis and his wife and Doctor Andrews
jollied me a good bit about it in fact, but--hang it all--it's beginning
to dawn on me rather cozily, though I admit still embarrassingly, that
maybe your mind and mine are cut out of the same piece of cloth, too.
Please let me see what you've written!"

With a grimace that was half reluctance, half defiance, the young woman
pulled the paper from her pocket, smoothed it out on her knees for an
instant and handed it to him.

"Oh, very well, then," she said. "Help yourself to the only authentic
list of my 'Heart's Desires.'" Then suddenly her whole face brightened
with amusement and she shook a sun-browned finger threateningly at him.
"Now remember," she warned him, "I don't have to justify this list, no
matter how trivial it sounds, no matter how foolish even; it is excuse
enough for it--it is dignity enough for it, that it happens to be so."

"Yes, surely," acknowledged the man.

Either consciously or unconsciously--then--he took off his battered
slouch hat and placed it softly on the seat beside him. The act gave the
very faintest possible suggestion of reverence to the joke. Then, rather
slowly and hesitatingly, after the manner of a man who is not specially
accustomed to reading aloud, he began:

[Illustration: "Is--a--pink--sash--exactly a--a--passion?"]

"Things That I, Esther Davidson, Am Really Obliged to Have Before I'm
Willing to Die: No. 1. A solid summer of horseback riding on a rusty
brown pony among really scary mountains. No. 2. A year's work at Oxford
in Social Economics. No. 3. One single, solitary sunset view of the Bay
of Naples. No. 4. A very, very large oil-painting portrait of a cloud--a
great white, warm, cotton-batting looking, summer Sunday afternoon sort
of a cloud--I mean; the kind that you used to see as a child when all
'chock full' of chicken and ice cream and serene thoughts about Heaven,
you lay stretched out flat on the cool green grass and stared right up
into the face of God, and never even guessed what made you blink so. No.
5. The ability to buy one life-saving surgical operation for some one
who probably wouldn't otherwise have afforded it. No. 6. A perfectly
good dinner. No. 7. A completely happy Christmas. No. 8. A pink sash.
That's all."

With really terrifying gravity, the man put down the finished page and
lifted his searching eyes to the woman's flushing, self-conscious face.

"Is--a--pink--sash--exactly a--a--passion?" he probed in much

"Oh, yes!" nodded the young woman briskly. "Oh, yes, indeed! It's an
obsession in my life. It's a groove in my brain. In the middle of the
night I wake and find myself sitting bolt upright in bed saying it. The
only time I ever took ether I prattled persistently concerning it. When
a Spring sunshine is so marvelous that it makes me feel faint, when the
Vox Humana stop in a church-organ snarls my heart-strings like an actual
hand, when the great galloping, tearing fire-engine horses come
clanging like mad around the street corner, it's the one definite
idea that explodes in my consciousness. It began way back when I was a
tiny six-year-old child at a Maine woods 'camp meeting.' Did you ever
see a really primitive 'camp meeting'? All fir-balsam trees and little
rustic benches and pink calicoes and Grand Army suits and high
cheek-bones and low insteps and--lots of noise? Rather inspiring too,
sometimes, or at least soul excitative. It might do a good deal to any
high-strung six-year-old kiddie. Anyway, I saw the old village drunkard
jump up and wave his arms and wail ingenuously: 'I want to be a
Christian!' And a palsied crone beside me moaned and sobbed 'I want to
be baptized!' And even my timid, gentle mother leaped impetuously to her
feet and announced quite publicly to every one 'I want to be washed in
the Blood of the Lamb!' And all about me I saw frenzied neighbors and
strangers dashing about making these uncontrollable, confidential
proclamations. And suddenly, to my meager, indefinite baby-brain, there
rushed such an exultancy of positive personal conviction that my poor
little face must have been literally transfigured with it, for my father
lifted me high to his tight-coated shoulders and cried out ecstatically:
'A little child shall lead them! Hear! Hear!' And with an emphasis on
the personal pronoun which I hate to remember even at this remote date,
I screamed forth at the top of my lungs: 'I want--a pink sash!'"

"And didn't you get it?" said Donas Guthrie.

The young woman crooked one eyebrow rather comically. "N-o," she said,
"I never got it!"

"But you could get it any time now," argued the man.

Helplessly she threw out the palms of her hands and the unexpected
gesture displayed an amazing slimness and whiteness of wrist.

"Stupid!" she laughed. "What would I do with a pink sash now?"
Ruthlessly her quick eyes traveled down the full length of her scant,
rough skirt to the stubbed toes of her battered brown riding boots.
"Dust on the highway and chalk in the classroom and 'grown-up-ness'
everywhere!" she persisted dully. "That's the real tragedy of growing
up--not that we outgrow our original desires, but that retaining those
desires, we outgrow the ability to find satisfaction in them. People
ought to think of that, you know, when they thwart a child's ten-cent
passion for a tin trumpet. Fifty years later, when that child is a bank
president, it may drive him almost crazy to have a toy-shop with a whole
window-full of tin trumpets come and cuddle right next door to his
bank--and nothing that the man can do with them!"

Like a little gray veil the tired look fell again over her face. The man
saw it and shuddered.

"Psychology is my subject at Varndon College, you know," she continued
listlessly, "and so I suppose I'm rather specially interested in
freakish mental things. Anyway--pink sashes or Noah's arks or enough
sugar in your cocoa--I have a theory that no child ever does outgrow its
ungratified legitimate desires; though subsequent maturity may bring him
to the point where his original desire has reached such astounding
proportions that the original object can no longer possibly appease it."

Reminiscently, her narrowing eyes turned back their inner vision to the
far-away grotesque incident of the camp meeting. "It isn't as though a
child asked for a thing the very first time that he thought of it," she
protested a trifle pathetically. "An idea has been sown and has grown
and germinated in his mind a pretty long time before he gets up his
courage to speak to anybody about it. Oh, I tell you, sir, the time to
grant anybody a favor is the day the favor is asked, for that day is the
one psychological moment of the world when supply and demand are keyed
exactly to each other's limits, and can be mated beatifically to grow
old, or die young, together. But after that day--!

"Why, even with grown people," she added hastily. "Did you ever know a
marriage to turn out to be specially successful where the man had
courted a reluctant woman for years and years before she finally yielded
to him? It's perfectly astonishing how soon a wife like that is forced
to mourn: 'Why did he court me so long and so furiously if he really
cared as little as this? I'm just exactly the same person that I was in
the beginning!'--Yes, that's precisely the trouble. In the long time
that she has kept her man waiting, she has remained just exactly the
same small object that she was in the beginning, but the man's hunger
for her has materialized and spiritualized and idealized a thousandfold
beyond her paltry capacity to satisfy it."

"That's a funny way to look at it," mused Donas Guthrie.

"Is it?" said the young woman, a trifle petulantly. "It doesn't seem
funny to me!"

Then to Guthrie's infinite astonishment and embarrassment the tears
welled up suddenly into her eyes and she turned her head abruptly away
and began to beat a nervous tattoo with one hand on the flimsy piazza

In the moment's awkward silence that ensued, the little inn's clattery
kitchen wafted up its pleasant, odorous, noon-day suggestion of coffee
and bacon.

"W-h-e-w!" gloated Guthrie desperately, "but that smells good!"

"It doesn't smell good to me," said the young woman tartly.

With a definite thud the tilting leg of Guthrie's chair came whacking
down on the piazza floor.

"Why, you inconsistent little gourmand!" he exclaimed. "Then why did you
give 'one perfectly good dinner' a place on your list of necessities?"

"I don't know," whispered the young woman, a trifle tremulously. Then
abruptly she burst out laughing, and the face that she turned to Guthrie
again was all deliciously mussed up like a child's, with tears and
smiles and breeze-blown wisps of hair.

"That dinner item was just another silly thing," she explained half
bashfully, half defiantly. "It's only that although I practically never
eat much of anything on ordinary occasions, whenever I get into any kind
of danger, whenever the train runs off the track, or the steamer
threatens to sink, or my car gets stuck in the subway, I'm seized with
the most terrific gnawing hunger--as though--as though--" Furiously the
red flushed into her face again. "Well--eternity sounds so l-long," she
stammered, "and I have a perfect horror, somehow--of going to Heaven--on
an empty stomach."

In mutual appreciation of a suddenly relaxed tension, the man's laughter
and the woman's rang out together throughout the dooryard and startled
a grazing pony into a whimpering whinny of sympathy.

"I knew you'd think my list was funny," protested the young woman. "I
knew perfectly well that every single individual item on it would
astonish you."

Meditatively Donas Guthrie refilled his pipe and evidently illuminated
both the tobacco and the situation with the same match.

"It isn't the things that are on your list that astonish me," he
remarked puffingly. "It's the things that aren't on it that have given
me the bit of a jolt."

"Such as what?" frowned the young woman, sliding jerkily out to the edge
of her chair.

"Why, I'd always supposed that women were inherently domestic," growled
Guthrie. "I'd always somehow supposed that Love and Home would figure
pretty largely on any woman's 'List of Necessities.' But you! For
Heaven's sake, haven't you ever even thought of man in any specific
relation to your own life?"

"No, except in so far as he might retard my accomplishment of the things
on my list," she answered frankly. Out of the gray film of pipe-smoke,
her small face loomed utterly serene, utterly honest, utterly devoid of
coquetry or self-consciousness.

"Any man would be apt to 'retard' your desire to stroke a lion's face,"
said Guthrie grimly. "But then," with a flicker of humor, "but then I
see you've omitted that item from your revised list. Your only thought
about man then," he continued slowly, "is his probable tendency to
interfere with your getting the things out of life that you most want."


"Oh, this is quite a novel idea to me," said Guthrie, all a-smile again.
"You mean then--if I judge your premises correctly--you mean then that
if on the contrary you found a man who would really facilitate the
accomplishment of your 'heart's desires,' you'd be willing to think a
good deal about him?"

"Oh, yes!" said the young woman.

"You mean then," persisted Guthrie, "you mean then, just for the sake of
the argument, that if I, for instance, could guarantee for you every
single little item on this list, you'd be willing to marry even me?"


Altogether unexpectedly Guthrie burst out laughing.

Instantly a little alarmed look quickened in the young woman's sleepy
eyes. "Does it seem cold-blooded to you?" she asked anxiously.

"No, not exactly 'cold' blooded, but certainly a little cooler blooded
than any man would have dared to hope for," smiled Guthrie.

The frowning perplexity deepened in the young woman's face. "You surely
don't misunderstand me?" she pleaded. "You don't think I'm mercenary or
anything horrid like that? Suppose I do make a man's aptitude for
gratifying my eight particular whims the supreme test of his marital
attractiveness for me--it's not, you must understand, by the sign of his
material ability in the matter that I should recognize the Man Who Was
Made for Me--but by the sign of his spiritual willingness."

"O--h!" said Guthrie very leisurely. Then, with a trifle more vigor, he
picked up the small list again and scanned it carefully.

"It--wouldn't--be--such--a hard--list to--fulfil!" he resumed presently.
"'A summer in the mountains?' You're having that now. 'Oxford?' 'Glimpse
of Naples?' 'Cloud Picture?' 'Surgical Operation?' 'Pink Sash?' 'Good
Dinner?' 'Christmas?' Why there's really nothing here that I couldn't
provide for you, myself, if you'd only give me time."

With mischievous unconcern he smiled at the young woman. With equally
mischievous unconcern the young woman smiled back at him.

"What an extraordinary conversation we've had this morning," she said.
As though quite exhausted by the uniqueness of it, she slid a little
further down into her seat and turned her cheek against the firm support
of the chair-back.

"What an extraordinary understanding it has brought us to!" exclaimed
the man, scanning her closely.

"I don't see anything particularly--understandy about it," denied the
young woman wearily.

It was then that Donas Guthrie asked his simple question, boring his
khaki-colored elbows into his khaki-colored knees.

"Little Psychology Teacher," he said very gently, "Little Psychology
Teacher, Dr. Andrews says that you've got typhoid fever. He's feared it
now for some time, and you know it's against his orders--your being up
to-day. So as long as I've proved myself here and now, by your own test,
the Man-Whom-You-Were-Looking-For, I suggest that you and I be--married
this afternoon--before that itinerant shiny-shouldered preacher out in
the corral escapes us altogether--and then we'll send the rest of the
party on about their business, and you and Dr. Andrews and Hanlon's Mary
and I will camp right down here where we are--and scrap the old typhoid
fever to its finish. Will you, Little Psychology Teacher?"

Lifting her white hands to her throbbing temples the young woman turned
her astonished face jerkily toward him.

"What--did--you--say?" she gasped.

"I said: 'Will you marry me this afternoon?'" repeated Guthrie.

Bruskly she pushed that part of the phrase aside. "What did you really
say?" she insisted. "What did Dr. Andrews say?"

"Dr. Andrews says that you've got typhoid fever," repeated Guthrie.

Inertly she blinked her big brown eyes for an instant. Then suddenly her
hands went groping out to the arms of her chair. Her face was
horror-stricken. "Why didn't he tell me, himself?"

"Because I asked him to let me tell you," said Guthrie quietly.

"When did he tell you?" she persisted.

"Just before I came up on the piazza," said Guthrie.

"How did he tell you?" she demanded.

"How did he tell me?" mused Guthrie wretchedly. After all, underneath
his occasional whimsicality he was distinctly literal-minded. "How did
he tell me? Why I saw them all powwowing together in the corral, and
Andrews looked up sort of queer and said: 'Say, Guthrie, that little
Psychology friend of yours has got typhoid fever. What in thunder are we
going to do?"

The strained lines around Esther Davidson's mouth relaxed for a second.

"Well, what in thunder am I going to do?" she joked heroically. But the
effort at flippancy was evidently quite too much for her. In another
instant her head pitched forward against the piazza railing and her
voice, when she spoke again, was almost indistinguishable.

"And you knew all this an hour ago!" she accused him incoherently. "Knew
my predicament--knew my inevitable weakness and fear and
mortification--knew me a stranger among strangers. And yet you came up
here to jolly me inconsequently--about a million foolish things!"

"It was because at the end of the hour I hoped to be something to you
that would quite prevent your feeling a 'stranger among strangers,'"
said Guthrie very quietly. "I have asked you to marry me this afternoon,
you must remember."

The young woman's lip curled tremulously. "You astonish me!" she
scoffed. "I had always understood that men did not marry very easily.
Quick to love, slow to marry, is supposed to be your most striking
characteristic--and here are you asking marriage of me, and you haven't
even loved me yet!"

"You women do not seem to marry any too easily," smiled Guthrie gazing
nervously from his open watch to the furthest corner of the corral,
where the preacher's raw-boned pony, nose in air, was stubbornly
refusing to take his bit.

"Indeed we do marry--perfectly easily--when we once love," retorted the
woman contentiously! "It's the love part of it that we are reluctant

"But I haven't asked you to love me," protested the man with much
patience. "I merely asked you to marry me."

The woman's jaw dropped. "Out of sympathy for my emergency, out of
mistaken chivalry, you're asking me to marry you, and not even
pretending that you love me?" she asked in astonishment.

"I haven't had time to love you yet. I've only known you such a little
while," said the man quite simply. Almost sternly he rose and began to
pace up and down the narrow confines of the little piazza. "All I know
is," he asserted, "that the very first moment you stepped off the train
at Laramie, I knew you were the woman whom I was--going to

Very softly he slid back into the rustic seat he had just vacated, and
taking the woman's small clenched hands in his began to smooth out her
fingers like poor crumpled ribbons.

"Now, Little Psychology Teacher," he said, "I want you to listen very,
very carefully to everything I say. Do you like me all right?"


"Better than you like Andrews or Ellis or even the old Judge?"

"Oh, yes!"

"Ever since we all started out together on the Trail you've just sort of
naturally fallen to my lot, haven't you? Whenever you needed your pony's
girth tightened, or whenever you wanted a drink of water, or whenever
the big canyons scared you, or whenever the camp fire smoked you, you've
just sort of naturally turned to me, haven't you? And it would be fair
enough, wouldn't it, to say that at least I've never made any situation
worse for you? So that if anything ugly or awkward were going to
happen--perhaps you really would rather have me around than any one


"Maybe even, when we've been watching Ellis and his Missis riding ahead,
all hand in hand and smile in smile, you've wondered a bit, woman-like,
how it would seem, for instance, to be riding along hand in hand and
smile in smile with me?"


"Never had any special curiosity about how it would seem to go hand and
hand with--Andrews?"


"Hooray!" cried Guthrie. "That's all that I really needed to know! Oh,
don't feel bashful about it. It surely is an absolutely impersonal
compliment on your part. It isn't even you that I'm under obligations to
for the kindness, but Nature with a great big capital 'N.' Somehow I
always have had an idea that you women instinctively do divide all
mankind into three classes: first, Those Whom You Couldn't Possibly
Love; second, Those Whom You Could Possibly Love, and third, the One Man
of the World Whom You Actually Do Love. And unless this mysterious
Nature with a capital 'N' has already qualified a man for the second
class, God himself can't promote that man into the third class. So it
seems to me that every fellow could save himself an awful lot of
misunderstanding and wasted time if he'd do just what I've done--make a
distinctly preliminary proposal to his lady; not 'Do you love me?' which
might take her fifteen years to decide, but: 'Could you love me?' which
any woman can tell the first time she sees you. And if she can't
possibly love you, that settles everything neatly then and there, but if
she can possibly, why, with Nature once on his side, a man's a craven
who can't put up a mighty good scrap for his coveted prize. Doesn't this
all make sense to you?"

Cannily the young woman lifted her eyes to his and fathomed him mutely
for an instant. Then:

"Perfectly good 'sense' but no feeling," she answered dully.

"It's only 'sense' that I'm trying to make," acknowledged Guthrie. "Now
look here, you Little Teacher Person, I'm going to talk to you just as
bluntly as I would to another fellow. You are in a hole--the deuce of a
hole! You have got typhoid fever, and it may run ten days and it may run
ten weeks! And you are two thousand miles from home--among strangers!
And no matter how glad I personally may be that you did push on and join
us, sick or well, from every practical standpoint, of course, it surely
was heedless and ill-considered of you to start off in poor health on a
trip like this and run the risk of forcing perfectly unconcerned
strangers to pay for it all. Personally, you seem so much to belong to
me already that it gives me goose-flesh to think of your having to put
yourself under obligations to any purely conscientious person. Mrs.
Ellis, of course, will insist, out of common humanity, upon giving up
her trip and staying behind with you, but Mrs. Ellis, Little Teacher, is
on her honeymoon, and Ellis couldn't stay behind--it's his party--he'd
have to go on with his people--and you'd never be able to compensate
anybody for a broken honeymoon, and the Judge's youngster couldn't nurse
a sick kitten, and the two women teachers from New York have been
planning seven years for this trip, they told me, and we couldn't
decently take it away from them. But you and I, Little Psychology Lady,
are not strangers to each other. Hanlon's Mary here at the ranch house,
rough as she is, has at least the serving hands of a woman, and Andrews
belongs naturally to the tribe which is consecrated to inconveniences,
and both can be compensated accordingly. And I would have married you,
anyway, before another year was out! Yes, I would!"

Apparently ignoring everything that he had said, she turned her face
scowlingly toward the sound of hammering that issued suddenly through
the piazza door.

"Oh, Glory!" she complained. "Are they making my coffin already?"

With a little laugh, Guthrie relinquished her limp fingers, and jumping
up, took another swift turn along the piazza, stopping only to bang the
door shut again. When he faced her once more the twinkle was all gone
from his eyes.

"You're quite right, what you said about men," he resumed with desperate
seriousness. "We are a heap sight quicker in our susceptibilities than
in our mentalities! Therefore, no sane man ever does marry till his
brain has caught up with his emotions! But sometimes, you know,
something happens that hustles a man's brain along a bit, and this time
my brain seems fairly to have jumped to its destination and clean-beaten
even the emotions in the race. In cool, positive judgment I tell you I
want to marry you this afternoon."

"You've confessed yourself, haven't you, that you've no severer ideal
for marriage than that a man should be generous enough to give your
personality, no matter how capricious, a chance to breathe? Haven't I
qualified sufficiently as that amiable man? More than that, I'm free to
love you; I'm certainly keen to serve you; I'm reasonably well able to
provide for you, and you naturally have a right to know that I've led a
decent life. It's ten good years now since I was thirty and first found
nerve enough to break away from the stifling business life I hated and
get out into the open, where there's surely less money but infinitely
more air. And in ten years I've certainly found considerable chance to
fulfil a few of the items in my own little 'List of Necessities.' I've
seen Asia and I've seen Africa, and I've written the book I've always
wanted to write on North American mountain structures.

"But there's a lot more that I crave to do. Maybe I've got a bit of a
'capricious personality' myself! Maybe I also have been hunting for the
mate who would give my personality a chance to breathe. Certainly I've
never wanted any home yet, except when the right time came, the arms of
the right woman. And I guess you must be she, because you're the first
woman I've ever seen whom I'd trust to help me just as hard to play my
chosen games as I'd help her to play hers! I tell you--I want--very
much--to marry you this afternoon."

"Why do you dally with me so? Isn't it your own argument that there's
only just one day in the love-life of a man and woman when the question
and the answer mate exactly, and the books are balanced perfectly even
for the new start together? Demand and supply, debit and credit, hunger
and food? You, wild for help, and I wild to help you! What difference
does it make what you call it? Isn't this our day?"

"For a man who's usually as silent as you are, don't you think you're
talking a good deal, considering how sick you said I was?" asked the
young woman, not unmirthfully.

Guthrie's square jaws snapped together like a trap. "I was merely trying
to detain you," he mumbled, "until Hanlon had finished knocking the
windows out of your room. We're going to give you all the air you can
breathe, anyway."

A little sullenly he started for the stairs. Then just at the door he
turned unexpectedly and his face was all smiles again.

"Little Psychology Teacher," he said, "I have made you a formal,
definite offer of marriage. And in just about ten minutes from now I am
coming back for my answer."

When he did return a trifle sooner than he had intended, he met her in
the narrow upper hallway, with hands outstretched, groping her way
unsteadily toward her room. As though her equilibrium was altogether
disturbed by his sudden advent, she reeled back against the wall.

"Mr. Donas Guthrie," she said, "I'm feeling pretty wobbly! Mr. Donas
Guthrie," she said, "I guess I'm pretty sick."

"It's a cruel long way down the hall," suggested Guthrie. "Wouldn't you
like me to carry you?"

"Yes--I--would," sighed the Little Psychology Teacher.

Even to Guthrie's apprehensive mind, her weight proved most
astonishingly light. The small head drooping limply back from the
slender neck seemed actually the only heavy thing about her, yet there
were apparently only two ideas in that head.

"I'm afraid of Hanlon's Mary, and I don't like Dr.
Andrews--very--specially--much," she kept repeating aimlessly. Then
halfway to her room her body stiffened suddenly.

"Mr. Donas Guthrie," she asked. "Do you think I'm probably going to

"N-a-w!" said Guthrie, his nose fairly crinkling with positiveness.

"But they don't give you much of anything to eat in typhoid, do they?"
she persisted hectically.

"I suppose not," acknowledged Guthrie.

With disconcerting unexpectedness she began to cry--a soft, low,
whimpery cry like a sleepy child's.

"If any day should come when--they think--that I am going to die," she
moaned, "who will there be to see that I do get--something awfully good
to eat?"

"I'll see to it," said Guthrie, "if you'll only put me in authority."

As though altogether indifferent to anything that he might say, her
tension relaxed again and without further parleying she let Guthrie
carry her across the threshold of her room and set her down cautiously
in the creaky rocking chair. The eyes that lifted to his were as vague
and turbid as brown velvet.

"There's one good thing about typhoid," she moaned. "It doesn't seem to
hurt any, does it? In fact, I think I rather like it. It feels as warm
and snug and don't-care as a hot lemonade at bed time. But what?"
brightening suddenly, "but what was it you asked me to think about? I
feel sort of confused--but it was something, I remember, that I was
going to argue with you about."

"It was what I said about marrying me," prompted Guthrie.

"Oh, y-e-s," smiled the Little Psychology Teacher. Hazily for a moment
she continued staring at him with her fingers prodded deep into her
temples. Then suddenly, like a flower blasted with heat, she wilted down
into her chair, groping blindly out with one hand toward the sleeve of
his coat.

"Whatever you think best to do about it," she faltered, "I guess you'd
better arrange pretty quickly--'cause I think--I'm--going--out."

This is how it happened that Mr. and Mrs. Donas Guthrie and Dr. Andrews
stayed behind at the ranch house with Hanlon and Hanlon's Mary, and a
piebald pony or two, and a herd of Angora goats, and a pink geranium
plant, and the strange intermittent smell of a New England farmhouse
which lurked in Hanlon's goods and chattels even after thirty years, and
three or four stale, tattered magazines--and typhoid fever.

It was typhoid fever that proved essentially the most incalculable
companion of them all. Hanlon's austerity certainly never varied from
day to day, nor the inherent sullenness of Hanlon's Mary.

The meager sick-room, stripped to its bare pine skin of every tawdry
colored print and fluttering cheese-cloth curtain, faced bluntly toward
the west--a vital little laboratory in which the unknown quantity of a
woman's endurance and the fallible skill of one man, the stubborn
bravery of another, and the quite inestimable will of God were to be
fused together in a desperate experiment to precipitate Life rather than

So October waxed into November, and so waxed misgiving into
apprehension, and apprehension into actual fear. In any more cheerful
situation it would have been at least interesting to have watched the
infuriated expletives issue from Andrew's perennially smiling lips.

"Oh, hang not having anything to work with!" he kept reiterating and
reiterating. "Hang being shut off like this on a ranch where there
aren't anything but sheep and goats and one old stingy cow that Hanlon's
Mary guards with her life 'cause the lady's only a school teacher, but a
baby is a baby.' Hang Hanlon's Mary! And hang not being altogether able
to blame her! And hang not knowing, anyway, just what nanny-goat's milk
would do for a typhoid patient! And hang--"

But before the expletives, and through the expletives, and after the
expletives, Andrews was all hero, working, watching, experimenting,
retrenching, humanly comprehensive, more than humanly vigilant.

So, with the brain of a doctor and the heart of a lover, the two men
worked and watched and waited through the tortuous autumn days and
nights, blind to the young dawn stealing out like a luminous mist from
the night-smothered mountains; deaf to the flutter of sun-dried leaves
in the radiant noon-time; dull to the fruit-scented fragrance of the
early twilight, seeing nothing, hearing nothing, sensing nothing, except
the flicker of a pulse or the rise of a temperature.

And then at last there came a harsh, wintry feeling day, when Andrews,
stepping out into the hall, called Guthrie softly to him and said, still

"Guthrie, old man, I don't think we're going to win this game!"

"W-h-a-t?" gasped Guthrie.

With his mouth still curling amiably around his words, Andrews repeated
the phrase. "I said, I don't think we're going to win this game. No,
nothing new's happened. She's simply burning out. Can't you understand?
I mean she's probably--going to die!"

Out of the jumble of words that hurtled through Guthrie's mind only four
slipped his lips.

"But--she's--my--wife!" he protested.

"Other men's wives have died before this," said Andrews still smiling.

"Man," cried Guthrie, "if you smile again, I'll break your head!"

With his tears running down like rain into the broadening trough of his
smile, Andrews kept right on smiling. "You needn't be so cross about
it," he said. "You're not the only one who likes her! I wanted her
myself! You're nothing but a tramp on the face of the earth--and I could
have given her the snuggest home in Yonkers!"

With their arms across each other's shoulders they went back into the
sick room.

Rousing from her lethargy, the young woman opened her eyes upon them
with the first understanding that she had shown for some days.
Inquisitively she stared from Guthrie's somber eyes to Andrews'
distorted cheerfulness.

Taking instant advantage of her unwonted rationality, Andrews blurted
out the question that was uppermost in his professional responsibility.

"Don't you think, maybe, your people ought to know about your being
sick?" he said. "Now, if you could give us any addresses."

For a second it really seemed as though the question would merely
safely ignite her common sense.

"Why yes, of course," she acquiesced. "My brother."

Then suddenly, without any warning, her most dangerous imagination
caught fire.

"You mean," she faltered, "that--I--am--not--going to get well?"

Before either man was quick enough to contradict her, the shock had done
its work. Piteously she turned her face to the pillow.

"Never--never--to--go--to--Oxford?" she whispered in mournful
astonishment. "Never--even--to--see my--Bay of Naples?--Never to--have
a--a--perfectly happy Christmas?" A little petulantly then her brain
began to clog. "I think I--might at least have had--the pink sash!" she
complained. Then, equally suddenly her strength rallied for an instant
and the eyes that she lifted to Guthrie's were filled with a desperate
effort at raillery. "Bring on your--anchovies and caviar," she reminded
him, "and the stuffed green peppers--and remember I don't like my fillet
too well done--and--"

Five minutes later in the hallway Andrews caught Guthrie just as he was
chasing downstairs after Hanlon.

"What are you going to do?" he asked curiously.

"I am going to send Hanlon out to the telegraph station," said Guthrie.
"I'm going to wire to Denver for a pink sash!"

"What she was raving about?" quizzed Andrews. "Are you raving too?"

"It's the only blamed thing in the whole world that she's asked for that
I can get her," said Guthrie.

"It'll take five days," growled Andrews.

"I know it!"

"It won't do her any good."

"I can't help that!"

"She'll--be gone before it gets here."

"You can't help that!"

But she wasn't "gone," at all before it came. All her vitalities
charred, to be sure, like a fire-swept woodland, but still tenacious of
life, still fighting for reorganization, a little less feverish, a
little stronger-pulsed, she opened her eyes in a puzzled, sad sort of
little smile when Guthrie shook the great, broad, shimmering gauze-like
ribbon ticklingly down across her wasted hands, and then apparently
drowsed off to sleep again. But when both men came back to the room a
few moments later, almost half the pink sash was cuddled under her
cheek. And Hanlon's Mary came and peered through the doorway, with the
whining baby still in her arms, and reaching out and fretting a piece
of pink fringe between her hardy fingers, sniffed mightily.

"And you sent my man all the way to the wire," she asked, "and grubbed
him three whole days waitin' round, just for that?"

"Yes, sure," said Guthrie.

"G-a-w-d!" said Hanlon's Mary.

And, the next week the patient was even better, and the next week,
better still. Then, one morning after days and days of seemingly
interminable silence and stupor, she opened her eyes perfectly wide and
asked Guthrie abruptly:

"Whom did I marry? You or Dr. Andrews?"

And Guthrie in a sudden perversity of shock and embarrassment lied

"Dr. Andrews!"

"I didn't either!--it was you!" came the immediate, not too strong, but
distinctly temperish response.

Something in the new vitality of the tone made Guthrie stop whatever he
was doing and eye her suspiciously.

"How long have you been conscious like this?" he queried in surprise.

The faintest perceptible flicker of mischief crossed her haggard face.

"Three--days," she acknowledged.

"Then why--?" began Guthrie.

"Because I--didn't know--just what to call you," she faltered.

After that no power on earth apparently could induce any further speech
from her for another three days. Solemn and big-eyed and totally
unfathomable, she lay watching Guthrie's every gesture, every movement.
From the door to the chair, from the chair to the window, from the
window back to the chair, she lay estimating him altogether
disconcertingly. Across the hand that steadied her drinking glass, she
studied the poise of his lean, firm wrist. Out from the shadow-mystery
of her heavy lashes, she questioned the ultimate value of each frown or

And then, suddenly--just as abruptly as the first time she had spoken:

"What day is it?" she asked.

"It's Christmas," said Guthrie softly.

"O-h!--O-h!--O-h!" she exclaimed, very slowly. Then with increasing
interest and wonder, "Is there snow on the ground?" she whispered.

"No," said Guthrie.

"Is it full moon to-night?" she questioned.

"No," said Guthrie.

"Is there any small, freckle-faced, alto-voiced choir boy in the house,
trotting around humming funny little tail-ends of anthems and carols,
while he's buckling up his skates?" she stammered.

"No," said Guthrie.

"Are there any old, white-haired loving people cuddled in the chimney
corner?" she persisted.

"No," said Guthrie.

"Isn't there--any Christmas tree?"


"Aren't there even any presents?"


"Oh!" she smiled. "Isn't it funny!"

"What's funny?" asked Guthrie perplexedly.

The eyes that lifted to his were brimming full of a strange, wistful
sort of astonishment. "Why, it's funny," she faltered, "it's funny--that
without--any of these things--that I thought were so necessary to
it--I've found my 'perfectly happy Christmas.'"

Then, almost bashfully, her wisp-like fingers went straying out toward
the soft silken folds of the precious pink sash which she kept always
close to her pillow.

"If--you--don't--mind," she said, "I think I'll cut my sash in two and
give half of it to Hanlon's Mary to make a dress for her baby."

The medicine spoon dropped rather clatteringly out of Guthrie's hand.

"But I sent all the way to Denver for it," he protested.

"Oh, yes, I know all about that," she acknowledged. "But--what--can--a
great big girl--like me--do with a--pink sash?"

"But you said you wanted it!" cried Guthrie. "Why, it took a man and a
pony and a telegraph station five entire days to get it, and they had to
flag the express train specially for it--and--and--"

A little wearily she closed her eyes and then opened them again

"I'm pretty tired, now," she said, "so I don't want to talk about
it--but don't you--understand? I've revised my whole list of
necessities. Out of the wide--wide--world--I find that I don't really
want anything--except--just--you!"


THE men at the club were horridly busy that night discussing the silly
English law about marrying your dead wife's sister. The talk was quite
rabid enough even before an English High-churchman infused his pious
venom into the subject-matter. When the argument was at its highest and
the drinks were at their lowest, Bertus Sagner, the biology man at the
university, jumped up from his seat with blazing eyes and said
"RATS!"--not anything long and Latin, not anything obscure and evasive,
not even "rodents," but just plain "RATS!" The look on his face was
inordinately disgusted, or indeed more than disgusted, unless disgust is
perhaps an emotion that may at times be served red-hot. As he broke away
from the gabbling crowd and began to hunt noisily round the room for his
papers, I gathered up my own chemistry notebook and started after him. I
was a new man in town and a comparative stranger. But Sagner and I had
been chums once long ago in Berlin.

At the outside door he turned now and eyed me a bit shamefacedly.
"Barney, old man," he said, "are you going my way? Well, come along."
The broad-shouldered breadth of the two of us blocked out the light from
the shining chandelier and sent our clumsy feet fairly stumbling down
the harsh granite steps. The jarring lurch exploded Sagner's irritation
into a short, sharp, damny growl, and I saw at once that his nerves were
raw like a woman's.

As we turned into the deep-shadowed, spooky-black college roadway, the
dormitories' yellow lights and laughter flared forth grotesquely like
the Fruit of the Tree of Knowledge cut up for a Jack-o'-Lantern. At the
edge of the Lombardy poplars I heard Sagner swallowing a little bit

"I suspect that I made rather a fool of myself back there," he confided
abruptly, "but if there's anything under the day or night sky that makes
me mad, it's the idiotic babble, babble, babble, these past few weeks
about the 'dead wife's sister' law."

"What's your grouch?" I asked. "You're not even a married man, let alone
a widower."

He stopped suddenly with a spurting match and a big cigar and lighted up
unconsciously all the extraordinary frowning furrows of his face. The
match went out and he struck another, and that match went out and he
struck another--and another, and all the time it seemed to me as though
just the flame in his face was hot enough to kindle any ordinary cigar.
After each fruitless, breeze-snuffed effort he snapped his words out
like so many tiny, tempery torpedoes. "Of--all--the--rot!" he
ejaculated. "Of--all--the nonsense!" he puffed and mumbled.
"A--whole--great, grown-up empire fussing and brawling about a 'dead
wife's sister.' A dead wife! What does a dead wife care who marries her
sister? Great heavens! If they really want to make a good moral law that
will help somebody, why--don't--they--make--a--law--that will forbid a
man's flirting with his living wife's sister?"

When I laughed I thought he would strike me, but after a husky second he
laughed, too, through a great blue puff of smoke and a blaze like the
headlight of an engine. In another instant he had vaulted the low fence
and was starting off across lots for his own rooms, but before I could
catch up with him he whirled abruptly in his tracks and came back to me.

"Will you come over to the Lennarts' with me for a moment?" he asked. "I
was there at dinner with them to-night and I left my spectacles."

Very willingly I acquiesced, and we plunged off single file into the
particular darkness that led to Professor Lennart's rose-garden.
Somewhere remotely in my mind hummed and halted a vague, evasive bit of
man-gossip about Lennart's amazingly pretty sister-in-law. Yet Sagner
did not look exactly to me like a man who was going courting. Even in
that murky darkness I could visualize perfectly from Sagner's pose and
gait the same strange, bleak, facial furnishings that had attracted me
so astoundingly in Berlin--the lean, flat cheeks cleaned close as the
floor of a laboratory; the ugly, short-cropped hair; the mouth, just for
work; the nose, just for work; the ears, just for work--not a single,
decorative, pleasant thing from crown to chin except those great, dark,
gorgeous, miraculously virgin eyes, with the huge, shaggy eyebrows
lowering down prudishly over them like two common doormats on which
every incoming vision must first stop and wipe its feet. Once in a café
in Berlin I saw a woman try to get into Sagner's eyes--without stopping.
Right in the middle of our dinner I jumped as though I had been shot.
"Why, what was _that_?" I cried. "What was _that_?"

"What was what?" drawled Sagner. Try as I might the tiniest flicker of a
grin tickled my lips. "Oh, nothing," I mumbled apologetically. "I just
thought I heard a door slam-bang in a woman's face."

"What door?" said Sagner stupidly. "What woman?"

Old Sagner was deliciously stupid over many things, but he dissected the
darkness toward Professor Lennart's house as though it had been his
favorite kind of cadaver. Here, was the hardening turf, compact as
flesh. There, was the tough, tight tendon of the ripping ground pine.
Farther along under an exploring match a great vapid peony loomed like a
dead heart. Somewhere out in an orchard the May-blooms smelled
altogether too white. Almost at the edge of the Lennarts' piazza he
turned and stepped back to my pace and began talking messily about some
stale biological specimen that had just arrived from the Azores.

College people, it seemed, did not ring bells for one another, and the
most casual flop of Sagner's knuckles against the door brought Mrs.
Lennart almost immediately to welcome us. "Almost immediately," I say,
because the slight, faltering delay in her footfall made me wonder even
then whether it was limb or life that had gone just a little bit lame.
But the instant the hall light struck her face my hand clutched down
involuntarily on Sagner's shoulder. It was the same, same face whose
brighter, keener, shinier pastelled likeness had been the only joyous
object in Sagner's homesick German room. With almost embarrassing
slowness now we followed her lagging steps back to the library.

It was the first American home that I had seen for some years, and the
warmth of it, and the color, and the glow, and the luxurious,
deep-seated comfort, mothered me like the notes of an old, old song.
Between the hill-green walls the long room stretched like a peaceful
valley to the very edge of the huge, gray field-stone fireplace that
blocked the final vista like a furious breastwork raised against all the
invading tribes of history. Red books and gold frames and a
chocolate-colored bronze or two caught up the flickering glint from the
apple-wood fire, and out of some shadowy corner flanked by a grand piano
a young girl's contralto voice, sensuous as liquid plush, was lipping
its magic way up and down the whole wonderful, molten scale.

The corner was rather small, but out of it loomed instantly the tall,
supple figure of Professor Lennart with his thousand-year-old brown eyes
and his young gray hair. We were all big fellows, but Lennart towered
easily three inches over anybody else's head. Professionally, too, he
had outstripped the rest of us. People came gadding from all over the
country to consult his historical criticisms and interpretations. And I
hardly know how to express the man's vivid, luminous, incandescent
personality. Surely no mother in a thousand would have chosen to have
her son look like me, and I hope that no mother in a million would
really have yearned to have a boy look like Sagner, but any mother, I
think, would gladly have compromised on Lennart. I suppose he was
handsome. Rising now, as he did, from the murkiest sort of a shadow, the
mental and physical radiance of him made me want to laugh right out loud
just for sheer pleasure.

Following closely behind his towering bulk, the girl with the contralto
voice stepped out into the lamplight, and I made my most solemn and
profound German bow over her proffered hand before the flaming mischief
in her finger tips sent my eyes staring up into her astonishing face.

I have never thought that American women are extraordinarily beautiful,
but rather that they wear their beauty like a thinnish sort of veil
across the adorable, insistent expressiveness of their features. But
this girl's face was so thick with beauty that you could not tell in one
glance, or even two glances, or perhaps three, whether she had any
expression at all. Kindness or meanness, brightness or dullness, pluck
or timidity, were absolutely undecipherable in that physically perfect
countenance. She was very small, and very dark, and very active, with
hair like the color of eight o'clock--daylight and darkness and
lamplight all snarled up together--and lips all crude scarlet, and eyes
as absurdly big and round as a child's good-by kiss. Yet never for one
instant could you have called her anything so impassive as "attractive."
"Attracting" is the only hasty, ready-made word that could possibly fit
her. Personally I do not like the type. The prettiest picture postal
that ever was printed could not lure me across the borders of any
unknown country. When I travel even into Friendship Land I want a good,
clear face-map to guide my explorations.

There was a boy, too, in the room--the Lennarts' son--a brown-faced lad
of thirteen whose algebraic séance with his beloved mother we had most
brutally interrupted.

Professor Lennart's fad, as I have said, was history. Mrs. Lennart's fad
was presumably housekeeping. The sister-in-law's fad was unmistakably
men. Like an electric signboard her fascinating, spectacular sex-vanity
flamed and flared from her coyly drooped eyes to her showy little feet.
Every individual gesture signaled distinctly, "I am an extraordinarily
beautiful little woman." Now it was her caressing hand on Lennart's
shoulder; now it was her maddening, dazzling smile hurled like a
bombshell into Sagner's perfectly prosy remark about the weather, now
it was her teasing lips against the boy's tousled hair; now it was her
tip-toeing, swaying, sweet-breathed exploration of a cobweb that the
linden trees had left across my shoulder.

Lennart was evidently utterly subjugated. Like a bright moth and a very
dull flame the girl chased him unceasingly from one chair, or one word,
or one laugh to another. A dozen times their hands touched, or their
smiles met, or their thoughts mated in distinctly personal if not secret
understanding. Once when Mrs. Lennart stopped suddenly in the midst of
my best story and asked me to repeat what I had been saying, I glanced
up covertly and saw the girl kissing the tip of her finger a little bit
over-mockingly to her brother-in-law. Never in any country but America
could such a whole scene have been enacted in absolute moral innocence.
It made me half ashamed and half very proud of my country. In
continental Europe even the most trivial, innocent audacity assumes at
once such utterly preposterous proportions of evil. But here before my
very eyes was the most dangerous man-and-woman game in the world being
played as frankly and ingenuously and transiently as though it had been

Through it all, Sagner, frowning like ten devils, sat at the desk with
his chin in his hands, staring--staring at the girl. I suppose that she
thought he was fascinated. He was. He was fairly yearning to vivisect
her. I had seen that expression before in his face--reverence,
repulsion, attraction, distaste, indomitable purpose, blood-curdling

When I dragged him out of the room and down the steps half an hour later
my sides were cramped with laughter. "If we'd stayed ten minutes
longer," I chuckled, "she would have called you 'Bertie' and me 'Boy.'"

But Sagner would not laugh.

"She's a pretty girl all right," I ventured again.

"Pretty as h--," whispered Sagner.

As we rounded the corner of the house the long French window blazed
forth on us. Clear and bright in the lamplight stood Lennart with his
right arm cuddling the girl to his side. "Little sister," he was saying,
"let's go back to the piano and have some more music." Smiling her
kindly good night we saw Mrs. Lennart gather up her books and start off
limpingly across the hall, with the devoted boy following close behind

"Then she's really lame?" I asked Sagner as we swung into the noisy
gravel path.

"Oh, yes," he said; "she got hurt in a runaway accident four years ago.
Lennart doesn't know how to drive a _goat_!"

"Seems sort of too bad," I mused dully.

Then Sagner laughed most astonishingly. "Yes, sort of too bad," he
mocked me.

It was almost ten o'clock when we circled back to the college library.
Only a few grinds were there buzzing like June-bugs round the
low-swinging green lamps. Even the librarian was missing. But Madge
Hubert, the librarian's daughter, was keeping office hours in his stead
behind a sumptuous old mahogany desk. At the very first college party
that I had attended, Madge Hubert had been pointed out to me with a
certain distinction as being the girl that Bertus Sagner was _almost_ in
love with. Then, as now, I was startled by the surprising youthfulness
of her. Surely she was not more than three years ahead of the young girl
whom we had left at Professor Lennart's house. With unmistakable
friendly gladness she welcomed Sagner to the seat nearest her, and
accorded me quite as much chair and quite as much smile as any new man
in a university town really deserved. In another moment she had closed
her book, pushed a full box of matches across the table to us, and
switched off the electric light that fairly threatened to scorch her
straight blond hair.

One by one the grinds looked up and nodded and smiled, and puckered
their vision toward the clock, and "folded their tents like the Arabs
and silently stole away," leaving us two men there all alone with the
great silent room, and the long, rangy, echoing metal book-stacks, and
the duddy-looking portraits, and the dopy-acting busts, and the sleek
gray library cat--and the girl. Maybe Sagner came every Wednesday night
to help close the library.

Certainly I liked the frank, almost boyish manner in which the two
friends included me in their friendship by seeming to ignore me

"What's the matter, Bertus?" the girl began quite abruptly. "You look
worried. What's the matter?"

"Nothing is ever the matter," said Sagner.

The girl laughed, and began to build a high, tottering paper tower out
of a learned-looking pack of catalogue cards. Just at the moment of
completion she gave a sharp little inadvertent sigh and the tower
fluttered down.

"What's the matter with _you_?" quizzed Sagner.

"Nothing is ever the matter with me, either," she mocked smilingly.

Trying to butt into the silence that was awkward for me, if not for
them, I rummaged my brain for speech, and blurted out triumphantly,
"We've just come from Professor Lennart's."

"Just come from Professor Lennart's?" she repeated slowly, lifting her
eyebrows as though the thought was a little bit heavy.

"Yes," said Sagner bluntly. "I've been there twice this evening."

With a rather playful twist of her lips the girl turned to me. "What did
you think of 'Little Sister'?" she asked.

But before I could answer, Sagner had pushed me utterly aside once more
and was shaking his smoke-stained finger threateningly in Madge Hubert's
face. "Why--didn't--you--come--to the--Lennarts'--to--dinner--to-night
--as--you--were--invited?" he scolded.

The girl put her chin in her hand and cuddled her fingers over her mouth
and her nose and part of her blue eyes.

"I don't go to the Lennarts' any more--if I can help it," she mumbled.

"Why not?" shouted Sagner.

She considered the question very carefully, then "Go ask the other
girls," she answered a trifle hotly. "Go ask any one of them. We all
stay away for exactly the same reason."

"WHAT IS THE REASON?" thundered Sagner in his most terrible laboratory

When Sagner speaks like that to me, I always grab hold of my head with
both hands and answer just as fast as I possibly can, for I remember
only too distinctly all the shining assortment of different sized knives
and scalpels in his workshop and I have always found that a small,
narrow, quick question makes the smallest, narrowest, quickest,
soon-overest incision into my secret.

But Madge Hubert only laughed at the laboratory manner.

"Say 'Please,'" she whispered.

"Please!" growled Sagner, with his very own blood flushing all over his
face and hands.

"Now--what is it you want to know?" she asked, frittering her fingers
all the time over that inky-looking pack of catalogue cards.

Somehow, strange as it may seem, I did not feel an atom in the way, but
rather that the presence of a third person, and that person myself, gave
them both a certain daring bravado of speech that they would scarcely
have risked alone with each other.

"What do I want to know?" queried Sagner. "I want to know--in fact--I'm
utterly mad to know--just what your kind of woman thinks of 'Little
Sister's' kind of woman."

With a startled gesture Madge Hubert looked back over her shoulder
toward a creak in the literature book-stack, and Sagner jumped up with a
great air of mock conspiracy, and went tip-toeing all around among the
metal corridors in search of possible eavesdroppers, and then came
flouncing back and stuffed tickly tissue paper into the gray cat's

Then "Why don't you girls go to the Lennarts' any more?" he resumed with
quickly recurrent gravity.

For a moment Madge Hubert dallied to shuffle one half of her pack of
cards into the other half. Then she looked up and smiled the blond way a
white-birch tree smiles in the sunshine.

"Why--we don't go any more because we don't have a good time," she
confided. "After you've come home from a party once or twice and cried
yourself to sleep, it begins to dawn on you very gradually that you
didn't have a very good time. We don't like 'Little Sister.' She makes
us feel ashamed."

"Oh!" said Sagner, rather brutally. "You are all jealous!"

But if he had expected for a second to disconcert Madge Hubert he was
most ingloriously mistaken.

"Yes," she answered perfectly simply. "We are all jealous."

"Of her beauty?" scowled Sagner.

"Oh, no," said Madge Hubert. "Of her innocence."

Acid couldn't have eaten the fiber out of Madge Hubert's emotional
honesty. "Why, yes," she hurried on vehemently, "among all the
professors' daughters here in town there isn't one of us who is innocent
enough to do happily even once the things that 'Little Sister' does
every day of her life. You are quite right. We are all furiously

With sudden professional earnestness she ran her fingers through the
catalogue cards and picked out one and slapped it down in front of
Sagner. "There!" she said. "That's the book that explains all about it.
It says that jealousy is an emotion that is aroused only by business
competition, which accounts, of course, for the fact that, socially
speaking, you very rarely find any personal enmity between men. There
are so many, many different kinds of businesses for men, that interests
very seldom conflict--so that the broker resents _only_ the broker, and
the minister resents _only_ the minister, and the merchant resents
_only_ the merchant. Why, Bertus Sagner," she broke off abruptly, "you
fairly idolize your chemistry friend here, and Lennart for history, and
Dudley for mathematics, and all the others, and you glory in their
achievements, and pray for their successes. But if there were another
biology man here in town, you'd tear him and his methods tooth and nail,
day and night. Yes, you would!--though you'd cover your hate a foot deep
with superficial courtesies and 'professional etiquette.'"

She began to laugh. "Oh, the book is very wise," she continued more
lightly. "It goes on to say that woman's only business in the whole
wide world is LOVE--that Love is really the one and only, the Universal
Profession for Women--so that every mortal feminine creature, from the
brownest gypsy to the whitest queen, is in brutal, acute competition
with her neighbor. It's funny, isn't it!" she finished brightly.

"Very funny," growled Sagner.

"So you see," she persisted, "that we girls are jealous of 'Little
Sister' in just about the same way in which an old-fashioned, rather
conservative department store would be jealous of the first ten-cent
store that came to town." A sudden rather fine white pride paled
suddenly in her cheeks. "It isn't, you understand," she said, "it isn't
because the ten-cent store's rhinestone comb, or tinsel ribbon, or
slightly handled collar really competes with the other store's plainer
but possibly honester values, but--because in the long run the public's
frittered taste and frittered small change is absolutely bound to affect
the general receipts of the more conservative store."

"And it isn't," she added hastily, "it isn't, you know, because we're
not used to men. There isn't one of us--from the time we were sixteen
years old--who hasn't been quite accustomed to entertain anywhere from
three to a dozen men every evening of her life. But we can't entertain
them the way 'Little Sister' does." A hot, red wave of mortification
flooded her face. "We tried it once," she confessed, "and it didn't
work. Just before the last winter party seven of us girls got together
and deliberately made up our minds to beat 'Little Sister' at her own
game. Wasn't it disgusting of us to start out actually and deliberately
with the intention of being just a little wee bit free and easy with

"How did it work?" persisted Sagner, half agrin.

The color flushed redder and redder into Madge Hubert's cheeks.

"I went to the party with the new psychology substitute," she continued
bravely, "and as I stepped into the carriage I called him 'Fred'--and he
looked as though he thought I was demented. But fifteen minutes
afterward I heard 'Little Sister' call him 'Psyche'--and he laughed."
She began to laugh herself.

"But how did the party come out?" probed Sagner, going deeper and

The girl sobered instantly. "There were seven of us," she said, "and we
all were to meet at the house of one of the girls at twelve o'clock and
compare experiences. Three of us came home at ten o'clock--crying. And
four of us didn't turn up till half-past one--laughing. But the ones
who came home crying were the only ones who really had any fun out of
it. The game was altogether too easy--that was the trouble with it. But
the four who came home laughing had been bored to death with their

"Which lot were you in?" cried Sagner.

She shook her head. "I won't tell you," she whispered.

With almost startling pluck she jumped up suddenly and switched the
electric light full blast into her tense young face and across her
resolute shoulders.

"Look at me!" she cried. "Look at me! As long as men are men--what have
I that can possibly, possibly compete with a girl like 'Little Sister'?
Can I climb up into a man's face every time I want to speak to him? Can
I pat a man's shoulder every time he passes me in a room? Can I hold out
my quivering white hand and act perfectly helpless in a man's presence
every time that I want to step into a carriage, or out of a chair? Can I
cry and grieve and mope into a man's arms at a dance just because I
happen to cut my finger on the sharp edge of my dance-order? Bah! If a
new man came to town and made not one single man-friend but called all
of us girls by our first names the second time he saw us, and rolled his
eyes at us, and fluttered his hands, you people would call him the
biggest fool in Christendom--but you flock by the dozens and the
hundreds and the millions every evening to see 'Little Sister.' And
great, grown-up, middle-aged boys like _you_, Bertus Sagner, flock
_twice_ in the same evening!"

With astounding irrelevance Sagner burst out laughing. "Why, Madge," he
cried, "you're perfectly superb when you're mad. Keep it up. Keep it up.
I didn't know you had it in you! Why, you dear, gorgeous girl--WHY

Like a scarlet lightning-bolt spiked with two-edged knives the red wrath
of the girl descended then and there on Sagner's ugly head. With her
heaving young shoulders braced like a frenzied creature at bay, against
a great, silly, towering tier of "Latest Novels," she hurled her
flaming, irrevocable answer crash-bang into Sagner's astonished,
impertinent face.

"You want to know why I'm not married?" she cried. "You want to know why
I'm not married? Well, I'll tell you--why--I'm--not married, Bertus
Sagner, and I'll use yourself for an illustration--for when I do come to
marry, it is written in the stars that I must of necessity marry your
kind, a mature, cool, calculating, emotionally-tamed man, a man of brain
as well as brawn, a man of fame if not of fortune, a man bred
intellectually, morally, socially, into the same wonderfully keen,
thinky corner of the world where I was born--nothing but a woman.

"For four years, Bertus Sagner, ever since I was nineteen years old,
people have come stumbling over each other at college receptions to
stare at me because I am 'the girl that Bertus Sagner, the big
biologist, is _almost_ in love with.' And you _are_ 'almost' in love
with me, Bertus Sagner. You can't deny it! And what is more, you will
stay 'almost' in love with me till our pulses run down like clocks, and
our eyes burn out like lamps, and the Real Night comes. If I remain here
in this town, even when I am middle-aged--people will come and stare at
me--because of you. And when I am old, and you are gone--altogether,
people will still be talking about it. 'Almost in love' with me. Yes,
Bertus Sagner, but if next time you came to see me, I should even so
much as dally for a second on the arm of your chair, and slip my hand
just a little bit tremulously into yours, and brush my lips like the
ghost of a butterfly's wing across your love-starved face, you would
probably find out then and there in one great, blinding, tingling,
crunching flash that you LOVE ME NOW! But I don't want _you_, Bertus
Sagner, nor any other man, at that price. The man who was made for me
will love me first and get his petting afterward. There! Do you
understand now?"

As though Sagner's gasp for breath was no more than the flutter of a
book-leaf, she plunged on, "And as for Mrs. Lennart--"

Sagner jumped to his feet. "We weren't talking about Mrs. Lennart," he
exclaimed hotly.

It has always seemed to me that very few things in the world are as
quick as a woman's anger. But nothing in the world, I am perfectly
positive, is as quick as a woman's amusement. As though an anarchist's
bomb had exploded into confetti, Madge Hubert's sudden laughter sparkled
through the room.

"Now, Bertus Sagner," she teased, "you just sit down again and listen to
what I have to say."

Sagner sat down.

And as casually as though she were going to pour afternoon tea the girl
slipped back into her own chair, and gave me a genuinely mirthful
side-glance before she resumed her attack on Sagner.

"You were, too, talking about Mrs. Lennart," she insisted. "When you
asked me to tell you exactly what a girl of my kind thinks of a girl
like 'Little Sister,' do you suppose for a second I didn't understand
that the thing you really wanted to find out was whether Mrs. Lennart
was getting hurt or not in this 'Little Sister' business? Oh, no, Mrs.
Lennart hasn't been hurt for a long, long time--several months perhaps.
I think she looks a little bit bored now and then, but not hurt."

"Lennart's a splendid fellow," protested Sagner.

"He's a splendid fool," said Madge Hubert. "And after a woman once
discovers that her husband is a fool I don't suppose that any extra
illustrations on his part make any particular difference to her."

"Why, you don't--really think," stammered Sagner, "that there's any
actual harm in Lennart's perfectly frank infatuation with 'Little

"Oh, no," said Madge Hubert, "of course there's no real harm in it at
all. It's only that Mrs. Lennart has got to realize once for all that
the special public that she has catered to so long and faithfully with
honest values and small profit, has really got a ten-cent taste! Most
men have. And it isn't, you know, because Professor Lennart really wants
or needs all these ten-cent toys and favors, but because he probably
never before in all his studious, straight, idealistic life saw
glittering nonsense so inordinately cheap and easy to get. Talk about
women being 'bargain-hunters'!

"But, of course, it's all pretty apt to ruin Mrs. Lennart's business.
Anybody with half a heart could see that her stock is beginning to run
down. She hasn't put in a new idea for months. She's wearing last
year's clothes. She's thinking last year's thoughts. Even that blessed
smile of hers is beginning to get just a little bit stale. You can't get
what you want from her any more. Dust and indifference have already
begun to set in. How will it end? Oh, I'll tell you how it will end.
Pretty soon now college will be over and the men will scatter in five
hundred different directions, and 'Little Sister' will be smitten
suddenly with conscientious scruples about the 'old folks at home,' and
will pack up her ruffles and her fraternity pins and go back to the
provincial little town that has made her what she is. And Professor
Lennart will mope around the house like a lost soul--for as much as five
days--moaning, 'Oh, I wish "Little Sister" was here to-night to sing to
me,' and 'I wish "Little Sister" was going to be here to-morrow to go
canoeing with me,' and 'I wish "Little Sister" could see this
moonlight,' and 'I wish "Little Sister" could taste this wild-strawberry
pie.' And then somewhere about the sixth day, when he and Mrs. Lennart
are at breakfast or dinner or supper, he'll look up suddenly like a man
just freed from a delirium, and drop his cup, or his knife, or his fork
'ker-smash' into his plate, and cry out, 'My Heavens, Mary! But it's
pretty good just for _you_ and _me_ to be alone together again!'"

"And what will Mrs. Lennart say?" interposed Sagner hastily, with a
great puff of smoke.

For some unaccountable reason Madge Hubert's eyes slopped right over
with tears.

"What will Mary Lennart say?" she repeated. "Mary Lennart will say:
'Excuse me, dear, but I wasn't listening. I didn't hear what you said. I
was trying to remember whether or not I'd put moth-balls in your winter
suit.' Though he live to be nine hundred and sixty-two, Harold Lennart's
love-life will never rhyme again. But prose, of course, is a great deal
easier to live than verse."

As though we had all been discussing the latest foreign theory
concerning microbes, Sagner jumped up abruptly and began to rummage
furiously through a pile of German bulletins. When he had found and read
aloud enough things that he didn't want, he looked up and said
nonchalantly, "Let's go home."

"All right," said Madge Hubert.

"Maybe you hadn't noticed that I was here," I suggested, "but I think
that perhaps I should like to go home, too."

As we banged the big, oaken, iron-clamped door behind us, Madge Hubert
lingered a second and turned her white face up to the waning, yellow
moonlight. "I think I'd like to go home through the dark woods," she

Silently we all turned down into the soft, padded path that ran along
the piny shore of our little college lake. Sagner of course led the way.
Madge Hubert followed close. And I tagged along behind as merrily as I
could. Twice I saw the girl's shoulders shudder.

"Don't you like the woods, Miss Hubert?" I called out experimentally.

She stopped at once and waited for me to catch up with her. There was
the very faintest possible suggestion of timidity in the action.

"Don't you like the woods?" I repeated.

She shook her head. "No, not especially," she answered. "That is, not
all woods. There's such a difference. Some woods feel as though they had
violets in them, and some woods feel as though they had--Indians."

I couldn't help laughing. "How about these woods?" I quizzed.

She gave a little gasp. "I don't believe there are violets in any woods
to-night," she faltered.

Even as she spoke we heard a swish and a crackle ahead of us and Sagner
came running back. "Let's go round the other way," he insisted.

"I won't go round the other way," said Madge Hubert. "How perfectly
absurd! What's the matter?"

Even as she argued we stepped out into the open clearing and met Harold
Lennart and "Little Sister" singing their way home hand in hand through
the witching night. For an instant our jovial greetings parried
together, and then we passed. Not till we had reached Madge Hubert's
doorstep did I lose utterly the wonderful lilting echo of that young
contralto voice with the man's older tenor ringing in and out of it like
a shimmery silver lining.

Ten minutes later in Sagner's cluttered workroom we two men sat and
stared through our pipe-smoke into each other's evasive eyes.

"Madge didn't--hesitate at all--to tell me a thing or two to-night, did
she?" Sagner began at last, gruffly.

I smiled. The relaxation made me feel as though my mouth had really got
a chance at last to sit down.

"Am I so very old?" persisted Sagner. "I'm not forty-five."

I shrugged my shoulders.

Pettishly he reached out and clutched at a scalpel, cleansed it for an
instant in the flame, and jabbed the point of it into his wrist. The red
blood spurted instantly.

"There!" he cried out triumphantly. "I have blood in me! It isn't
embalming fluid at all."

"Oh, quit your fooling, you old death-digger," I said. And then with
overtense impulse I asked, "Sagner, man, do you really understand Life?"

Sagner's jaw-bones stiffened instantly. "Oh, yes," he exclaimed. "Oh,
yes, of course I understand Life. That is," he added, with a most
unusual burst of humility, "I understand everything, I think, except
just why the gills of a fish--but, oh, bother, you wouldn't know what I
meant; and there's a new French theory about odylic forces that puzzles
me a little, and I never, never have been able to understand the
particular mental processes of a woman who violates the law of species
by naming her firstborn son for any man but his father. I'm not exactly
criticising the fish," he added vehemently, "nor the new odylic theory,
nor even the woman; I'm simply stating baldly and plainly the only three
things under God's heaven that I can't quite seem to fathom."

"What's all this got to do with Mary Lennart?" I asked impatiently.

"Nothing at all to do with Mary Lennart," he answered proudly. "Mary
Lennart's son is named Harold." He began to smoke very hard.
"Considering the real object of our being put here in the world," he
resumed didactically, "it has always seemed to me that the supreme test
of character lay in the father's and mother's mental attitude toward
their young."

"Couldn't you say 'toward their children'?" I protested.

He brushed my interruption aside. "I don't care," he persisted, "how
much a man loves a woman or how much a woman loves a man--the man who
deserts his wife during her crucial hour and goes off on a lark to get
out of the fuss, and the woman who names her firstborn son for any man
except his father, may qualify in all the available moral tenets, but
they certainly have slipped up somehow, mentally, in the Real Meaning of
things. Thank God," he finished quickly, "that neither Harold Lennart
nor Mary has failed the other like that--no matter what else happens."
His face whitened. "I stayed with Harold Lennart the night little Harold
was born," he whispered rather softly.

Before I could think of just the right thing to say, he jumped up
awkwardly and strode over to the looking-glass, and puffed out his great
chest and stood and stared at himself.

"I wish I had a son named Bertus Sagner," he said.

"It's all right, of course, to have him named after you," I laughed,
"but you surely wouldn't choose to have him look like you, would you?"

He turned on me with absurd fierceness. "I wouldn't marry any woman who
didn't love me enough to want her son to look like me!" he exclaimed.

I was still laughing as I picked up my hat. I was still laughing as I
stumbled and fumbled down the long, black, steep stairs. Half an hour
later in my pillows I was still laughing. But I did not get to sleep. My
mind was too messy. After all, when you really come to think of it, a
man's brain ought to be made up fresh and clean every night like a hotel
bed. Sleep seems to be altogether too dainty a thing to nest in any
brain that strange thoughts have rumpled. Always there must be the white
sheet of peace edging the blanket of forgetfulness. And perhaps on one
or two of life's wintrier nights some sort of spiritual comforter thrown
over all.

It was almost a week before I saw any of the Lennarts again. Then, on a
Saturday afternoon, as Sagner and I were lolling along the road toward
town we met Lennart and "Little Sister" togged out in a lot of gorgeous
golf duds. Lennart was delighted to see us, and "Little Sister" made
Sagner get down on his knees and tie her shoe lacings twice. I escaped
with the milder favor of a pat on the wrist.

"We're going out to the Golf Club," beamed Lennart, "to enter for the

"Oh," said Sagner, turning to join them. "Shall we find Mrs. Lennart
out at the club? Is she going to play?"

A flicker of annoyance went over Lennart's face. "Why, Sagner," he said,
"how stupid you are! Don't you know that Mary is lame and couldn't walk
over the golf course now to save her life?"

As Sagner turned back to me, and we passed on out of hearing, I noted
two red spots flaming hectically in his cheeks.

"It seems to me," he muttered, "that if I had crippled or incapacitated
my wife in any way so that she couldn't play golf any more, I wouldn't
exactly take another woman into the tournament. I think that singles
would just about fit me under the circumstances."

"But Lennart is such a 'splendid fellow,'" I quoted wryly.

"He's a splendid fool," snapped Sagner.

"Why, you darned old copy-cat," I taunted. "It was Miss Hubert who rated
him as a 'splendid fool.'"

"Oh," said Sagner.

"Oh, yourself," said I.

Involuntarily we turned and watched the two bright figures skirting the
field. Almost at that instant they stopped, and the girl reached up with
all her clinging, cloying coquetry and fastened a great, pink wild rose
into the lapel of the man's coat. Sagner groaned. "Why can't she keep
her hands off that man?" he muttered; then he shrugged his shoulders
with a grim little gesture of helplessness. "If a girl doesn't know," he
said, "that it's wrong to chase another woman's man she's too ignorant
to be congenial. If she does know it's wrong, she's too--vicious. But
never mind," he finished abruptly, "Lennart's foolishness will soon
pass. And meanwhile Mary has her boy. Surely no lad was ever so
passionately devoted to his mother. They are absolutely inseparable. I
never saw anything like it." He began to smile again.

Then, because at a turn of the road he saw a bird that reminded him of a
beast that reminded him of a reptile, he left me unceremoniously and
went back to the laboratory.

Feeling a bit raw over his desertion, I gave up my walk and decided to
spend the rest of the afternoon at the library.

At the edge of the reading-room I found Madge Hubert brandishing a
ferocious-looking paper-knife over the perfectly helpless new magazines.
With a little cry of delight she summoned me to her by the wave of a
_Science Monthly_. Looking over her shoulder I beheld with equal delight
that the canny old Science paper had stuck in Sagner's great, ugly face
for a frontispiece. At arm's length, with opening and narrowing eyes, I
studied the perfect, clever likeness: the convict-cropped hair; the
surly, aggressive, relentlessly busy features; the absurd, overwrought,
deep-sea sort of eyes. "Great Heavens, Miss Hubert," I said, "did you
ever see such a funny-looking man?"

The girl winced. "Funny?" she gasped. "Funny? Why, I think Bertus Sagner
is the most absolutely fascinating-looking man that I ever saw in my
life." She stared at me in astonishment.

To hide my emotions I fled to the history room. Somewhat to my surprise
Mrs. Lennart and her little lad were there, delving deep into some
thrilling grammar-school problem concerning Henry the Eighth. I nodded
to them, thought they saw me, and slipped into a chair not far behind
them. There was no one else in the room. Maybe my thirst for historical
information was not very keen. Certainly every book that I touched
rustled like a dead, stale autumn leaf. Maybe the yellow bird in the
acacia tree just outside the window teased me a little bit. Anyway, my
eyes began only too soon to stray from the text-books before me to the
little fluttering wisp of Mrs. Lennart's hair that tickled now and then
across the lad's hovering face. I thought I had never seen a sweeter
picture than those two cuddling, browsing faces. Surely I had never seen
one more entrancingly serene.

[Illustration: "Oh, I wish I had a sister," fretted the boy]

Then suddenly I saw the lad push back his books with a whimper of

"What is it?" asked his mother. I could hear her words plainly.

"Oh, I wish I had a sister," fretted the boy.

"Why?" said the mother in perfectly happy surprise.

The lad began to drum on the table. "Why do I want a sister?" he
repeated a trifle temperishly. "Why, so I could have some one to play
with and walk with and talk with and study with. Some one jolly and
merry and frisky."

"Why--what about _me_?" she quizzed. Even at that moment I felt
reasonably certain that she was still smiling.

The little lad looked bluntly up into her face. "Why you are--_so old_!"
he said quite distinctly.

I saw the woman's shoulders hunch as though her hands were bracing
against the table. Then she reached out like a flash and clutched the
little lad's chin in her fingers. If a voice-tone has any color, hers was
corpse-white. "I never--let--_you_--know--that--you--were--too--_young_!"
she almost hissed.

And I shut my eyes.

When I looked up again the woman was gone, and the little lad was
running after her with a queer, puzzled look on his face.

Life has such a strange way of foreshortening its longest plots with a
startling, snapped-off ending. Any true story is a tiny bit out of
rhetorical proportion.

The very next day, under the railroad trestle that hurries us back and
forth to the big, neighboring city, we found Mrs. Lennart's body in a
three-foot pool of creek water. It was the little lad's birthday, it
seems, and he was to have had a supper party, and she had gone to town
in the early afternoon to make a few festive purchases. A package of
tinsel-paper bonbons floated safely, I remember, in the pool beside her.
For some inexplainable reason she had stepped off the train at the wrong
station and, realizing presumably how her blundering tardiness would
blight the little lad's pleasure, she had started to walk home across
the trestle, hoping thereby to beat the later train by as much as half
an hour. The rest of the tragedy was brutally plain. Somehow between one
safe, friendly embankment and another she had slipped and fallen. The
trestle was ticklish walking for even a person who wasn't lame.

Like a slim, white, waxen altar candle snuffed out by a child's
accidental, gusty pleasure-laugh, we brought her home to the sweet,
green, peaceful library, with its resolute, indomitable hearthstone.

Out of all the crowding people who jostled me in the hallway I remember
only--Lennart's ghastly, agonized face.

"Go and tell Sagner," he said.

Even as I crossed the campus the little, fluttery, flickery, hissing
word "suicide" was in the air. From the graduates' dormitory I heard a
man's voice argue, "But why did she get off deliberately at the wrong
station?" Out of the president's kitchen a shrill tone cackled, "Well,
she ain't been herself, they say, for a good many weeks. And who

In one corner of the laboratory, close by an open window, I found Sagner
working, as I had expected, in blissful ignorance.

"What's the matter?" he asked bluntly.

I was very awkward. I was very clumsy. I was very frightened. My face
was all condensed like a telegram.

"Madge Hubert was right," I stammered. "Mrs. Lennart's--business--has
gone into the hands of a--receiver."

The glass test tube went brittling out of Sagner's fingers. "Do you mean
that she is--dead?" he asked.

I nodded.

For the fraction of a moment he rolled back his great, shaggy brows, and
lifted his face up wide-eyed and staring to the soft, sweet,
dove-colored, early evening sky. Then his eyelids came scrunching down
again perfectly tight, and I saw one side of his ugly mouth begin to
smile a little as a man might smile--as he closes the door--when the
woman whom he loves comes home again. Then very slowly, very
methodically, he turned off all the gas-burners and picked up all the
notebooks, and cleansed all the knives, and just as I thought he was
almost ready to go with me he started back again and released a fair,
froth-green lunar moth from a stifling glass jar. Then, with his arm
across my cringing shoulders, we fumbled our way down the long, creaky
stairs. And all the time his heart was pounding like an oil-soused
engine. But I had to bend my head to hear the questions that crumbled
from his lips.

As we crunched our way across the Lennarts' garden with all the
horrible, rackety noise that the living inevitably make in the presence
of the dead, we ran into Lennart's old gardener crouching there in the
dusk, stuffing cold, white roses into a huge market basket. Almost
brutally Sagner clutched the old fellow by the arm. "Dunstan," he
demanded, "how--did--this--thing--happen?"

The old gardener shook with fear and palsy. "There's some," he
whispered, "as says the lady-dear was out of her mind. A-h, no," he
protested, "a-h, no. She may ha' been out of her heart, but she weren't
never out of her mind. There's some," he choked, "as calls it suicide,
there's some," he gulped, "as calls it accident. I'm a rough-spoke man
and I don' know the tongue o' ladies, but it weren't suicide, and it
weren't accident. If it had be'n a man that had done it, you'd 'a'
called it just a 'didn't-give-a-damn.'"

As we neared the house Sagner spoke only once. "Barney," he asked quite
cheerfully, "were you ever rude to a woman?"

My hands went instinctively up to my head. "Oh, yes," I hurried, "once
in the Arizona desert I struck an Indian squaw."

"Does it hurt?" persisted Sagner.

"You mean 'Did it hurt?'" I answered a bit impatiently. "Yes, I think it
hurt her a little, but not nearly as much as she deserved."

Sagner reached forward and yanked me back by the shoulder. "I mean," he
growled, "do you remember it now in the middle of the night, and are you
sorry you did it?"

My heart cramped. "Yes," I acknowledged, "I remember it now in the
middle of the night. But I am distinctly not sorry that I did it."

"Oh," muttered Sagner.

With the first creaking sound of our steps in the front hall "Little
Sister" came gliding down the stairway with the stark-faced laddie
clutching close at her sash. All the sparkle and spangle were gone from
the girl. Her eyes were like two bruises on the flesh of a calla lily.
Slipping one ice-cold tremulous hand into mine she closed down her other
frightened hand over the two. "I'm so very glad you've come," she
whispered huskily. "Mr. Lennart isn't any comfort to me at all
to-night--and Mary was the only sister I had." Her voice caught suddenly
with a rasping sob. "You and Mr. Sagner have always been so kind to me,"
she plunged on blindly, with soft-drooping eyelids, "and I shall
probably never see either of you again. We are all going home to-morrow.
And I expect to be married in July to a boy at home." Her icy fingers
quickened in mine like the bloom-burst of a sun-scorched Jacqueminot.

"You--expect--to--be--married--in--July to--a--boy--at--home?" cried

The awful slicing quality in his voice brought Lennart's dreadful face
peering out through a slit in the library curtains.

"Hush!" I signaled warningly to Sagner. But again his venomous question
ripped through the quiet of the house.


"Why, yes," said the girl, with the faintest dimpling flicker of a
smile. "Won't you congratulate me?" Very softly she drew her right hand
away from me and held it out whitely to Sagner.

"Excuse me," said Sagner, "but I have just--washed--my--hands."

"What?" stammered the girl. "W-h-a-t?"

"Excuse--me," said Sagner, "but I have just--washed my hands."

Then, bowing very, very low, like a small boy at his first
dancing-school, Sagner passed from the house.

When I finally succeeded in steering my shaking knees and flopping feet
down the long front steps and the pleasant, rose-bordered path, I found
Sagner waiting for me at the gateway. Under the basking warmth of that
mild May night his teeth were chattering as with an ague, and his
ravenous face was like the face of a man whose soul is utterly glutted,
but whose body has never even so much as tasted food and drink.

I put both my hands on his shoulders. "Sagner," I begged, "if there is
anything under God's heaven that you want to-night--go and get it!"

He gave a short, gaspy laugh and wrenched himself free from me. "There
is nothing _under_ God's heaven--to-night--that I want--except Madge
Hubert," he said.

In another instant he was gone. With a wh-i-r and a wh-i-s-h and a
snow-white fragrance, his trail cut abruptly through the apple-bush
hedge. Then like a huge, black, sweet-scented sponge the darkening night
seemed to swoop down and wipe him right off the face of the earth.

Very softly I knelt and pressed my ear to the ground. Across the young,
tremulous, vibrant greensward I heard the throb-throb-throb of a man's

       *       *       *       *       *

Transcriber's note:

Repeated story titles were removed.

Obvious punctuation errors were corrected.

Page 189, "Patridge" changed to "Partridge" (Partridge Hunter began

Page 257, two lines of text were transposed. The original read:

          one of our big music people picked him up
          jabberingly to America. But the invitation didn't
          over there a few months ago and brought him
          seem to include the wife and baby--genius and

The middle two lines were traded.

*** End of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "The Sick-a-Bed Lady - And Also Hickory Dock, The Very Tired Girl, The Happy-Day, Something That Happened in October, The Amateur Lover, Heart of The City, The Pink Sash, Woman's Only Business" ***

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