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Title: The Triumph of Virginia Dale
Author: Francis, John, 1875-
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Triumph of Virginia Dale" ***

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



[Illustration: _VIRGINIA DALE_]



THE TRIUMPH OF VIRGINIA DALE

BY JOHN FRANCIS, JR.

WITH A FRONTISPIECE IN FULL COLOR

FROM A PAINTING BY W. HASKELL COFFIN

AND OTHER ILLUSTRATIONS FROM DRAWINGS

BY JOHN GOSS

BOSTON

THE PAGE COMPANY

MDCCCCXXI



Copyright, 1921

By The Page Company

All rights reserved

Entered at Stationers' Hall, London

First Impression, August, 1921

THE COLONIAL PRESS

C. H. SIMONDS CO., BOSTON, U. S. A.



DEDICATED

TO THE MEMORY OF

MY FATHER AND MOTHER



CONTENTS

  Chapter                                                     Page
        I HER MISSION IN LIFE                                    1
       II THE MISSION BEGUN                                     17
      III UNGIVEN ADVICE                                        29
       IV THOSE DARKIES AGAIN                                   37
        V ACCIDENTS WILL HAPPEN                                 45
       VI IKE EXPLAINS                                          59
      VII JOE PROVES INTERESTING                                74
     VIII ANOTHER OPPORTUNITY                                   97
       IX HEZEKIAH HAS A SOLUTION                              118
        X AN AFTERNOON OFF                                     143
       XI OLD HEARTS MADE YOUNG                                161
      XII MORE TROUBLE                                         183
     XIII VIRGINIA HELPS AGAIN                                 195
      XIV AN OUTING AND AN ACCIDENT                            209
       XV A MAN IN DISGRACE                                    236
      XVI VIRGINIA MUST GO                                     262
     XVII A FRIEND IN NEED                                     276
    XVIII AUNT KATE LENDS A HAND                               292
      XIX OBADIAH "COMES-TO"                                   308
       XX HIS JOURNEY'S END                                    330
      XXI THE TRIUMPH                                          339
     XXII NOBODY HOME, MR. DEVIL                               353



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

Virginia Dale (in full color)                         Frontispiece
"This request appeared to require deep thought"                155
"'I must choose between your way and the way of my Mother'"    251
"'I think that I shall love it,' she said softly"              261
"'You are my sweetheart,' the brazen Helen told him"           297



THE TRIUMPH OF VIRGINIA DALE



CHAPTER I

HER MISSION IN LIFE


Obadiah Dale was the richest man in South Ridgefield. He owned the great
textile mill down by the river where hundreds of people were employed
and which hummed and clattered from morning until night to add to his
wealth. He lived in a fine house. About it, broad lawns, shaded by
ancient elms and dotted with groups of shrubbery, formed a verdant
setting for the walls and massive porch pillars spotless in white paint.

Obadiah's only child was Virginia. She was a charming bit of girlhood
with a complexion so clear that it seemed pale in contrast to the black
hair and the clearly lined brows which arched those big, serious, blue
eyes.

On an afternoon in early June she was reading on the couch which swung
from the lofty ceiling of the porch when she became aware that some one
was coming up the walk from the gate. She arose and her face lighted
with happiness as she ran down the steps to greet a smartly dressed
woman of middle age. "Oh, Hennie dear," she cried, "I am so glad
that you've come."

The older woman laughed gaily as she caught the girl in her arms, "You
know I couldn't forget your birthday, Virginia."

"No, you wouldn't do that, Hennie. You don't come often," the girl
sighed, "but you always remember that."

Mrs. Henderson kissed her little hostess. Always had her big heart gone
out to this motherless maid. Long ago she had been the intimate friend of
Virginia's mother. Elinor Dale had died when her daughter was a year
old so that Hennie had a twofold reason for loving her young friend.

"It's good to have you here," exclaimed the girl as she drew her
visitor to a chair by the couch. "I wish you would come every day."

"Now, listen to that. Wouldn't it be better, please, for you to come
and see me instead of planning for a poor old woman,"--Mrs. Henderson
did not look the part--"who has twinges of rheumatism, to make daily
calls upon you?"

Virginia regarded her guest with great seriousness. "I come to your
house very often, Hennie. I was over the other day, but,"--she gave
another sigh,--"you were not home."

"I do remember. Carrie told me that you were over with Serena. I
supposed that you came to see her. I am on so many committees for
various charitable organizations----" She stopped short and reaching
over patted the girl's hand. "I am sorry that I was not home, dear.
I should remember that you are rather old to call upon my negro cook."

Virginia's eyes danced. "I must have called upon Carrie a thousand
times since I was a baby. A few more calls in your kitchen instead of
your parlor won't hurt me."

"Why are you laughing?" demanded Mrs. Henderson.

"I can tell you a secret about your own house but you must agree not to
use it against Carrie."

"I promise."

"Well, Hennie, you might be interested to know that refreshments are
served oftener in your kitchen than your parlor. I learned that years
ago."

"The very idea!" exclaimed the caller.

The girl's gaze wandered thoughtfully over the beautiful grounds. "I do
so love to have you here. I don't see very many people." Her voice
was wistful. "This big place gets lonesome sometimes. I think I envy
girls who live in houses with stoops on the sidewalk. They have the
cars, peddlers, policemen and lots of people going by all of the time.
It would be great fun to live that way." She was very sober now. "I
think that I want noises and lots of things going on. Am I very strange,
Hennie?"

"No indeed, all young people are that way," declared Mrs. Henderson
with emphasis. "I felt so myself, once. Of course, it is lonely for you
in this big house with only Serena. Your father is home for so short a
time each day."

"Please don't misunderstand me, I am not very lonely--only a
little bit. If something interesting--something exciting and wildly
adventurous--would happen, Hennie, it would be fine."

Mrs. Henderson smiled. "I am afraid that I can't help you in such
ways, dear, but I have something here which I am very sure that you will
dearly love." She drew forth a small parcel from her bag.

Virginia waited in pleased expectation. "I am going to adore it," she
cried joyously, as, accepting the package, she prolonged anticipation
by inspecting it curiously, "because you gave it to me."

"You will care for it for other reasons," replied the older woman
soberly.

Within the wrappings, the girl found a little volume, the cover of which
was much worn.

"Don't be misled by appearances," Mrs. Henderson suggested as Virginia
opened the book.

Upon the fly leaf, written in ink faded with age, was the name, Elinor
Clark. The girl's eyes opened wide in wonder and suppressed delight.
"It was my mother's book, Hennie?" she asked gently.

"Yes, dear, it was a girlhood possession of your mother. During her last
illness she gave it to me and asked me to see that you got it on your
eighteenth birthday. She explained that she didn't want to trouble
your father, yet she wanted you to have it. It was the last request
Elinor ever made of me." Mrs. Henderson's eyes winked suspiciously and
leaning forward she peered at the worn cover. When she spoke her voice
was husky with emotion. "It's a gift that you will always cherish,
dear."

A great tenderness swept over Virginia's face. "It's my mother's
birthday present to me, isn't it, Hennie?"--she almost whispered--"the
only one that I can remember."

As the older woman bowed her agreement, she moved over upon the couch by
the girl and for a time they were silent.

Virginia was the first to speak. "Tell me about my mother, please,"
she said softly, her hand caressing the cover of the book. "It makes
Daddy sad if I talk to him too much about her so I never do. But Hennie,
I should like to know more of her if I could."

"Bless your heart, I will gladly tell you everything I can, dear." She
was thoughtful for a moment and then resumed, "Your mother was three
years older than you are now when I first met her."

"And married," cried the girl in surprise, "I never thought of my
mother as so young. I pictured her as much older."

"Old, nonsense! Your mother was my age. She was hardly grown at the time
of her death."

"Where did my father meet her? I know that she lived down South. Serena
is always talking about the old home."

"He met her here in South Ridgefield. He had come here from New England
and started his mill. It was small in those days, but prosperous.
Social affairs had little attraction for your father. That made him
very interesting to us girls. I suppose too we did not forget that he
was making lots of money and could give the girl of his choice everything
she desired. He had been here four or five years when the marriage
took place. Its announcement caused much excitement among us young
people. We had given your father up as a hopeless old bachelor. Think
of it, in a week, your mother snatched the best catch from under the
noses of the South Ridgefield girls." Mrs. Henderson laughed gaily.
"Elinor did that very thing."

"My mother must have been very beautiful?"

"She was, every one admitted that, but she had the advantage in another
way. She came from Virginia after her father's death to settle some
business affairs with your father." Again Mrs. Henderson laughed.
"The girls used to say that he took Elinor in full settlement of all
indebtedness. After the marriage he built this house and you were born,"
she pointed upwards, "in that big corner room on the second floor."

"Please go on, Hennie," begged the girl, after a pause in which the
older woman's thoughts wandered in the past.

"I was thinking of the good times I've had in this house. Your mother
used to give delightful dances."

"Dances, _here_!" Virginia's astonishment was evident.

"Certainly, I have danced here many times until three o'clock in the
morning and thought nothing of it."

"You danced, too?" It was as if the girl were shocked.

"Of course I danced. Do you think I was a wall flower who could lure no
partners to myself?" Mrs. Henderson demanded with spirit. "Remember, I
had been married only a year. There were grand dinners, too." She went
on more calmly. "How we enjoyed Serena's cooking and afterwards many
is the gay crowd this porch sheltered in those days."

"It is hard to imagine, Hennie." The girl shook her head soberly.
"Daddy and I are so quiet. We sit here in the evenings and I talk until
he falls asleep. Then I watch the fire-flies until he wakes up and we
go to bed. The thought of him dancing is very strange."

There was a note of pity in Mrs. Henderson's voice when she spoke, "To
be sure it is, dear. I never said that your father danced. He seemed
to enjoy having people here. It was your mother, though, who loved that
sort of thing and her word was law to him in everything. She depended on
Hezekiah Wilkins to set the pace by wielding a rhythmic toe, as he used
to call it." A smile of gay memories died in her eyes at more solemn
thoughts. "Those good times lasted only a couple of years. Your mother
was taken ill and then--" she paused and continued softly, "--one
afternoon she went away from the room upstairs and left you, dear,"
her voice caught, "to Serena and me."

Mrs. Henderson's arm went about the girl but in a moment she resumed,
"After the death of your mother your father devoted himself to money
making again. It took all of his time." There was a flash of anger in
her eye. "He has succeeded very well in that."

Mrs. Henderson arose hastily. "Dear me, child, I am staying too long.
You should go to some of these youthful affairs about town. I imagine
that the boys and girls of South Ridgefield have some very good times."

The girl's eyes lighted with interest but in a moment it had gone,
replaced by a thoughtful little smile. "Daddy would be lonely without
me. I ought not to leave him alone in the evening."

Again the angry glint came in Mrs. Henderson's eyes, but she controlled
herself and said quietly, "You are the best judge of that, dear. But
now that you have finished school you should have something to occupy
your time. I know that Serena would have you play great lady, but,
with due respect to her ideas, you will find it a lonely game in these
busy days. Why don't you give some of your time to helping those not so
fortunate as you? Think it over, child," she urged as she left.

After her caller had departed Virginia returned to the couch and with
intense interest gave herself up to the examination of the book which had
been her mother's.

A negress of uncertain age appeared in the doorway of the house. Her hair
was streaked with grey and she was enormously fat. She wore a calico
dress over the front of which stretched a snowy white apron, its strings
lost in a crease of flesh at the waist line. Bound about her head was a
white handkerchief and her sleeves were rolled to her elbows.

She moved about the porch replacing the wicker furniture. Stopping by
the couch she rearranged some magazines, and then, "Honey chil', ain'
you gwine git dressed? De clock done struck fo'."

"In a minute."

Serena's eyes wandered to the side lawn. Instantly her attention was
riveted upon certain objects protruding from some shrubbery. They were
conspicuous and unusual as lawn decorations, bulking large beside a
recumbent lawn mower, a rake and grass shears.

"You Ike," she shouted. The objects moved convulsively. "Wot you
mean a sleepin' under dat bush?" The commotion in the shrubbery ceased
and the objects reappeared in their normal position as the feet of a
sleepy-eyed negro youth.

"Ah ain' a sleepin' none, Miss Sereny, ah was a layin' under dat bush
a ca'culatin' whar ah gwine to trim it."

"You got a po' haid fo' figgers den. You computen all dis yere
afternoon, ah guesses. Ma eye is on you, boy. Go change you' clothes
an' git dat ca'ah down to de office a fo' you is late."

Ike gathered the tools and disappeared in haste.

Serena turned again to the girl, who had displayed but slight interest
in the sleeping laborer. "It gittin' mighty late, chil'."

"Yes, I know, Serena."

"You bettah dress you'se'f."

"Please, only a little longer."

"You gwine be fo'ced to be mighty spry den," warned the old negress
as she waddled into the house.

"Oh, how wonderful," breathed the girl, a great joy suddenly showing in
her face. "It's for me--from mother. Really."

The worn volume lay open in her lap. It contained selections from the
works of many poets. Upon the page before her these lines, taken from
Coleridge's, "The Ancient Mariner," were printed,

    "He prayeth best who loveth best
    All things both great and small:
    For the dear God who loveth us,
    He made and loveth all."

They were heavily underlined. In the broad margin was written in a
tremulous hand which displayed the effects of illness,

    "My darling little daughter--
    --live these lines. ELINOR DALE."

A vast tenderness enfolded the girl. She reread the lines. "My mother
is telling me how to live," she whispered. "Her voice is calling to me
through all the years--the only time." She touched her lips impulsively
to the place where the cherished hand had rested and then, clasping the
book to her breast, she closed her eyes and remained so for awhile. When
her lids raised anew, the blue eyes were filled with a great yearning
as she breathed softly and reverently as if in prayer, "Yes, mother."

A little later, Virginia entered the house and Serena told her, "Ah done
lay out yo'all's clothes, honey chil'. Ef you want anythin' else jes
yell."

The girl dreamily climbed the broad staircase. At the bend she remembered
something, and, turning back, smiled down at the old colored woman below.
"Thank you, Serena," she called.

Amply rewarded, the faithful servant contentedly busied herself once more
with the affairs of the Dale household. From that far away day when she
had, "'cided ah gwine foller Miss Elinor to de no'th," she had been
recognized by well informed persons as one in authority in that home.

It was Serena who first held Virginia in her arms and tenderly rocked the
squirming red mite across her ample bosom. During those long days and
nights of watching in the last illness of Elinor Dale, it was Serena
who, with undisguised distrust of the trained nurse, was in and out of
the sick room almost every hour. It was Serena who closed Elinor Dale's
eyes, and it was Serena who held the motherless child with great tears
rolling down her black face as she stood by the open grave.

No formal agreement held Serena after the death of her mistress. She saw
the home as a storm tossed craft, from whose deck the navigator had been
swept, drifting aimlessly upon the sea of domesticity. Unhesitatingly,
she had assumed the vacant command which carried with it the mothering
of Virginia.

In the early months of his bereavement, Obadiah Dale gave some attention
to the establishment which he had created for his wife's enjoyment.
Yet all things followed a well managed routine and, more important than
all to a man of his nature, the monthly bills evidenced economical
judgment. Quick to recognize a valuable subordinate, Obadiah saw no
necessity for immediate change.

Serena had excellent ideas in child training. Although in her mind
Virginia was a young lady of position who could properly demand
appropriate attention, yet must she learn to meet the responsibilities
of her station.

Obadiah was assured that his daughter in Serena's charge was in the
care of one who loved her. From time to time he made vague plans for
the child's future. As they were to commence at an indefinite time
they never materialized. More and more the business activities of the
manufacturer occupied his time, and slowly but surely the duty of
Virginia's upbringing was shifted to the negro woman.

When Virginia was five, Serena told her employer, "Dis yere chil'
orter be in school a learnin' mo' an' ah kin teach her," and so
the mill owner's daughter was started upon her scholastic career at a
kindergarten.

Obadiah never knew the worries of this illiterate negro woman in
planning suitable clothing for his child. No man could appreciate that
watchful eye ever ready to copy styles and materials from the garments
of children of families deemed worthy as models.

Virginia's education was continued under the guidance of a Miss Keen
who conducted a select school for young ladies in South Ridgefield. This
institution, highly esteemed as a seat of learning by Serena, offered
courses usually terminating when pupils refused longer to attend the
establishment. In its most prosperous years its enrollment never exceeded
twenty misguided maidens.

Now, Virginia had arrived at the age of eighteen, a serious, rather shy
girl, whose youth had been spent under the supervision of an old negro
woman, narrowed by the influence of a small school and neglected by a
busy father.

When Obadiah came home that night for dinner, she met him in the hall.
He was a very tall man and extremely thin. His sharp features gave a
shrewd expression and his smooth shaven face displayed a cruel mouth
and an obstinate jaw.

"Hello, Daddy dear," cried the girl as she held up her mouth to be
kissed. She gave a happy little laugh when he pinched her cheek, and
demanded of him, "What day is this?"

"Tuesday," he answered indifferently, "the tenth of June."

"Can't you think of anything else?"

He looked puzzled. "It's not a holiday, is it?"

"No, but it's my birthday, Daddy dear."

He displayed some interest now. "Is that so? How old are you today?"

"I am eighteen," she explained proudly. "Serena made me a cake with
candles. She brought it in at lunch. She said it might bother you,
tonight." She looked up at him quickly. "Do you love me, Daddy?"

"Surely," he answered absently and shaking his iron grey head he
ascended the stairs to prepare for dinner, muttering, "Time flies--how
time flies."

He joined his daughter again in the dining room in response to the
gong. Serena had planned the meal with due regard to the fact that the
day had been warm. A lobster, magnificent in its gorgeousness, reposed
upon a bed of lettuce on the platter before Obadiah. A potato salad
flanked it and a dish of sliced tomatoes reflected the color scheme of
the crustacean. Dainty rolls, Serena's pride, peeped from the folds
of a napkin and the ice clinked refreshingly in the tall tumblers of tea
as they were stirred.

Sometimes Virginia and her father chatted, but there were long silences.
At intervals, Serena, noiselessly in spite of her weight, appeared to
replenish or change a dish and to see that all things were in order.

As they waited for the table to be cleared for dessert, the girl said
wistfully, "I wish that I could help somebody, Daddy."

He looked at her curiously. "What ever put that into your head? You are
a help to me sitting there and smiling at me."

"Oh, but that's not much. To sit at a table and smile and eat good
things only helps oneself."

"Well, why should you want to help anybody but you and me?"

She gazed at him thoughtfully. "Don't joke, Daddy. I know I would be
happier if I could do something for some one."

Obadiah chuckled. "Where did you get that idea? I am perfectly happy
tonight, and I haven't bothered myself about other people."

"The very idea. All this livelong day you have been planning for those
who work in your mill."

A sudden light came to him, he chuckled again. "Surely, I look after
my employees or they would look after me."

"That makes you happy." Virginia was certain that she had made her
point.

"No," Obadiah shook his head vigorously, "my employees make me angry
more than they make me happy. My happiness is the result of my own
efforts."

"That is what I mean, Daddy. You have had such great opportunities to
make yourself happy." She viewed him with eyes of fond admiration. "You
have accomplished so much."

Obadiah was filled with a comfortable egotism. "I have accomplished
a whole lot," he boasted. His mind was upon his commercial success and
the wealth he had accumulated. "I'm not through," he bragged. He
became thoughtful as he dwelt upon certain fertile fields awaiting
his financial plough. His jaw set. He had rivals who would contest his
tillage. He would fight as he had always fought. His eyes glistened
beneath his shaggy brows as he sensed the fray.

The conversation languished as they ate their dessert, but Obadiah's
pride of accomplishment had not departed. "I am going to do bigger
things than ever before," he exulted. "When you are older you will
realize what I have done for you," he explained as they went out on
the porch.

For a time the girl and the old man followed their own thoughts while
the fire-flies sparkled and gleamed about the lawn as if they were
the flashlights of a fairy patrol. Emma Virginia was thinking of her
father's words. He was going to do more for her. She must certainly
share her blessings.

"Daddy dear, do you mind if I help some one?" she asked gently.

"Back on that?" he demanded with a note of sharpness.

She gave an emphatic little nod. "It is very important. I--I--can't
tell you now, why," she hesitated. "I should feel much better, though."

"You are not sick, are you?" Obadiah worried.

"Oh, no indeed, perfectly well. Only, I am sure that I would be much
happier if I could do something for someone else. I don't know whom.
That doesn't make any difference."

"What a strange idea!" It seemed to bother Obadiah. "You want to help
someone but you don't know whom." He considered a moment. "Here's
my advice. Help somebody who can help you."

"Now you are teasing me, Daddy?" she protested. "I am really serious
about this. I want to be of more use in the world." Her voice was very
soft and gentle now. "I know that I should share my blessings and I
want to do it. It is such a comfort to talk things over with you, Daddy
dearest." She moved quietly over to him and seated herself upon his lap.

As she touched him, he jumped. "Gracious, you startled me so, Virginia.
I was asleep."

"Please, Daddy, don't mind," she whispered, "I'll be quiet as a
mouse."

Almost grudgingly, he let her settle herself and drop her head against
his shoulder. In a moment his head slipped down against the soft hair
of the girl and Obadiah dozed anew.

She murmured softly, "It was so easy to explain to you. Serena wouldn't
understand, I am afraid. All of your life, Daddy, you have been helping
other people."

"Whom?" asked Obadiah in alarm, starting up and shaking the girl's
head from his shoulder.

"Daddy, wake up. You were asleep while I was talking to you." She tried
to kiss him as he rubbed his eyes, but his arms were in her way. "You
are such a comfort, Daddy. I wish I could be like you," she said softly.

"You can try," conceded Obadiah immodestly. "You are keeping me up.
I am tired. I want to go to bed. My legs are asleep from your sitting on
them," he complained and then told her shortly, "The place for you to
dream is in bed, not on my lap."



CHAPTER II

THE MISSION BEGUN


Obadiah Dale's car was waiting at his home. It stood upon the gravel
driveway opposite the steps at the end of the porch. Virginia was seated
in the rear seat and her eyes rested seriously upon Serena, who from the
higher floor of the porch, viewed Ike, lounging by the car, as from a
rostrum.

The young negro was attired in a neat livery which gave him a natty
aspect distinctly absent when his siesta was disturbed by Serena.
Regardless of his more attractive guise, however, he shifted nervously
under her stern gaze. He, who ever bore himself, in hours of leisure,
before the black population of South Ridgefield as one of imperial
blood, was abashed before her. That poise, that coolness of demeanor,
that almost insolent manner exhibited at crap games, chicken fights or
those social functions where the gentler sex predominates, was absent
now. Before Serena, his lofty soul became as a worm, desirous of burying
itself from the pitiless light of publicity.

"You Ike," she said with great severity, "mine wot ah say. Stop you'
fas' drivin'. Miss Virginy ain' wantin' to go shootin' aroun' dis
yere town lak er circus lady in er cha'iot race."

The girl displayed interest in the remark, but remained silent.

Ike climbed into the car and sought support from the steering wheel.
In a gentle manner, as if desirous of averting wrath, he made answer,
"Ah ain' no speeder, Miss Sereny. Ah is de carefulest chauffah in dis
town. Ah sez, 'Safety fust.' Dat's ma motta." At the sound of his
own voice he gained in assurance. He had acquired these statements by
heart from frequent repetition.

"Wat you down in dat co't fo', den?" inquired Serena. "Mr. Dale he
done say, he gittin' tired er payin' fines fo' yo'all. He say de
nex' time he gwine ax de jedge to let you rot in dat calaboose."

Ike listened to this promise of extended incarceration with the casual
interest due an oft repeated tale. Disregarding it, he continued, "Ah
goes to co't 'count o' de inexpe'ienced drivers." He spoke as an
expert. "Ef dey had 'spe'ienced drivers dey ain' gwine be no trouble
a tall."

"Dey bettah be no mo' trouble," snapped Serena, "les yo'all gits in
worse. G'wan now 'bout you' business. Take Miss Virginy down to de
sto' an' den out on de river road. You gotta git back in time to bring
her pa home fo' lunch." The solution of a difficult problem dawned
upon her and instantly she returned to her former argument. "Don' you
drive dat caah no fas'er den er hoss an' er ker'idge kin go," she
commanded.

It is of record that even a worm upon extreme irritation will fall upon
its tormentor. Thus Ike reacted to this notable example of feminine
ignorance. "How's ah gwine mek dis yere high powah caah run dat slow?
Ah ast you dat? How's ah gwine do it?"

Apparently heedless of this incipient rebellion, Serena gave her
attention to her young mistress, "Good bye, honey chil'," she
worried. "Don' you mek youse'f sick on sody an' ice cream."

Virginia smiled sweetly at the now beaming black face of the negro woman.
"I'll be very careful," she promised.

Serena devoted herself again to her minion. "You Ike, go slow. Go mighty
cafful. Dat's wot ah say."

He looked askance at her. Every vestige of humor had departed from the
black face replaced by a cold, implacable glare. Without a word, he
started the machine and it glided down the drive.

Her purchases completed, Virginia sat musing upon the message from her
mother as the big car hummed softly towards the quiet beauty of the river
road. Vague plans, indefinite as dreams, floated through her mind.

Ike was obeying Serena's wishes so faithfully that the absence of
excitement, so essential to the display of what he considered his best
talents, was almost lulling him to sleep.

A large bill board fenced the front of a vacant lot, on their way. A
magnificent example of the lithographer's art, as adapted to the
advertising needs of a minstrel show, was posted upon it. It's
coloring, chiefly red, was effective and forceful and displayed an
extravagant disregard of the high cost of ink. It portrayed the
triumphant passage of the Jubilee Minstrels. The brilliant uniforms,
the martial air of the musicians as well as the exceeding pleasure with
which this aggregation appeared to be welcomed by the reviewing
public, was of a character to please, to impress, yes, even to stun
all beholders, except the blind.

This picture caught the soul of Ike as he came within the scope of its
influence. To him, applause and admiration were as strong drink. Envy
knocked at his heart as he beheld the bright raiment. He visualized
himself, thus dazzlingly attired, exhibited to his admiring fellow
townsmen. Violating speed laws was infantile piffle to this. A syncopated
melody, appropriate to a victorious march, blared in memory's ear.
He hummed it softly. His body twitched to the rhythm and his feet took up
the cadence. He pressed a pedal and the powerful car accelerated its
motion well above the modest limits commanded by Serena. To the shell of
Ike, the increased speed was but a return to normal. His spirit was
away. Expanding as a morning-glory to the sun, it paraded, in wondrous
garments, to martial music, before gaping thousands.

A turn in their way was before them. Ike partially roused himself from
his sweet dreams and automatically attended to the necessities of the
moment. These included no slackening of speed.

The car swung a corner and instantly thereafter there came a mighty
groaning of brakes as it was finally stopped in the midst of what had
been an orderly procession of small negro children. The startling arrival
of the big machine had scattered them, with shrill cries and screams,
in every direction.

Virginia was alarmed at the sudden halt and at the frightened outcries
of the youngsters. She leaped out. On the curb an excited colored woman
was holding a weeping black boy by the hand. He was very small and,
because of a deformed leg, used a crutch. Between efforts to reassemble
her scattered charges, she endeavored to calm and comfort him.

Hurrying to the woman, Virginia cried, "I'm so sorry."

"Much good sorry gwine do after you kill somebody," shouted the woman,
much angered by the occurrence. "Ain' you got no bettah sense 'en to
run down a lot o' chillun?"

"It would have been terrible if we had hurt one of them. I never would
have forgiven myself. We couldn't see them until we turned the corner."
In her excitement she sought friendly support. "Could we, Ike?"

To Ike, it was a duty from which much pleasure could be derived to
take part in any controversy. Likewise, one acquires merit, when one
is a chauffeur, by strongly maintaining the contention of one's
mistress--she may reciprocate in a difficult hour. Ike turned an
unfriendly countenance upon the woman, and asked for information, "How
ah gwine see 'roun' er corner? Does you 'spect dat ma eyes is
twisted?"

"Go long, man. Mine you' own business."

Not thus summarily was Ike to be dismissed. "Dese yere chillun ain' no
call to be in de street. Howcum 'em der? Ain' it yo'all's business
to keep 'em outen de way?" A uniformity in costume struck him. "Ain'
dey orphant chillun runnin' loose?"

"Orphans! The poor things!" Virginia cried.

"Wot ef dey is orphants?" the woman protested with great belligerence.

"Den," Ike behaved as if he, a public spirited citizen, had discovered
the warden of a penitentiary seeking pleasure beyond the walls with
notorious criminals, "howcum dey heah? Wharfo?"

The suspicion and force in the chauffeur's manner brought fresh tears to
orphan eyes.

Encouraged by these evidences of public attention, Ike continued his
investigation. "Ah axes you woman, why ain' dey in de 'sylum whar
dey 'long?"

The chauffeur's words had not soothed the guardian of the children. She
showed unmistakable signs of increasing wrath. Glaring fixedly at him,
she blazed, "Mine you' own business, you black po'cupine."

Although the application of the epithet was obscure, its effect was
all that could be desired. Ike suffered a species of fit. His mouth
opened and closed without sound. His wildly rolling eyes exposed wide
areas of white and then glued themselves in invenomed hatred upon the
woman. Muscles contracted and worked in his neck. Even as a panther, he
appeared about to spring upon his foe.

Virginia interfered. Her experience of life was limited, but she
understood the negro. "Don't get out of the car, Ike," she ordered.

"Ef dat spindle legged dude git outen dat caah, ah is boun' to bus'
his haid wid ma fist," predicted the woman.

Virginia feared no blood shed but deemed it desirable to take steps to
avoid an argument certain to be loud and long and to add nothing to her
dignity as a bystander. She answered Ike's inquiries herself. "The
children were out walking, I suppose, and had to cross the street?"

This overture slightly mollified the woman but she yet viewed the
porcupine with distinct hostility.

"Are all of these poor children orphans?" continued Virginia, shaking
her head at the pity of it.

"Yas'm, dey's all orphants f'om the Lincoln Home, up de street."

"And you had them out for their daily walk?"

"No, mam, dey gits out onest er week. Ah ain' got no time to take 'em
out every day."

Virginia looked at the woman very thoughtfully. "Your work makes you
very happy, doesn't it?" she asked.

"Ah ain' heard o' no kind er wo'k mekin' nobody happy. Ah jes allers
was, an' allers is happy. Dat's me," the woman explained.

"Why, you are a mother to all of those children."

"Yas'm, de onlies' mother dey gwine git, ah guesses." The woman
viewed her reassembled charges speculatively. She patted the little
cripple at her side. "Po' li'l Willie, he cain't walk ve'y fas',
kin you, sweetheart?"

"You poor little fellow," sighed Virginia.

"Ah bettah tote you, Willie. We gotta move right smart afo' noon an'
you ain' ve'y spry on dat crutch." Picking up the lame boy, the woman
began to issue instructions for the advance of her forces.

Virginia surveyed the manoeuvering orphans comprehensively. "If I could
get them all into the car I would take them for a ride," she exclaimed,
and then, "They can be crowded in, I believe. May they go?"

The woman regarded the girl in great astonishment. "Cou'se dey kin
go eff yo'all wants 'em." Her conscience appeared to demand a
further warning. "Dey is er powe'ful mouthy and mischievous lot o'
rascallions."

Ike was disgusted. To be required to act as chauffeur for a crowd of
screaming infants of his own race was another wound to that dignity so
recently and fearfully lacerated. He submitted protest. "Dis yere caah
ain' gwine hol' all dem chillun. It ain' no dray. Dey gwine bus' de
springs smack bang offen it."

"If the car breaks down you can have them fix it at the garage, Ike.
They always have been able to mend it," Virginia told him with great
complacency as she proceeded with her plans.

"Ef all de chillun stan' close, 'ceptin fo' or five wid li'l Willie
an' me on de back seat, dey is plenty room," the orphan's guardian
indicated, greatly pleased at the prospect of the ride.

The sullen fire of eternal hatred burned in the eye which Ike turned
upon her. He fired his last shot. "Miss Virginy, you' Daddy ain' want
all des yere chillun in dis caah. He mighty biggoty about whoall ride
in it. Ah 'spects dey is gwine dirty it up sumpin fierce."

"Who yo'all call dirty?" demanded the woman; but Virginia made peace
by an emphatic "Hush," as the colored orphans were packed into the back
of the machine. With their attendant they filled the entire space.

The car moved away as soon as Virginia had taken her seat by the
irritated Ike. They left the town and sped along country roads. The
little negroes, awed by their new surroundings, became noisy with
familiarity and expressed their joy by screaming.

The young hostess of this strange party was at first uncomfortable and
embarrassed at the clamor of her small guests, but as she awakened to the
enjoyment she was giving the orphans she forgot herself in their pleasure.

It was a beautiful ride along the river shore, through the woods, and
then back between great fields of growing grain the surfaces of which
were broken into moving waves of green at the touch of the summer breeze.

They reentered the town a few minutes before noon and were almost back
to the turn towards the Orphans' Home, when far down the street they
caught the glitter of brass and the glow of red. "Er ban', er ban',"
screamed the little negroes.

The enticing strains of melody called to Ike across the intervening
blocks. There was a look of deep guile in his face, which became regret,
as he suggested to Virginia, "Des po' orphants ain' no chans to heah
fine ban' music. Ah might circle aroun' dat minst'el ban' an' let
de chillun lis'en fo' er spell."

As Virginia nodded assent, the car shot away, straight down the street.
In a few moments they had overtaken the marching musicians, the reality
of the poster which had charmed Ike. From them burst melody which coursed
through his veins. As he drifted away on a sea of syncopated bliss,
the car, subconsciously driven, closed upon the marching minstrels.
In the midst of a delegation of youth, honoring the snare and bass
drummers, it rolled. Bearing Virginia and her guests behind the pageant
and as an apparent part thereof, it proceeded towards the center of
the city.

The negro children were clamorous with delight at the wonderful
concentration of humanity, noise, and excitement. Their screams vied
with the band and their guardian on the rear seat assumed a careless
dignity.

Virginia's mind was occupied with the infants. To her, the onlookers,
more numerous as they neared the business part of town, were the
background of a picture. She was utterly unconscious that the load of
pickaninnies formed a most appropriate part of the spectacle.

Laughter pealed from the increasing crowds at the nonsensical behavior of
the orphans. In the center of town, prominent business men were away
from their offices for luncheon. They gazed indifferently at the marching
band, but as the machine approached, they recognized its monogram,
and, attracting the attention of companions, they burst into shouts of
laughter. Here was the car of wealthy Obadiah Dale, packed with negro
children, chaperoned by his daughter, taking part in a minstrel parade.

Suddenly upon the sidewalk near the curb, Virginia espied her father.
Regardless of her surroundings, the girl endeavored to attract his
attention by waving her hand. The pickaninnies joined with shouts,
considering it a pleasant game.

Plunged in thought and heedless of the band, the increased clamor aroused
Obadiah. Incredulity and amazement, at the sight of his daughter and
her company, held him. An acquaintance approached, spoke and laughed.
Anger flushed the mill owner as he marked the staring eyes fixed in
unveiled amusement on himself and his daughter.

"Daddy is over there,--there." She indicated the place to Ike, delight
in her discovery accenting her cry.

The chauffeur, thus rudely torn from his musical reverie, solaced his
disturbed harmoniousness, by smiting the ears of the crowd and wrecking
the sweet tones of the band, by a discordant honk. Thus soothed, he
attempted to turn towards the sidewalk, but the congested traffic blocked
him and he had to delay a few moments before he could swing the car over
to the curb.

Obadiah came up. He glared at the assembled orphans with manifest
disapproval and gave gruff tongue to his astonishment. "What does
this mean? I don't understand it," he snarled at Virginia.

In the depths of her big blue eyes lay tenderness as she anxiously
searched his cold grey ones for some sign of sympathetic appreciation.
"Daddy, dear"--there was a note of pride in her manner--"these are
orphans from the Lincoln Home. I have had them out riding all morning."

The pickaninnies acknowledged the introduction with screams.

This attention added fuel to Obadiah's irritation, "How are you going
to get rid of this bunch?" he asked loudly, giving no heed to the
listening ears of guests. "I want to go home and get my lunch."

The girl wrinkled her nose in thoughtful consideration of the social
dilemma she faced. The truly resourceful are never long at a loss. "You
get in here, Daddy," she urged, "you can hold me on your lap and we
will run over to the Orphans' Home. We can leave the children there and
go straight home."

"The idea!" snapped Obadiah, "I won't be made more ridiculous than I
have been, today. You must learn to give thought to others, Virginia."

Instantly, her happiness faded before his words. "I am so sorry. I
forgot how time was passing and I didn't mean to get in this big crowd.
How will you get home? What can I do for you, Daddy?"

Once more he realized that amused faces watched him as he interviewed
his daughter, a lily in a bed of black tulips. "Get out of this crowd.
Everybody is laughing at me. I'll get home some way," he declared
peevishly. "You get rid of that outfit as soon as you can," he called,
as he moved away, apparently in a hurry to escape the orphans' company.
"I'll see you at home."



CHAPTER III

UNGIVEN ADVICE


Obadiah Dale's office was in a modern building. He considered it the
finest in South Ridgefield, but then--Obadiah owned it. The proximity
of an army of employees disturbed him. So he had gathered his principal
assistants about him, away from the mill, in this more peaceful
environment.

Obadiah's personal suite contained three rooms. His private lair was
in the corner. Its windows overlooked metal cornices, tin roofs and
smoke stacks. The view should have afforded inspiration to sheet metal
workers, and professional atmosphere was available at all times to such
chimney sweeps as called.

The personal staff consisted of Obadiah's stenographer, Mr. Percy
Jones, who referred to himself as the "Private Secretary" and was
habitually addressed in discourteous terms by his employer, and a
bookkeeper identified by the name Kelly.

Across the hall was the sanctum of Hezekiah Wilkins, general attorney
for the Dale interests. The other executive officers of the organization
occupied the rest of the floor.

Certain preparatory sounds evidencing to the discriminating ear of youth
the probability of a band bursting into melody had reached Mr. Jones.
Rising hurriedly from his desk in the center of the middle room of
Obadiah's suite, he had gone to a window, and peering down, discovered
that the Jubilee Minstrels were about to favor South Ridgefield with a
parade.

Mr. Jones watched the preparations with interest. He was a dapper little
fellow with thin, dark hair, who sported a very small mustache with a
very great deal of pride. As much of a dandy as his small salary would
permit, he had indefinite social aspirations, and rather considered
himself a man of much natural culture and refinement.

His curiosity satisfied, he turned to a door, opposite to the one
which insured privacy to Obadiah, and entered the domain of Kelly.
The bookkeeper was perched upon a high stool before an equally elevated
desk burdened with the mill owner's ledgers. He was red headed, big
and raw boned, clearly designed by nature for the heaviest of manual
labor but by a joke of fate set to wielding a pen.

"Hi, Kelly,--minstrels," thus Mr. Jones advertised the forthcoming
pageant as he lighted a cigarette.

The upper part of Kelly's person was brilliantly illuminated by the
reflected light of a globe hanging an inch above his head. "Where?"
he asked, blinking about from his area of high illumination into the
shadows of the room as though looking for callers.

"In the street, you chump. They are going to parade. As soon as the old
man goes, we'll hustle out and look 'em over."

A movement in the corner room sent Mr. Jones scurrying to his desk. From
the street sounded the staccato taps of a snare drum, rhythmically
punctuated by the boom of the bass, passing up the street. Obadiah
emerged from his room as one marching to martial music. He broke step
like a rooky to tell his stenographer, "I'm going to lunch."

Leaping to his feet, Mr. Jones bowed profoundly as his employer departed,
his manner filled with the awe and respect due a man of such wealth and
position. He listened intently until the elevator descended, then he
shouted, "Get a move on you, in there. He's gone."

The bookkeeper appeared, his hat on the back of his head and struggling
into his coat.

"Hurry, we can get the elevator on its next trip," urged the
stenographer.

"What's the rush--we don't want to run into the old man," the
bookkeeper demurred.

"We've got a right to eat, ain't we? What's the lunch hour for?"

"Say, who's talking about not eating? I don't want the old man's face
as an appetizer," protested Kelly.

"Gee, he has got you bluffed. You are scared of him."

The bookkeeper shrugged his big shoulders and laughed. "Not on your life
am I afraid of that old spider, but I don't like him. That's all."

"The old man is a good enough scout when you know how to handle him,"
boasted Mr. Jones. "Tell him where to get off once in awhile and he'll
eat out of your hand."

"Say," chuckled Kelly. "The next time you decide to call him down,
put me wise. I don't want to miss it."

"Quit your kidding and come on. You think that I am shooting hot air.
I'll show you some day."

Their hasty luncheon was completed when the strains of music heralding
the return of the minstrel show hurried them forth to the curb to procure
suitable places to watch the parade.

"Kelly, look at the pickaninnies in the automobile following the band,"
exclaimed Mr. Jones, greatly interested. "That's something new. I never
saw it before." Thus he confirmed originality from the wealth of his
own knowledge.

"What's the white girl doing there?" Kelly sought information at the
fountain of wisdom.

The sagacious Mr. Jones was puzzled, but for an instant only. He
elucidated. "They have a white manager and that's his wife who won't
black up."

The explanation struck Kelly as reasonable and for the moment it
sufficed, as he gave his attention to the passing machine. "That's a
peach of a car," he proclaimed, and in further commendation, "Gosh,
it's as fine as the old man's!"

Now it was so close that Mr. Jones was enabled to place an expert's
eyes upon it. "Why," gasped that specialist, astounded by the
revelations of his own keen optic, "blamed if it ain't the old
man's car and," he stammered in his excitement, "I--I--It's the
old man's daughter--Virginia--in that minstrel parade."

In silent wonder the young men watched the passing marvel and, turning,
followed it as if expecting further events of an extremely sensational
nature.

"By Jove, there's the old man." The eagle eye of Mr. Jones had
picked his employer unerringly from amidst the multitude. "He sees the
car," the stenographer continued, as one announcing races, on distant
tracks, to interested spectators. "Wilkins is kidding him. He's getting
sore. We'd better beat it." Regardless of previous fearlessness, Mr.
Jones guided his companion into the entrance of a building from which
vantage point they watched the meeting of Obadiah and his daughter.

"By crackie, he's hot. Everybody is laughing at him." To prove the
truth of his own assertion, Mr. Jones threw back his head and guffawed
cruelly at the embarrassment of his employer.

One o'clock found the two clerks at their desks. Obadiah was a punctual
man. Always on time himself, he demanded it of his employees. Today,
however, minutes flew by with no sign of the manufacturer's return.

At one thirty, Mr. Jones entered Kelly's room to confer in regard to
this unwonted tardiness. Resting his elbows upon the bookkeeper's desk
he projected his head within the area of light in which his colleague
labored and submitted a sporting proposition. "I'll bet my hat that
the old man is raising the deuce somewhere."

Kelly inspected the illuminated face of the stenographer with interest,
as if the brilliant rays exposed flaws which he had not previously
noted. Disregarding the wager, he replied with emphasis, "You said a
mouthful."

Mr. Jones displayed marked uneasiness. "I'm surprised that he is not
back. He had important matters to attend to." The stenographer waxed
mysterious. "Only this morning he called me in. 'Mr. Jones,' sez he,
'I must have your invaluable assistance, today, on a matter of great
importance. I couldn't get along without your help. Please, don't step
out without warning me.'"

Apparently Kelly regarded the stenographer's secret revelations lightly.
"You told him that you didn't have the time?" he suggested with a grin.

Mr. Jones attempted to frown down unseemly levity regarding serious
matters.

Kelly burst into laughter. "Gee, if I wasn't here to keep you off the
old man, he sure would suffer."

Mr. Jones changed the subject, before such frivolity. "He ought to fire
that feller Ike. I'll bet he's to blame for the whole thing. The idea
of getting a young lady mixed up in a mess like that. He ought to be
fired." Mr. Jones' soul revolted at the notoriety which had befallen
his employer's daughter. He became thoughtful and then confidential.
"That girl is a pippin, Kelly. A regular pippin."

"You've said it." The bookkeeper's emphasis spoke volumes.

"Did you ever think about her?"

"Sure," admitted Kelly with candor, "lots of times."

"That girl lives a lonesome life in that big house with only the colored
servants and her father," alleged the knowing Mr. Jones. "What fun
does she ever have? The old man thinks that she is only a baby. If
she has a nurse and is taken out every day for an airing, he imagines
nothing else is necessary."

"You are talking," quoth Kelly.

"If the old man had any brains--" Mr. Jones noted a correction--"I
mean, if he was a cultured and refined man, if he was alive--" Mr.
Jones's manner expressed grave doubt of Obadiah's vitality--"He would
understand that young people must enjoy themselves once in awhile."
Poignant memories of the mill owner's refusal to grant certain hours
off for social purposes embittered the stenographer at this point in
his discourse. He paused. "If he had any brains, instead of hanging
around and trying to grab every cent that isn't locked in a burglar
proof safe, the old duffer would open up his swell house and spend some
coin. He's got plenty of money. It sticks to him as if his hands were
magnets and his fingers suction cups."

"I say so," agreed Kelly, with a vigorous nod.

For a moment Mr. Jones departed to assure himself that Obadiah did not
surreptitiously draw nigh. Thus reassured, he returned and vigorously
pursued his scathing arraignment of the absent one. "If he had red
blood in his veins he'd have a heart where that girl is concerned. Why
doesn't he ever give a dance for her? If he wasn't an old tight wad
he'd give several a week, have a swell dinner every night and a theater
party each time a decent show comes to town. He'd do that thing if he
wasn't a short sport. He ought to get a lively bunch of young people
to make his place their social headquarters and tear things loose."

"That's me." Thus did the laconic Kelly record his position.

Mr. Jones went on, "He should give his daughter the opportunity to
enjoy the better things of life." The stenographer drifted over to a
window and fell to musing. He gave thought to volumes of lighter
literature which had led him to believe that, in well conducted
families of wealth and position, private secretaries often assumed
the responsibilities of social secretaries or major domos. Turning
again to the bookkeeper, he resumed, "It takes certain peculiar
qualifications to handle that sort of thing. Everybody knows that the old
man couldn't do it. He ought to come out like a man and admit that he
has no conception of that bigger social life which plays such an
important part in the world today. Then--" Mr. Jones spoke with great
meaning--"there are those who understand such matters and could relieve
him of all responsibilities except--" Mr. Jones snapped his fingers
as though it was a bagatelle--"signing the checks."



CHAPTER IV

THOSE DARKIES AGAIN


After Obadiah, highly indignant at the presence of the black orphans,
had departed, his car moved slowly up the street. It stopped at the
corner for the policeman's signal. At the edge of the sidewalk stood a
newsboy eating an ice cream cone with great enjoyment. The shouts of
the pickaninnies were stilled at the pleasing spectacle of a fellow
man partaking of food. Every eye watched the disappearing cone as if
fascinated by some novel mechanical process.

The unusual silence aroused Virginia from uneasy thoughts of her father.
Following the eyes of her guests she caught the common target as the
last bite disappeared, and noted that the lips of the black company moved
sympathetically coincident with its departure.

"These children will be late for lunch?" worried the young hostess,
awakening to the requirements of the hour.

"Yas'm," the woman confessed with indifference. "It ain' no
mattah." From outward appearances the infants took issue upon the
question, deeming it one of grave concern. "Dey eats at noon but ah
fix 'em up er snack w'en we git back." The orphans registered relief.

"How would they like an ice cream cone?" suggested Virginia.

The infants awaited the verdict in breathless anticipation.

"Ah guesses dey lak it mighty well." The woman looked about her at the
upturned mouths even as in a nest of fledgeling blackbirds. The financial
extravagance daunted her. "Yo'all mought git one fo' each two."

Sore disappointment depressed the fledgelings.

Virginia sensed the prevalent dejection. "No," she decided, "each
child shall have one. Go on to Vivian's, Ike."

Now, Mr. Vivian maintained an establishment for the distribution of those
mild refreshments appealing to youth. His fastidious soul endeavored
to foster the delicate things of life. He dealt in sugars and syrups
in preference to lard or kerosene. This spirit prevailed in his public
parlors. Golden rays reflected in dazzling brilliancy in many mirrors
from gilded grills. It was meet that in such a temple only the elect
should partake of ambrosia. This thought exuded from every pore of Mr.
Vivian. At times he spoke of it.

The world accepts a man at his own value. So, South Ridgefield appraised
Mr. Vivian's resort at his own valuation; but by no means does this
mean that his clientele was limited. Far from it. The youth of South
Ridgefield were not modest in their self-esteem. In spite of individual
embarrassment, when first brought under the influence of the Vivian
presence and decorations, they gathered daily in great numbers in the
Vivian parlors, that the world might bear witness, through their
presence, to their elevated social status.

Indeed, certain hardy and desperate spirits did, by continued presence
and notable consumption of wares, become so bold that they dared to
address the proprietor as "Bill," and risked mild pleasantries as
that the nectar was "rotten dope," or that, through error, a "dash
er onion or sumpin'" had been introduced into their sacchariferous
cup. Such familiarity was for the few. Did not eye witnesses support
tradition in evidence of the casting forth of the unworthy from the
Vivian portals?

Had not reputable bibbers testified that certain dirty faced urchins,
essaying early adventures in trade and tendering but five coppers instead
of the eight, well known to be the post war value of the cone, been
driven into the street with loud objurgation?

Likewise, there was the memorable episode of the drunken tramp. Stumbling
into this resort of innocent youth under the belief that it was a
saloon, he was summarily ejected by the police. For a time, a splintered
mirror gave silent testimony to this banishment. It evidenced the casting
of a root beer mug at the white coated soda dispenser by the vulgar
varlet, obsessed by the delusion that he was enjoying the more thrilling
sport of heaving a beer stein at a bartender.

But by far the greater number of refusals of service, with its corollary
of altercation and throwings out, had to do with negroes.

"I ain't serving 'em in my place," Mr. Vivian had proclaimed, with a
frank disregard of at least the spirit of the fifteenth amendment.

The sweets dispensed by Mr. Vivian drew the black people as molasses
does the fly, and South Ridgefield had a large percentage of negro
residents. For a time hardly a day passed without noisy wrangles.
Comfortably seated in full view and hearing of such disputes, the
elect were greatly edified thereby. Of late, such disturbances had
decreased, and, as they had ended always in favor of the confectioner,
he felt assured that he had settled the race issue in his own place at
least.

Mr. Vivian waited today behind his marble topped counter and supervised
his numerous assistants. Through the front windows he watched the
multitude which had assembled to view the minstrel parade disperse. He
observed an influx of gilded youth over his threshold. One listening
to explanations would have gathered that the unusual number present was
not due to interest in such low concerns as minstrel bands. Through
untoward events the pageant had obtruded itself, as it were, into
blasé vision.

Mr. Vivian's eyes, as has been suggested, rested upon the street.
Into his optical angle rolled the Dale car. It was well known to the
confectioner. Often it paused for long periods before his place while
Virginia refreshed herself within. It was his delight, at these times,
to greet the maiden with profound respect, as his heart swelled with
pride. The car of Obadiah Dale, the wealthiest, and in consequence, in
Mr. Vivian's judgment, the peak of the town's social strata, awaited
without. Within the house of Vivian, the heiress partook of Vivian
products. What could be more appropriate?

The spectacle of the big machine given up to the conveyance of this small
maiden had always pleased Mr. Vivian. There was a cavalier disregard of
the cost of gasoline, oil, and tires which appealed to him. Today, the
large passenger list astonished him, and, even as the number impressed
him, their aspect amazed him.

"Negroes," he gasped, "coming _here_!" There are moments in every
life which have far-reaching consequences. The confectioner faced one.

The car stopped at the Vivian door. The glad shouts of infants penetrated
the halls set apart for the fashionable. They offended the ears of the
elect.

"There is Virginia Dale and those colored kids with whom she was making
a spectacle of herself in the minstrel parade," sneered an excited girl.
"If she brings them in here, I'll leave and never come back."

"Oh, don't worry," a man of the world, of sixteen, calmed her. "Old
Viv won't stand for any foolishness. You watch him."

"Virginia Dale has lived so long in that big house with only colored
people that she likes them for friends," declared another girl
contemptuously. "Too good to associate with any of the young people of
this town, she parades around like that. I think it is disgusting
myself and I would tell her so, for very little."

These and similar remarks filled the ears of the perplexed proprietor.
He decided that whatever was done in this instance had better be done,
contrary to his usual practice, beyond the hearing of the elect.

He rushed out to the waiting car. A smile was upon his face but it was
not his usual one of hearty welcome. It spoke of hidden pain and anxiety.

"How do you do, Mr. Vivian," Virginia courteously greeted the dispenser
of toothsome delicacies. "I want you to meet these little people from
the Lincoln Home."

He cast a glance into the nest of the blackbirds. It lacked that interest
with which new friends should be greeted. He felt the curious glances
of the chosen, impinging against his back.

"They are hungry, Mr. Vivian. We have had a long ride and the children
missed their lunch watching the parade. Each of us wants the nicest ice
cream cone you can make. Seventeen, please."

"Cones!" Light dawned in Mr. Vivian's darkness.

"Bring them out, please?" Virginia begged.

"Out?" The clouds which had veiled the true Mr. Vivian rolled aside.
Came sunshine and gladsome welcome.

In a moment the confectioner was behind his counter urging his assistants
to diligence. In joyous relief, he shouted, "Make 'em big, boys. Make
'em big!"

Then, disregarding the feelings of the staring elect, Mr. Vivian hastened
forth, bearing a box of cones. In a moment, with his kindest smile,
encouraged by Virginia, he delivered with his own hand, to each infant,
one of his products.

"The poor things. I don't suppose orphans get ice cream cones very
often, do they?" Virginia asked the woman.

"Some ain' nevah had none afo', Ah bets. Has you, chillun? Who had
one?" Six worldly wise infants voted in the affirmative.

Mr. Vivian was stirred deeply by this information. That human beings were
permitted to arrive at such an age without experience of cones struck
him as an economic mistake. "It's a shame," he cried.

"They eat them as though they were used to them," laughed Virginia.

"Yes," he agreed, as he watched the mouths of the blackbirds wag in
solemn unison. Another thought struck him. "You have had these orphans
out for a ride all morning, Miss Dale?"

She nodded. "We've had a grand time, too. Haven't we, children?"

Mouths were too full for utterance but there was a unanimous bobbing of
heads.

When Virginia opened her purse to pay for the cones, Mr. Vivian, after
inspecting the tendered currency for a moment, submitted a proposal.
"Miss Dale, would you object if I presented the cones to the children?
I would be glad to do it."

There was a look of understanding in Virginia's eyes as she answered
him, "I know how you feel about it. I can't let you do it today,
though, Mr. Vivian. You see, it is my treat."

Motionless as a statue, Mr. Vivian stood before the door of his
establishment and watched the machine depart. As it disappeared a
look of great approval rested upon his countenance. "There goes a darn
fine girl," he muttered. He threw back his fat shoulders and worked
them as though a great load had been recently removed from them.
"Thank heaven," he cried, "she didn't take it into her head to
unload that outfit in my place." He scratched his head. "What
would I have done?"



CHAPTER V

ACCIDENTS WILL HAPPEN


It was past one o'clock when Virginia left the colored children at the
Orphans' Home. The purchase of the cones had detained them much longer
than she had anticipated. Now, rid of her guests, she remembered her
meeting with her father. Appreciating with dismay how the minutes had
flown, she considered it advisable to return home as soon as practicable
that rough water might be lubricated.

"Hurry, Ike," she told the chauffeur.

Now, Ike needed little encouragement in this matter. It delighted him
exceedingly to find excuse to unloose the surplus power of the fast
machine. Tantalizing qualms which only Serena's cooking could quiet
likewise beset him. It was his custom to lunch early and abundantly.

Ike hurried. In a moment the car was rushing along one of South
Ridgefield's residential streets at a high rate of speed. Virginia's
thoughts rehearsed the events of the morning. Those of the chauffeur
anticipated his delayed repast.

They approached a corner. The hoarse honk of a horn sounded from the
intersecting street. At the crossing came an instantaneous perception
of a man approaching at high speed upon a motorcycle and trying to
dodge. The sickening sensation of impending peril held the girl as the
emergency brake squealed. A heavy shock at the back of the automobile
seemed to lift it. Virginia screamed. The motorcycle rider half dove,
half tumbled out from the back of the big car and crumpled an inert and
senseless heap in the street.

The Dale car stopped almost at the instant of the shock. Seeming to
fall from his seat, Ike ran back and stared for a second at the upset
motorcycle and then hurried to the recumbent figure.

A bystander rushed out and joined the chauffeur, crying, "Is he dead?"

Ike, filled with personal woes, took no heed of the inquiry. "Run
squa'e into me. Smack bang. Done knock er big dent in ma caah," he
protested.

Luckily the bystander was a man of action rather than words. He gave
attention to the stricken one. "Get the doctor, over there," he
commanded sharply, pointing to a white house nearby.

Ike disappeared on the run.

For seconds which seemed hours, Virginia, held by fright, could not move.
Her eyes, wide with horror, stared back at the motionless motorcyclist.
His flattened figure resembled a bundle of old clothes dropped carelessly
in the roadway. Certain that the man was dead, the terrible thought came
to the girl that she was responsible for it. She could hear herself
saying, "Hurry, Ike." It made her frantic, she could not sit still
and yet she wondered if she had the strength to move. In a moment, she
found herself standing. Hardly knowing what she did, she climbed from
the car and moved slowly towards the figure lying in the dust. She
watched it fearfully, as if it might suddenly leap at her. Now she
saw the face. How dreadfully white it was. Surely he was dead. The pity
of this great fellow lying helpless in the street moved her strangely.
The pathos of his weakness wrung her heart.

The bystander removed his coat intending to make a pillow of it. Guessing
his purpose, Virginia hastened to the car and brought back a cushion.

"Thank you, that will be better," he told her. Taking the cushion, he
held it irresolutely as though planning how best to use it.

"May I help?" To Virginia it seemed that the words came of their own
accord. She doubted if she had the strength to do anything.

"If you would, please? When I lift his head, will you push the cushion
under?"

The girl dropped upon her knees in the dust of the roadway. It brought
her face very near to that of the unconscious man. She noticed that
he was young, not much older than herself. When the cushion was placed
it lifted his head into an awkward position. Readjusting the cushion,
Virginia pushed it too far. The motorcyclist's head slid over and rested
against her knee. For an instant she hesitated and then, making a pillow
of her lap, she very gently lifted his head into it.

"That's better. That's the stuff," approved the bystander. Noticing
her pallor, he added, "If you can do it."

"I--I--I will be all right," she hesitatingly reassured him. Yet, at
the moment, she was not at all sure of herself. Was she not holding the
head of a dead youth in her lap? It had shifted and a rivulet of blood
oozed from a small wound in the forehead, formerly hidden. A deathly
sickness swept the girl. But even as it seized her came a determination
to fight her feelings and conquer them. She would not faint.

The motorcyclist groaned. Virginia almost dropped his head in alarm. He
wasn't dead, but certainly that melancholy sound marked the passing of
his soul. Other groans followed of such grievous quality that she was
sure each one was his last.

"He's coming around, I believe," declared the bystander.

The words reawakened hope in Virginia's breast. "Isn't he dead?" she
murmured gently.

"No." The voice came from her lap.

Her startled blue eyes dropped. Two wide open black eyes looked up into
them wonderingly for an instant and the lids closed.

"Lord," moaned the stricken one in unmistakable language.

"He's praying," thought Virginia and solemnly bowed her head.

Ike returned, followed soon by a doctor.

"He's regained consciousness," the bystander told the medical man.

The physician knelt by the injured youth. He listened to his heart and
then started to lift an eyelid when both lids opened so wide that
Virginia was enabled to confirm her previous impression that the
motorcyclist's eyes were black. The doctor felt the man's body and
the groans redoubled as he touched one of the legs. The medical man
straightened up. "His head seems to be all right. There is a fracture of
the right leg and probably a rib or two broken. He is lucky to get off
so easy. He will be a mass of bruises, too, I suppose," he announced.
He glanced curiously at the waiting car and then at Virginia and went
on, "You are Obadiah Dale's daughter, are you not?"

As she nodded her assent, he asked, "How did the accident happen?"

"I was to blame," confessed Virginia, her eyes filling with tears.

"You weren't driving the car?" he argued sympathetically and when she
admitted it, "I don't see how you can be in fault."

"I was though, doctor."

He gave her an enveloping professional glance. The pale face and the
flood of tears fighting to break their dams did not escape him. "You are
suffering from the shock of the accident. You have been under a strain
and are nervous and unstrung."

Ike considered this an appropriate moment to make public outcry. "Dat
man was to blame. Ran smack into me. Lak to punch er hole in de tiah wid
'is haid. Ah gwine look fo' er punkcher," he assured the crowd which
had assembled.

This attempt to win public favor at the expense of a semi-unconscious
opponent filled the doctor with indignation. "You talk like a fool,"
he informed the chauffeur. "Without inquiring into the matter I conclude
that you are to blame. You help me carry this man under the trees and
make him comfortable until I can call an ambulance."

The snap judgment of the medical man apparently struck Ike as of
uncontrovertible accuracy, because he prepared in silence to assist
in caring for the injured until Virginia suggested,

"Why not take the man in our machine and get him to the hospital so much
quicker?"

"Very good," agreed the doctor. He eyed Ike sternly. "It's not a
question of speed now. There has been too much of that around here in my
opinion."

"Yas'r," the chauffeur made illogical response. "Ah ain' no speeder.
Ah is de carefles' drivah in dis yere town. Safety fust. Dat's ma
motta."

"Appearances are against you," the doctor snorted as he prepared a
rough splint to protect the leg of the motorcyclist during his removal.

They placed the youth in the Dale car, the doctor holding him in his
arms but using a middle seat to support the lower part of the body. Ike
pulled down the other seat and, at a sign from the physician, Virginia
took it.

As they slowly left the scene of the accident, the girl noticed that the
arm of the youth nearest to her swung helplessly at every jolt of the
car. Taking the hand in her own, she lifted it into her lap. When she
released it, there was a faint movement as if the fingers searched for
her own. Knowing him to be suffering, Virginia regrasped his hand and
it seemed to her that there came an answering pressure as of appreciation.

Yet woe descended anew upon the girl. The youth could not walk. He
could not talk. As she looked at his grotesquely postured body, she
became convinced that he was dying. The doctor's remarks were to cheer
her. No one could forecast the results of such an accident. The victim
might pass away in the car. He was so young to die, a mere boy. She had
killed him. Such thoughts were overwhelming her with fear when they
reached the hospital.

In the reception room of the institution, she awaited in dread the
outcome of a more thorough examination. As she looked about her, there
was nothing in the furnishing of the apartment to distinguish it from
thousands of others except the faint, sickening odor of ether which told
its own story.

A most attractive young woman in a nurse's uniform came across the hall
from a small office opposite. "Were you with the emergency case Dr.
Millard brought?" she asked.

Virginia thought the blonde curls, beneath the cap, very attractive.
Also she approved of the hazel eyes. They seemed sympathetic and the
overwrought girl longed for that. "I came with a motorcyclist who was
hurt. I don't know the doctor's name," she responded.

"If you can give me the information about the patient I will fill out
his card."

Virginia looked at the nurse in astonishment. "Why I don't know him. I
never met him until he ran into our car."

"A violent introduction," giggled the nurse, and then, more seriously,
"I am glad that it is not your husband."

"_Husband_," gasped Virginia, "on a _motorcycle_." Her face reddened
in an embarrassment the absurdity of which provoked her.

The nurse broke into a gale of soft laughter. "They come in automobiles,
on motorcycles and on foot. Evidently, you don't care for those on
motorcycles." She considered a moment. "I don't blame you. He would
have so many accidents that you would never know whether you were
wife or widow."

Virginia was uncomfortable. The strain of the most exciting day in her
life was telling. The mischievous eyes of the nurse were not helping
matters. "I think that I am quite young to be married," the girl
announced with a prim dignity meant to suppress this frivolous person.

That sophisticated young woman shook anew with amusement. "Oh, I don't
know. Have a look at our maternity ward."

The shot went wide of the mark with Virginia. "Oh," she exclaimed, with
rapturous interest, "I'd love to. That's where you keep the babies,
isn't it? I adore them."

"We were speaking of husbands, not babies, you know." The irrepressible
nurse persisted. "They are closely related but not the same thing. That
is, unless the wife, as many of them do, insists upon making a baby of
her husband."

Husbands! Babies! Where was this strange conversation leading? Again
an annoyed Virginia felt herself flush beneath the amused eyes of this
very complacent young person. With a rush, horrible thoughts of the
youth upstairs, surely suffering, possibly dying, through her fault,
obsessed her. Yet this nurse could look at one with hazel eyes dancing
with merriment. The mill owner's daughter whirled to a window, but,
regardless of her efforts, the tears came.

She heard the nurse move. In a moment a hand touched her shoulder and
a kind voice whispered, "Dearie, you are all broken up, aren't you?
It's a shock from the accident. I should have remembered. Let me get
you something?"

"No,--no," protested Virginia, dissolved in tears. "It's not medicine
I need. Oh, if I could only be sure that poor fellow isn't going to die.
I will never have a happy moment the rest of my life if he does." She
raised her tear drenched face. "I wanted to make people happy, not
to bring sorrow or trouble to any one. And now," she sobbed, "I've
killed a man."

"Don't be silly, girlie. You couldn't kill a flea, let alone a man.
Accidents will happen. We get hundreds of such cases every month."

"You don't get motorcyclists though. They are injured while riding at
fearful speed."

"Oh yes, we do. I don't mean to criticise your friend but most
motorcyclists are dreadfully reckless."

"He isn't my friend. I told you that I don't know him," grieved
Virginia.

"Why worry so, then? I heard the doctor say that it was not a serious
case myself."

"He was concealing something. Anyway, it is wrong of us to say unkind
things about the poor fellow when he has no friends to help him,"
Virginia concluded with a note of defiance.

"_Have_ we?" the nurse responded, "I think that I said,--you may
remember--that motorcyclists are reckless."

"But," sobbed the unhappy girl, "I thought it, too."

"He wouldn't care about it, anyway," argued the nurse soothingly.
"Cheer up, he'll soon be well. I never remember a motorcyclist dying in
this hospital. They are either killed outright," she explained in a
matter of fact tone, "or they soon recover. They have so many accidents
learning to ride, I suppose, that they get toughened. I don't mean
that they are tough fellows," she explained hastily, fearful that
Virginia might deem the remark unkind. "I mean that one must be young,
and strong, and hard, to run one of the things."

Virginia's tears had ceased to flow. "I should think that a
motorcyclist would have to be--quick--and graceful," she interrupted,
and then ended, "--and very brave," being, evidently much uplifted by
the nurse's remarks.

"And," continued the very observant attendant of the sick, "I
should think that they would have to be very strong and healthy,
perfectly nerveless, and," she smiled, "not a bit fastidious to ride a
motorcycle."

Virginia's face bore a look of mild reproof which melted away as she
joined in the hearty laugh of the nurse.

"I am going up stairs," resumed that energetic person cheerfully, "and
see your motorcyclist. In a minute, I will be back able to assure you
that he is not seriously injured."

As the girl waited, the quiet of the great building depressed her. To her
came the thought that it was a place of weariness, pain, suffering.
The hall before her was the highway along which men and women passed on
their way to those white bed battle-grounds beyond. Through hours, and
days of weariness and suffering the combat dragged its weary length or
moved in strenuous actions, short and sharp, towards victory, with the
joyous return of the pale and weakened warrior to loved ones, home,
friends, and all that makes life worth living, or else--

A door opened above stairs. Something very like a smothered laugh echoed
and the soft pad of rubber soles came on the steps.

"He's all right," the nurse reassured Virginia, as she reentered the
room. "He's perfectly conscious and the doctor says that he sees no
reason why he should not get along nicely." Her manner became very
professional as she went on, "Your motorcyclist has a fractured leg,
three fractured ribs, and many bruises." She shrugged her shoulders
deprecatingly, "That's nothing."

"Nothing! I think that it is dreadful." Virginia displayed indications
of renewed agitation.

The nurse made haste to comfort her, "Remember, I have seen him. That
young man may be brittle but he'll mend fast."

"He will suffer so," worried Virginia.

"No, not after his leg is set. Of course he will be in some pain for a
few days but that will soon pass." The nurse giggled. "Right now he
has a bad headache from striking either your car or the street with his
head. It must be made of extraordinarily strong material."

Virginia gave no heed to the concluding sentence. A look of alarm spread
over her face. "He struck the car an awful blow. It fairly lifted it.
Was that his head?" she gasped.

"Possibly," admitted the dancing eyed nurse. "His headache is severe.
But he'll be over that in the morning."

Another matter of anxiety recurred to the girl. "How's his fever?" she
troubled, her eyes big with pity.

"Fever!" Surprise claimed the nurse as its own. "Now what ever put
that into your head?"

"I held his hand when we brought him here. It was very hot."

"Oh, I see," admitted the nurse with a solemnity of tone which belied
her tell-tale orbs. "What a little helper you _were_. You held the
patient's hand, and, discovering it to be warm, you believed him dead."

"Wasn't it strange?" Virginia gravely pursued her own line of thought.
"It seemed to me that he wanted me to hold his hand, so I did."

"Kind girl," the nurse complimented her, and then, as from a wealth of
experience, explained, "I never knew a man who disliked to hold hands.
Certainly a motorcyclist would have no compunctions about it. Don't
worry about fever in this case."

"You are laughing at me again. You love to tease me," protested
Virginia.

"I can't help it after seeing that motorcyclist."

"Why should you laugh about him? Poor fellow, he suffers so."

"Yes, I suppose he does, but his appearance does not draw sympathy.
They've dressed him up in pink pajamas. He's a great big fellow and
his eyes--"

"Are black," announced Virginia with great assurance.

"Yes, but how on earth did you know it?"

"He looked up at me," Virginia confessed soberly.

"Looked up at you? Please tell me when? While you were holding his
hand?"

"No." The girl spoke with great gentleness, as if in a dream she
reënacted the scene she described. "His head was lying in my lap and
suddenly he opened his eyes and looked up at me for a moment--and closed
them."

The nurse choked with suppressed laughter. "I thought," she rippled,
"that it was a collision of vehicles, not of hearts."

"How very silly," thought Virginia, and regarding the nurse coldly,
she said aloud, "I'll go now. I am sorry to have been so much trouble
to you."

Unmoved by the change in the mood of the visitor, the nurse accompanied
her to the door. "You'll be coming back to see your patient?" she
suggested.

"I suppose I should," Virginia mused. Her coolness towards the nurse
melted. "It would be dreadfully embarrassing to visit a strange man."

"I can help you. I go back to ward duty tomorrow and will have charge
of the surgical cases. I'll know him by the time you call."

"That will be fine. I'll bring him something to eat." A further
courtesy occurred to Virginia. "Would you let him know, please, that I
waited to be sure that he was as comfortable as possible?"

"That has been done," the nurse told her. "When I was up stairs I
explained to him that you were waiting, in almost your very words."

The curiosity of her sex beset the mill owner's daughter. "Did he say
anything about it?" she questioned.

Great merriment, promptly subdued, shook the nurse. "I should hardly
call it 'anything.' Of course, I could not question him in his
condition. I caught two words. Perhaps I misunderstood them."

"What were they?"

"He said"--again the nurse was shaken by concealed
amusement--"something which sounded to me like"--she hesitated to
regain control of her feelings--"Some chicken."

"Poor fellow," sympathized compassionate Virginia. "He is hungry.
Serena fries chicken deliciously, and he shall have some of it." As
she hurried away, she wondered what it was that had amused the nurse so
much that she could not overcome a final outburst.



CHAPTER VI

IKE EXPLAINS


Obadiah Dale gave unusual thought to his daughter during a period
following the minstrel parade. This attention was due primarily to the
appearance of Virginia as a seeming part of the pageant. It was due
secondarily, and consequently in ever increasing force as the minutes
passed, to the girl's unexplained delay in returning home to lunch.

Immediately upon his arrival, Obadiah had attempted to elicit from Serena
all information in her possession concerning orphans and minstrels. His
approach to the subject was craftily obscured.

"I don't see the car. Virginia not home, yet?"

"Yas'r. She orter bin back er long time ergo." From Serena's
appearance one would have judged her deeply aggrieved.

"Where is she?"

"She tek er li'l ride. Ain't she bin at yo'all's office?"

Serena was conscious that her speed regulations, literally interpreted
and conscientiously obeyed by Ike, might be responsible for the delayed
return of the absent ones. She was aware, that regardless of the real
reason, Ike, constitutionally, would not be adverse to transferring
all blame to her. She deemed it advantageous, therefore, to submit
her defence before the arrival of the complainant and thus win the
sympathetic support of the court.

"Ah tole dat Ike to drive mo'e cafful. Ah ain' wantin' Miss Virginy
broke up 'count o' his foolishness."

"They were safe enough when I saw them down town. As far as I could make
out they had been following a minstrel band about," Obadiah informed her.

"Minst'el band!" Serena lifted up her voice loudly. "Dat's Ike. Wot
inte'est dat chil' got in er ole minst'el band. It sure is dat fool
Ike."

"They had a negro woman and a lot of negro children in the back of the
car."

"Black woman an' chillun," shouted the old negress. "Howcum dey in
dat caah? Ah axes you dat?" Serena's temper was rising. "Dat fool boy
Ike done fill up dat caah wid trash. Yas'r. Whar was dey?"

"Following that band down the middle of Main Street."

"On Main Street, wid all de high tone folks er lookin' at ma po' li'l
honey chil' er packed in wid er bunch o' trash er laughin' an' er
hollerin' at er minst'el band." Serena became almost inarticulate in
her anger.

Obadiah kicked angrily at the rug in front of him. Again he remembered
the smiles of the crowd. Gruffly dismissing the servant, he watched her
depart, every line of her body quivering with indignation and muttering
dire threats at Ike.

The manufacturer dropped into a chair and attempted to read a newspaper
but he could not keep his mind from the episode of the morning. It had
been an absurd affair. His sense of personal dignity rebelled at his
daughter being entangled in such a thing. The thought came that Virginia
was only a child who had become involved in an escapade of Ike's which
every one had already forgotten.

He settled himself more comfortably but the picture of the parade
would not depart from his thoughts. Obadiah could not stand ridicule
and those laughing faces danced before him. That child argument was
unsatisfactory, too. Virginia had appeared quite proud of the load
of colored children when he had talked to her. She didn't look the
child part, either. To the contrary she seemed quite mature--almost
a woman. With a start, he remembered his daughter's age. "Confound
it," he muttered, "she is a woman. She should behave as one. She must
learn to have some regard for my dignity and to uphold my position in
this town."

He arose, looked at his watch, and, striding out upon the porch, gazed
anxiously down the street. As he watched, there came a distant honk of
familiar note and in a few moments his car turned in through the gate.

"What made you so late?" roared Obadiah before the machine stopped.

Virginia leaped out as the car paused and running up the steps threw
her arms about her father. "Oh Daddy," she responded, "I have been
so frightened." Laying her head against his arm, she shuddered.

"What happened?" Obadiah's voice was cutting, sharp.

"We almost killed a man. We broke his legs and ribs and gave him a
terrible headache. We had to take him to the hospital where he is
suffering dreadfully."

"Dat man done knock er big dent in dis yere caah wid his haid,"
proclaimed Ike. "Ran slap bang into me."

At the sound of the chauffeur's well remembered voice, Serena, as a
privileged member of the household, returned to the porch. Approaching
Virginia who had drawn an arm of her father about herself, the old
negress patted the girl reassuringly upon the shoulder and pledged
revenge. "Nev' mine, honey chil', nev' mind, ah gwine 'tend to
dat fool, Ike, presen'ly." Hurrying to the end of the porch she
glared down at the chauffeur as if he were the root of all evil in that
vicinity. "Wot you mean er takin' er woman an' 'er fambly in dat
caah wid ma honey chil' an' er runnin' ovah er ban' an' er killin'
er minst'el man? 'Splain youse'f, boy."

Ike was puzzled to identify the victim of his alleged manslaughter under
the conditions named. "Wot minst'el man? Ah ain' kill no minst'el
man a tall."

"Who dat done dent yo'all's caah?" cried the accusing voice.

"How ah gwine tell if dat man wot bre'k hisse'f up on ma caah is er
minst'el man? Ah ain' ax 'im. Ah ain' kill no man."

"Who dat woman an' her fambly you 'vite into dat caah? Wot mar'ied
woman is yo'all makin' up to? Wot's de name o' dat frien', wid
chillun?"

Ike had to suffer much that morning. He writhed under this new
inquisition which displayed a tendency to besmirch his reputation. No
love light glowed in the porcupine's eyes but hatred, intense and
eternal, flashed from them, and he bristled as he made forceful
denial. "Dat female sco'pion ain' no frien' o' mine."

Before such dislike, who could suspect? Where dwelt such frankness? Who
could doubt? Yet, Serena, conjecturing that a more complete understanding
of the case might insure some interesting developments, excused him with
words of warning, "You ain' nevah kep' nothin' f'on me, no time."

After Obadiah had heard his daughter's story of the accident, his mind
reverted to the minstrel parade. "You seem to have had a very strenuous
morning, Virginia," he remarked. "When we met, you had quite a load of
passengers with you. Tell me about them." He wanted to know how those
orphans got into the car.

Virginia was in the midst of her description of the morning's events
when her father interrupted,

"Why should you take those negro children for a ride? What made you do
it?"

"Can't you understand, Daddy? Those poor little darkies were frightened
almost out of their wits by our car. They cried, and they looked so
forlorn. The walk is their big pleasure each week. We spoiled it in a
way, today, and I tried to make up for it." She was lost in thought
for a moment and then went on. "Think of it! Those children are shut up
within the walls of that institution every minute of the time except
for that weekly walk."

"What's the matter with that? Where else would you keep them? They
can't run loose upon the streets." Obadiah wished to bring his daughter
to a reasonable and sensible view of the situation.

"Of course, Daddy, the orphans can't be allowed to run wild. That would
never do. But that makes it no less hard for them to be shut up in that
yard year after year with only a walk now and then for a change." She
looked appealingly at him. "How would you like to be shut up in a yard
all of the time, Daddy?"

Obadiah almost shuddered. The thought of being confined in an inclosure
was repulsive to him. It savored of the penalties prescribed in certain
anti-trust laws of which he had an uncomfortable knowledge. He would
have gladly eliminated the question of restraint, but not being able to,
asked, "How can you help it?"

Virginia gleefully clinched her argument. "Take the orphans out oftener
and take them riding so that they can go farther than their little legs
can carry them. I did the last thing, Daddy, don't you see?"

Obadiah saw, and, admitting the strength of his daughter's argument to
himself, recognized that it had logical strength as a plea for a series
of rides. He dropped the matter promptly and in this was assisted by the
gong calling them to a belated luncheon.

Virginia, because of the excitement of the morning, had little appetite.
She watched her father for a time and then her eyes took on a deeper
blue as, without averting her gaze, she drifted away into one of those
mysterious musings of girlhood.

He gulped his food hastily as if he had a train to catch. "I should
be back," he fretted. "My time is worth money. You must learn to be
considerate of others, Virginia."

The shadow of unhappiness veiled the face of dreams as the girl started
at his words. "I am very thoughtless, I am afraid, Daddy," she
answered. "I shall try to be more careful." And then in a whisper so
low that he could not hear it, she continued, "It would make mother
unhappy to know that I was that way."

"You should overcome your faults, particularly your thoughtlessness in
regard to others," he grumbled, and immediately changed the subject.
"Do you know the name of the fellow who ran into you?"

"No, Daddy."

He considered a moment. "Don't you bother about it." He gave her a
smile and the traces of her unhappiness faded before it. "I will have
some one call up the hospital. I must take the matter up with Wilkins."

"Honey, chil', ain' yo'all gwine res' you'se'f dis afternoon?"
Serena demanded, as they arose from the table.

"In a minute, Serena, I want to ask Daddy something."

She hurried after him. There was almost a trace of embarrassment in her
voice, as she asked, "Daddy, may I go to the hospital tomorrow and visit
that man?"

"What?" Obadiah was surprised. "Why on earth should you want to do
that?"

"I think I should. I told Ike to hurry, as I explained to you. If I
hadn't done that the man would not have been hurt." She gave a woeful
little sigh. "I helped to take him to the hospital and so I feel
acquainted with him."

A shrewd, calculating look swept over Obadiah's face. "That's a most
informal introduction, I am thinking. However, it will do no harm to get
on friendly terms with that fellow. I suppose that it will mean a suit,
anyway, but I won't oppose your going."

Virginia's face lighted with happiness and pride. "Daddy dear, you
have the kindest and most thoughtful heart. You are always trying to do
something nice," she laughed, softly. "You've made a mistake this
time, and you will have to think of something else. The man in the
hospital doesn't need clothes. I noticed that his were not hurt in the
accident."

"_Clothes_," cried Obadiah, much perplexed by the tribute to himself
and the subsequent explanation. "Who said anything about clothes?"
Suddenly, understanding came to him. "I'll swear--" promised the
astounded manufacturer.

Virginia quickly kissed him squarely upon the mouth.

"No, you won't," she said, her eyes tender with love and pride, "you
are much too good and generous and noble to do that."

For an instant, Obadiah appeared about to contradict his daughter, but,
changing his mind, he hurried out to his waiting car and pressed the
button on the horn.

At the signal, Ike appeared, coming hurriedly from the kitchen. As he
advanced, he deposited in his mouth the remains of a slice of pie.
Because of the unfortunate events of the morning, the procurement of
this pastry partook of the nature of a diplomatic triumph. Ike had
but little pride in this. His mind was upon weightier matters. As he
approached his employer, he bolted the remnants in a manner conducive
neither to his present dignity nor future health.

Obadiah endeavored to fix the shifting glance of his chauffeur with a
piercing eye. "Ike," he demanded, roughly, "how did that accident
occur?"

"Yas'r, dat man come er speedin' down Secon' Street an' ran smack
bang into dis yere caah. He dent it wid his haid," the chauffeur
testified glibly.

"Show me the dent!"

Ike promptly indicated a slight depression in the body of the car above
a rear fender.

"You did that when you ran into a coal truck and smashed the fender."

Ike was greatly astonished but admitted erroneous conclusions. "Ah mek
er mistake. Dat man mus' er landed on de wheel den."

"Don't make any more mistakes about this accident," the manufacturer
rapped. "Virginia tells me that you were coming out Forest Avenue and
that this fellow was going down Second Street."

Ike considered this with care, that deception be eliminated. "Yas'r,
Miss Virginny ain' mek no mistake, neither."

Obadiah glared at his humble retainer. "He was on your right hand
then?" he suggested.

"Ah dis'remembers jes whar dat man cum f'om, Misto Dale. He cum so
fas' it plum slip ma mind." Ike scratched his head thoughtfully. "It
done gone f'om me."

"He was going down Second Street towards the Court House and you were
coming out home, weren't you?"

"Yas'r, dat's jes de way o' it."

"Then, he approached you on your right hand. He had the right of way."

"Misto Dale, dat man done took all de way."

"You know he had the right of way under the law," bawled Obadiah,
provoked by the stupidity of his servitor.

"Yas'r, dat's de law." A most flattering note of admiration for his
employer's legal acumen crept into Ike's voice. "Misto Dale, yo'all
sutinly knows de law."

"Never mind what I know," roared Obadiah, thrusting compliments rudely
aside. "If that fellow hit my car you must have been in his way."

"No, sar, Ah was er gwine to hit 'im, 'ceptin' he dodge. He done cum
so quick ah ain' seen 'im 'till he whar der. Yas'r."

Puzzled at what he had unearthed, Obadiah sought illumination along other
lines. "How fast was that fellow running, Ike, when he hit you?"

The chauffeur lifted his eyes heavenward as if seeking inspiration. A
crow winged its way slowly across the sky. He followed it critically as
if using its speed as a measure for the estimate sought. "'Bout seventy
seven mile er hour," he ventured.

Obadiah boiled. "Seventy seven miles an hour on Second Street is
absurd," he blurted. "It's too rough. A man would have to fly to do
it."

"Yas'r dat's hit. He was er flyin'. Jest er hittin' de high places."

Obadiah scorched his menial with a look which should have reduced him
to a cinder.

Ike shifted uneasily under the unkind gaze of his indignant employer as
he waited further interrogation.

"How fast were you running?" Obadiah's tone was as warm as his aspect.

Ike deemed it advisable at this point to make his statements general.
"Ah drives cafful. Safety furst, dat's ma motta."

"I have heard that nonsense of yours before. What I want to know,"
Obadiah bleated in a high falsetto, "is, how fast were you going?"

Again, Ike turned to the skies. Suddenly came a change. His doubtful
demeanor disappeared. He met the stern countenance of his employer
with a glad smile of confidence and assurance. To him, in the hour
of need, had been vouchsafed a solution of his problem. "Miss Sereny,"
he explained, with great satisfaction, "she done tell me not to drive
no fas'er den er hoss an' ker'idge kin go. Dat's jes how fas' ah
goes."

Obadiah leaped into his car and slammed the door. "Take me to my
office," he blazed.

Ike obeyed him, running, it may be noted, at a speed well above that
usually attained by the horses and carriages of Serena's fond
remembrance.

Obadiah entered his office yet much irritated by the recent examination
of his chauffeur. "Jones," he shouted peevishly.

"At your service, Sir," responded the ever courteous private secretary,
ceasing his social plannings for the House of Dale, hurriedly, and
leaving the bookkeeper sorely embarrassed in his labors, through the
loss of the voucher from which he was working snatched away by Mr.
Jones, and borne into the manufacturer's presence, as proof that his
absence was due to zealous watchfulness of his employer's interests,
rather than to personal motives.

"Tell Mr. Wilkins that I want to see him."

"Immediately, sir." Obadiah's voice demanded speed and Mr. Jones sped,
bearing the bookkeeper's work away with him.

In a moment the expeditious private secretary returned followed by
Hezekiah Wilkins who passed on into Obadiah's room and closed the door.

Obadiah was waiting behind a large desk in the center, and motioning to
his legal adviser to be seated, made known his business in these words.
"An embarrassing personal matter has occurred, Hezekiah, in which I
must ask your assistance." The manufacturer chose his words with care.
Diplomacy is necessary when asking corporation lawyers to attend to the
minor concerns of life. "It is so small a matter, I hesitate to ask
your advice."

Mr. Wilkins was short and fat. His head was bald and his face
intellectual. There was a glint of humor in his eyes which was very
noticeable when he removed his nose glasses for purposes of
gesticulation. His defective sight did not prevent him from casting a
keen glance at his employer, meanwhile tapping upon his front teeth
with the gold frame of his glasses. "Don't hesitate on my account,
Obadiah." There was a shadow of a smile on the attorney's face.
"I've done everything for you, but--" he intended to suggest as a
pleasantry--"bail you out of jail," but after a second's
consideration of his employer's grim countenance, he continued, "buy
you a marriage license," as being less likely to affront a sensitive
soul.

Now, Obadiah Dale had never given a moment's consideration to a second
marriage, and the thought that his attorney harbored inner suspicions
of matrimonial designs upon his part interfered with the thread of his
remarks. "What put that into your head?" he demanded, testily.

"Put what?" The fat face of the lawyer reflected great innocence.

"Marriage licenses," retorted Obadiah.

"Oh," chuckled the attorney, and quite frankly for one of his
profession, he confessed, "It just slipped out, I suppose."

The mill owner gave Hezekiah a severe glance as if to warn him of the
grave danger of slips of the tongue to one in his profession.

This attention was lost, because the lawyer seemed greatly interested in
the erection of a sign over the way.

Finding looks unavailing, Obadiah reverted to his business. "A fellow
on a motorcycle ran into my car this morning. He broke a leg and they
took him to the hospital where he is now, I believe."

"Who was to blame?" asked the attorney.

"I can't tell," Obadiah replied crossly, as he remembered Ike's
testimony. "I can't get a thing out of that fool chauffeur of mine.
His story is absurd."

"Were there witnesses?"

"One, I think, besides my daughter."

"What does she say?" Hezekiah tickled his chin with his glasses and
examined the picture moulding as if it were something unique in that line.

"I have not asked her, directly. I thought it inadvisable. I gather that
she believes herself to blame because she told the chauffeur to hurry
home."

"Ahem," said the lawyer, resuming his dental tattoo with great spirit.
"Who had the right of way?"

"The motorcycle was approaching from the right," admitted Obadiah
grudgingly.

Hezekiah arose to his feet and moved around until he stood opposite to
his employer. "Keep out of court, Obadiah," he warned him. "A jury
will soak you in this kind of case. How far can I go in a compromise?"
he concluded, perfunctorily.

"I won't pay a cent," roared Obadiah, flying into a rage. "They
can't bleed me."

Hezekiah understood the manufacturer's mood. He paused for a minute and
then continued very calmly. "How about a couple of hundred dollars and
hospital expenses?"

"No."

"The fellow's hospital expenses?" There was a persuasive note in the
lawyer's voice.

"No!" Obadiah's face was flushed and set in its obstinacy.

"The man may be poor. He may have dependents who will be deprived of
the actual necessities of life. It could easily be that suffering and
want would arise from this little case." There was a pleading note in
Hezekiah's voice and almost a look of entreaty upon his kindly face.

"I don't give a hang," snarled Obadiah. "That's their bad luck, not
mine."

Yet, the attorney waited, silently watching the angry manufacturer thrust
papers from side to side of his desk.

Finally he glanced up. His temper had worn itself out. "Fix it up for
twenty-five dollars," he snapped. "That's my limit."

Hezekiah shrugged his shoulders in frank disgust at the smallness of the
sum named, nodded his head in recognition of his instructions and left
the room.



CHAPTER VII

JOE PROVES INTERESTING


The morning was beautiful. During the hours of darkness a shower had
cleansed the great outdoor world with its gentle moisture. Now, in
all of its new laundered freshness, the earth welcomed the warm rays of
the rising sun, sweeping with millions of scintillating reflections
through the air, clear and pellucid in its purity. The rays sparkled
and glittered on the drops of moisture which clung to the grass blades
and to the leaves. They gave warm caresses to the bushes and to the
trees and from the upturned faces of the flowers, waving coyly and
coquettishly, they stole sly kisses, until the blossoms blushed red and
pink and hid their faces beneath the leaves for very shame.

Down from the hills danced a gentle breeze, and, catching the naughty
lovemakers, laughed merrily and rushed away to whisper the story in the
branches of the trees. The birds overheard it and they laughed, too, and
spread the news, the naughty gossips, in a cheery chorus of song.

Then the world awakened and heard the laughter of the wind and the merry
song of the birds and felt the caress of the sun and wise men threw
back their shoulders and took deep draughts of the morning air and were
happy, too.

At the hospital, a nurse in her garb of white was humming softly as she
moved about among the awakening patients, setting the ward in order. She
stopped by a bed to remove a glass from the enameled table.

A big, handsome fellow, arrayed in pink pajamas, opened a pair of black
eyes beneath a mop of disheveled black hair and smiled up at her.

"Good morning," she greeted him. "How are you this morning?"

"Good--ouch!" An attempt to move was the cause of the peculiar response.

She came to his assistance. "Isn't that better?"

"Yes, thank you. I forgot about yesterday's troubles while I slept.
How could I get so many sore spots when I only struck in one place?"
he asked.

The nurse laughed as she inspected his chart. "How's your head this
morning?"

"Sister--" he grinned good humoredly--"that dome of mine has
completely recovered. I am healing from the top down."

She raised a shade and a ray of sunshine flashed across the foot of his
bed. "Isn't that better? It's a beautiful day."

He rolled and twisted his eyes until he was able to get a glimpse of a
bit of blue sky through the window. His face registered great regret.
"What a day for a two or three hundred mile spin, sister," he mused.

Again she examined his chart. "Say, Mr. Joseph Tolliver Curtis," she
remonstrated sharply.

"Those who love me call me Joe," he interrupted in a gentle voice as
he watched with great interest and amusement the snap in her hazel eyes.

She disregarded the brazen hint and proceeded to reprimand. "It's time
for you to cut out this 'sister' business. I might stand for it once
in awhile but you have a chronic case of it. You took a spin yesterday
which is going to make us intimate acquaintances for some time."

"Oh death, where is thy sting?" he interjected.

Perfectly oblivious to his remark, she continued, "It will be better,
particularly for you, if our acquaintance is a pleasant one. You will
call me--Miss Knight--Mr. Curtis," she intimated with a grave dignity
which the wayward blonde curls beneath her cap did not loyally support.

"'Night, sable goddess, from ebon throne descends,'" he quoted with
dramatic emphasis. "Do you furnish breakfast as well as lectures on
behavior in this hospital?"

She retired with great hauteur between smiling masculine eyes to the end
of the ward. Suddenly, she whirled and waved her hand at the injured
one, and, as if addressing an old and intimate friend, called, "You can
have your breakfast in a minute, Joe."

In his apartment above the garage at the Dale home, Ike was awakened by
the shrill alarm of an electric bell rung from a button pressed by Serena
in the comfort of her own bed. Thus he arose betimes of necessity, rather
than from personal desire to salute the rising sun.

Breathing deeply, the spirit of the morning entered into the chauffeur's
veins as he watched a couple of fat robins enjoying a breakfast of
elastic worms pulled from the moist earth. Lifting his voice in muffled
song, he ran the big car out of the garage, and, opening its bonnet,
reclined on the radiator and lazily looked at the engine.

Like a high priestess veiled in clouds of incense while engaged in holy
mysteries, Serena moved about her kitchen in the midst of appetizing
odors, preparing coffee, frying ham and cooking waffles for the morning
refreshment of the Dales. Now, as if such dainties were insufficient, she
brought forth another skillet and put diverse parts of a fowl therein,
and with skilled, fork-armed hand shifted them about until they sissled
and hissed and fried.

The morning breeze faintly wafted pleasing odors to Ike. They assailed
his nostrils delightfully. He breathed yet a little deeper and sang
yet a little louder. Closing the bonnet, he climbed into a seat that
he might, in pleasant anticipation, rest from labor. Suddenly, there
came to him a more delicious scent. He sniffed in disbelief that fate
could be so kind, but his experienced olfactory nerves reassured him.
In such matters, they could not err.

"Chicken!" He sniffed and sought appropriate outlet for joy. With a
roar which shook the early peace of the neighborhood as a salute of
artillery, Ike raced the engine of the machine and in the midst of this
diabolical furore, he sang a paean of joy.

The uproar smote the calm of Serena's kitchen. She jerked with alarm,
but the wisdom of years asserted itself. Rushing out on the stoop she
fixed indignant eyes on the chauffeur. "You, Ike," she cried, "stop
dat noise."

He returned her words with a cheery smile of trust and confidence.
Deafened by his own row, he judged that she desired speech with him. The
engine slowed and the noise decreased until there could be distinguished
the words of a ballad of strenuous love,

    "Ah kissed 'er in de mouf
    An' ah hugged 'er in de souf."

"Ain' you know bettah an' to mek a noise dat a way, dis time in de
mo'ning?" the irritated cook inquired.

"Ah ain' mek no noise, Miss Sereny. Hit de _caah_," he made reply in
pleasant tones. It would be folly to irritate unduly the custodian of
the chicken lest the fowl be consumed before friendly relations could be
reestablished. His black face was bathed in good humor as he went on.
"Miss Sereny, ma hand an' ma foot done slip."

That smile disarmed the cook. It was his strongest weapon, but Ike
usually resorted to a sullen obstinacy which infuriated her, to his
undoing. She glared at him for a moment and then his smile and the
spirit of the morning claimed her. "You bettah watch you' step, den,"
she returned, and their voices blended in a boisterous gust of laughter.

Ike's salute to his favorite fowl awakened Virginia from her sleep
with a start. Sitting up in bed, she cast a frightened glance about
her pretty bedroom. For a moment she listened intently, drawn up in a
little white heap on her bed, her blue eyes misty with dreams, peeping
out from a frame of towsled hair. "It's Ike running the engine,"
she decided.

She gave a little yawn as she poked her feet into her slippers and
ran over to a window. From it she could look, between the tops of two
great elms, across the valley in which South Ridgefield lay to the
top of a small hill upon which, bathed in the morning sun, stood the
brick hospital building. Her eyes rested upon it, thoughtfully, and she
took a deep breath of morning air. She began to sing happily as she
turned to dress.

Obadiah was shaving in his bath room. He used an old fashioned razor,
the pride of his youth. His deep cut wrinkles made it a matter of
care--almost a ceremony. Ike's disturbance nearly resulted in the
amputation of a lip. Obadiah was peeved. Rushing to the window, he threw
it open. He heard Serena's words of remonstrance and determined to
dismiss Ike. He often did that.

Suddenly the morning breeze played caressingly about him. He pulled his
bath robe closer to him and slammed the window down. His face felt stiff
where the lather had dried upon it. "Darn the luck," growled Obadiah.
He washed his face, restropped his razor, reprepared his lather, and
finally completed his shave by nicking his neck on his Adam's apple.
"Dang it all," he howled. The world was ill using Obadiah and he
resented it. He dressed slowly and from his bedroom window moodily
viewed his beautiful grounds.

Into his view danced Virginia, swinging a wide brimmed hat by its
streamers and singing gaily as she made for a bed of sweet peas.

Obadiah watched her, but the harsh lines upon his face did not soften
nor the irascible look fade. He gave a grim nod when the girl discovered
him and shouted a merry greeting.

There was no one in the dining room when the manufacturer entered it that
morning. He seated himself and began to eat his melon.

The rich voice of Serena with all of its carrying power came in at the
window, "Yo' all bettah git in yere mighty fas'. You' Daddy done eat
up all de breakfus'."

Then sounded the answering words of the girl, ringing silvery and sweet,
"Ask Daddy to wait. I have some beautiful flowers for him."

Serena was suddenly beset with internal mutterings and grumblings
and broke into incoherent utterances. "Ah ain' got no time--no
time--flowers--tell him dat--No siree--Ah ain' no fool." A few moments
later she entered the dining room worrying aloud. "Dat chil' gwine be
fo'ced to eat a col' breakfus. Ah caint keep grub hot all day."

"She must learn to be on time at her meals," Obadiah scolded.

Serena gave him a look of stern disapprobation. "Dat gal miss 'er
breakfus er gittin' flowers fo' yo' all."

Light feet ran through the hall and Virginia skipped into the room, her
face flushed, her hair tossed and a bunch of sweet peas in either hand.

Unexpectedly, two soft arms were about Obadiah's neck. He found his face
buried in a mass of blossoms while girlish laughter in peals of delight
rang in his ears.

Virginia shifted her position to examine in mock solemnity the sober
face of her father blinking from the mass of delicate colors. She gave a
shout of amusement. "Daddy, you don't match very well." She shifted
the bouquets about his face. "There, that is much better," she decided.
"Don't you think so, Serena?"

Obadiah sneezed.

"God bless you," Virginia whispered.

"Take those things out of my nose," protested Obadiah.

"You look so beautiful," the girl giggled. "Doesn't he, Serena?"

The colored woman watched the proceedings with great gravity. "Leave
you' Daddy 'lone, chil'," she urged. "De breakfus gwine be ruined."

Obadiah released himself from his daughter's embrace and the blossoms
dropped in a glowing mass upon the table. "Eat your breakfast and stop
this foolishness," he told her.

"I'll eat anything you'll give me, Daddy dear. I am as hungry as a
bear." She glanced at the clock. "It's late. I must hurry to get over
to the hospital."

"What for?" he asked in apparent surprise.

"To see the man who was hurt yesterday. I spoke to you about it."

"Yes, but upon reflection I think it inadvisable. You might catch some
disease in a place like that. You must think of yourself."

A look of disappointment came into her face. She ate in silence, the
gayety of the morning swept away by his refusal.

When breakfast was over, she followed him into the living room where he
sank into a chair and devoted himself to his paper. Thinking deeply,
she paused by the center table. Very quietly, she opened a drawer and
took from it the book which had belonged to her mother. She caressed
the little volume gently for a moment, a great tenderness in her eyes.
Then she replaced it. Determination had driven disappointment from her
face and there was a faint reflection of his obstinacy in her jaw when
she went over and confronted her father. "Daddy," she commenced,
very softly. "All your life you have been helping people--thinking
of others. In your thoughtfulness for my health you wish to keep me away
from the hospital. But, don't you see, I was to blame for that accident.
It is my duty to help that man, if I can. I must go."

Obadiah glanced over his paper at Virginia as she began to speak.
Realizing that her words savored of rank rebellion, he reddened and
glared at the sheet before him as if it contained a warning of the
presence in his household of a serpent pledged to destroy its peace.
"What--what--what's this?" he spluttered.

"I can't allow your love to make a coward of me--turn me from my duty,
Daddy."

Obadiah blinked as he considered this mutiny. Judgment and experience
warned him to control himself. Unpleasant differences in the past had
not always resulted as he could have wished. There had been times when
he had been forced not only to sue Virginia for peace but likewise to
make abject overtures to that firmest of allies, Serena.

Obadiah thought rapidly. Outside of moral suasion, modern opinion
recognizes but few methods for the influencing of eighteen year old
female insurgents. If Obadiah argued, he would get mad. In his dilemma,
he surrendered, but not with good grace. "Well," he yielded sulkily,
"if you feel that way about it, have it your own way." Scowling
darkly, he flung his paper from him and departed for his office with
asperity.

From the porch Virginia waved him a last good bye. "Poor Daddy. He is so
afraid that I will get sick," she thought, pensively, as she watched
the disappearing car. But in a moment her good spirits returned and she
hurried into the kitchen. Serena was forced to lay aside her work until
the chicken was daintily arranged in a basket with other delicacies
added by the old negress in reparation, possibly, for her weakness in
yielding to Ike a small portion of the invalid's fare.

Later that morning Virginia arrived at the hospital. Following the
directions given her, she found herself standing in the doorway of a
long room on the second floor. On each side of a center aisle ran a row
of white bedsteads. The walls, painted a dull buff, were pierced by
many windows and the linoleum in the aisle and the hard wood floor
were waxed and polished until they shone. In this place, cleanliness,
fresh air, and sunshine reigned.

The beds were filled with pajama clad men. To the embarrassed young girl
it was as if she had blundered into a man's bedroom, and impulsively
she turned to flee.

A cheery voice arrested her, and the nurse whom she had met in the
reception room on the previous day greeted her. "I told you that I
would meet you here." She smiled with a frank cordiality which instantly
dissipated the visitor's embarrassment.

Virginia knew now that she liked this young woman, even though she was
a great tease, so she answered the smile with one of equal friendliness
and told her, "It is nice to find someone I know"; but instantly she
referred to the cause for her visit. "How is he?"

"I think that we have his fever under control," laughed the nurse.

"Now she is beginning to tease," thought Virginia. "I won't notice
it."

The nurse went on. "He is really getting along fine. If I were you I
shouldn't give a moment's worry to that young man's health. Don't
trouble to plan your remarks to him, either. He won't listen to them. He
does most of the talking."

The walk down the aisle between those beds, each with its pair of
masculine optics, was a trial for the girl. It seemed miles. At last,
safely by this gauntlet of inquisitive male glances, she found herself
looking down into those same black eyes which had looked into hers
for a second out on Forest Avenue. Then they were dazed with pain,
now they were filled with friendly inquiry.

The nurse, Miss Knight, was direct and explicit. "Joe," she announced,
"this is the young lady who says that she put you here."

Joe accepted this surprising remark as a matter of amusement which
increased as the nurse went on.

"Now she comes to soften the hard blows with tender words and kind
attentions."

Virginia blushed furiously. She thought Miss Knight's manner towards
men distinctly common.

A deep voice came from the bed. "I am very glad to meet you and be able
to thank you for what I have been told you did for me, Miss Dale. That
accident was my hard luck." He put his whole soul into his smile of
welcome and the girl knew that she liked it.

Having endeavored to relieve his guest's embarrassment, he turned upon
Miss Knight, the greatly delighted cause of it, and adapted his manner
and speech to her case. "Say, sister, blow. Blow while the breeze will
toss you away. I haven't noticed any invitations for you to sit in on
this peace conference."

The nurse flared at his words, although his smile had tempered them.
Drawing herself up, she made answer with great dignity.

"You don't need to urge me not to hang around while your wounds are
being dressed with soothing lotions. It's not necessary to hit me with
an automobile to get me out of the way," she exclaimed with great
sarcasm, and flounced away.

"The gloom of night departs," he chuckled, and, turning dancing eyes
upon his visitor, continued softly, "and now comes dawn."

Virginia flushed again. "For all that you know, it may be stormy,"
she retorted, astonished at her own glib tongue. The merry banter of
the patient and nurse had surprised her. She had been taught that this
sort of thing was vulgar. Yet, somehow, it didn't seem so dreadful.
She suspected that she rather liked it and was troubled by this symptom
of innate depravity. Now she became aware that those black eyes were
studying her, and mischief gleamed in their depths.

"Our meeting was very sudden yesterday," he laughed. "I didn't
have a chance to give you my card. My name is Joseph Tolliver Curtis.
Those who--" he hesitated and then went on--"are my friends, call me
Joe." Happiness radiated from him. He was so good humored that it
was contagious.

The visitor beamed upon the patient. "My name is Virginia Dale," she
explained.

"I know it," he admitted, and then, with the manner of intense personal
interest, he demanded, "Do your friends--your intimate friends--by any
chance call you 'Virge'?"

"I should say not." The girl's eyes flashed as she retorted, "They
would hear from me."

"By letter," he inquired, "or telephone?" In a moment he continued,
"I have it. You will sing to them just as you are going to sing to me."

"Sing to you?"

"Of course you are going to sing to me. Every one who visits a hospital
should sing. It was found wonderfully soothing to the patients in
the big army hospitals during the war. After they had listened to
the performers they were more contented to endure their suffering."

"They would have died on the spot if I'd sung," she answered.

They both laughed in the exuberance of their youth at their own nonsense
until his injured ribs stopped him and she became very serious.

"I came, today--" her manner was almost shy--"to tell you how sorry
I am for that accident. It makes me unhappy to think of you suffering
here through my fault."

"How can you blame yourself? You had nothing at all to do with it," he
declared with great earnestness.

"I told our chauffeur to hurry," she explained, and then with finality,
"if he hadn't, there would have been no collision."

Again his injured ribs subdued his laughter. "If everybody had stayed
off the street, I wouldn't have been hurt. That's your argument." He
studied her face for a moment and then resumed. "Listen, I am going to
tell you a secret. Promise never to tell."

"Honest," she agreed.

"I was running away over the speed limit. I must have been going forty
miles an hour."

Virginia became the custodian of his secret with great calmness and
solemnly confessed, "We were running over the speed limit, too. Ike
usually does. He knows that I enjoy going fast. The speed limit in this
town is away too low, I think."

"Yes," he concurred, "I wouldn't have been hurt worse if I had been
running twice as fast. The point is, that we could both be arrested and
fined for speeding."

"They always arrest Ike," she explained with complacency. "He doesn't
care a bit. He's used to it." Anxiety arose in her eyes. "Surely,
they wouldn't arrest one as badly hurt as you?"

"You don't know that judge." Joe spoke with experience. "If they
brought a dying man into his court who had only fifty dollars to leave
to his widow and children, that judge would take it from him for
speeding. That is, if he rode a motorcycle."

"Oh, the injustice of it. Doesn't he care for motorcyclists?"

"No," asserted Joe with great forcefulness. "Nobody likes a
motorcyclist."

"I do," proclaimed Virginia, and then, after taking a moment to recover
from the embarrassment of her own outspokenness, she continued, "It's
not right. They are entitled to equal justice," as if enunciating a
newly discovered truth.

"Sure, they are entitled to it, but they don't get it. That's why I
must keep quiet. My accident insurance will take care of my hospital
bills and my job will keep."

"Why don't you collect damages?" urged Virginia with great gravity.

"From whom?"

After a moment's consideration, she solved the legal problem. "From
me--that is, from my father, for me."

At the reference to her father a change came in the injured man. His good
humor faded. "No," he said decidedly. "In the first place I wouldn't
accept money from your father and in the second place he would not give
any."

"You don't know my father," she said with pride. "He is a very
just man. Sometimes he's gruff and a little cross but he doesn't
mean anything by that. He always wants to do the right and generous
thing." Her face was alight with loyalty and admiration.

"Does he?" There was a note of sarcasm in his voice which disappeared,
and he said no more after he had read her eyes.

She misinterpreted the change in him. "I have stayed too long," she
worried. "You are tired." She remembered the chicken. "I brought you
something." She put the plate of fowl beside him.

He viewed it in joyous anticipation. "Fine," he shouted. "If there is
one thing I love, it is fried chicken. How did you guess it?"

She smiled at Miss Knight who had joined them. "A bird told me," she
answered him.

The nurse put her hands on her hips and viewed the visitor with marked
suspicion at this remark, but, as if satisfied that her distrust was
unfounded, she retired to the diet kitchen from which hearty laughter
immediately thereafter resounded.

"Good bye," she told him almost shyly.

His good spirits had returned. "You and I are friends, and remember, we
are always going to be friends."

She nodded and said again, "Good bye, Mr. Curtis."

"My friends call me Joe," he reminded her.

Virginia hesitated, and then, "Good bye--Joe," she whispered and left
the ward with a sweet little smile.

In the hall Miss Knight rejoined her. "Before you go I want to show
you something which is our pride and joy at the present moment," she
explained to the girl. She opened a door and displayed a beautifully
furnished room which glistened in its cleanliness.

"It is very attractive, but why is the room different?" asked Virginia.

The nurse pointed to a bronze tablet. It bore the name of the donor, one
well known in South Ridgefield.

"What a beautiful idea," the girl exclaimed.

"Isn't it?" responded the nurse. "The gift includes not only the
furniture but the endowment of the bed for five years." She laughed.
"The man who gave it is ahead of the game. He was hurt in a railroad
accident and was here for a couple of months. He sued the railroad
company and collected more than enough from them to do this."

Afterwards, by Virginia's express wish, she was taken to the nursery
and permitted to hold a recently arrived guest in her arms, who
happened at the moment to be awake. She was allowed to peek into the
maternity ward with its beds filled with women, and her tour ended in
the dispensary where she met Dr. Jackson and a nurse who were busily
engaged in caring for the ailments of the sick babies the mothers
brought in from outside. At last she left for home, and on the way
she thought of this strange new world she had been shown in this big
brick building, but principally she thought of a pair of black eyes that
laughed and of the gross injustices to which down trodden motorcyclists
were the victims.

Later that afternoon, Miss Knight was very busy among the shining
utensils in the diet kitchen when she was disturbed by another visitor.

"I beg your pardon," said a voice, "but could you direct me to a
patient? My name," he continued suavely, "is Wilkins--Hezekiah
Wilkins." He wiped his bald head, and went on. "It's very warm
today--extremely so."

"Sure, it's warm," agreed Miss Knight, "and this electric heater
makes it a darn sight warmer."

Hezekiah intended to give the nurse a look of sympathetic understanding,
but ended by giving her a friendly grin. "I comprehend your point of
view," he added. "A trip to a pleasant resort would be more agreeable,
don't you think?"

Miss Knight viewed his words in the sense of a tentative invitation and
considered the merriment in his eyes suspicious in one of his age. She
froze and demanded with the utmost frigidity, "Whom do you wish to see?"

Utterly innocent that he had all but persuaded this sophisticated nurse
that he was one of those aged profligates of whom young women had
best beware, Hezekiah drew forth an envelope upon which he had entered
certain notes which he now found difficult to decipher, and told her.

She led the way and the lawyer followed through the ranks of curious
eyes. He vigorously mopped at his shining cranium and held his inverted
panama before him as if taking a collection of errant drops of moisture
that they might not mar the polished floor. This detracted from the
dignity of Hezekiah's progress.

Seating himself by Joe Curtis's bed, the attorney gazed at the youth
for a few moments in polite curiosity.

The motorcyclist returned the look with one of undisguised distrust.

"My name is Hezekiah Wilkins," announced the lawyer when the mutual
scrutiny had continued so long that it threatened to become embarrassing.
"I have reasons to believe that I am speaking to Mr. Joseph Tolliver
Curtis."

"You've got me, Steve," responded Joe.

"I've what?" inquired Hezekiah, much perplexed. Light dawned upon
him. "Oh, yes--quite so--assuredly," he indulged in a soft chuckle.
"I am dense at times. Slow might be better, eh?" Again he chuckled.
"Slow for the rising generations, particularly--" he smiled genially
at Joe--"when they ride motorcycles."

Joe abated none of his vigilance. His policy was that of watchful waiting.

"The day is very warm," continued Hezekiah, looking about the ward
with interest. "This is a delightfully cool and pleasant place. You
are to be congratulated upon having such comfortable quarters in which
to recuperate."

"Say!" Joe's voice was distinctly hostile. "Are you the advertising
agent for this hospital?"

Hezekiah's trained ear sensed unfriendliness abroad. He changed his
manner of approach with the quickness of a skilled strategist. "Mr.
Curtis," he went on briskly, "I represent Mr. Obadiah Dale. You have
no doubt heard of him?"

Joe nodded.

"Your motorcycle ran into Mr. Dale's automobile yesterday," the
lawyer resumed. "I do not come to seek compensation for the injury to
his car. I am delighted, finding you as I do upon a bed of pain, to
be upon a much pleasanter mission." Hezekiah smiled benignantly.
"There was a witness to the accident. With some difficulty, I have
located him and procured his statement. While it may be conceded that
this person has no special skill or training in estimating the speed of
moving vehicles, he is" (the attorney's manner expressed assurance)
"prepared to testify that you were operating your machine at a speed
in excess of that permitted by law." He paused as if awaiting an
incriminating admission.

"Go on," snapped Joe.

Hezekiah continued with increased emphasis. "Assuming this to be true,
it appears that you were entirely or in part responsible for the accident
and the consequent damage to Mr. Dale's car and your own person."

"Not on your life," cried Joe with great excitement. "I have a witness
who says the Dale car was to blame for the accident and that it was
exceeding the speed limit."

"Surely." Mr. Wilkins chuckled. "There are always witnesses for both
sides. My gracious, if this were not true how could we have law suits?
It's the reputation of a witness for truth and veracity which counts
in court, my boy."

"I know it."

"Admitting your witness," Hezekiah resumed with great cheerfulness,
"the speed of your own machine is certain to be the subject of
controversy. My client has no desire to enter into this. He waives
it." Hezekiah likewise waved his glasses and then went on speaking
much more rapidly as one hurrying to be rid of a task in which he has
no heart. "My client not only waives your personal responsibility
and the material damage suffered by him, but authorizes me, in his
behalf, to tender you this check in the sum of twenty-five dollars to
assist in the defrayment of your hospital expenses."

Joe Curtis's eyes flashed with temper. "Obadiah Dale and his money can
go straight to the devil," he roared, in a voice which startled the
entire ward and made the lawyer jump.

"Calm yourself, Sir," urged Hezekiah. "Undue excitement is injudicious
in your physical condition. Bless my soul, there may be grounds for
differences over the sum tendered, but I can see no reason for intense
anger."

Down the aisle came Miss Knight, stern of face. "Say," she demanded,
"do you think that this is a livery stable, Joe? If you do, you had
better wake up. That rough stuff doesn't go around here. Do you get me?"

He gave her a most sheepish glance. "Sister," he began.

The nurse's eyes flashed. "Must I speak to you again about that
'sister' habit. I won't stand for it." She explained to the lawyer,
"I not only have to nurse these men but I have to teach them manners,
too."

Before her righteous indignation, a great meekness descended upon Joe.
"I am sorry, Miss Knight. I didn't mean to start a rough house, only
I--got mad." He smiled at her.

She surrendered to his humility and that smile. She adjusted his pillow
and brushed the hair back from his eyes with her hand. "You are a bad
boy, Joe. I am going to forgive you for this, but the next time you
start anything, you will be punished." She shook a threatening finger
at him. "Do you understand?"

"Yes'm," he answered in the tone and manner of a naughty small boy.
He rolled his head towards the lawyer. "I owe you an apology for losing
my temper."

"Never mind, my boy," said Hezekiah, who had viewed the calming of the
storm with relief. "A gale clears the atmosphere. Plain speaking begets
clear understanding." Resuming his glasses, the lawyer regarded the
youth with great friendliness, and, after a moment, deemed it safe to go
on. "You expressed yourself so--ah--" (he sought for an inoffensive
term) "with such certainty of feeling that I assume that you have
determined upon some measure of adjustment yourself."

Again Joe Curtis's eyes flashed. "There can be no adjustment between
Obadiah Dale and me," he answered coldly.

"No?" Hezekiah's regret had the ring of sincerity. "In a friendly
spirit towards you, my boy," he urged, "I would advise against the
development of an hostile feeling towards Mr. Dale. He had no more to
do with that accident than the man in the moon."

"I know it," admitted Joe.

"The institution of an action at law is an expensive proceeding. As a
lawyer I warn you that the outcome would be extremely uncertain. Who can
tell what a jury will do?" Hezekiah shook his head solemnly, thereby
registering his grave doubts of the action of twelve men good and true.

"Institute an action," repeated Joe, his eyes dancing with mischief.
"Say, Uncle, when I sue that old skate, it sure is going to be some
case."

Hezekiah waxed indignant. This may have been due either to Joe's
intimation of relationship to himself or to the opprobrious designation
of his client as an old skate. "Don't mislead yourself," he exclaimed
peevishly. "You will be thrown out of court."

Joe ruffled visibly. "Who is going to throw me out of court?" he
demanded. "Obadiah Dale?" Another idea struck him. He gave the lawyer a
most threatening and pugnacious glance. "Maybe you think _you_ can
do it?"

Hezekiah's amazement at the suspicion that either he or his client
contemplated physical violence upon this young giant, swathed in
bandages, was extreme. "Gorry diamonds, you must be crazy," he
gasped, and then the other's point of view came to him. He burst into
a big booming peal of honest amusement, an infectious laugh which
brought instant peace. "My friend," he chuckled, "you misunderstand
me. I attempted to suggest that in view of the evidence which I can
produce, a court would refuse to consider your claim."

"Not with the witness I have," Joe insisted.

"Well, what about this wonderful witness of yours?" chuckled Hezekiah,
comfortable in the assurance of holding the master hand.

"My witness" (the calmness of his voice did not quite conceal a note of
exultation in it) "is Virginia Dale."



CHAPTER VIII

ANOTHER OPPORTUNITY


In the Dale home, dinner was served in the middle of the day on Sunday,
and Serena caused the meal to partake of the nature of a banquet.
Abstemious in week day luncheons, Obadiah succumbed to the flesh pots
on the seventh day and thereafter relapsed into slumber during digestion
even as a boa-constrictor.

He was sleeping off his Sunday engorgement in a porch chair. His head
drooped awkwardly and he had slumped into his best clothes, while from
time to time he choked and coughed and made weird noises. All about him
lay the peace of a summer Sabbath broken only by the low hum of the bees
gathering sweetness from the blooming honeysuckle vine near by. Only
the energetic resisted the combined attacks of plenteousness and the
somnolent afternoon.

Virginia had not surrendered to the soporific tendencies of the hour.
She had conversed with her father until made aware that, mentally
speaking, he was no longer with her. Such knowledge is discouraging even
to the most enthusiastic of female dialogists, and so, as the minutes
passed, her words lost force and her sentences fire. Compelled to seek
other fields of interest, the girl strolled aimlessly about the lawn
until she came to the gate. The street looked cool and inviting beneath
its arching elms and she moved down it slowly. She had almost reached
the corner when a woman's voice sounded from an awning shaded porch,
"Virginia, come here. Don't you pass my house without stopping." It
was Mrs. Henderson.

"Yes, Hennie, I'm coming. I was sure that you were taking a nap."
The girl turned up a walk, bordered with blooming rose bushes, towards
an old-fashioned house. "You are as busy as usual, I suppose?" she
continued, after she had been affectionately greeted by her hostess.

Mrs. Henderson nodded. No other woman in South Ridgefield gave as much
of her time and, proportionately, of her wealth to help others as did
this strangely constituted widow. Hers was a frank nature, given to the
expression of its views without regard to time or place. She had the
faculty of so phrasing her remarks that they cut their victim cruelly
and convulsed her hearers. So, respected for her innate goodness, and
feared for her sharp tongue, Mrs. Henderson had many acquaintances
but few friends. She was judged in the light of a magazine of high
explosives, dangerous to those near, but likely to blow up if left
without attention. Many were her friends because they were afraid not
to be, but there were those who appreciated her character. Strangely,
these were they who had waged mighty battles with her, to emerge from
strife her devoted adherents. Having felt her sting, they dubbed her
harmless as a dove, delighting in her intimate companionship. Such a one
had been Virginia's mother.

But Obadiah had no place in this category. Soon after the death of his
wife, Mrs. Henderson had discovered that a girl who worked in his mill
was sick and in dire want. She asked him to assist the sufferer, but,
to her surprise, the mill owner refused. Thereupon, Mrs. Henderson,
without mincing words, expressed her opinion of him. Also, she repeated
her remarks to a friend.

Obadiah's legs were thin, and under stress of excitement he pitched
his voice high. When it became known that Mrs. Henderson had likened the
mill owner, to his face, to a mosquito sucking blood from his employees,
the whole town laughed. The tale spread to his mill, during a time of
labor unrest, and a cartoon portraying the manufacturer as a mosquito
hovering about emaciated workers was circulated.

A strike followed in which the employees were successful and Obadiah
never forgave Mrs. Henderson for giving a weapon to his opponents.
Yet, strangely enough, he had never attempted to interfere with her
friendship for his daughter. Possibly, knowing the widow, he feared that
she would openly defy him, and, abetted by Serena, carry the war into his
own house, to the greater enjoyment of his fellow townsmen.

As Mrs. Henderson welcomed Virginia, she was thinking of other things
than Obadiah. She was filled with amusement and gave vent to laughter.
"Dearie, how on earth did you get mixed up with that minstrel parade? I
never dreamed that my little girl would startle this town." Again the
widow gave way to merriment. She was thinking of a group of women she
had caught discussing with great unkindness the outcome of the girl's
efforts to make the pickaninnies happy. Hennie's championship of her
favorite had been unusually vigorous, and the endeavors of the critics
to reverse themselves had resembled a stampede.

"We had nothing to do with the parade," Virginia told her. "We
followed it so that the orphans might enjoy the music. As we had nearly
frightened them out of their wits, I took them for a ride to make up."

"I heard how you came to take the orphans for a ride. I could understand
that, but the minstrel part puzzled me," Mrs. Henderson's amusement
faded into seriousness. "That ride idea is a splendid one. It would
add so much to the happiness of those children." She continued, "I
have been on the Board of that Home for years. There are so many
things to be done over there and so little to do with. No one is
particularly interested in the place. We must find some way, though,
to arrange rides for those orphans now that you have started things
going."

Virginia was instantly fired with great enthusiasm. "I'll take them
out each week, myself," she promised.

Mrs. Henderson smiled. "We can't allow you to continue to excite too
much interest in this town."

The girl disregarded the objection. "But I started it, Hennie."

"That is very true, but you can't expect your father to let you use
his fine car for those children. Anyway, it is not necessary to bother
about that, because it is entirely too small. We need a truck. Something
in which movable seats can be placed."

"Like those at the mill? Why not ask Daddy for one of them?" suggested
Virginia.

"They would be the very thing," Mrs. Henderson admitted, but she shook
her head hopelessly. "Your father would never let you have one of them.
We must look elsewhere."

"Oh, yes, he will, Hennie," Virginia assured her with great confidence.
The widow's doubting eye moved the girl to remonstrate, "You don't
know him at all. I think that it is the strangest thing, that you have
been my father's neighbor all of these years and don't understand him
better."

Mrs. Henderson displayed sudden stern-eyed interest in a flower bed upon
her lawn, and the toe of her shoe softly tapped the floor of the porch.

The girl leaned towards the older woman, her face aglow with pride
and admiration, as she searched for some acknowledgment of her words.
"Daddy is so noble and so good," she explained in a voice modulated by
tenderness. "He spends all of his time thinking about other people."

The lines of Mrs. Henderson's mouth relaxed, and the tempo of the
tapping toe slowed. Her eyes twinkled merrily.

"Isn't it wonderful, Hennie?" and Virginia looked up to a face for a
moment puzzled.

"Very wonderful, child," responded the widow, and Virginia never
dreamed that there was a delicate note of sarcasm in the voice. Leaning
forward, Mrs. Henderson clasped the girl's hand. "Your father is a
lucky man to have such love and affection," she said, and then as
though thinking aloud, she murmured, "I hope that he appreciates it."
After a pause she returned to the subject of the orphans with great
vigor. "Some one in this town must loan us a truck. That is all there is
about it."

"Let Daddy do it. He will love to."

The hopeful enthusiasm of the girl was lost upon the older woman. "Well,
it will do no harm to give him the opportunity," she conceded dryly;
"but I wouldn't count on it too much if I were you." Suddenly, she
remembered something. "Dear me, I almost forgot it. I must run over to
the Lucinda Home a minute. You come along, dear," she urged.

"Hennie, I can't. I haven't a hat. I am not dressed to go out."

Mrs. Henderson smiled. "It doesn't make any difference what you wear
over there. Most of the old ladies are so nearly blind that they can't
tell what you have on."

So Virginia agreed to go, and, as the distance to the institution was
short, in a few minutes they entered the grounds.

The Lucinda Home for Aged Women occupied a large brick building. A
triple-decked porch, supported by posts and brackets of ornamental iron
work covered the entire front of the edifice and afforded delightful
resting places from which to view the beautiful grounds.

The two women ascended the steps to the lower porch. On either side of
the entrance stretched a line of chairs occupied by old ladies. They
rocked and fanned and stared across the grounds with dulled, unseeing
eyes, as if watching and waiting for something.

The afternoon light flashed against the spectacles. It brought out the
snow of the moving heads. It showed the deep carved lines of age and it
disclosed the hands, knotted and toil worn.

Once these faces were soft and full; these eyes snapped with health and
joy. Love showered its kisses. The world showed wondrously beautiful
in the tender light of romance and the voice of hope rang clear and
strong. Came babies for these hands to fondle and caress, and tiny
forms to be upheld as little feet struggled in first steps upon the
rough and hilly path. Noble deeds of unselfishness gleamed in the
shadowed lives of these women as they battled with the adversities
which all who live must face. Slowly their beauty faded; their eyes
no longer sparkled; their hands were red and hard. Little ones grew
into men and women and went away, filled with hope and proud in their
strength, leaving loneliness behind. Through the years, a shadow,
almost indiscernible to youthful eyes, drew ever closer. One by one,
they had seen friends and loved ones pass behind the black veil, until
they were alone in a world, cold, loveless, without hope, waiting----

Waiting. Yes, waiting--slowly rocking and fanning--living anew the past,
and peering out into the sunshine as if they sought with their poor eyes
to glimpse the approach of that enfolding shadow of mystery.

The visitors paused for a moment at the entrance, sobered by the tragedy
of age. Near them, an old woman became suddenly active. The sweep of her
chair increased as she glanced at Virginia. She stopped and whispered to
her neighbor.

This aged one started, as if awakened from slumber, and she, too,
inspected the girl. Then, she placed her lips by the ear of her deaf
companion and in a shrill voice of great carrying power, cried, "Powder
makes her look pale. They all use it nowadays." She stopped for breath
and screamed, "Her dress is too short. Her mother ought to have better
sense than to let her run around that way."

Luckily for the embarrassed girl, at this moment Mrs. Henderson led her
into the reception room and left her to regain her composure while she
transacted her business with the matron in an adjoining room.

The remarkable quiet which reigned in this home of age oppressed
Virginia, so that when Mrs. Henderson returned with the matron, she
cried, impulsively, "Oh, Hennie, I am glad that you are back. This
place is so still that it is lonesome."

Mrs. Henderson turned to Mrs. Smith, the matron. "That is what I have
always said," she argued. "The old ladies like it quiet, but we overdo
it here. The place is a grave. We should have more entertainment." She
looked questioningly at the girl. "What do you think should be done,
child?"

Virginia's blue eyes were very serious as she answered, "I hardly
know--almost anything which would make it happier. It needs something
to stir it up," she ended impulsively.

The older woman laughed and Mrs. Henderson put her arm about the girl's
waist, and suggested, "You have nothing on your hands, child. Why can't
you arrange some sort of an entertainment for these elderly women?"

"Oh, I couldn't," she demurred shyly.

"Certainly you can, you are quite old enough to undertake the task of
making these old people happier for an afternoon."

Into the girl's mind came a remembrance of her birthday gift. "I will
be glad to do it, Hennie," she agreed with great seriousness.

They paused at Mrs. Henderson's gate as they returned from the Lucinda
Home. "Won't you come in, dear?" urged the older woman.

The girl, dreamily engaged in planning marvelous but impossible
entertainments for the stirring up of the old ladies, did not hear.

"Come and have tea with a solitary somebody?" the widow begged the
girl wistfully. "You think that the Lucinda Home is lonesome, but
don't forget that an old lady who loved your mother and who loves
you is lonesome, too."

"Dearest Hennie, you haven't the slightest idea of what loneliness
is." Virginia smiled sweetly at the older woman and kissed her. "I
would enjoy taking tea with you but I must not forget my father. Probably
all afternoon he has been making plans to help the people who work in his
mill. I think he is so like my mother--always trying to make other people
happier. You loved her, Hennie, and you know him. I want you to help me
to be unselfish like them."

During this recital, Mrs. Henderson underwent a severe test in
self-repression, the high praise of Obadiah's disinterestedness
nearly causing severe internal injury. There was yet an ominous flash
in her eye as she bade the girl farewell.

Virginia found her father awaiting her. His digestive organs were
protesting by certain unpleasant twinges, against the extra work he had
forced upon them.

"Where have you been?" he demanded of her sharply.

She dropped into the chair by his side. "At Mrs. Henderson's, Daddy."

"You left me alone," he complained.

"You went to sleep and I was so lonesome, Daddy dear."

"That makes no difference. You should not have left me. You have the
week days to yourself. I ought to have your Sundays."

"Oh, I am sorry that I was so thoughtless," Virginia reproached
herself, with a suspicion of tears in her eyes.

"Yes, you were thoughtless," Obadiah grumbled. "You must learn to
think of others. Don't get teary. That always disturbs me."

Virginia was engaged in a battle to keep back her tears when the notes of
a ragtime melody resounded through the calm of the Sabbath evening. Ike
approached. The gorgeousness of his apparel eliminated every variety of
lily, except the tiger, from consideration. His suit was of electric
blue. His shirt was white, broadly striped with royal purple, and it
peeped modestly from beneath a tie of crimson. His hat was straw,
decorated with a sash of more tints than the bow of promise.

Ike was happy. He had loitered through the afternoon before the meeting
house of his faith, impressing the brethren and the sisters with the
magnificence of his attire. He deemed it, socially speaking, to have
been a perfect day.

It was now his intention to partake of refreshment before returning
again into the shadow of the sacred edifice, not then, however, to give
pleasure to the faithful in general, but rather for the special and
particular delight of an amber hued maiden who at the moment held his
flitting fancy.

Filled with pleasant anticipations and in cadence with his melody, Ike
approached the house.

Obadiah arose hastily as the sweet tones struck his ear and awaited the
arrival of the musical one at the edge of the porch.

At the sight of the gaunt form of the manufacturer, a dulcet timbre
departed from Ike's performance and as he approached, the volume of
sound diminished in proportion to the square of the distance. Opposite
the mill owner it ceased.

"Good evening Misto Dale." The voice was humbly courteous.

Disdaining the kindly salutation of his hireling, Obadiah made outcry.
"I want the car. Get the car," he commanded.

Ike halted.

These were portentous words. The Dale car was not often used on the
seventh day. Ike himself was opposed to the Sunday riding habit.
Assuming a confidential attitude towards his employer as if imparting
a secret of moment, he intimated, "Ah ain' got no confidence in dat
lef' han' hin' tiah, Misto Dale, a tall."

Obadiah glared at the tasty garb of his minion with disgust, and flew
into a rage. "I pay you to put confidence in that tire," he bleated.

"Yas'r, yas'r," Ike surrendered hurriedly. "Ah gwine pump er li'l
aiah in dat tiah. Dat fix 'im."

When Ike, shorn of his finery, returned with the car, Virginia, in
obedience to an abrupt invitation from her father, was prepared to
join him for the ride.

Obadiah's conscience did not usually trouble him; but today, as the
machine started and he settled himself by his daughter, it struck him
that she seemed unusually pale. He could not well overlook, either,
the note of sadness which had played about the girl's mouth and eyes
since his remarks to her. These things made Obadiah uncomfortable. His
explosion at Ike had acted as a counter-irritant to his indigestion,
and he felt relieved.

They passed a woman driving a pretty runabout. In times of great good
feeling Obadiah had avowed his intention of purchasing Virginia a light
car which she could drive herself. However, it took direct affirmative
action to persuade the mill owner to open his check book even for his
own family; and, as Virginia had been contented with the big car and Ike
to drive it, nothing had ever come of the intention.

"Did you notice that runabout?" Obadiah inquired. "How would one of
that type suit you?" If he could get Virginia to chatter along as usual,
he could enjoy his evening.

"Oh, I'd like it," she exclaimed. The girl was thinking rapidly. Not
for nothing was she Obadiah's daughter when it was necessary to take
advantage of a situation. "I thought that you had given up the idea of
getting me a car, Daddy."

"No, indeed. It seemed to me that you were not particularly interested
in one." He shrewdly placed the responsibility for delay upon her.

"I am _now_. More so than ever," Virginia declared. "I wasn't sure
before what kind of a car I wanted. Now I know."

"Well?" Obadiah's enthusiasm in the proposed purchase had cooled as
hers increased.

She squeezed his arm up against her and announced breathlessly, "I want
a truck, Daddy."

"A truck!" Obadiah viewed his daughter as if he deemed the immediate
attentions of an alienist essential in her case. "What on earth would
you do with a truck?"

"I need it to take those colored orphans out for a ride each week," she
explained, full of the plan. "I am going to have benches made to fit on
each side of the truck so that it will take them all comfortably. Isn't
it a fine idea?"

Obadiah, dumfounded for the moment, regained speech and sought
information as one who had not heard aright. "Do you mean to say that
you want me to buy a truck to haul those negro children around town?"

"Yah--yah--yah." Upon the front seat, Ike so far forgot the proprieties
of his station that he gave vent to noisy merriment at the domestic
perplexities of gentlefolk.

"Keep your mind on your business," Obadiah commanded, glaring at his
chauffeur's neck.

Virginia, disregarding the _faux pas_ of the chauffeur and its condign
reproof, proceeded to explain her plans. "We have decided, Daddy, that
those orphans must be taken for a ride every week."

"Who has decided that?"

"Hennie and I have worked it all out."

"What has that woman got to do with it?" he snapped. "Does she expect
me to buy trucks to haul all the negro children in town on pleasure
trips?"

Violent paroxysms beset Ike and bent him as a sapling in a gale.

Obadiah's eyes glared at the black neck as if, discharging X-rays, they
might expose the chauffeur's malady.

Heedless of disturbing influences, Virginia went on, "Hennie thought
that this car was too small. She felt that it would be better to get a
truck which would carry all the orphans than to use this."

"Indeed!" interjected Obadiah.

"I suggested to her that I would get you to loan us a truck from the
mill; but Hennie said that she was sure that you wouldn't let us have
it."

"Ahem--ahem," choked the mill owner, getting red in the face.

"I told her that I knew you would be glad to let us have it because you
did so love to help people," explained Virginia with great pride.

Obadiah shifted uneasily in his seat. "What did she say?"

"Hennie said that she wished me success."

Obadiah relaxed as one relieved from strain.

Sensing the change in him, Virginia cuddled up to her father full of
happiness and contentment as if the purchase of the truck was settled.
"Isn't it sweet, Daddy dear," she murmured gently, "within an hour
after I talked to Hennie you offer to buy me a car? Of course, you
don't care, so long as I am satisfied, whether I choose a runabout or a
truck." She took his hand and held it in her own, pressing it.

Obadiah appeared greatly interested in something upon the skyline.

"A truck," Virginia continued thoughtfully, "especially a fine large
one such as we would need--" Obadiah flinched--"would be in the way.
Our garage wouldn't hold it and Serena would object to it being left
in the yard." She arrived at a sudden determination. "Choose, Daddy,
whether you will buy me a truck or loan me one from the mill."

Obadiah's response was not delayed. "You had better use a mill truck,"
he agreed with a sigh which might have been of relief.

"Thank you, Daddy. I can hardly wait to tell Hennie," she exclaimed,
highly delighted at the outcome of her efforts.

Obadiah leaned towards his chauffeur. "Ike," he ordered, "you get the
new truck down at the mill, the first thing in the morning. Run it out
to Mrs. Henderson's house. Make all the row around her place you wish.
Tell her," Obadiah continued, "that it is there by my instructions, to
take those negro orphans riding." He paused. "Ike," he resumed more
forcibly, "don't you forget the noise."

"Yas'r," promised Ike with happy smiles of anticipation.

"That will be a dandy joke on Hennie," giggled Virginia. "Go very
early, Ike."

They were following a boulevard which now brought them to the Soldiers'
Home. Its fine buildings and large acreage were matters of great pride
to South Ridgefield. As they approached the central group of edifices,
they heard music.

"Let's stop for the band concert," suggested Virginia.

Obadiah, much relieved physically and mentally from recent disquietude,
was unusually complaisant. "Drive in, Ike," he directed.

They turned into a broad, paved road which followed the sides of a square
about which were located the principal buildings of the institution.
It bounded a tree shaded park with a band-stand in the center. Walks
radiating to the sides and corners of the square were lined with benches
occupied by veterans in campaign hats and blue uniforms, smoking,
chatting, and enjoying the music.

The inner edge of the roadway was lined with automobiles full of
visitors. Ike stopped upon the opposite side, in front of the quarters
of the Commanding Officer.

Hardly had they paused when a tall, fine looking man of a distinctly
military bearing, despite his white hair, hurried out to meet them.

"Mr. Dale," he greeted the manufacturer in a big booming voice, "I
am glad to welcome you to the Home."

Obadiah genially returned the salutation of Colonel Ryan. That officer,
being a man of rank, in charge of the Soldiers' Home, with power of
recommendation in government purchases, was one whose acquaintance it was
wise for even wealthy mill owners to cultivate.

When presented to Virginia, the Colonel bowed deeply. "I want you to
come up to the house and meet Mrs. Ryan," he urged. "You can hear
the music more comfortably there. I am proud of my band. They are old
fellows like you and me, Dale, but give them a horn and they have lots
of musical 'pep' left."

Mrs. Ryan met them at the head of the porch steps. "You have often heard
me speak of Mr. Dale," the Colonel, discreetly noncommittal as to his
manner of speaking, reminded her.

"Oh, yes, and I have heard of you, too." She smiled at Virginia and
explained to Obadiah, "I happen to have a good friend in that splendid
Mrs. Henderson, your neighbor."

The mill owner received this information with little enthusiasm, but,
learning that Mrs. Ryan was a victim of rheumatism, he advocated the
use of a liniment prepared by his father and applied with remarkable
results to both man and beast. Obadiah was hazy upon the mixture's
ingredients but was clear upon its curative qualities. Mrs. Ryan evincing
marked interest, the manufacturer entertained her with the intimate
details of miraculous recoveries.

Neither Virginia nor the Colonel being rheumatic, they failed to give
Obadiah's discourse the rapt interest of a true brother in pain. Their
attention wavered, wandered and failed, and the band played a crashing
air; but the rheumatic heeded not.

All hope of a general conversation having departed, the Colonel praised
his band to Virginia. "Every man in that organization is over sixty
years old," he bragged. "They get as much pleasure out of playing as
their audience does from their concert. It's a great band."

"They _do_ play well," the girl agreed. "I don't wonder that you are
proud of them. I love a brass band, myself. You do, too, Colonel Ryan.
I can tell by your face, when they play."

The Colonel grinned boyishly. "Yes," he admitted, "I think a band is
one of humanity's boons. I can't get close enough to one, when they
are playing, to satisfy me. I have to have some sort of an excuse to do
that, now-a-days--you'll do fine--let's go nearer."

The medical lecture was disturbed, that the audience might nod
understandingly to its husband, as they departed.

The Colonel chatted gaily. In the presence of a pretty woman he was a
typical soldier. About them were the benches filled with the white headed
veterans, as they entered the square. But a few years and these had
been the fighting men of the country--its defence--playing parts modest
or heroic on a hundred half forgotten battle fields. Now, they, too,
bowed with age, rested in their years, and waited--waited calmly, as
true soldiers should, with the taste of good tobacco upon their lips
and the blare of martial music in their ears, the coming of the ever
nearing shadow.

"Why have I never heard this band down town, Colonel Ryan? It is a
shame when they play so beautifully. Do they charge for concerts?"
asked Virginia, as an idea developed behind the blue eyes.

"People want young and handsome men to play for them if they pay for
it," laughed Colonel Ryan. "So my old codgers don't get many chances
of that sort."

"Who has charge of the band?" Virginia's manner meant business.

The Colonel loved a pretty face. He was enjoying himself. "Do you want
to object to the leader about his interpretation of a favorite air?"

"Don't tease, Colonel Ryan," she protested. "I want to know who has
authority to make engagements for the band. Please be serious."

"You frighten me into submission, Miss Dale. Do you wish to engage the
band?"

"I do, Colonel Ryan." The girl's voice was almost imploring.

He looked down into the depths of the pleading eyes. Never in his long
life had he refused a pretty woman anything, and it is doubtful if he
could have done so. Yet, he desired to prolong the pleasure of the
moment. "May I ask, without undue curiosity, for what purpose you desire
the organization?"

"I want them to give a concert for the old ladies at the Lucinda Home,"
she explained.

Colonel Ryan choked. He recovered himself quickly. Military training is
of value in difficult moments.

"I was over there this afternoon, Colonel Ryan. The place was so
lonesome that I thought it needed some excitement. They asked me to
give an entertainment. Your band would be the very thing. It plays so
loud that even the deaf ladies could hear."

He who had borne the burden of a regiment of men bowed sympathetically,
but his face and neck displayed symptoms of apoplexy.

"The Lucinda Home is a graveyard, Colonel Ryan. When I see all of these
old men sitting around and talking and smoking while the band plays
lively airs to them, it makes me sorry for those women. I should love to
live here. But I should die over there. It is dreadful to be lonesome."

Colonel Ryan agreed with great gravity.

Virginia waxed forceful. "Those old ladies should be made as happy as
these soldiers," she argued. "Isn't a woman as good as a man, Colonel
Ryan?"

The Commandant by his silence refused this challenge to a discussion upon
woman's rights.

"Those old ladies should have everything that these men have,"
maintained the girl, with great emphasis.

"Including tobacco?" suggested the Colonel solicitously.

"Of course not." Blue eyes snapped indignantly.

The boyish look was back in the Colonel's face. "I only wanted to be
sure," he explained soberly. "It has a very important place here."

"Oh, Colonel Ryan, you will joke, and I am so in earnest." Her eyes
were dark and tender and a soft pink flushed her cheeks. "A concert at
the Lucinda Home would be a wonderful thing if I could get your band."

"You can," the Colonel promised, laconically, "and it won't cost
you a cent." He became enthusiastic, "It will be a fine treat for
the old ladies and my boys will enjoy it, too. I'll have to warn the
old rascals about flirting," he chuckled. "They think that they are
regular devils among the ladies. I think that I will have to come along
myself to keep the old boys from breaking any ancient hearts."

"Will you come, Colonel Ryan?"

"Surely. You may count on me. Are there to be refreshments?"

"Why--yes!" She had never given a thought to them before, and when she
considered the food that it would take it almost frightened her.

"My old boys can eat as well as ever, particularly if it is soft stuff.
That band has less teeth than any similar organization in the world. It
is the toothless wonder," chuckled the Colonel. "Be sure that you have
plenty to eat."

As they ascended the steps of the Colonel's porch, Virginia warned him,
"Don't mention the concert to my father. I want to surprise him."

They found that Obadiah had exhausted his praises of the marvelous
liniment. Mrs. Ryan was now talking, and, though the subject-matter
was the same, the mill owner was not a reciprocal listener. He felt that
an immediate departure for home was necessary.

The Dale car rolled away from the Soldiers' Home, leaving the Commanding
Officer standing, hat in hand, upon the curb. A broad smile broke over
his face. "A band concert at the Lucinda Home," he chuckled. "You
might as well give one out in the cemetery." His face softened. "Bless
her heart," he whispered, as he turned back towards his house.



CHAPTER IX

HEZEKIAH HAS A SOLUTION


Mr. Jones had finished transcribing Obadiah Dale's morning dictation and
awaited a fitting moment to place the letters before the manufacturer to
receive his signature. Meanwhile, he smoked a cigarette and, with his
face sadly distorted on account of the smoke, manicured his nails with
his pocket knife.

This important part of a gentleman's toilet would gladly have been left
by Mr. Jones to a professional manicurist, because of the more skilled
attention and the valuable social privileges attached to such services,
had not the chronically depleted condition of his purse demanded the
exercise of rigorous economy.

In the glare of the pendant bulb, Kelly was engaged artistically in the
preparation of a crude but libelous cartoon of the stenographer.

A moment of rest and mental relaxation had descended upon the personal
staff of Obadiah. His hive of commercial industry had, for the moment,
ceased to buzz. Suddenly, the hall door was thrown open. Mr. Jones
suffered a severe laceration from the point of his own blade. Even
the artistic soul of Kelly was shaken by the abrupt intrusion.

Hezekiah Wilkins entered. His manner was hurried. Not as a messenger
bearing joyous news of great triumphs, but rather as an emissary charged
with intelligence of bitter flavor, who desires to get rid of it, that
he may turn to happier matters.

Having been courteously advised by the bleeding outer guard that the
manufacturer was not engaged at the moment, Hezekiah entered the inner
citadel. Obadiah was reading a voluminous mass of typewritten pages
which he laid aside at the coming of his attorney. Waving the lawyer to a
chair, he intimated that he awaited the further pleasure of his legal
adviser.

Seating himself, Hezekiah shoved both of his feet as far in front of him
as his short legs would permit. He studied the aspect of his shoes thus
presented, as if he had never before appreciated their beauty.

"Well?" Obadiah spoke curtly.

"I wish to discuss the matter of that young man in the hospital. Curtis
is his name--I think."

"All right," Obadiah agreed.

Hezekiah placed his palms together and gazed upwards as if in pious
meditation upon the words which he was about to utter.

Obadiah viewed the attitude of his adviser with disapprobation. "Go
ahead," he urged roughly. "Don't take all day."

The lawyer gave his employer a look of reproof. "It is very important,"
he announced with great calmness, "that legal matters be accurately
presented so that the facts deduced shall afford a sound basis for
correct judgment when appearing in court." Hezekiah explained with
dignity. "I have found that a moment given to the correct logical
presentation of facts tends to expedite a just solution of perplexing
questions." As he ceased speaking, he appeared to drift away into a
condition of deep cogitation under the very eyes of his employer.

Before this display of profound thought, Obadiah was helpless. Properly
chastened, he awaited in patience the outcome of the mental processes of
his learned subordinate.

After a period in which no sound was heard but the ticking of the clock,
Hezekiah recovered from his abstraction with a start, and announced,
"This young Curtis refuses to accept your check."

"Bigger fool he," Obadiah responded with indifference.

Hezekiah turned sharply upon the mill owner, "I don't agree with you
at all," he rapped.

Obadiah had great confidence in the judgment of his legal adviser. There
had been times when failing to follow it had cost him money. He became
uneasy. "Do you think that he has a case against me?"

"I would rather have his chances before a jury than yours."

"Is he going to bring suit?" Obadiah's uneasiness increased. He did
not care to be at the mercy of a South Ridgefield jury. He usually was
stuck.

"Yes, it's my opinion that he intends to bring an action against you.
He displayed marked animus."

"He displayed what?"

"Animus--unfriendliness," Hezekiah interpreted.

Obadiah's uneasiness affected his temper. "Why don't you speak
English?" he demanded, the pitch of his voice getting higher.

For an instant there was a flash in Hezekiah's eyes but when he spoke
he was perfectly calm. "I beg pardon, I failed to make allowances
for--your understanding."

Obadiah regarded his attorney angrily but made no reply. Years of
experience had warned him against verbal combat with this man. Usually he
did not awaken to the danger until he rankled under one of Hezekiah's
darts.

Disregarding the exchange of compliments, the lawyer went on, perfectly
unruffled, "Is there a reason for this young man to entertain ill will
against you?"

"I never heard of the fellow before," protested Obadiah.

"Is he acquainted with your daughter?"

"No." Obadiah hesitated after his denial and modified it. "She helped
to take him to the hospital and she has visited him since, I understand."

"Ah!" Comprehension lighted Hezekiah's face. "You told me," he
suggested, "that your daughter considered herself to be to blame for
the accident."

"Yes," Obadiah agreed with reluctance. "Virginia has a silly idea that
she was at fault. She felt very badly over the matter."

"And went to the hospital to express her regret and conceded
responsibility for the accident to the injured man. He told me that he
could rely on your daughter as a witness in his behalf."

"I'll be hanged," cried Obadiah, the tone of his voice reminding one
of Hennie's likening of him to a mosquito.

"You'll be stung with a fat verdict if he gets you into court with your
own daughter testifying against you. That's what will happen to you.
Probably she admitted responsibility in the presence of witnesses,"
Hezekiah pointed out with deepest pessimism.

"I won't have my daughter dragged into court as a witness against me,"
groaned Obadiah.

"How are you going to stop it? Ship her out of the state?" Hezekiah
suggested with a promptness which displayed unethical resourcefulness
in the suppression of embarrassing witnesses.

"Can't you arrange a compromise?" begged Obadiah.

"Not after this mistake." Hezekiah returned the check for twenty-five
dollars. "I'm as popular as a mouse in a pantry with that young fellow
after attempting to pass that on him." He gave the mill owner a glance
of curiosity. "How far would you let me go now?"

"Use your own judgment, only keep Virginia out of court."

Both men were silent for a time and then the lawyer spoke. "I tried to
sound young Curtis. I endeavored to discover if he had any settlement
in mind. All I found was a pronounced hostility to you personally and,"
Hezekiah smiled reminiscently, "to me as your representative."

"That's your imagination," exclaimed Obadiah and then, after the
custom of a malefactor of great wealth, went on, "How can we get at
him? He must be got at."

"I might suggest something--," Hezekiah appeared doubtful, lacking in
his usual assurance.

It irritated Obadiah to have this man upon whose judgment he had staked
his fortune display indecision in this trivial affair. "Out with it!
What's the matter with you? Have you got cold feet?" he stormed.

Hezekiah chuckled. "This case is complicated. The other side is most
unfriendly. It's pretty hard to keep out of court when the other fellow
wants to put you there," he argued, "I believe that I see a way if you
will give me full authority to make such settlement as I deem advisable
and," Hezekiah shifted uneasily, "allow me the assistance of counsel."

"Hezekiah Wilkins, have you gone crazy? Do you mean to ask me to hire
another lawyer to help you in this insignificant automobile case?"
groaned Obadiah.

"I haven't asked you to employ a lawyer. I asked for counsel."

"For the love of Mike, whose counsel do you require in this tempest in
a teapot?" shouted the exasperated mill owner.

"I wish, with your permission, to ask your daughter Virginia to be of
counsel."

"Thunderation," bawled Obadiah, shrilly, exploding with pent up
aggravation. "Have you gone out of your wits?" He surveyed the lawyer
as if he really believed his legal mentality to be addled. "Can't
I get it into your head--" he cast a look of utter contempt at the
massive cranium of the lawyer--"that my interest in this case is to
keep my daughter out of court? If it wasn't for her, I'd let that
brittle shanked motorcycling ass sue until they grow bananas in Canada."

"Your verbal pyrotechnics are interesting but hardly germane to the
subject," Hezekiah reproved his employer. "I have no intention of
dragging your daughter into court in the guise of a Portia, although
her beauty would----"

Obadiah's temper was on edge. "Come to the point, sir," he demanded.
"Cut out the hot air. My time is worth money."

For a moment Hezekiah gazed thoughtfully out of a window making strange
gestures with his glasses. Then, turning to the mill owner he smilingly
agreed. "As much valuable time has been utilized by you in prolix
descriptions, possibly amusing, assuredly slanderous and not tending in
the slightest degree to shed light upon our problem, I admit a necessity
for expedition."

Obadiah viewed his attorney with wrathful eyes but remained silent.

Even under the angry eyes of his employer a benignant look lighted the
countenance of the lawyer and his voice was very gentle as he resumed,
"It's an old adage--'Youth will be served.' In its arrogance,
youth defies the wisdom of age and the judgment of the ages. In its
careless irresponsibility, it knows not danger. In its assurance and
self-confidence it knows not fear. Clad in the armor of health, it
basks in the sunshine of its strength and blatantly rejoices in its
hopes."

"Hezekiah Wilkins, are you sick, or what in the devil is the matter with
you?" inquired the overwrought manufacturer.

"No, not sick, Obadiah," Hezekiah explained placidly, "not sick,
but happy--happy in that thought--a distinctly attractive one, and
exceptionally well-developed for your benefit. I regret," the lawyer
lamented, "that a stenographer was not present to preserve it. It is a
pity that the world should lose it--that it should be lost to those who
would understand and appreciate it--even love it."

Obadiah sank deep into his chair, encircled by gloom, as, appreciating
his inability to direct the train of his legal adviser's thought, he
allowed that worthy to pursue his own course.

"Youth calls to youth," the sentimental Hezekiah continued. "Youth
understands youth. Youth can persuade youth." Suddenly the attorney
seemed to thrust aside the gentle atmosphere in which he had been
immersed, and, fixing a most crafty look upon Obadiah, he snapped,
"You and I can't handle that fellow, but your daughter can. It's going
to cost you some money, though." He suffered a relapse. "Youth knows
neither the value of time nor money."

Obadiah was filled with relief. "By gum, you've hit it," he shouted.
"But why couldn't you get that off your chest without throwing a fit?"
he complained, ill-humoredly.

Once more Hezekiah reverted to sentiment. "The language of youth is
song, and its thought poetry," he sighed, after which he arose and
faced the manufacturer across his desk. "I am authorized to proceed in
accordance with my plan?" he asked--"to make the best settlement which
in my judgment can be made in the premises, through," he chuckled,
"the extraordinary channels to which I have recourse?"

"Go the limit, only keep it out of court," grumbled Obadiah. "Give
such instructions as you wish to Virginia and let her understand that
I am only interested in an amicable adjustment and do not care to be
bothered with details."

As Hezekiah departed through the outer office, he interrupted a
conversation between Mr. Jones and Kelly.

The stenographer met the intrusion with characteristic activity. Rushing
to his desk, he seized the recently typed letters and bore them into
Obadiah's presence. His haste, if noted by the attorney, should have
indicated that prolonged presence in the throne room had resulted in
marked delay to the normal performance of imperial functions.

Apparently Hezekiah's mind was engrossed by lighter matters. He moved
spryly, whistling a cheery melody not at present in vogue but much in
favor in his youth.

Mr. Jones came out of Obadiah's room hurriedly. The sound of stern
reproof came also, until it was shut off by the closing of the door. It
seemed as if the spirit of the stenographer expanded in relief, in the
familiar atmosphere of his own domain; as one who, having accomplished
a hazardous journey, returns to the peace of his own fireside.

He entered Kelly's room with great dignity. Taking a position in the
center, he raised his arms horizontally, inhaled a deep breath, bowed
deeply, straightened up, exhaled, rose on his toes, descended, and
dropped his arms.

The massive Kelly viewed this athletic exhibition with interest.
"What's that exercise for?" he demanded.

Mr. Jones yawned. "It gives me relaxation from the strain," he answered.

"What strain? Where did you strain yourself?" asked Kelly with kindly
interest in his friend's welfare.

"The office responsibility," explained the stenographer. "It knocks
the sap out of a fellow." He lighted a cigarette.

"Oh, is that it?" Kelly gave a cruel laugh. "I thought you had sprung
something. If you do that exercise often, young fellow, you'll bust a
lung. Let's see you do it again," urged the bookkeeper, as if desirous
of witnessing the fulfillment of his prophecy.

Without fear, Mr. Jones laid aside his cigarette with care, and gulped
such a deep draught of air that he became red in the face and gave other
evidences of being about to burst from undue pneumatic pressure.

Kelly viewed with undisguised amusement the undeveloped protuberance
thrust forward in pride by the stenographer. "You haven't the chest
expansion of a lizard," he told him.

Mr. Jones received this deadly insult in the midst of deep bowing. He
exploded, and, leaning against a desk, breathed rapidly while the injured
look in his eyes attempted to carry that reproof which his speechlessness
otherwise forbade.

"If you do that exercise much," Kelly gloomily predicted, "you are
going to relax in a wooden box. Who gave you that stuff? You must have
been getting your ideas from the gymnasium of a bug house."

For obvious reasons Mr. Jones failed to reply.

"There is no sense in the thing. What you need is--" Kelly descended
from his perch and seizing him, only that instant recovered from
speechlessness, in his strong grasp, made exploratory investigations
with his fingers throughout the panting one's anatomy.

"Ouch," wailed the pained Mr. Jones.

"Shut up. Do you want the old man out here? I'm not going to hurt you.
I want to find out what ails you."

"Leggo, you are nearly killing me."

Mr. Jones rubbed himself ruefully when Kelly loosed him. "You big stiff,
ain't you got no sense, gouging around in a fellow's insides that way?
You are liable to put a man out of business," he protested.

Utterly indifferent to these complaints, Kelly was judging the
stenographer coldly and dispassionately. "You've got no bone.
You've got no muscle. You've got no fat." Kelly forgot that pride and
dignity are intangible assets. "You'd better take correct breathing
exercises or you'll get T. B.," he told him. "I shouldn't be
surprised if you've got it now."

Naturally, Mr. Jones was greatly alarmed and showed it.

"Here's the way to take a breathing exercise." Kelly slowly inhaled
a mighty volume of air until his chest arched forth in all of its
magnificent development. He held it so for a moment and beat upon it
resoundingly in accordance with the supposed custom of the orang-outang
in moments of victory. "No tuberculosis there," he boasted, after
exhaling with the rush of a gale of wind.

"That's some expansion, Kelly," the stenographer admitted, and he
continued as in excuse for his own physical deficiencies, "I should
take more exercise. My work is confining, and the strain is heavy. I'm
all run down. The old man must have noticed it, too, because the other
day he says to me, 'Mr. Jones, you're working too hard--it's telling
on you--I'd give you a good rest if I could manage to get along without
you.'"

Kelly burst into a roar of laughter. "If you wait for the old man to
give you a rest, my son, you are going to get tired, believe me. Cut
out the bluff for a minute. I want to talk seriously to you. You're
in rotten physical condition and you owe it to yourself to keep from
playing leading man at a funeral."

Mr. Jones's countenance registered horror.

Kelly went on. "I happen to know a darn sight more about physical
training than I do about book-keeping. I ought to--I spent enough time
around a college gymnasium when I should have been some place else."

Even Mr. Jones's alarm faded before this astounding information.
"College," he remarked in surprise.

"Sure," Kelly grinned, "I spent a couple of years in college. I'm
proud of them. I nearly flunked out before I learned that I leaned to
muscle instead of to literature." He returned to the subject under
discussion. "I can give you a bunch of exercises which will do you a
lot of good in six months if you are faithful. I'll give you gentle
exercises at first, darn gentle," he laughed, "otherwise you'll
snap something. I believe that I'll make a man out of you, young
grasshopper." He shook his head wearily. "Gosh, but it's going to take
a lot of work."

Mr. Jones flushed hotly. "Say," he said, "it's not necessary to
insult me, is it?"

"Yes, you've got to use a harpoon to get anything through that
rhinoceros' hide of egotism of yours." He fastened a stern and
foreboding eye upon Mr. Jones. "Do you want to die?" he inquired.

Mr. Jones sought the motive behind the startling question. "What's
going to kill me?" he demanded.

"Lack of air." Kelly's answer was obscure. It was too general. He
thought it necessary to restate it with modifying amendments. "The lack
of good fresh air," he concluded.

"Oh," said Mr. Jones, apparently much relieved at the distinction made.

"You want to get out into the air and breathe," Kelly explained as if
the stenographer were carelessly given to omit this function.

"I don't have the time." Mr. Jones visualized a dignified stroll over
a golf links.

Kelly gave thought to the difficulty. "A motorcycle would be the
thing," he decided.

The effect upon Mr. Jones would have been no different if Kelly had
prescribed an aeroplane or a submarine. "I can't ride a motorcycle,
and even if I could, where can I get one?" he objected.

"That's the point." Kelly was as enthusiastic as a life insurance
agent. "I have a friend who has one. He nearly killed himself on it and
now he is in the hospital. I'll bet that he is tired of it and will
sell it cheap."

"What do I want with the thing if it nearly killed him?" Mr. Jones
protested logically.

"Don't be a fool. The motorcycle never hurt him. He ran into an
automobile and hurt himself."

Mr. Jones believed the difference to be immaterial. "I won't ride a
motorcycle," he declared obstinately.

Kelly clung to his scheme with constructive pride. "It's up to you, my
friend," he argued. "You are going to die unless you get out into the
air. I suggest the way to do it."

"Yes, and I'll get killed on the blamed old motorcycle," predicted
Mr. Jones mournfully.

"Take your choice!" the generous Kelly invited. "I am going up to the
hospital to see that fellow after office hours. Why don't you come along
and meet him and then you can decide about the machine."

Mr. Jones, fearful that he might overlook an important engagement,
consulted a note-book with care. After concluding his investigation of
the records, he said, "Well, as I don't happen to have anything on,
I don't mind going up there with you, but you can write it in your
hat that I'm not strong for any motorcycle business."

Within a few moments after the prescribed closing hour, Obadiah's
official staff appeared upon the streets of South Ridgefield. Their
steps lead them towards the hospital and on the way they passed Mr.
Vivian's cool oasis of refreshment amidst the burning sands of the
town's business section.

Here, the confectioner and his assistants arrayed in pure white moved
gracefully about, serving the guests with cooling drink or, from time
to time, gave attention to the adjustment of the mechanical piano which
furnished melody for the lovers of music.

Mr. Jones feasted his eyes upon this scene of innocent revelry and good
fellowship. "Come on," he said to Kelly, "have a drink?"

Kelly received the invitation with insulting words. "That's your
trouble," he exclaimed in a voice which carried far. "That's what
makes your complexion so fierce."

The sensitive soul of Mr. Jones rebelled at this public outcry of his
physical defects. "Say, you big chump," he burst out, "don't you know
any better than to bawl a fellow out that way in a place where everybody
can hear you? That's a dickens of a thing to do."

"Come on. Nobody was listening." Kelly looked about as if disappointed
at failing to find an audience awaiting other personal allusions. "It's
the truth," he maintained vigorously.

Mr. Jones hesitated, torn as many another good man, between his vanity
and his appetite. Before his eyes flowed a tantalizing stream of those
delicacies so dear to his palate. In his pocket reposed two dimes, his
wealth until pay day on the morrow would replenish his purse. Why should
not a good fellow entertain his friends even though they resort to
personal comments? Rent by conflicting desires, he jingled the coins.
As he fingered them, there flashed the remembrance of the war tax. He
turned to Kelly and his voice was very sad, as he murmured, "I guess
that you're right, old man. We'll cut out the sweet stuff."

They had no difficulty in locating Joe Curtis. His sunny characteristics
had won him already wide spread friendships among the hospital staff,
so that the way to his bed was indicated as the path to a neighbor's
door.

Kelly grinned amiably at Miss Knight, and inquired, "May I speak to Joe
Curtis?"

The nurse looked at the big fellow with the appraising eye of a
connoisseur of men. "Sure," she retorted, "if you can talk and he
will give you a chance to."

The participants in this repartee were much pleased with its cleverness.
They laughed loudly.

Mr. Jones, considering the remarks frivolous, did not deign to unbend
from a stately poise assumed by him when in the presence of ladies.
Miss Knight was evidently a person of ordinary origin, lacking in
discrimination. She had failed to notice the stenographer, confining
her attentions, including her smiles, to the husky Kelly.

"Here's another friend, Joe," the nurse told the injured motorcyclist
when they arrived at his bedside. She failed to take account of Mr.
Jones who had progressed down the aisle with mien of great distinction.
His entrance was marred only by a remark of a vulgar patient who in a
coarse whisper desired to be advised, "Who let Charlie Chaplin in?"
much to the amusement of other low fellows.

"Hello, Joe, how's business?" asked Kelly.

"Fine, Mike, fine. Never better," responded the patient.

"Meet my friend, Mr. Percy Jones." The introduction was impaired as the
stenographer's attention was devoted to frowning down masculine giggles
reminiscent of the reference to the illustrious movie star.

That the social exigencies of the moment might not be overlooked, Kelly
dug a finger into the stenographer's side.

Mr. Jones undulated as to a measure of the Hula Hula. "Wough," he
yelled. "Wot cher doin'?"

Happy laughter arose from nearby beds.

Miss Knight swept her recumbent charges with a glance of stern
reproof. "Where's your manners?" she demanded. "Cut out this rough
stuff or--" she paused for effect and then launched this terrifying
threat--"you'll get no ice cream on Wednesday." The male surgical
cases quailed before this menace of cruel and unusual punishment.
Peace reigned.

"Gentlemen, be seated," invited Joe, in the rich and mellow tones of
an interlocutor.

Miss Knight departed. Mr. Jones sat down in the only chair and Kelly made
preparations to rest his huge form on the bed of the injured one.

Joe viewed this arrangement with alarm. "Don't you sit on my broken
leg, you hippopotamus," he protested.

Kelly withdrew so hastily that he nearly knocked Mr. Jones off his chair.

"Mike, go over there and get that other chair. Don't try to rob a
little fellow like Jonesy," Joe told him.

Pain swathed the features of Mr. Jones. To be publicly addressed as
"Jonesy" was bad enough, but when coupled with an insulting reference
to his size, it was too much.

Kelly finally seated himself by the invalid's head and remarked with
a smile of pleasure, "Joe, they tell me you're about dead. Is there
anything in it?"

"Listen to words of warning," suggested the injured man. "Even with my
game leg, it would take a bigger man than you to put me out of business."

Kelly disregarded the challenge. "Is there any truth in the report that
landing on your head is all that saved you?"

Joe grunted in disdain and Mr. Jones openly yawned at such commonplace
humor.

Regardless of popular displeasure, Kelly went on. "I understand that
your head ruined the truck?"

"Mike, you are a heavy kidder." Joe smiled affectionately at his big
friend. "Your conversation is usually agreeable, sometimes interesting,
but never reliable. You guessed wrong about a truck. I ran into a seven
passenger touring car."

"Ha, a chariot of the awful rich. In the excitement did you
surreptitiously abstract any diamonds, tires, gasoline or other
valuables shaken loose by your dome?"

"No such luck, Mike. There was only a girl in the car."

"The priceless jewel of the Isle of Swat and you did not kidnap it?"
exclaimed Kelly.

Mr. Jones displayed a superior interest. "Was she beautiful?" he
inquired.

"Was she beautiful?" mimicked Kelly. "She must have been. That's why
Joe tried to make a hit." He leaned over the motorcyclist. "For once I
am proud of you, young man. You used your head."

Mr. Jones displayed extreme animation. "By Jove," he laughed.
"Possibly the lady thought that Mr. Curtis was butting in."

Kelly inspected the stenographer with great intentness. "Good morning,
old top. When did you wake up?"

"Your kidding is contagious, Mike. Jonesy has caught it," chuckled Joe.

"No, you don't understand the nature of the brute. It's not me--it's
the ladies. Jones awakens at a reference to them and blossoms beneath
their smiles," explained Kelly.

A gentle look spread over Joe's face. "The girl I ran into happened
to be the right sort. She stuck by me when I was hurt and helped to bring
me here--" He paused for a moment and then continued, "Let's not talk
about her in this room full of men."

"Sure," boomed Kelly. "You're right as usual, Joe. Never stopped
to think myself." He turned and pointed to the stenographer. "My old
friend Jones is on the edge of a decline." The bookkeeper disregarded
the presence of the private secretary as if he were deaf. "If he starts
to slide he hasn't far to go to land in a cemetery."

Mr. Jones displayed no marked pleasure in the conversation. He maintained
a dignified aloofness.

"I have decided to train him," Kelly explained. "It's going to be
a hard job. He's got no bone. He's got no muscle. He's got no fat.
He's got nothin'."

Again Kelly overlooked the proud and sensitive spirit which protested
against this public dissection of physical defects.

The eyes of Kelly and Joe viewed the puny figure of the stenographer in
the manner of disgusted farmers examining a runt which resists their
efforts to fatten it.

"To get flesh and muscle and bone on him I must give him plenty of
exercise and get him out into the air. That will make him eat," Kelly
went on.

"His present diet is mostly cigarettes, isn't it?" Joe inquired.

"He eats them by the bale," confessed Kelly.

Apparently Joe deemed himself invited into the case as a consulting
specialist. "Make him cut them out," he prescribed. "Take the little
fellow out for a run every night and give him a good sweat out. Give him
a bath and a rub down and get him in bed by ten o'clock. Watch your
distances at first. Jonesy is full of dope. Look at his eyes."

Mr. Jones quailed under this keen scrutiny of experts.

"He'll fall dead if he runs a block," predicted Joe. "He'll be
able to cover some ground, though, after a couple of weeks of plugging.
You can speed him up, then." He studied the stenographer with impersonal
interest. "Make a feather weight boxer of him, Mike, if he isn't
yellow. Get him in shape for the fall meet of the Athletic Club. If he
can't box, make him run. He's built like a jack rabbit."

The course of treatment outlined by the consulting specialist filled
Mr. Jones with undisguised alarm. His mind and body alike protested
against the indignities which threatened him. To him came recognition
that immediate resistance was necessary to prevent the advent of a
gruelling course of physical training, repugnant to his flesh and
revolting to his soul. "S-s-s-say," he stammered in the intenseness of
his opposition, "I don't want----"

"Look here," Joe interrupted with fierceness, "you asked Mike to train
you, didn't you?"

Mr. Jones's mental anguish did not make for quick thinking. He worked
his lips but emitted no sound.

To Joe this silence acquiesced in his assumption and he went on, "You
begged him to train you and he finally consented. You have shown judgment
in selecting him--you couldn't find a better man. But, remember this,
my friend. Training is hard work. You are in for a rough time of it,
Jonesy, and don't you forget it. Remember this--it's not what you
want--it's what Mike wants that is going to count. He has undertaken the
devil's own job to make a man out of a shrimp like you. Do you get me?"
he concluded ferociously.

Before the sheer brute masculinity of the attack, the gentle courage of
Mr. Jones gave way. "Yes, sir," he agreed meekly.

"Now, that's all settled, Mike," Joe indicated with satisfaction.
"Jonesy knows where he gets off. How about the grub?"

"No trouble there," Kelly explained. "We board at the same place. The
food is plain enough and I can eat his dessert and make him fill up on
solid stuff. I wanted to ask about your motorcycle."

"You are welcome to use it, Mike. It will be fine to chase Jonesy on
or to get ahead of him if you want to time him. The machine was badly
smashed in my crash. There is a repair bill of seven dollars against it.
If you will pay that, you can use it until I need it again. Put Jones
up on it, too, if you like."

There was a rustling of skirts and the sound of soft footsteps. Virginia
came towards the young men. Mr. Jones and Kelly instantly recognized
their employer's daughter. They came to their feet as kitchen police
in the presence of the Commanding General, which is with the speed of
the lightning.

Virginia smiled sweetly at the invalid. "I am sorry to intrude," she
explained, "but the hospital closes to visitors in ten minutes; so I
had to come now or not see Joe today."

"It is fine of you to come even for a minute." Joe smiled happily and
then attempted to present Kelly and Mr. Jones to her.

She gave them a friendly smile. "I know you both. I have seen you in
my father's office so often that we are really old acquaintances."

Kelly looked her squarely in the eyes and beamed, "Thanks, I like that."

Mr. Jones assumed a manner containing all that was best from the several
books upon social usages he had perused. Often had he longed for an
opportunity to show the manufacturer's daughter that at least her
father's private secretary was well versed in such matters. His chance
had come and he must make the most of it. He bowed profoundly, "I am
honored, indeed," he murmured gently. "Permit me to express the extreme
pleasure Miss Dale's presence gives me." Apparently, at this point,
Mr. Jones expected Virginia to extend her lily white hand to be kissed.

She, being a young thing, a mere chit as it were, was unversed in this
procedure. She looked at the low-bowed Mr. Jones and then at Joe and
Kelly with a somewhat puzzled expression.

The athletes, being men of vulgar minds, burst into a roar of laughter
which shocked Mr. Jones exceedingly. Finding nothing better to do, he was
forced to join in amusement at his own expense.

"Gee, I'm going to miss my supper," cried Kelly, and, with a breezy
"Good bye" to Virginia and Joe, and a hurried "Come on" to Mr. Jones,
he rushed away.

Mr. Jones was astounded at this exhibition of haste and ill-breeding,
before this lady of position. However, he found himself torn between
conflicting desires. He would have gladly spent some hours in the company
of Miss Dale engaged in elegant conversation, but, at the moment, for
the life of him, he could recall no subject of sufficient gentility for
discussion.

"Come on, Jones," came Kelly's voice from the hall.

Virginia had taken Kelly's chair and, leaning over the bed, was
engrossed in conversation with the injured man.

The presence of Mr. Jones was being overlooked. He deemed it better to
depart with Kelly. Immediate action was essential. He arose and again
bowed deeply. "Allow me," he pleaded, in dulcet tones, "to express my
delight and joy in meeting Miss Dale and to inform her that circumstances
beyond my individual control require my withdrawal from her company."

"Blow, Jonesy, before your beans get cold," suggested Joe.

At this low remark, Mr. Jones straightened up to his full height very
suddenly and stepped backwards with dignity. Unhappily, his heel hooked
against the leg of his chair and twisted the piece of furniture beneath
him so that, tripping, he lost his balance upon the waxed floor.
Simultaneously, Mr. Jones lost his dignity and waved his arms wildly in
a frantic endeavor to recover himself.

"Come on," Kelly urged again.

Mr. Jones obeyed the words of his trainer literally. Coming on over the
chair, he landed with a crash between the beds on the other side of the
aisle.

"Bring the ambulance up here," suggested a facetious patient.

Sore in mind and body, Mr. Jones was assisted to his feet by the helpful
Miss Knight. "I stumbled," he explained to her in excuse.

"It's a darn good thing you didn't fall," replied the nurse with
ill-concealed sarcasm.

Virginia had watched Mr. Jones's acrobatic performances with mixed
emotions. She glanced at her wrist watch and, rising, leaned over to
bid Joe farewell.

He caught her hand and held it. For a moment the black eyes were gazing
squarely into the depths of the blue ones, and no word passed between
the two, yet they were filled with a new, strange joyousness.

"I must go," she whispered gently, and pulled her hand from Joe's as
she turned towards the stricken Mr. Jones. "I hope you are not hurt,"
she told him and left the ward with a nod at Kelly at the door.

Seizing his hat, Mr. Jones limped slowly after her.

"You'll get better control of your muscles after Mike handles you a
bit," Joe called after him.

"Didn't I tell you fellows that was Charlie Chaplin?" came a voice
from one of the beds. Amidst the merriment aroused by this sally Mr.
Jones joined Kelly and took his departure.



CHAPTER X

AN AFTERNOON OFF


"Dis yere fambly ain' nevah ready to eat. Dey allers has sumpin else
dey gotta do," grumbled Serena as she moved out upon the front porch
of the Dale home.

Virginia stood upon the greensward listening to the call of a song
sparrow in the tree above her head. The notes of the bird rang clear
upon the morning air in all of their sweetness, until overwhelmed in
competition with a jazz melody whistled by Ike as he moved about dragging
a serpent-like length of hose behind him.

"Cum in to you' breakfus, chil'," commanded Serena.

"In a moment. Isn't it a beautiful day for the concert?"

Although Virginia's tardiness was yet uppermost in her mind, Serena
deigned to examine the heavens above and the earth beneath with a
critical eye which proposed to allow no fault to escape it. Then she
made answer in a cryptic reply, "You ain' said nothin' chil', you
ain' said nothin' a tall."

"Virginia," said Obadiah, when they met at the breakfast table, "Mr.
Wilkins was here again yesterday afternoon and you were not at home."

The girl laughed. "I know it, Daddy," she confessed, as she poured a
generous measure of thick cream over her dish of sliced peaches. The
charge of absenteeism made against her did not appear to be affecting her
appetite as she began to eat.

"I warned you that he was coming," Obadiah continued, impressively.

"Yes, Daddy." The girl was enjoying her peaches and cream. "After you
told me about it I waited for him and he didn't come," she explained
virtuously. "The next afternoon, I had to go out and--of course, he
had to come. The afternoon after that, I waited at home expecting Mr.
Wilkins and he never came near. Yesterday I had to go out--and he had
to come." She laughed gaily. "We have been playing a game of hide
and seek. Mr. Wilkins has been it and hasn't caught me yet."

"It's been an expensive game for me," protested Obadiah. "I pay Mr.
Wilkins a large salary for his time and services and I can use them to
better advantage than in making calls upon you."

"That's an ungallant speech. I am filled with shame for my own
father." She shook her head sadly in token of her disgrace. "If Mr.
Wilkins wants to see me, why doesn't he arrange to come when I am
home?" she argued stoutly.

Obadiah became stern. "You should have remained home for Mr. Wilkins.
You are out a great deal, anyway."

A look of mock horror came into Virginia's face. "Would you have me
sit alone in this big house, waiting with folded arms for Mr. Wilkins?"
she giggled.

Even Obadiah relented before this sorrowful picture. "Who said anything
about folded arms," he demanded shortly, "or about sitting alone,
either? You are out some place in that machine every day. It won't
hurt you to remain at home until Mr. Wilkins has seen you. My affairs
are of more importance than yours."

Virginia looked at him with great solemnity. "You want to be cross at
me, Daddy, and you can't make yourself," she laughed. "These peaches
and cream are protecting me. If they didn't taste so good to you, I
would get a scolding. I don't deserve it, though, because, after all, my
affairs are always your affairs. Ike says that the machine runs better if
it is used every day. I keep it in splendid order for you."

The efforts of his daughter did not appear to impress Obadiah.

She went on with an air of pride, "Lately, I have been busy on a
surprise for you." She assumed an air of dignity. "I am giving an
entertainment to the old ladies of the Lucinda Home this afternoon. I
planned it all by myself and I invite you to be present. There'll be a
concert by a brass band. Aren't you surprised, Daddy?"

Obadiah was surprised. Without reference to natural perplexity as to
why festivities for the benefit of the old ladies should be a matter
of astonishment to him, there were ample grounds for amazement in
the knowledge that his youthful daughter had assumed management of a
production involving a brass band. It was as if she had announced her
connection with a circus for the aged.

"Where did you get the band?" demanded Obadiah, in the tone of an
anxious parent whose infant has returned bearing personal property
suspected of belonging to a neighbor.

"Colonel Ryan loaned it to me. He is coming, too. Won't you come, Daddy
dear, please?" There was a wistful look in the girl's face. "It's
going to be lovely."

Obadiah was uncomfortable. "I can't come today," he replied, finally.

"Oh Daddy--" her disappointment showed in every note of her voice--"I
have counted so much on having you. I would be so proud of you." She
glanced imploringly at him.

"I'm going out of town," he said.

"Can't you put it off?"

"No, Virginia, I have made my plans to go today. I can't let anything
interfere with business arrangements. They mean dollars and cents."

"All right, Daddy," she surrendered with a sad little sigh and tried
to cheer herself. "Some day when I have something else you'll plan to
come, won't you, dear?"

He was interested in his newspaper now. "Perhaps," he finally answered
absently without looking up.

For a time they ate in silence. "The afternoon frightens me, Daddy,"
she told him with a worried air. "It's a big responsibility. What if
it should be a failure?"

He crushed his paper down by his plate and snapped, "You got into the
thing of your own accord. It's up to you to see it through. To make a
success of it--a Dale success. You can do it."

His assurance braced the girl. "I'll make a go of it, Daddy," she
promised, and then, "It's wrong for me to expect Mr. Wilkins to run
after me. I will go to his office this morning and see him."

He gave her a look of approval. "That's business," he agreed.

She hovered about him after they rose from the table. "Could I ask Mr.
Wilkins to come to my concert, Daddy?" There was an appealing look in
the big blue eyes. "I don't want it to seem as if I have no friends."

He gave her an uneasy glance and there was almost a note of regret in
his voice when he answered, "I am sorry that I can't come. Certainly,
you may ask Mr. Wilkins. Tell him that I want him to go. Ask any one you
like." Yet in spite of these concessions his conscience disturbed him.
"How will you meet the expenses of the entertainment," he inquired.

"They won't be much. Serena had the things which I needed charged at
the store."

Obadiah appeared about to protest but changed his mind.

"I can pay for anything else I need out of my allowance," she went on.

An unusual wave of generosity engulfed Obadiah, due, no doubt, to pricks
of his unquiet conscience. "Don't do that," he objected. "Send the
bills to me."

A delighted Virginia lifted up her voice, joyously, "How perfectly
grand! I'll order ice cream for everybody."

Pain rested upon Obadiah's countenance, due, no doubt, rather to a
twinge of indigestion at the mention of a large quantity of ice cream
during the breakfast hour than to regret at the result of his unusual
liberality. He sought relief in reproving Ike sternly, ere departing for
his office.

Virginia spent a busy morning. She telephoned to Colonel Ryan, visited
Mrs. Henderson and conferred at length with Mrs. Smith, the matron at the
Lucinda Home, regarding the approaching festivities.

Later, she repaired to the establishment of Mr. Vivian, glittering
brilliantly in the morning sun and graced even at this early hour by
thirsty members of South Ridgefield's younger set.

Her deliberations with the genial proprietor were prolonged. Complex
factors hindered the meeting of minds regarded as essential to the
contractual relationship of commerce. Mr. Vivian's knowledge of the
law of probabilities as applied to the consumption of ice cream and
cake by infants, by adults, or by infants and adults together, was as
deep as the information of an insurance actuary on the mortality of
fellow men. But specialists gain their reputation through years of
toil, and they object to risking it on the uncertain. To Mr. Vivian
the capacity of old ladies and aged soldiers for delicate confections
was an unknown factor. He had no digest of leading cases to consult,
no vital statistics to inspect, no medical journals to study. He was
venturing into unexplored territory. Without premises he was asked to
deduct a conclusion. Mr. Vivian was reduced to an unscientific guess.

Yet, if necessary, guesses can be made. So it came to pass that Mr.
Vivian bowed the manufacturer's daughter from his emporium, and, with
the sweet smell of his wares in his nostrils, raised eyes of loving
kindness from the profitable order in his hand, due account thereof to be
rendered unto Obadiah for payment, and gazed after her in respectful
admiration.

Shortly after this, the judicial solemnity of the chamber of Hezekiah
Wilkins, Attorney at Law, situate and being, opposite the suite of
Obadiah, was disturbed by a timid knock. It failed to attract Hezekiah's
attention. This was strange. The room was not unusually large. Also,
its size was diminished by cases of reports, digests and encyclopedias
covering the walls, except where they were pierced by the windows and
door or broken by the fireplace and its broad chimney face. Upon this
hung a picture of the Supreme Court and on the mantel below stood a bust
of John Marshall, the stern eyes of which viewed the polished back of
Hezekiah's head as he sat at his desk.

It is possible that the lawyer was preoccupied through profound
consideration of some abstract point of law. Before him lay an open
court report and his desk was littered with documents. His head was
bowed forward, his hands clasped over his abdomen and his eyes closed.

"Tap--tap," sounded again at the door. Hezekiah brushed at his face as
if to shoo a disturbing fly. Yet, so deep were his meditations that he
failed to note the interruption.

"Knock--knock--bang." The noise swelled to a well-defined blow of
sufficient authority to recall the greatest mental concentration from
the most tortuous legal labyrinth of the most learned court in the world.

Hezekiah jumped. He raised his head with a jerk and his eyes opened.
One unacquainted with the abysmal excogitations of judicial mentalities
might describe them as having a startled look. He rubbed them with his
fists, stroked his smooth shaven cheeks and replaced his glasses on his
nose. Having by such simple expedients withdrawn his mind from the
fathomless depths of legal lore into which it seemingly had been plunged,
he shouted, "Come in."

Virginia entered.

Hezekiah, recognizing the daughter of his employer, sprang to his feet,
greeting her, "I am honored, indeed, Miss Dale."

"Mr. Wilkins, my father says that I have done wrong in allowing you to
come to our house twice and not find me at home." She smiled sweetly
at him as she held out her hand to him. "I am sorry. I thought that my
best apology would be to save you another trip by coming to see you."

"You are very considerate, Miss Dale," he responded, as he offered her
his visitor's chair.

She sat down filled with great curiosity as to his business with her.

He did not approach it directly. "We are having beautiful weather, Miss
Dale. Being given to out of door pursuits and pastimes--athletic, as it
were--you must find it very agreeable."

"I do enjoy these beautiful spring days. I like to be out of doors, too.
But I am not what they call an athletic girl, Mr. Wilkins."

"I plead guilty to an inaccuracy of nomenclature," Hezekiah responded
with great solemnity, removing his glasses and flourishing them.

"What did you say, Mr. Wilkins?" asked Virginia in smiling bewilderment.

His eyes began to twinkle and in spite of his serious face she caught
his mood and they burst into a peal of laughter.

"Miss Dale--" he began.

She interrupted him. "Call me Virginia as you always have done, Mr.
Wilkins," she urged. "Please do."

"It will be easier," he admitted, and then for a moment he studied
her face thoughtfully. "You are looking more like your mother, every
day, Virginia. She was a beautiful woman--a very beautiful woman," he
continued dreamily. "As good, too, as she was beautiful. It seems to
me, now, that her life was given up to doing kindnesses to others. I have
always been proud that your mother accepted me as one of her friends."

His words awakened eager interest in the girl. "Tell me about her,
please, Mr. Wilkins," she begged, as he paused.

He smiled gently into the wistful eyes of blue, as happy remembrances
of the past returned to him. "Your mother came into our lives as a
gentle zephyr from her own beautiful Southland. With her came memories
of bright sunshine, growing flowers and perfumed air. These things
radiated from her--a part of her life. Happiness and joy were ever her
constant companions and the gifts she would shower."

Virginia's eyes were big with the tender longings of her heart. "My
mother tried to make every one else happy, didn't she?"

The countenance of Hezekiah softened and his voice was tempered by gentle
memories as he said, "If she tried to do that, she succeeded. Every one
who knew your mother was the happier for it."

"Oh--what a beautiful thing to say about her, Mr. Wilkins," she
whispered.

After a few moments of silence, Hezekiah resolutely thrust aside the
reveries into which he and his visitor had plunged. "Ahem," he coughed
and then he polished his scalp so vigorously that it became suffused with
a purplish tinge. "Virginia," he inquired sternly, "are you acquainted
with one Joseph Tolliver Curtis?"

For an instant Virginia was unable to identify Joe under his formal
appellation. "Yes, he is the man at the hospital who was hurt by our
machine," she answered finally.

"You have visited him?"

She nodded.

He removed his glasses and tapped his teeth. "Did you ever discuss with
the said Joseph Tolliver Curtis the accident heretofore referred to?"

"What did you say, Mr. Wilkins?" worried Virginia.

"Will you please state," demanded Hezekiah absently, "whether at any
time or any place you discussed the subject matter of this action with
the plaintiff."

"Mr. Wilkins, what are you talking about?" Virginia cried in dismay.

Hezekiah came out of his preoccupation. "I beg your pardon," he said
hastily. "I asked if you ever talked over the accident with Curtis."

"Is that the question you asked me, Mr. Wilkins?"

"Honest," he chuckled.

"Oh, I can answer that easily. I talked it all over with him."

"Have you objection to advising me of the substance--" Hezekiah stopped
and restated his question--"Will you tell what you said, Virginia?"

"Certainly, I told Mr. Curtis that I was to blame for the accident and
he said it was his own fault."

The lawyer was surprised. "Did he admit negligence?"

Virginia deemed this question to imply danger to Joe and she remembered
her promise. "I am not at liberty to say, Mr. Wilkins," she answered
stoutly. "I can't discuss Mr. Curtis's part in the accident."

For a moment Hezekiah eyed the girl thoughtfully. He arose and took a
turn up and down the room while his eyes danced with mischief. He reached
a decision which changed his line of questioning when he reseated
himself. "Virginia, do you think that you were to blame for that
accident?" he asked the girl.

"I know that I was."

"If you were a witness in court, would you testify that the accident was
your fault?"

"I would admit my blame anywhere and any place, Mr. Wilkins."

"Did Mr. Curtis say anything to you about bringing a suit for damages
against your father?"

"No, he wouldn't do that, I'm sure."

"Why are you sure?"

"I told him that I believed my father should pay him damages."

"What did he say to that?" asked Hezekiah with interest.

"He said that he wouldn't take money from my father."

"Was he angry, Virginia?"

"Oh, no indeed." She hesitated for a moment. "He seemed tired and worn
out and so I left him."

"Well, Virginia, what would you say if I told you that I tried to reach
an agreement with Mr. Curtis the other day and he refused to accept
anything in settlement?"

"I say that my father is just the dearest and noblest man that ever
lived. He sent you to do that, didn't he, Mr. Wilkins, and never said a
word about it to me? Isn't that just like Daddy?"

Hezekiah smiled but said no word. Possibly he remembered the amount of
the check. Professional confidences make lawyers cynical. He drummed a
spirited march upon his desk with his fingers and took no other part in
the acclaim of Obadiah.

"Mr. Wilkins," worried Virginia, "do you suppose that you could have
hurt Mr. Curtis's feelings?"

"I did not intend to. Men are never as gentle as women, though."
Hezekiah was playing a foxy game. "A man is rougher. It is easy for him
to hurt the feelings of a sensitive person without having the slightest
intention of doing so."

[Illustration: "THIS REQUEST APPEARED TO REQUIRE DEEP THOUGHT"]

Virginia gave serious regard to memories of a pair of black eyes. "I
think Joe Curtis is very sensitive," she said softly.

"Probably," agreed the crafty Hezekiah.

"Would you mind, Mr. Wilkins--" she gave the lawyer an appealing glance
after some moments of consideration--"if I talked with Mr. Curtis about
it?"

This request appeared to require deep thought, judging from the
seriousness of Hezekiah's face for a few moments. Then it lightened
as he decided, "I can see no objection to your talking to Mr. Curtis."
The attorney's manner became cheery and hopeful. "Now, if you two
could arrive at a friendly settlement, it might be a most satisfactory
arrangement." Hezekiah slapped his palms together and squeezed his own
fingers as if shaking hands with himself at the successful outcome of
his benevolent moves. Then he chuckled softly and went on, "Let's
see what kind of an adjustment you two youngsters can make. If I can
approve it, I will be glad to submit it to your father."

"I will see him as soon as I can, Mr. Wilkins. I can't go to the
hospital this afternoon." Virginia's manner became very dignified,
as she continued, "I am giving a concert, at the Lucinda Home."

"Delightful." Hezekiah bowed low at the news.

"I can see Mr. Curtis in the morning."

"That will be quite time enough. Don't inconvenience yourself,
Virginia." Hezekiah smiled as they arose.

"Mr. Wilkins, won't you come to my concert?" asked Virginia, shyly.

"It would be a pleasure, indeed, but, business first, you know." He
waved his hands, palms upward, as if protesting the lowness of his profit.

"My father said that I might tell you that he would be glad if you could
arrange to come. He is out of town."

"Oh, in that case--" Hezekiah's manner was courtly--"I deem myself
highly privileged in accepting your invitation."

As Virginia left Hezekiah's office, she found herself facing the
open door of her father's suite. Through it Mr. Jones was visible at
his desk, improving his mind in Obadiah's absence by reading a refined
story by a polished author concerning genteel people. Mr. Jones needed
physical rest and mental recreation. Upon the previous evening, Mike
Kelly had seized his person and regardless of vigorous protests had put
him through such a series of calisthenics, runnings, jumpings and
rubbings that the particular soreness of each bone and muscle had merged
into one great and common ache.

At the opening of Hezekiah's door, Mr. Jones raised his eyes and,
consequently, his head. A wave of pain swept his muscles. He grimaced
frightfully. It was upon this distorted countenance that Virginia
gazed. The terrifying effect of the face held the girl for a second,
but believing it occasioned by grievous illness she hastened to the aid
of the stricken one.

Mr. Jones instantly recognized her and the course of destiny was made
manifest. Regardless of untoward events, his social merit was appreciated
and now one approached seeking counsel or bearing invitations to
social festivities. She should not seek in vain. Percy Jones, private
secretary and social adviser, was at her service. He sprang from his
chair to meet the maid of blood with knightly bow and courtly grace.
Alack and aday, that snare of the devil, his waste basket, was misplaced.
He tripped against it. To avoid the thing, he raised his foot only to
step into the throat-like neck of the monster which instantly clove
to his shoe. Simultaneously, a flood of pain protested against his
violent movements. In his agony, Mr. Jones lost his balance and fell
over his desk. His outstretched hands sought safe anchorage amidst ink
stands and mucilage bottles to rest finally in an ever spreading lake of
ink.

Virginia halted. Mr. Jones's face, rent by emotion and struggle,
convinced her that he must be in parlous case.

Kelly hurried in at the crash. He observed Mr. Jones's predicament
with great calmness. Nodding to Virginia, he held the basket until the
stenographer could extract his foot. Then he turned to the girl and
said very soberly, in spite of the glint of amusement in his eye, "Mr.
Jones is the victim of an accident and requests permission to retire
and cleanse himself."

As the crestfallen private secretary departed, Kelly and Virginia moved
over to a window. The summer day in all of its beauty fought back the
ugliness of the tin roofs and chimneys. The bookkeeper viewed the
prospect. "By gum," he asked, "how'd you like to go snowshoeing?"
This marvelous witticism was greeted by a burst of laughing applause
from its author and the girl, far in excess of its merit.

"Jones doesn't feel very well today," Kelly explained to her. "He is
the victim of unusual exercise."

"He doesn't look like a man who would over-exercise. He does not strike
me as a man who is in the best of health," she responded.

"He isn't. That's why he's so stiff and sore after a few little
stunts. He doesn't get enough fresh air." Kelly cast a longing
glance out of the window and turned to inspect the room. "There isn't
enough fresh air in this place, anyway. Jones has sat in here day after
day, sucking on cigarettes and beating on that typewriter, until good
health no longer knows him. But," announced the bookkeeper with great
confidence, "I am old Doctor Fix'em. I'm giving him a course in
physical training which will fix him. I'm going to make that lad forget
his present pains by giving him worse ones."

"I think it is perfectly fine of you, Mr. Kelly, to help Mr. Jones,"
exclaimed Virginia, highly interested in the bookkeeper's plans for the
benefit of the stenographer. "It must make you very happy to be able
to do it."

"Sure," he agreed. "I laugh myself sick every time I give him a new
stunt to do. That fellow has good points. One of these days he's going
to have the smile on some one else. You can't keep a good man down."

"Couldn't I help Mr. Jones, too?" asked the girl eagerly.

Kelly stared at her in amazement. "No, it can't be done," he cried,
emphatically. "Whoever heard of a woman trainer? You've had no
experience anyway."

Virginia blushed. "I didn't mean to help train him." She waxed
indignant at the thought. "I only offered to do those things which I
could do."

"Oh--" Kelly was relieved--"go as far as you like. There is plenty of
chance for all on that fellow. It would be dandy if you could work it to
get him out of doors once in awhile."

"Watch me," she promised.

Mr. Jones reentered the room physically clean and mentally chastened but
deep in gloom. He had forgotten that the darkest hour comes just before
dawn. Yet, a private secretary must not allow his personal feelings to
interfere with duty. He approached Virginia in what might be described
as a graceful manner marred by lameness. "I regret the unfortunate
occurrence which delayed me," he apologized. "If Miss Dale wishes to
see her father--"

A pair of blue eyes rested upon him in the kindest manner and a most
attractive mouth said, "I know that my father is away today and that
neither of you has much to do."

Obadiah's official staff looked guilty.

Virginia went on with enthusiasm. "We are going to give a concert this
afternoon for the old ladies at the Lucinda Home. It will be lovely. A
brass band--ice cream--Mr. Wilkins--"

The high interest of the young man cooled slightly at the lawyer's name,
regardless of the pleasing company in which he was mentioned.

"Won't you both come? You could help me so much."

"We can't get off," declared the practical Kelly.

"Yes, you can. My father said that I could invite whom I pleased."
She turned pleadingly to Mr. Jones. "You'll come and bring Mr. Kelly,
won't you?"

The victim of disaster was as one hypnotized by the charm of her
presence. Before the wiles of women, his gallant soul became as putty.
Mr. Jones stammered, he stuttered, he blushed--and from his lips came
the whispered answer, "Yes, Ma'am."



CHAPTER XI

OLD HEARTS MADE YOUNG


Nature left nothing to be desired in the weather as the hour approached
for the concert at the Lucinda Home. Over the closely shaven lawn and
beneath the shade of the trees lay the tranquillity of a summer's
afternoon.

This was disturbed, shortly after lunch, by the roaring of the Dale car
as it rushed up the curving driveway to the main building. It was driven
by Ike, and Serena sat beside him in the purity of apparel, freshly
laundered and starched.

But, even at this hour, the aged ladies had retired to their apartments
to make ready for the gaieties of the late afternoon.

The coming of the Dale car was the beginning of a series of commotions in
this haven of peace. A big army truck arrived with a noise of thunder
bringing trestles and plank for a temporary band stand. It stopped,
and through the balmy silence sounded a rough, coarse, masculine voice,
"Where in the devil do they want this blame thing?" Answered his
companion, "You can search me."

A window closed with a crash to shut out contamination from such vulgar
sources.

As the army truck and its crew noisily departed, another machine entered
the grounds. It was a quiet car, not given to loud or uncouth uproar.
Stealing up the driveway, it stopped. Mr. Vivian emerged, garbed in
spotless white. Other soft stepping, mild mannered men, similarly
clothed, accompanied him, bearing freezers of cream and boxes of cake.

Serena entered into conference with the caterer. "Des ole ladies dey
wants der tea mo'e den yo'alls sweet stuff."

Mr. Vivian appeared pained at such taste.

Serena went on, "Ah's gwine mek de tea in de kitchen an' surve it an'
de sandwiches outen de side do'."

Disgust sat upon Mr. Vivian's features. "I shall serve the cream from
under the trees, in the cool fresh air," he announced.

"You gwine surve it full o' bugs an' flies den," predicted Serena.

Mr. Vivian, through the exercise of self-control, stood mute.

Serena sought information. "Who gwine surve ma tea an' ma sandwiches?"
she inquired.

Mr. Vivian whistled a few measures of melody, softly. Being thus engaged,
he could not respond.

Serena pressed for an answer. "Ain' yo'all do dat?"

"Possibly my men may assist you," the caterer conceded, as he glanced
at his assistants grouped at his back.

Serena was supported by Ike and several colored females, employees of the
Home, into whose good graces the chauffeur was endeavoring to ingratiate
himself.

The situation was tense.

Serena's hands were upon her hips and her entire body vibrated. Her
eyes glistened with rage and rested menacingly upon the caterer. She
was clothed in an air of mystery. Her opponent could not determine
whether she proposed to rely upon logical argument, abusive language, or
physical violence.

Mr. Vivian noted uneasily the mass of vibrant temper he had aroused. He
stood his ground, however, and did not retreat.

"Whoall is er givin' dis yere sociable? Whoall pays fo' dis yere
'tainment? Ah asts you dat? Answer me, whiteman?"

Ike drew nigh, inclining an ear that he might miss no word of the
altercation. "Dats right," he interjected in a rich mellow voice.

Mr. Vivian gave no heed to the aid and comfort vouchsafed his adversary.

"Ah tells you who pays. Ah'm right yere to tell yo'all who pays,"
proclaimed Serena. "Miss Virginy done pay. Dat who." Hers was a song
of triumph now. "Ahs her nu'se. Ah's her housekeeper." She shook a
great fist at the caterer. "Whiteman, wot ah sez, ah means. Ef yo'all
ain' gwine surve ma sandwiches an' ma tea, jes tek yo'se'f an' des
yere white waiters away f'om yere."

"Dat's right," concurred Ike, confident that he appeared to good
advantage before the employees of the Home and that, through his stalwart
support of Serena, he was laying up treasure for a rainy day.

"What's all this talk about?" Mr. Vivian demanded suddenly as if being
a stranger to the controversy he sought enlightenment. "Who said that
I wouldn't serve your sandwiches and tea?"

Serena, after the manner of her generation, was wise. She understood
the whiteman and knew when to stop war and resort to diplomacy. She
whirled upon the hapless Ike. "Ain' yo'all got no bettah manners
an' to stan' der er listin' at dis gent'men an' me a talkin'.
You 'minds me o' er ole turkey gobbler er standin der wid you' haid
twisted."

Such an unlooked-for attack, from one with whom he had publicly allied
himself, grieved Ike sorely. He retreated crestfallen and humiliated.

When Virginia entered the kitchen she found Serena and Mr. Vivian
laboring diligently and as intimate friends, decrying the efficiency of
their assistants without regard to color or previous condition of
servitude.

Another army truck brought the band. White collars and ties showed
festively above brass buttoned blue coats. Hair, mustaches, and whiskers
had been dressed with extraordinary care, and aged musicians looked
from beneath campaign hats worn at a most rakish angle. As they took
possession of the stand, there ensued a period of melancholy tootings
as instruments were adjusted and lips made supple.

Excitement seized the old ladies at their toilets, as these isolated
blarings smote their ears. Certain partially deaf ones, confident
that the concert had begun and desirous of missing no note of it,
descended, minus switches, false fronts and, indeed, in one case, an
over-skirt. These omissions became the subject of great embarrassment
when discovered later.

As three o'clock approached, a prim calmness fell upon the inmates of
the home when they assembled stiffly gowned in best apparel.

Hezekiah Wilkins, in holiday garb of silk hat and cutaway frock, arrived.
Mrs. Henderson came a few moments later. Certain uninvited ancient
men dressed as for a fiesta followed. Mr. Jones and Kelly entered the
grounds with an air of having casually dropped in and not intending to
stay long. The stenographer wore a natty suit, the check of which caught
the discriminating eye of Ike as it rounded the gate. At the scheduled
moment for the concert, Colonel Ryan approached and, after saluting
Virginia, seated himself upon the porch and viewed the band with the
pride and pleasure of its proprietor.

At the tap of the leader, the onlookers were dazzled by golden
reflections as the musicians lifted their instruments. With a burst
of harmony, Virginia's concert was on. Even at the first note, the
stiff dignity of the audience melted and they conversed. Women whose
taciturnity had been remarked for years in that place of silence became
loquacious.

The concert made an attractive picture. The band was upon the lawn in
front of the building. On the lower porch and in shady places about the
grounds were groups of aged women. Their white hair blended softly with
the dresses of grey and black, and soft fichus or treasured bits of lace
were drawn about wrinkled necks by cameos and big brooches.

Mr. Wilkins conducted Mrs. Henderson to several spots from which to
hear the music. They were rejected summarily by the fastidious widow on
the grounds of ants below or spiders above and the general presence of
bugs. Finally she made her own selection, confessing a suspicion of the
presence in concealment of grasshoppers and the fear that the place was
attractive to frogs and grass snakes.

Perceiving Hezekiah's holiday attire and Mrs. Henderson's manner,
Mr. Vivian deemed them important personages and served them bountifully
with his own hands. He was rewarded by hearing the widow tell her
escort, "You can't buy decent ice cream in South Ridgefield. It's all
adulterated and unfit for human consumption. The people who make such
stuff should be put in jail for life."

Hezekiah chuckled contentedly. "Why not chop off their heads?" he
suggested kindly.

Mr. Vivian departed hastily.

From their position they could see Virginia moving busily about from
group to group.

Mrs. Henderson indicated her. "There is a dear girl," she said fondly.
"It's Elinor Dale come back again."

"Virginia is very like her mother," he agreed.

"Why did Elinor ever marry a man like Obadiah?" she sighed.

Hezekiah liked sandwiches. Particularly lettuce sandwiches with
mayonnaise dressing. Mrs. Henderson's question caught him unawares.
"Wanted to," he mumbled through his mouthful.

"Hezekiah Wilkins, an answer of that sort kills conversation. You give
me a sociable reply."

The muffling sandwiches had been gotten rid of. "Fascinated," he
suggested.

"Fascinated by a serpent," sniffed Mrs. Henderson.

The inference that Obadiah was a reptile failed to effect the appetite
of his legal adviser. He appropriated another sandwich.

"Why do you work for him, anyway?" she demanded sharply.

"Money," confessed Hezekiah, between bites.

"Hezekiah, there is something about your conversation which irritates
me. I think that its brevity gets on my nerves." She gave him a
questioning look. "I want to talk seriously with an old friend,
Hezekiah. I want to ask him to do something for me."

He stopped eating and turned towards her. The humor had faded from his
face and in its place was a certain sweetness with much of sorrow in it.
"Over twenty years ago, you asked me to be a brother to you, Mary,"
he said softly. "I have always tried to be a good one--to be ready to
obey your slightest wish."

There was pain and pity in her countenance as she reached over and patted
his hand. "I know it, Hezekiah," she whispered. "You have been too
good a brother to me. You should have married." There was a catch in
her voice and her eyes were moist, when she continued, "I never intended
to condemn you to a life of loneliness when I married Tom Henderson."

His thoughts flew back over the long years. "It has been lonely, Mary,"
he admitted. "Are you sorry that I could not forget?"

"No," she whispered, winking back her tears. "It has been a beautiful
tribute--too beautiful for me. I was never worthy of it."

"I am the better judge of that," he murmured quietly.

For a time they were lost in the dreams of what might have been, when
they were disturbed by the big booming laugh of Colonel Ryan.

"Hezekiah Wilkins," exclaimed Mrs. Henderson with some sharpness, "we
are a pair of sentimental old fools to dig up the past. We should save
our strength for the future."

"Implying that we might better be preparing to dig our own graves. Is
that your idea?" he demanded.

Indignant eyes in which but little sentiment lingered, rested upon the
lawyer. "I suppose that you wished to be amusing, Hezekiah, but for a
man noted for his tact that was an inexcusably gruesome speech. We may be
old, as you intimate," she snapped, "but we have work to do before--we
get busy on our own graves." Her gaze traveled across the lawn and
came to rest upon the girlish figure of Virginia standing beside the
Colonel. Hennie's mood softened, and when she spoke, it was as if she
were thinking aloud. "If we have met sorrow and disillusionment in our
own lives, Hezekiah, and with smiling lips have swallowed the bitter
mouthful, should we not be willing to keep those whom we love from a
similar experience?"

Hezekiah bowed in sober agreement.

"Virginia Dale is very happy this afternoon," Mrs. Henderson went
on, "because she is doing what her mother, Elinor, always loved to
do--make others happy. It has never entered her head that her father is
not generous and kind--that he is the mean and selfish man that you and
I know."

The widow reached over and laid her hand upon that of the lawyer.
"I am going to tell you a story, Hezekiah. It is about those good
old days when you and I used to dance and do other gay and frivolous
things--before we laid ourselves on the shelf." Her face saddened. "My
story is mostly a guess," she continued, "and it is about what I
think happened to Elinor Dale in those long bedridden hours before she
died."

Again, he bowed and he was saddened, too, by the memories she recalled.

"It is my guess, Hezekiah," she resumed, "that before Elinor Dale
died, the scales fell from her eyes and she knew the true Obadiah."
Mrs. Henderson sighed. "Poor Elinor knew that she had to go. Too loyal
to confide in any one, she wanted to fight his selfish influence over
her baby girl after she had gone. Let me tell you what she did--the poor
weapon she was forced to resort to, Hezekiah." The widow shook her head
sorrowfully. "Elinor marked a poem in a book and pledged me to give it
to Virginia on her eighteenth birthday.

"This afternoon is one of the first fruits of the seed poor Elinor
sowed years ago. Her daughter has grown, thanks to poor Serena's
efforts--they ought to be successful because I don't believe that
old negro ever bought the child a hat without taking it up in her
prayers--into a beautiful woman. Fertile soil for the crop her
mother would harvest, but--" Mrs. Henderson paused and her eyes
flashed--"there is that Obadiah. Only the kindness of fate has kept
Virginia from understanding him. When she does there will be a day of
reckoning."

Mrs. Henderson leaned towards Hezekiah and looked into his eyes with
her own overflowing with a great tenderness. "My faithful brother,"
she whispered, "when that day comes won't you do your part in keeping
that sweet girl happy even as she is trying to do it for these old
ladies? In your way you can do more than I can, Hezekiah. Won't you
do it for Elinor?" She hesitated for a moment and continued, very
softly, very gently, "Won't you do it for me?"

He returned Hennie's look, his face alight with tenderness. "I will,
Mary," he promised.

The activities of Mr. Jones at this period were interesting. Regardless
of his aches and pains, he deemed it his duty, as Obadiah's private
secretary, to assume an active part in making the entertainment a
success. With this in mind, he had volunteered his services to Virginia.
Rewarding him with a sweet smile, she had sent him for a cup of tea. Mr.
Jones performed this errand with great expedition and dispatch, thereby
winning the gratitude of an aged tea drinker. Virginia being busy, Mr.
Jones determined to exhibit his zeal in so signal a manner that it might
not be overlooked. Returning to the kitchen, he seized a tray of edibles
and, bearing it forth, began to distribute its contents with great energy.

Instantly, excitement seized the white coated waiters. They laid
aside their trays and conferred. Soon, above the music, even above
conversation, the notes of a whistle sounded. It was not the piercing
call of a policeman or of a referee, it was not the pipe of a boatswain,
it was rather the low, mourning call of a dove. As it smote the ears
of Mr. Vivian he became as one transfixed with horror. He became
ghastly pale as he recognized that the earnest efforts of Mr. Jones
alone stood between the guests and famine.

Recovering himself, the caterer hurried towards his assembled employees.
From his manner it appeared he hoped for the best but suspected the
worst. "What's the matter here?" he demanded in low, tense tones.

"We have struck," murmured the waiters.

Mr. Vivian's worst expectations were confirmed. "Why?" he inquired,
with the usual interest of employers under similar circumstances.

The strikers turned and pointed at the form of Mr. Jones as he
distributed a tray of viands with such marvelous rapidity that the
effect of the walkout was as yet unnoticed by the aged. "Scab,"
they hissed in hostile sibilation. "Strikebreaker," they groaned,
impressed by the wonderful dexterity of the stenographer.

"Where did that bird come from?" demanded the amazed Mr. Vivian as he
viewed the skill of the gratuitous laborer.

"You know," taunted an irate waiter; but Mr. Vivian's honest
countenance gave him the lie in his teeth, noiselessly.

Curiosity held the little group. They examined Mr. Jones's work with
professional interest, making surmises as to his identity. "Looks like a
jockey," said one. "More like a barber," urged another. "I'll bet
ten cents he is an ex-bartender," wagered a sportive character.

Even as they watched, Mr. Jones approached Virginia, offering her food
with profound bows and courtly manners.

"He is a waiter," declared the strikers with one accord, and again they
rested suspicious eyes upon Mr. Vivian.

"That dub ain't working for me," affirmed the caterer.

Much elated at successfully allaying famine, Mr. Jones turned anew
towards the kitchen. Had not Virginia smiled upon him? He swung his tray
and whistled a merry tune. In the pleasure of serving others, the aches
and pains of the athlete were forgotten. At the kitchen door he was
surrounded by resolute men.

"Make no resistance," a determined voice warned.

The white coated mob moved away escorting Mr. Jones as towards summary
execution.

Scenting happenings of interest, Ike followed.

From the kitchen Serena sought information. "Whar yo'all gwine?" she
demanded.

"Dey done struck. Yah--yah--yah," laughed Ike.

"Shut you' big mouf. Ah ain' er astin' you nothin'." Serena
reproved the chauffeur and then she charged into the midst of the mob.
"Wot yo'all mean a leavin' ma trays an' dirty dishes out in dat
ya'd? Ain' you know how to wait?" Her eyes flashed her indignation.
"Go git ma dishes an' ma trays afo'e ah meks you move fas'er den you
lak."

As snow before an April sun the strike melted. The waiters departed
hastily for their field of duty, leaving Mr. Jones alone with Serena.
She glared at him fiercely. "How cum you mek ma waiters mad?" she
demanded.

Amazed at the strange results of his diligence, Mr. Jones stood silent
under her accusation.

She inspected his slight figure contemptuously. "Clea' out," she
commanded, "afo ah lays ma han' on you an' breks you, boy."

This last victim of woman's tongue moved rapidly towards the front lawn
seeking safety amidst aged women. On the way he passed a fellow sufferer.

Serena's cutting remarks had, for Ike, turned an afternoon of pleasure
and recreation into a time of humiliation. Here was music, food,
agreeable company, all turned into dust by public reprimands. Yet the
inextinguishable fire of hope burned in his breast. In the fullness of
time, Serena might forget, allow him to enter the kitchen as one in
good standing and, in the alluring company of the colored maids, to
partake of refreshments. Until then he must wait. Doing this, he
watched the assemblage with melancholy eyes. He considered the band
futile. It played no jazz. In an unhappy hour, tobacco brings solace to
man. Ike produced a cigarette. Lighting it, he puffed nervously,
suspecting the use of the weed in this haunt of aged women to be taboo.
Happy laughter arose in the kitchen easily identified as the hearty
tones of Serena, amused, a favorable augury to the courtier cooling
his heels in the ante room. Casting down his cigarette, Ike turned to
reconnoiter. The butt dropped beneath the porch into some ancient
leaves, damp but inflammable.

The leaves ignited and smouldered. Fanned by a gentle breeze the fire
grew into a burning which produced much smoke and little flame.

Upon the porch sat Mrs. Comfort Bean. Life to her was an open book. She
had survived three husbands. The first, a drunkard, had drowned, not
in rum, but in the river into which he had the misfortune to fall while
returning home from a convivial evening enjoyed with other gay lads at
the village tavern. The second, a gambler, was shot in an altercation
over the ill-timed presence of five aces in a card game. The third, a
fragile thing, had faded like a flower. Mrs. Bean had neither regrets
for, nor fear of, man. She knew him too well. She had come to anchor in
the Lucinda Home like a storm ridden ship seeking safe harbor after a
stormy passage. Here lay a peace the like of which she had never known.

But one cloud rested upon her horizon. Mrs. Bean was afraid of fire. She
considered that because the inmates could not dwell upon the ground floor
of the Home, the place was a fire trap and the most horrible holocaust,
not only possible but probable. To inure herself to the inevitable, she
read the harrowing details of every fire involving fatalities.

Having enjoyed refreshments, Mrs. Bean had retired to the porch that she
might listen to the music in the peace of her own thoughts. She sniffed.
It was but a tentative sniff. Not a full, deep whiff. Such sniffs she
gave many times each day. "Somethin's burnin'," said Mrs. Comfort
Bean. Hearers being absent, there was no sympathetic response. "I smell
fire," she announced in louder tones. A phenomenon puzzled Mrs. Bean's
highly developed olfactory nerves. Her nostrils were assailed by the
odor of ignited hay instead of the fateful smell of burning wood.

The fire smouldered and spread. A gust of wind came. Mrs. Comfort Bean,
sniffing expectantly, was enveloped in a thin cloud of smoke. It caught
her when, dissatisfied by preliminary investigations, she had taken a
full, deep whiff. Mrs. Bean was almost asphyxiated. Gasping and choking
she strangled in the efficient smudge of Ike's preparing. A change
in the wind relieved her. "Fire!" she screamed.

As this fateful cry, anguish-toned, rang over the festive throng, many an
aged heart stood still. Shrieks arose as well as answering alarms.
For the moment terror held them, and then certain women rushed for
the building that they might ascend to their apartments and rescue
choice possessions. Other more hardened spirits removed their chairs
to positions of advantage that in greater comfort, they might "Watch
the blamed old thing burn down."

The coolness of military men was well exemplified by Colonel Ryan. He
arose from his chair at the first alarm and shouted, "Sit down," in a
voice which had arisen above the roar of cannon. Perceiving the stampede
towards the building, he thundered, "Two of you waiters keep those
women out of there." In utter disregard of the high cost of shoes,
he roared, "Stamp that fire out!" In searching tones, he demanded,
"Who set it?" No guilty man confessed, but Ike became ill at ease and
sought retirement in the crowd.

The Colonel turned to the leader of the band which rested between
numbers. "Play!" he commanded. These ancient musicians had little
regard for modern music. They loved the tuneful airs of the past and were
about to render some selections from "The Serenade." At the word
of the leader, the chorus from "Don Jose of Seville," the words of
which run, "Let her go, piff, paff," pealed forth.

To avert impending peril, Mrs. Comfort Bean had remained upon the porch
emitting loud screams at intervals as if they were minute guns. She
disappeared into the hall. She was back in a moment. Kelly was gazing
beneath the porch at the smouldering leaves. She called to him, "You
big red-headed feller," and when he looked up, she screamed, "Fire
extinguisher."

He nodded understandingly and in a moment had procured the apparatus
from the hall and carried it to the end of the porch where a group of
waiters, assisted by their late enemy, Mr. Jones, were endeavoring to
stamp the fire out.

For an instant Kelly perused the directions. Then he inverted the
extinguisher. There was a hissing as of a monstrous snake. From the
nozzle gushed a fizzing, sizzling jet like a soda fountain in action.
Kelly whirled about to bring the stream to bear upon the conflagration.
As he turned, the frothing liquid circled with him and cut the check
suit of Mr. Jones, the white coats of the waiters, and the Norfolk jacket
of Ike, at the waist line. Now arose the protests and violent language of
angry men.

"You big chump, ain't you got no sense?" gasped Mr. Jones,
ungrammatically.

"Get out of the way so that I can put this fire out. You are kicking it
all over the place," the bookkeeper responded.

"I have as much right here as you--you big lump of grease," proclaimed
Mr. Jones as he inspected with indignation the dark colored belt with
which he had been invested.

Kelly cast a menacing look at the stenographer. "If you don't shut up,
I am going to stick this nozzle down your throat," he threatened.

Mr. Jones watched the fizzling stream as if estimating its physiological
effect under the conditions named, and remained silent.

Loud laughter sounded in the kitchen. Ike, cooled by his bath, had
presented himself for comforting.

Serena thus welcomed him. "Dey souse you in saltpeter an' you done
smoke youse'f so you mus' be cu'ed lak er ham. Sit by de stove. Ah
gwine give you er cup o' coffee," she chuckled, "ef yo'all smells
ham er feels youse'f er beginnin' to fry, git out o' yere afo you
greases de flo."

So Ike rested in comfort, sandwiches and coffee at his side, and smiled
pleasantly upon the maids. Truly, after affliction, he had entered into
the blessings of the promised land.

The fire was out. Kelly moved to return the extinguisher to its place.
With a thud, a white bundle dropped from the third floor upon his head.
It appeared soft but upon its touch Kelly sank to the ground, blinking
vacantly.

Forgetful of their recent altercation, Mr. Jones rushed to his fellow
worker's assistance. "What's the matter?" he demanded.

Kelly rubbed his head. "Somebody hit me with a rock," he answered,
observing Mr. Jones meanwhile with suspicion.

The stenographer kicked the bundle open. Then, howling with pain, he
grabbed his toe. In the center of the bundle lay a mantel clock. "Might
have killed you--easy," he spluttered at Kelly, and raised indignant
eyes to where an old woman, her wrinkled face filled with anxiety, leaned
over the railing. "Did you throw that clock?" demanded Mr. Jones.

She held her hand to her ear and smiled sweetly. "What?" she called.

"Clock," bawled Mr. Jones. "Did you drop that clock?"

"I can't hear you," she answered.

"Clock," yelled the private secretary.

"Yes, it's mine. Thank you for telling me that it is not hurt," she
responded in great contentment to the vexed Mr. Jones.

The reunited official staff of Obadiah moved on, one member limping, the
other caressing his head.

Gentle peace returned for the moment to the emotion-swept aged ones. But
now, through the gates of the Home rushes the fire department of South
Ridgefield. With awe inspiring roar and mighty clangor of bells the
engines advance, reflecting gorgeously in the afternoon sun. Taxpayers
must have thrilled with pride as they remarked the speed of approach and
energy with which these public servants entered upon their duties. Even
as they halt, powerful pumps sound, ready to deluge the edifice with
water while enthusiastic men with axes rush into the halls and upon
the roof, prepared to hew.

"Where is the fire?" demanded the chief in a voice of authority.

Silently, Mrs. Bean led him to the blackened leaves.

"Who turned in that alarm?" he asked with great sternness.

"I did," calmly replied the widow of three.

For a moment he looked down into the wrinkled face filled with the pride
and satisfaction of duty well done. He raised his helmet and scratched
his head. "The whole department out for a bonfire," he grumbled.

Virginia came and smiled timidly at this burly man. "I am sorry that
you have been given all of this trouble," she said. "I have arranged
to serve refreshments to your men, if you don't object."

When his little hostess left him, the grim old fire fighter stood at the
head of the steps and gazed at the waiters ministering with energy to
the voracious appetites of his men. "Huh," he chuckled, "looks like
that blame bonfire cooked up a pretty good feed for my boys."

The concert ended and the musicians awaited, in a group, the truck which
was to take them back to the Soldiers' Home. Colonel Ryan went to speak
to the leader. As he turned to Virginia, who had been at his side, he
discovered her thanking the members of the organization individually
for their part in the concert.

"Your music was beautiful," she told a cornet player. "Every one
enjoyed it so much." She made apology to the entire number. "It is too
bad that the fire alarm disturbed you."

"That weren't no disturbance, Ma'am," the cornetist reassured
her. He was bowed with age and had a shrill cracked voice. Tucking
his instrument under his arm, he filled a disreputable pipe and went on.
"No, Ma'am, that weren't what I'd call no disturbance. In the war our
old Colonel used to make us go out on the skirmish line and play. Our
leader allowed that the rattle of bullets on the drum heads ruined the
time."

"How brave of you," Virginia marveled at this thumping tale of war.

"Had to be brave in my regiment, Ma'am. Old Colonel Dean was a bob-cat
and he expected his men to be catamounts," he cackled.

A clarionetist chewed a stubby mustache and listened to the remarks of
the cornet player with a hostile air. "They ain't over their squallin'
yit," he proclaimed, and the musicians roared with laughter.

Shaking his old pipe wrathfully at his fellows, the man with the cornet
challenged them. "Colonel Dean was a bob-cat," he maintained. "A
ragin', clawin', scratchin', bob-cat of a fighter and the whole
regiment was just like the old man."

As the name Dean was mentioned, an old lady arose from a group with
whom she had been chatting and drew near the musicians. She was tall
and dignified and a cap of lace was pinned upon her snowy head. She
peered at the cornetist through her spectacles. "Were you speaking of
Colonel Dean of the Infantry?" she asked sweetly.

"Yes, Ma'am," the cornet player growled. "I was a talkin' about old
Colonel Dean of my regiment, a ragin', clawin', scratchin', fightin'
man." His bellicose tones indicated the danger of contradiction and
displayed a suspicion that his questioner lifted her voice in behalf
of his opponents.

"Colonel Dean," she said gently, "was my husband. Were you with him at
Shiloh?"

A great change swept over the cornetist. He bowed deeply, his hat
sweeping the ground. His voice was reverential, even tender, as he
replied, "I was behind him there, Ma'am--his bugler. I helped to
carry him from the field."

The group was very serious now. When the old veteran spoke again he could
not conceal the emotion which shook him. "Colonel Dean lived a brave
man, Ma'am, and he died--" he hesitated, seeking words--"just like a
soldier orter die." He straightened proudly, his old eyes flashing.
"Boys," he called, "my Colonel's lady. Attention!" As one man
they stiffened. Each hand sought the rim of a hat and together swept
forward in the old time salute.

Mrs. Dean acknowledged the honor with a bow of great dignity, but the
wrinkled hand at her side was shaking. For an instant the frail body held
its poise and then broke beneath the storm of feeling which beset it.
She seemed to shrink and would have fallen had not Virginia caught the
withered form in her arms and helped the old lady to a seat. After a time
the tears were fewer and the sobs lessened.

Mrs. Dean turned to the girl. "Forgive me, child," she begged.
"Forgive the weakness of an old woman." A withered hand stroked a
soft white one. "You have given me great happiness today, dearie."
Her eyes returned to the waiting members of the band. "I think," she
said very gently, "my soldier boys wish to speak to me." She arose and
one by one and silently the musicians came forward and took her hand.

A little later Mrs. Henderson and Hezekiah found Virginia at the foot
of the steps where she had just left Mrs. Dean. The girl was gazing off
into the distance.

"Virginia Dale, you have been crying," Hennie said, as she noted a
telltale moisture of the eyes.

"No, Hennie, I am wonderfully happy."

"So much so that you had to cry, dearie?" The older woman smiled
tenderly. Raising her hands she caught Virginia's cheeks between them
and looked down into the big blue eyes. "It was a success, dear--a
great success," she giggled mischievously for one of her years. "You
told us, remember, that the place needed stirring up. Bless your heart,
you shook it with an earthquake."



CHAPTER XII

MORE TROUBLE


"It is a fine form of advertisement and comes cheap," thought Obadiah
as he read, with pleasure, certain laudatory references to himself and
his daughter, in an article regarding the concert at the Lucinda Home,
prominently displayed in the morning paper.

He told her about it. "There is a very nice account of your concert
at the Lucinda Home. They give you great credit." He glanced at her
proudly. "You made a Dale success of it, didn't you?"

His words as well as her own satisfaction at the outcome of the concert
made Virginia very happy. All that morning she sang as she went about
her various affairs in the big house until Serena smiled to herself
and muttered, "Dat chil' is a mekin mo'e noise an' er jay bird er
yellin' caze de cher'ies is ripe."

The joyous mood was yet upon the girl when she went to the hospital that
afternoon and found Joe Curtis sitting up in bed for the first time.
"You are looking fine," she told him.

"Don't make me blush. I am a modest youth," he protested.

Her cheeks flushed prettily. "I am not complimenting your looks but your
health."

"It is all due to the shave, anyway," he grinned. "The fatal symptoms
are not so apparent."

She observed his face with interest. "It does look smoother," she
admitted. "Who shaved you? Did Miss Knight?"

"Hush!" he whispered in mock terror. "Don't let her hear you. She
didn't shave me, but she might want to. That would be the last straw. My
proud spirit would never survive the outrage of that woman wielding a
razor over my tender skin."

"I will ask her to shave you. Perhaps she may let me help," giggled
Virginia.

"I have always looked forward to your visits."

"You wouldn't be glad to see me even if I came to shave you?" she
demanded with severity.

He closed his eyes.

"Answer me," she commanded in a stern voice.

"I suffer great pain," he groaned.

"You are pretending. Answer my question."

With closed eyes he pondered aloud. "If she shaved me, her hands would
touch my face. They would caress my cheeks, softly--"

Virginia blushed. "I wouldn't touch your face for--for--anything,"
she interrupted.

"How would you shave me then? Who ever heard of a barber who did not
touch the face of the people he shaved?"

"I won't do the shaving. I'll bring the hot water. It will be scalding
hot, too," she promised.

"Coward," he taunted her, "to scald a man with three ribs and a leg
broken."

She gave him a very friendly look for one supposed to harbor such brutal
intentions; but as he referred to his injuries the fun died out of her
face. "It is unfair for you to suffer while I bear no part of the
punishment for my own thoughtlessness." Her lips trembled.

Joe reached over and patted her hand. "It was my own fault, I tell
you," he argued. "I am all hunky dory now, anyway."

"I know that my father would be glad to help you. Won't you let him,
please?" she begged.

"I want no help." His reply was brusque. "I am able to take care of
myself."

Virginia viewed him with thoughtful eyes. "I am afraid, Joe," she
protested, "that you only look at this matter from your own point of
view. There is my side, too. I want my conscience cleared of that old
accident. Every time I think of it, I am miserable. Is it nice that I
should be unhappy every time I think of the first time I met you?"

His mood softened and his eyes showed it by their tenderness. "I want
every minute of your life to be happy," he said with warmth.

She reddened under his words but was quick to follow up her advantage.
"Help me to be, then," she pleaded.

"There should be a way to satisfy us both," he admitted. He dropped
his head back upon his pillow and studied the ceiling for a time. He made
a suggestion but she shook her head violently.

She urged something and watched him expectantly.

All at once he began to chuckle. "I have it," he cried.

She leaned towards him and for a long time they were engaged in a
conversation which gave them both great pleasure and aroused their
enthusiasm to the highest degree.

Miss Knight came along the aisle and stopped at Joe's bedside. "You
people are having such a good time that I have to come and get into it."

They welcomed her as an intimate friend.

"We'll have Joe out in a roller chair before long," the nurse boasted.
"That will be pleasanter because he can receive his visitors on the
lawn these fine days," she giggled. "After that it won't be long
until the hour of sad farewells, will it, Joe?"

"Don't you worry, there will be no tears in my farewell I can tell you.
I shall be so delighted to get from under your tyrannical sway that I
am afraid my joy will give me a relapse and keep me in your clutches."

Miss Knight shook her head at the depravity of men. "How's that for
ungratefulness? They bring him to me helpless with pain and I bring him
back to health. Now he calls me a tyrant. Is that the way to reward a
faithful and devoted nurse?"

"Listen a minute, Knightie," begged Joe.

Virginia laughed barefacedly.

Miss Knight squelched the motorcyclist with a look, and addressed her
remarks to Virginia. "Did you hear that, now? _Knightie_--what kind of
a way is that to address a lady? The minute you utter a kind word near
him, he gets gay. He's the freshest thing I ever had in this ward."
She shook her head with weariness. "I've done my part. I have tried to
train him."

Joe attempted to smooth the ruffled feelings of the nurse. "Sister,"
he expostulated, "you don't get me--"

"Say," snapped Miss Knight, "if you don't cut out that 'sister'
habit I'll get you all right before I am done with you."

"Help!" groaned Joe. "What kind of a dump is this anyway? They cure
my leg but ruin my disposition. No one could ever be the same after two
months in this ward."

"I improve them in mind and body," Miss Knight boasted.

"You don't improve a thing," he retorted. "This place is a mad house.
I am kept awake by the voices of patients asking for poison to put them
out of their misery."

"Those voices are calling for cooling drinks these warm nights,
which," the nurse declared ruefully, "I have to prepare in the hot
afternoons." Determination seized her. "Joe Curtis," she exclaimed,
"you have had enough lemonade this week to bathe in and I have carried
it to you. Unless you apologize immediately you will get no more.
There now."

Before such a threat, Joe meekly surrendered and thus addressed the
stern-faced nurse. "Miss Knight, after listening to your bawling out,
I know that I should have called you 'Rapper' instead of 'Knightie,'
and I wouldn't have you as a sister at any price."

The nurse tossed her head in disdain. "I don't care to be related to a
motorcyclist," she announced.

Joe grinned at Virginia. "What did I tell you? No one cares for a
motorcyclist. They have no friends, even in a hospital."

"Why should any one care about them? Their troubles are due to their
own foolishness. They are a noisy pest in the streets and they get
themselves hurt and take up bed space in hospitals which might be
devoted to better uses." Miss Knight's seriousness gave way and her
eyes danced. "And they make their nurses like them in spite of it
all," she laughed as she hurried away to another patient.

Virginia watched Joe thoughtfully. "You take a strange way to show
Miss Knight that you like her," she told him. "You are always in an
argument with her."

"She starts the scrap, not I."

"But you make her do it!"

"No," he declared with earnestness, "she jumps on me to stir things up
and give her something to talk about."

"I don't understand you at all, Joe. You treat Miss Knight so
differently from the way you treat me. Yet, you like her," Virginia
urged.

"It's such great sport teasing her."

"Why don't you tease me?"

Joe considered the question. "I don't know," he answered frankly. "I
suppose it is because you are different."

Curiosity seized her. "How am I different?"

Great embarrassment held his tongue.

She was insistent. "Won't you answer my question?" she begged.

"It's a hard one. Perhaps I can't answer it."

"Oh, yes, you can. Try."

He made the attempt. "Perhaps it is because I have known girls like
Miss Knight all of my life. I played with them when I was a kid, went
to school with them, and, since I have been older, called on them and
took them to dances."

"Did you ever take them out on your motorcycle?" demanded Virginia
almost sharply.

The question surprised him. "No, I never had another seat on my wheel.
Why?"

"Oh, nothing." She was very indifferent now. "I don't think that I
approve of girls on motorcycles. Go on," she urged. "You were telling
about taking girls to dances. Where else did you take them?"

He thought a moment. "Sometimes I took them to Vivian's and had ice
cream or took them to a motion picture show."

"Oh, what fun." Virginia was thinking aloud.

"What?" he asked.

She very calmly disregarded his question. "You haven't told me how I
am different," she relentlessly persisted. "Please do."

"It was the way we met, I suppose--the way I saw you first," he
confessed, fighting back his embarrassment.

"Tell me about it, Joe," she pleaded softly.

"I was regaining consciousness after the accident. My whole body was a
great pain. I was trying to understand what had happened." He hesitated
and then went on. "I opened my eyes. For an instant everything was
blurred and indistinct. Things were whirling about in mists and billowy
clouds. They rolled apart and through them, constantly growing clearer,
came your face." He was almost whispering now. "You looked too
beautiful for this world and I believed that I was dead." A little
smile like a wavelet before a summer's zephyr swept over his face.
"You are a girl from the clouds to me," he said gently.

A very flushed Virginia leaned towards him. A great tenderness for this
big fellow held her, and for a moment she could not trust herself to
speak. She reached for his hand and held it in her own. "I must go,"
she murmured, as if driven away by her own timidity, and then, giving
him a smile of ineffable sweetness, she left him.

Joe Curtis was so tumultuously happy for the rest of that afternoon that
it was necessary for Miss Knight to reprove him on no less than three
occasions.

Virginia called again upon Mr. Wilkins after leaving the hospital. Her
business with the lawyer was speedily dispatched, and upon her departure
for home, Hezekiah presented himself before Obadiah for conference.

The manufacturer glanced at his counsel and indicated a seat. "I
was on the point of sending for you," he told Hezekiah, and in a
characteristic way went right to the matter upon his mind. "The river
water is bothering somebody again. They have started that old row about
the chemicals and dyes in the waste from the dye-house at the mill
poisoning the water. The State Board of Health is trying to tell me that
it makes the water unfit for consumption in the towns below and is
responsible for certain forms of sickness which have appeared."

"That's bad." Hezekiah looked at the ceiling.

"What's bad?" demanded Obadiah with asperity.

"The sickness," the lawyer explained thoughtfully.

"Oh, I thought you meant the waste from the dye-house," snarled Obadiah.

"Well, isn't that bad, too? I certainly am glad that South Ridgefield
doesn't take the water for its supply below your mill. I shouldn't care
to drink it, would you?" Hezekiah could be frank.

"What I want to drink is not the question," snapped Obadiah, raising
his voice a tone. The attitude of his attorney had aroused his
displeasure.

"No," Hezekiah went on, "it's what you can make the other fellow
drink which interests you."

Obadiah considered the lawyer's remarks unfortunate even if true. "I
am not trying to make anybody drink. These people have been drinking
the same water for years and now some troublemaker stirs up a hornets'
nest," he stormed. "They want to force me to build three thousand feet
of sewer to connect up with the city system and its new fangled sewage
disposal plant. I suppose this town would want rent for that, too. Did
you ever hear of such foolishness?"

The lawyer cast a keen glance at his employer. "Don't forget," he
suggested, "that you have doubled the capacity of your mill in the
last few years and are running twice as much waste into the river as
formerly."

"I don't care," roared Obadiah, in a high key. "It will cost several
thousand dollars to do what they want. Let those towns take care of
themselves. They must mistake me for a philanthropist trying to give my
money away."

Hezekiah removed his glasses and closed his eyes as if desirous that no
point, in the interesting thought of Obadiah giving anything away, might
perchance escape him.

"I won't do it," bleated Obadiah, striking the desk a resounding thump
which made Hezekiah open his eyes with a start. "I have been running
waste into that river for years and I intend to keep on doing it." He
glared at the lawyer. "You look up the decisions and be prepared to make
those people drink ink if I want to put it into the river."

Hezekiah arose and moved over to the window. Possibly the ascertainment
of a legal method to force citizens to accept writing fluid as a
beverage perplexed him. Yet, it couldn't have been that, because his
eyes danced with the glee of a mischievous school boy, and he seemed to
have difficulty in suppressing inward mirth, as one wishing to perpetrate
a huge joke with appropriate gravity.

In a moment he came back and faced Obadiah. "You will be glad to know
that a settlement has been reached with young Curtis," he announced
impressively.

"You have kept Virginia out of court proceedings?"

Hezekiah nodded.

Obadiah appeared relieved. "That is fine. I would look like a fool with
my own daughter testifying against me in court."

Hezekiah was trying to catch Obadiah's eye. "It is going to cost you
some money," he explained. "I warned you that young people have no
idea of the value of money. Remember, you authorized me to make the best
settlement that I could," he sternly reminded the mill owner.

Obadiah shrugged his shoulders irritably. "Yes, I am bound by any
nonsensical agreement you have made."

The attorney's voice was cold, and there was a glint of steel in his
eyes as he answered, "If you don't care to accept the compromise for
which I accept sole responsibility, it is your privilege to reject it
and take--the consequences."

Obadiah leaped to his feet and rushing to his lawyer patted him upon the
shoulder. "Don't be so touchy, Hezekiah," he exclaimed. "Have I ever
failed to support you?"

"No," Hezekiah admitted, "and you never will--but once."

Obadiah was desirous of placating his counsel. "You misunderstand me."

"I probably understand you better than any one else on earth."

The remark made the manufacturer uncomfortable. "Forget it," he
pleaded. "I agree to any arrangement which you have made, because of
my friendship, if for no other reason." He shook the lawyer's hand.
"Explain the agreement. I consent."

Hezekiah's manner was too calm. It was like the lull before a storm.
"You pay no money to the injured man," he announced.

Obadiah's face registered his surprise. "What the devil?" he cried.

Hezekiah gave no heed to this remark but went on with the solemnity
of a judge sentencing a prisoner. "You have agreed to furnish and to
endow for a period of five years, a private room at the South Ridgefield
Hospital to be used exclusively for the care and treatment of injured
motorcyclists."



CHAPTER XIII

VIRGINIA HELPS AGAIN


When Obadiah received the formal notice from the hospital authorities
of the acceptance of his gift, being unversed in the ways of
philanthropists, he sent for Hezekiah and handed him the letter. "I
want nothing to do with this matter," he snapped.

The lawyer bowed with great complacency.

"You may be interested to know, as you didn't take the trouble to
find out," the mill owner sneered, "that this fellow, Joseph Tolliver
Curtis, is employed by the State Board of Health. He spent his time
prior to the accident riding up and down the river taking samples of
the water to make a case against me."

"Ahem," coughed the lawyer.

"If that fellow were getting a cent out of the agreement," Obadiah
threatened, "I would break it."

"No, you wouldn't," replied the lawyer calmly. "I drew it and it's
enforceable. If necessary I would go into court myself to make you keep
it."

Obadiah glowered, but his eyes fell before those of his attorney.
"Well," he growled finally, "we won't quarrel over it. You handle
the matter." A look of distress came into his face. "I'll sign the
checks but I don't want to talk about it."

So, even though her father refused to discuss the subject Virginia
took up the matter of furnishing the room with great enthusiasm. She
sought advice from many persons but particularly from Joe Curtis, who was
deemed, through sad experience, capable of expressing the desires of
injured motorcyclists, and Miss Knight, who by long service had learned
those things which were not good for them.

After prolonged discussion, Virginia and Joe decided that the room
should be papered in an old fashioned design with a background of
egg-shell blue. The windows were to be curtained with a fine net
having a filet edge, and the furniture was to be of massive mahogany.
Pictures portraying sporting scenes believed suitable by Joe and of
gentle landscapes considered appropriate by the girl were to adorn the
walls in equal number. A harmonizing smoking set was added, and the
floor was to be strewn with Oriental rugs. Thus furnished, it was
confidently argued, the room would be restful and agreeable to the most
discriminating of motorcyclists.

When this plan was presented with pride to Miss Knight, she addressed
the pair in a sarcastic manner, "Did you by chance have in mind the
furnishing of a bridal suite? Haven't you forgotten a breakfast room
and a pipe organ?"

Reduced to a fitting condition of humbleness they sat at her feet, so
to speak, as she discoursed. "The room set aside is bright and cheery.
Its walls, windows and floor need no treatment. Put in a double enameled
bedstead--a brass one if you like. Have an enameled dresser and a plain
rocker and chairs of similar type. You may have a plain wardrobe and
an enameled medicine table, too. That's all." She smiled at them. "I
have conceded a lot, too."

"You have beautiful taste, Miss Knight. Don't you think so, Joe?"
remarked Virginia with great solemnity.

The motorcyclist nodded a vigorous agreement.

Thus encouraged the nurse became didactic. "The furnishing of a room
for the sick," she lectured, "is not a matter of taste. It is a
question of cleanliness. Give me a clean place with plenty of fresh
air and sunshine--nothing else counts." Before such simplicity the
pretentious plans faded, and in the end the wisdom of the nurse prevailed.

When Virginia left the ward that day it had grown extremely warm.
"Hotter than fiddlers in Tophet," Miss Knight called it.

"Where are those poor babies?" Virginia asked, as from a distant part
of the building came the petulant sound of infants protesting in the only
way they could against the high temperature.

"They are in the Free Dispensary,--the cases which are brought in from
the outside. They would wring your heart," the nurse answered.

Distress showed in Virginia's face. "I am going there and see if I can
help," she cried, and with a parting smile at Miss Knight she hurried
to the Dispensary.

Doctor Jackson nodded to her as she entered. "Every degree that the
temperature rises means more sick babies," he worried.

The peevish, fretful cries of the infants and the troubled looks of the
worn mothers filled the girl with pity. "How dreadful, Doctor. The poor
darlings. I wish I could help them," she said.

The medical man glanced at her with new interest. "Miss Dale, didn't
you give that concert at the Lucinda Home?" he asked.

When she answered him in the affirmative he came over to her. His duck
suit was rumpled and his collar wilted. His hair was mussed where he
had mopped it back. In his hand was a clinical thermometer and an
odor of drugs surrounded him. "Miss Dale," he urged, "why don't
you get up a picnic and take these mothers and babies into the country
for a few hours? You entertained the old ladies but you would save lives
if you could arrange to get some of these babies into a cool place for
awhile." He became apologetic. "I don't mean to be insistent but I am
interested in my work and if I can keep any of them from dying in this
heat spell, I want to do it. You understand me, don't you?"

"Indeed I do, Doctor Jackson. I will be only too glad to get up a
picnic." A note of anxiety crept into her voice. "There isn't much
time to prepare. If it is to do good, we must have it at once."

"Tomorrow, by all means," urged the physician. "Let's go to it."

His enthusiasm filled her with energy. "It will be dandy," she cried,
her eyes sparkling with pleasure. "It will be difficult to arrange for,
but we can do it."

The young medical man gave this pretty girl, flushed with interest
and confidence, a look of frank admiration. "That's the ticket," he
shouted, tossing professional dignity to the winds for the moment.
"You can make things hum. Hop to it, kiddo." Then more seriously,
"Let me know late this afternoon the arrangements you have made. Call
me by phone. I'll get word to the mothers if I have to carry it myself
this evening."

Virginia's head was awhirl with vague plans when she left the hospital.

On the way she espied Mrs. Henderson hurrying down the street in utter
disregard of the fiery heat.

"Get in, Hennie," called Virginia, when Ike stopped the car. "I must
talk to you and I want to make you as comfortable as I can."

"Don't mind me, child," protested the widow. "I am a hardened sinner
whom it behooves to become accustomed to heat."

In a few words the girl explained the plan for the picnic.

"It is a splendid thing to do," Mrs. Henderson agreed. "Of course
I'll be glad to help. Good gracious, sick babies all around us and at
our church we are dawdling over a new bell rope and a lock for the front
door."

"It is such a relief to know that you are going to help," exclaimed
Virginia; "but away down in my heart I knew that you would."

"There, there, dearie, I'm an old crank who is always minding other
people's business--and getting kicked for it," she ended petulantly.
"Hereafter," she affirmed emphatically, "I am going to attend to my
own affairs." A great energy filled her and she turned to Virginia, her
own words forgotten. "What can I do? If you will let Serena help me,
I will attend to the refreshments."

"Hennie, you are a dear--that much is settled." Virginia sighed with
relief. "Now where can we have the picnic? Parks which have bands and
dancing won't do at all."

"You are right. These mothers and babies need rest and quiet. A grove
by the river would be ideal."

"Oh, surely, that is where we must go." The girl waxed enthusiastic.
"The babies can roll upon the grass and play together."

"Fiddlesticks," objected Mrs. Henderson. "If you put babies on the
ground they will eat bugs, and if you allow them to roll they will go
into the river."

"But they must be entertained."

"Proper entertainment for babies," observed the childless widow sagely,
"is eating and sleeping with crying to while away leisure moments."
She leaned towards Ike. "Young man, do you know of a shady place along
the river where we can have a picnic?"

"Yas'm," responded the ever courteous chauffeur. "Elgin's Grove is
er nice place fo' er picnic or a barbecue. Heaps o' shade an' de aiah
is mighty cool."

"Who goes there?"

"Ah ain' heard about nobody gwine dyah lately, Ma'm."

"What made people stop going?" asked the widow, suspiciously.

"Dey fou't dyah. Er man got killed in er fight an' de she'iff close
de gamblin' house. Ain' nothin' to go dyah fo' now."

"It is very strange that I never heard of the place."

"Maybe dey done specify it to you by de common folk's name?"

"What's that?"

"Some folks calls it Faro Beach."

Mrs. Henderson gasped. The name recalled shocking stories of a river
resort where games of chance had flourished in open disregard of the law
until a murder had awakened public conscience and it had been closed. "I
wouldn't think of going there," she objected, and suddenly she began
to laugh. "We are creatures of convention. What difference does it make
what the place was? Indeed, if they were gambling now it wouldn't hurt
these mothers and their babies." Her manner became decisive. "Virginia,
as soon as you have your lunch, go and see the place. If it is what we
want, make arrangements for the use of it. We don't care about its
history."

Strange as it may seem, when Virginia arrived at Elgin's Grove that
afternoon she found that Ike's description was not exaggerated.
Great oaks towered towards the blue sky shading a green sod, clear
of underbrush, rolling towards the river. The buildings were good,
although locked, and there was a well with a pump at which Ike, much
oppressed by the heat, refreshed himself, and recommended the water to
Virginia as of superior quality, in these words. "It tast'tes lak
de water f'om de seep back o' ma ole home in Tennessee. Dats de
fines' water in de worl'."

The owner of the grove, a farmer, living a bachelor existence, after
listening in a cold and suspicious manner to Virginia's enthusiastic
description of the purposes of the picnic, suddenly thawed. Refusing pay
for the grove, he announced his personal desire to be present. Having
been straightway invited by Virginia, he agreed to unlock a building to
afford shelter in case of rain, mow among the trees to scare out the
snakes, and to clean out the well to insure a pure water supply. "Coming
on the _Nancy Jane_?" he asked her.

"_The Nancy Jane?_" questioned the girl.

"Yes, the steamboat that used to run here."

Virginia became interested. "I didn't know that steamboats ran on this
river."

"The _Nancy Jane_ ain't exactly running," admitted the farmer. "She
is tied up at South Ridgefield unless she's sunk since last week. The
_Nancy Jane_ is the best way to get to this grove and old Bill Quince
is the man to bring the old boat here. Bill Quince knows this river."

"Would it be safe to bring the babies on it?" Virginia asked, troubled.

The farmer chuckled softly. "You ain't in nigh as much danger of
drownin' on the old Lame Moose as of stickin'."

"That doesn't seem such a terrible calamity," laughed Virginia. "I
will see Mr. Quince and inquire about his boat."

"It's a nice trip, Ma'am," the farmer encouraged her. "Bill Quince
made it twice a day for two years a-carrying drunks, mostly, with nary
an accident. He is a fine man. A natural born sailor, Bill is. Takes
to the water like a duck. You won't make no mistake a trustin' Bill
Quince, I promise you, Ma'am."

"Dat Mr. Quince is er gran' man," Ike told Virginia, on their
journey home. "He done save de life o' er po' colored boy wot was
er fishin' off de bank by his house. De pole dat de boy cut f'om de
bresh ain' long 'nough to rech out to de deep water whar de big fishes
is. He done git hisse'f er plank an' puts one end under er log an'
rest'tes de middle on a rock at de aidge o' de bank. Den he clum
out on tother en' ovah de water. Long come 'nother boy an' rolls de
log. De fisherman draps in de river. He done sink de secon' time an'
give er scan'lous yell. Mr. Quince rest'tes hisse'f by de house
an' he hear 'im. Mr. Quince tek er quick look an' den he grab er pole
wid er i'on hook off de house an hooks de boy in de britches an'
hauls 'im out, jes as he sink de las' time. Den he stan's dat kid
on his haid an' let de water run outen him an' puts ointment on
his purson, whar de hook dig 'im. He ain' no time think 'bout de
floater money."

"What money?" inquired Virginia, much interested.

"De floater money. Mr. Quince bein' er river man, he catches de daid
wot floats down de river, an' de county dey give 'im ten dollars fo'
each floater he git. Dat boy jes de same as daid. If Mr. Quince catch
'm er minute later, er hol' 'im undah er minute, dat boy die an' Mr.
Quince git ten dollars. Dat man is er hero, Miss Virginy."

The girl shuddered. "Stop talking about dead people, Ike, you make
me nervous," she remonstrated, and, as they crossed the bridge, a
creepy Virginia thought she caught shadowy glimpses in the green depths
of a gruesome opportunity for Mr. Quince to win anew a reward from
his grateful county.

The habitation of Mr. Quince presented much of interest. It was airily
although damply situated at the point of a promontory where Hog Creek
emptied its limited flow into the Lame Moose River. The site was
desirable for a man of Mr. Quince's tastes and aspirations. Upon the
one hand, the river afforded a pleasant marine foreground for the
abattoirs and packing-houses, veiled in odoriferous smoke, upon the
opposite shore. On the other hand, the quiet waters of Hog Creek offered
a safe anchorage for the good ship _Nancy Jane_ and a fleet of skiffs
in various stages of decay.

Mr. Quince was a man of ingenuity and resourcefulness, and a natural
forager. On the day that he selected this site, for the sojournment
of himself and a stray youth who had elected to follow his fortunes,
Mr. Quince built a fire and cooked some fish. The next sun saw a brush
leanto constructed, shortly made impervious to rain by a covering of old
canvas. This structure was followed in turn, as freshets deposited their
beneficent fruits, by a board shack, a hut and at last a something which
a charitable public called a house.

While the evolution of Mr. Quince's fireside furnished much of
professional interest to sociologists, it was viewed by that soulless
corporation which owned the land, a railroad company, as an attempt
to establish adverse possession, by open, notorious, and hostile
occupancy. Divers ejectments, although temporarily successful, failed of
permanent effect and Mr. Quince dwelt in more or less of a state of siege.

Virginia found the riverman seated before his house, in a chair shaped
out of a barrel, and prevented from being mislaid by its permanent
attachment to a post in the ground. His experienced eyes watched the
surface of the river for signs of treasure trove awash. Upon the front of
his residence, conveniently at hand, hung the pole with the iron hook,
while, at the foot of a precipitous pathway, an old skiff bobbed, readily
available to meet emergencies of the deep.

The arrival of the automobile startled Mr. Quince. To this aquatic man,
a boat upon the river offered the more agreeable pathway to his home.
He arose nervously, as one suspecting ejectment proceedings. The wind
blew his patched overalls and flannel shirt about his tall, thin figure.

Ike, bowing respectfully, spoke words of greeting. "Howdy, Bill."

"Howdy," returned the mariner, calmed by the thought that it was
not the custom of courts to rely upon such instrumentalities as negro
chauffeurs and young maidens.

"We want to rent your boat for a picnic at Elgin's Grove tomorrow,"
called Virginia.

The tender of charter appeared to surprise Mr. Quince. He removed his
ancient hat and scratched his scalp.

"Where is your boat?" Virginia looked about as if expecting to discover
the _Priscilla_ or _Commonwealth_ at rest upon the bosom of Hog Creek.

The riverman pointed and the girl's eyes followed his finger.

On the creek floated a monument to the ingenuity of Bill Quince.
Contrary to accepted naval traditions, the _Nancy Jane_ was in two
parts. A rusty traction engine rested upon a decked scow almost square
in form. It was geared by belt, chains and sprockets to a water wheel
as wide as the scow and attached to its stern. This was the power plant,
and, coupled to the front of it, was a second scow of like width but
greater length. Decked over, railed, and covered by a wooden canopy, it
furnished the passenger accommodations of the craft.

Such disappointment as Virginia felt was swept aside by the profound
admiration of Ike for this vessel.

"Dat's er fine boat," he exclaimed. "Ah done had ma good times on
dat ole boat. When you gits out on de cool river on dat ship you feels
like er fightin' cock on er hot night."

Ike's reference to the cool river encouraged his mistress to continue
negotiations. "Can we rent it?" she asked.

"You kin rent it if you want to. They hain't no law again it," the
mariner agreed. "But I hain't sure that she's goin' to move none."
His sporting blood was aroused. "I'll bet two bits that old engine is
a-rusted tight."

Virginia desired certainty. "How am I going to find out if the boat will
go?" she worried.

Approaching the car, Mr. Quince rested an elbow upon the edge of the door
and a huge foot upon the running board. His thin jaw wagged incessantly
and his eyes viewed the distant reaches of the river as he pensively
ruminated upon the problem. At last a solution came to him. "We mought
hist 'er over by hand," he told Ike.

"Do what?" the girl inquired anxiously, puzzled at what was to be
"histed."

"See if we can turn the old engine over," explained Mr. Quince.

Ike having agreed to the suggestion, he and the riverman clambered down
the bank and across a plank to the deck of the _Nancy Jane_. A period
of silence ensued, broken by violent language when Mr. Quince put his
confidence in and his weight against a rotten lever. There followed the
sound of strong men grunting and breathing heavily. A sudden scramble
took place and with a great splash the wheel of the _Nancy Jane_ clove
the amber surface of Hog Creek.

Mr. Quince and Ike returned, perspiring freely.

"She turned," declared Mr. Quince with pride. "She hain't rusted up
much in nigh unto two year."

"Is it settled? We can rent the boat?" demanded Virginia, all business.

"I hain't so sure," replied the mariner doubtfully. "This yere river
bottom changes every day. I hain't took the _Nancy Jane_ to Elgin's
Grove in two year. I dunno as I knows where the old channel has gone. I
guess I plum forgot."

"Couldn't we get some one who knows the river?" Virginia failed to
reckon with the pride of seafaring men.

"There hain't no man knows the Lame Moose like I knows her," protested
Mr. Quince greatly offended. "I allers was the pilot of the _Nancy Jane_
and I still aims so to be."

Virginia smiled sweetly at the hurt riverman. "Please take us up in your
boat. It will be so much fun."

Mr. Quince surrendered. "I'll take the old boat to the grove if I have
to wait for the spring freshets to do it."

"It won't be dangerous, will it?" cried Virginia, disturbed by the
vigor of the mariner's remarks. "The boat won't sink, will it?"

"That wouldn't make no odds, nohow," Mr. Quince reassured her. "That
bottom of the Lame Moose is so near the top you wouldn't know no
difference."

It was finally agreed that the _Nancy Jane_ should await the arrival of
its passengers at a convenient place below the highway bridge at the
hour of ten on the next morning. But, before they left, Mr. Quince, after
inspecting the cars upon nearby switch tracks, announced, "I don't
seem to have no coal a layin' around handy, so I better have five bucks
on account in case I have to buy some."



CHAPTER XIV

AN OUTING AND AN ACCIDENT


The heat wave had not broken in the morning. At eight o'clock South
Ridgefield sweltered beneath a rising temperature with no promise of
relief.

"The poor babies!" thought Virginia. "It is hotter than ever; but
the picnic will help them." She remembered how warm it had been at the
hospital on the previous day and fell to thinking of Joe Curtis, and
her eyes grew soft and dreamy as she wished that he was going on the
river trip.

The high temperature had caused Obadiah to spend a restless night and he
was peevish and irritable when Virginia told him of the plans for the
day. "You should not have mixed up in such matters without consulting
me," he snapped. "It is indiscreet and may lead to your embarrassment.
That hole up the river used to have a most unsavory reputation." He
paused as if seeking for other objections, and then went on. "You might
get a sun stroke."

In a moment she had her arms about his neck and kissed him. "There it
is, Daddy. Thinking of me as usual."

"How can I help--," he grumbled.

She gave a joyous laugh and interrupted him. "I knew that you would want
to help, too, Daddy. You may--allow Mr. Jones and Mr. Kelly to come to
the picnic. It will be an outing which they will enjoy."

Obadiah drew away from her caresses. "Don't interfere with my office,"
he snarled. "I was greatly embarrassed when I returned on the afternoon
of the concert and found no one there. I spoke to them both about it."

Virginia flushed with feeling. "Did they tell you that I asked them
to come?" she demanded, and when his face admitted it, she continued,
"Regardless of the permission you gave me in this very room to ask any
one I wished to the concert, you criticised me, Daddy, to your employees.
If you objected to my actions, why didn't you come to me?"

The unwonted stand of his daughter made Obadiah ill at ease. He flushed
angrily and then regained control of himself. "There, there, don't get
excited. I didn't say much--a mere nothing." He drew her towards him
but she held her head stiffly, looking straight ahead. He kissed her
cheek and whispered, "Don't be cross, dear. Of course Kelly and Jones
may go to your picnic, if you want them."

She turned to him. The look of injury was gone. "I was cross, Daddy.
I did wrong, and I beg your pardon." She raised her lips for him to kiss
and gave a little laugh in which there were memories of sadness.

That morning there was unusual activity on the South Ridgefield river
front. The peace of Hog Creek was disturbed by the clang of shovels, the
ring of slice bars, and the hissing of steam. Billowy clouds of smoke
curling from the funnel of the _Nancy Jane_ mixed with the river mist
and gave variety to the smells emanating from the slaughter houses on
the further shore.

As the sun dissipated the fog, the _Nancy Jane_ left her anchorage,
and, with much puffing and squeaking, breasted the sluggish current of
the Lame Moose River. To the youth of the town, the reappearance of
the craft was a matter of supreme interest, and, grouped along the bank,
they gave voice to their pleasure in cheers. So, it is painted, the
rural New Yorkers greeted the maiden voyage of the _Clermont_.

The _Nancy Jane_ hove to and made fast at her appointed tryst with the
babies. Thereafter, Mr. Quince, bearing the pole with the iron hook
as arms, acted as a landing party, and dispersed groups of youth who
displayed a disposition to visit the ship without invitation.

Dr. Jackson came aboard at an early hour, and caused a truck load of cots
to be arranged in two long rows down the center of the deck. Upon these
he prepared comfortable beds of blankets.

Mr. Quince viewed these activities in the light of his personal
experiences. "I have seen 'em dance and sing and fight on the _Nancy
Jane_ but I hain't never seen nobody sleep much, leastwise, if they
was sober." Suspicion entered his mind regarding the intentions of the
physician. "You hain't a thinkin' of pullin' off no booze party
in these prohibition times, air yer?" he demanded. "I don't want
no law on me. I'm a respectable man and I runs a respectable boat."

The distrust cast upon his efforts to relieve suffering disgusted the
doctor. "You attend to your business and I'll attend to mine. You can
kick when I start something wrong," he protested.

"All right, old hoss, I have warned yer. There's a cop on the bridge
a watching yer, now." Mr. Quince pointed to where a policeman leaned
lazily over the bridge rail and inspected the _Nancy Jane_ with the mild
curiosity aroused by its re-advent upon the river.

The absurd suggestion of the riverman irritated the doctor to redoubled
energy. Jumping on the bank, he seized a carboy of lime water which he
wrapped in a blanket and brought aboard, endeavoring to protect it from
the sun's rays by concealing it beneath a cot.

Mr. Quince's worst suspicions were confirmed. He called to his follower.
"Sim, come here!"

The lad approached. He was coolly attired in a worn shirt, overalls and
a broken straw hat.

"Sim, be my witness." The manner of Mr. Quince was dignified, as
befitted one taking part in a legal ceremonial. He turned towards the
busy medical man, a law-abiding citizen virtuously facing one of criminal
desires. "I hereby warns yer agin' putting any licker on this yere
boat," he cried in a stern voice.

"Oh, shut up," shouted the aggravated Doctor. "Don't be a fool."

"You heard him and you heard me, Sim. Now I got the goods on that feller
if we git pinched," and, with an effort to engrave the matter upon the
mind of his follower, the riverman concluded in the accepted tone of
Hamlet's ghost, "Remember."

"Ayah," responded the indifferent Sim.

The arrival of members of the picnic party prevented further discussion
of this matter.

Down the steps from the bridge they came, a sisterhood of the tired,
the worried, the anxious. The cruel strokes of labor and poverty were
relentlessly erasing the softness of youth. The bearing of children and
unceasing toil had destroyed their figures, and already the weariness
of age was creeping into their movements.

Yet this was no gathering of the sorrowing. Upon each breast rested,
in gentle embrace, the fulfillment of womanhood. Their pledge to the
perpetuation of their kind, their duty to the responsibilities and
opportunities of dawning centuries. The pride of motherhood was upon
worn faces as coverings were adjusted about soft cheeks and tiny eyes
twinkled and fat hands made spasmodic efforts to grasp something where
nothing was. Coarse and strident voices dropped to a musical tenderness
as they harked to the mysterious language of baby land.

Even as the first mothers arrived, came Virginia followed by Serena and
Ike, carrying food. Mr. Vivian appeared, bringing monstrous ice cream
freezers. Mrs. Henderson headed a small procession consisting of a man
bringing oceans of milk and another with perfect bergs of ice.

The mothers charged upon Dr. Jackson, the familiar friend of their
households, in noisy confusion. In sharp and emphatic tones, he brought
order out of this feminine chaos in a manner pleasing even to that
marine disciplinarian, Mr. Quince, who had watched the arrival of his
passengers with great astonishment. Two lines of kicking, struggling,
emotion swept infants were stretched upon the cots, and lifted their
voices in a chorus which sounded above the hiss of steam from the boiler.

Mr. Quince was an adaptable man, and, regardless of his amazement at the
character of his cargo, he rose to the occasion. Boarding his ship, he
inspected the rows of infants. "Wisht I'd a knowed these yere kids,"
he worried. "I mought a picked up some old trunk checks at the railroad
station."

"What for, Mr. Quince?" asked Virginia.

"Some of these yere kids a lyin' around careless like is agoin' to
git mixed up and start the allfiredest fight amongst these women folks.
Nothin' makes a woman madder and want to fight quicker than to lose a
kid." Mr. Quince spoke in the tone of one accustomed to hailing the main
top in the midst of storm, and his voice carried authoritative anxiety
to the ears of every mother.

A scene of confusion ensued. The dire prophecy of the riverman caused
each mother to seize her offspring and press it to her breast. The
infants, having expressed acceptance of their new surroundings by falling
asleep, were disturbed and made known their objections in loud wailings.

"Who stirred up those babies?" Dr. Jackson demanded, angrily.

"He did," chorused the mothers, indicating the worthy seafaring man.
"He said that they would get mixed up." The hostile eyes of the matrons
watched Mr. Quince as if suspicious that he might attempt personally to
bring about the fulfillment of his prediction.

"Nonsense," shouted Dr. Jackson. "You mothers ought to know your own
babies by now, and, if you don't, you certainly know the clothes they
have on."

This assurance had a calming influence and quiet was slowly restored.
For a time Dr. Jackson appeared about to reprimand the riverman, but
hesitated, probably fearful of again being placed on record.

Mr. Quince perceived the evidences of his personal unpopularity with
great coolness. Unabashed, he remarked, "You're gettin' all het up
a layin' around here with your kids. There's nothing to it but a heap
of sweating. Let's go."

"Wait a minute, please," begged Virginia. "I think that some one else
is coming. Won't you blow your whistle, Mr. Quince?"

At this request, real embarrassment descended upon the skipper. After
scratching his head reflectively, he went aft to the engine room, or,
more accurately, climbed across to the rear barge and entered into
conference with Sim. After a period of argument and persuasion, that
young man took a slice bar and pounded at the lever of the whistle. A
great cloud of steam hissed forth, from the midst of which came a thin
wailing note very like in volume those advertising the presence of hot
roasted peanuts.

Above the noise came a cry of "Whoa, hold on." Kelly, followed by
Mr. Jones, gallantly guarding Miss Knight, lest she inadvertently
plunge headlong into the waves below, descended from the bridge. The
stenographer was fittingly garbed for the occasion in flannel trousers,
silk shirt, serge coat and yachting cap.

"We can go now, Mr. Quince," cried Virginia, making herself heard with
difficulty above the roar of escaping steam.

"We hain't a goin' yet awhile," bellowed the commander of the _Nancy
Jane_. "The durned old whistle is stuck and a lettin' all the steam out
of the old biler."

Dr. Jackson and Kelly repaired to the engine room to inspect conditions.
In a moment the medical man returned, and, procuring his surgical case,
hurried back towards the hissing boiler.

"It's de fust time ah evah seed er Doctor called fo' er enjine," Ike
told Serena. "Maybe it got de pip."

"It soun' mo'e lak de croup," chuckled Serena.

With characteristic energy, the doctor applied a bandage to the whistle
which so confined the steam that Sim was able, with sundry taps of a
wrench, to abate "the hemorrhage of vapor," as the medical man termed
it.

There followed a pleasant period for friendly conversation, disturbed
only by the cries of infants, the scrape of the shovel, and the clang of
the furnace door.

During this time, the skipper sat on a box and pensively viewed the
slow movement of the needle of the steam gauge. Finally he became
energetic. Climbing upon the bank, he cast off the forward hawser of the
_Nancy Jane_. Noting the eyes of the passengers to be upon him, he
assumed a care free air tinged with a certain dignity, as if the handling
of the _Nancy Jane_, a perplexing problem to others, was a trifling
matter to him. Likewise, he entered into explanations, ostensibly for
Sim's benefit. "I've cast off the bow line. I'm agoin' to let the
current swing er out, then we'll start ahead and you cast off that stern
line."

Before the eyes of the marveling mothers, Mr. Quince assumed a position
at the extreme front of the boat, on a small deck beyond the railing.
He held the pole across his body, as the balancing stick of a tightrope
walker, and watched the current swing the _Nancy Jane_ away from the bank.

Sim waited, motionless as a statue, with a grimy paw on the throttle.

"Let 'er go," sang Mr. Quince, as from the bridge of the _Leviathan_,
his powerful voice echoing against the bluffs far up the river.

With much groaning and creaking the engine took up the play of its
gearing, and choked down with a grunt as the paddles of the water wheel
stuck in the clay bank.

Seizing their babies, the mothers arose and screamed. The infants also
gave tongue.

As one man, Dr. Jackson and Kelly sprang to their feet. "Sit down,"
they shouted.

"Is de biler gwine blow up?" Serena asked Ike, nervously.

"Dat ole enjine jes balky. Dat's all," he reassured her.

In this moment of marine disaster, Mr. Quince displayed great coolness
and judgment. "Look out," he shouted to Sim, and leaped ashore with
great agility. From this position of vantage he commanded, "Stop 'er!"
He then displayed wonderful presence of mind by casting off the stern
line. Returning on board, he seized his pole and pushed the _Nancy Jane_
out into the river.

Once more, upon signal, the engine strained and a large chunk of South
Ridgefield soil splashed into the river. The relieved paddle wheel caught
the water and the _Nancy Jane_ headed up the Lame Moose for Elgin's
Grove. Mr. Quince plied his pole diligently, and, exerting his good
muscles, shoved his craft into the channel it should follow.

The journey to the Grove was accomplished without notable incident. The
sun shone upon the shallow water at such an angle that Mr. Quince was
able to view the bottom of the river through the transparent liquid as
a pathway stretching before him.

During the voyage the heat was not oppressive, and the infants slept
while their mothers enjoyed a restful holiday. This peace was threatened
only when an impromptu orchestra consisting of Sim on the harmonica and
Ike on a pair of improvised bones showed a disposition to render some
of the frivolous airs of the moment for the edification of the ladies.

Elgin's Grove lay cool and inviting as the _Nancy Jane_ stood in towards
the shore. The shallowness of the water made it necessary to reach the
bank by a narrow gang plank, thoughtfully provided by the steam boat
commander. As soon as this was in position, Virginia led the party
ashore where the farmer cordially welcomed them with the original remark,
"Ain't you folks afraid you're lost?" The supplies were landed
amidst much boisterous excitement by Kelly, assisted by Mr. Quince, Sim
and Ike.

Mr. Jones escorted Miss Knight ashore, bearing her parasol. She joined
Dr. Jackson and Virginia, who were making plans for the general welfare.

Suddenly the mill owner's daughter turned to the stenographer and,
smiling sweetly, said, "Mr. Jones, may I depend upon you to see that
the cots are brought up from the boat?"

Mr. Jones bowed with great dignity. "You will always find me at your
service, Miss Dale," he responded, in dulcet tones. The day was rosy to
him. The system of exercise, to which Kelly had unfeelingly condemned
him, was having its effect. He felt better than he had for years.
Likewise it appeared that his dreams were coming true. That very morning
Obadiah had come to him and, in quite the approved manner of addressing
private secretaries, saving a certain undue sharpness of tone, had
said, "Jones, I wish you and Kelly to accompany my daughter on a
picnic which she is giving today. The boat leaves the bridge at ten
o'clock, I believe." Now, too, had his employer's daughter, aware of
correct usages when private secretaries were about, singled him by
name to assist her. It was of course to be regretted that this picnic
was charitable in its nature and attended only by vulgar persons, but
from the intimacy of such an occasion, it was but a step to the dances
and dinners of his heart's desire.

Filled with joy, Mr. Jones cast aside his coat and ran across the
greensward with the grace of a fawn. He shouted for Kelly and Ike,
and in a moment had gathered about him the strong men of the party.
He issued his instructions in the terse, certain words of a leader of
men. Under his cheery encouragement, cots, with a man at each end,
moved rapidly from the boat to their appointed place beneath the trees.

Perceiving the flushed face and the speed of the stenographer's
movements, Virginia bestowed upon him a glorious smile of approval and
called, "Oh, Mr. Jones, what a help you are to me!"

The private secretary became proud nigh unto the bursting point. He
redoubled his efforts, and in a moment all but the last cot was ashore.
Kelly uplifted the far end and bawled for aid.

Instantly, Mr. Jones was at hand to seize upon the shore end of the cot.
A leg caught upon a stanchion. The stenographer jerked at it. "Get a
move on you!" he commanded Kelly.

"Wait, you cheese! What's your hurry?" retorted the bookkeeper, as
he attempted to withdraw the cot from the stanchion to release the leg.

"Come on!" urged the strenuous Mr. Jones, turning and facing Kelly. The
leg was freed. "Hustle, you big lobster! Can't you lift your clumsy
feet?" persisted the driver of men.

Before this admonishment Kelly advanced with alacrity.

Mr. Jones moved backwards, blindly, but with haste.

"Look out!" sounded Kelly's warning; but alas, too late.

In his hurry Mr. Jones missed the gang plank and plunged backwards from
the scow into three feet of mud and water. The screams of frightened
women rent the air. A cry for the police arose from Mr. Vivian, while
from the lips of that seasoned sailor, Sim, rang that terrifying cry,
"Man overbo-o-o-ard."

Mr. Quince sprang into action at the alarm as a fireman at the stroke of
the gong. With a mighty leap he landed on the bow of the _Nancy Jane_.
Seizing his pole, he ran along the edge of the barge with the agility of
a cat towards the circling waves which alone marked where the private
secretary had disappeared. Mr. Quince reached forth tentatively with his
pole, as Mr. Jones, having scrambled to his knees beneath the flood,
emerged coughing and scrambling from the water.

The head of Mr. Jones came up, the pole of Mr. Quince went down. They met.

"_Wough!_" The stenographer lifted his voice in anguish and seated
himself upon the river bottom, his head protruding above the surface
of the water.

Undiscouraged, Mr. Quince, with practiced hand, continued to seek for
Mr. Jones with the iron hook.

"Get off of me with that thing. It hurts," protested the moist private
secretary.

Regardless of these objections from his victim, Mr. Quince would have
persisted in his efforts with a diligence certain of reward had not
Kelly reached down from the bank, and, seizing the dripping and miserable
stenographer by the hand, pulled him ashore.

Mr. Quince desisted from his fishing operations only when his prey was
beyond his reach. Turning to Ike who had regarded his life saving
with profound approval, he boasted, "I'd a got him by the britches
sure, if he hadn't a bin a settin' down." He rested upon his pole and
his eagle eye swept the river, flashing brilliant in the sunshine.
Into his face, but recently lighted with enthusiasm, came a look of
dissatisfaction, of disappointment, as he confided his woe to the
chauffeur. "There hain't nobody ever gits drownded in the old Lame
Moose," he complained. "Hain't 'nough water to drownd a weasel."

To Ike came comprehension of the troubled soul of the river-man, and he
endeavored to comfort him. "Dey am' 'nough water in dis yere river
to slac' de thirst o' er g'asshopper," he agreed.

Loud conversation took place among the mothers as Dr. Jackson announced
his purpose of serving sustenance to those infants whose habit it was
to resort to artificial sources for nourishment. Much attention was
given to the sterilization of bottles, the measuring of milk, and the
addition of lime water thereto. The medical man took the opportunity
to deliver a lecture upon the feeding of infants with some reference to
their early care and discipline, and Virginia took base advantage of
her position as picnic manager to hold the babies while they enjoyed
bottled refreshments. She would have also kissed each recipient of her
favor had she not been sternly repressed by Dr. Jackson, much to the
amusement of Mrs. Henderson.

"Let the child kiss the babies if she wants to, Doctor," urged the
widow.

"No," he refused with firmness. "Kissing is dangerous. Now that we
have prohibition, if we could get rid of smoking and kissing, things
would be about right."

"Are you engaged, Doctor?"

"No, certainly not. What made you ask me that, Mrs. Henderson?"

"I wonder why I did, myself, Doctor. It was a foolish question."

At the close of the infantile banquet, the mothers returned their
offspring to the line of cots, where, protected by mosquito netting,
they straightway relapsed into slumber.

Kelly, who had returned alone from the depths of the woods into which he
had departed with the dripping Mr. Jones, was greatly interested, and
addressed Miss Knight. "Watch those kids pound their ears! They sure
eat sleep as soon as they hit the hay."

The nurse looked at the bookkeeper inquiringly. "What are you? Wop,
Guiney, Polock or Sheeny?"

"Why?"

"You must hate the English language. I thought that you must be
foreign."

His eyes were dancing when he looked at her and said, "My name is Kelly,
Miss Knight."

"That explains it," she laughed.

The bachelor farmer who owned the grove watched the pleasant scene
from a seat upon the well curb. Resting upon the damp planking, he
philosophically sucked upon a black pipe, and gave ear to the prevalent
wisdom on baby feeding. He modified this, no doubt, in his own mind, in
the light of his own experience as a successful stock feeder.

With that social spirit always noticeable in his character, Ike joined
the agriculturist and entered into casual conversation. "Dis is er fine
grove you got yere, Misto Elgin."

"It's by long odds the best grove on the river."

"Yas'r." The chat languished until reopened by Ike on other lines.
"You has er fine view, Misto Elgin, an' you has got fine trees an'
you has got fine aiah."

The farmer chuckled. "If you'd a bin 'round here yesterday afternoon
when I cleaned out the well I'll bet the air would have made you sick
at your stomach, boy."

"How cum?" Ike demanded sharply, his eyes rolling white with anxiety.

"The old hole was full of dead reptiles and varmints. I got a skunk, a
rabbit, two frogs and three snakes out and a couple of things so far gone
I couldn't tell 'em. Gorry but they stunk."

"You 'spec' dey mek dat water bad?" pleaded Ike, in a voice pathetic
in its intenseness.

"Water with things like that in it is deadly pizen, I cal'late," the
farmer told him, with a shudder at his own repulsive memories.

Ike leaped to his feet hurriedly. Fear lifted him "'Scuse me, Sar,"
he murmured, as if he had been suddenly taken ill. A moment later,
discovering the medical man resting in the shade of a great tree, the
negro approached him with an air of indifference tempered with respect.
For all that he knew this might be a dreaded "night doctor"--one of
those fearful beings who steal about in the late hours of the night
despoiling sepulchers and seizing late strollers for the benefit of
science. It is obviously unwise to irritate such characters, lest evil
befall one.

"Dis is er fine day, Doc," Ike suggested.

"Yes."

"Doc, do pizen hit er man suddin?"

The physician glanced lazily at the negro. The spirit of mischief seized
him. "Look here, boy," he cried, in a threatening manner, "I warn you
as a friend as well as a medical man to keep away from poison. You are
so tough, so ornery, so low down good for nothing and lazy, that poison
would have to work slow under your hide and you would die a lingering
and painful death."

Without another word Ike departed. The verdict had been handed down and
sentence passed. Before him lay a dreadful death. He sought solitude in
which to pass his few remaining hours and to prepare for his fearful
end. Stumbling along, he came upon the ice cream freezers and the
lunch baskets. Serena and Mr. Vivian sat among them, engaged in debate
regarding the preparation of certain types of cake in view of the high
cost of eggs.

To Ike's mind, this was the kitchen. His home, his place of retirement,
should logically be back of this. Within him burned increasing fear.
Upon self-examination, he discovered that peculiar symptoms beset every
part of his body. Unquestionably the fatal hour approached. The time
of paroxysms and fits was at hand. Trembling and almost blind from
apprehension, the chauffeur circled the refreshments and the culinary
argument. He came upon a shady nook. The tall brush had been pulled
aside and fashioned into a rude canopy which, with the tree branches
overhead, afforded a double protection from the sun. Within it, his
confused eyes made out that which appeared a couch decked forth with
old blankets and gunny sacks. Ike sank upon this with a moan of anguish
and, with his kinky head buried in the crook of his elbow, awaited the
final agony which would herald the passing of his soul.

With that love for solitude and self-communion, so common to unusual
minds, Mr. Quince had not mingled with the ladies. While technically a
member of the picnic party, he was not one with it in spirit, in taste or
in aspiration. Those who go down to the sea in ships give but little heed
to infant culture. Therefore, he strolled about the circumference of the
festivities instead of in their midst and thus came upon the recumbent
Ike.

"What's the matter now?" he demanded in the rough manner of a man
hardened by contact with nature in her wildest moods.

Ike emitted a dismal groan.

Mr. Quince, ever one of action, promptly applied that treatment deemed
peculiarly efficacious in the treatment of those intoxicated. He seized
the negro by his shoulders and shook him violently. "Come up!" he
roared. "Git a move on yer, yer lazy bum."

"Lemme go!" protested Ike, astounded at the administration of such
radical restorative measures to one about to shuffle off. "Ah'm er dead
man. Ah'm er gwine to pass away."

Mr. Quince registered intense interest. "Yer don't say?" He scratched
his head reflectively and brought the cold light of reason to bear
upon the problem. "Whatcher talkin' about," he went on in tones of
regret. "Yer hain't dead"; and concluded more hopefully, "Leastways
not yit."

"He'p," moaned Ike, apparently in intense agony.

Mr. Quince pensively spat a stream of tobacco juice across the bier
of the dying one. "Maybe that doctor mought give yer some dope," he
suggested, with great deliberation.

Ike's answer was a sepulchral groan.

Dr. Jackson, with the utmost possible composure was receiving from a
group of mothers that feminine adulation usually accorded the members
of his profession.

Mr. Quince slowly approached them. "That black boy is er dying over
there," he hailed, as an officer ex-changing casual greetings from his
bridge with a passing ship.

The doctor leaped to his feet with a startled look. So did the mothers
as well as every one else who was sitting down. They moved in a body to
the side of the expiring chauffeur. About his couch they grouped, as it
is painted that courts gather by the bedside of expiring monarchs to
receive the royal farewell.

Before the assembled multitude, Ike moaned and groaned in anguish of mind
and body.

Dr. Jackson examined him. "What's the matter?" he asked.

"Ah done drink poison," Ike whined. "De col' chills is er runnin'
down ma back an' ma laigs. Ah's gwine ter die."

Serena drew near. Her extensive acquaintance with the young man made her
skeptical in all things concerning him. She examined his surroundings
with interest and cried, "Ef dat fool ain' got no bettah sense an'
to lay hisse'f out on ma ice why ain' he got col' chills?"

Lifting a sack, Dr. Jackson exposed the smooth surface of a block of ice.

Ike sprang from his chilly couch.

Serena made indignant outcry. "Howcum yo'all mek er coolin' boa'd
out er ma ice when ah needs it fo' lemonade? Ah fin' out mighty quick
ef you is er dyin' when ah surves de fried chicken."

Disgust developed among the mothers; but Ike took no note of popular
feeling. His was the joy of a reprieved man as his pains flew away before
the reassuring laughter of the medical man.

"Let's have something to eat," suggested the chuckling practitioner,
when he had completed this cure by faith.

As if by magic, the luncheon was spread, and how those blissfully
contented mothers did eat and make the woods ring with the merriment of
their holiday. The fun was given greater impetus by the reappearance of
Mr. Jones who, pending the drying of his own more luxurious apparel,
was clothed in garments of rural simplicity loaned by the farmer.

Embarrassment spoke from every feature of the stenographer as, in the
midst of laughter, he approached the festive spread.

Virginia perceived his sad case and beckoned him to her side. "Here
is Mr. Jones," she announced. "He suffered for the cause and shall be
our guest of honor." With her own hands she arranged a place for him
and saw that he had food enough for two men. This she made sweeter with
smiles of approval and appreciation.

The private secretary said but little. Yet the day became beautiful, and
once again joy rested in his heart.

In the coolness of Elgin's grove, the afternoon of the hottest day
South Ridgefield ever experienced passed lazily. The mothers chatted
and laughed and some took naps; but best of all the babies ate and slept
in comfortable rotation as the hot hours passed.

Upon repeated urgings by Mr. Quince the tired party re-embarked upon
the _Nancy Jane_ after supper. The riverman explained gloomily, "I
hain't got no use for this old river after dark. The government hain't
hangin' no lanterns on the snags in the Lame Moose, and I hain't got
nothin' to steer by but the lightnin' bugs."

Regardless of the skipper's attitude, the departure was delayed because
a postprandial nap of Sim's had allowed the steam to get low while the
commanding officer persuaded the passengers to return aboard.

Becoming aware of this condition, rough language was used abaft the
beam, as the Captain addressed the crew. Mutiny was evidently rampant,
as the crew was heard to invite the Captain to return home on foot if
dissatisfied with its efforts. Then came arbitration, and, after a time,
above the noise of argument, the hissing of steam sounded in increasing
volume.

The shadows of night lay upon the waters as the _Nancy Jane_ left
Elgin's Grove. Since it was too dark for the navigator to procure his
accustomed view of the river bottom, he peered into the gloom with
anxious eyes. Upon the banks the tops of the trees showed clear against
the evening sky; but the shadowy mass below was of a nature to baffle
the judgment of all but the most experienced pilots.

Mr. Quince was not baffled. He laid the _Nancy Jane_ upon a course down
the middle of the stream, and, laying aside the tiller, he retired to the
engine room where, in a voice which reached every ear upon the lightless
deck, he conversed with the engineer regarding the more intimate details
of navigation. "How much steam have you got on the old tea pot?"
he asked, and when Sim told him, complained, "That hain't enough to
make this yere turtle crawl home."

"It's all this leaky kettle kin hold," objected the engineer.

Mr. Quince made technical explanations. "Steam is a blowin' out of the
safety valve. That's where yer air losin' power. I cal'late the old
flat iron is er slippin'. I'll fix 'er."

The shuffling of feet sounded.

"How kin you tell where you are a-puttin' that flat iron?" protested
Sim. "You're a goin' to bust the darned oil biler a foolin' with
that valve in the dark. You can't see what you're doin' no more than
a mole."

"I hain't slipped 'er out er notch. She's where she orter be. This
biler hain't er goin' to blow up. What's it to yer any way; it hain't
your biler."

"Ain't I got to stand by the blame thing?"

"What's eatin' on yer?" asked Mr. Quince, a trifle obscurely. "Yer
know dern well you're too blame lazy to shovel enough coal under the
old wash biler to git her het up none before we git home."

This struck Sim as reasonable. He changed the subject and inquired,
"Where are we?"

A voice remarkably like that of Mr. Quince, although it could not have
been that experienced river man, responded, "I dunno."

Leaves rustled along the roof, and the skipper departed hurriedly
for his post or, more accurately, his pole. For a time he wielded it
energetically. The current was assisting the engine and so they moved
fairly rapidly. The glow of South Ridgefield showed above the trees,
and, with ever greater frequency, the lights of scattered houses gleamed
upon either bank. They passed the suburbs. Upon either shore lay dark
masses of manufacturing plants lighted by isolated electric lights. They
were abreast of Obadiah Dale's mill now, while a short block away
stretched the ghostly fabric of the highway bridge, dimly traced by its
own arch of lights. Beneath it was their landing place; so the mothers
began to prepare to land and to thank Virginia for their pleasant day.

Mr. Quince, of course, was at his post. Resting himself upon his pole,
he was enjoying that satisfaction over duty well performed which abides
in the breasts of ships' captains and locomotive engineers when they
bring their passengers to a safe journey's end.

Suddenly the bow of the _Nancy Jane_ rose slowly and imperceptibly. There
was a sizzling, grinding sound, and the boat stopped abruptly but softly
as against a cushion, aground on a sand bar. As the craft struck there
was a forward movement upon her deck, and a shifting of passengers and
freight. A resounding splash sounded in front of the wrecked vessel.
Mr. Quince, resting meditatively upon the pole, had been, sad to relate,
hove over the bow of his own ship. At the moment of his departure he
gave a diabolical yell.

A scene of terror ensued. Mothers sending forth wild screams hugged
their babes to their bosoms as they faced the unknown perils of the
night. They were not made calmer by a rhythmic heaving of the deck,
accompanied by a mighty boiling and beating of the water astern, as
the paddle wheel exerted itself against the sand bar. Perhaps Sim wished
to emulate "Jim Bludso" of heroic fame, and, in the absence of his
pilot, keep the engine going "to hold her nozzle agin the bank."

With soothing and calming words, Kelly and Dr. Jackson finally brought
a partial calm when panic seemed assured.

At the first alarm, Ike had leaped up from a box upon which he had been
resting from the labors of the day. With rare presence of mind, Mr.
Jones seized it for personal use as a life preserver in case of need.
Reassured by the remoteness of danger, Ike endeavored to sit where no
seat was, and, with a crash, measured his length upon the deck. This
episode did not tend to allay the nervousness of female minds.

From the shadows of the night, a dripping figure scrambled over the
bow of the ship. It was Mr. Quince returning from whence he had been
hove. He reassumed command. "Stop the engine!" he squeaked, in a voice
made husky by too much moisture. "Want to burn all the coal up for
nothin'?" Obediently the engine slowed and stopped. Again the voice
of the skipper sang out, "Better fix that old safety valve. I mought
a shoved 'er too far in the dark." Suddenly a tremendous hissing of
steam arose and then died softly away. Mr. Quince hurried to the engine
room and addressed Sim at close quarters. "Yer dern fool, what made
yer let all the steam outer the biler. We hain't got no power now.
How're we goin' to git 'er off?"

"You ain't goin' to git 'er off. She's stuck for good," prophesied
Sim.

It is not easy to discourage great spirits. "Ef I can't git 'er off
now, I kin wait for high water. The old tub hain't hurt none," Mr.
Quince made answer.

Basing the duration of their experience as castaways upon these remarks,
the mothers gave away to tears. Babies awakened and wept also. A chorus
of woe swept shoreward.

"Who knows how to swim?" Dr. Jackson asked in a sharp voice.

The ladies construed this remark as implying an early necessity for this
accomplishment. The resulting increase in grief was with difficulty
subdued.

From the information educed, it was clear that Sim was among the most
experienced swimmer among those present. Being untrammeled by the
mandates of fearful females, he had since his early youth spent much of
the summer season in the water.

"Sim, you swim ashore and get help," ordered the doctor.

A difficulty arose, "I ain't a goin' to swim with my clothes on,"
objected Sim. "Maybe I only have to wade, but I might get into a hole
and have to swim. Clothes drag a feller down."

"Very sensible," agreed the physician. "Take them off."

"I ain't no heathen. I ain't agoin' to take my clothes off before
all of these womenfolks."

"Don't be silly," urged the doctor. "We will turn our heads."

"Take 'em off behind the biler," suggested Mr. Quince.

"Yes, fry myself on the durned old thing." Additional complications
struck the youth. "What am I goin' to wear when I git ashore. The cops
will git me sure, if I run around town naked."

At last, a compromise was reached. Sim, simply attired in trousers,
disappeared towards the shore. Then followed a long period of silence
in which the babies slept in comfort and only the sobbing mothers were
unhappy.

Voices sounded on the shore. Sim had carried the news of shipwreck to
waiting husbands and succor drew near. They built a fire and shouted
words of encouragement. A search was made for boats; but they were few
in South Ridgefield and well protected from marauders. Even the only
seaworthy skiff of Mr. Quince's fleet was securely locked, and the key
in his pocket, as Sim reminded him from the shore.

The night wore on. Great activity with little result took place about
the fire. Policemen, firemen and newspapermen viewed the scene with
interest. Such prominent men as Obadiah Dale and Hezekiah Wilkins
exchanged ideas over the fire with factory employees and laborers.
It was Pat Murphy, a teamster, who solved the problem of rescue. As
the eastern sky was lighted by the first streaks of the coming day, a
mule team and a wagon in a few trips landed the passengers of the
_Nancy Jane_.

In accordance with the traditions of the sea, Mr. Quince stayed by his
ship. The last load departed leaving him drying himself before the
furnace. The reflection of the fire lighted up the deep lines of his
face, its pensive look and the rhythmic movement of the powerful jaws,
as the faithful mariner kept vigil upon the waters.

But, as the rays of the rising sun turned the eastern horizon into
gold, an early observer might have perceived Mr. Quince arise, stretch
himself, and solace his palate with chewing tobacco. The same beholder
might then have witnessed the riverman step overboard and wade slowly
towards the shore, bearing his shoes, wrapped in his trousers, before
him, while the morning breeze flapped the tails of his old flannel shirt
about his thin legs.



CHAPTER XV

A MAN IN DISGRACE


"Virginia, come here!" roared Obadiah on the morning after the trip up
the river.

There was a rough commanding note in his voice which made the girl spring
to her feet, and, shaken by dread of impending calamity, with throbbing
heart and startled eyes, hurry down stairs to where he awaited her in the
living room.

He stood before the great mantel. The morning paper was stretched between
his hands, his nervous fingers crushing its edges. His face was flushed
with passion and his eyes, as they met those of his daughter, were cruel
in their anger. "Look here! See what you have done," he cried, in a
voice which shook with the intenseness of his emotion. In his haste he
tore a corner from the paper as he thrust it towards the trembling girl.

She accepted the sheet as if she were in a dream. Never had he spoken
so to her. Never had she seen him in such a rage. Fear of him--of the
primitive masculinity of the man--clutched at her heart. Everything
seemed unreal. It was as if she were in the midst of a horrible nightmare
from which she might, if she would, release herself. She sank into a
chair, the paper across her knees. As her eyes dropped, the print danced
queerly for a moment before her vision cleared. There, she read in
staring headlines, "The Wreck of the _Nancy Jane_."

The comical side of the vicissitudes of the _Nancy Jane_, with its
passenger list of mothers and babies had so impressed the reporter that
he had prepared his story in a humorous vein. Unfortunately, he had
elected to weave his story about Obadiah Dale, the manufacturer, and
his daughter, instead of about Mrs. Henderson or any humble individual.
The story was funny. The way the scribbler linked the generosity of
Obadiah towards the babies, the navigation of the Lame Moose by the
_Nancy Jane_, and Elgin's Grove, was a scream to those who knew the
selfishness of the mill owner, the shallow depth and harmlessness of
the Lame Moose and the lurid history of the grove. The editor-owner of
the paper had little use for Obadiah and in running this article--good
natured and harmless on its face--he had hit the manufacturer in a
vulnerable spot. Obadiah could not stand ridicule.

While Virginia read, the wide toed shoes of her father resounded, as he
tramped excitedly up and down the room. She finished the article and
looked up at him. Little chills of fright thrilled up and down her spine,
and yet she found no reason for it in the column she had been reading.
That struck her as rather silly.

As she dropped the paper, Obadiah glowered down at her. "Now," he
yelled, in his high voice, "I hope that you are satisfied. You have
made me the laughing stock of this town--made a perfect ass out of
me." He shook a long forefinger at her. "I've stood enough of your
foolishness and it's got to stop." The old man was nearly frantic with
anger as he scowled at her, a pale, crushed little thing in the big
arm chair. "I'm tired of it," he raged. "You make me ridiculous by
your failure to appreciate that there is such a thing as personal
dignity. You've mixed me in the most nonsensical affairs. Think of it!
Parading down the main street of this town behind a minstrel band
with a load of negroes!" He almost gnashed his teeth at the thought.
"You got up that fool band concert at the Old Ladies' Home. It was
a farce with the fire department dashing up in the middle of it. Now,"
he bellowed, "you had to go and get mixed in this mess on the river."
Obadiah had to pause in the catalogue of his grievances to catch his
breath. His temper was choking him. "I've always tried to protect
my reputation," he went on. "I've minded my business and let other
people attend to theirs. But you have to drag me into this. My name
is a hiss and a byword in this town today. I'll never hear the last
of it. You are to blame for it all." Self-pity brought Obadiah to the
verge of tears.

But immediately a returning wave of anger engulfed his sorrow. "You
are extravagant--wickedly so. You force me to pay out large sums of
money. You've made me buy ice cream for the old ladies, the veterans,
the firemen and all the mothers and babies, too.--Pretty nearly the
whole town has been entertained at my expense," he groaned. "Worst of
all," he continued with renewed temper, "were your fool admissions and
asinine agreement which forced me to endow that room at the hospital.

"It's time to call a halt," he raved. "I'll stand it no longer. It
must stop." He paused before the shrinking girl and shook his fist in
the air. "Hereafter you will mind your own business and not interfere in
the troubles of others. You'll stay at home where you belong and quit
gadding about."

Stunned by his vehemence and crushed by his words, the forlorn little
figure raised pleading eyes to him as he strode out of the room.
"Daddy," she cried after him, but he took no notice of it.

In her own room, tears brought relief to Virginia, and in time she was
able to review her father's behavior with a degree of calmness. She
trembled anew as she remembered his anger. Then, with a start, she
awakened to the fact that he had forbidden her to continue to do those
things which she had done in the spirit of her mother's message. Her
mind traveled over his actions in the past and reconsidered remarks that
he had made. Suddenly she realized that he had never been in sympathy
with her, that he had frankly told her so, and that she had refused
to believe him. With sickening alarm, she awakened to the conflict
between the ideals of her father and her mother. She sat upon the
bed, a dejected heap of sorrow, and gazed at the wall with dry eyes,
frightened and unseeing. What must she do? That was the question. It
smothered her acute grief at his angry words. Worshiping the mother
whom she had never known with all the hunger of a lonely heart, it was a
solemn and tragic decision which she forced upon herself. The gravity
of it urged her to physical action. She could not bear to lie there,
she must move about.

It was a sad eyed girl who went downstairs. From Serena she learned that
her father had telephoned that he would not be home for lunch.

The old negress used all of her arts to persuade her mistress to eat
something. "Ain' yo'all gwine pick at dis yere salad an' tast'tes
some o' de custard ah fix special fo' ma honey chil'?" she begged.
To comfort Virginia she belittled the episode of the morning. "You'
Daddy done git mad fo' er minute caze dat ole boat stick in de mud.
He gwine fo'git it quick. He ain' tek no 'count o' de babies wot
'joy deyse'fs er eatin' an' er sleepin'."

The girl ate sparingly as Serena forced food upon her.

Suddenly the old servant reached out and patted her mistress gently upon
the shoulder, her black face filled with a great tenderness as she said,
"You' Mammy done say, ef er pusson try to do right, dey ain' nothin'
else wot mek no diffe'nce. Dat's jes wot Miss Elinor she say.

"Yas'm, she done say dat right befo' ma eyes," explained Serena, and
then she hastened away to answer the door bell, leaving Virginia gazing
dreamily out of a window, wonderfully comforted.

The shrill voice of a woman uplifted in excitement sounded in the hall.
"We must see some one. We have come a long distance and Mr. Dale is not
at his office."

"Dey ain' nobody heah fo' yo'all to talk no business to. You might
jes as well go 'long," Serena answered with firmness.

"Mr. Dale has a daughter," the voice suggested.

"She ain' gwine be 'sturbed. She jes er chil' an' ain' know
nothin' a tall 'bout her pappy's business. Bettah gwan away f'om
heah."

"What is it, Serena?" asked Virginia, hurrying into the hall.

"Jes some pussons dat ain' know whar dey 'long," snarled the old
negress, beginning to vibrate under the stress of anger as she glared at
three highly indignant women waiting without.

Virginia felt that it was necessary to interfere in the tense situation.
"I am Miss Dale. I shall be glad to talk to you if you wish to come
in," she told the strangers, to Serena's disgust.

The hostility of these visitors melted in a degree at this display of
hospitality; but their manner was cool as they followed the girl into
the living room.

"We are a committee from the Women's Civic Club of Amity, a town
situated ten miles below here on the river," explained Mrs. Duncan, a
stern faced female, after they had introduced themselves. "We ask that
you inform your father of our call."

"I shall be glad to do that," Virginia promised. "Am I to explain the
purpose of your visit to him?"

Mrs. Duncan gazed questioningly at the girl. "We ask you to do that, and
if you have a heart we hope that you will use your influence in our
behalf. You may tell him--" her eyes blazed--"that we come on the
part of the women of Amity to protest against his killing us by putting
poison in our drinking water."

"What?" gasped an astonished Virginia.

"We don't propose to sit quiet and allow Obadiah Dale to murder our
children."

"I don't understand."

The very evident amazement and horror of the mill owner's daughter
at her words caused Mrs. Duncan to expand upon them in the cause of
clearness. "Amity gets its water supply from the Lame Moose River,"
she explained. "The waste from your father's mill has made the water
unfit for human consumption. It has been getting worse for years and
now we have much sickness, especially among children, which the doctors
trace to this cause."

"Why, that is terrible. I am sure that my father knows nothing about
it," cried Virginia with great earnestness.

Mrs. Duncan gave an audible sniff of disbelief. "Oh, I think that he
does. We tried to get him to do something before we took the matter up
with the State Board of Health, but he wouldn't. They have taken samples
of the water and have decided that the waste makes it unfit for the use
of human beings. So that is settled."

"If that is true why don't they take the matter up with my father? Why
should you come to him?" asked Virginia, suspiciously.

"Because," Mrs. Duncan continued, "your father is rich and powerful,
and even if the Board of Health orders him to stop running waste into the
river he may take the matter into court and fight it for years. That
is what we are worrying about now. Must Amity go on drinking poisoned
water while your father and the Board of Health fight in the court? Our
purpose is to attempt to persuade him not to contest the decision of the
Board."

"If my father is certain that the waste from his mill is making people
sick, he surely will stop running it into the river."

"It is the only decent thing for him to do," agreed Mrs. Duncan,
greatly mollified by the attitude of the girl. "Perhaps the Board of
Health has not notified him of its final decision," she conceded. "Of
course our Club is greatly interested and we have kept in close touch
with the case. Our representatives have called frequently at the office
of the Board." She laughed. "We even had a committee which used to go
with Mr. Joe Curtis, the Board's representative, every time he took
samples of water at Amity."

"Who took the samples?" asked Virginia, instantly alert.

"A young man by the name of Curtis. He used to come out on a motorcycle.
He worked for the Board of Health."

"I'll take the matter up with my father, tonight," Virginia promised
the women when they left. "You can be sure that he will do the right
thing about it."

Her old confidence in her father surged up in the presence of the
callers; but after they had gone the remembrance of the morning's
episode, with her new realization of her father, persisted in returning.
She caught herself wondering if it were possible that he, knowing that
the waste from his mill was polluting the water and causing sickness,
had done nothing about it. Loyally she fought back the thought. He
wouldn't do that--a wicked thing. He didn't know the truth--if the
water _was_ bad. That was the point. Before she talked to him she ought
to be certain about it. Joe Curtis knew and could tell her the truth.
Her father, hearing it from her, would be glad to do the right thing.

Yet, regardless of her hopeful reasoning, the memories of the morning--of
her father's temper torn face in all of its selfish cruelty of
expression--came back to her and filled her with strange indefinite
forebodings of evil.

So, it was a different Virginia who came to Joe Curtis that afternoon.
It was one in whose face there were vague shadows of anxiety and sadness
which, regardless of pathetic efforts at disguise, spoke of an unquiet
heart.

He sensed the change in her as she greeted him. But his cheery salutation
and his boyish bursts of humor could not arouse the care free girl whom
he had known.

She came quickly to the matter which was uppermost in her mind.

"Joe, you work for the State Board of Health, don't you?"

His face sobered at her question, as if he recognized the approach of
complications. He nodded affirmatively.

"You took samples of the river water to find out if it were made unfit
for people to drink by the waste from my father's mill, didn't you?"

He delayed his response so long that she was forced to repeat her
question before she could get even a nod of admission.

"Joe, does my father's mill spoil the water?"

His head moved uneasily upon his pillow; but he was silent.

"Please answer me," she urged. "It is very important."

He turned upon her almost shortly. "How can I tell? I never analyzed
the water. I couldn't do it if I wanted to. You know that I am working
my way through college. I have only had one year of chemistry. On the
rolls of the Board of Health, I am carried as a laborer. I get samples
and certify to the time and place I took them. The laboratory analyzes
them."

"You were around the laboratory. You brought in the samples. Naturally
you must have had some interest in the matter--in your work. Won't you
tell me what you know?"

"Why ask me?" he complained sharply. "I shouldn't discuss this matter
with you, Virginia. Talk to your father. He knows all about the case.
Let him tell you."

"My father knows!" she exclaimed. She leaned over the bed and gazed
down at him. Though she had guessed his answer, she must have it in
words. "Joe," she whispered, "you promised to be my friend. I must
know the truth. I can trust you. Please tell me about the water."

There was a pathetic pleading in her eyes which tore at his heart.
He tried to resist the spell she cast about him but his face softened
beneath her gaze. "I'm sorry, little girl," he whispered, and then
blurted suddenly, "Everybody connected with the Board of Health knows
that the waste makes the water fierce. It's not fit for a dog to drink."

That afternoon Obadiah arrived home early. Perhaps he meant to patch up
a peace with his daughter. He asked for her as soon as he entered the
house and seemed disappointed when he learned that she had gone out.

Virginia came back from the hospital soon after the arrival of her
father. Serena met her when she arrived, after having viewed her employer
with great hostility through an opening in the portières. The old
negress' eyes were keen enough to read the shadow of apprehension
lurking in the depths of the blue eyes. To the faithful servitor it
indicated the approach of sorrow or tragedy to this peaceful domestic
haven. She sought to intervene against fate. "Ain' you bettah res'
youse'f befo' dinner, honey chil'? You' Daddy, he's a readin' his
papah an' ain' want to be 'sturbed," she urged.

There was determination in the girl's face. She pushed aside the black
hand which in kindness would have detained her. "No, Serena, I must see
him at once," she said, and passed on into the living room.

"Hello, Virginia. Where have you been hiding yourself?" was her
father's friendly greeting, but he gave her a sharp glance.

She sat down as she told him. "I have been to the hospital, Daddy."

Obadiah's face hardened and he scanned the page before him.

She watched his movements with unconcealed anxiety. She was very pale
and it was only with an effort that she could calm herself to say, "A
committee of ladies from Amity came to see you this afternoon."

"What did any committee of women want with me? Money?" he suggested,
with a suspicious eye upon his daughter.

"No, they came, they said, because the waste from the mill is spoiling
the river water and causing sickness in their town."

"Why didn't they come to my office about that?"

"They did, but you were not in."

He shifted uneasily in his chair. "Did you talk to them about it?"

"Yes. They explained the matter to me. They said that the Board of
Health has found that the water is unfit to drink. They wanted to
persuade you not to go into court about the decision. A law suit might
last for years."

He laughed harshly. "They are waking up, are they? They thought that
they could scare me with the Board of Health. Did you say anything to
them?"

"Yes, Daddy, I told them that if you were assured that the waste from
your mill was making people sick you would stop running it into the
river."

There was a crackling sound as he crushed the paper in his hands.

"You see, Daddy," she went on, "I was careful to make the point that
you could not be expected to do anything unless you were sure that it was
the waste from your mills which was responsible."

Obadiah leaped to his feet. A smile of relief swept over his face. "You
caught the point exactly, dear. How do I know that my mill is responsible
for the trouble?"

She did not respond to his change of mood but continued, "The ladies
assured me that the Board of Health, after a careful investigation, has
decided that it is."

"Is that so?" he sneered.

She looked up at the change in his tone. His manner seemed to make her
more resolute as she spoke again. "The matter was so important that
I wanted to be sure that you knew the truth about it." Her voice was
trembling now. "I went to the hospital and asked Mr. Curtis. It was
he who took the samples of water for the Board of Health, and I knew that
he would tell me the truth."

"What?" demanded Obadiah, his voice pitched high.

"I asked him if the waste from your mill made the water bad."

"Well of all the preposterous interferences--"

"Joe said that it wasn't fit for a dog to drink."

"What does that booby know about it?"

"As he works for the Board of Health, even though he is only a laborer,
he knows what they think about it, and--" she looked squarely at her
father--"I believe him, Daddy."

"Believe that idiot?" shouted Obadiah, his face black as night. "He
didn't have sense enough to gouge me when your fool admissions gave
him the whip hand. He's a fine specimen of a man for you to be running
after," declared the mill owner with scorn. "It's a nice thing for a
respectable girl to be doing. You'll get yourself talked about if I
don't watch you."

A change came over Virginia. She stiffened and her fear seemed to leave
her. There was a glint of anger in her eyes as they showed large against
her pale face. Her soft round chin set in an almost comical reflection of
his obstinate jaw. She arose, and her level gaze met his angry glower,
unafraid. "Stop, father." She spoke with wonderful self-restraint.
"You have said quite enough about Mr. Curtis. We are talking about
something else. The waste from your mill is making people sick. What are
you going to do about it?"

"Nothing," cried Obadiah, in his wrathful falsetto, his face working
convulsively. "I've been running waste into the river for years. If
people don't like it, let them make the most of it--go thirsty for all
I care. I'll give them a real fight."

"Do you mean that, knowing your mill is poisoning the water which people
are forced to drink, you'll fight the matter in court as they were
afraid you'd do?"

"I'll drag them through the courts until they get so warm that any
water will look good to them." Suddenly his temper blazed anew. "What
did I tell you this morning?" he demanded. "I warned you that I
would no longer tolerate your silly interference in other people's
business. I certainly will not permit you to butt into my affairs. You
go too far--you and the friends whom you pick up in the street. Do you
understand?"

"Yes, I understand. You spoke too plainly this morning for me to
misunderstand your meaning--as you are doing now. Daddy, I know that I
have made many mistakes. Yet, everything which you criticize was done to
aid some one else and in a small way they did spread happiness."

"If you had minded your own business you'd be happier now."

"I was trying to help other people."

"God helps him who helps himself," quoted Obadiah, virtuously.

"That doesn't mean to think only of yourself."

Her quiet voiced argument infuriated him. "You'll attend to your own
business in the future," he bellowed.

She did not flinch before his bluster but held her ground in white faced
determination. "You want me to lead a life of selfishness when there
are so many opportunities to help others?"

"Call it what you like, only get into your head the idea that hereafter
you will attend to your own affairs and let the rest of the world do the
same."

Abruptly her mood changed. She gazed at him with a great longing. "Oh,
Daddy dear, surely you are not so selfish as all that. I know that deep
in your heart you are not."

For an instant it seemed as if his mood were softening to hers; but his
obstinacy reasserted itself and he hardened himself against her appeal.
"I have always managed to take care of myself and I expect the other
fellow to do the same," he rapped. "In the future, you and I will
follow that course and avoid this sort of trouble."

[Illustration: "'I MUST CHOOSE BETWEEN YOUR WAY AND THE WAY OF MY
MOTHER'"]

For a moment the pleading look of the girl faded into one of utter
helplessness. She fought to regain control of herself as if, having
reached a decision, she needed to arouse the physical force to carry
it out. Turning slowly, she moved over to the center table. From its
drawer she took the book which had belonged to her mother.

He watched her, silenced, as he perceived the emotional conflict which
was shaking the girl strangely.

When she confronted him again, her face was tragic in its sorrow. In
those few seconds she had aged. She had leaped from a girl into
womanhood. Her poise was maintained by sheer power of will. When she
spoke it was in a forced voice, as if the muscles of her throat
strained to hold back the sobs which her tones confessed to be near.
"Daddy, there are two persons whom I should obey," she said. "You,
my father, and--" her eyes filled with tears as she raised the book
and clasped it to her breast and whispered ever so tenderly--"my
mother."

Wonder held Obadiah speechless in its grasp.

"A moment ago," she went on, "you condemned me to a life of
selfishness." She held the worn little volume towards him, and then
clutched it to her heart. "In this book is a message from my mother. It
is as plain and clear to me as if I had heard it from her own lips. She
tells me to be unselfish and to think of others. I must choose
between your way and the way of my mother. I do it now in your
presence." The girl's voice softened into an ineffable sweetness.
"Perhaps mother is here, too, and understands about it. I choose her
way, Daddy."

Her manner was firmer now, except for the telltale twitchings of the
muscles of her face, as she continued. "Knowing my mother's wishes,
I could not live as you would have me. I must go away." Her voice
caught. "I must go where I can try to be unselfish. You can't object
to my going to Aunt Kate's--she has asked me to visit her so often."
She swayed. Her hand clutched at the table for support. For an instant
her face worked convulsively, and then, with a little cry of utter
misery, she ran from the room, holding the book to her breast.

Late that evening Serena softly knocked at Virginia's door. When she was
bidden to enter, the crumpled and disheveled form upon the bed and the
tear streaked face told the story of grief to the big hearted negress.
"Ain' you gwine eat er li'l suppah, honey chil'?" she urged.

"No, Serena, I'm not hungry." A great sob shook the girl.

"Bettah lemme han' yo'all er cup o' tea an' suthin' to pick on,"
the old darkey pleaded. "Ah fetch it in er minute."

"No, Serena, I can't eat. I don't believe that I will ever want to
eat again." A paroxysm of sobs wrenched the little frame of the girl
and she dabbed frantically with a moist handkerchief at the great tears
which welled up in the blue eyes.

The springs of the bed groaned and strained as Serena seated herself upon
its edge. A gentle mothering look was in her face, and she began to rub
the white arm gently with her big black hand. "Res' youse'f, ma li'l
honey baby," she murmured. "Serena ain' gwine let nobody hu't her
baby gal." Suddenly she bristled. "Dis yere hu'tin' ma honey chil'
bettah stop. Ah bus' somebody plum wide open," she growled ferociously.
"Ah fights fo' ma baby agin de whole wo'ld."

The girl's sobs lessened enough for her to speak. "I am going away,
Serena."

"Whar you gwine go, chil'?" exclaimed the old woman with much
excitement.

"I am going to Aunt Kate's home in Maine."

"W'en is we gwine start?"

"I go day after tomorrow," explained Virginia sorrowfully. "You stay
here, Serena."

"Howcum? Who plan dat foolishness? Wot gwine keep me heah w'en ma
honey chil' done leave? Ah bets ah follers ma baby ef ah has to clim'
ba'foot th'ough fiah an' brimstone. Yas'r."

"You must stay and take care of my father, Serena."

"Wot ah wor'y 'bout him fo'? He done mek ma baby cry disaway. Ah
follers yo'all."

"But, Serena, he is my father."

"Ain' ah know dat? But ain' you ma baby?" Serena arose in great
excitement and pointed a quivering finger towards the hallway. "You' Ma
done give you to me," she cried. But her voice softened tenderly as she
resumed, "De day you' Ma pass ovah de rivah, ah wuz er settin' by
de baid er tryin' to ease 'er wid er fan. She know dat de good Lord
gwine call 'er home presen'ly, an' she wuz er waitin' fo' de
soun' o' de angel's voice. Her eyes wuz closed jes as dough she
wuz er sleepin'. Jes afo dusk she open 'em an' look up with er
smile, jes like yourn, honey chil'. She say, 'Is you still thar,
Serena?' Ah say, 'Yas'm, Miss Elinor.' She say, 'Ain' you bettah
res' youse'f on dat pallet ovah thar.' Ah say, 'Ah ain' ti'ed
none, Miss Elinor.' Den you' ma she look at me kinder pleadin' like,
an' say, 'Serena, you is gwine tek good caah o' ma li'l baby,
ain' yer?' Ah answer, 'Is ah gwine 'sert ma own baby?' Den she
'pear mo'e at 'er ease. De smile come back ag'in. She whisper kinder
sof like, 'Yes, Serena, you' own baby,' Den Miss Elinor close 'er
eyes an' in er li'l w'ile she heah de sweet voice er callin' 'er
home." Great tears rolled down the black cheeks of the old negress.
Burying her face in her apron, she began to sob, and a muffled voice
pleaded pathetically, "Ah caint let ma own baby go away f'om me."

Before the sorrow of her faithful servitor, Virginia's own grief was
temporarily subdued. She sat up on the bed and met the unexpected
interference with her plans with firmness. "Serena, I must go. I know
that my mother would want me to go."

"How you know?" demanded the practical Serena.

"I am sure of it. Something deep in my spirit moves me."

"Ef de spi'it move you chil' you gotta go," she admitted, greatly
persuaded.

"But, Serena, even if my mother wants me to go, she wouldn't want
me to take you away and break up my father's home. That would be
dreadful. What would happen to the house? Ike would get into all sorts
of mischief."

Serena gave thoughtful heed to the catastrophe which her departure would
bring down upon the house of Dale.

"I am not going to stay away from you forever, Serena," Virginia
continued, as she made a sorry attempt to smile through her tear stained
eyes. "You know that I wouldn't desert you. Promise me to take good
care of Daddy while I am gone, Serena," pleaded the girl. "Nothing
must happen to him. He must not be disturbed or made uncomfortable."

"Why ah gwine wor'y 'bout him fo'?" demanded the old negress,
obstinately.

"My mother loved him, Serena, and so do I. Won't you take care of him
for us?"

This plea weakened her stand. "Ah promises to do de bes' ah knows how
fo' a w'ile but ef yo'all stays too long ah gwine pack ma duds an'
come whar you is. Yas'm."

Virginia awakened the next morning with a bad headache. Serena busied
herself around her mistress and finally persuaded her to take a long
walk. The brisk exercise in the fresh air refreshed the girl, and she
decided to go to the hospital and see Joe Curtis for the last time before
she left South Ridgefield.

In the hall of the institution she met Dr. Jackson.

"You should have seen my patients this morning," he told her. "Those
infants are a gay lot. They cried so loud that they gave me a headache.
None of that fretful weeping with which they serenaded me last week.
That trip up the river helped those kids wonderfully, and, with the cool
weather we are having now, some of those youngsters are going to see snow
fly who never would have done so if it hadn't been for the voyage of
the _Nancy Jane_."

Miss Knight came up and slipped an arm about Virginia's waist. "Tell
the doctor and his babies good bye. He will talk a week about them if
you'll stand and listen to him," she laughed, and as she drew the girl
away, explained, "I have a surprise for you, dear."

"I can guess it. The room for the motorcyclists is ready."

"No, you're wrong. I'll have to show you." The nurse led the girl
through a door which opened upon a small porch and pointed over the
railing at the grounds which, lay on the side of the building. "There,"
she said proudly. "Look."

Virginia did as she was told. In the shade of a tree was Joe Curtis
seated with outstretched leg in a roller chair. He answered their waving
hands, and his face lighted up with a smile of pleasure which still
remained when the girl descended the stairs and came to him.

"Isn't this fine!" she exclaimed, her delight at seeing him out of
bed dwarfing her own anxieties. "It seems now as if you were getting
better."

His eyes danced with pleasure at her coming. Yet, when he recognized,
regardless of her efforts at concealment, that the gloomy influence,
the shadow of which had cloaked her spirits at their last meeting,
had not departed, his face clouded. He was conscious that his own
disclosures, even though forced from him by her, might have had some
part in causing her unhappiness and he endeavored to make amends by
cheering her. "I asked Miss Knight to send for my motorcycle engine,"
he informed her. "I told her that I wanted to hitch it to this chair
and get a little speed out of the thing. I promised her, 'Whither
thou goest, Knightie, thither will I roll.'"

Virginia expressed interest in the nurse's reply.

"After bawling me out for calling her Knightie, she said that I was
getting so attached to her that I spent my waking hours devising schemes
to get hurt so as not to have to leave her."

His visitor's smile of appreciation comforted Joe greatly. He took a
deep breath and flinched when his tender ribs rebelled. His eyes roamed
over the grass and trees and he watched the fleecy clouds floating in
the azure sky. He pursued his campaign of encouragement. "It is great to
take a breath of air without the ether flavor. It's a wonderful old
world anyhow," he announced, as he again viewed his surroundings with
great complacency. "Gosh!" he went on, "I wish I may never again see
the inside of a building. Me for a job in God's own sunshine."

In spite of the consolatory nature of Joe's remarks, a great loneliness
had descended upon her. As she looked at him it seemed impossible that
such a change could have come into her life since they two had planned
for the hospital room. Then she had everything to make her happy. Now
she was pledged to leave her father, her home, the few friends of her
childhood, to go to a relative who was almost a stranger except in
name. As she pictured the future, its loneliness frightened her. There
came the temptation to bow to her father's will--to do anything to
avoid that cheerless future.

Then, in a moment, she was filled with sweet and tender thoughts of
her mother and the creed of unselfishness. Straightway her resolution
was strengthened. She would follow the way of her mother and be true
to the message, no matter what the cost. Surely, God would make her
father understand. Until that time she must wait.

Joe's eyes returned to the girl at his side, when, lost in her own
thoughts, she was unconscious of his scrutiny. The unhappiness which he
caught in her face troubled him anew. "What makes you so sad, little
girl?" he demanded uneasily.

"Nothing," she maintained, with a smile so forced that it pathetically
denied the truth of the statement.

"There is something wrong, I know," he worried. "Am I in any way to
blame?"

She shook her head violently and then told him, "I am going away."

"How long will you be gone?" He could not watch her averted face; but
something told him that this was no ordinary trip.

"I can't say, Joe. Perhaps always."

As he watched the soft curls at the nape of her neck, the thought came
to him that only owls and prairie dogs find lodgment in the same hole
with a rattlesnake; whereupon the youth ceased to question and announced
as a fact of noteworthy interest, "So long as nobody is dead, there is
always a way to mend things."

There was a suspicion of moisture in her eyes when she turned to him and
said, "Joe Curtis, you are certainly a cheerful somebody."

"Why shouldn't I be? I might have been killed in the accident and I
wasn't. Now I'm nearly well." Into his optimism came tenderness, as
he whispered, "Best of all, I met you."

"Was it worth it?" She was moody for the moment.

"You bet your life," he exclaimed. "Aren't you glad that you met me?"

Her eyes answered him.

After a moment, he went on. "Will you tell me where you are going,
Virginia?"

"I am going to Maine. To Old Rock."

"Old Rock, Maine!" he shouted in surprise.

"Yes. Why not?"

"It is near the home of my mother. The place is so small that it seems
strange that, with all of the rest of the world to go to, you should be
going there."

Virginia arose from the bench and came over by his chair. "Good bye,
Joe," she said, very softly. "I hope that you will soon be well." A
sad little face looked down at him. "Please, forgive me for hurting you.
I am so sorry." Her lips trembled.

"Forget it," he said roughly; but there was that in his face which
contradicted his tone. "I ran into you."

"We can't agree, can we?" she said thoughtfully, and her voice broke
as she continued, "I want to ask a favor of you, Joe."

"Sure." He eyed her expectantly.

"Will you see that the room--is nicely arranged?"

"You bet I will."

"When I am gone there will be no one to care--but you." She fought back
the tears and put up a brave front. "Good bye, Joe."

"Wait a minute," he commanded.

She reached for his hand and repeated, very sweetly, very softly, "Good
bye, Joe." She moved away a few steps; but turned back to cry very
tenderly, "Good bye, Joe."

"Come back, please, Virginia," wailed Joe.

She hesitated, battling with tears.

"Please, come back, Virginia. Remember, I am helpless. I can't come
after you."

She retraced her steps. "What is it?" she asked, her averted gaze
apparently interested in the street beyond the grounds.

"Perhaps this is not good bye."

She looked at him now with great interest.

He seized her hand and drew her closer to the chair, smiling up into her
face, as he explained, "It may not be good bye for us, because--if I
were quite sure that you wanted to see me--I might come up to Old Rock."

She smiled at him. It was as if storm clouds had broken and let the rays
of the sun through. "Oh, Joe," she cried, "it would be lovely if you
came up. Old Rock seems to be a dreadfully lonesome place."

"Old Rock lonesome!" he protested. "Not a bit of it, Virginia. There
are lots of interesting things to do. We can take grand tramps." In his
enthusiasm for his home town, Joe forgot his game leg. "Some evening,
I'll take you down to the big granite bowlder, from which the town
gets its name, on the shore of the pond. We can get on top of it and
watch the moon come up over the tree covered hill on the other side
until it makes a shimmering pathway across the water and turns the old
white church on the hill into a castle of silver. I love to sit there
and watch the lights of the village go out, one by one. It's lovely
then. The only sounds are the song of the crickets, the distant tinkle
of a sheep bell, the splash of a leaping bass or maybe the hooting of
an old owl. It is a beautiful place, Virginia, and with you there it
would be wonderful."

[Illustration: "'I THINK THAT I SHALL LOVE IT,' SHE SAID SOFTLY"]

She listened to his words, her eyes big with interest, and a new
happiness struggling in her heart. "I think that I shall love it," she
said softly, and, after a moment's hesitation, "How long--how soon
will you be able to come, Joe?"

An attendant approached to take the injured motorcyclist back to the ward.

Virginia hastily withdrew her hand from Joe's grasp and immediately gave
it back to him, when he cried, "Not good bye but until we meet in Old
Rock."

As she watched the attendant wheel the injured man away and turned
to leave the hospital grounds, the girl was wonderfully cheered, and
her mind accepted Joe Curtis's picture of Old Rock by moonlight as
conclusive evidence that this ancient village was not lonesome.



CHAPTER XVI

VIRGINIA MUST GO


Virginia sank limply into the parlor car seat. After a moment she raised
herself and looked out through the wide window upon the busy platform of
the South Ridgefield station. Serena and Ike waited by the car nervously,
endeavoring to locate the position of their mistress by peering into
the coach. The old negress was publicly weeping.

As they caught sight of the girl, the train started and with rapidly
increasing speed moved down the platform. Ike grinned a cheerful
farewell while Serena screamed her adieu, and, as if unable to bear
the separation, started to waddle along with the train, frantically
waving her black hands.

Virginia signaled back and shouted embarrassed little good byes,
subconsciously aware that they would be heard by no one except her
traveling companions. As the two negroes were swept from her sight, a
feeling of utter loneliness wrapped her in its gloomy folds. Pent up
tears flooded her eyes, and so, through a mist, she saw at the end of the
platform a man and woman, waving handkerchiefs from an automobile, who
looked remarkably like Hezekiah Wilkins and Mrs. Henderson. Likewise,
through a curtain of moisture, when the train crossed the bridge, she
perceived the stranded _Nancy Jane_, symbolical of her own wrecked
efforts.

As the roar of the train upon the bridge died away, the girl sank back
again into her seat and succumbed completely to her grief. During those
last few hours at home she had steeled herself not to display her
feelings. She had met her father on the previous day and explained
her plans quite as calmly as if she were about to take an ordinary
vacation trip.

The decision of his daughter to leave him, based as it was upon the
inspiration of her mother, dead these seventeen years, had left him
strangely helpless. In his passion he had thrust aside the cloak of
idealism in which she had arrayed him and exposed his true character.
She had struck back, unwittingly selecting a weapon which had swept aside
his momentary anger and left him shaken and perplexed at the edge of
the abyss which had opened between them. Obadiah, too, had been unhappy
in those hours. He loved Virginia with all the affection of which his
nature was capable. There had been moments when he would have surrendered
abjectly to his daughter on her own terms but for the grim obstinacy
which obsessed him.

It may be that she intuitively appreciated his mental struggles, because,
excepting only her determination to leave home, she treated him with the
tenderest consideration. In his perplexity, Obadiah drifted for the
moment and blindly followed the girl's lead, as if through her alone
could come the solution of the problem which separated them. Their
breakfast that morning had been a difficult ordeal as had been their
leave taking. He had displayed no desire to accompany her to the train
and had parted from her with a grim indifference which his troubled
face belied.

Now, at least, there was relief in the luxury of a good cry; but after a
time the tears ceased and a weary peace came. Resting her head against
the back of her chair she gave herself up to thoughts of the few little
happinesses which gleamed like bright stars in the darkness with which
she was surrounded.

She thought of Joe Curtis and thrilled when she remembered the long
hand clasp. His picture of Old Rock comforted her anew as she assured
herself that such a place could not be lonely. She reviewed the few
moments in which she had bidden farewell to Mrs. Henderson. She had
dreaded Hennie's embarrassing questions. But, strangely, Hennie was
not inquisitive. She had broken away to rush into her kitchen crying
loudly that something was burning. This belief, from certain remarks
which had floated back, had irritated Carrie, her cook, exceedingly.
Returning, she had enveloped the girl in a wealth of motherly tenderness,
so that in reality the visit had consisted of much sobbing upon the
older woman's shoulder to an accompaniment of soothing endearments
and a train of explosive exclamations from which little could be gathered.

Soon she began to think of her Aunt Kate and of the new home to which she
was going. Little enough she knew. Once, shortly before the death of
Elinor Dale, Mrs. Kate Baker had visited South Ridgefield. At the time,
she had a baby daughter of Virginia's age and was mourning the death
of her husband. For years there had been irregular correspondence; but,
as far as Virginia was concerned, her father's sister and her cousin
were merely names.

The day of tiresome travel slowly passed. There were times when, in a
wave of despair, Virginia pictured herself adrift on a sea of sadness,
where all was dark and cheerless; but there were moments when sweet
thoughts of her mother strengthened her and made her resolve to stand by
her colors, no matter what the cost.

It was late that evening when the train arrived at Old Rock. The unusual
excitement and the fatigue of traveling had brought on a persistent
headache, so that it was a most forlorn and miserable Virginia who was
helped down from the car. Hardly had her bag been dropped at her side
when the train moved on. As the metal doors clanged shut, it seemed to
the girl as if it were the sound of the gates of her old life closing
against her. She gazed timidly about the station. It was very dark to
this girl of the city--this child of the electric lights. The fear of
the unknown seized her. Sick, frightened, every limb of her trembling,
she hesitated helplessly.

A figure approached through the gloom, and the soft, cheery voice of a
girl inquired, "Cousin Virginia?"

Virginia's throat was dry and husky. "Yes." Her answer was only a
whisper. A frightened little sound, but it was all that she could make.

Now a hand seized her arm and she was led along the platform. They came
under a station lamp, and again the voice spoke as they faced a tall,
angular, plainly dressed woman. "Here she is, mother."

Virginia looked up into a face which made her gasp in astonishment. In
the eyes, the mouth, the deep cut lines, was resemblance to her father
but, oh, with what a difference. It was Obadiah sweetened by love and
affection. The harshness, the obstinacy, the selfishness of him were
memories here. In their place lay a gentle, motherly look beneath the
soft, white hair and from the eyes beamed a tender welcome to the lonely
girl.

As Virginia hesitated diffidently, the lamp overhead brought out the
pallor and the pathos of her wan tired little face. With never a word
but just a soft exclamation she sank into the outstretched arms of her
aunt.

"You poor tired darling," whispered Aunt Kate. She fixed a look of
great severity over Virginia's shoulder at her own daughter. "Helen,"
she cried, "do you expect visitors to carry their own baggage? Take
Virginia's bag to the surrey." As Helen obediently departed, Aunt Kate
gave her guest a motherly hug, meanwhile making strange noises in her
throat. Releasing one arm with great care lest the girl be disturbed,
she endeavored to wipe a tear from her wrinkled cheek with a finger.
"Come, child," she said sharply. "You must get to bed. How do you
feel?" When she learned of the headache she commiserated with her niece.
"You poor child. Sleep is the best treatment for that."

A surrey drawn by a remarkably fat horse was waiting for them back of
the station.

"Don't you feel well, Cousin Virginia?" inquired Helen from the front
seat.

"It's only a headache, Cousin Helen."

There was sincere relief in Helen's voice as she replied, "I am so glad
that it is nothing worse."

Virginia and her Aunt climbed into the back seat of the conveyance.

"Hush," cried Helen in a loud whisper. "Archimedes is asleep. It's a
shame to disturb him. I haven't the heart to hit him," she giggled.

"Be careful and don't strike that horse cruelly, Helen," Aunt Kate
warned her daughter, as if that maiden were habitually guilty of cruelty
to animals.

Helen disregarded her mother's remark. "Archimedes is dreaming of corn
and oats and hay and green pastures. He must dream of such things, as
he never thinks of anything else," she laughed.

"Stop your nonsense, Helen. I have a sick girl here who should be in
bed."

"I'm better already," protested Virginia.

"Get up, Arch," cried Helen.

Archimedes stood fast.

"Arch," she called again.

No movement followed.

"Pull on the reins, Helen," suggested Aunt Kate.

"Mother, how many times must I tell you that to pull on the reins is
no way to start a horse. A logical minded animal would expect you to push
on the lines when you want him to stop, and that wouldn't do at all."
That mischievous giggle came again and Helen gave the horse a smart tap
with the whip.

The lazy steed flinched slightly and moved slowly forward.

"Don't be cruel, Helen, and keep in the gutter."

"Mother, there are no automobiles out at this time of night. For once,
when we have company, we should drive in the middle of the road. As
we pay taxes, we have a right there," argued Helen. "I am getting
curvature of the spine from driving with one wheel in the gutter."

"It is so much safer, Helen. Archimedes can't get out of the way
quickly."

"Why should he? Let the automobiles make room for us once. Are we
frightened chickens to flee from them?"

"It makes the people in the machines so cross, Helen. They say such
unkind things."

Delightful remembrances returned to Helen. "Mother, are you thinking of
the man who offered to lend us his jack to move Archimedes out of the
road?"

"That man was very angry."

"He was, mother. I hope that he has gotten over it by now," laughed
Helen. She clucked energetically and went on, "As you are with us
tonight, we will pursue our usual humble way in the gutter. But," she
declared emphatically, "when Virginia and I go driving we will take
the middle of the road and keep it in spite of all the horn-blowing
goggle-eyed men in the state of Maine. Archimedes shall not be insulted.
His proud spirit rebels."

They jogged along, the proud spirit of Archimedes being well content with
a modest speed. Turning into a driveway, they ascended a slight incline
and drove into a large barn.

"This is my department," Helen told her cousin with pride as she
unharnessed Archimedes. When he was safe in his stall she paused before
the white face of a Holstein cow. "Cowslip," she giggled, "this is
your cousin Virginia who has come to visit you."

A door opened and Aunt Kate called, "Helen, bring your cousin in. Don't
keep her out in that barn when she has a headache."

So, with an arm about her cousin's waist, Helen guided her on her first
trip along a Maine domestic pathway which begins in the stable, or even
chicken house, and runs under one roof to the parlor.

Virginia paused in a doorway that opened into a large oblong room. In
its center was a great, square, brick chimney which divided it into a
cosy kitchen forming a most convenient part of the dining room, and a
dining room which was a most pleasant part of the kitchen. The low room
with its old-fashioned paper, its white-curtained, square-paned windows
and its painted floor, was delightfully homey and cheerful. It seemed
particularly so to Virginia, with the motherly face of her aunt smiling
a kindly welcome and the arm of her pretty blonde cousin drawing her
affectionately towards its comfort.

A few minutes later, with a bag in one hand and a candlestick in the
other, Helen led her cousin up the stairs to the cosiest little bed room
imaginable. Its low ceiling sloped with the roof except where broken
by dainty curtained dormer windows. A mahogany four poster, a highboy
and a table with some chairs constituted its furniture, while upon the
floor were round rugs of woven rags.

After Helen had departed and she had removed the traces of her journey,
Virginia seated herself in a rocker for a moment. She felt as if a
weight had been lifted from her shoulders. The fear of the unknown,
which had so terrified her, was gone. In spite of her sadness, when she
thought of her father, she felt reassured and comforted. As the girl
sat there, a tender dreamy look of indescribable sweetness crept into
her face. Her lips moved and she whispered ever so softly, "Mother,
your way is not so hard."

The simple little supper, to which the three women sat down that evening
was delightful to Virginia. And afterwards, what a gay time they had
with the dishes. The city cousin, whose headache was now a thing of the
past, donned an apron and assisted in drying them. Never had Serena
permitted her this proud privilege and how pleased she was to do it
now. She polished the few plates upon which she had the time to apply her
intensive treatment until they shone and sparkled bravely beneath the
lamplight.

Aunt Kate watched her strenuous efforts for a time in silence and then
burst forth, "Good land, if I weren't sure that the blue on that old
willow ware was burned deep, child, I'd be afraid you'd rub it off."

"Virginia is exercising, mother," laughed Helen.

"If she exercises that hard on each dish, she won't have either the
strength or time to do the rest of her work. No man would want to marry a
girl who puts in her time wiping dishes. Most of them would rather look
at good things to eat in their plates than at the reflection of their
own faces, I'll warrant you."

How the two girls did enjoy Aunt Kate's sage remark and what a pleasant
little chat they had when supper was over.

Aunt Kate sat in her easy chair and sewed, and now and then interjected
a word of wisdom into their conversation which convulsed them. Finally
she yawned, and, looking at the old wooden cased clock upon the mantel,
announced, "It's time all honest folks were in bed and rogues were
movin'."

A short time after this pointed remark, Virginia, tingling with the chill
of the northern night which swept in as she opened her windows, climbed
into bed, and, pulling the blankets about her, she gave a little sigh
and, very much like her old self, plunged into a deep and dreamless
slumber.

When she awakened the next morning, sunlight was streaming into the
room. Filled with curiosity over her new surroundings, she sprang from
her bed and gazed out of the window. Across the road, which ran in
front of the house, a newly mowed meadow rolled down to the shore of a
lake or pond a short distance away. Its surface, rippled by the morning
breeze, glittered and sparkled in the sun. Beyond the water, rising
abruptly from its edge, was a great hill, its slope covered with a
forest of pine and fur and hemlock. The green expanse of the meadow was
broken by islands of maple and oak while several huge granite bowlders
stood forth against the sod in all of their grey majesty. The color
of the soft, rich summer sky, dotted with floating masses of fleecy
white, was reflected in the flashing water. The trees and grass, yet
glistening with the morning dew, were a moist green, untouched by the
yellow of sun scorch or drought. It was a restful verdancy which spoke
of frequent rains, of cool days and of cooler nights.

"Virginia, are you awake?" came the voice of her aunt from the hall.

She climbed hastily back into bed as her aunt entered.

Aunt Kate smiled sweetly down at the girl whose serious eyes reflecting
the color of the morning sky, gazed at her from a mass of wavy black
hair. "How is the headache?" she asked.

"It left last night, Aunt Kate, and hasn't come back."

"That's good." Aunt Kate's voice was very gentle and sympathetic.
She sat upon the edge of the bed and, leaning forward, patted the soft
cheek of her niece.

Again, in the lined face of her aunt, Virginia recognized that
resemblance to her father, so wonderfully softened by kindness and
sweetness. The thought came to the girl that her mother would have
had such a tenderness of look had she lived. A flood of memories swept
down upon her and tears welled up in her eyes.

Her aunt gathered her into those mothering arms again, and almost before
the girl appreciated what she was doing she had opened her heart and told
her woes in the gloomiest way possible.

After she had soothed her niece, until she could give a teary little
smile, Aunt Kate arose and, moving to the window, viewed the familiar
landscape with a stern eye, sniffing portentously. In a moment she
began to speak. "We Dales are a selfish and obstinate family. We were
always so." There was a note of pride in her voice. "The men are
worse than the women--much worse--more obstinate and selfish, dear," she
repeated. "I know my brother Obadiah--better than he knows himself.
I am very glad, child, that you told me about the whole thing." Suddenly
her voice became sharp and emphatic and she fastened a severe look
upon Virginia. "Don't you for a minute get it into your head that you
have run away from home. If you had, I should take you back myself. You
should have visited your cousin Helen and me a dozen times before, and
now we will make up for your neglect and give brother Obadiah a chance
to calm himself after the disturbances you have created." She paused
for a moment and then went on, smiling sweetly, "I want you to be
your own sweet self here and have a jolly time with Helen." Her tones
became gentle. "Follow the way of your mother until the end of your
life. Sometimes it will lead through gloomy valleys but it is the road
which leads to the sunshine of the heights. Hum," she cried sharply,
"read 'Pilgrim's Progress,' child. It says the same thing, but
better."

A much cheered Virginia came down to breakfast, and, like the very
healthy young person she was, in obedience to her aunt's command and the
natural law of youth, forgot the unhappiness of yesterday in the joys
of the present.

The days which followed were crowded with happy hours. There were drives
long in time but short in mileage behind the majestic Archimedes over
tree-shaded roads. Unaccompanied by the timid Aunt Kate, they forsook the
humble gutter and seized the crown of the road. With peals of ringing
laughter, they pursued their slow way, unmindful of irate tourists filled
with the belief that the road and the width thereof was theirs to be
covered at fifty scorching miles an hour, and that delays from slow
moving taxpayers were an interference with their vested rights as well
as to their progress towards the uttermost parts of the earth.

There were plunges into the cold depths of the pond followed by wild
scrambles, when, with chilled muscles, they ran through the cool air
over the meadow to the house.

There were long paddles in the canoe where every curve and bend of a
stream opened a new vista of loveliness, of woods, of stream, of hill,
of rolling meadow.

There were tramps through forests of fir and pine where their feet sank
into the soft cushion of needles and they climbed until they came out
on the rugged tops of hills where, resting in weariness, they drank deep
of the pure air and feasted their eyes upon the pleasing prospect below
them.

Tired and weary but happy beyond relief, they would return in the evening
and, catching sight of Aunt Kate waiting upon the porch, greet her with
gay shouts and, both speaking at once, relate stirring adventures of
field and flood with cows and frogs and sheep and dogs.

Jolly feasts these three women had when sore muscles rested after the
day's effort. Never were such vegetables grown as came from the garden
back of the barn. Where else, pray tell, could such desserts be found as
Aunt Kate made? Or what could be more delicious than those big bowls of
raspberries or blueberries afloat in Cowslip's rich, thick contribution
to the feast?

Afterwards, Virginia would write letters until too soon a nodding head
and leaden eyelids would force her to bed. Her correspondence was large
in those days. She wrote to Mrs. Henderson and Serena and Joe Curtis;
but more often she wrote to her father, telling him all that she did.

Regularly to her, came letters from him. They were formal, precise
epistles in a style which might be described as having commercial
tendencies and obviously prepared by Mr. Jones at the dictation of
Obadiah.

As the weeks passed "V," as Helen nicknamed her cousin, developed
muscle and flesh and grew amazingly, and the coat of tan she acquired
would have been a scandalous thing in any beauty parlor in the land.



CHAPTER XVII

A FRIEND IN NEED


A weatherworn, disreputable hammock swung lazily between two big fruit
laden apple trees beside Aunt Kate's home. Time was when it had been a
gaudy, betasseled thing taken into the house each night. But familiarity
breeds contempt for choice possessions as well as friends. Now the
hammock hung unwatched from June until October. No longer a cherished
chattel, it was left to face the ravages of time and weather and man.

Yet, in its ripe old age, it had achieved the goal of all good hammocks.
It had found its place, not, of course, in the sun--that not being the
custom of hammocks--but in Aunt Kate's household. It had become a
place of conference, of discussion, aye, even of mutual confession for
Helen and her cousin Virginia.

It swung lazily in the light breeze of the morning. Not slothfully, but
in the relaxation of resting strength prepared instantly to meet its
burdens and responsibilities. It was well that this was so. Upon the
self-same breeze which swung it, came sounds of laughter and the patter
of small feet. With sudden strain and elastic resistance, carried even to
the uppermost twigs of the trees, the hammock received the two girls
as they precipitated themselves into its lap.

"I beat," cried Helen with the pride of victory, changed suddenly
into a wail of anguish as a dislodged Bell-flower apple dropped upon
her head. "Oh-o-o-o," she groaned; "those apples make me mad. This
is the second time that one of them has struck me on the head and I am
getting tired of it."

In her own end of the hammock Virginia was coiled in a most precarious
position. She was so interested in her letter that she failed to give
her cousin the full measure of tender sympathy to which that maiden felt
herself entitled.

Helen rubbed her head with vigor. "Say something 'V.' Is anything the
matter with your heart?" she exclaimed, fixing reproachful eyes upon
her absorbed companion.

"Did it hurt?" Virginia, deep in her letter, politely inquired. Her
words, however, lacked that warm condolence for which the head and heart
of her cousin yearned.

"Did it hurt?" mimicked Helen in disgust. "What a question! It is
exactly as bad as if a brick had fallen off the chimney on my head. Yet
you sit there and ask if it hurt. What do you think my head is made of?"

"Fudge," cried Virginia as the wind twisted her letter so that she
could not read it.

"Wh-a-at?" Helen was highly indignant until she discovered that
her cousin's remark was not a personal allusion. "Never mind," she
threatened; "see how I treat you the next time that you get hurt."

Virginia finished her letter. She wiggled over towards Helen, an
operation which placed both girls in imminent danger of being pitched
upon their faces. "I am sorry for your poor head, dear," she giggled,
"or should I be sorry for the apple? Let me look."

Helen thrust aside the inquisitive fingers. "Let me alone, you
unsympathetic wretch. Wait until my turn comes. Even if you writhe
before me in great agony, I shall laugh. Laugh coldly--ha--ha."

Virginia disregarded future calamities. "I have a letter from Joe
Curtis. It happens to be one which I might read to you, if you are real
nice."

Instantly, feminine curiosity caused Helen to forget injuries and pledged
vengeance. "Please, 'V.,' I should love to hear it," she begged, and
then listened with rapt attention as her cousin read,

    "_My dear little girl_:

    "This morning Miss Knight brought your letter to me on the
    grounds where I had been taken in the roller chair. She was
    grumbling about it being the business of the Post Office
    Department to establish a rural free delivery route and not
    expect her to chase around with my mail.

    "I spend most of my time in the chair, now. Soon I'll be
    on crutches, and after that it won't be long before I am
    discharged.

    "But this letter is written to give you the big news. The
    room for motorcyclists is open for business. Miss Knight took
    me to see it and it is dandy. I asked her what she thought
    about it now, seeing that she had so much to say when we were
    planning it. Her answer was, 'It's the best cure for blues
    I know. If I am downhearted, all I have to do is to come up
    here and think about you two innocents and I laugh myself
    sick.'

    "I told her that her ideas of humor led towards the
    psychopathic ward and warned her to beware of alienists or
    squirrels because they might develop a personal interest in her.

    "What do you think? The very day they opened the room it
    had a patient. You never would guess who it was. It was that
    fellow Jones who works in your father's office. He must be a
    regular dare devil of a rider. When the accident happened,
    he had cut in front of a moving street car. The machine hung
    in the fender and Jones went on and landed in a city trash
    wagon at the curb. His head and face were cut but the trash
    was soft. He bled so that the by-standers decided that he was
    dying and sent him to the hospital. Of course, the doctors
    kept him.

    "Miss Knight said that, from the odor about Jones when he came
    in, she guessed people were careless about separating trash
    from garbage. She told Jones that he must have thought he was
    among old home folks when he landed.

    "To be neighborly, I called upon him. Everything was beautiful
    in the room but him. I told him that he looked as out of
    place as a dead rat in a flour barrel. That peeved him, so I
    asked him if he hadn't felt more at home in the trash wagon.
    He got sore and grabbed up a glass. 'I'll bounce this off
    your ventilator if you don't get out of here,' he yelled.

    "That made me mad. 'You can't put me out,' I told him.
    'I've got more right in here than you. If you don't stop
    yapping around my heels I will pull you out of that bed and
    get in it myself.'

    "He got crazy then and started to climb out of the bed but
    Miss Knight came in and shoved him down on his pillow. 'Take
    that big cheese out of here before I break his other leg,' he
    bawled.

    "She began to laugh fit to kill herself and said, 'Joe, what
    kind of gentle sympathy do you give the weak and injured which
    makes them wish to rise up and fight?'--when she rolled me
    away from that wild man.

    "Your letter made me homesick for the north country. I have
    fished all over that pond. You wouldn't catch hornpouts if you
    fished in the right place and used the proper kind of bait. I
    used to go to the north end of the pond by the lily pads.
    Bait your hook with a live minnow and drop it in there about
    sundown. The fun will come suddenly. Mr. Pickerel strikes
    with the speed of an express train. Try it. When I come up we
    will go fishing.

    "A tray is coming my way so I must stop. I think of you every
    day and, believe me, just as soon as this hospital turns me
    loose I am going to go where I can see and talk to the nicest
    girl in all the world.

    "Good bye, Miss Hornpout catcher.

                                                "Affectionately,
                                                                "Joe."

Virginia's face was aglow with happiness as she finished reading and
turned to Helen. "He is the nicest man. Doesn't he write interesting
letters to me?" she murmured softly.

The sentimental Helen gazed into the distance, lost in dreams conjured by
this epistle. "Yes, he does," she agreed. "You must adore him, dear."

Virginia's face crimsoned at this bold remark. "We are only friends,"
she protested.

"Sincere friendship and complete understanding between two is
wonderful," sighed Helen from her eighteen years' experience of the
vicissitudes of life, and she displayed further keen insight into the
problems of existence, when she continued, "Sympathetic appreciation
strengthens one to meet sorrow."

Virginia gazed raptly at her cousin.

"Such sincere friendship should be cherished as some tender flower,"
Helen went on. "Is it not written that from the mouths of babes shall
come wisdom?"

"You do express yourself so well, Helen. You have so much feeling in
your nature--such breadth to your character, dear," responded Virginia.

The two girls pensively viewed the pond, possibly recuperating from the
strain of their conversation.

"It almost seems that I know him," Helen whispered.

Virginia turned suspiciously upon her cousin. "Did you know Joe Curtis?
Did you go to school with him?" she demanded.

"I can't remember the name, 'V.' What does he look like?"

Very valiantly Virginia attempted a word picture of Joe. "He is a
big fellow. His eyes are black--and large--and dreamy." She mused
for a moment and resumed with animation. "His eyes are bright--and
snapping--and brave--" again she paused and then she concluded very
softly--"and sweet. He has a smile which tears your heart."

"How wonderful he must be!" sighed Helen. She shook her head
emphatically. "If I had met him, I should have remembered him until
the last hour of my life."

There followed a dreamy silence devoted to maidenly meditation concerning
the manifold charms of Joe Curtis until an idea caused Helen to cry,
"Virginia, you should go fishing in the place Joe wrote about. I know
where it is. Think of it, you would fish in the same place, in the
same water and by the same lily pads where he has been. We couldn't
catch the same fish but we might catch relatives."

"Let's go now," agreed Virginia, moved greatly by Helen's sentimental
suggestion.

It was a long pull in the row boat to the head of the pond; but they took
turns at the oars and at last arrived at their destination. The day was
warm and the exercise at the oars did not cool the girls.

Helen noted the position of the sun which yet hung high. "Nothing will
bite, now 'V.,'" she objected. "We came hours too soon. He said to
fish at sundown. We had better go ashore and wait."

Glad to get out of the burning sun, they rowed to the shore and,
clambering up the bank, dropped down in a shady spot.

Suddenly Helen became restless. "I hear a strange humming noise," she
worried.

Virginia was likewise nervously alert. "I hear it, too. It's a low
buzzing--much louder than mosquitoes," she agreed.

"What can it be?" Helen troubled.

"It's my hornets' nest," cried a childish voice behind them.

With startled exclamations, the girls turned their heads.

Looking over the top of a granite bowlder a short distance away was a
small boy. He was a very thin and delicate child about five years old,
wearing a pair of faded khaki rompers and a shirt of the same material.

"Don't you know any better than to sit under a hornets' nest?" he
exclaimed in disgust. "Do you want to get yourselves stung to death?"

The two girls raised their eyes. Partially concealed by the lower
branches of the tree, a great cone of clay hung above them. From it
and the insects flying about it came the buzzing sound.

"Crawl, Virginia, and don't you dare make a noise," whispered Helen.

From the top of the rock the infant witnessed the ignominious retreat
from dangerous territory. "Come over here," he urged. "Much hornets
never come near me."

Relying upon the superior judgment of the masculine mind, the girls
turned and humbly crept towards this place of refuge.

"I guess you might stand up, now," the boy told them. "If the hornets
had wanted to sting you, they'd have done it before."

They arose and forthwith began to dust their skirts.

"Stop!" commanded the child in a voice of alarm. "Haven't you got
any sense? Want to get me stung? If you make a noise the hornets will
come sneaking over to see what is going on." His manner changed to one
of great politeness as he went on, "I have a house back here. You can
come over there and dust yourselves if you want to." He slid down back
of the rock. When he reappeared around its corner, he made funny little
skips and for the first time they noticed that he used a crutch. One
of his legs was flexed by distorted muscles until he carried it a couple
of inches above the ground. Notwithstanding this handicap, he moved
rapidly along a pathway ahead of him. Where the grass of the meadow
began at the edge of the woods, he waited for them and pointed with
pride to a small opening in a clump of birches. "This is my house," he
told them.

Virginia dropped upon her knees and peeped in. "How lovely," she cried.

Before her the flat top of a rock projecting slightly above the surface
of the ground served as a floor. A thick hedge of birch saplings grew
about it, constituting the walls. The branches arching it had been cut
away as high as a man's head. Above this they joined in a dense mass,
forming the roof of the bower.

Following their little host, the girls entered.

"What a lovely house," said Helen. "Did you make it?"

"God made most of it," he answered with great solemnity. "Mother cut
away the high branches and I cut the low ones and it was done. I didn't
have it all, at first, though."

"How was that?" Helen inquired.

"Mr. Woodchuck lived in the cellar beneath the stone. There is his
stairway." He pointed to an opening at the edge of the rock, surrounded
by pebbles and clay. "As soon as I moved in Mr. Woodchuck moved out."

"Are you all alone now?"

"Oh, no indeed, a chipmunk lives over there, who is very friendly. Up
in that tree is a bird's nest; but the young ones have gone away now.
Then there are the hornets and a snake lives under the rock over there."

"Snakes!" screamed both of the girls.

"Yes, a grass snake." The infant was openly disgusted at the display
of feminine timidity. "Who's afraid of an old snake? I'm not. That
snake is so afraid that I will catch him that he don't dare come out."

The neighborhood distrust relieved the fears of the visitors and they
began to make themselves comfortable.

"Oh, 'V.,' this would be a grand place to eat our lunch," suggested
Helen and to the boy she said, "We have something to eat in our boat.
May we bring it here and will you have lunch with us?"

"That would be fine," he agreed. "You get your lunch and I will get
some milk for us to drink from my mother."

"Don't disturb her," protested Virginia. "We have plenty. And we have
a thermos bottle of water, too."

"My mother won't care a bit. She loves to have me eat and she wants me
to drink lots of milk so that I will grow big and strong to take care
of her. I haven't any father, you see." Without further words the lad
disappeared.

Taking care to avoid the hornets, the girls brought their lunch from the
boat and were soon joined by the boy bringing a pitcher of milk and some
tin cups.

"Mother said that she was glad for us to have the milk and that after
lunch I am to bring you up to see her. Please come," he begged. "I want
my mother to know both of you so that after you are gone I can talk to
her about you and she will understand. I don't often have visitors at
my house." In a burst of confidence, "I never had any before. Please do
come."

The pleading face of the boy was very attractive to Virginia as she
looked into it. Its wistfulness persuaded her. "We will go and see your
mother," she promised.

A happy, satisfied smile came into his face. There was something familiar
about that to Virginia. Her eyes became dreamy.

"I'm going to kiss you," Helen suddenly announced.

He resisted violently but was overpowered and force prevailed. "What
do you want to do that for?" he objected, unappreciative of the favor
so generously showered upon him by the fair Helen. "It spoils the fun.
Don't you know any better than to want to kiss a feller all the time?"
he complained.

The sight of food pacified the infant as the girls spread the lunch.
They all enjoyed the feast in the leafy bower and consumed a remarkable
quantity of sandwiches, doughnuts, apple pie and milk. "My, but that
was good!" he announced. "Don't you think that my house is a good
place to eat in? I told my mother that if I could eat here all of the
time I would get fat; but she said that I would become a worse little
savage than I am."

The boy chattered on as he led them over the meadow towards the back of
a weather-beaten farmhouse. "Moth-er, Moth-er," he shouted, as they
approached the back door.

A middle aged woman of good appearance came to the door. Trouble had
deeply marked her face. "Won't you come in?" she urged. "Charles
Augustus," she reproved her son, "you should bring ladies to the front
of the house, not to the kitchen door."

"What's the difference?" he argued. "You can get in either way,
mother, and this is the nearest."

The girls, much amused at the reasoning of Charles Augustus, followed his
mother through a spotless kitchen and dining room into a very plainly
furnished front room.

For a time Charles Augustus sat most sedately in a chair, listening to
the conversation of the girls with his mother; but as the minutes passed;
he became restless.

Recognizing this, his mother suggested that he get some sweet apples from
a tree in front of the house for their guests.

Passing out of the open front door, he paused upon the stoop and began
a shrill little tuneless whistle. As he moved forward, his foot or his
crutch slipped. He lurched forward as if about to plunge headlong down
the flight of steps which led to the yard below.

The eyes of the women had followed the little fellow, and as he swung
forward they were filled with alarm. With half suppressed screams they
sprang to their feet, thrusting out their arms as if they might catch him.

By a marvelous effort, the boy recovered his balance. He resumed his
whistling as if nothing had happened and clumped heavily down the steps,
disappearing from their view.

With a sigh of relief the girls sank back into their chairs.

But the mother remained standing, her eyes yet upon the doorway through
which her son had departed. Her raised hands dropped to her side and the
look of horror passed from her face, leaving it old and tired looking.

Helen arose and, with a word of explanation, disappeared after Charles
Augustus.

Virginia marked the hands of the woman yet trembling from her shock. She
reached forward and, gently pulling her down into a chair, pressed her
soft cheek against the wrinkled face.

The woman fought to control her emotion, but her face sank into her hands
and she began to weep. After a time her sobs lessened and she became
calmer. She tried to smile through her tears at the girl. "He is my
baby," she whispered; "my lame, helpless boy." A change came over
her. She threw back her head and resistance blazed in her eyes. "He
shan't be lame," she cried, shaken by the intensity of her feelings.
Quickly the mood merged into one of utter helplessness. "If I could
get the money," she groaned, but almost instantly her former temper
returned. "I will get it," she resolved. "My boy shall have a fair
start in life if I have to crawl on my hands and knees to get it for
him."

Virginia endeavored to soothe the almost hysterical woman. At last the
tense nerves relaxed and self-control returned.

"You must think me silly and weak," the woman told her. "I have been
worrying too much. I am so alone with my thoughts here."

"You have Charles Augustus," suggested Virginia, as she stroked the
bent shoulders.

"Yes," admitted the woman. "But he goes to bed at six o'clock and
that leaves the long evening in which to sit and think--and hate," she
blazed. Yet, in an instant her anger had departed and she went on sadly,
"It is very lonely after Charles Augustus is asleep."

"Is he your only child?" the girl asked.

"No, I have another boy, much older. He is big and strong and handsome
and can take care of himself and his mother," she explained with pride.
"But he is young and is working his way through college. His pay is
small and he has had some bad luck, but he is a joy and happiness in my
life."

Virginia watched the woman as if fascinated.

Thought for the comfort of her callers returned with composure to the
mother of Charles Augustus. "My dear," she said kindly, "I suppose
that you are in Maine for a vacation. You don't look like a native.
It's a shame for me to spoil this beautiful afternoon for you with my
tears and troubles. I am nervous and overwrought. I had wonderful news
yesterday. News which may make me glad all of the rest of my days or
make me always sad."

"Please tell me about it," begged Virginia.

The woman yielded to the girl's entreaties and explained that, on the
previous day, Charles Augustus had been taken to a physician in Old
Rock because of some infantile disease. After treating the boy, the
doctor had examined his leg with great interest. Hunting up a copy of
a recent medical journal he had shown the mother a description of an
operation for a similar case in a New York hospital. It had resulted
in the complete recovery of the use of a crippled limb. "That boy's
leg could be cured if we could get him on an operating table before
he is too old," the doctor had declared with confidence.

The news of the possibility of her son's cure had filled Charles
Augustus's mother with joy; but her inability to raise the money
for such an operation had almost driven her frantic.

When she ended, Virginia took hold of her hands. "Won't you let me help
you?" she begged softly. "There must be a way to do it and I should
like to, for--" she hesitated a moment and then--"the sake of Charles
Augustus."

The woman looked into the girl's eyes. She found a sweetness there which
appealed to her. "I would have no right to refuse any help which would
rid my boy of that crutch," she answered.

At the door Virginia glanced back. "Charles Augustus's crutch would
make nice kindling wood," she called. "A motorcycle would be much nicer
for him."

A hopeful smile crept over the tired face of the woman. "Life would be
very beautiful if my Charles Augustus could run and play and ride a wheel
like other boys," she said.

Virginia found her cousin and the lad in the midst of a great romp. He
beamed at Helen, of whom he had become a great admirer, regardless of her
sentimental tendencies. "We didn't miss your cousin one bit, did we?"
he announced, and then, "I don't see anything in that to laugh at,"
when the girls gave vent to their merriment.

"We are going now, Charles Augustus," Helen told him. "Kiss me good
bye."

Regardless of his earlier attitude, the lad succumbed to the allure of
a beautiful woman as has man since the beginning of things.

"Are you coming again soon?" he demanded.

"Yes," Virginia answered. She was very serious and thoughtful as she
followed the lad and the gay and talkative Helen another way to the pond.
As she passed the mail box, she raised her eyes and upon it read the
name, "Curtis."

"I knew it," she whispered. "Joe has his mother's eyes."



CHAPTER XVIII

AUNT KATE LENDS A HAND


The next morning Virginia wrote Mrs. Henderson about the case of Charles
Augustus. She wrote also to Joe Curtis, but in her letter she did not
refer to her meeting with his mother and lame brother or to her visit
to his home. Afterwards she went out and sat in the hammock. Swinging
gently, she gazed with serious eyes at the landscape; but her thoughts
gave but little heed to the beautiful scenery which lay before her.

With motherly interest, Aunt Kate watched her niece through the kitchen
window. Wise in the habits and customs of young women, she noted
unfavorable portents. "Lands sakes," she called to Helen, "Virginia is
moping away in the hammock trying to make herself homesick. Hurry out
and cheer the poor child up. Don't let her get lonesome and unhappy."

Helen obediently entered upon her kindly mission. Seating herself by her
cousin, she put an arm about her and gave her cheery greeting, "Hello
cuticomes. Of whom are you dreaming?"

"I am thinking of Charles Augustus."

"He is a darling kid. I could eat him for candy." The cannibalistic
Helen smiled anything but fiercely at the thought of her tender prey.

"He is so sweet, Helen. That makes it sadder."

"Makes what sad?"

"His lameness. It is dreadful. Think of it, Helen, never to be able to
run and play in comfort."

Shadows of unhappiness clouded the usual cheerfulness of Helen's face.
"It is terrible," she sighed.

"All through his life," the melancholy Virginia went on, "that crutch
must be with him. Even when he proposes to a girl it will be beside him
at her feet."

"He could leave it in the hall with his hat." Helen's optimism
attempted to thrust aside the enshrouding gloom.

"No." Virginia was determined that no ray of light should brighten the
dark picture she was painting. "When Charles Augustus proposes, unless
the crutch is near, he can't get from his knees."

Helen conceded the point by a helpless nod. "It won't be a bit
romantic. It will be pathetic," she whispered.

"Not if the girl loves him truly. Not if he is the answer to the call of
her heart."

"He would be the Knight of her thoughts then,--the Prince of her
dreams," interjected Helen, the sentimental.

"With a crutch. He will rest on it even at his wedding."

"When they go away on their wedding trip, the rice and old shoes will
beat against it," groaned Helen.

"It will be at his bedside when he dies." Virginia's eyes filled
with tears. "Were he a soldier it would be a badge of honor--a mark
of patriotic suffering; but poor Charles Augustus was always that way
and must always remain so unless some one will pay for an operation."
Virginia buried her tear-drowned eyes in her handkerchief.

The sympathetic Helen succumbed to the prevailing sorrow of the occasion
and wept also.

From her watch tower at the kitchen window, Aunt Kate espied the
sorrowing ones. "My sakes alive, what has got into those girls?" she
exclaimed. "They must be hankering for a funeral." Hastening forth, she
planted herself before them and viewed the weepers with stern eyes.
"What is all of this crying about?" she demanded.

They told her, abating no jot or tittle of gloom.

"Was Charles Augustus unhappy yesterday?"

"No," they admitted.

"Well then," Aunt Kate's voice rang forcefully, "what's the use of
crying over happiness? Tears are to wash sorrows away." Her final remark
pointed her thoughts in a practical direction. "You two can wash the
surrey as well as for me to pay Tom fifty cents to do it. You can use
some of those tears around here if you get tired of pumping water."

So the grief stricken arrayed themselves in bathing suits and tugged
the surrey into the sun. They hitched the hose to the force pump and
labored diligently amidst floods of conversation and torrents of water.
They polished and, inadvertently or with malice aforethought, turned
water upon one another until peals of laughter echoed into the kitchen.
A complacent Aunt Kate gave but little heed to them until they presented
themselves before her, much bedrabbled but in an exceedingly cheerful
frame of mind.

She gazed over her glasses at them and said, "Mercy sakes, I told you
girls to wash the surrey not yourselves. Get off those wet clothes before
you catch your death of cold." As they disappeared towards the stairs
she called after them, "You girls were bound to have a moist morning.
Now I hope that you are satisfied."

Days passed which Aunt Kate, in her wisdom, saw were busy ones. At last
an answer came to Virginia's letter to Mrs. Henderson. Hennie had a
habit of accomplishing the things which she undertook and her response
was most satisfactory. She had arranged for the operation upon Charles
Augustus at the New York hospital. A place had been found for Mrs. Curtis
to stay and tickets had been placed at the Old Rock station for her
and her son.

Sufficient funds had been raised to cover everything but the operating
fee. But as soon as the case came to the attention of the surgeon, he
had suggested that, as the matter of age was a very important factor in
the ultimate success of his efforts, the operation be performed at once.
He was quite willing to await the result of Mrs. Henderson's further
exertions for the payment of his bill.

A very happy and delighted Virginia cried the good news aloud to Aunt
Kate and Helen. "Right after lunch we will go and see Mrs. Curtis and
Charles Augustus and tell them the good news," she planned. "Isn't
Hennie perfectly splendid?"

Aunt Kate was making pies. Her eyes twinkled as she told Virginia, "I
don't gather from this letter that your friend Mrs. Henderson spent much
time weeping over Charles Augustus's crutch. She is going to get rid of
the old thing. That line or two you wrote did the lame boy much more good
than all the tears you and Helen wasted around here the other morning."

Virginia bobbed her head in agreement with the wisdom of her aunt. Then
she climbed the stairs to make ready for her trip, lifting a sweet little
voice in song.

As Aunt Kate heard her, she smiled gently; but her face grew suddenly
stern as she muttered, "Until I settle brother Obadiah's hash, I'd
better keep an umbrella and a mackintosh handy if I don't want to get
wet"; after which she dusted the flour from her hands with great vigor.

The two girls gave little time to their lunch that noon, and soon
afterwards started up the pond in a canoe. Helen was filled with energy.
She dug her paddle into the water and pulled mightily.

"Stop, Helen, we are turning around," protested Virginia.

"Paddle your share, 'V.'," retorted Helen with an air of injury.
"Remember, you are not a passenger."

By vigorously wielding her paddle, Virginia managed to hold the canoe on
its course. "Please don't make me work so hard, Helen," she objected.
"We want to hurry and get there."

"We are doing that splendidly, 'V.' We can't go very fast if you want
to sit and dream. Paddle, dear heart--work your way."

[Illustration: "'YOU ARE MY SWEETHEART,' THE BRAZEN HELEN TOLD HIM"]

So it came to pass that Virginia paddled to keep up with Helen and that
young woman paddled to make her cousin work, and thus the light canoe
was driven over the water with speed and they soon reached the end of
their voyage.

Charles Augustus espied their approach afar off and hobbled down the
meadow path to meet them with joyous outcry. "Hello, you came to see
me, didn't you?"

"Of course. You are my sweetheart," the brazen Helen told him.

"My!" he sighed, shaking his head after the manner of an elderly
philosopher. "It's been a long time since I saw you. I expected you
every day. Mother said that she guessed you were busy people."

Mrs. Curtis came to the door at the sound of voices. Her face lighted
when she recognized them. "Charles has been watching for you each day,"
she told them. "I tried to persuade him that you might have interests
besides visiting small boys; but I wasn't very successful."

Charles Augustus balked in the pathway, pulling at the hand of Helen.
"Don't let's go in. It's much nicer out here. Let's play as we did
the other day."

Mrs. Curtis nodded understandingly when Helen bowed to her admirer's
wishes, and led Virginia into the house. "It is nice of you to come
and see me again so soon," she told the girl when they were seated in
the front room; "especially after the way I must have tired you with my
troubles and drowned you with my tears." Her forced gaiety could not
deceive one to whom she had opened her heart. The marks of trouble and
anxiety showed too plainly in her face.

Virginia saw the opportunity to transmit the good tidings she had
brought. Its very bigness embarrassed her. "I have some good news
for you," she cried, and abruptly thrust the letter towards the older
woman, her eyes big and tender with the joy of her message. "There!"
she stammered. "Read--read that, please."

Mrs. Curtis took the letter from Mrs. Henderson and began to peruse it.

It seemed to Virginia that she would never finish.

At last Mrs. Curtis turned towards the girl. Her face was pale and the
stress of her emotion weakened her. "I can't thank you," she whispered
in a queer strained voice. Suddenly her strength swept back to her. Under
the force of the joy which enveloped her she spoke in a dead monotone,
staring ahead of her with unseeing eyes. "My Charles will walk and play
like other boys. In a few weeks--perhaps before Thanksgiving Day--he
can throw aside his crutch."

Virginia, agitated by the intenseness of the other's feelings, watched
in silence.

Mrs. Curtis had forgotten her visitor now. She was thinking aloud.
"What a happy day it will be for Joe and Charles and me," she
murmured,--"the happiest since my husband died."

The gladness of the other thrilled the girl.

Like a flash there came a change in Mrs. Curtis's mood. Her joy came
into conflict with a defiant pride. Her face became cold and hard.
"It's charity," she wailed, "just plain charity. Am I a beggar now?"

She turned furiously upon Virginia, transformed by passion, "If my
husband had lived--if I, a weak woman, had been given a fair chance to
make an honest living in this land of the free," she sneered, "I too
would ride in my automobile in silks and diamonds and extend charity to
the poor. If there were justice among men I would not be in a position
where people could offer me charity."

A bewildered Virginia listened timidly as the woman, almost beside
herself, went on, "There is no justice--there is no right," Her eyes
seemed ablaze to the startled girl. She thrust her arms above her head.
"The wicked prosper and the good are ruined. It's all wrong--wickedly
wrong," she screamed and, rushing into an adjoining room, cast herself
across the bed, sobbing convulsively.

Amazed at the effect of Hennie's letter, Virginia was tempted to run
away. She hesitated, however. Through the doorway she could see the
shaking form of Joe's mother upon the bed. Quickly the passion died out
of the sobs of the weeping woman and in its place came a note of pathetic
helplessness which clutched at the girl's heart and seemed to call her.

In a moment Virginia was at the side of the bed. Leaning over, she took
one of the toil worn hands into her own. There came an answering
pressure and the girl seated herself by the bed-side holding the
knotted fingers in her own. The sobs lessened, the quivering form
became calmer, and at length Mrs. Curtis sat up and raised wet eyes
to those of her visitor. "You must think me lacking in appreciation of
the generosity of your friends," she choked, still shaken by the reflex
of her sobs. "It's not true, though. That was a display of my silly
pride. It's about all that I have left of the happiest days of my
life. Forget my words, dear, and forgive me. From the bottom of my
heart, I thank you for what you have done for my boy and me. To have
him walk without a crutch, on my hands and knees I'd scrub the most
crowded street in the world. There is no humiliation too great for me to
undergo for him. I would glory in it." In the glow of mother love
her face softened and became beautiful. Now she seemed to grasp the
full significance of the news and to be filled with unrest as if
afraid that the opportunity might escape. "When can we go?" she
worried--"tomorrow?"

"Today, if you wish," Virginia explained.

Her woes cast aside and filled with excitement, Mrs. Curtis dried her
tears and returned to the other room with the girl. Through the window
Charles Augustus could be seen hobbling about in a game with the active
Helen. His mother watched his awkward movements intently for a moment.
"In a few months he will be running about without the crutch," she
whispered and, swinging about, she seized Virginia by her shoulders,
looked deep into her eyes as she murmured gently, "May God bless you
and yours for what you are doing for me and mine, and may happiness be
yours and theirs until the end of time."

Charles Augustus displayed greater interest in the journey he was about
to take than in the fact that he might no longer need his crutch. As
he passed through the meadow with the girls he explained his position.
"It's great fun to travel on the cars. I don't care a bit where I
go, so it's some place else." Possible objections arising from the
change struck him. "When I come back, will you come and see me, even
if I don't have a crutch?" he asked Helen.

The enchantress caught him in her arms and answered him with a kiss.

Regardless of this attention, dissatisfaction crept into his face. "If I
don't have my crutch, I will catch you all of the time. There'll be no
fun in playing with a girl who always has to be 'it.'"

His fears did not impress Helen the agile. "When you are able to play
without your crutch," she promised him, "I shall fly with delight."

"Like an aeroplane?" inquired Charles Augustus with great seriousness.

They left him standing upon the shore. As they paddled away he was
leaning on his crutch, watching something. Suddenly he made a hopping
dart and dropped to the ground. Instantly he was up again, shouting
triumphantly, "Look--look at the old bullfrog I caught." He held the
slimy creature aloft, by one of its legs, for the admiration of the
girls and asked, "Do you think that my mother will let me take him to
New York with me?"

"Ask her," suggested the diplomatic Helen.

Notwithstanding the happy outcome of her efforts to help Charles
Augustus, Virginia was very silent and preoccupied that evening.

"That child is homesick," Aunt Kate thought, as she kissed her good
night and watched her slowly ascend the stairs, candlestick in hand.

As Virginia undressed, she was very thoughtful. She went over to the
dresser and, holding Mrs. Henderson's letter close to the candle's
flame, re-read it. There was a wistful, helpless look in her face when
she was ready to climb into bed. "Oh, Daddy, Daddy," she whispered
sadly, "please believe as mother did, so that I can come back home."
An hour afterwards she fell asleep upon a pillow moistened with tears.

The two girls were at the station in the morning to say good bye to
Charles Augustus and his mother as they departed for New York.

Before the train left Charles Augustus complained to Helen, "Mother
wouldn't let me take my frog to New York."

"That is too bad," commiserated the deceitful Helen.

"Mother said that the frog wouldn't care for New York. He might get
lonesome there."

Helen gravely considered the problem. "Your mother is right, Charles. A
frog would find few friends and little amusement in New York."

Virginia bade Mrs. Curtis good bye at the car steps. "You will write
and tell us about everything, won't you?" she begged.

The older woman embraced her. "Good bye," she murmured. "Words can't
tell what I would say to you, dear. Of course I will write."

Again the days passed and the best of news came from New York. The
operation was performed and the twisted muscles worked into place. The
surgeon was confident of the success of his efforts and felt sure that,
at the worst, Charles Augustus would only have a slight limp which would
disappear with age.

Yet Virginia was not happy. Very sweet she was and thoughtful of others;
but she was serious and often, too, a look of sadness rested on her face.

Aunt Kate watched her with the vigilant eye of a mother in those days.
One afternoon she discovered her niece alone in the hammock, viewing
the pond with a melancholy countenance. "Land sakes, that child is
moping again," she groaned. Leaving her work, she joined the girl and
commanded, "Tell me your thoughts, Virginia?"

For the moment the girl was startled. "I was thinking about South
Ridgefield," she confessed timidly.

"I knew it," Aunt Kate exclaimed, apparently much puffed up by her
mind-reading ability. "You are trying to see how unhappy you can make
yourself and every one else who looks at you."

Virginia was mute before this accusation.

"Were you thinking of your father?" asked Aunt Kate, proceeding with
her examination of the witness.

The girl nodded sadly.

"Why do you think of him?" Aunt Kate seemed shocked at the depraved
taste of Obadiah's daughter.

"Oh, Aunt Kate, I do wish that he would pay for Charles Augustus's
operation. I would feel as if there might be some chance of my going
home some day."

"I am sorry that you don't care for the company of Helen and me,
Virginia."

The girl gave her aunt a pleading look. "You know what I mean. I love
you and Helen dearly."

The older woman softened, patting her niece upon the cheek; but she stuck
to the business at hand. "That water business would cost your father
a lot of money, wouldn't it?"

"I think so," Virginia agreed.

"Hum," muttered Aunt Kate. "We'd better give Obadiah a light dose
to begin on."

"I don't understand you, Aunt Kate," said the girl.

"No matter," responded the older woman. "What I want to know is, have
you asked your father to pay for the operation on that lame boy?"

"No, he knows nothing about it," admitted Virginia. "Aunt Kate, I
would be afraid to ask him after the way he talked to me."

"Afraid!" Aunt Kate was filled with astonishment. "Afraid of Obadiah?
My stars and garters! You must begin some place! How on earth do you
expect him to give to something he never heard of? Don't you know child,
that to get a Dale to do anything which costs money you must ask them
not once, but thrice. Seventy times seven is about right for Obadiah."

"But, Aunt Kate, after what my father said, I couldn't ask him to help
pay Charles Augustus's bill."

"Why not?" demanded Aunt Kate.

"I don't know why. I am sure, though, that I couldn't."

"I know why," declared Aunt Kate. "It is obstinacy--plain Dale
obstinacy sticking out of you."

Virginia was silent for a moment, possibly reviewing her personal
characteristics as illuminated by her aunt. Then she asked, "You think
that I should ask him?"

"Certainly, give brother Obadiah a chance."

"But, Aunt Kate, he will refuse."

"We will write him then that you are going to stay with me."

"Oh," groaned Virginia, great tears springing into her eyes opened wide
with alarm. "Then I could never go home as long as I live. I'd never
see Daddy or Serena or even Ike again."

"Fiddlesticks, child, don't be a weakling." Her eyes twinkled. "This
is no tragedy. It is only a difference of opinion, with brother Obadiah,
as usual, wrong."

"It would be a tragedy if I could never go and see my father." Virginia
shook her head sorrowfully. "I have been thinking about it lots lately,
and sometimes I wonder if my mother would want me to stay away from home
much longer."

Aunt Kate put her arm about the girl. "Won't you trust to the judgment
of your old aunt, who knew your mother before you? I don't want your
efforts to help other people to be turned into a punishment."

"I have thought of that, too." Virginia was very solemn as she spoke.
"Perhaps I went about it the wrong way. If I had done things differently
perhaps I wouldn't have made Daddy angry."

"You must not allow yourself to worry, dear. We will give your father
a chance to help Charles Augustus. If he doesn't do it, something else
will come up and we will keep on giving him the opportunity. In the end
everything will work out for the best, I am sure."

So that afternoon Virginia wrote to her father and asked him to
contribute towards the expense of the operation upon Charles Augustus.
It was a cheery letter and in no word of it could one guess the tears
and longings between the lines.

Obadiah's answer, as befitted a good business man, was prompt. While he
admitted the sadness of the case he could see no reason why he should
be asked to pay for an operation upon a boy of whom he knew nothing. He
enclosed a small check and concluded his letter with directions that his
daughter return home at once.

"Just as I expected," announced Aunt Kate, when Virginia, the
bewildered subject of conflicting emotions, brought it to her. "Obadiah
is wild to have you home. That is our strength. Don't you surrender to
him, Virginia. I wouldn't be a slave to any man and certainly not to
brother Obadiah. I always made him step about, I can promise you. And if
you follow my advice you can, too."

Virginia's face was wistful. "I don't want to make Daddy step about,
Aunt Kate."

"You started this revolution, Virginia, and you must see it through.
Now, I am in it. The only slave in that big house in South Ridgefield is
going to be Obadiah. My dander is up, child, and I am going to make him
sweat. I must finish the job of training which I started years ago. He
never disobeyed me then and he had better not try it now." Her eyes
flashed and her manner was extremely menacing. "In the meantime,"
she stormed, "he has brought you into the world, which complicates
matters but does not relieve me of my responsibilities."

The second letter to Obadiah was in the hand of Virginia but it breathed
the words and spirit of his sister Kate. It was an independent document.
Every line of it bristled with the spirit of '76. It regretted his
decision not to help in the case of Charles Augustus and also that
Virginia had not completed her visit so that she could return to South
Ridgefield. In vague terms it referred to a home with her aunt, and
discussed a career, as well as certain positions for teachers available
in and about Old Rock.

Virginia copied the letter and signed her name. Then she re-read with
increasing alarm the ultimatum which she had approved. Had she been alone
it would have been instantly destroyed; but under the stern eye of her
aunt she was helpless. Obediently she addressed the envelope and, shaking
way down in her very boots, she watched her aunt fold, seal and bear away
for personal mailing the bolt which was to be cast at her father's head.

At the door Aunt Kate turned and, with the greatest assurance, told the
fear-shaken girl, "Mark my words! This letter will make brother Obadiah
sit up and take notice."



CHAPTER XIX

OBADIAH "COMES TO"


As it is written that a prophet is not without honor save in his own
country and in his own house, it is deemed just that such matters as
have to do with the coming to pass of Aunt Kate's prediction concerning
her brother Obadiah should be duly set forth herein that they may be not
suppressed through local jealousy.

Obadiah received Virginia's letter late one afternoon as he was about
to return home. He did not immediately read it, but carried it with him
that he might enjoy it in the greater seclusion of his own domicile. What
took place thereafter is best described in the words of a confidential
communication from Serena to Ike. "Dat ole man is er ra'in' an' er
ta'in' 'roun' in dyar jes lak sumpin done stung 'im. It's de
badness er wo'kin' out. De hot fiah o' to'ment singe 'im an'
de cont'ary spi'it cry aloud fo' he'p lak er lamb afo' er ragin'
lion in de wilde'ness."

Ike received these tidings concerning the spiritual pass of his employer
with an interest that lacked the kindly sympathy which should be
extended to a brother struggling with the forces of evil. He made
answer in a casual manner, "Mr. Devil done run dat ole man to ea'th er
long time ergo. He jes er settin' back, lafin sof' to hisse'f, er
watchin' de houn's er scratchin' an' er clawin'. He gwine dig
'im out presently. Ah 'spects dat de 'pointed hour is at han'."

At dinner Obadiah was in a surly mood which he vented upon Serena by
making cutting criticisms concerning the food and service. She received
his comments in silence, storing them up until a more propitious hour of
reckoning. Meanwhile she solaced herself by certain outbursts at Ike.

Unconscious of impending disaster, the chauffeur had seated himself
adjacent to the range. Here he rested from the labors of the day, having
in view a tempting repast of chicken and sweet potatoes. He endeavored
by agreeable conversation, to make smooth, or grease if you wish, its
pathway to his stomach. "Miss Sereny, yo'all is er movin' mighty
peart dis evenin'," he remarked in tuneful tones, as the old negress
hastily re-entered the kitchen, severely wounded by a barbed dart of
Obadiah's temper.

She whirled upon him and snapped, "Shet up dat big mouf. Yer 'minds
me o' er ole alligator er settin' thar workin' yer jaws an' ain'
say nothin'."

A glance at Serena's face showed Ike that storm signals were
unmistakably flying. He thought to assuage the tempest by the tender of
assistance. "Caint ah he'p you, Miss Sereny? Ah 'spects dat
yo'all is plum ti'ed er wo'kin' in dis yere hot kitchen."

She fixed him with smoldering eyes. "He'p me, he'p me," she repeated
indignantly. "De onlies way er lazy nocount lummox lak yo'all kin
he'p me is by er movin' yer triflin' carcass out o' ma kitchen stid
o' layin' 'round ma stove lak er houn' dawg. Lif youse'f off dat
chair, boy."

Ike, the indirect victim of Virginia's letter, removed himself in haste
from his comfortable corner and retired to the cool steps of the back
stoop, to allow the domestic cyclone to blow itself out before attempting
again to procure his evening's nourishment.

Obadiah had an uncomfortable night. A remembrance of the lance like
thrusts of Aunt Kate, which, in the name of his daughter, had so cruelly
lacerated him in spite of his armor of egotism, drove sleep away. Tossing
upon a bed of discomfort, he heard the clocks toll out each passing
hour until, weary and tired eyed, he left his bed, ill prepared to face
the burdens and perplexities of the new day.

At breakfast, Serena served Obadiah efficiently; but her attitude was
hostile. The wounds of the proceeding night were yet raw. When he had
eaten, she faced him sternly and demanded, "When is yo'all 'spectin'
Miss Virginy is er gwine come home?"

"One of these days," he answered with indifference.

She was not to be thus summarily dismissed. "Dat day bettah be er
comin' mighty quick," she threatened. "Ah is er gittin ti'ed er
waitin' 'roun' yere. Presen'ly, ah gwine pack ma duds an' go whar
she at."

"You attend to your own business," he snarled petulantly.

His irritation was an elixir of strength to her. Hands on hips she
gazed defiantly at him. "Ma business is whar Miss Virginy is. Ah ain'
promise Miss Elinor dat ah tek care o' yo'all. Ah gives ma word to
watch dat chil'. Ef you is er countin' on me er stayin' in dis yere
house yo'all bettah git dat gal back quick. Ah ain' got no time fo'
no man so se'fish dat 'is own kin folk done turn again 'im."

Before the righteous indignation of his own servant Obadiah fled from
his dining room, speechless with indignation.

He entered his office at nine o'clock. The sound of Mr. Jones's
typewriter should have greeted him and he should have perceived Kelly
recording profits in the great ledgers. This morning their seats were
vacant. There was a lonesomeness about the place distasteful to the
manufacturer. His sleepless night and the altercation with Serena had
caused him to develop a fit of indigestion which was not allayed by the
lack of punctuality on the part of his heretofore punctual subordinates.

Footsteps sounded in the hallway, also happy laughter. Tardy employees
approached their work joyously, not stealthily, as is the normal custom
of such miscreants. No cheery smile of cordial welcome mantled Obadiah's
face. No well turned quip, to amuse his minions in their hours of toil,
was upon his lip. He sternly awaited the coming of these frivolous
and delinquent workers.

As Mr. Jones and Kelly entered, there were glad smiles upon their faces.
There was something different about the stenographer. There was a marked
outward change in him. His clear complexion proclaimed good health. He
carried himself as if in complete control of his muscles. In place of
awkwardness had come a distinct grace of carriage.

There were more subtle changes in Mr. Jones, also. A clearness of eye,
a steadiness of gaze and a quiet self-confidence were a novelty to his
friends of other days.

But, strangest of all, the private secretary's old time beauty was
marred by a discoloration of the right eye, poorly disguised with powder,
by several small cuts upon his face and by certain bandages on his hands.

Obadiah gave Mr. Jones a sweeping glance which failed to grasp details
essential to a clear understanding of a subordinate. "What do you mean,
loafing in here at noon?" he demanded most inaccurately, "I pay you to
get here at nine o'clock. What does this mean?" The cruel glance of
Obadiah's eye pierced the optic of Mr. Jones as if to plumb the depths
of his soul and wrest his innermost secrets forth to be exposed, naked
and ashamed, in the pitiless light of publicity.

The mill owner's efforts to read the stenographer's mind through the
eye were futile. Had he succeeded, the result of his research would have
shocked him. Believing himself to be peeping into the eyes of a turtle
dove, he would have become aware that he might, with greater safety, have
attempted to stare down the baleful glare of a Bengal tiger.

Lacking in the ability to read the human mind, Obadiah could not know
that Fate, seeking a recipient for her favor, had plucked a peaceful soul
from in front of a typewriter and made it fierce.

Had the manufacturer been able to view Mr. Jones's mind as the scenes
of a movie, he would have beheld thrilling events taking place upon
the previous evening. He would have observed his stenographer simply
arrayed in trunks, socks and shoes, with eight ounce gloves laced upon
his hands, give battle for the feather-weight championship of the Fifth
ward, before a multitude of wildly excited male citizens.

Had Obadiah by similar means reviewed the mind of Kelly, he would have
watched the battle as through the eyes of a second. He would have seen,
beneath the electric lights, the muscles of the little fighting men
play, panther like, under the healthy pink of their skins. If one drop
of red blood remained in his anæmic old body, the mill owner would
have thrilled as Mr. Jones, his arms playing smoothly as well oiled
connecting rods, treading upon his toes softly as a cat, advanced,
retreated and side stepped, ever warily studying the face of his
opponent. He would have perceived that his stenographer ducked and dodged
with incredible swiftness, his gloved hands playing always to feign, to
ward and to deliver blows which resounded with the thud of leather
against quivering flesh. Obadiah's eyes would have recognized the rich
red of blood smearing the marble of human flesh, and he would have
tingled at the excitement of the spectators when, rising from their
seats, they tumultuously applauded the giver of a lucky blow.

Through five gruelling rounds of fighting the manufacturer would have
followed the fortunes of his private secretary until that final moment
when, panting and heaving, he stood over the prone form of his adversary,
counting the motions of the referee's hands, whose voice could not
be heard above the thunderous applause which acclaimed him victor.

But no picture of this battle could have told Obadiah that in the moment
of triumph the spirit of Mr. Jones was reborn; that from the building,
into the portals of which he had been almost dragged by Kelly, he had
come forth a red-blooded fighting man whose gore had mixed with that of
his antagonist.

Ignorant of these happenings, Obadiah angrily awaited an answer from his
unpunctual servants.

The smile had faded from the face of Mr. Jones at Obadiah's rough
greeting. He failed to behave in accord with the best usages among
private secretaries. Squaring his shoulders, he took a deep breath,
thereby greatly straining a gusset only recently let into the back
of his vest. Suddenly he shoved his head forward. As his face advanced,
it changed into an ugly countenance with a nasty eye, such an one as
would make its recipient ill at ease. This was Mr. Jones's fighting
face, developed with care under the kindly advice of Kelly. Sporting
characters considered it a valuable asset.

Mr. Jones's expression startled Obadiah. For years, when at a loss for
words or thoughts, he had studied the lamb like face of his stenographer.
That timid look was gone now, replaced by a countenance which had
borrowed coldness from the glance of a rattlesnake and combined it with a
grizzly bear's cruelty of aspect. To Obadiah it spoke of arson, of the
assassination of capitalists, of the proletariat running mad. He quailed
before it.

"Where do you get that noon stuff?" snarled Mr. Jones.

Obadiah turned towards the clock as if to place the blame for any
misstatements of time upon that instrument. The hands pointed to five
minutes past nine thereby also indicating their owner to be a liar.

Again Mr. Jones spoke. Roughness replaced refinement.

"For five years I have worked overtime for you, two or three afternoons
a week, sometimes fifteen minutes, sometimes an hour. I also put in many
an evening and some Sundays for you. I never received a word of thanks
for it. Now, because I am delayed by important business and come in five
minutes late, you put up a squeal as if I'd stepped on your sore corn.
Say, what kind of a cheap skate are you?" the stenographer roared in
conclusion.

Obadiah ignored the question in haughty but uneasy silence.

"You think so much of your ugly old self that you can't think of
anything else. But believe me, everybody else has got your number and
they're wasting no time loving you. Say," growled Mr. Jones so roughly
that Obadiah jumped, "have you a friend in the world?"

For an instant it appeared that the manufacturer contemplated a hurried
retreat from his own office, but the pugnacious stenographer barred the
way.

"You hain't," announced Mr. Jones ungrammatically but emphatically,
producing a gigantic roll of currency from his pocket. It was his share
of the fight receipts, and, although the denominations averaged low, it
bulked large to the surprised eyes of Obadiah. Mr. Jones shook the money
in the face of his employer. "See that?" he inquired, as if suspecting
that his employer suffered from failing eyesight. "I don't care to
hold it too near to you or you might try to pinch it."

Obadiah viewed the roll of bills with a repugnance astounding in him.

"I had to work to get that money, last night," Mr. Jones continued.
"It wasn't the easy kind of money that you pull down. But that isn't
the point. Kelly and I have bought a gymnasium up the street. We intended
to treat you fair--to give you full notice so that you could fill our
places before we left. But as you've had to be a little meaner than
usual this morning, I think we'll bid you good-bye right now. How
about it, Kelly?"

"I say we will," agreed that successful trainer with emphasis, and he
and the fighter abruptly left the room.

Obadiah closed the door of the office with a resounding slam behind
his departing staff and, taking a bunch of unopened letters from Mr.
Jones's former place of labor, he bore them into his own lair. As he
sank down behind his desk he thumbed them over and, selecting one,
opened and read the paper it contained. It was a formal order from the
State Board of Health forbidding the further discharge of waste from the
dye house at his mill into the Lame Moose River. As the manufacturer
grasped the import of the document, his face purpled with rage and
the paper shook in his hands. Finally he petulantly cast it aside and
groaned aloud at a twinge of indigestion. Dropping back in his chair
he took Virginia's letter from his pocket and re-read it. "I've had
bad luck ever since she left," he growled. "Things don't break right.
I can't keep my mind on my business. She must come home." Unhooking his
telephone, he asked Hezekiah Wilkins to come to him.

Hezekiah responded, smiling pleasantly. "Good morning," he exclaimed.
"What has happened to the boys? Not sick, I hope."

"I fired them," Obadiah rapped. "They were too fresh around here and
I let them go." His anger and resentment displayed itself. "They are no
good. I wouldn't give them recommendations as dog catchers."

"Hump," ejaculated Hezekiah. "Both at once? It leaves you short
handed."

Obadiah invited the attention of his attorney to business by handing him
the order of the Board of Health.

Hezekiah read the document with care and, returning it to the
manufacturer, gazed at the ceiling reflectively.

"Well, what do you think of it?" Obadiah's manner was short.

"I have been expecting it," the lawyer replied with calmness. "What
else could you expect? You are ruining the water that people have to
drink."

"I can't be forced. They won't drive me," Obadiah maintained with
his usual obstinacy.

"They'll drive you into court fast enough, if you don't obey that
order," Hezekiah warned him with a chuckle.

"That's just where I want to be. It's up to you to develop a plan
to flim-flam that bunch of fool doctors. You're losing your 'pep' or
you'd have worked out something before this," sneered Obadiah.

"Perhaps I am losing my 'pep,'" Hezekiah mimicked, and his eyes
flashed as he went on. "I have enough mental alertness left to advise
you not to bite off your nose to spite your face."

Obadiah flushed angrily but controlled his temper. "Listen," he
snarled, "while I tell you what I pay you to tell me. The Lame Moose
is a navigable stream, isn't it?"

Hezekiah nodded, his eyes dancing with amusement.

Obadiah frowned at his attorney and continued, "We'll raise a federal
question and get the case into the U. S. Courts and with dilatory pleas,
continuances and appeals it will take years before a final decision is
handed down. How's that?"

Hezekiah laughed. "As your legal adviser, I can't approve it. The
waste from the dye-house at your mill is spoiling the water that some
thousands of people have to drink. There is a simple remedy open to
you but they have none. Common justice demands that you consider the
rights of these beings." The attorney turned loose his oratorical voice.
"Common justice demands it, sir."

The manufacturer flushed and shifted uneasily. Quarrelsome as he was, he
could not afford a break with this man.

Hezekiah relapsed into a careful study of the metal cornice over the way.

"Think it over. Think about it," snapped Obadiah after a moment's
silence. "You may be able to catch my point of view. I have another
subject which I want to discuss with you--an embarrassing personal
matter."

Hezekiah gave him a covert glance but immediately resumed inspection of
the metal work across the street.

"It's about my daughter," continued Obadiah. "I have a letter from
her which I wish you to read."

Hezekiah perused Virginia's letter with great care and attention. "Did
she write that?" he asked abruptly, as he returned the communication.

"It's in my daughter's handwriting but I suspect that my sister Kate
may have had a hand in it. Virginia never wrote such a letter to me
before. It is an unusual letter."

"Yes, it is an unusual letter," Hezekiah agreed. There was merriment
in his eyes but otherwise he presented the serious aspect befitting a
counsellor in the presence of a client. "It is an implied threat to
sever domestic relations. Such counsel as I give should have in
contemplation the facts which led up to this--ahem--veiled ultimatum."

This reasonable request embarrassed Obadiah greatly; but after some
hesitation he explained the circumstances under which Virginia had left
home as the act of a defiant, headstrong girl.

"Dear me, an exceedingly unfortunate matter," exclaimed Hezekiah, as if
astonished at the revelation. Therein his manner partook of deceit, as
Hennie had favored him so often with the details of the matter, gathered
from Virginia herself and more completely, through Carrie, from Serena,
that he knew them by heart. The lawyer went on, "The adjustment of
such family differences requires tact--the utmost tact and diplomacy."

The happenings of the morning had sorely inflamed Obadiah's indigestion.
As he repeated his woes to the attorney, remembrances of the lonely
hours he had spent since the girl's departure came to him and he
believed himself a sadly ill-used man. Miserable in body and spirit,
he flamed into tempestuous rebellion at the mild measures proposed
by his legal adviser.

"Tact and diplomacy the devil!!" he exploded. "I'll use force, if
necessary. She is my daughter, isn't she?"

Hezekiah gravely conceded Obadiah's claim of paternity.

"The law gives me some control of her?"

"As an unmarried woman, you have certain rights over her," Hezekiah
admitted.

"Well then, I want her back," bellowed Obadiah, the notes of his voice
getting higher as the intensity of his feeling increased. "You go and
get her and make her come home."

"Did you have in mind legal proceedings to compel your daughter to
return under your roof?" inquired Hezekiah in a suave manner, in marked
contrast to the bluster of his employer.

"It doesn't make any difference how you do it. Kidnap her for all I
care. What I want is to get her back," the mill owner stormed.

"Has it occurred to you, that in such matters care must be taken to
avoid a serious rupture of those affectionate relations which, after
all, are the basis of the home and the natural tie between a father and
daughter?" Hezekiah suggested quietly.

Obadiah's face was swollen with passion, his obstinacy written deep in
it. "She must come home," he proclaimed. "I want her. I'm tired of
living alone. You go and make her come back."

The smooth shaven countenance of the lawyer hardened. His usual
good-humored expression melted into one of resolution as he said with
great calmness, "I have thought, sometimes, Obadiah, that you fail
to display a clear conception of an attorney's duties."

"What?"

"You don't appreciate the scope of my employment."

"What has that got to do with my daughter?"

"It has this. I do not conceive it my duty to force your daughter to
return to your home against her wishes."

"You refuse to obey my instructions?" Obadiah almost screamed, throwing
discretion to the winds in the tumult of his wrath.

"Yes, I refuse," answered the lawyer, leaping to his feet and talking
down at his employer. "I refuse," he repeated in a voice in which
passion found no place, "as I have always refused when you would
have seduced me into doing an unjust act. There are questions upon
which fair minds may differ. Men of honor may argue for the side in
which they believe or have been retained. From divers contentions,
strongly maintained, comes the bright star of right, shining clear,
in its purity, above the storm clouds of litigation. But, Your Hon--"
Hezekiah paused and began anew--"But, sir, there are fundamental
questions involving moral law upon which right minded men must agree."

"What's this tirade got to do with me?" Obadiah demanded.

Hezekiah silenced the mill owner with a gesture of great dignity.
"Never interrupt counsel in the midst of argument," he protested,
absently. "Undoubtedly you will be afforded ample time to present
your own views." He paused, blinking nervously. The interruption had
disturbed his train of thought, but in a moment he continued. "At
stated periods, prudent merchants take trial balances and invoices that
they may know the condition of their business. It is likewise well for
men at times to take account of their relations with their associates.
It is my purpose to do that now, Obadiah Dale." In Hezekiah's eyes
was a far away look now. "It's nearly thirty years since I entered
your employ--thirty years, Obadiah, the cream of my life. Its period
of highest power I have given to you. My life must be judged by my
accomplishments for you. You and I alone know what part my judgment
has had in the development of your great business. As a young man, I
liked you, Obadiah. I admired your energy and perseverance and that
combativeness which made you give battle in open competition for new
fields of commercial activity. Success came to you in a measure permitted
to but few, and the tremendous power of wealth accompanied it. Thoughts
come to me of your wife, that fair rose of the Southland, who not only
brought sunshine into your own house but spread it among all those
who were privileged to know her. In her you were a twice blessed
man. A daughter was born to you, the image of her mother, and so were
you thrice blessed."

Hezekiah's face became stern. "I have tried to judge you fairly at
the bar of my heart, Obadiah. Old friendship has pleaded for you.
Unhappiness over the loss of your wife may have swayed you. Yet,
something tells me that you were always the man that you have been
of late, concealing the evil in you that you might the better court
success. At any rate, there has been a gradual outward change in you
until here and now"--Hezekiah was very grave--"I impeach you before
the high court of my heart for divers crimes and offenses, treasonable
in their nature, against the good will and happiness of your fellowmen."

The prisoner at the bar gave a start, possibly remembering that the
historical punishment for treason was the headsman's axe.

"You have hardened, Obadiah," the lawyer continued relentlessly,
"until you have grown as icy cold as the winter hills of your native
lands. You have become cruel and rapacious in your business dealings.
Of late years your commercial pathway is strewn with the wrecks of
enterprises, which in no sense affected your own safety but which you
have ruined through a sheer desire to dominate, a naked lust for power.
Controlled by greed and avarice, no generous thought for your fellowmen
actuates you. Steeped in your own selfishness, you sit in this room
like--" shaking a forefinger at Obadiah the attorney hesitated, seeking
a fitting condemnatory simile. Suddenly he concluded--"like a fat
hog," and struck the desk of the alleged swine such a thump that the
pork jumped.

"Your memory will tell you how many times I have blocked your devilish
schemes by convincing you that, if persisted in, the anti-trust laws must
land you behind prison bars."

Hezekiah in the pose of a stout statue of liberty, thrust up his right
arm and clasped his left hand to his breast. He fixed accusing eyes upon
the manufacturer and cried in a big voice, "If the world knew as much
about you as I do, I am not so sure but they'd incarcerate you under the
first law of nature--self-preservation."

"Hush!" Obadiah paled visibly and with great nervousness viewed the
open transom.

Hezekiah leveled an arraigning hand at his employer. "Your actions
should be such that you could rest in equanimity while they are cried
aloud in the market places. The hour of reckoning is at hand, Obadiah.
You believe yourself invincible. Blinded by a curtain of obstinacy
you have not read your destiny. I tear it aside and expose your dark
future. Your daughter, beautiful and affectionate, filled, as was her
mother, with thoughts of others, discovers your true character and,
turning from you, prefers the peace of a good conscience amidst humbler
surroundings to a home of wealth in your company. She leaves you--alone."

Obadiah winced.

Hezekiah returned to his task with renewed vigor. "This morning your
personal staff--men who have been with you for years--separate from you.
I have no hesitation in assuming that they departed rankling beneath
injustice. They leave you--alone. Now your attorney"--Hezekiah's
voice was filled with feeling--"your adviser for years, tenders his
resignation rather than to be a party to enforcing your selfish demands
against your own daughter. He leaves you--alone."

Stunned by this unexpected shot, Obadiah appeared to shrink in his chair.

Highly pleased at the effect and sound of his own words, Hezekiah seized
upon the order of the Board of Health and, shaking it in the face of the
mill owner, waxed ever more eloquent. Floating away upon the wings of
his own fervid oratory, he continued in ringing tones.

"The keen eye of this great Commonwealth has found you out. Now does its
strong right arm, the law, reach forth to protect the weak and restrain
the strong. In ardent pursuit of evil it draws ever nearer and nearer,
until at last it embraces even the waste--"

Hezekiah stopped short. A look of horror, loathing and disgust swept his
countenance. He was inexpressibly shocked at the extraordinary conclusion
to which his simile hastened.

To Obadiah, the repugnance in Hezekiah's face depicted antipathy towards
himself. For years the attorney had been the manufacturer's one friend.
He had admired the lawyer's learning and leaned upon his judgment. For
years he had known that words were playthings in his legal adviser's
mouth; but that look was too much. The aversion and detestation displayed
crushed the mill owner. Humbled to the dust he reviewed the calamities
which Hezekiah had so ably painted. With due allowance for rhetorical
exaggeration, they frightened him. He must save Hezekiah to pilot him
through the darkness.

Sick and weary and miserable but above all else lonely, Obadiah arose
from his desk and confronted the lawyer. "Hezekiah, you will not leave
me?" he begged, in pitiful humiliation, his anger gone.

The placid Hezekiah was shaken to the depths of his soul at the
catastrophe which had befallen him. Vain of his oratorical ability,
he regarded his address to Obadiah as a worthy effort until his final
bull. Such slips are remembered by one's professional brethren
until the end of one's life. He took his grievance out on the abased
Obadiah.

"I'm tired," he growled, "tired of your greed and selfishness, tired
of your confounded pigheadedness and the continual scrap in which you
live. You're old, Obadiah. I bet you ten dollars that the hearse is in
use which will haul you to the cemetery."

Obadiah shuddered and displayed no disposition to take the wager.

Hezekiah went on testily. "You worry about money until every one hates
and despises you. It's bad for my reputation to work for you--to be
caught in your company. I have saved enough to keep me comfortable
until I die and I'm going to take it easy. I want to quit fighting
law suits and go to compromising." A glint of his usual humor flashed in
Hezekiah's eyes. "If you'd let me compromise your cases, I might
stay."

Obadiah made a quick motion as of consent.

Hezekiah viewed his shaking employer with great severity. "You must
prove your conversion by your works," he rapped. "You've got to show
me."

"What should I do, Hezekiah?" the manufacturer, looking helpless and
old, begged. "Give me the benefit of your advice."

"Do?" snapped Hezekiah petulantly. "Decide how you think a thing ought
to be done and do the opposite. You're always wrong."

"Please be specific, Hezekiah."

At the word "please," the lawyer started in surprise. In a moment he
growled, "Compromise. Learn to consider the rights and wishes of other
people. The compromise is a most valuable instrument in bringing about
domestic happiness," and with this sage advice, Hezekiah, the bachelor,
left his employer.

Stricken low by physical disorder and verbal assaults, it was a day of
gloomy forebodings to Obadiah. After Hezekiah's oration, the path ahead,
usually certain and clear to him, seemed beset with obstacles and lined
with eyes of hatred.

When he went home that night there seemed to be a stoop in his usually
erect carriage and a deep anxiety dwelt in his eyes. Hardly touching his
dinner, he sat through it, in his dining room, plunged in thought.

Serena marked the change in the behavior of her employer with great
interest. Returning to the kitchen, she told Ike, "Mr. Devil done
sna'ah dat ole man wid er bait o' shinin' gol'. Now he gwine hawg
tie 'im wid hot chains outen de fu'nace o' to'ment so dat he kin
tote 'im to de aige o' de bottomless pit an' cas' 'im into de
fiah an' brimstone. Dat ole man is er strivin' mighty fie'ce to git
loose. He's er gnawin' off er leg to git outen de sn'ah, as de hot
i'on burns 'im an' de brimstone smoke choke 'im."

The chauffeur, being for the moment in high favor, was enjoying a piece
of pie as a fitting appetizer for his later dinner. "He ain' lif' up
his voice in prah or mek no sign er tall," responded the youth, giving
close attention to the pastry and but little heed to the demoniacal
trapping going on in the neighborhood.

"Dey's er fightin' ete'nally, boy," explained Serena with scorn.

Ike rolled his eyes, exposing large areas of white until they rested
upon the woman. "Ain' you mek er mistake, Miss Sereny?" he suggested
respectfully. "Ain' you mean infe'nally?"

"Look yere, boy," she retorted with great dignity, "ah ain' er
astin' no trash lak yo'all to teach me nothin'. Ah gits ma 'ligion
f'om de good book in de chu'ch house. Min' you' own business."

Obadiah retired early and again tossed backwards and forwards through
long hours. Hezekiah had indeed torn aside a concealing veil from the
manufacturer's life. Obadiah was not a man given to introspection,
but, for the first time in years, the words of his attorney had forced
it upon him. Tonight his boasted accomplishments were nothing, while
episodes which he would have gladly forgotten loomed large. Above all
else a great loneliness and fear of the future crushed him.

In this hour of deepest humility, recollections of his wife and the far
away days of his married life came to him. Sweet and tender memories
these, of occurrences almost forgotten. He softened to them, and
moments followed when it was as if the spirit of Elinor Dale had crossed
the span of years and labored with the troubled soul of the selfish,
obstinate, purse-proud old rich man until at last, Obadiah--slept in
peace.

When he appeared in the morning, a change had taken place in him. There
was strength and decision in his face; but it seemed as if the lines of
cruelty and obstinacy were altered and smoothed away as the ruts and
tracks upon a sandy beach after a great storm.



CHAPTER XX

HIS JOURNEY'S END


Excitement prevailed in the home of Aunt Kate in Old Rock. There was a
soft sound of feminine feet rushing about. Much searching for mislaid
articles of apparel was taking place and those hastening made nervous
demands for assistance upon those hurrying.

The disturbance in this peaceful household was due to the receipt of
knowledge that Charles Augustus and his mother had returned from New
York during the preceding night. Preparations were now in progress for
the departure of Virginia and Helen to greet the returned ones in a
fitting manner.

At last the two girls were appropriately garbed and Aunt Kate kissed
them good bye at the front door and, with a kindly smile upon her face,
watched them run across the meadow towards the pond, making farewell
signals with their canoe paddles.

An hour later there was a sharp rap of the old fashioned knocker on the
front door. "Mercy sakes upon us," muttered Aunt Kate. "What business
has anybody coming here at this time of day?" A look of aversion crept
over her face. "I'll bet my boots it is an agent or a peddler. I'll
send him packing pretty quick with a flea in his ear." Apparently bent
upon carrying out this peculiar attention she hurried into the hall.
Bending low, she pulled aside the curtain of a side light and peered
out. The feet and legs before her advertised their owner as a man.
"It is a peddler," she murmured. Her gentle face assumed a stern and
forbidding aspect. Suddenly, she jerked the door open and, glowering at
the intruder, cried, "Go away! I don't want--"

The victim of this unusual reception was her brother Obadiah.

"Land o' Goshen, how you frightened me, Obadiah Dale," Aunt Kate
reproached him as soon as she recovered from her surprise. "Don't
you know any better than to scare a body half to death?"

"I didn't intend to frighten you, Kate," Obadiah protested, when he
got over his own astonishment.

"The bad place is paved with good intentions," she quoted with
sternness and, as her brother hesitated upon the porch, puzzled at his
extraordinary greeting, she commanded, "Come in. What are you waiting
out there for? Must I lead you in?" Giving him a ceremonious kiss, she
ushered him into the large back room where the table prepared for
luncheon reminded her to be hospitable. "Have you had breakfast,
Obadiah? I'll fix you something in a minute."

"Yes, on the train. I don't want anything to eat, Kate."

Satisfied that her brother was not starving, she gazed at him over the
tops of her spectacles with a humorous twinkle in her eyes. "This _is_
a surprise. It is the first time that you have visited me since--" She
paused in sudden indignation. "Obadiah Dale," she went on sharply,
"you have never deigned to honor me with a visit in my own home."

He was nervous and ill at ease as he answered, "I know, Kate, but I'm a
very--"

She interrupted him, in a gentler mood. "Yes, I know, Obadiah. The years
have run swiftly. Yesterday we were boy and girl together at the old
home. Today we are old folks, the best part of our lives spent. The page
of our earthly hour is nearly written and there is only room for a few
more sentences." She glared at him with great severity and sniffed,
"At least, we'd better see that these lines have something good about
us."

"Yes, Kate," he agreed meekly.

"I know that you want to see--Virginia. She's not here, Obadiah. She
has gone up to the head of the pond to see Charles Augustus, the lame
boy who was operated upon," she told him.

Obadiah nodded. "How far is that from here? Can I walk it?"

Aunt Kate considered. "It's about three miles by road. You will get
lost and never find the place. The girls will be back by two or three
o'clock. Can't you make yourself comfortable and visit with me until
then?"

"I do want to see Virginia. She has been away a long time." He jumped
to his feet and moved nervously about. "I think that I shall walk there,
if you don't mind, Kate."

His anxiety awakened the sympathy of his sister. "You are not used to
strolls like that. I am afraid that it will not be good for you. I have
a horse that is old and fat and slow but he can haul us there if you can
hitch him up."

"That will do." Obadiah was much relieved. "I'll drive your horse. I
used to do it when I was a boy."

"That was a long time ago. You may have forgotten." An idea struck her.
"Do fashions change in harness? If so, you won't know a thing about
it and it won't be safe to trust you."

The employer of hundreds was disgusted at his sister's display of lack
of confidence in his abilities. "Harnesses haven't changed," he
insisted, dryly.

At the barn, Archimedes was brought forth and Obadiah Dale, millionaire
manufacturer, essayed to harness the steed to the family vehicle. He
displayed great energy and his enthusiasm increased with the passage
of time. Archimedes was an ideal animal for the mill owner's
experimentations. In all of his impressive dignity of weight and size,
the animal waited motionless while Obadiah buckled and unbuckled straps
in the making and correction of his errors. Minutes passed and
disaster threatened only when, in slipping the bit between the
massive teeth, a couple of the manufacturer's fingers inadvertently
attended the linked metal. Being asleep, the animal failed to take
advantage of it.

At last, Obadiah, viewing his handiwork with pride, signified that
all things were in readiness for the journey. Aunt Kate had noted his
prolonged efforts with grave suspicion. She now approached Archimedes in
the critical mood of an irritated C. O. at Saturday morning inspection.
Obadiah took humble position, two paces to her right and rear.

"That trace is twisted. Straighten it!" she commanded.

He corrected this oversight.

She surveyed the bridle and whirled upon him, horror depicted in her
eyes. "Obadiah Dale," she exclaimed, "haven't you any better sense
than to take your own sister driving without buckling the reins to the
bit. Lands sakes, I might have been dragged to a terrible death."

Strange to relate, when this grave mistake had been overcome and all
things were in order; in spite of the conclusive evidences of Obadiah's
incompetence, Aunt Kate permitted him to drive. As she climbed into
the surrey, she announced, "I'll sit back here where I can get out if
anything goes wrong."

This precaution as well as the general attitude of his sister towards
Archimedes, had persuaded Obadiah that he had to do with a fractious
steed, notwithstanding that all outward appearances justified the
conclusion that Archimedes was a cow in soul and action.

The mill owner shoved open the sliding door of the barn with an anxious
eye upon the fat back as if fearful that he might gallop wildly forth
even as a fire horse leaving a truck house in response to an alarm.

Archimedes never budged.

Obadiah climbed clumsily over the front wheel, the reins hanging loosely
from his hands. Seating himself, he promptly drew them taut, prepared
for any emergency.

"Be careful, Obadiah," Aunt Kate warned him from the back seat.

"Gid-ap!" Obadiah spoke in a soothing voice suitable to a high strung
animal.

Archimedes held his ground.

Obadiah raised his voice in some degree, "Gid-ap!" he exclaimed.

Archimedes might have been cast in a supporting part in an equestrian
statue for all the notice he took of what transpired about him.

In vain Obadiah amplified his efforts. "This fool horse is balky," he
grumbled to Aunt Kate.

"Archimedes balky, fiddle-de-dee," she answered. "Maybe he's tied."
Past experience caused her to examine the vicinity to be assured that
through inadvertence they were not made fast to anything by chains
or cables. Suddenly, she became aware of Obadiah's firm rein. "No
wonder!" she cried, "You are holding him too tight. You don't know how
to drive. Give me the lines." Leaning forward over the back of the
front seat Aunt Kate seized the reins and gave three or four swinging
pulls as a conductor signaling to the engineman ahead. Simultaneously
she made clicking sounds with her lips reminiscent of swine enjoying a
milky repast.

Archimedes responded readily to this treatment and moved slowly forward.

"There," Aunt Kate said with great satisfaction as she returned the
reins to Obadiah. "That's the way to drive a horse." As they turned
out of the driveway into the road, she warned him, "Do be careful of
the automobiles."

"Why should I be careful of them? Can't they take care of themselves
up here?" he demanded, meanwhile tugging at the reins, and then, "Who
broke this fool horse?"

Aunt Kate leaned forward. "Where?" she asked with great anxiety only
to quickly drop back into her seat with a suppressed, "Oh!"

Regardless of the efforts of the mill owner, the steed drifted gradually
towards the gutter.

"This horse isn't bridlewise," Obadiah declared in disgust. "I might
as well be trying to drive a cow."

"He has more sense than lots of people I know," Aunt Kate answered
with a meaning look at her brother. "He wants to get out of the way
of automobiles."

For a few minutes Archimedes was permitted to follow the way of the
gutter in peace, then, "This is ridiculous," protested Obadiah. "I
feel like a perfect idiot driving this way. I'll be hanged if I'll
do it." He yanked and shouted at the horse until, fighting every inch
of the way, the animal drifted towards the crown of the road.

With nervous eyes, Aunt Kate searched the highway back of them for signs
of approaching machines. "Obadiah, look out. Here comes a car," she
screamed.

Alarmed at her tone, his body stiffened to meet the shock of imminent
collision. He jerked his head about fearfully to perceive a car
following them a mile away. "Why did you startle me that way? I thought
something was about to hit us," he blurted.

The horn of the approaching machine demanded the road. Obadiah tugged at
Archimedes anew. The horse answered but slowly.

"Hurry, Obadiah, they are running into us," screamed Aunt Kate.

The mill owner redoubled his efforts to get out of the way as a series
of frantic squawks and the grind of brakes sounded from behind them.

In desperation, Obadiah jerked out the whip and gave Archimedes a smart
clip. The horse bounded clumsily and stopped in the middle of the road.
The petted animal's astonishment at this treatment was such that he had
to pause for consideration.

"Don't you strike my horse that way," cried Aunt Kate indignantly,
her mind diverted from the menacing automobile by the punishment of her
property. "You ought to be ashamed of yourself."

Obadiah put up the whip, leaving the motionless Archimedes to meditate
upon his injuries in the center of the highway while the automobile
worked its way around. It came opposite to them, a flivver of the
cheapest type--mere dust beside Obadiah's own car.

A rough, angry man glared at the mill owner and bawled, "You old
moss-back, do you think that you own this road? When somebody takes a
wheel off of that old ark, it may"--the voice was very doubtful--"knock
some sense into your bean. Don't you know enough to put out your hand
when you stop, you mutton-headed fool. If there was a constable about
I'd have you chucked into the calaboose."

Obadiah sat speechless under this insolence. Possibly he was becoming
inured to unkind words. As the car disappeared in the distance his tongue
was loosened, "Kate, did you get their number?" he inquired with great
anxiety.

"No. Why on earth should I want their number? I hope I never see them
again."

He almost stammered in the flood of his wrath. "If I had it, I'd
prosecute them--have them fined and put in prison."

"What for--scolding us?" inquired Aunt Kate softly.

He did not answer for a time. When he turned his temper had departed.
"Kate, I was wrong, I suppose," he said.

She looked at him curiously and there was affection in her glance; but
her voice was stern as she replied, "Obadiah, you were headstrong and
it led you into trouble, as it used to when you were a boy."

"Yes, Kate." In Obadiah's tones was a new note.

Thereafter, Archimedes pursued his way in the safety of the gutter
until they turned into a little used lane where great trees, decked in
wonderful autumnal colors, arched overhead, and unkempt hedges brushed
their wheels. The birds, disturbed in their preparations for their
trip South, made short, noisy flights ahead of the vehicle, protesting
against the intrusion.

Regardless of this, Obadiah and Archimedes, meditating upon recent
injuries, pursued the path that fate would have them follow.



CHAPTER XXI

THE TRIUMPH


When Virginia and Helen came up the path towards the Curtis home, they
missed the little figure of Charles Augustus hobbling forth to meet them
with joyous greetings.

"We'll go to the front door," suggested Helen. So they passed around
the house and, ascending the steps, knocked at the weather-beaten front
entrance.

"Come in," cried the shrill voice of Charles Augustus. "I can't open
the door."

Virginia obeyed the command of the child with a smile of delight. As she
swung the door back, the pleasant odor of frying doughnuts assailed her
nostrils. Looking through the rooms, she could see Mrs. Curtis in the
kitchen, fork in hand, awaiting their entrance with a look of inquiry
which melted into a smile of welcome as she recognized them.

In the midst of pillows, Charles Augustus sat in one chair with his legs
propped up upon another. As usual, he was bright, cheerful and talkative.

Virginia turned towards the child and then she gave a little gasp of joy
as a big fellow with black eyes and a wonderful smile lifted himself with
a cane and limped towards her.

"Joe!" she trilled, her sparkling blue eyes revealing her heart's
rejoicing. "Joe!" she repeated, in a voice which breathed its own
enchantment.

He was almost to her, his face alight with his happiness.

"Joe!" she whispered again, and gave a startled glance of astonishment
as this huge fellow with dancing eyes stood upon one leg, balanced
himself with his cane and thrust forth an encircling arm. Rooted to the
spot, she could not evade it as it drew her to him and, with fascinated
eyes and curious thrills, she watched his head bend slowly towards her.

"Joe"--this time it was the voice of his mother speaking--"Where did
you meet Virginia?"

His head went up and his arm dropped at his side. Virginia released his
arms which she had clutched and, with reddened, telltale faces, they
turned to Mrs. Curtis.

"We met in South Ridgefield, mother," he told her, and the girl gave
an embarrassed nod of agreement.

"Hum," said Mrs. Curtis. The utterance meant little but her manner
much. She disappeared only to return in a moment with a plate of
doughnuts and a pitcher of milk. "Who is hungry?" she asked.

Among the young people, famine stalked abroad. In its relief, flushed
faces regained their normal color and Helen's mischievous giggles were
quieted sufficiently for her to meet Joe with becoming gravity before
giving her attention to her own sweetheart.

But alas, the course of true love is never smooth. Charles Augustus
made energetic protest when he became aware that Helen proposed to offer
him nourishment by hand after the manner in which infants but recently
weaned are treated. "Lemme be! My hands aren't lame," he objected.
An unhappy look spread over his face. "I get so tired sitting in this
old chair. Every little while, too, mother rubs my leg and works it
up and down. Ding bust it, that hurts."

Helen, giving up her attempt to feed the boy, endeavored to sooth and
comfort him. "In a week or so you will be running about without a sign
of a crutch. Think of that. Won't that be fine?"

"I should be out now," he grumbled. "Something might happen to my
hornet's nest."

"Don't you worry," Helen laughed. "Neither man nor beast will
interfere with that."

"How is Miss Knight?" Virginia asked Joe.

"Bossy as ever," he answered.

"She was a good nurse and she was nice to you, Joe."

"Yes," he admitted with a chuckle; "but she is a whole lot nicer to
Mike Kelly these days."

Virginia was all interest.

"He's as pleased with her as a snow bird at a blizzard. Every time
it was Miss Knight's evening off, he would make an early call upon me
dressed in his best clothes."

There came a knock at the front door.

Hastening to it at a nod from Mrs. Curtis, Helen threw it wide open. Aunt
Kate and Obadiah waited without.

"Daddy," cried Virginia, for the moment blissfully forgetful as she
tried to get around Joe without hurting his outstretched leg.

"Obadiah Dale!" It was Mrs. Curtis who spoke from the doorway into the
dining room and there was something in her voice which held them all.
The happiness had gone from her face, leaving it cold and distorted with
passion as Virginia had seen it.

"Obadiah Dale!"--she fairly hissed the words--"What do you want in
my house? Would you like to do me greater harm--you robber?" She gave
a shrill mirthless laugh and flung her hands towards the sides of the
poorly furnished room. "Look about you. There isn't much left since
you got in your devil's work."

Mrs. Curtis's eyes shifted to Virginia as, startled by this strange
attack upon her father, she waited at Joe's side. It was as if the woman
struggled between aversion and regard. "I never thought you were his
daughter," she snarled.

White, tense and sickened to the depths of her being by the fear of
shameful disclosures, the girl could make no reply.

Joe Curtis was watching his mother with worried eyes. The frightened
faces of Helen and Charles Augustus peeped from behind Aunt Kate who,
from the subdued exclamations and the indignant glances she gave her
brother, was expecting to hear the worst of him.

Clearly, Obadiah was amazed at the woman's words. He stood irresolute,
his throat working as if he were trying to swallow something. At last he
regained the power of speech. "Madam," he began.

"Madam," sneered the woman, "Octavia Curtis, the widow of Augustus
Curtis, the man whose business you ruined by your infernal scheming,
whose wife and two children were dragged by your greed and selfishness
from a life of comfort--to this. What business have you in my house,
you thief?"

Obadiah flushed and quailed under her words. Bewildered and puzzled, a
guilty conscience in business catastrophes made him feel it advisable to
allow his opponent to develop her case.

Mrs. Curtis's words affected Virginia differently. Her face flushed and
her fears passed. "Stop," she interrupted, her eyes flashing angrily.
"What right have you to speak so to my father?"

"Right?" Again that ugly laugh came from Mrs. Curtis as she urged,
"Ask him how he ruined the Curtis mill at Brenton."

Obadiah gave a start.

Aunt Kate, observing her brother through suspicious eyes, noted this.
"As ye sow, so shall ye reap," she quoted, for his greater comfort.

The mill owner glanced hastily towards the door as if seeking a line of
retreat from this assemblage of women and lame men. But Aunt Kate, the
inner keeper of the outer gate, barred his way.

Pale of face but with a determined set to her mouth, Virginia said
softly, "Daddy, explain please. You must Daddy."

"It was a perfectly legitimate business deal. The Curtis mill had notes
upon the market, protected by a mortgage on the plant. I purchased them.
When they became due and were not paid, to protect myself--and you--I
foreclosed and took the mill. I suppose this woman was caught in the
deal," Obadiah answered and moved as if to leave the room.

"Stop, Daddy," the girl commanded. "We must settle this matter now.
Either too much or too little has been said."

"Settle?" Once more that acrimonious laugh came from Mrs. Curtis's
lips. "How are you going to settle for sleepless nights, for worry
and for tears? What can pay for those dreary days which grew into weeks
and months since hope for my children was torn from my life?" She
flung her arms wide in the anguish which tortured her. "How are you
going to wipe out the fact that my poor lame baby"--she pointed at
Charles Augustus--"had to depend upon charity to be able to play as
other boys--plain charity," she almost screamed. "Or that he"--she
indicated Joe--"has been forced into the world to struggle for an
education he might have had in comfort."

"Oh," moaned Virginia. The misery of the story clouded her eyes as they
turned from the passion-torn woman to her father.

The flood of the emotion-driven woman's words seemed to have made
Obadiah helpless. He stood as if awaiting sentence for his evil doing,
an old man abject and forlorn.

As she looked at him, a wave of pity swept over Virginia and her love
for him struggled in her heart, regardless of all that had been said
against him. "My father can't be to blame for all of this. I couldn't
believe it of him," she cried.

It was as if the note of grief and entreaty in the girl's voice tempered
the anger of Mrs. Curtis. She dropped into a chair and began to sob. Joe
Curtis arose hastily, limped over to her side, and tried to sooth her. At
the sound of his mother's grief, Charles Augustus put his head upon
Helen's shoulder and wept also.

Virginia moved over and gently touched the shoulder of the sobbing woman,
who, flinching from contact with the girl's hand, drew herself sharply
away.

"Don't, mother," pleaded Joe.

Virginia withdrew her hand, yet she remained by Mrs. Curtis's chair.
"Tell me the whole story," she begged. "I must know. I have the right
to know."

Even through her own grief, the anxiety and unhappiness of the girl
touched the older woman. She raised her brimming eyes. Her temper had
died away and she spoke rapidly, almost in a monotone, broken by sob
hiccoughs. "At my husband's death every thing that he left me was
invested in our mill. It was a good business and should have given me
and my boys the comforts and even the luxuries of life. Before his death,
he had borrowed money to make improvements, giving notes secured by a
mortgage upon the plant.

"After he had gone, I took charge of the mill and tried to run it
myself. I was not a very good business woman. I had a hard time to pay
the interest on our indebtedness. When the notes came due, I asked for
a renewal but my request was refused. I was thunderstruck. I learned
that your father had bought the notes, and wherever I tried to raise
money I was refused because of his influence as a rival manufacturer.
So I lost my mill and had to meet life, a widow with a baby and a young
boy, a little money, and this old farm."

A flash of her anger returned and she pointed at Obadiah. "My boys are
raised in poverty while _he_ stands there in the pride of his wealth.
When he got the mill he never used it. He closed it, throwing good people
who had worked for us for years out of employment. They had to move
away and sacrifice their little homes. It brought sorrow to them as well
as to me. He, Obadiah Dale, is to blame for all of this."

Aunt Kate wiped a tear from her eye.

"Daddy," Virginia said softly, "did you know the harm that you were
doing to all of these people?" Her eyes searched his, as if to discover
his answer before he could utter it, and her tones beseeched him to
justify her love at the altar of her heart.

Obadiah stiffened. He held up his head and returned the look of his
daughter squarely. He knew that he was giving battle for her love,
aye, even for her respect. The old man was a fighter. "No!" he cried.
"It is unjust to charge me with all of the sorrows and tribulations
of this family. I built the first mill in this country--took the
chances of opening the industry. The Brenton mill was established to
compete with me. There was room for one big plant here and only one.
Augustus Curtis knew it and expected to put me out of business. Mrs.
Curtis"--Obadiah's voice was firm now--"you have said some hard
things about me today in the presence of my daughter and sister. I am
entitled in common justice to my defence. I started in business without
a dollar. Much worse off, I think, than your husband. Business has
been a battle of supremacy with me. I have taken hard licks and I have
given them. I have fought my way. Remember, I had to. A man must win
or lose in business and many are the weapons used. I struck with the
first one at hand and hit the man in front of me. Do you blame a soldier
for the suffering of the dependents of those he kills in battle? I
think not. Mrs. Curtis," he continued, "you never met me before."

"No," she admitted.

"How did you recognize me?"

"My husband pointed you out to me in South Ridgefield," she sobbed.

"Did you ever advertise the fact that you were running that mill?"

"I was afraid to," she moaned. "I used my husband's name."

"You see," said Obadiah to Virginia. "I had no way of knowing that a
woman was running the Brenton mill. I plead guilty to fighting _men_.
When I get whipped I smile. When I put a man out of business he starts
another. He doesn't sit down and cry and blame me for what happens to
his family ever afterwards. I never fought a woman in all of my life."

"It's true, Obadiah. You used to talk back but you never fought with
me. I am afraid that you are going to have to get a camel through a
needle's eye; but you wouldn't fight a woman," interjected Aunt Kate.

Obadiah disregarded his sister's fears and went on, "Did you ever hear
of Dalton, the New York manufacturer?"

Mrs. Curtis nodded.

"Five years ago, he started to put me out of business by buying up the
small mills and pooling them against me. To protect myself, I bought
negotiable paper, covering mills in this locality wherever I could get
it. Where I could get control of the mills, I did it. They were my
competitors and would have taken my business or combined against me
gladly," Obadiah's eyes rested anxiously upon the face of his daughter
as he concluded, "I was fighting Dalton, a more powerful man than
myself, not widows and orphans."

Virginia's face had softened but there was yet a question in her manner.

"I am an old man," Obadiah continued. "I find that my ideas are
changing and my view of life shifting. I have believed that the
accumulation of wealth was everything. I know now that the happy man
must accumulate other things or he will find himself deserted and
miserable with his gold. In my life I have been guilty of many wrongs.
I would right those wrongs if I could. Will you forgive me, Mrs.
Curtis, for unknowingly harming you and yours?"

"No," she cried. "You explain your reasons for loosening the forces
which injured me; but there is no regret in your heart. You'd do the
same thing tomorrow."

He turned to his daughter. "At least, you understand me, Virginia?"

"I know what you have done, Daddy; but Mrs. Curtis has suffered, and
she alone can wipe the slate clean." The girl's face had saddened
again, and as she spoke it was as if she had forgotten that there were
others in the room. "Mother wouldn't have wanted you to make all of
this unhappiness. You brought sorrow and tears where she would have
wanted you to carry laughter and joy. I can't judge you fairly. How
I have longed for you during the past weeks and how I have wanted to
go home. Unless Mrs. Curtis can forgive you, Daddy, you haven't found
mother's way to settle this matter." She gave a queer strained little
cry. "I can never go home with you, Daddy, until you learn to follow her
way," she sobbed, and dropped into a chair.

At the girl's words, Mrs. Curtis had raised her eyes, and as she
listened her face softened. As Virginia sank into the chair, the woman
was beside her, petting and soothing her.

It seemed as if his daughter's words had taken the very heart out of
Obadiah. It was a haggard old man bowed low with trouble who watched her,
the greatness of his longing written plain upon his lined countenance.

Suddenly Mrs. Curtis moved towards him. "Obadiah Dale"--she spoke so
gently that it was hard to recognize her as the one who had so recently
flung the accusations at him--"a moment ago I told you that I could not
forgive you. I was wrong. Your daughter told you that it would have
been her mother's way to have brought laughter and joy to me instead of
sorrow and tears. That which your daughter has done for my son, Charles
Augustus, fills my heart with joy and brings laughter to my lips. She has
followed her mother's way. I can't believe that any man altogether bad
could be the father of such a daughter." She held out her hand to him.
"I forgive you."

"When I was at the office of the Board of Health, yesterday, Virginia,"
Joe announced, as one discussing a topic of great personal interest, "I
was told that your father had agreed to keep the mill waste out of the
river."

There was a scream of delight, and a teary Virginia launched herself into
her father's arms, giving happy cries of endearment. In a moment she
faced Mrs. Curtis, and cried, "He's perfectly grand. He'll do anything
to right your wrongs."

Mrs. Curtis smiled. "I think that we had better let your father forget
my troubles for a moment," she urged.

"Land sakes," ejaculated Aunt Kate in a loud whisper, "I'm glad to
see that woman laugh. I was afraid that she loved her troubles so much
she wouldn't give them up."

"Hush, mother, she'll hear you," expostulated Helen.

Thus repressed, Aunt Kate delivered a moral lesson to Charles Augustus
in a voice heard all over the room. "It is easier to receive thanks for
doing nice things, Charles, than to have to beg forgiveness for doing
mean ones."

Fortunately Obadiah, diligently engaged at that moment in erasing the
past, was deaf to his sister's remarks. He told Mrs. Curtis, "I'll
re-open the Brenton mill as soon as I can have it overhauled. I can use
it on some contracts I have. The profits shall be yours. When you can
repay the amount of the notes from them, I'll transfer the mill back
to you. If you wish, I'll buy it from you or rent it until your son is
capable of assuming charge of it."

He faced Joe and said, "I understand that you'll graduate from college
this June. There'll be a position waiting for you in my mill."

"In South Ridgefield?" Virginia inquired anxiously.

Obadiah gave his daughter a keen glance and then stared at Joe
appraisingly before he answered. "Yes, in South Ridgefield, until his
mother wants him to take charge of her own business. By that time, if
he has brains and follows my plans for him, he should be the finest
young mill executive in this part of the country."

The youthful Charles Augustus came under the mill owner's eye. "I'll
see that every expense connected with the operation upon this young man
is paid. We don't want outsiders in on that."

He perceived Helen. "Well, well, how you have grown," he declared in
surprise. "You want to be a teacher. I'll send you to college."

"Goodness knows, Obadiah," protested Aunt Kate, "a body would think
it was Christmas." She viewed him doubtfully. "I am afraid that you
were always inclined to be a little extravagant."

From the moment that his daughter embraced him, happiness had filled
the soul of the mill owner. The difficulties of the past few days were
forgotten. He beamed at his sister, generosity oozing from every pore.
"Your house needs painting, Kate. I'll have it done. I'll sell that
plug of a horse you have and buy you one that is broken or get you an
automobile."

"Stop right there, Obadiah," she commanded. "I have managed my affairs
for years without your help. When you talk about selling a horse like
Archimedes, I doubt your judgment. Look there!" She pointed proudly
through the window. "Who'd care to own a finer horse than that?"

Even as the assembled ones followed Aunt Kate's finger, Archimedes,
wearied by the prolonged call, gathered his feet beneath him and with a
care for the shafts evidencing practice, sank to the ground. From this
position of comfort, usually reserved by most well bred horses for the
privacy of the box stall, Archimedes viewed his surroundings apparently
with great complacency.



CHAPTER XXII

NOBODY HOME, MR. DEVIL


The October night was clear, with a bite in the air which foretold sharp
frosts and winter's snows. There was no wind, only a great silence, as
if all nature had tucked itself away for a long night's rest.

On the eastern horizon, there was a dull glow as if it were the
reflections of a great conflagration. The light of it brightened,
and slowly over the edge of things arose a golden streak, the curved
top of the moon. In stately dignity, it ascended towards the zenith,
its gold changing to silver and its beams bathing the world in a
flood of gentle light. Over field and forest and plain the soft veil
advanced, spreading its magic silvery sheen until all it touched
became a mysterious fairyland.

In this delicate mantle were enfolded the huts of the poor and the
palaces of the rich, the lonely dwelling and the massed houses of
great cities. The thriving municipality of South Ridgefield was lighted
by this mild illumination which painted with a gleaming brush the
residence of Mrs. Henderson, and even tinged the bald head of that
learned lawyer, Hezekiah Wilkins, who, seated upon the porch railing,
gazed heavenward and told the widow, "It's a beautiful moon, Mary. I
have always admired the moon. It's the friend of youth. Since the
beginning of time it has been the one welcome third party at sentimental
trysts. If the moon were a gossip what stories it could tell. What
vows have been uttered in its presence and signed and sealed--"

"And broken, Hezekiah?" suggested Hennie.

"What if the moon should turn tattletale, Mary?"

"Don't worry. It's blind or it would blush red with shame for the
fickleness of men," Mrs. Henderson told him and then went on, "Forget
the moon and tell me what you did for Virginia that worked this miracle?"

He chuckled. "It was so easy. I told Obadiah that he made me think of a
fat hog. As usual he displayed--ahem--confidence in my judgment."

She leaned towards him, her face filled with delight. "Hezekiah
Wilkins," she whispered excitedly, "I could hug you for those words."

"I've been waiting a good many years for you to do that, Mary."

She dropped her head. "It's the moon, Hezekiah," she warned him. "I
forgot how to embrace any one years ago."

In the mysterious light, it seemed to him that a smile played about her
mouth. His arm slipped about her waist. He tipped her chin gently and
looked down into the face which for so long had meant to him the one
woman. "Is it true, Mary? You'll marry me?"

A stray cloud passed in front of the moon, and when it passed, the beams
lighted the porch of Aunt Kate's house at Old Rock.

The door opened and Obadiah came out, while his sister drew a shawl
closer to her shoulders and waited in the doorway. "It's a beautiful
night," she said, "a perfect Fall night."

"It's chilly--it's really cold," he objected, shrugging his
shoulders. He walked to the end of the porch and looked towards the apple
tree where the hammock swung in lonesomeness. "Where is Virginia?"
he asked.

"She went walking with Joe."

"She'll freeze," he worried.

Humor glinted in Aunt Kate's eyes. "Girls take moonlight walks on the
coldest winter nights and I never heard of one freezing, Obadiah. Your
blood is thin. Come in and I'll build a fire of chips for you."

"No," protested Obadiah, "I'll build one for you."

The moonbeams bathed the meadow and the pond in their soft light. They
silvered the great bowlder left by some glacier upon the edge of this
inland water. On a depression in its side sat Joe, and Virginia was
at his side. Before them stretched the shadowed mirror of the pond.
Opposite loomed the tree clad hill in misty gloom. The moon clothed its
summit in a mantle of light, reflected the tree-broken sky line in
delicate tracery upon the water below, and pushed a shining pathway to
their feet.

The spell of the night held the girl. It seemed wrong to speak aloud.
"Listen, Joe," she whispered, "the world is asleep." From the hill
came the sound of a cow bell sweetened by distance. Except for this and
the crickets all was still. "It's not a bit lonely," she sighed.

"No, not nearly as lonely as South Ridgefield after you left," he
agreed.

"Did you miss me?" She was watching the pond.

He stole a glance at the curves of her face and the flash of her eyes. It
seemed to him that never since the beginning of time could there have
been such another. He had lured a spirit of the night to a seat beside
him. "I nearly died of loneliness," he answered.

"You poor boy." Her voice was rich in tenderness. "Loneliness is
dreadful, Joe. I don't want you to feel that way." Surely this was
a nymph who had stolen forth to give him sympathy.

"I was miserable every moment after you left," he told her pathetically.

She turned her face to him, wonderful in its mysterious moonlight beauty.
"Joe," she pleaded, "you must not be sad. Knowing me must not bring
unhappiness to you."

"You must never leave me again, Virginia. When I am away from you I
can't be happy." Now the blue eyes were drawing a marvelous power of
enchantment from the moonbeams, and the black eyes were reflecting the
wonder of it. Under the charm of it, he dropped his cane.

With a little cry of tenderness she tried to catch it. Losing her balance
she fell towards him. He caught her in his arms, and the only other
cloud in all the heavens that night drifted before the moon and the
world darkened. Yet, on this old rock, lips touched and love blazed and
hearts whispered words of gladness.

The cloud passed on and the beams fell upon Serena, who had come forth
upon the stoop of the Dale kitchen for a breath of fresh air. She raised
her eyes to the great orb hanging high above her. Its light displayed
a look of great happiness and contentment upon her black face as she
whispered into the night, "Praise be! Ma honey chil' is er comin'
home. De ole man done conquah de evil spi'it which to'ment 'im. Dat
fool Ike done heard de warnin' dat come lak er cry in de night, an'
join de chu'ch. _Nobody home, Mr. Devil._"

THE END



THE TRIUMPH OF VIRGINIA DALE

Another GLAD Book (Trade Mark)

By John Francis, Jr.

Cloth decorative, 12mo, illustrated, $1.90

This new novel, marking the advent of a hitherto unknown writer of
fiction, offers, along with a delightful romance of youth, a tinge of
scintillating humor that stamps itself indelibly on the mind of the
reader, and evokes many a sympathetic chuckle. It fairly bubbles over
with exuberant cheerfulness, and is sure to inject a good share of its
unlimited store of "What's good for the world" into every one who is
lucky enough to read it.

Furthermore, the peculiar magnetism of the characters is such that the
reader cannot believe they are merely book creatures, _and_, we wager
they are not. Virginia Dale, the heroine, is a Good Samaritan, Miss
Sunshine, and Glad Heart--all of these--and yet the most natural young
person imaginable, and as she progresses in her mission of "brightening
up the corner" she builds for her own future one of the most beautiful
characters fiction has ever claimed.

The story is essentially a "character" story, but this does not
detract from the plot what it just seems to get in the natural course of
things, for, as a venerable reader once aptly remarked: "When story
folk act natural, we ain't goin' to forgit 'em."



THE PRINCESS NAIDA
By Brewer Corcoran
Author of "The Road to Le Rêve" etc.
Cloth decorative, 12mo, illustrated by H. Weston Taylor, $1.90

Adventure and romance are the keynotes of this new novel by Brewer
Corcoran--adventure which will stir the blood of every lover of
fast-moving action and culminative plot, and romance which will charm
all who have a tender spot for a lovably beautiful girl and a regular
"he" man. It is a tale of today, set amid the mountains of Switzerland
and the ugly rocks of Bolshevism on which is wrecked the mythical
principality of Nirgendsberg--a story of a brave little princess who
puts unfaltering faith in American manhood and resourcefulness and
finds a newer and a better throne. Bill Hale is the sort of hero who
would win any girl's love--a clever, capable chap with two fists and
a keen sense of humor. Whether he is matching wits with suave Count
Otto, romping with tiny Janos, fighting for his life in the hunting lodge
at Wolkensberg or pleading for the love of his "princess who is all
girl," he is a man. The story of his fight for all that counts in life
is told with a rush and sweep of action which will hold the reader
breathless. The dialogue, like that in Mr. Corcoran's other books,
sparkles with humor, but there is a certain pleasurable grimness in
his method of handling the Bolshevik which will strike an answering
note in every true American heart today.

"A romance of vivid interest, a love story full of youth and adventures
that thrill. The dialogue is unusually clever, the characters
delightfully real, the plot one that holds the reader's interest to the
end." _New York Sun._



A FLOWER OF MONTEREY

A Romance of the Californias

By Katherine B. Hamill

Cloth decorative, 12mo, illustrated, $1.90

The wealth, beauty and sunshine of the Californias in the days when
Spain controlled our western coast and England looked with covetous
eyes, form the setting for this beautiful and artistic romance by a
new author. Mrs. Hamill has recreated vividly the little Spanish town
where the mission bells rang silvery at dawn, where scarlet uniforms
flashed in the stately drill of an afternoon dress parade and beautiful
women wore lace mantillas. Pajarita, the "Flower of Monterey," is
an American waif, cast up by the sea, who grows up among the senors
and senoritas, happy as the sunshine, but with a healthy American
disrespect for the Spanish modes of life. Two men love her--Don Jose,
the _gobernador proprietaro_ of all the Californias, and a young American
sailor-adventurer, John Asterly.

John Asterly, the hero of A FLOWER OF MONTEREY, came to the Californias
from Boston. He is perhaps thirty years old, adventurous and impetuous.
At a dance on the beach at Monterey, shortly after his arrival in the
Californias, he meets Pajarita, "the Flower of Monterey," and falls
in love with the girl, although she is promised to her benefactor,
the Spanish Governor. On the very night before her wedding, Asterly
tries to dissuade Pajarita from her marriage with some one other than
an American, and then the romance, rivalry and adventure begin. The
historical setting of the story is correct and the romance unfolds
with dash and symmetry.



WILD WINGS

Margaret R. Piper

Author of "Sylvia's Experiment," "The House on the Hill,"
"Sylvia Arden Decides," etc.

Cloth decorative, 12mo, illustrated, $1.90

In this "story of youth for grown-ups," the vigorous, happy Holiday
youngsters who lived in the "House on the Hill" develop into keen,
lovable young people, thoroughly worth knowing. To Tony, as brilliant and
beautiful as a girl can well be and still be human, comes a successful
theatrical career on Broadway, and a great love, and Larry grows into the
industrious, reliant young doctor that one would expect him to be.

Few writers today display the ability which Miss Piper does to "grow
up" a large family of boys and girls, each with an individuality well
developed and attractive, and her Holiday family holds a distinctive
place in American fiction for young people today.

As the charming characters work their way out of problems which face
all young people of buoyant spirits and ambitions, WILD WINGS gives a
definite message as to the happiest relationship between old and young.

"There is a world of human nature and neighborhood contentment in
Margaret R. Piper's books of good cheer. Her tales are well proportioned
and subtly strong in their literary aspects and quality." _North
American, Philadelphia._



Selections from

The Page Company's

List of Fiction

WORKS OF ELEANOR H. PORTER

POLLYANNA: The GLAD Book (500,000) (Trade Mark)

Cloth decorative, 12mo, illustrated, $1.90

Mr. Leigh Mitchell Hodges, The Optimist, in an editorial for the
_Philadelphia North American_, says: "And when, after Pollyanna has
gone away, you get her letter saying she is going to take 'eight
steps' tomorrow--well, I don't know just what you may do, but I
know of one person who buried his face in his hands and shook with the
gladdest sort of sadness and got down on his knees and thanked the Giver
of all gladness for Pollyanna."

POLLYANNA: The GLAD Book. MARY PICKFORD EDITION (Trade Mark)

Illustrated with thirty-two half-tone reproductions of scenes from the
motion picture production, and a jacket with a portrait of Mary Pickford
in color.

Cloth decorative, 12mo, $2.25

While preparing "Pollyanna" for the screen, Miss Pickford said
enthusiastically that it was the best picture she had ever made in
her life, and the success of the picture on the screen has amply
justified her statement. Mary Pickford's interpretation of the beloved
little heroine as shown in the illustrations, adds immeasurably to
the intrinsic charm of this popular story.

POLLYANNA GROWS UP: The Second GLAD Book, Trade Mark (250,000)

Cloth decorative, 12mo, illustrated, $1.90

When the story of POLLYANNA told in The _Glad_ Book was ended, a great
cry of regret for the vanishing "Glad Girl" went up all over the
country--and other countries, too. Now POLLYANNA appears again, just as
sweet and joyous-hearted, more grown up and more lovable.

"Take away frowns! Put down the worries! Stop fidgeting and
disagreeing and grumbling! Cheer up, everybody! POLLYANNA has come
back!"--_Christian Herald._



MISS BILLY (93rd thousand)

Cloth decorative, with a frontispiece in full color from a painting by G.
Tyng, $1.90

"There is something altogether fascinating about 'Miss Billy,' some
inexplicable feminine characteristic that seems to demand the individual
attention of the reader from the moment we open the book until we
reluctantly turn the last page."--_Boston Transcript._

MISS BILLY'S DECISION (78th thousand)

Cloth decorative, with a frontispiece in full color from a painting by
Henry W. Moore, $1.90

"The story is written in bright, clever style and has plenty of action
and humor. Miss Billy is nice to know and so are her friends."--_New
Haven Leader._

MISS BILLY--MARRIED (86th thousand)

Cloth decorative, with a frontispiece in full color from a painting by W.
Haskell Coffin, $1.90

"Although Pollyanna is the only copyrighted glad girl, Miss Billy is
just as glad as the younger figure and radiates just as much gladness.
She disseminates joy so naturally that we wonder why all girls are not
like her."--_Boston Transcript._

SIX STAR RANCH (45th thousand)

Cloth decorative, 12mo, illustrated by R. Farrington Elwell, $1.90

"'Six Star Ranch' bears all the charm of the author's genius and
is about a little girl down in Texas who practices the 'Pollyanna
Philosophy' with irresistible success. The book is one of the kindliest
things, if not the best, that the author of the Pollyanna books has
done. It is a welcome addition to the fast-growing family of _Glad_
Books."--_Howard Russell Bangs in the Boston Post._

CROSS CURRENTS

Cloth decorative, illustrated, $1.50

"To one who enjoys a story of life as it is to-day, with its sorrows
as well as its triumphs, this volume is sure to appeal."--_Book News
Monthly._

THE TURN OF THE TIDE

Cloth decorative, illustrated, $1.50

"A very beautiful book showing the influence that went to the
development of the life of a dear little girl into a true and good
woman."--_Herald and Presbyter, Cincinnati, Ohio._



NOVELS BY ELIOT HARLOW ROBINSON

A book which has established its author in the front rank of American
novelists.

SMILES, A ROSE OF THE CUMBERLANDS (26th thousand)

Cloth decorative, 12mo, illustrated, $1.90

Smiles is a girl who has already made many friends and is destined
to make many more. Her real name is Rose, but the rough folk of the
Cumberlands preferred their own way of addressing her, for her smile
was so bright and winning that no other name suited her so well.

"This is the best book I have ever illustrated for any publisher. I have
tried to make the pictures all that you hoped for them."--_H. Weston
Taylor._

E. J. Anderson, former managing Editor of the Boston _Advertiser_ and
_Record_, is enthusiastic over the story and says:

"I have read 'Smiles' in one reading. After starting it I could
not put it down. Never in my life have I read a book like this that
thrilled me half as much, and never have I seen a more masterful piece
of writing."

THE MAID OF MIRABELLE: A Romance of Lorraine

Illustrated with reproductions of sketches made by the author, and with a
portrait of "The Maid of Mirabelle," from a painting by Neale Ordayne,
on the cover.

Cloth decorative, 12mo, $1.90

A story of human and heart interest. The "Maid," Joan, is a personality
just as real and lovable as was Smiles.

"The spirit of all the book is the bubbling, the irrepressibly
indomitable, cheerful faith of the people, at their very best, against
the grave Quakerism from the United States standing out grimly but
faithfully. The tale is simply, but strongly told."--_Montreal Family
Herald and Weekly Star._

MAN PROPOSES; Or, The Romance of John Alden Shaw

Cloth decorative, 12mo, illustrated, $1.90

"This is first of all a charming romance, distinguished by a fine
sentiment of loyalty to an ideal, by physical courage, indomitable
resolution to carry to success an altruistic undertaking, a splendid
woman's devotion, and by a vein of spontaneous, sparkling humor that
offsets its more serious phases."--_Springfield Republican._



THE ROMANCES OF L. M. MONTGOMERY

Each one volume, cloth decorative, 12mo, $1.90

ANNE OF GREEN GABLES (355th thousand)

Illustrated by M. A. and W. A. J. Claus.

"In 'Anne of Green Gables' you will find the dearest and most moving
and delightful child since the immortal Alice."--_Mark Twain in a letter
to Francis Wilson._

"I take it as a great test of the worth of the book that while the young
people are rummaging all over the house looking for Anne, the head of the
family has carried her off to read on his way to town."--_Bliss Carman._

ANNE OF AVONLEA (255th thousand)

Illustrated by George Gibbs.

"Here we have a book as human as 'David Harum,' a heroine who
outcharms a dozen princesses of fiction, and reminds you of some sweet
girl you know, or knew back in the days when the world was young."--_San
Francisco Bulletin._

CHRONICLES OF AVONLEA (43d thousand)

Illustrated by George Gibbs.

"The author shows a wonderful knowledge of humanity, great insight and
warmheartedness in the manner in which some of the scenes are treated,
and the sympathetic way the gentle peculiarities of the characters are
brought out."--_Baltimore Sun._

ANNE OF THE ISLAND (65th thousand)

Illustrated by H. Weston Taylor.

"It has been well worth while to watch the growing up of Anne, and the
privilege of being on intimate terms with her throughout the process has
been properly valued. The once little girl of Green Gables should have a
permanent fictional place of high yet tender esteem."--_New York Herald._

FURTHER CHRONICLES OF AVONLEA (20th thousand).

Illustrated by John Goss.

Nathan Haskell Dole compares Avonlea to Longfellow's Grand Pre--and
says, "There is something in these continued chronicles of Avonlea like
the delicate art which has made Cranford a classic."

"The reader has dipped into but one or two stories when he realizes that
the author is the most natural story teller of the day."--_Salt Lake
City Citizen._



WORKS OF L. M. MONTGOMERY (Continued)

ANNE OF GREEN GABLES: The Mary Miles Minter Edition

Illustrated with twenty-four half-tone reproductions of scenes from the
motion picture production, and a jacket in colors with Miss Minter's
portrait.

Cloth decorative, 12mo, $2.25

"You pass from tears to laughter as the story unfolds, and there is
never a moment's hesitation in admitting that Anne has completely won
your heart."--_Joe Mitchell Chapple, Editor, The National Magazine._

"Mary Miles Minter's 'Anne' on the screen is worthy of Mark Twain's
definition of her as the 'dearest and most moving and delightful child
since the immortal "Alice."'"--_Cambridge Tribune._

KILMENY OF THE ORCHARD (52d thousand)

Illustrated by George Gibbs. Cloth decorative, 12mo, $1.90

"A purely idyllic love story full of tender sentiment, redolent with
the perfume of rose leaves and breathing of apple blossoms and the sweet
clover of twilight meadow-lands."--_San Francisco Bulletin._

"A story born in the heart of Arcadia and brimful of the sweet and
simple life of the primitive environment."--_Boston Herald._

=THE STORY GIRL (46th thousand)=

Illustrated by George Gibbs. Cloth decorative, 12mo, $1.90

"It will be read and, we venture to predict, reread many times, for
there is a freshness and sweetness about it which will help to lift the
load of care, to cheer the weary and to make brighter still the life
of the carefree and the happy."--_Toronto, Can., Globe._

"'The Story Girl' is of decidedly unusual conception and interest,
and will rival the author's earlier books in popularity."--_Chicago
Western Trade Journal._

THE GOLDEN ROAD (28th thousand)

Illustrated by George Gibbs. Cloth decorative, 12mo, $1.90

In which it is proven that "Life was a rose-lipped comrade with purple
flowers dripping from her fingers."

"It is a simple, tender tale, touched to higher notes, now and then, by
delicate hints of romance, tragedy and pathos. Any true-hearted human
being might read this book with enjoyment, no matter what his or her age,
social status, or economic place."--_Chicago Record-Herald._



NOVELS BY ISLA MAY MULLINS

Each, one volume, cloth decorative, 12mo, illustrated, $1.75

THE BLOSSOM SHOP: A Story of the South

"Frankly and wholly romance is this book, and lovable--as is a fairy
tale properly told."--_Chicago Inter-Ocean._

ANNE OF THE BLOSSOM SHOP: Or, the Growing Up of Anne Carter

"A charming portrayal of the attractive life of the South, refreshing as
a breeze that blows through a pine forest."--_Albany Times-Union._

ANNE'S WEDDING

"Presents a picture of home life that is most appealing in love and
affection."--_Every Evening, Wilmington, Del._

THE MT. BLOSSOM GIRLS

"In the writing of the book the author is at her best as a story teller.
It is a fitting climax to the series."--_Reader._

TWEEDIE: The Story of a True Heart

"The story itself is full of charm and one enters right into the very
life of Tweedie and feels as if he had indeed been lifted into an
atmosphere of unselfishness, enthusiasm and buoyant optimism."--_Boston
Ideas._

NOVELS BY DAISY RHODES CAMPBELL

THE FIDDLING GIRL

Cloth decorative, illustrated $1.65

"A thoroughly enjoyable tale, written in a delightful vein of
sympathetic comprehension."--_Boston Herald._

THE PROVING OF VIRGINIA

Cloth decorative, illustrated           $1.65

"A book which contributes so much of freshness, enthusiasm, and healthy
life to offset the usual offerings of modern fiction, deserves all the
praise which can be showered upon it."--_Kindergarten Review._

THE VIOLIN LADY

Cloth decorative, illustrated           $1.65

"The author's style remains simple and direct, as in her preceding
books."--_Boston Transcript._



DETECTIVE STORIES BY GEORGE BARTON

Each one volume, cloth decorative, 12mo, illustrated, $1.75

THE PEMBROKE MASON AFFAIR

"Not until the end will the reader ever surmise how Mason was murdered.
An absorbing and thrilling story."--_Cleveland Topics._

THE MYSTERY OF THE RED FLAME

"An admirable story--an engaging story of love, mystery and
adventure."--_The Philadelphia Inquirer._

THE STRANGE ADVENTURES OF BROMLEY BARNES

"It would be difficult to find a collection of more interesting tales of
mystery so well told. The author is crisp, incisive and inspiring. The
book is the best of its kind in recent years and adds to the author's
already high reputation."--_New York Tribune._

THE AMBASSADOR'S TRUNK

"Mr. Barton is in the front rank of the writers of mystery stories, and
this is one of his best."--_Pittsburgh Chronicle._

"The book is of the good red-blood type, with few dull lines and
stirring action and episodes in almost every page."--_Montreal Herald._

BUSINESS NOVELS BY HAROLD WHITEHEAD

Professor of Sales Relations, The College of Business Administration,
Boston University

Each one volume, cloth, 12mo, illustrated, $1.75

DAWSON BLACK, RETAIL MERCHANT

"Contains much that it would profit a young merchant to know and its
fictional interest makes a strong appeal."--_New York Tribune._

THE BUSINESS CAREER OF PETER FLINT

"Peter Flint is certainly a marvel.... His career reveals a most
remarkable metamorphosis from incapacity, stubbornness, and what seemed
a chronic inclination to fall down on every job which he undertook,
to an amazing exposition of business capacity and skill."--_Boston
Transcript._



NOVELS BY MARGARET R. PIPER

SYLVIA'S EXPERIMENT: The Cheerful Book (Trade Mark)

Cloth decorative, with a frontispiece in full color $1.75

"An atmosphere of good spirits pervades the book; the humor that now
and then flashes across the page is entirely natural."--_Boston Post._

SYLVIA OF THE HILL TOP: The Second Cheerful Book (Trade Mark)

Cloth decorative, with a frontispiece in full color $1.75

"There is a world of human nature and neighborhood contentment and
quaint quiet humor in Margaret R. Piper's second book of good
cheer."--_Philadelphia North American._

"Sylvia proves practically that she is a messenger of joy to
humanity."--_The Post Express, Rochester, N. Y._

SYLVIA ARDEN DECIDES: The Third Cheerful Book (Trade Mark)

Cloth decorative, with a frontispiece in full color $1.75

"Its ease of style, its rapidity, its interest from page to page, are
admirable; and it shows that inimitable power--the storyteller's gift
of verisimilitude. Its sureness and clearness are excellent, and its
portraiture clear and pleasing."--_The Reader._

FICTION FOR YOUNGER READERS BY MARGARET R. PIPER

THE HOUSE ON THE HILL

By Margaret R. Piper.

Cloth decorative, illustrated $1.75

"'The House on the Hill' presents higher ideals of service and
life for boys and girls, and the charming characters worked their way
out of problems which face all young people of buoyant spirits and
ambition."--_Buffalo News._

"The story is a delightful one, with all kinds of interesting adventures
and characters."--_Sunday Leader._

THE PRINCESS AND THE CLAN

By Margaret R. Piper.

Cloth decorative, illustrated by John Goss $1.75

"This is a delightful story for young and old, wholesome and uplifting.
The chief charm of the story lies in its simplicity,"--_Philadelphia
North American._



NOVELS BY MARY ELLEN CHASE

THE GIRL FROM THE BIG HORN COUNTRY

Cloth, 12mo, illustrated by E. Farrington Elwell, $1.75

"'The Girl from the Big Horn Country' tells how Virginia Hunter, a
bright, breezy, frank-hearted 'girl of the Golden West' comes out of
the Big Horn country of Wyoming to the old Bay State. Then things begin,
when Virginia--who feels the joyous, exhilarating call of the Big Horn
wilderness and the outdoor life--attempts to become acclimated and adopt
good old New England 'ways.'"--_Critic._

VIRGINIA, OF ELK CREEK VALLEY

Cloth, 12mo, illustrated by E. Farrington Elwell, $1.75

"This story is fascinating, alive with constantly new and fresh
interests and every reader will enjoy the novel for its freshness, its
novelty and its inspiring glimpses of life with nature."--_The Editor._

NOVELS BY OTHER AUTHORS

THE GOLDEN DOG. A Romance of Quebec

By William Kirby. (45th thousand.)

Cloth decorative, 12mo, illustrated by J. W. Kennedy, $1.90

"A powerful romance of love, intrigue and adventure in the times of
Louis XV and Madame de Pompadour."--_Boston Herald._

SHE STANDS ALONE

Being the story of Pilate's wife.

By Mark Ashton.

Cloth decorative, 12mo, illustrated, $1.75

Few novels of the present day can stand comparison with this remarkable
book, which must be ranked in modern literature dealing with the early
Christian era as only second to "Ben Hur."

THE ROAD TO LE RÊVE

By Brewer Corcoran.

Cloth decorative, 12mo, illustrated by H. Weston Taylor, $1.90

"A romance of vivid interest, a love story full of youth, the great
outdoors and adventures that thrill. The dialogue is unusually clever,
the characters delightfully real, the plot one that holds the reader's
interest to the end."--_New York Sun._



THE FAMOUS SEA STORIES OF HERMAN MELVILLE

MOBY DICK; Or, The White Whale

TYPEE. A Real Romance of the South Sea

OMOO. A Narrative of Adventures in the South Seas; a sequel to TYPEE

WHITE JACKET; Or, The World on a Man-of-War

Each one volume, cloth decorative, 12mo, illustrated $1.90

The recent centenary of Herman Melville created renewed interest in his
famous sea stories.

"Melville wove human element and natural setting into recitals which
aroused the enthusiasm of critics and sent a thrill of delight through
the reading public when first published, and which both for form and
matter have ever since held rank as classics in the literature of
travel."--_Boston Herald._

DETECTIVE STORIES BY ARTHUR MORRISON

Each one volume, cloth decorative, 12mo, illustrated, $1.75

THE GREEN DIAMOND

"A clever, ingenious story, with just the right combination of detective
skill and mystery and with a touch of Oriental mysticism."--_Kansas
City Star._

THE RED TRIANGLE

"The reader who has a grain of imagination may be defied to lay
this book down, once he has begun it, until the last word has been
reached."--_Boston Journal._

"It is a splendid story of the kind that cannot fail to
interest."--_Detroit Journal._

THE CHRONICLES OF MARTIN HEWITT

"The story is told in a forceful, straightforward style, which gives it
impressive realism."--_Boston Herald._

"The story is well-written, unique, quite out of the usual order,
and a vein of mystery running through it that is most
captivating."--_Christian Intelligencer._



HISTORICAL ROMANCES OF NATHAN GALLIZIER

THE LEOPARD PRINCE

Cloth decorative, large 12mo, illustrated in color, $2.00

"With a vividness that is electrifying and a mastery of emotion that
thrills, Mr. Gallizier has written this story of Italy--a romance of
Venice in the fourteenth century."--_The Lookout, Cincinnati, Ohio._

UNDER THE WITCHES' MOON

Cloth decorative, large 12mo, illustrated in color, $2.00

"A highly colored romance of mediaeval Italy with a most interesting
background."--_New York World._

THE CRIMSON GONDOLA

Cloth decorative, large 12mo, illustrated in color, $2.00

"Mr. Gallizier is unusually strong in the use of description, and
conveys vividly the gorgeous decadence and luxury of the sybaritic
city."--_Los Angeles Sunday Times._

THE HILL OF VENUS

Cloth decorative, large 12mo, illustrated in color, $2.00

This is a vivid and powerful romance of the thirteenth century in the
times of the great Ghibelline wars.

"It is vibrant with action and overflowing with human emotions
throughout."--_Wilmington Every Evening._

THE COURT OF LUCIFER

Cloth decorative, large 12mo, illustrated in color, $2.00

"The book is breathless reading, as much for the adventures, the
pageants, the midnight excursions of the minor characters, as for
the love story of the prince and Donna Lucrezia."--_Boston Transcript._

THE SORCERESS OF ROME

Cloth decorative, large 12mo, illustrated in color, $2.00

"A splendid bit of old Roman mosaic, or a gorgeous piece of tapestry.
Otto is a striking and pathetic figure. Description of the city, the
gorgeous ceremonials of the court and the revels are a series of
wonderful pictures."--_Cincinnati Enquirer._

CASTEL DEL MONTE

Cloth decorative, large 12mo, illustrated, $2.00

"There is color; there is sumptuous word-painting in these pages;
the action is terrific at times; vividness and life are in every part;
and brilliant descriptions entertain the reader and give a singular
fascination to the tale."--_Grand Rapids Herald._



WORKS OF GABRIELE D'ANNUNZIO

Signor d'Annunzio is known throughout the world as a poet and a
dramatist, but above all as a novelist, for it is in his novels that
he is at his best. In poetic thought and graceful expression he has few
equals among the writers of the day.

He is engaged on a most ambitious work--nothing less than the writing of
nine novels which cover the whole field of human sentiment. This work he
has divided into three trilogies, and five of the nine books have been
published. It is to be regretted that other labors have interrupted the
completion of the series.

"This book is realistic. Some say that it is brutally so. But the
realism is that of Flaubert, and not of Zola. There is no plain
speaking for the sake of plain speaking. Every detail is justified in
the fact that it illuminates either the motives or the actions of the
man and woman who here stand revealed. It is deadly true. The author
holds the mirror up to nature, and the reader, as he sees his own
experiences duplicated in passage after passage, has something of the
same sensation as all of us know on the first reading of George
Meredith's 'Egoist.' Reading these pages is like being out in the
country on a dark night in a storm. Suddenly a flash of lightning
comes and every detail of your surroundings is revealed."--_Review of
"The Triumph of Death" in the New York Evening Sun._

The volumes published are as follows. Each 1 vol., library 12mo, cloth,
$1.75

THE ROMANCES OF THE ROSE

  THE CHILD OF PLEASURE (Il Piacere)
  THE INTRUDER (L'Innocente)
  THE TRIUMPH OF DEATH (Il Trionfo della Morte)

THE ROMANCES OF THE LILY

  THE MAIDENS OF THE ROCKS (Le Vergini delle Rocce)

THE ROMANCES OF THE POMEGRANATE

  THE FLAME OF LIFE (Il Fuoco)





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