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Title: Exit Betty
Author: Hill, Grace Livingston, 1865-1947
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 "Exit Betty" ***

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



EXIT BETTY

by

GRACE LIVINGSTON HILL


       *       *       *       *       *

BOOKS BY

GRACE LIVINGSTON HILL


          April Gold
          Happiness Hill
          The Beloved Stranger
          The Honor Girl
          Bright Arrows
          Kerry
          Christmas Bride
          Marigold
          Crimson Roses
          Miranda
          Duskin
          The Mystery of Mary
          Found Treasure
          Partners
          A Girl to Come Home To
          Rainbow Cottage
          The Red Signal
          White Orchids
          Silver Wings
          The Tryst
          The Strange Proposal
          Through These Fires
          The Street of the City
          All Through the Night
          The Gold Shoe
          Astra
          Homing
          Blue Ruin
          Job's Niece
          Challengers
          The Man of the Desert
          Coming Through the Rye
          More Than Conqueror
          Daphne Deane
          A New Name
          The Enchanted Barn
          The Patch of Blue
          Girl from Montana
          The Ransom
          Rose Galbraith
          The Witness
          Sound of the Trumpet
          Sunrise
          Tomorrow About This Time
          Amorelle
          Head of the House
          Ariel Custer
          In Tune with Wedding Bells
          Chance of a Lifetime
          Maris
          Crimson Mountain
          Out of the Storm
          Exit Betty
          Mystery Flowers
          The Prodigal Girl
          Girl of the Woods
          Re-Creations
          The White Flower
          Matched Pearls
          Time of the Singing of Birds
          Ladybird
          The Substitute Guest
          Beauty for Ashes
          Stranger Within the Gates
          The Best Man
          Spice Box
          By Way of the Silverthorns
          The Seventh Hour
          Dawn of the Morning
          The Search
          Brentwood
          Cloudy Jewel
          The Voice in the Wilderness

       *       *       *       *       *


EXIT BETTY

BY

GRACE LIVINGSTON HILL

Author of
Marcia Schuyler, The Search, Dawn of the Morning, Etc.



Grosset & Dunlap
Publishers New York

Made in the United States of America

Copyright, 1919, by The Christian Herald

Copyright, 1920, by J. B. Lippincott Company



EXIT BETTY



CHAPTER I


THE crowd gave way and the car glided smoothly up to the curb at the
canopied entrance to the church. The blackness of the wet November night
was upon the street. It had rained at intervals all day.

The pavements shone wetly like new paint in the glimmer of the street
lights, and rude shadows gloomed in every cranny of the great stone
building.

Betty, alone in the midst of her bridal finery, shrank back from the
gaze of the curious onlookers, seeming very small like a thing of the
air caught in a mesh of the earth.

She had longed all day for this brief respite from everyone, but it had
passed before she could concentrate her thoughts. She started forward, a
flame of rose for an instant in her white cheeks, but gone as quickly.
Her eyes reminded one of the stars among the far-away clouds on a night
of fitful storm with only glimpses of their beauty in breaks of the
overcast sky. Her small hands gripped one another excitedly, and the
sweet lips were quivering.

A white-gloved hand reached out to open the car door, and other hands
caught and cared for the billow of satin and costly lace with which she
was surrounded, as if it, and not she, were the important one.

They led her up the curtained way, where envious eyes peeped through a
furtive rip in the canvas, or craned around an opening to catch a better
glimpse of her loveliness, one little dark-eyed foreigner even reached
out a grimy, wondering finger to the silver whiteness of her train; but
she, all unknowing, trod the carpeted path as in a dream.

The wedding march was just beginning. She caught the distant notes, felt
the hush as she approached the audience, and wondered why the ordeal
seemed so much greater now that she was actually come to the moment. If
she had known it would be like this--! Oh, why had she given in!

The guests had risen and were stretching their necks for the first
vision of her. The chaplet of costly blossoms sat upon her brow and
bound her wedding veil floating mistily behind, but the lovely head was
bowed, not lifted proudly as a bride's should be, and the little white
glove that rested on the arm of the large florid cousin trembled
visibly. The cousin was almost unknown until a few hours before. His
importance overpowered her. She drooped her eyes and tried not to wish
for the quiet, gray-haired cousin of her own mother. It was so strange
for him to have failed her at the last moment, when he had promised long
ago to let nothing hinder him from giving her away if she should ever be
married. His telegram, "Unavoidably detained," had been received but an
hour before. He seemed the only one of her kind, and now she was all
alone. All the rest were like enemies, although they professed deep
concern for her welfare; for they were leagued together against all her
dearest wishes, until she had grown weary in the combat.

She gave a frightened glance behind as if some intangible thing were
following her. Was it a hounding dread that after all she would not be
free after marriage?

With measured tread she passed the long white-ribboned way, under arches
that she never noticed, through a sea of faces that she never saw, to
the altar smothered in flowers and tropical ferns. It seemed
interminable. Would it never end? They paused at last, and she lifted
frightened eyes to the florid cousin, and then to the face of her
bridegroom!

It was a breathless moment, and but for the deep tones of the organ now
hushing for the ceremony, one of almost audible silence. No lovelier
bride had trod those aisles in many a long year; so exquisite, so
small, so young--and so exceeding rich! The guests were entranced, and
every eye was greedily upon her as the white-robed minister advanced
with his open book.

"Beloved, we are met together to-night to join this man----!"

At that word they saw the bride suddenly, softly sink before them, a
little white heap at the altar, with the white face turned upward, the
white eyelids closed, the long dark lashes sweeping the pretty cheek,
the wedding veil trailing mistily about her down the aisle, and her big
bouquet of white roses and maiden-hair ferns clasped listlessly in the
white-gloved hands.

For a moment no one stirred, so sudden, so unexpected it was. It all
seemed an astonishing part of the charming spectacle. The gaping throng
with startled faces stood and stared. Above the huddled little bride
stood the bridegroom, tall and dark and frowning, an angry red surging
through his handsome face. The white-haired minister, with two red spots
on his fine scholarly cheeks, stood grave with troubled dignity, as
though somehow he meant to hold the little still bride responsible for
this unseemly break in his beautiful service. The organ died away with
a soft crash of the keys and pedals as if they too leaped up to see; the
scent of the lilies swept sickeningly up in a great wave on the top of
the silence.

In a moment all was confusion. The minister stooped, the best man sprang
into the aisle and lifted the flower-like head. Some one produced a fan,
and one of the ushers hurried for a glass of water. A physician
struggled from his pew across the sittings of three stout dowagers, and
knelt, with practiced finger on the little fluttering pulse. The bride's
stepmother roused to solicitous and anxious attention. The organ came
smartly up again in a hopeless tangle of chords and modulations, trying
to get its poise once more. People climbed upon their seats to see, or
crowded out in the aisle curiously and unwisely kind, and in the way.
Then the minister asked the congregation to be seated; and amid the
rustle of wedding finery into seats suddenly grown too narrow and too
low, the ushers gathered up the little inert bride and carried her
behind the palms across a hall and into the vestry room. The stepmother
and a group of friends hurried after, and the minister requested the
people to remain quietly seated for a few minutes. The organ by this
time had recovered its poise and was playing soft tender melodies, but
the excited audience was not listening:

"I thought she looked ghastly when she came in," declared the mother of
three frowsy daughters. "It's strange she didn't put on some rouge."

"Um-mm! What a pity! I suppose she isn't strong! What did her own mother
die of?" murmured another speculatively, preparing to put forth a theory
before any one else got ahead of her.

"Oh! The poor child!" sympathized a romantic friend. "They've been
letting her do too much! Didn't they make a handsome couple? I'm crazy
to see them come marching down the aisle. They surely wouldn't put off
the wedding just for a faint, would they?"

And all over the church some woman began to tell how her sister's child,
or her brother's niece, or her nephew's aunt had fainted just before her
wedding or during it, till it began to seem quite a common performance,
and one furnishing a unique and interesting part of the program for a
wedding ceremony.

Meanwhile on a couch in the big gloomy vestry room lay Betty with a
group of attendants about her. Her eyes were closed, and she made no
move. She swallowed the aromatic ammonia that some one produced, and she
drew her breath a little less feebly, but she did not open her eyes, nor
respond when they spoke to her.

Her stepmother stooped over finally and spoke in her ear:

"Elizabeth Stanhope! sit up and control yourself!" she said sharply in a
low tone. "You are making a spectacle of yourself that you can never get
over. Your father would be ashamed of you if he were here!"

It was the one argument that had been held a successful lash over her
poor little quivering heart for the last five years, and Betty flashed
open her sorrowful eyes and looked around on them with a troubled
concentration as if she were just taking in what had happened:

"I'm so tired!" she said in a little weary voice. "Won't you just let me
get my breath a minute?"

The physician nodded emphatically toward the door and motioned them out:

"She'll be all right in just a minute. Step outside and give her a
chance to get calm. She's only worn out with excitement."

She opened her eyes and looked furtively about the room. There was no
one there, and the door was closed. She could hear them murmuring in low
tones just beyond it. She looked wildly about her with a frantic thought
of escape. The two windows were deeply curtained, giving a narrow
glimpse of blank wall. She sprang softly to her feet and looked out.
There was a stone pavement far below. She turned silently and tried a
door. It opened into a closet overflowing with musty hymn-books. She
closed it quickly and slipped back to her couch just in time as the door
opened and the doctor came back. She could catch a glimpse of the others
through the half open door, anxiously peering in. She gathered all her
self-control and spoke:

"I'm all right now, Doctor," she said quite calmly. "Would you just ask
them to send Bessemer here a minute?"

"Certainly." The doctor turned courteously and went back to the door,
half closing it and making her request in a low tone. Then her
stepmother's excited sibilant whisper:

"Bessemer! Why, he isn't here! He went down to the shore last night."

"Sh-h-h!" came another voice, and the door was shut smartly.

Betty's eyes grew wide with horror as she lay staring at the closed
door, and a cold numbness seemed to envelop her, clutching at her
throat, her heart and threatening to overwhelm her.

Bessemer not here! What could it mean? Her mind seemed unable to grasp
and analyze the nameless fear that awaited her outside that door. In a
moment more they would all swarm in and surround her, and begin to
clamor for her to go back into that awful church--and _she could
not_--EVER! She would far rather die!

She sprang to her feet again and glided noiselessly to the only
remaining uninvestigated door in the room. If this was another closet
she would shut herself inside and stay till she died. She had read tales
of people dying in a small space from lack of air. At least, if she did
not die she could stay here till she had time to think. There was a key
in the lock. Her fingers closed around it and drew it stealthily from
the keyhole, as she slid through the door, drawing her rich draperies
ruthlessly after. Her fingers were trembling so that she scarcely could
fit the key in the lock again and turn it, and every click of the metal,
every creak of the door, sounded like a gong in her ears. Her heart was
fluttering wildly and the blood seemed to be pouring in torrents behind
her ear-drums. She could not be sure whether there were noises in the
room she had just left or not. She put her hand over her heart, turned
with a sickening dread to look about her prison, and behold, it was not
a closet at all, but a dark landing to a narrow flight of stone steps
that wound down out of sight into the shadows. With a shudder she
gathered her white impediment about her and crept down the murky way,
frightened, yet glad to creep within the friendly darkness.

There were unmistakable sounds of footsteps overhead now, and sharp
exclamations. A hand tried the door above and rattled it violently. For
an instant her heart beat frightfully in her throat at the thought that
perhaps after all she had not succeeded in quite locking it, but the
door held, and she flew on blindly down the stairs, caring little where
they led only so that she might hide quickly before they found the
janitor and pried that door open.

The stairs ended in a little hall and a glass door. She fumbled wildly
with the knob. It was locked, but there was a key! It was a large one
and stuck, and gave a great deal of trouble in turning. Her fingers
seemed so weak!

Above the noises grew louder. She fancied the door was open and the
whole churchful of people were after her. She threw her full weight with
fear in the balance, and the key turned. She wrenched it out of the
rusty keyhole, slid out shutting the door after her, and stooping,
fitted in the key again. With one more Herculean effort she locked it
and stood up, trembling so that she could scarcely keep her balance. At
least she was safe for a moment and could get her breath. But where
could she go? She looked about her. High walls arose on either hand,
with a murky sky above. A stone walk filled the space between and ran
down the length of the church to a big iron gate. The lights of the
street glistened fitfully on the puddles of wet in the depressions of
the paving-stones. The street looked quiet, and only one or two people
were passing. Was that gate locked also, and if so could she ever climb
it, or break through? Somehow she must! She shuddered at the thought of
what would happen if she did not get away at once. She strained at the
buttons on her soft white gloves and pulled the fingers off, slipping
her hands out and letting the glove hands hang limp at her wrists. Then
with a quick glance backward at a flicker of light that appeared
wavering beyond the glass door, she gathered her draperies again and
fled down the long stone walk. Silently, lightly as a ghost she passed,
and crouched at the gate as she heard footsteps, her heart beating so
loudly it seemed like a bell calling attention to her. An old man was
shuffling past, and she shrank against the wall, yet mindful of the
awful glass door back at the end of the narrow passage. If they should
come now she could not hope to elude them!

She stooped and studied the gate latch. Yes, it was a spring lock, and
had no key in it. Stealthily she tried it and found to her relief that
it swung open. She stepped around it and peered out. The gateway was not
more than a hundred feet from the brightly lighted corner of the main
avenue where rows of automobiles were lined up waiting for the wedding
ceremony to be over. She could see the chauffeurs walking back and forth
and chatting together. She could hear the desultory wandering of the
organ, too, from the partly open window near by. A faint sickening waft
of lily sweetness swept out, mingled with a dash of drops from the maple
tree on the sidewalk. In a panic she stepped forth and drew back again,
suddenly realizing for the first time what it would be to go forth into
the streets clad in her wedding garments? How could she do it and get
away? It could not be done!

Down the street, with a backward, wistful glance at the church, hurried
a large woman with a market basket. Her curious eyes shone in the
evening light and darkness of the street. There was something about her
face that made Betty know instantly that this woman would love to tell
how she had seen her, would gather a crowd in no time and pursue her.
She shrank farther back, and then waited in awful fear and tried to
listen again. Was that a rattling at the glass door? She must get away
no matter what happened! Where? Was there an alleyway or anything across
the block? Could she hope to cross the street between the shadows
unnoticed?

She looked out fearfully once more. A girl of her own age was
approaching around the corner, paddling along in rubbers, and a long
coat. She was chewing gum. Betty could see the outline of a strong
good-natured jaw working contentedly as she was silhouetted against the
light. She had her hands in her pockets, and a little dark hat worn
boyishly on the back of her head, and she was humming a popular song.
Betty had slipped behind the half open gate again and was watching her
approach, her desperation driving her to thoughts that never would have
entered her mind at another time. Suddenly, as the girl passed directly
in front of the gate, Betty leaned forward and plucked at her sleeve:

"Wait!" she said sharply; and then, with a pitiful pleading in her
voice, "Won't you help me just a minute, please?"



CHAPTER II


THE girl came to a standstill abruptly and faced about, drawing away
just a hair's-breadth from the detaining hand, and surveying her
steadily, the boyish expression in her eyes changing to an amused
calculation such as one would fancy a cowboy held up on his native
plains by a stray lamb might have worn.

"What's the little old idea!" asked the girl coldly, her eyes narrowing
as she studied the other girl in detail and attempted to classify her
into the known and unknown quantities of her world. Her face was
absolutely expressionless as far as any sign of interest or sympathy was
concerned. It was like a house with the door still closed and a
well-trained butler in attendance.

"I've got to get away from here at once before anybody sees me,"
whispered Betty excitedly, with a fearful glance behind her.

"Do you want me to call a cab for you?" sneered the girl on the
sidewalk, with an envious glance at the white satin slippers.

"Oh, no! Never!" cried Betty, wringing her hands in desperation. "I want
you to show me somewhere to go out of sight, and if you will I'd like
you to walk a block or so with me so I won't be so--so conspicuous! I'm
so frightened I don't know which way to go."

"What do you want to go at all for?" asked the girl bluntly, with the
look of an inquisitor, and the intolerance of the young for its
contemporary of another social class.

"Because I _must_!" said Betty with terror in her voice. "They're
coming! Listen! Oh, help me quick! I can't wait to explain!"

Betty dashed out of the gate and would have started up the street but
that a strong young arm came out like a flash and a firm young fist
gripped her arm like a vise. The girl's keen ears had caught a sound of
turning key and excited voices, and her quick eyes pierced the darkness
of the narrow court and measured the distance back.

"Here! You can't go togged out like that!" she ordered in quite a
different tone. She flung off her own long coat and threw it around the
shrinking little white figure, then knelt and deftly turned up the long
satin draperies out of sight and fixed them firmly with a pin extracted
from somewhere about her person. Quickly she stood up and pulled off her
rubbers, her eye on the long dark passageway whence came now the
decided sound of a forcibly opened door and footsteps.

"Put these on, quick!" she whispered, lifting first one slippered foot
and then the other and supporting the trembling Betty in her strong
young arms, while she snapped on the rubbers.

Lastly, she jerked the rakish hat from her own head, crammed it down
hard over the orange-wreathed brow and gave her strange protégée a hasty
shove.

"Now beat it around that corner and wait till I come!" she whispered,
and turning planted herself in an idle attitude just under the church
window, craning her neck and apparently listening to the music. A second
later an excited usher, preceded by the janitor, came clattering down
the passageway.

"Have you seen any one go out of this gate recently?" asked the usher.

The girl, hatless and coatless in the chill November night, turned
nonchalantly at the question, surveyed the usher coolly from the point
of his patent leather shoes to the white gardenia in his buttonhole,
gave his features a cursory glance, and then shook her head.

"There might have been an old woman come out a while back. Dressed in
black, was she? I wasn't paying much attention. I think she went down
the avenoo," she said, and stretched her neck again, standing on her
tiptoes to view the wedding guests. Her interest suddenly became real,
for she spied a young man standing in the church, in full view of the
window, back against the wall with his arms folded, a fine handsome
young man with pleasant eyes and a head like that of a young nobleman,
and she wanted to make sure of his identity. He looked very much like
the young lawyer whose office boy was her "gentleman friend." Just to
make sure she gave a little spring from the sidewalk that brought her
eyes almost on a level with the window and gave her a brief glimpse,
enough to see his face quite clearly; then she turned with satisfaction
to see that the janitor and the usher had gone back up the passageway,
having slammed the gate shut. Without more ado the girl wheeled and
hurried down the street toward the corner where Betty crouched behind a
tree trunk, watching fearfully for her coming.

"Aw! You don't need to be that scared!" said the girl, coming up.
"They've gone back. I threw 'em off the scent. Come on! We'll go to my
room and see what to do. Don't talk! Somebody might recognize your
voice. Here, we'll cut through this alley and get to the next block.
It's further away and not so many folks passing."

Silently they hurried through the dark alley and down the next street,
Betty holding the long cloak close that no gleam of her white satin
might shine out and give away her secret, her heart beating like a trip
hammer in her breast, her eyes filled with unshed tears, the last words
of her stepmother ringing in her ears. Was she making her father
ashamed? Her dear dead father! Was she doing the wrong thing? So long
that thought had held her! But she could not go back now. She had taken
an irrevocable step.

Her guide turned another corner abruptly and led her up some stone steps
to the door of a tall, dingy brick house, to which she applied a
latchkey.

The air of the gloomy hall was not pleasant. The red wall-paper was
soiled and torn, and weird shadows flickered from the small gas taper
that blinked from the ceiling. There were suggestions of old dinners,
stale fried potatoes and pork in all the corners, and one moving toward
the stairs seemed to stir them up and set them going again like old
memories.

The stairs were bare and worn by many feet, and not particularly clean.
Betty paused in dismay then hurried on after her hostess, who was
mounting up, one, two, three flights, to a tiny hall bedroom at the
back. A fleeting fear that perhaps the place was not respectable shot
through her heart, but her other troubles were so great that it found no
lodgment. Panting and trembling she arrived at the top and stood looking
about her in the dark, while the other girl found a match and lighted
another wicked little flickering gas-burner.

Then her hostess drew her into the room and closed and locked the door.
As a further precaution she climbed upon a chair and pushed the transom
shut.

"Now," she said with a sigh of evident relief, "we're safe! No one can
hear you here, and you can say what you please. But first we'll get this
coat and hat off and see what's the damage."

As gently as if she were undressing a baby the girl removed the hat and
coat from her guest, and shook out the wonderful shining folds of satin.
It would have been a study for an artist to have watched her face as she
worked, smoothing out wrinkles, shaking the lace down and uncrushing it,
straightening a bruised orange-blossom, and putting everything in place.
It was as if she herself were an artist restoring a great masterpiece,
so silently and absorbedly she worked, her eyes full of a glad wonder
that it had come to her once to be near and handle anything so rare and
costly. The very touch of the lace and satin evidently thrilled her; the
breath of the exotic blossoms was nectar as she drew it in.

Betty was still panting from her climb, still trembling from her flight,
and she stood obedient and meek while the other girl pulled and shook
and brushed and patted her into shape again. When all was orderly and
adjusted about the crumpled bride, the girl stood back as far as the
limits of the tiny room allowed and surveyed the finished picture.

"There now! You certainly do look great! That there band of flowers
round your forehead makes you look like some queen. 'Coronet'--ain't
that what they call it? I read that once in a story at the Public
Library. Say! Just to think I should pick that up in the street! Good
night! I'm glad I came along just then instead o' somebody else! This
certainly is some picnic! Well, now, give us your dope. It must've been
pretty stiff to make you cut and run from a show like the one they got
up for you! Come, tune up and let's hear the tale. I rather guess I'm
entitled to know before the curtain goes up again on this little old
stage!"

The two tears that had been struggling with Betty for a long time
suddenly appeared in her eyes and drowned them out, and in dismay she
brought out a faint little sorry giggle of apology and amusement and
dropped on the tiny bed, which filled up a good two-thirds of the room.

"Good night!" exclaimed the hostess in alarm, springing to catch her.
"Don't drop down that way in those glad rags! You'll finish 'em! Come,
stand up and we'll get 'em off. You look all in. I'd oughta known you
would be!" She lifted Betty tenderly and began to remove her veil and
unfasten the wonderful gown. It seemed to her much like helping an angel
remove her wings for a nap. Her eyes shone with genuine pleasure as she
handled the hooks deftly.

"But I've nothing else to put on!" gurgled Betty helplessly.

"I have!" said the other girl.

"Oh!" said Betty with a sudden thought. "I wonder! Would you be willing
to exchange clothes? Have you perhaps got some things you don't need
that I could have, and I'll give you mine for them? I don't suppose
perhaps a wedding dress would be very useful unless you're thinking of
getting married soon, but you could make it over and use it for the
foundation of an evening dress----"

The other girl was carefully folding the white satin skirt at the
moment, but she stopped with it in her arms and sat down weakly on the
foot of the bed with it all spread out in her lap and looked at her
guest in wonder:

"You don't mean you _wantta give it up_!" she said in an awed tone. "You
don't mean you would be willing to take some of my old togs for it?"

"I certainly would!" cried Betty eagerly. "I never want to see these
things again! _I hate_ them! And besides, I want to get away somewhere.
I can't go in white satin! You know that! But I don't like to take
anything of yours that you might need. Do you think these things would
be worth anything to you? You weren't thinking of getting married
yourself some time soon, were you?"

"Well, I might," said the other girl, looking self-conscious. "I got a
gentleman friend. But I wasn't expectin' to get in on any trooso like
this!" She let her finger move softly over the satin hem as if she had
been offered a plume of the angel's wing. "Sure, I'll take it off you if
I've got anything you're satisfied to have in exchange. I wouldn't mind
havin' it to keep jest to look at now and then and know it's mine. It'd
be somethin' to live for, jest to know you had that dress in the
house!"

Suddenly Betty, without any warning even to herself, dropped upon her
knees beside the diminutive bed and began to weep. It seemed somehow so
touching that a thing like a mere dress could make a girl glad like
that. All the troubles of the days that were past went over her in a
great wave of agony, and overwhelmed her soul. In soft silk and lace
petticoat and camisole with her pretty white arms and shoulders shaking
with great sobs she buried her face in the old patchwork quilt that her
hostess had brought from her village home, and gave way to a grief that
had been long in growing. The other girl now thoroughly alarmed, laid
the satin on a chair and went over to the little stranger, gathering her
up in a strong embrace, and gradually lifting her to the bed.

"You poor little Kid, you! I oughtta known better! You're just all in!
You ben gettin' ready to be married, and something big's been troubling
you, and I bet they never gave you any lunch--er else you wouldn't eat
it,--and you're jest natcheraly all in. Now you lie right here an' I'll
make you some supper. My name's Jane Carson, and I've got a good mother
out to Ohio, and a nice home if I'd had sense enough to stay in it; only
I got a chance to make big money in a fact'ry. But I know what 'tis to
be lonesome, an' I ain't hard-hearted, if I do know how to take care of
misself. There! There!"

She smoothed back the lovely hair that curled in golden tendrils where
the tears had wet it.

"Say, now, you needn't be afraid! Nobody'll getcha here! I know how to
bluff 'em. Even if a policeman should come after yeh, I'd get around him
somehow, and I don't care what you've done or ain't done, I'll stand by
yeh. I'm not one to turn against anybody in distress. My mother always
taught me that. After you've et a bite and had a cup of my nice tea with
cream and sugar in it you'll feel better, and we'll have a real
chin-fest and hear all about it. Now, you just shut your eyes and wait
till I make that tea."

Jane Carson thumped up the pillow scientifically to make as many of the
feathers as possible and shifted the little flower-head upon it. Then
she hurried to her small washstand and took a little iron contrivance
from the drawer, fastening it on the sickly gas-jet. She filled a tiny
kettle with water from a faucet in the hall and set it to boil. From
behind a curtain in a little box nailed to the wall she drew a loaf of
bread, a paper of tea and a sugar-bowl. A cup and saucer and other
dishes appeared from a pasteboard box under the washstand. A small
shelf outside the tiny window yielded a plate of butter, a pint bottle
of milk, and two eggs. She drew a chair up to the bed, put a clean
handkerchief on it, and spread forth her table. In a few minutes the
fragrance of tea and toast pervaded the room, and water was bubbling
happily for the eggs. As cosily as if she had a chum to dine with her
she sat down on the edge of the bed and invited her guest to supper. As
she poured the tea she wondered what her co-laborers at the factory
would think if they knew she had a real society lady visiting her. It
wasn't every working girl that had a white satin bride thrust upon her
suddenly this way. It was like a fairy story, having a strange bride
lying on her bed, and everything a perfect mystery about her. She eyed
the white silk ankles and dainty slippers with satisfaction. Think of
wearing underclothes made of silk and real lace!

It seemed to Betty as if never before in all her life had she tasted
anything so delicious as that tea and toast and soft boiled egg cooked
by this wonderful girl on a gaslight and served on a chair. She wanted
to cry again over her gladness at being here. It didn't seem real after
all the trouble she had been through. It couldn't last! Oh, of course it
couldn't last!

This thought came as she swallowed the last bite of toast, and she sat
up suddenly!

"I ought to be doing something quick!" she said in sudden panic. "It is
getting late and I must get away. They'll be watching the trains,
perhaps. I ought to have gone at once. But I don't know where I can go.
Give me some old things, please. I must get dressed at once."

"Lie down first and tell me who you are and what it's all about. I can't
do a thing for you till I know. I've got to go into this with my eyes
open or I won't stir one step," she declared stubbornly.

Betty looked at her with wide eyes of trouble and doubt. Then the doubt
suddenly cleared away, and trust broke through.

"I can trust you, I'm sure! You've been so good to me! But it seems
dreadful to tell things about my family, even to one who has been so
kind. My father would be so hurt----"

"Your father? Where is your father? Why didn't he take care of you and
keep you from getting into such big trouble, I'd like to know?"

The blue eyes clouded with tears again.

"My father died five years ago," she said, "but I've always tried to do
as he would want to have me do. Only--this--I _couldn't_."

"H'm!" said Jane Carson. "Then he prob'ly wouldn't of wanted you to.
Suppose you take the rest of those togs off. I'll find you a warm
nightgown and we'll get to bed. It's turning cold here. They take the
heat off somewhere about six o'clock in the evening, and it gets like
ice up here sometimes."

Jane shivered and went to her small trunk, from which she produced a
coarse but clean flanellete nightgown, and Betty, who had never worn
anything but a dainty lingerie one before in all her life, crept into it
thankfully and cuddled down with a warm feeling that she had found a
real friend. It was curious why she did not shrink from this poor girl,
but she did not, and everything looked clean and nice. Besides, this was
a wonderful haven of refuge in her dire necessity.



CHAPTER III


MEANWHILE, in the stately mansion that Betty had called home, a small
regiment of servants hastened with the last tasks in preparation for the
guests that were soon expected to arrive. The great rooms had become a
dream of paradise, with silver rain and white lilies in a mist of soft
green depending from the high ceilings. In the midst of all, a fairy
bower of roses and tropical ferns created a nook of retirement where
everyone might catch a glimpse of the bride and groom from any angle in
any room. The spacious vistas stretched away from an equally spacious
hallway, where a wide and graceful staircase curved up to a low gallery,
smothered in flowers and palms and vines; and even so early the
musicians were taking their places and tuning their instruments. On the
floor above, where room after room shone in beauty, with costly
furnishings, and perfect harmonies, white-capped maids flitted about,
putting last touches to dressing tables and pausing to gossip as they
passed one another:

"Well, 'twill all be over soon," sighed one, a wan-faced girl with
discontented eyes. "Ain't it kind of a pity, all this fuss just for a
few minutes?"

"Yes, an' glad I'll be!" declared another, a fresh young Irish girl with
a faint, pretty brogue. "I don't like the look of my Lady Betty. A
pretty fuss Candace her old nurse would be makin' if she was here the
night! I guess the madam knew what she was about when she give her her
walkin' ticket! Candace never could bear them two bys, and _him_ was the
worse of the two, she always said."

"Well, a sight of good it would do for old Candace to make a fuss!" said
the discontented one. "And anyhow, he's as handsome as the devil, and
she's got money enough, so she oughtn't complain."

"Money ain't everything!" sniffed Aileen. "I wouldn't marry a king if I
wasn't crazy about him!"

"Oh, you're young!" sneered Marie with disdain. "Wait till your looks
go! You don't know what you'd take up with!"

"Well I'd never take up with the likes of _him_!" returned the Irish
girl grandly, "and what's more he knows it!" She tossed her head
meaningfully and was about to sail away on her own business when a stir
below stairs attracted their attention. A stout, elderly woman, dressed
in a stiff new black silk and an apoplectic hat, came panting up the
stairs looking furtively from side to side, as if she wished to escape
before anyone recognized her:

"It's Candace!" exclaimed Aileen. "As I live! Now what d'ye wantta know
about that! Poor soul! Poor soul! Candy! Oh!--Candy! What iver brought
ye here the night? This is no place for the loikes of you. You better
beat it while the beatin' is good if ye know which side yer bread's
buthered!"

But the old nurse came puffing on, her face red and excited:

"Is she here? Has she come, yet, my poor wee Betty?" she besought them
eagerly.

"Miss Betty's at the church now gettin' married!" announced Marie
uppishly, "and you'd best be gettin' out of here right away, for the
wedding party's due to arrive any minute now and madam'll be very angry
to have a servant as doesn't belong snoopin' round at such a time!"

"Be still, Marie! For shame!" cried Aileen. "You've no need to talk like
that to a self-respectin' woman as has been in this house more years
than you have been weeks! Come along, Candace, and I'll slip you in my
room and tell you all about it when I can get away long enough. You see,
Miss Betty's being married----"

"But she's _not_!" cried Candace wildly. "I was at the church myself.
Miss Betty sent me the word to be sure and come, and where to sit and
all, so she'd see me; and I went, and she come up the aisle as white as
a lily and dropped right there before the poolpit, just like a little
white lamb that couldn't move another step, all of a heap in her pretty
things! And they stopped the ceremony and everybody got up, and they
took her away, and we waited till bime-by the minister said the bride
wasn't well enough to proceed with the ceremony and would they all go
home, and I just slipped out before the folks got their wraps on and
took a side street with wings to my feet and got up here! Haven't they
brought her home yet, the poor wee thing? I been thinkin' they might
need me yet, for many's the time I've brought her round by my nursin'."

The two maids looked wildly at one another, their glances growing into
incredulity, the eyebrows of Marie moving toward her well-dressed hair
with a lofty disapproval.

"Well, you'd better come with me, Candy," said Aileen drawing the
excited old servant along the hall to the back corridor gently. "I guess
there's some mistake somewheres; anyway, you better stay in my room till
you see what happens. We haven't heard anything yet, and they'd likely
send word pretty soon if there's to be any change in the program. You
say she fell----?"

But just then sounds of excitement came distantly up to them and Aileen
hastened back to the gallery to listen. It was the voice of Madam
Stanhope angrily speaking to her youngest son:

"You must get Bessemer on the 'phone at once and order him home! I told
you it was a great mistake sending him away. If he had been standing
there, where she could see him, everything would have gone through just
as we planned it----"

"Aw! Rot! Mother. Can't you shut up? I know what I'm about and I'm going
to call up another detective. Bessemer may go to the devil for all I
care! How do you know but he has, and taken her with him? The first
thing to do is to get that girl back! You ought to have had more sense
than to show your whole hand to my brother. You might have known he'd
take advantage----"

Herbert Hutton slammed into the telephone booth under the stairs and
Madam Stanhope was almost immediately aware of the staring servants who
were trying not to seem to have listened.

Mrs. Stanhope stood in the midst of the beautiful empty rooms and
suddenly realized her position. Her face froze into the haughty lines
with which her menage was familiar, and she was as coldly beautiful in
her exquisite heliotrope gown of brocaded velvet and chiffon with the
glitter of jewels about her smooth plump neck, and in her carefully
marcelled black hair as if she were quietly awaiting the bridal party
instead of facing defeat and mortification:

"Aileen, you may get Miss Betty's room ready to receive her. She has
been taken ill and will be brought home as soon as she is able to be
moved," she announced, without turning an eyelash. "Put away her things,
and get the bed ready!" One could see that she was thinking rapidly. She
was a woman who had all her life been equal to an emergency, but never
had quite such a tragic emergency been thrust upon her to camouflage
before.

"James!" catching the eye of the butler, "there will be no reception
to-night, of course, and you will see that the hired people take their
things away as soon as possible, and say that I will agree to whatever
arrangements they see fit to make, within reason, of course. Just use
your judgment, James, and by the way, there will be telephone calls, of
course, from our friends. Say that Miss Betty is somewhat better, and
the doctor hopes to avert a serious nervous breakdown, but that she
needs entire rest and absolute quiet for a few days. Say that and
nothing more, do you understand, James?"

The butler bowed his thorough understanding and Madam Stanhope sailed
nobly up the flower-garlanded staircase, past the huddled musicians, to
her own apartment. Aileen, with a frightened glance, scuttled past the
door as she was closing it:

"Aileen, ask Mr. Herbert to come to my room at once when he has finished
telephoning, and when Mr. Bessemer arrives send him to me at once!" Then
the door closed and the woman was alone with her defeat, and the placid
enameled features melted into an angry snarl like an animal at bay. In a
moment more Herbert stormed in.

"It's all your fault, mother!" he began, with an oath. "If you hadn't
dragged Bessemer into this thing I'd have had her fixed. I had her just
about where I wanted her, and another day would have broken her in.
She's scared to death of insane asylums, and I told her long ago that it
would be dead easy to put a woman in one for life. If I had just hinted
at such a thing she'd have married me as meek as a lamb!"

"Now look here, Bertie," flared his mother excitedly, "you've got to
stop blaming me! Haven't I given in to you all your life, and now you
say it's all my fault the least little thing that happens! It was for
your sake that I stopped you; you know it was. You couldn't carry out
any such crazy scheme. Betty's almost of age, and if those trustees
should find out what you had threatened, you would be in jail for life,
and goodness knows what would become of me."

"Trustees! How would the trustees find it out?"

"Betty might tell them."

"Betty might _not_ tell them, not if she was _my wife_!" He bawled out
the words in a way that boded no blissful future to the one who should
have the misfortune to become his wife. "I think I'd have her better
trained than that. As for you, Mother, you're all off, as usual! What do
you think could possibly happen to _you_? You're always saying you do
everything for me, but when it comes right down to brass tacks I notice
you're pretty much of a selfish coward on your own account."

For a moment the baffled woman faced her angry uncontrolled son in
speechless rage, then gathered command of the situation once more, an
inscrutable expression on her hard-lined face. Her voice took on an
almost pitiful reproach as she spoke in a low, even tone that could
hardly fail to bring the instant attention of her spoiled son:

"Bertie, you don't know what you're talking about!" she said, and there
was a strained white look of fear about her mouth and eyes as she spoke.
"I'm going to tell you, in this great crisis, what I did for you, what I
risked that you might enjoy the luxury which you have had for the last
five years. Listen! The day before Mr. Stanhope died he wrote a letter
to the trustees of Betty's fortune giving very explicit directions about
her money and her guardianship, tying things up so that not one cent
belonging to her should pass through my hands, which would have left us
with just my income as the will provided, and would have meant
comparative poverty for us all except as Betty chose to be benevolent. I
kept a strict watch on all his movements those last few days, of course,
and when I found he had given Candace a letter to mail, I told her I
would look after it, and I brought it up to my room and read it, for I
suspected just some such thing as he had done. He was very fussy about
Betty and her rights, you remember, and he had always insisted that this
was Betty's house, her mother's wedding present from the grandfather,
and therefore not ours at all, except through Betty's bounty. I was
determined that we should not be turned out of here, and that you should
not have to go without the things you wanted while that child had
everything and far more than she needed. So I burned the letter! Now, do
you see what the mother you have been blaming has done for you?"

But the son looked back with hard glittering eyes and a sneer on his
handsome lustful lips:

"I guess you did it about as much for your own sake as mine, didn't
you?" he snarled. "And I don't see what that's got to do with it,
anyway. Those trustees don't know what they missed if they never got the
letter, and you've always kept in with them, you say, and made them
think you were crazy about the girl. They pay you Betty's allowance till
she's of age, don't they? They can't lay a finger on you. You're a fool
to waste my time talking about a little thing like that when we ought to
be planning a way to get hold of that girl before the trustees find out
about it. If we don't get her fixed before she's of age we shall be in
the soup as far as the property is concerned. Isn't that so? Well, then,
we've got to get her good and married----"

"If you only had let her marry Bessemer quietly," whimpered his mother,
"and not have brought in all this deception. It will look so terrible if
it ever comes out. I shall never be able to hold up my head in society
again----!"

"There you are again! Thinking of yourself----!" sneered the dutiful
son, getting up and stamping about her room like a wild man. "I tell
you, Mother, that girl is _mine_, and I won't have Bessemer or anybody
else putting in a finger. _She's mine!_ I told her so a long time ago,
and she knows it! She can't get away from me, and it's going to go the
harder with her because she's tried. I'm never going to forgive her
making a fool out of me before all those people! I'll get her yet!
Little fool!"

Herbert was well on his way into one of those fits of uncontrollable
fury that had always held his mother in obedience to his slightest whim
since the days when he used to lie on the floor and scream himself black
in the face and hold his breath till she gave in; and the poor woman,
wrought to the highest pitch of excitement already by the tragic events
of the evening, which were only the climax of long weeks of agitation,
anxiety and plotting, dropped suddenly into her boudoir chair and began
to weep.

But this new manifestation on the part of his usually pliable mother
only seemed to infuriate the young man. He walked up to her, and seizing
her by the shoulder, shook her roughly:

"Cut that out!" he said hoarsely. "This is no time to cry. We've got to
make some kind of a plan. Don't you see we'll have the hounds of the
press at our heels in a few hours? Don't you see we've got to make a
plan and stick to it?"

His mother looked up, regardless for once of the devastation those few
tears had made of her carefully groomed face, a new terror growing in
her eyes:

"I've told James to answer all telephone calls and say that Betty is
doing as well as could be expected, but that the doctor says she must
have perfect quiet to save her from a nervous breakdown----" she
answered him coldly. "I'm not quite a fool if you do think so----"

"Well, that's all right for to-night, but what'll we say to-morrow if we
don't find her----"

"Oh! She'll come back," said the stepmother confidently. "She can't help
it. Why, where would she go? She hasn't a place on earth since she's
lost confidence in that cousin of her mother's because he didn't come to
her wedding. She hasn't an idea that he never got her note asking him to
give her away. Thank heaven I got hold of that before it reached the
postman! If that old granny had been here we should have had trouble
indeed. I had an experience with him once just before I married Betty's
father, and I never want to repeat it. But we must look out what gets in
the papers!"

"It's rather late for that, I suspect. The bloodhounds 'ill be around
before many minutes and you better think up what you want said. But I'm
not so sure she wouldn't go there, and we better tell the detectives
that. What's the old guy's address? I'll call him up long distance and
say she was on a motoring trip and intended to stop there if she had
time. I'll ask if she's reached there yet."

"That's a good idea, although I'm sure she was too hurt about it to go
to him. She cried all the afternoon. It's a wonder she didn't look
frightful! But that's Betty! Cry all day and come out looking like a
star without any paint either. It's a pity somebody that would have
appreciated it couldn't have had her complexion."

"That's you all over, Mother, talking about frivolous things when
everything's happening at once. You're the limit! I say, you'd better be
getting down to business! I've thought of another thing. How about that
old nurse, Candace? Betty used to be crazy about her? What became of
her?"

Mrs. Stanhope's face hardened, and anxiety grew in her eyes.

"She might have gone to her, although I don't believe she knows where
she is. I'm sure I don't. I sent her away just before we began to get
ready for the wedding. I didn't dare have her here. She knows too much
and takes too much upon herself. I wouldn't have kept her so long, only
she knew I took the trustee's letter, and she was very impudent about it
once or twice, so that I didn't really dare to let her go until just a
few days ago. I thought things would all be over here before she could
do any harm, and Betty would be of age and have her money in her own
right, and being your wife, of course there wouldn't be any more trouble
about it."

"Well, you better find out what's become of her!" said the young man
with darkening face. "_She_ ought to be locked up somewhere! She's
liable to make no end of trouble! You can't tell what she's stirred up
already! Ring for a servant and find out if they know where she is. Ten
to one that's where Betty is."

Mrs. Stanhope, with startled face, stepped to the bell and summoned
Aileen:

"Aileen, have you any idea where we could find Miss Betty's old nurse,
Candace?" she asked in a soothing tone, studying the maid's countenance.
"I think it might be well to send for her in case Miss Betty needs her.
She was so much attached to her!"

Aileen lifted startled eyes to her mistress' face. There was reserve and
suspicion in her glance:

"Why, she was here a few minutes ago," she said guardedly. "It seems
Miss Betty sent her an invitation, and when Miss Betty took sick she was
that scared she ran out of the church and come here to find out how she
was. She might not have gone yet. I could go see."

"Here! Was she here?" Mrs. Stanhope turned her head to her son and her
eyes said: "That's strange!" but she kept her face well under control.

"Yes, you might go and see if you can find her, Aileen, and if you do,
tell her I would like to see her a moment."

Aileen went away on her errand and Mrs. Stanhope turned to her son:

"Betty can't have gone to her unless there was some collusion. But in
any case I think we had better keep her here until we know something."

Quick trotting steps were heard hurrying along the hall and a little
jerky knock announced unmistakably the presence of Candace.

Mrs. Stanhope surveyed the little red-faced creature coolly and sharply:

"Candace, you have broken one of my express commands in returning here
without permission from me, but seeing it was done in kindness I will
overlook it this time and let you stay. You may be useful if they bring
my daughter home to-night and I presume she will be very glad to see
you. Just now she is--umm----" she glanced furtively at her son, and
lifting her voice a trifle, as if to make her statement more
emphatic--"she is at a private hospital near the church where they took
her till she should be able to come home. It will depend on her
condition whether they bring her to-night or to-morrow or in a few days.
Meantime, if you like you may go up to your old room and wait until I
send for you. I shall have news soon and will let you know. Don't go
down to the servant's quarters, I wish to have you where I can call you
at a moment's notice."

Candace gave her ex-mistress a long, keen suspicious stare, pinned her
with a glance as steely as her own for an instant, in search of a
possible ulterior motive, and then turning on her little fat heel,
vanished like a small fast racer in the direction of her old room.

"Now," said Mrs. Stanhope, turning with a sigh of relief, "she's safe!
I'll set Marie to watch her and if there's anything going on between
those two Marie will find it out."

But Herbert Hutton was already sitting at his mother's desk with the
telephone book and calling up Long Distance.

All the long hours when he had expected to have been standing under the
rose bower downstairs in triumph with his bride, Herbert Hutton sat at
that telephone in his mother's boudoir alternately raging at his mother
and shouting futile messages over the 'phone. The ancient cousin of
Betty's mother was discovered to be seriously ill in a hospital and
unable to converse even through the medium of his nurse, so there was
nothing to be gained there. Messages to the public functionaries in his
town developed no news. Late into the night, or rather far toward the
morning, Bessemer was discovered at a cabaret where his persistent
mother and brother had traced him, too much befuddled with his evening's
carouse to talk connectedly. He declared Betty was a good old girl, but
she might go to thunder for all he cared; he knew a girl "worth twice of
her."

His mother turned with disgust from his babbling voice, convinced that
he knew nothing of Betty's whereabouts. Nevertheless, by means of a
financial system of threats and rewards which she had used on him
successfully for a number of years, she succeeded in impressing upon him
the necessity of coming home at once, and just as the pink was beginning
to dawn in the gray of the morning, Bessemer drove up in a hired car,
and stumbled noisily into the house, demanding to know where the wedding
was. He wanted to kiss the bride.

Candace, still in her stiff black silk, stood in the shadowy hall, as
near as she dared venture, and listened, with her head thoughtfully on
one side. Betty in her note about the wedding had said she was going to
be married to Bessemer. But Bessemer didn't sound like a bridegroom. Had
Bessemer run away then, or what? But some things looked queer. She
remembered that Aileen had spoken as if Herbert was the bridegroom, but
she had taken it for a mere slip of the tongue and thought nothing of
it. When Aileen next came that way, she asked her if she happened to
have got hold of one of the invitations, and Aileen, with her finger on
her lips, nodded, and presently returned with something under her apron:

"I slipped it from the waste-basket," she said, "and Miss Betty got a
holt of it, and there was a tremenjus fuss about something, I couldn't
make out what; but I heard the missus say it was all a mistake as she
gave the order over the 'phone, and she must have misspoke herself, but
anyhow she thought she'd destroyed them all and given a rush order and
they would be all right and sent out in plenty of time. So she sticks
this back in the waste-basket and orders me to take the basket down and
burn it, but I keeps this out and hides it well. I couldn't see nothin'
the matter with it, can you?"

"There's _all_ the matter with it!" declared the angry nurse as she
glared at the name of Herbert Hutton thoughtfully, and read between the
lines more than she cared to tell.



CHAPTER IV


NOT two miles away, Betty lay safe and warm in the flanellette
nightgown, and watched Jane Carson turn out the light and open the
window. A light leaped up from the street and made a friendly spot of
brightness on the opposite wall, and Betty had a sense of cosiness that
she had not felt since she was in boarding school with a roommate.

"Now," said Jane, climbing into bed and pulling up the covers carefully
lest she should let the cold in on her guest, "let's hear!--You warm
enough?"

There was a curious tenderness in her voice as if she had brought home a
young princess and must guard her carefully.

"Oh, perfectly!" said Betty, giving a little nervous shiver. "And I'm so
glad to be here safe away from them all! Oh, I've needed some one to
advise with _so_ much! I haven't had a soul since they sent my old nurse
away because she dared to take my part sometimes."

Suddenly Betty buried her face in the pillow and began to sob and Jane
reached out quick gentle arms and gathered her in a close comforting
embrace. In a moment more Betty had gained control of herself and began
to explain:

"You see," she said, catching her breath bravely, "they were determined
I should marry a man I can't _endure_, and when I wouldn't they tried to
_trick_ me into it anyway. I never suspected until I got into the church
and looked around and couldn't see Bessemer anywhere; only the other one
with his evil eyes gloating over me, and then I knew! They thought they
would get me there before all that church full of people and I wouldn't
dare do anything. But when I realized it, I just dropped right down in
the aisle. I couldn't stand up, I was so frightened."

"But I don't understand," said Jane. "Were there _two_ men?"

"Oh, yes," sighed Betty, "there were two."

"Well, where was the other one, the one you _wanted_ to marry?"

"I don't know----" said Betty with a half sob in her voice. "That's just
what frightened me. You see they were my stepmother's two sons, and it
was my father's dying wish that I should marry one of them. I didn't
really _want_ to marry Bessemer, but I simply _loathed_ Herbert, the
younger one, who was so determined to marry me. I was terribly afraid
of him. He had been frightfully cruel to me when I was a child and when
he grew up he was always tormenting me; and then when he tried to make
love to me he was so repulsive that I couldn't bear to look at him. It
really made me sick to think of ever marrying him. Oh--I _couldn't_--no
matter who asked me. So Bessemer and I decided to get married to stop
the trouble. They were always nagging him, too, and I was kind of sorry
for him."

"But why should you marry anybody you didn't want to, I'd like to know!"
exclaimed Jane in horror. "This is a free country and nobody ever makes
people marry anybody they don't like any more. Why didn't you just beat
it?"

"I thought about that a good many times," said Betty, pressing her tired
eyes with her cold little fingers, "but I couldn't quite bring myself to
do it. In the first place, I didn't know where to go, nor what to do.
They never would let me learn to do anything useful, so I couldn't have
got any work; and anyhow I had a feeling that it wouldn't be possible to
get away where Herbert couldn't find me if he wanted to. He's that way.
He always gets what he wants, no matter whom it hurts. He's
_awful_--Jane--really!"

There was a pitiful note in her voice that appealed to the mother in
Jane, and she stooped over her guest and patted her comfortingly on the
shoulder:

"You poor little kid," she said tenderly, "you must have been worried
something awful, but still I don't get you; what was the idea in
sticking around and thinking you _had_ to marry somebody you didn't
like? You coulda gone to some one and claimed pertection. You could uv
appealed to the p'lice if worst came to worst----!"

"Oh! But Jane I couldn't! That would have brought our family into
disgrace, and father would have felt so _dreadfully_ about it if he had
been alive! I couldn't quite bring myself, either, to go against his
dying request. We had always been so much to each other, Daddy and I.
Besides, I didn't mind _Bessemer_ so _much_--he was always kind--though
we never had much to do with each other----"

"Well, I don't think I'd have stopped around long to please a father
that didn't care any more for me than to want me to marry somebody I
felt that way about!" said Jane, indignantly. "I haven't much use for a
father like that!"

"Oh, but he wasn't like that!" said Betty, rising up in her eagerness
and looking at Jane through her shining curls that were falling all
about her eager, troubled young face, "and he did love me, Jane, he
loved me better than anything else in the whole world! That was why I
was willing to sacrifice almost anything to please him."

"Well, I'll be darned!" said Jane Carson, sitting up squarely in bed and
staring at the spot of light on the wall. "That gets my goat! How could
a man love you and yet want to torment you?"

"Well, you see, Jane, he hadn't been very fond of them when they were
boys"--she spoke it with dignity and a little gasp as if she were
committing a breach of loyalty to explain, but realized that it was
necessary--"and he felt when he was dying that he wanted to make
reparation, so he thought if I should marry one of them it would show
them that he had forgiven them----"

"It--may--be--so," drawled Jane slowly, nodding her head deliberately
with each word, "but--I don't see it that _way_! What kind of a man was
this father of yours, anyway?"

"Oh, a wonderful man, Jane!" Betty eagerly hastened to explain. "He was
all the world to me, and he used to come up to school week-ends and take
me on beautiful trips and we had the best times together, and he would
tell me about my own dear mother----"

Betty's hand grasped Jane's convulsively and her voice died out, in a
sudden sob. Jane's hand went quickly to the bright head on the pillow:

"There! there!" she whispered tenderly, "don't take on so, I didn't mean
anything. I was just trying to dope it out; get it through my bean what
in thunder----! Say! Did _he_ TELL _you_ he wanted you to marry those
guys?"

"Oh, no, he left word--it was his dying request."

"Who'd he request it to?"

"My stepmother."

"H'm! I thought so! How'd you know he did? How'd you know but she was
lyin'?"

"No," said Betty sorrowfully, "she wasn't lying, she showed me the paper
it was written on. There couldn't be any mistake. And his name was
signed to it, his dear hand-writing, just as he always wrote it with the
little quirl to the S that wasn't like anybody else. It went through me
just like a knife when I saw it, that my dear father should have asked
me to do what was so very very hard for me to think of. It was so much
harder to have it come that way. If he had only asked me himself and we
could have talked it over, perhaps he would have helped me to be strong
enough to do it, but to have _her_ have to _tell me_! She felt that
herself. She tried to be kind, I think. She said she wanted to have him
wake me up and tell me himself, but she saw his strength was going and
he was so anxious to have her write it down quick and let him sign it
that she did as he asked----"

"Well, you may depend on it he never wrote it at all--or anyhow, never
knew what he was signing. Like as not she dragged it out of him some way
while he was out of his mind or so near dying he didn't know what he was
about. Besides, they mightta some of 'em forged his name. It's easy to
copy signatures. Lotsa people do it real good. If I was you I wouldn't
think another mite about it. If he was a man like you say he is, he
couldn'ta done a thing like that to his own little girl, not on his
life! It ain't like real fathers and mothers to. I know, fer I've got a
mother that's a peach and no mistake! No, you may depend on it, he never
knew a thing about that, and marrying a guy like that is the last thing
on earth he'd want you to do."

"Oh, do you really think so? Oh, are you _sure_?" cried Betty, clinging
to Jane eagerly, the tears raining down her white cheeks. "I've thought
so a thousand times, but I didn't dare trust myself to decide."

"Yes, I'm sure!" said Jane, gathering her in her arms and hugging her
tight, just as she would have done with a little sister who had waked up
in the night with a bad dream. "Now, look here, you stop crying and
don't you worry another bit. Just tell me the rest if there's any rest,
so I'll know what to bank on. Who is the other guy, the one you didn't
mind marryin'? What became of him?"

"Why, that's the queer part," said Betty, troubled again. "He didn't
seem to be anywhere, and when they carried me into the room back of the
church and fanned me and got water to bathe my face, a doctor came and
gave me some medicine and sent them all out, and I asked him to send
Bessemer to me. I wanted to find out why he hadn't been standing up
there by the minister the way I expected. I heard the doctor go out and
ask for Bessemer and I heard my stepmother's voice say, 'Why Bessemer
isn't here! He's gone down to the shore!' and then somebody said,
'Hush,' and they shut the door, and I was so frightened that I got up
and tried all the doors till I found one that led down some stairs, and
I locked it behind me and ran and found you!"

"You poor little kid!" cried Jane, cuddling her again. "I sure am glad I
was on the job! But now, tell me, what's your idea? Will they make a
big noise and come huntin' you?"

"Oh, yes!" said Betty wearily. "I suppose they will. I _know_ they will,
in fact. Herbert won't be balked in anything he wants----Bessemer won't
count. He never counts. I'm sort of sorry for him, though I don't like
him much. You see they had been making an awful fuss with him, too,
about some actress down at the shore that he was sending flowers to, and
I knew he didn't have a very easy time. So when he came in one day and
asked me why I didn't marry _him_ and settle the whole thing that way, I
was horrified at first, but I finally thought perhaps that would be the
best thing to do. He said he wouldn't bother me any, if I wouldn't
bother him; and we thought perhaps the others would let us alone then.
But I might have known Herbert wouldn't give in! Bessemer is easily
led--Herbert could have hired him to go away to-night--or they may have
_made_ him ask me to marry him. He's like that," sadly. "You can't
depend on him. I don't know. You see, it was kind of queer about the
invitations. They came with Herbert's name in them first, and my
stepmother tried to keep me from seeing them. She said they were late
and she had them all sent off; but I found one, and when I went to my
stepmother with it she said it was a mistake. She hadn't meant me to be
annoyed by seeing it; and she didn't know how it happened; she must have
misspoken herself--but it had been corrected and they would rush it
through and send them right from the store this time so there wouldn't
be any delay. I tried to think it was all right, but it troubled me, for
I saw that Herbert hadn't given up at all--though he pretended to go
away, and I hoped I wouldn't have any more trouble--but I might have
known! Herbert never gave up anything in his life, not even when father
was living. He always managed to get his way, somehow----"

"Did he love you so much?" Jane asked awesomely.

Betty shuddered:

"Oh, I don't know whether it was love or hate! It was all the same. I
hate to think about him--he is--_unbearable_, Jane! Why, Jane, once he
told me if he ever got me in his power he'd break my will or kill me in
the attempt!"

"Well, now, there, Kid! Don't you think another bit about him, the old
brute! You just lie down and sleep as easy as if you was miles away.
They won't any of 'em ever find you here with me, and I've pulled the
washstand in front of the door, so you needn't be dreaming of anybody
coming in and finding you. Now go to sleep, and to-morrow I'll sneak you
away to a place where they can't ever find you. Good night, Kid!" and
Jane leaned down and kissed the soft hair on the pillow beside her.
Betty flung her arms about her new-found friend and kissed her tenderly:

"Oh, you've been so good to me! What should I ever have done if I hadn't
found you. You were like an angel. I think surely God must have sent you
to help me."

"I shouldn't wonder if he did!" said Jane thoughtfully. "An angel in a
mackintosh! Some angel!"

Jane Carson with her eyes wide open lay staring into the darkness and
thinking it all over. She did not waste much time marvelling over the
wonder that it had all happened to her. That would do for afterward when
there was nothing else to be done about it. Now there must be some plans
made and she was the one to make them. It was quite plain that the
wonderful and beautiful Elizabeth Stanhope, the plans for whose wedding
had been blazoned in the papers for days beforehand, was not at present
capable of making or carrying out anything effective. Jane was. She knew
it. She was a born leader and promoter. She liked nothing better than
to work out a difficult situation. But this was the most difficult
proposition that she had ever come up against. When her father died and
her mother was left with the little house and the three younger children
to support in a small country village, and only plain sewing and now and
then a boarder to eke out a living for them all, she had sought and
found, through a summer visitor who had taught her Sunday school class
for a few weeks, a good position in this big Eastern city. She had made
good and been promoted until her wages not only kept herself with strict
economy, but justified her in looking forward to the time when she might
send for her next younger sister. Her deft fingers kept her meagre
wardrobe in neatness--and a tolerable deference to fashion, so that she
had been able to annex the "gentleman friend" and take a little outing
with him now and then at a moving picture theatre or a Sunday evening
service. She had met and vanquished the devil on more than one
battlefield in the course of her experience with different department
heads; and she was wise beyond her years in the ways of the world. But
this situation was different. Here was a girl who had been brought up
"by hand," as she would have said with a sneer a few hours before, and
she would have despised her for it. She raised up on one elbow and
leaned over once more to watch the delicate profile of this gentle
maiden, in the dim fitful light of the city night that came through the
one little window. There had been something appealing in the beauty and
frankness of the girl bride, something appalling in the situation she
had found herself in. Jane Carson didn't know whether she was doing
right or not to help this stray bride. It made her catch her breath to
think how she might be bringing all the power of the law and of money
upon her reckless young head, but she meant to do it, just the same.

Elizabeth Stanhope! What a beautiful name! It fitted right in with all
the romance Jane had ever dreamed. If she only could write scenarios,
what a thriller this would make!

Then she lay down and fell to planning.



CHAPTER V


THE morning dawned, and still no word from the missing bride. But the
brief guarded sentences which Herbert Hutton had telephoned to the
newspapers had been somehow sidetracked, and in their place a ghastly
story had leaked out which some poor, hard-pressed reporter had gleaned
from the gossip in the church and hurried off to put into type before
there was time for it to be denied. Hot foot the story had run, and
great headlines proclaimed the escape of Betty even while the family
were carefully paving the way for the report of a protracted illness and
absence, if need be, till they could find trace of her. The sun rose
brightly and made weird gleaming of the silver wire on which the dying
roses hung. The air was heavy with their breath, and the rooms in the
early garish light looked out of place as if some fairy wand had failed
to break the incantation at the right hour and left a piece of Magicland
behind. The parlor maid went about uncertainly, scarcely knowing what to
do and what to leave undone, and the milk cars, and newsboys, and early
laborers began to make a clatter of every day on the streets. The
morning paper, flung across the steps with Betty's picture, where
Betty's reluctant feet had gone a few hours before, seemed to mock at
life, and upstairs the man that Betty thought she went out to marry, lay
in a heavy stupor of sleep. Happy Betty, to be resting beneath the
coarse sheet of the kindly working girl, sleeping the sleep of
exhaustion and youth in safety, two miles from the rose-bowered rooms!

Long before day had really started in the great city Jane Carson was up
and at work. She dressed swiftly and silently, then went to her little
trunk, and from it selected a simple wardrobe of coarse clean garments.
One needed mending and two buttons were off. She sat by the dingy window
and strained her eyes in the dawn to make the necessary repairs. She
hesitated long over the pasteboard suit-box that she drew from under the
bed. It contained a new dark blue serge dress for which she had saved a
long time and in which she had intended to appear at church next
Sabbath. She was divided between her desire to robe the exquisite little
guest in its pristine folds and her longing to wear it herself. There
was a sense of justice also which entered into the matter. If that
elegant wedding dress was to be hers, and all those wonderful silk
underclothes, which very likely she would never allow herself to wear,
for they would be out of place on a poor working girl, it was not fair
to repay their donor in old clothes. She decided to give the runaway
bride her new blue serge. With just a regretful bit of a sigh she laid
it out on the foot of the bed, and carefully spread out the tissue
papers and folded the white satin garments away out of sight, finishing
the bundle with a thick wrapping of old newspapers from a pile behind
the door and tying it securely. She added a few pins to make the matter
more sure, and got out a stub of a pencil and labeled it in large
letters, "My summer dresses," then shoved it far back under the bed. If
any seeking detective came he would not be likely to bother with that,
and he might search her trunk in vain for white satin slippers and
wedding veils.

Breakfast was next, and she put on her cloak and hurried out for
supplies for the larder had been heavily depleted the night before to
provide for her guest. With a tender glance toward the sleeper she
slipped the key from the lock and placed it in the outside of the door,
silently locking her guest within. Now there would be no danger of any
one spiriting her away while she was gone, and no danger that the girl
might wake up and depart in her absence.

She stopped a newsboy on his way to the subway and bought a paper,
thrilling at the thought that there might be something in it about the
girl who lay asleep in her little hall bedroom.

While she waited for her bundles she stole a glance at her paper, and
there on the front page in big letters ran the heading:

          STANHOPE WEDDING
                  HELD UP AT ALTAR BY
                          UNCONSCIOUS BRIDE

          _Relatives Seek Runaway Girl Who is
                 Thought to be Insane_

She caught her breath and rolled the paper in a little wad, stuffing it
carelessly into her pocket. She could not read any more of that in
public. She hastened back to her room.

Betty was still sleeping. Jane stood watching her for a full minute with
awe in her face. She could not but recognize the difference between
herself and this fine sweet product of civilization and wealth. With the
gold curls tossed back like a ripple of sunshine, and a pathetic little
droop at the corners of her sweet mouth, nothing lovelier could be. Jane
hurried to the window and turned her back on the bed while she perused
the paper, her rage rising at the theories put forth. It was even
hinted that her mother had been insane. Jane turned again and looked
hard at the young sleeper, and the idea crossed her mind that even she
might be deceived. Still, she was willing to trust her judgment that
this girl was entirely sane, and anyhow she meant to help her! She
stuffed the paper down behind the trunk and began to get breakfast. When
it was almost ready she gently awoke the sleeper.

Betty started at the light touch on her shoulder and looked wildly
around at the strange room and stranger face of the other girl. In the
dim light of the evening she had scarcely got to know Jane's face. But
in a moment all the happenings of the day before came back, and she sat
up excitedly.

"I ought to have got away before it was light," she said gripping her
hands together. "I wonder where I could go, Jane?" It was pleasant to
call this girl by her first name. Betty felt that she was a tower of
strength, and so kind.

"I have this ring," she said, slipping off an exquisite diamond and
holding it out. "Do you suppose there would be any way I could get money
enough to travel somewhere with this? If I can't I'll have to walk, and
I can't get far in a day that way."

Betty was almost light-hearted, and smiling. The night had passed and no
one had come. Perhaps after all she was going to get away without being
stopped.

Jane's face set grimly.

"I guess there won't be any walking for you. You'll have to travel
regular. It wouldn't be safe. And you don't want no rich jewelry along
either. Was that your wedding ring?"

"Oh, no; father gave it to me. It was mother's, but I guess they'd want
me to use it now. I haven't anything else."

"Of course," said Jane shortly to hide the emotion in her voice. "Now
eat this while I talk," thrusting a plate of buttered toast and a glass
of orange marmalade at her, and hastening to pour an inviting cup of
coffee.

"Now, I been thinking," she said sitting down on the edge of the bed and
eating bits of the piece of toast she had burned--Betty's was toasted
beautifully--"I got a plan. I think you better go to Ma. She's got room
enough for you for a while, and I want my sister to come over and take a
place I can get fer her. If you was there she could leave. Mebbe you
could help Ma with the kids. Of course we're poor and you ain't used to
common things like we have them, but I guess you ain't got much choice
in your fix. I got a paper this morning. They're huntin' fer you hot
foot. They say you was temperary insane, an' 'f I was you I'd keep out
o' their way a while. You lay low an' I'll keep my eye out and let you
know, I've got a little money under the mattrass I can let you have till
that ring gets sold. You can leave it with me an' I'll do the best I can
if you think you can trust me. Of course I'm a stranger, but then, land!
So are you! We just _gotta_ trust each other. And I'm sending you to my
mother if you'll go!"

"Oh!" said Betty, springing up and hugging her impulsively, "you're so
good! To think I should find somebody just like that right in the street
when I needed you so. I almost think God did it!"

"Well, mebbe!" said Jane, in her embarrassment turning to hang up a
skirt that had fallen from its hook. "That's what they say sometimes in
Chrishun Deavor meetin'. Ever go to Chrishun Deavor? Better go when you
get out home. They have awful good socials an' ice cream, and you'll
meet some real nice folks. We've got a peach of a minister, and his wife
is perfec'ly dandy. I tell you I missed 'em when I came to the city!
They was always doing something nice fer the young folks."

"How interesting!" said Betty, wondering if she might really be going to
live like other girls. Then the shadow of her danger fell over her once
more, and her cheek paled.

"If I can only get there safely," she shuddered. "Oh, Jane! You can't
understand what it would be to have to go back!"

"Well, you're not going back. You're going to Tinsdale, and nobody's
going to find you ever, unless you want 'em to! See? Now, listen! We
haven't any time to waste. You oughtta get off on the ten o'clock train.
I put out some clothes there for yeh. They ain't like yours, but it
won't do fer you to go dressed like a millionairess. Folks out to
Tinsdale would suspect yeh right off the bat. You gotta go plain like
me, and it's this way: You're a friend I picked up in the city whose
mother is dead and you need country air a while, see? So I sent you home
to stay with Ma till you got strong again. I'm wirin' Ma. She'll
understand. She always does. I kinda run Ma anyhow. She thinks the sun
rises an' sets in me, so she'll do just what I say."

"I'm afraid I oughtn't to intrude," said Betty soberly, taking up the
coarse, elaborately trimmed lingerie with a curious look, and trying not
to seem to notice that it was different from any she had ever worn
before.

"Say! Looka here!" said Jane Carson, facing round from her coffee cup on
the washstand. "I'm sorry to criticize, but if you could just talk a
little slang or something. Folks'll never think you belong to me.
_'Intrude!'_ Now, that sounds stuck up! You oughtta say 'be in the way,'
or something natural like that. See?"

"I'm afraid I don't," said Betty dubiously, "but I'll try."

"You're all right, Kid," said Jane with compunction in her voice. "Just
let yourself down a little like I do, and remember you don't wear silk
onderclothes now. I'm afraid those stockings won't feel very good after
yours, but you gotta be careful. An' 'f I was you I'd cut my hair off, I
really would. It's an awful pity, it's so pretty, but it'll grow again.
How old are you?"

"Almost twenty-one," said Betty thoughtfully. "Just three months more
and I'll be twenty-one."

"H'm! Of age!" said Jane with a sharp significant look at her, as if a
new thought had occurred. "Well, you don't look it! You could pass for
fifteen, especially if you had your hair bobbed. I can do it for you if
you say so."

"All right," said Betty promptly without a qualm. "I always wanted it
short. It's an awful nuisance to comb."

"That's the talk!" said Jane. "Say 'awful' a lot, and you'll kinda get
into the hang of it. It sounds more--well, _natural_, you know; not like
society talk. Here, sit down and I'll do it quick before you get cold
feet. I sure do hate to drop them curls, but I guess it's best."

The scissors snipped, snipped, and the lovely strands of bright hair
fell on the paper Jane had spread for them. Betty sat cropped like a
sweet young boy. Jane stood back and surveyed the effect through her
lashes approvingly. She knew the exact angle at which the hair should
splash out on the cheek to be stylish. She had often contemplated
cutting her own, only that her mother had begged her not to, and she
realized that her hair was straight as a die and would never submit to
being tortured into that alluring wave over the ear and out toward the
cheekbone. But this sweet young thing was a darling! She felt that the
daring deed had been a success.

"I got a bottle of stuff to make your hair dark," she remarked. "I guess
we better put it on. That hair of yours is kinda conspicuous, you know,
even when it's cut off. It won't do you any harm. It washes off soon."
And she dashed something on the yellow hair. Betty sat with closed eyes
and submitted. Then her mentor burnt a cork and put a touch to the
eyebrows that made a different Betty out of her. A soft smudge of dark
under her eyes and a touch of talcum powder gave her a sickly complexion
and when Betty stood up and looked in the glass she did not know
herself. Jane finished the toilet by a smart though somewhat shabby
black hat pulled well down over Betty's eyes, and a pair of gray cotton
gloves, somewhat worn at the fingers. The high-laced boots she put upon
the girl's feet were two sizes too large, and wobbled frightfully, but
they did well enough, and there seemed nothing more to be desired.

"Now," said Jane as she pinned on her own hat, "you've gotta have a name
to go by. I guess you better be Lizzie Hope. It kinda belongs to yeh,
and yet nobody'd recognize it. You don't need to tell Ma anything you
don't want to, and you can tell her I'll write a letter to-night all
about it. Now come on! We gotta go on the trolley a piece. I don't see
havin' you leave from the General Station. We'll go up to the Junction
and get the train there."

With an odd feeling that she was bidding good-by to herself forever and
was about to become somebody else, Betty gave one more glance at the
slim boylike creature in the little mirror over the washstand and
followed Jane out of the room, shuffling along in the big high-heeled
boots, quite unlike the Betty that she was.



CHAPTER VI


WARREN REYBURN laid down his pen and shoved back his office chair
impatiently, stretching out his long muscular limbs nervously and
rubbing his hands over his eyes as if to clear them from annoying
visions.

James Ryan, his office boy and stenographer, watched him furtively from
one corner of his eye, while his fingers whirled the typewriter on
through the letter he was typing. James wanted to take his girl to the
movies that evening and he hadn't had a chance to see her the day
before. He was wondering if Mr. Reyburn would go out in time for him to
call her up at her noon hour. He was a very temperamental stenographer
and understood the moods and tenses of his most temperamental employer
fully. It was all in knowing how to manage him. James was most
deferential, and knew when to keep still and not ask questions. This was
one of the mornings when he went to the dictionary himself when he
wasn't sure of a word rather than break the ominous silence. Not that
Mr. Reyburn was a hard master, quite the contrary, but this was James's
first place straight from his brief course at business school, and he
was making a big bluff of being an old experienced hand.

There was not much business to be done. This was Warren Reyburn's "first
place" also in the world of business since finishing his law course, and
he was making a big bluff at being very busy, to cover up a sore heart
and an anxious mind. It was being borne in upon him gradually that he
was not a shouting success in business so far. The rosy dreams that had
floated near all through his days of hard study had one by one left him,
until his path was now leading through a murky gray way with little hope
ahead. Nothing but sheer grit kept him at it, and he began to wonder how
long he could stick it out if nothing turned up.

True, he might have accepted an offer that even now lay open on his
desk; a tempting offer, too, from a big corporation who recognized the
influence of his old family upon their particular line of business; but
it was a line that his father and his grandfather had scorned to touch,
and he had grown up with an honest contempt for it. He just could not
bring himself to wrest the living from the poor and needy, and plunder
the unsuspecting, and he knew that was what it would be if he closed
with this offer. Not yet had he been reduced to such depths, he told
himself, shutting his fine lips in a firm curve. "No, not if he
starved!"

That was the legitimate worry that ruffled his handsome brow as he sat
before his desk frowning at that letter. He meant to begin dictation on
its answer in another five minutes or so, but meantime he was forcing
himself to go over every point and make it strong and clear to himself,
so that he should say, "No!" strongly and clearly to the corporation. It
might do harm to make his reason for declining so plain, but he owed it
to his self-respect to give it nevertheless, and he meant to do so.
After all, he had no business so far to harm, so what did it matter? If
nothing turned up pretty soon to give him a start he would have to
change his whole plan of life and take up something else where one did
not have to wait for a reputation before he could have a chance to show
what was in him.

But underneath the legitimate reason for his annoyance this morning
there ran a most foolish little fretting, a haunting discomfort.

He had taken his cousin to a wedding the night before because her
husband had been called away on business, and she had no one to escort
her. They had been late and the church was crowded. He had had to
stand, and as he idly looked over the audience he suddenly looked full
into the great sad eyes of the sweetest little bride he had ever seen.
He had not been a young man to spend his time over pretty faces,
although there were one or two nice girls in whom he was mildly
interested. He had even gone so far as to wonder now and then which of
them he would be willing to see sitting at his table day after day the
rest of his life, and he had not yet come to a satisfactory conclusion.
His cousin often rallied him about getting married, but he always told
her it would be time enough to think about that when he had an income to
offer her.

But when he saw that flower-face, his attention was held at once.
Somehow he felt as if he had not known there was a face like that in all
the world, so like a child's, with frank yet modest droop to the head,
and the simplicity of an angel, yet the sadness of a sacrificial
offering. Unbidden, a great desire sprang up to lift for her whatever
burden she was bearing, and bring light into those sad eyes. Of course
it was a passing sensation, but his eyes had traveled involuntarily to
the front of the church to inspect the handsome forbidding face of the
bridegroom, and with instant dissatisfaction he looked back to the girl
once more and watched her come up to the altar, speculating as those
who love to study humanity are wont to do when they find an interesting
subject. How had those two types ever happened to come together? The
man's part in it was plain. He was the kind who go about seeking whom
they may devour, thought Warren Reyburn. But the woman! How could a
wise-eyed child like that have been deceived by a handsome face? Well,
it was all speculation of course, and he had nothing to do with any of
them. They were strangers to him and probably always would be. But he
had no conception at that time what a small world he lived in, nor how
near the big experiences of life lie all about us.

He watched the lovely bride as all the audience watched her until he saw
her fall, and then he started forward without in the least realizing
what he was doing. He found himself half way up the side aisle to the
altar before he came to himself and forced his feet back to where his
cousin was sitting. Of course he had no right up there, and what could
he do when there were so many of her friends and relatives about her?

His position near the side door through which they carried her made it
quite possible for him to look down into her still face as they took her
to the vestry room, and he found a great satisfaction in seeing that
she was even more beautiful at close hand than at a distance. He
wondered afterward why his mind had laid so much stress upon the fact
that her skin was lovely like a baby's without any sign of cosmetics. He
told himself that it was merely his delight to learn that there was such
a type, and that it ran true.

He was therefore not a little disappointed that the minister, after the
congregation had waited an unconscionable time for the return of the
bride, came out and announced that owing to her continued collapse the
ceremony would have to be postponed. The clatter of polite wonder and
gossip annoyed him beyond measure, and he was actually cross with his
cousin on the way home when she ranted on about the way girls nowadays
were brought up, coddled, so that a breath would blow them away. Somehow
she had not looked like that kind of a girl.

But when the morning papers came out with sensational headlines
proclaiming that the bride had run away, and suggesting all sorts of
unpleasant things about her, he felt a secret exultation that she had
been brave enough to do so. It was as if he had found that her spirit
was as wise and beautiful as her face had been. His interest in the
matter exceeded all common sense and he was annoyed and impatient with
himself more than he cared to own. Never before had a face lured his
thoughts like this one. He told himself that his business was getting on
his nerves, and that as soon as he could be sure about one or two little
matters that he hoped would fall into his hands to transact, he would
take a few days off and run down to the shore.

Again and again the little white bride came across his vision and
thoughts, and hindered the courteous but stinging phrases with which he
had intended to illumine his letter. At last he gave it up and taking
his hat went out in the keen November air for a walk to clear his brain.

This was James Ryan's opportunity. It was almost twelve o'clock and no
harm in calling the "forelady" in the cotton blouse department of the
big factory. He swung to the telephone with alacrity.

"I want to speak with Miss Carson, please. Yes, Miss J. Carson. Is that
Miss Carson? Oh, hello, Jane, is that you?"

"Yes, it is _Mister_ Ryan," answered Jane sweetly.

"Jane!"

"Well, didn't you 'Miss Carson' me?"

"Give it up, Jane. You win. Say, Jane!"

"Well, Jimmie?"

"That's my girl, say how about that wedding veil? Been thinking any more
about it?"

There was silence for a moment, then a conscious giggle, the full
significance of which James Ryan was not in a position to figure out.

"Say, Jimmie, quit your kiddin'! You mustn't say things like that over
the 'phone."

"Why not?"

"'Cause. Folks might listen."

"I should worry! Well, since you say so. How about seein' a show
together to-night?"

"Fine an' dandy, Jimmie! I'll be ready at the usual time. I gotta go
now, the boss is comin'. So long, Jimmie!"

"So long, darling!"

But the receiver at the other end hung up with a click, while Jane with
a smile on her lips thought of the pasteboard box under her bed and
wondered what Jimmie would say if he could know. For Jane had fully made
up her mind that Jimmie was not to know. Not at present, anyhow. Some
time she might tell him if things turned out all right, but she knew
just what lordly masculine advice and criticism would lie upon James
Ryan's lips if she attempted to tell him about her strange and wonderful
guest of the night before. Maybe she was a fool to have trusted a
stranger that way. Maybe the girl would turn out to be insane or wrong
somehow, and trouble come, but she didn't believe it; and anyhow, she
was going to wait, until she saw what happened next before she got
Jimmie mixed up in it. Besides, the secret wasn't hers to tell. She had
promised Betty, and she always kept her promises. That was one reason
why she was so slow in promising to think about a wedding veil in
response to James Ryan's oft repeated question.

That evening on the way to the movies Jane instituted an investigation.

"Jimmie, what kind of a man is your boss?"

"White man!" said Jimmie promptly.

"Aw! Cut it out, James Ryan! I don't mean how'd s'e look, or what color
is he; I mean what kind of a _man_ is he?"

"Well, that's the answer. White man! What's the matter of that? I said
it and I meant it. He's white if there ever was one!"

"Oh, that!" said Miss Carson in scorn. "Of course I know he's a peach.
If he wasn't you wouldn't be workin' for him. What I mean, is he a
_snob_?"

"No chance!"

"Well, I saw him _with_ 'em last night. I was passin' that big church
up Spruce Street and I saw him standin' with his arms folded so----" she
paused on the sidewalk and indicated his pose. "It was a swell weddin'
and the place was full up. He had a big white front an' a clawhammer
coat. I know it was him 'cause I took a good look at him that time you
pointed him out at church that evenin'. I wondered was he _in with_ them
swells?"

Her tone expressed scorn and not a little anxiety, as if she had asked
whether he frequented places of low reputation.

"Oh, if you mean, _could_ he be, why that's a diffrunt thing!" said
James the wise. "_Sure_, he could be if he wanted, I guess. He's got a
good family. His uncle's some high muckymuck, and you often see his
aunts' and cousins' names in the paper giving teas and receptions and
going places. But he don't seem to go much. I often hear folks ask him
why he wasn't some place last night, or 'phone to know if he won't come,
and he always says he can't spare the time, or he can't afford it, or
something like that."

"Ain't he rich, Jimmie?"

"Well, no, not exactly. He may have some money put away, or left him by
some one. If he don't have I can't fer the life of me see how he lives.
But he certainly don't get it in fees. I often wonder where my salary
comes from, but it always does, regular as the clock."

"Jimmie, doesn't he have _any_ business at all?"

"Oh, yes he has business, but it ain't the paying kind. Fer instance,
there was a man in to-day trying to get his house back that another man
took away from him, and my boss _took the case_! He took it _right off
the bat_ without waiting to see whether the man could pay him anything
or not! He can't! He's only a poor laboring man, and a rich man stole
his house. Just out an' out stole it, you know. It's how he got rich.
Like as not we'll lose it, too, those rich men have so many ways of
crawling out of a thing and making it look nice to the world. Oh, he'll
get a fee, of course--twenty-five dollars, perhaps--but what's
twenty-five dollars, and like as not never get even the whole of that,
or have to wait for it? Why, it wouldn't keep _me_ in his office long!
Then there was a girl trying to get hold of the money her own father
left her, and her uncle frittered away and pertends it cost him all
that, and _he's_ been supporting _her_! Well, we took that, too, and we
won't get much out of that even if we do win. Then there come along one
of these here rich guys with a pocket full of money and a nice slick
tongue wanting to be protected from the law in some devilment, and _him
we turned down flat_! That's how it goes in our office. I can't just
figger out how it's coming out! But he's a good guy, a white man if
there ever was one!"

"I should say!" responded Jane with shining eyes. "Say, Jimmie, what's
the matter of us throwin' a little business in his way--real, payin'
business, I mean?"

"Fat chance!" said Jimmie dryly.

"You never can tell!" answered Jane dreamily. "I'm goin' to think about
it. Our fact'ry has lawyers sometimes. I might speak to the boss."

"Do!" said Jimmie sarcastically! "And have yer labor for yer pains!
We'll prob'ly turn _them_ down. Fact'ries are _always_ doing things they
hadn't ought to."

But Jane was silent and thoughtful, and they were presently lost in the
charms of Mary Pickford.

The evening papers came out with pictures of Elizabeth Stanhope and her
bridegroom that was to have been. Jane cut away the bridegroom and
pasted the bride's picture in the flyleaf of her Bible, then hid it away
in the bottom of her trunk.



CHAPTER VII


WHEN Betty found herself seated on the day coach of a way train, jogging
along toward a town she had never seen and away from the scenes and
people of her childhood, she found herself trembling violently. It was
as if she had suddenly been placed in an airplane all by herself and
started off to the moon without any knowledge of her motor power or
destination. It both frightened and exhilarated her. She wanted to cry
and she wanted to laugh, but she did neither. Instead she sat demurely
for the first hour and a half looking out of the window like any
traveler, scarcely turning her head nor looking at anything in the car.
It seemed to her that there might be a detective in every seat just
waiting for her to lift her eyes that he might recognize her. But
gradually as the time dragged by and the landscape grew monotonous she
began to feel a little more at her ease. Furtively she studied her
neighbors. She had seldom traveled in a common car, and it was new to
her to study all types as she could see them here. She smiled at a dirty
baby and wished she had something to give it. She studied the careworn
man and the woman in black who wept behind her veil and would not smile
no matter how hard the man tried to make her. It was a revelation to her
that any man would try as hard as that to make a woman smile. She
watched the Italian family with five children and nine bundles, and
counted the colors on a smart young woman who got in at a way station.
Every minute of the day was interesting. Every mile of dreary November
landscape that whirled by gave her more freedom.

She opened the little shabby handbag that Jane had given her and got out
the bit of mirror one inch by an inch and a half backed with pasteboard
on which lingered particles of the original green taffeta lining and
studied her own strange face, trying to get used to her new self and her
new name. Jane had written it, Lizzie Hope, on the back of the envelope
containing the address of Mrs. Carson. It seemed somehow an
identification card. She studied it curiously and wondered if Lizzie
Hope was going to be any happier than Betty Stanhope had been. And then
she fell to thinking over the strange experiences of the last
twenty-four hours and wondering whether she had done right or not, and
whether her father would have been disappointed in her, "ashamed of
her," as her stepmother had said. Somehow Jane had made her feel that
he would not, and she was more light-hearted than she had been for many
a day.

Late in the afternoon she began to wonder what Tinsdale would be like.
In the shabby handbag was her ticket to Tinsdale and eight dollars and a
half in change. It made her feel richer than she had ever felt in her
life, although she had never been stinted as to pocket money. But this
was her very own, for her needs, and nobody but herself to say how she
should spend either it or her time.

Little towns came in sight and passed, each one with one or two
churches, a schoolhouse, a lot of tiny houses. Would Tinsdale look this
way? How safe these places seemed, yet lonely, too! Still, no one would
ever think of looking for her in a lonely little village.

They passed a big brick institution, and she made out the words, "State
Asylum," and shuddered inwardly as she thought of what Jane had told her
about the morning paper. Suppose they should hunt her up and _put her in
an insane asylum_, just to show the world that it had not been their
fault that she had run away from her wedding! The thought was appalling.
She dropped her head on her hand with her face toward the window and
tried to pretend she was asleep and hide the tears that would come, but
presently a boy came in at the station with a big basket and she bought
a ham sandwich and an apple. It tasted good. She had not expected that
it would. She decided that she must have been pretty hungry and then
fell to counting her money, aghast that the meager supper had made such
a hole in her capital. She must be very careful. This might be all the
money she would have for a very long time, and there was no telling what
kind of an impossible place she was going to. She might have to get away
as eagerly as she had come. Jane was all right, but that was not saying
that her mother and sisters would be.

It was growing dark, and the lights were lit in the car. All the little
Italian babies had been given drinks of water, and strange things to
eat, and tumbled to sleep across laps and on seats, anywhere they would
stick. They looked so funny and dirty and pitiful with their faces all
streaked with soot and molasses candy that somebody had given them. The
mother looked tired and greasy and the father was fat and dark, with
unpleasant black eyes that seemed to roll a great deal. Yet he was kind
to the babies and his wife seemed to like him. She wondered what kind of
a home they had, and what relation the young fellow with the shiny dark
curls bore to them. He seemed to take as much care of the babies as did
their father and mother.

The lights were flickering out in the villages now and gave a friendly
inhabited look to the houses. Sometimes when the train paused at
stations Betty could see people moving back and forth at what seemed to
be kitchen tables and little children bringing dishes out, all working
together. It looked pleasant and she wondered if it would be like that
where she was going. A big lump of loneliness was growing in her throat.
It was one thing to run away from something that you hated, but it was
another to jump into a new life where one neither knew nor was known.
Betty began to shrink inexpressibly from it all. Not that she wanted to
go back! Oh, no; far from it! But once when they passed a little white
cemetery with tall dark fir trees waving guardingly above the white
stones she looked out almost wistfully. If she were lying in one of
those beside her father and mother how safe and rested she would be. She
wouldn't have to worry any more. What was it like where father and
mother had gone? Was it a real place? Or was that just the end when one
died? Well, if she were sure it was all she would not care. She would be
willing to just go out and not be. But somehow that didn't seem to be
the commonly accepted belief. There was always a beyond in most people's
minds, and a fear of just what Betty didn't know. She was a good deal of
a heathen, though she did not know that either.

Then, just as she was floundering into a lot of theological mysteries of
her own discovery the nasal voice of the conductor called out:
"Tinsdale! Tinsdale!" and she hurried to her feet in something of a
panic, conscious of her short hair and queer clothes.

Down on the platform she stood a minute trying to get used to her feet,
they felt so numb and empty from long sitting. Her head swam just a
little, too, and the lights on the station and in the houses near by
seemed to dance around her weirdly. She had a feeling that she would
rather wait until the train was gone before she began to search for her
new home, and then when the wheels ground and began to turn and the
conductor shouted "All aboard!" and swung himself up the step as she had
seen him do a hundred times that afternoon, a queer sinking feeling of
loneliness possessed her, and she almost wanted to catch the rail and
swing back on again as the next pair of car steps flung by her.

Then a voice that sounded a little like Jane's said pleasantly in her
ear: "Is this Lizzie Hope?" and Betty turned with a thrill of actual
fright to face Nellie Carson and her little sister Emily.

"Bobbie'll be here in a minute to carry your suitcase," said Nellie
efficiently; "he just went over to see if he could borrow Jake Peter's
wheelbarrow in case you had a trunk. You didn't bring your trunk? O, but
you're going to stay, aren't you? I'm goin' up to the city to take a
p'sition, and Mother'd be awful lonesome. Sometime of course we'll send
fer them to come, but now the children's little an' the country's better
fer them. They gotta go to school awhile. You'll stay, won't you?"

"How do you know you'll want me?" laughed Betty, at her ease in this
unexpected air of welcome.

"Why, of course we'd want you. Jane sent you. Jane wouldn't of sent you
if you hadn't been a good scout. Jane knows. Besides, I've got two eyes,
haven't I? I guess I can tell right off."

Emily's shy little hand stole into Betty's and the little girl looked
up:

"I'm awful glad you come! I think you're awful pretty!"

"Thank you!" said Betty, warmly squeezing the little confiding hand. It
was the first time in her life that a little child had come close to her
in this confiding way. Her life had not been among children.

Then Bob whirled up, bareheaded, freckled, whistling, efficient, and
about twelve years old. He grabbed the suitcase, eyed the stranger with
a pleasant grin, and stamped off into the darkness ahead of them.

It was a new experience to Betty to be walking down a village street
with little houses on each side and lights and warmth and heads bobbing
through the windows. It stirred some memory of long ago, before she
could scarcely remember. She wondered, had her own mother ever lived in
a small village?

"That's our church," confided Emily, as they passed a large frame
building with pointed steeple and belfry. "They're goin' to have a
entertainment t'morra night, an' we're all goin' and Ma said you cud go
too."

"Isn't that lovely!" said Betty, feeling a sudden lump like tears in her
throat. It was just like living out a fairy story. She hadn't expected
to be taken right in to family life this way.

"But how did you know I was coming on that train?" she asked the older
girl suddenly. "Jane said she was going to telegraph, but I expected to
have to hunt around to find the house."

"Oh, we just came down to every train after the telegram came. This is
the last train to-night, and we were awful scared for fear you wouldn't
come till morning, an' have to stay on the train all night. Ma says it
isn't nice for a girl to have to travel alone at night. Ma always makes
Jane and me go daytimes."

"It was just lovely of you," said Betty, wondering if she was talking
"natural" enough to please Jane.

"Did you bob you hair 'cause you had a fever?" asked Nellie enviously.

"No," said Betty, "that is, I haven't been very well, and I thought it
might be good for me," she finished, wondering how many questions like
that it was going to be hard for her to answer without telling a lie. A
lie was something that her father had made her feel would hurt him more
deeply than anything else she could do.

"I just love it," said Nellie enthusiastically. "I wanted to cut mine,
an' so did Jane, but Ma wouldn't let us. She says God gave us our hair,
an' we oughtta take care of it."

"That's true, too," said Betty. "I never thought about that. But I guess
mine will grow again after a while. I think it will be less trouble this
way. But it's very dirty with traveling. I think I'll have to wash it
before I put it on a pillow."

That had troubled Betty greatly. She didn't know how to get rid of that
hair dye before Jane's family got used to having it dark.

"Sure, you can wash it, if you ain't 'fraid of takin' cold. There's lots
of hot water. Ma thought you'd maybe want to take a bath. We've got a
big tin bath-tub out in the back shed. Ma bought it off the Joneses when
they got their porcelain one put into their house. We don't have no
runnin' water but we have an awful good well. Here's our house. I guess
Bob's got there first. See, Ma's out on the steps waitin' fer us."

The house was a square wooden affair, long wanting paint, and trimmed
with little scrollwork around the diminutive front porch. The color was
indescribable, blending well into the surroundings either day or night.
It had a cheerful, decent look, but very tiny. There was a small yard
about it with a picket fence, and a leafless lilac bush. A cheerful
barberry bush flanked the gate on either side. The front door was open
into a tiny hall and beyond the light streamed forth from a glass lamp
set on a pleasant dining-room table covered with a red cloth. Betty
stepped inside the gate and found herself enveloped in two motherly
arms, and then led into the light and warmth of the family dining-room.



CHAPTER VIII


THERE was a kettle of stew on the stove in the kitchen, kept hot from
supper for Betty, with fresh dumplings just mixed before the train came
in, and bread and butter with apple sauce and cookies. They made her sit
right down and eat, before she even took her hat off, and they all sat
around her and talked while she ate. It made her feel very much at home
as if somehow she was a real relative.

It came over her once how different all this was from the house which
she had called home all her life. The fine napery, the cut glass and
silver, the stately butler! And here was she eating off a stone china
plate thick enough for a table top, with a steel knife and fork and a
spoon with the silver worn off the bowl. She could not help wondering
what her stepmother would have said to the red and white tablecloth, and
the green shades at the windows. There was an old sofa covered with
carpet in the room, with a flannel patchwork pillow, and a cat cuddled
up cosily beside it purring away like a tea-kettle boiling. Somehow,
poor as it was, it seemed infinitely more attractive than any room she
had ever seen before, and she was charmed with the whole family. Bobbie
sat at the other end of the table with his elbows on the table and his
round eyes on her. When she smiled at him he winked one eye and grinned
and then wriggled down under the table out of sight.

The mother had tired kind eyes and a firm cheerful mouth like Jane's.
She took Betty right in as if she had been her sister's child.

"Come, now, get back there, Emily. Don't hang on Lizzie. She'll be tired
to death of you right at the start. Give her a little peace while she
eats her supper. How long have you and Jane been friends, Lizzie?" she
asked, eager for news of her own daughter.

Betty's cheeks flushed and her eyes grew troubled. She was very much
afraid that being Lizzie was going to be hard work:

"Why, not so very long," she said hesitatingly.

"Are you one of the girls in her factory?"

"Oh, no!" said Betty wildly, wondering what would come next. "We--just
met--that is--why--_out one evening_!" she finished desperately.

"Oh, I see!" said the mother. "Yes, she wrote about going out sometimes,
mostly to the movies. And to church. My children always make it a point
to go to church wherever they are. I brought 'em up that way. I hope you
go to church."

"I shall love to," said Betty eagerly.

"Is your mother living?" was the next question.

"No," answered Betty. "Mother and father are both dead and I've been
having rather a hard time. Jane was kind to me when I was in trouble."

"I'll warrant you! That's Jane!" beamed her mother happily. "Jane always
was a good girl, if I do say so. I knew Jane was at her tricks again
when she sent me that telegram."

"Ma's got you a place already!" burst out Nellie eagerly.

"Now, Nellie, you said you'd let Ma tell that!" reproached Bob. "You
never can keep your mouth shut."

"There! There! Bob, don't spoil the evening with anything unkind,"
warned the mother. "Yes, Lizzie, I got you a position. It just happened
I had the chance, and I took it, though I don't really b'lieve that
anythin' in this world just happens, of course. But it did seem
providential. Mrs. Hathaway wanted somebody to look after her little
girl. She's only three years old and she is possessed to run away every
chance she gets. Course I s'pose she's spoiled. Most rich children are.
Now, my children wouldn't have run away. They always thought too much
of what I said to make me trouble. But that's neither here nor there.
She does it, and besides her Ma is an invalid. She had an operation, so
she has to lie still a good bit, and can't be bothered. She wants
somebody just to take the little girl out walking and keep her happy in
the house, an' all."

"How lovely!" exclaimed Betty. "I shall enjoy it, I know."

"She's awful pretty!" declared Emily eagerly. "Got gold curls and blue
eyes just like you, and she has ever an' ever so many little dresses,
and wears pink shoes and blue shoes, an' rides a tricycle."

"How interesting!" said Betty.

"You'll get good wages," said the mother. "She said she'd give you six
dollars a week, an' mebbe more, an' you'd get some of your meals."

"Then I can pay my board to you," cried Betty.

"Don't worry about that, child. We'll fix that up somehow. We're awful
glad to have you come, and I guess we shall like each other real well.
Now, children, it's awful late. Get to bed. Scat! Lizzie can have her
bath an' get to bed, too. Come, mornin's half way here already!"

The children said good night and Betty was introduced to the tin bath
tub and improvised bathroom--a neat little addition to the kitchen
evidently intended originally for a laundry. She wanted to laugh when
she saw the primitive makeshifts, but instead the tears came into her
eyes to think how many luxuries she had taken all her life as a matter
of course and never realized how hard it was for people who had none. In
fact it had never really entered her head before that there were people
who had no bathrooms.

Betty was not exactly accustomed to washing her own hair, and with the
added problem of the dye it was quite a task; but she managed it at
last, using all the hot water, to get it so that the rinsing water was
clear, and her hair felt soft. Then, attired in the same warm nightgown
she had worn the night before, which Jane had thoughtfully put in the
suitcase--otherwise filled with old garments she wished to send
home--Betty pattered upstairs to the little room with the sloping roof
and the dormer window and crept into bed with Nellie. That young woman
had purposely stayed awake, and kept Betty as long as she could talk,
telling all the wonderful things she wanted to know about city life, and
Betty found herself in deep water sometimes because the city life she
knew about was so very different from the city life that Jane would
know. But at last sleep won, and Nellie had to give up because her last
question was answered with silence. The guest was deep in slumber.

The next morning the children took her over the house, out in the yard,
showing her everything. Then they had to take her down to the village
and explain all about the little town and its people. They were crazy
about Betty's beautiful hair and much disappointed when she would insist
on wearing her hat. It was a bright sunny morning, not very cold, and
they told her that nobody wore a hat except to church or to go on the
train, but Betty had a feeling that her hair might attract attention,
and in her first waking hours a great shadow of horror had settled upon
her when she realized that her people would leave no stone unturned to
find her. It was most important that she should do or be nothing whereby
she might be recognized. She even thought of getting a cap and apron to
wear when attending her small charge, but Nellie told her they didn't do
that in the country and she would be thought stuck up, so she desisted.
But she drew the blue serge skirt up as high above her waistband as
possible when she dressed in the morning so that she might look like a
little girl and no one would suspect her of being a runaway bride. Also
she had a consultation with herself in the small hours of the morning
while Nellie was still fast asleep, and settled with her conscience just
what she would tell about her past and what she would keep to herself.
There was a certain reserve that any one might have, and if she was
frank about a few facts no one would be likely to question further.

So next morning she told Mrs. Carson that since her parents' death she
had lived with a woman who knew her father well, but lately things had
been growing very unpleasant and she found she had to leave. She had
left under such conditions that she could not bring away anything that
belonged to her, so she would have to work and earn some more clothes.

Mrs. Carson looked into her sweet eyes and agreed that it was the best
thing she could do; they might follow her up and make all sorts of
trouble for her in her new home if she wrote for her things; and so the
matter dropped. They were simple folks, who took things at their face
value and were not over inquisitive.

On the third day there arrived a long letter from Jane in which she gave
certain suggestions concerning the new member of the family, and ended:
"Ma, she's got a story, but don't make her tell any more of it than she
wants. She's awful sensitive about it, and trust me, she's all right!
She's been through a lot. Just make her feel she's got some folks that
loves and trusts her."

Ma, wise beyond her generation and experience, said no more, and took
the little new daughter into her heart. She took the opportunity to
inform the village gossips that a friend of Jane's had come to rest up
and get a year's country air, boarding with them; and so the
amalgamation of Betty Stanhope into the life of the little town began.

The "job" proved to be for only part of the day, so that Betty was free
most of the mornings to help around the house and take almost a
daughter's place. That she was a rare girl is proved by the way she
entered into her new life. It was almost as if she had been born again,
and entered into a new universe, so widely was her path diverging from
everything which had been familiar in the old life. So deep had been her
distress before she came into it that this new existence, despite its
hard and unaccustomed work, seemed almost like heaven.

It is true there was much bad grammar and slang, but that did not
trouble Betty. She had been brought up to speak correctly, and it was
second nature to her, but no one had ever drummed it into her what a
crime against culture an illiterate way of speaking could be. She never
got into the way of speaking that way herself, but it seemed a part of
these people she had come to know and admire so thoroughly, as much as
for a rose to have thorns, and so she did not mind it. Her other world
had been so all-wrong for years that the hardships of this one were
nothing. She watched them patch and sacrifice cheerfully to buy their
few little plain coarse new things. She marveled at their sweetness and
content, where those of her world would have thought they could not
exist under the circumstances.

She learned to make that good stew with carrots and celery and parsley
and potatoes and the smallest possible amount of meat, that had tasted
so delicious the night she arrived. She learned the charms of the common
little bean, and was proud indeed the day she set upon the table a
luscious pan of her own baking, rich and sweet and brown with their
coating of molasses well baked through them. She even learned to make
bread and never let any one guess that she had always supposed it
something mysterious.

During the week that Nellie was preparing to go to the city, Betty had
lessons in sewing. Nellie would bring down an old garment, so faded and
worn that it would seem only fit for the rag-bag. She would rip and
wash, dye with a mysterious little package of stuff, press, and behold,
there would come forth pretty breadths of cloth, blue or brown or green,
or whatever color was desired. It seemed like magic. And then a box of
paper-patterns would be brought out, and the whole evening would be
spent in contriving how to get out a dress, with the help of trimmings
or sleeves of another material. Betty would watch and gradually try to
help, but she found there were so many strange things to be considered.
There, for instance, was the up and down of a thing and the right and
wrong of it. It was exactly like life. And one had to plan not to have
both sleeves for one arm, and to have the nap of the goods running down
always. It was as complicated as learning a new language. But at the end
of the week there came forth two pretty dresses and a blouse. Betty, as
she sat sewing plain seams and trying to help all she could, kept
thinking of the many beautiful frocks she had thrown aside in the years
gone by, and of the rich store of pretty things that she had left when
she fled. If only Nellie and Jane and little Emily could have them! Ah,
and if only she herself might have them now! How she needed them! For a
girl who had always had all she wanted it was a great change to get
along with this one coarse serge and aprons.

But the sewing and other work had not occupied them so fully that they
had not had time to introduce Betty into their little world. The very
next evening after she arrived she had been taken to that wonderful
church entertainment that the girls had told her about on the way from
the station, and there she had met the minister's wife and been invited
to her Sabbath school class.

Betty would not have thought of going if Nellie and her mother had not
insisted. In fact, she shrank unspeakably from going out into the little
village world. But it was plain that this was expected of her, and if
she remained here she must do as they wanted her to do. It was the least
return she could make to these kind people.

The question of whether or not she should remain began to come to her
insistently now. The children clamored every day for her to bind herself
for the winter, and Jane's mother had made her most welcome. She saw
that they really wanted her; why should she not stay? And yet it did
seem queer to arrange deliberately to spend a whole year in a poor
uncultured family. Still, where could she go and hope to remain unknown
if she attempted to get back into her own class? It was impossible. Her
mother had just the one elderly cousin whom she had always secretly
looked to to help her in any time of need, but his failing her and
sending that telegram without even a good wish in it, just at the last
minute, too, made her feel it was of no use to appeal to him. Besides,
that was the first place her stepmother would seek for her. She had many
good society friends, but none who would stand by her in trouble. No one
with whom she had ever been intimate enough to confide in. She had been
kept strangely alone in her little world after all, hedged in by
servants everywhere. And now that she was suddenly on her own
responsibility, she felt a great timidity in taking any step alone.
Sometimes at night when she thought what she had done she was so
frightened that her heart would beat wildly as if she were running away
from them all yet. It was like a nightmare that pursued her.

Mrs. Hathaway had sent for her and made arrangements for her to begin
her work with the little Elise the following week when the present
governess should leave, and Betty felt that this might prove a very
pleasant way to earn her living. The Hathaways lived in a great brick
house away back from the street in grounds that occupied what in the
city would have been a whole block. There was a high hedge about the
place so that one could not see the road, and there were flower-beds, a
great fountain, and a rustic summerhouse. Betty did not see why days
passed in such a pleasant place would not be delightful in summertime.
She was not altogether sure whether she would like to have to be a sort
of servant in the house--and of course these cold fall days she would
have to be much in the house--but the nursery had a big fireplace in it,
a long chest under the window where toys were kept, and many comfortable
chairs. That ought to be pleasant, too. Besides, she was not just out
looking for pleasant things on this trip. She was trying to get away
from unbearable ones, and she ought to be very thankful indeed to have
fallen on such comfort as she had.

There was another element in the Carson home that drew her strongly,
although she was shy about even thinking of it, and that was the frank,
outspoken Christianity. "Ma" tempered all her talk with it, adjusted all
her life to God and what He would think about her actions, spoke
constantly of what was right and wrong. Betty had never lived in an
atmosphere where right and wrong mattered. Something sweet and pure like
an instinct in her own soul had held her always from many of the ways
of those about her, perhaps the spirit of her sweet mother allowed to be
one of those who "bear them up, lest at any time they dash their feet
against a stone." Or it might have been some memory of the teachings of
her father, whom she adored, and who in his last days often talked with
her alone about how he and her own mother would want her to live. But
now, safe and quiet in this shelter of a real home, poor though it was,
the God-instinct stirred within her, caused her to wonder what He was,
why she was alive, and if He cared? One could not live with Mrs. Carson
without thinking something about her God, for He was an ever-present
help in all her times of need, and she never hesitated to give God the
glory for all she had achieved, and for all the blessings she had
received.

The very first Sabbath in the little white church stirred still deeper
her awakening interest in spiritual things. The minister's wife was a
sweet-faced woman who called her "my dear" and invited her to come and
see her, and when she began to teach the lesson Betty found to her
amazement that it was interesting. She spoke of God in much the same
familiar way that "Ma" had done, only with a gentler refinement, and
made the girls very sure that whatever anybody else believed, Mrs.
Thornley was a very intimate friend of Jesus Christ. Betty loved her at
once, but so shy was she that the minister's wife never dreamed it, and
remarked to her husband Sunday night after church, when they were having
their little, quiet Sabbath talk together, that she was afraid she was
going to have a hard time winning that little new girl that had come to
live with Mrs. Carson.

"Somehow I can't get away from the thought that she comes from
aristocracy somewhere," she added. "It's the way she turns her head, or
lifts her eyes or the quiet assurance with which she answers. And she
smiles, Charles, never grins like the rest. She is delicious, but
somehow I find myself wondering if I have remembered to black my shoes
and whether my hat is on straight, when she looks at me."

"Well, maybe she's the daughter of some black sheep who has gone down a
peg, and our Father has sent her here for you to help her back again,"
said her husband with an adorable look at his helper. "If anyone can do
it you can."

"I'm not so sure," she said, shaking her head. "She maybe doesn't need
me. She has Mrs. Carson, remember, and she is a host in herself. If
anybody can lead her to Christ she can, plain as she is."

"Undoubtedly you were meant to help, too, dear, or she would not have
been sent to you."

His wife smiled brilliantly a look of thorough understanding: "Oh, I
know. I'm not going to shirk any but I wish I knew more about her. She
is so sad and quiet, I can't seem to get at her."

Even at that moment Betty lay in her little cot bed under the roof
thinking about the minister's wife and what she had said about Christ
being always near, ready to show what to do, if one had the listening
heart and the ready spirit. Would Christ tell her what to do, she
wondered, now right here, if she were to ask him? Would He show her
whether to stay in this place or seek further to hide herself from the
world? Would He show her how to earn her living and make her life right
and sweet as it ought to be.

Then she closed her eyes and whispered softly under the sheltering
bedclothes, "O Christ, if you are here, please show me somehow and teach
me to understand."



CHAPTER IX


WHEN Betty had been in Tinsdale about a month it was discovered that she
could play the piano. It happened on a rainy Sunday in Sunday school,
and the regular pianist was late. The superintendent looked about
helplessly and asked if there was anybody present who could play,
although he knew the musical ability of everybody in the village. The
minister's wife had already pleaded a cut finger which was well wrapped
up in a bandage, and he was about to ask some one to start the tune
without the piano when Mrs. Thornton leaned over with a sudden
inspiration to Betty and asked:

"My dear, you couldn't play for us, could you?"

Betty smiled assent, and without any ado went to the instrument, not
realizing until after she had done so that it would have been better
policy for her to have remained as much in the background as possible,
and not to have shown any accomplishments lest people should suspect her
position. However, she was too new at acting a part to always think of
these little things, and she played the hymns so well that they gathered
about her after the hour was over and openly rejoiced that there was
another pianist in town. The leader of Christian Endeavor asked her to
play in their meeting sometimes, and Betty found herself quite popular.
The tallest girl in their class, who had not noticed her before, smiled
at her and patronized her after she came back from playing the first
hymn, and asked her where she learned to play so well.

"Oh, I used to take lessons before my father died," she said, realizing
that she must be careful.

Emily and Bob came home in high feather and told their mother, who had
not been able to get out that morning, and she beamed on Betty with as
warm a smile as if she had been her own daughter:

"Now, ain't that great!" she said, and her voice sounded boyish just
like Jane's. "Why, we'll have to get a pianna. I heard you could get 'em
cheap in the cities sometimes--old-fashioned ones, you know. I heard
they have so many old-fashioned ones that they have to burn 'em to get
rid of 'em, and they even give 'em away sometimes. I wonder, could we
find out and get hold of one?"

"I guess 'twould cost too much to get it here," said Bob practically.
"My! I wisht we had one. Say, Lizzie, 'f we had a pianna would you show
me how to read notes?"

"Of course," said Betty.

"Well, we'll get one somehow! We always do when we need anything
awfully. Look at the bathtub! Good-night! I'm goin' to earn one myself!"
declared Bob.

"Mrs. Crosby's gotta get a new one. P'raps she'll sell us her old one
cheap."

That was the way the music idea started, and nothing else was talked of
at the table for days but how to get a piano. Then one day Emily came
rushing home from school all out of breath, her eyes as bright as stars,
and her cheeks like roses. "Mrs. Barlow came to our school to-day and
talked to the teacher, and I heard her say she was going away for the
winter. She's going to store her goods in the Service Company barn, but
she wants to get somebody to take care of her piano. I stepped right up
and told her my mother was looking for a piano, and we'd be real careful
of it, and she's just delighted; and--it's coming to-morrow morning at
nine o'clock! The man's going to bring it!"

She gasped it out so incoherently that they had to make her tell it over
twice to get any sense out of it; but when Bob finally understood he
caught his little sister in his arms and hugged her with a big smacking
kiss:

"You sure are a little peach, Em'ly!" he shouted. "You're a pippin of
the pippins! I didn't know you had that much nerve, you kid, you! I sure
am proud of you! My! Think of havin' a pianna! Say, Betty, I can play
the base of chopsticks now!"

The next evening when Betty got home from the Hathaways there was the
piano standing in the big space opposite the windows in the dining-room.
Ma had elected to have it there rather than in the front room, because
it might often be too cold in the front room for the children to
practice, and besides it wouldn't be good for the piano. So the piano
became a beloved member of the family, and Betty began to give
instructions in music, wondering at herself that she knew how, for her
own music had been most desultory, and nobody had ever cared whether she
practiced or not. She had been allowed to ramble among the great masters
for the most part unconducted, with the meagerest technique, and her own
interpretation. She could read well and her sense of time and rhythm
were natural, else she would have made worse work of it than she did.
But she forthwith set herself to practicing, realizing that it might yet
stand her in good stead since she had to earn her living.

Little Emily and Bob stood one on either side and watched her as she
played, with wondering admiration, and when Betty went to help their
mother Bob would sit down and try to imitate what she had done. Failing,
he would fall headlong into the inevitable chopsticks, beating it out
with the air of a master.

It was the piano that brought to Betty's realization the first real
meaning of the Sabbath day. Bob came down early and went at the piano as
usual banging out chopsticks, and a one-fingered arrangement of "The
Long, Long Trail," while his mother was getting breakfast. Betty was
making the coffee, proud of the fact that she had learned how. But Bob
had accomplished only a brief hint of his regular program when the music
stopped suddenly and Betty glanced through the kitchen door to see Ma
standing with her hand on her son's shoulder and a look on her face she
had not seen before: It was quite gentle, but it was decided:

"No, Bob! We won't have that kinda music on Sunday," she said. "This is
God's day, an' we'll have all we can rightly do to keep it holy without
luggin' in week-day music to make us forget it. You just get t' work an'
learn 'Safely Through Another Week,' an' if you can't play it right you
get Lizzie to teach you."

Bob pouted:

"There ain't nothin' wrong with chopsticks, Ma. 'Tain't got words to
it."

"Don't make any diffrence. It b'longs to weekdays an' fun, an' anyhow it
makes you think of other things, an' you can't keep your mind on God.
That's what Sunday was made fer, to kinda tone us up to God, so's we
won't get so far away in the week that we won't be any kind of ready for
heaven some time. An' anyhow, 'tisn't seemly. You better go learn your
Golden Text, Bob. The minister'll be disappointed if you don't have it
fine."

Betty stood by the window thoughtfully looking out. Was that what Sunday
was made for, or was it only a quaint idea of this original woman? She
wished she knew. Perhaps some time she would know the minister's wife
well enough to ask. She would have liked to ask Ma more about it, but
somehow felt shy. But Ma herself was started now, and when she came back
to the kitchen, as if she felt some explanation was due the new inmate
of the family, she said:

"I don't know how you feel about it. I know city folks don't always hold
to the old ways. But it always seemed to me God meant us to stick to
Sunday, and make it diff'rent from other days. I never would let my
children go visitin', nor play ball an' we always tried to have
something good for supper fixed the night before. I heard somebody say a
long time ago that it says somewhere in the Bible that Sunday was meant
to be a sign forever between God and folks. The ones that keeps it are
his'n, an' them as don't aren't. Anyhow, that's the only day we have got
to kinda find out what's wanted of us. You wouldn't mind just playin'
hymns and Sunday things t'day, would you?"

"Oh, no," said Betty, interested. "I like it. It sounds so kind of safe,
and as if God cared. I never thought much about it before. You think God
really thinks about us and knows what we're doing then, don't you?"

"Why, sure, child. I don't just think, I _know_ He does. Hadn't you
never got onto that? Why, you poor little ducky, you! O' course He
does."

"I'd like to feel sure that He was looking out for me," breathed Betty
wistfully.

"Well, you can!" said Ma, hurrying back to see that her bacon didn't
burn. "It's easy as rollin' off a log."

"What would I have to do?"

"Why, just b'lieve."

"Believe?" asked Betty utterly puzzled. "Believe what?"

"Why, believe that He'll do it. He said 'Come unto me, an' I will give
you rest,' an' He said, 'Cast your burden on the Lord,' an' He said
'Castin' all yer care 'pon Him, fer He careth fer you,' an' a whole lot
more such things, an' you just got to take it fer straight, an' act on
it."

"But how could I?" asked Betty.

"Just run right up to your room now, while you're feelin' that way, an'
kneel down by your bed an' tell Him what you just told me," said Mrs.
Carson, stirring the fried potatoes with her knife to keep them from
burning. "It won't take you long, an' I'll tend the coffee. Just you
tell Him you want Him to take care of you, an' you'll believe what I
told you He said. It's all in the Bible, an' you can read it for
yourself, but I wouldn't take the time now. Just run along an' speak it
out with Him, and, then come down to breakfast."

Betty was standing by the kitchen door, her hand on her heart, as if
about to do some great wonderful thing that frightened her:

"But, Mrs. Carson, suppose, maybe, He might not be pleased with me.
Suppose I've done something that He doesn't like, something that makes
Him ashamed of me."

"Oh, why, didn't you know He fixed for all that when He sent His Son to
be the Saviour of the world? We all do wrong things, an' everybody has
sinned. But ef we're rightly sorry, He'll fergive us, and make us His
children."

Betty suddenly sat down in a chair near the door:

"But, Mrs. Carson, I'm not sure I _am_ sorry--at least I know I'm _not_.
I'm afraid I'd do it all over again if I got in the same situation."

Mrs. Carson stood back from the stove and surveyed her thoughtfully a
moment:

"Well, then, like's not it wasn't wrong at all, and if it wasn't He
ain't displeased. You can bank on that. You better go talk it out to
Him. Just get it off your mind. I'll hold up breakfast a minute while
you roll it on Him and depend on it he'll show you in plenty of time for
the next move."

Betty with her cheeks very red and her eyes shining went up to her
little cot, and with locked door knelt and tried to talk to God for the
first time in her life. It seemed queer to her, but when she arose and
hurried back to her duties she had a sense of having a real Friend who
knew all about her and could look after things a great deal better than
she could.

That night she went with Bob and Emily to the young people's meeting and
heard them talk about Christ familiarly as if they knew Him. It was all
strange and new and wonderful to Betty, and she sat listening and
wondering. The old question of whether she was pleasing her earthly
father was merging itself into the desire to please her Heavenly Father.

There were of course many hard and unpleasant things about her new life.
There were so many things to learn, and she was so awkward at work of
all kinds! Her hands seemed so small and inadequate when she tried to
wring clothes or scrub a dirty step. Then, too, her young charge, Elise
Hathaway, was spoiled and hard to please, and she was daily tried by the
necessity of inventing ways of discipline for the poor little neglected
girl which yet would not bring down a protest from her even more
undisciplined mother. If she had been independent she would not have
remained with Mrs. Hathaway, for sometimes the child was unbearable in
her naughty tantrums, and it took all her nerve and strength to control
her. She would come back to the little gray house too weary even to
smile, and the keen eye of Ma would look at her wisely and wonder if
something ought not to be done about it.

Betty felt that she must keep this place, of course, because it was
necessary for her to be able to pay some board. She could not be
beholden to the Carsons. And they had been so kind, and were teaching
her so many things, that it seemed the best and safest place she could
be in. So the days settled down into weeks, and a pleasant life grew up
about her, so different from the old one that more and more the
hallucination was with her that she had become another creature, and the
old life had gone out forever.

Of course as striking-looking a girl as Betty could not enter into the
life of a little town even as humbly as through the Carson home, without
causing some comment and speculation. People began to notice her. The
church ladies looked after her and remarked on her hair, her complexion,
and her graceful carriage, and some shook their heads and said they
should think Mrs. Hathaway would want to know a little more about her
before she put her only child in her entire charge; and they told weird
stories about girls they had known or heard of.

Down at the fire-house, which was the real clearing-house of Tinsdale
for all the gossip that came along and went the rounds, they took up the
matter in full session several evenings in succession. Some of the
younger members made crude remarks about Betty's looks, and some of the
older ones allowed that she was entirely too pretty to be without a
history. They took great liberties with their surmises. The only two,
the youngest of them all, who might have defended her, had been
unconsciously snubbed by her when they tried to be what Bobbie called
"fresh" with her, and so she was at their mercy. But if she had known it
she probably would have been little disturbed. They seemed so far
removed from her two worlds, so utterly apart from herself. It would not
have occurred to her that they could do her any harm.

One night the fire-house gang had all assembled save one, a little
shrimp of a good-for-nothing, nearly hairless, toothless, cunning-eyed,
and given to drink when he could lay lips on any. He had a wide loose
mouth with a tendency to droop crookedly, and his hands were always
clammy and limp. He ordinarily sat tilted back against the wall to the
right of the engine, sucking an old clay pipe. He had a way of often
turning the conversation to imply some deep mystery known only to
himself behind the life of almost any one discussed. He often added
choice embellishments to whatever tale went forth as authentic to go the
rounds of the village, and he acted the part of a collector of themes
and details for the evening conversations.

His name was Abijah Gage.

"Bi not come yet?" asked the fire chief settling a straw comfortably
between his teeth and looking around on the group. "Must be somepin'
doin'. Don't know when Bi's been away."

"He went up to town this mornin' early," volunteered Dunc Withers.
"Reckon he was thirsty. Guess he'll be back on the evenin' train. That's
her comin' in now."

"Bars all closed in the city," chuckled the chief. "Won't get much
comfort there."

"You bet Bi knows some place to get it. He won't come home thirsty,
that's sure."

"I donno, they say the lid's down pretty tight."

"Aw, shucks!" sneered Dunc. "Bet I could get all I wanted."

Just then the door opened and Abijah Gage walked in, with a toothless
grin all around.

"Hello, Bi, get tanked up, did yeh?" greeted the chief.

"Well, naow, an' ef I did, what's that to you?" responded Bi, slapping
the chief's broad shoulder with a folded newspaper he carried. "You
don't 'spose I'm goin' to tell, an' get my frien's in trouble?"

"Le's see yer paper, Bi," said Dunc, snatching at it as Bi passed to his
regular seat.

Bi surrendered his paper with the air of one granting a high favor and
sank to his chair and his pipe.

"How's crops in the city?" asked Hank Fielder, and Bi's tale was set
a-going. Bi could talk; that was one thing that always made him welcome.

Dunc was deep in the paper. Presently he turned it over:

"Whew!" he said speculatively. "If that don't look like that little
lollypop over to Carson's I'll eat my hat! What's her name?"

They all drew around the paper and leaned over Dunc's shoulder squinting
at the picture, all but Bi, who was lighting his pipe:

"They're as like as two peas!" said one.

"It sure must be her sister!" declared another.

"Don't see no resemblance 'tall," declared the chief, flinging back to
his comfortable chair. "She's got short hair, an she's only a kid. This
one's growed up!"

"She might a cut her hair," suggested one.

Bi pricked up his ears, narrowed his cunning eyes, and slouched over to
the paper, looking at the picture keenly:

"Read it out, Dunc!" he commanded.

"Five thousand dollars reward for information concerning Elizabeth
Stanhope!"

There followed a description in detail of her size, height, coloring,
etc.

An inscrutable look overspread Bi's face and hid the cunning in his
eyes. He slouched to his seat during the reading and tilted back
comfortably smoking, but he narrowed his eyes to a slit and spoke little
during the remainder of the evening. They discussed the picture and the
possibility of the girl in the paper being a relative of the girl at
Carson's, but as Bi did not come forward with information the subject
languished. Some one said he had heard the Carson kid call her Lizzie,
he thought, but he wasn't sure. Ordinarily Bi would have known the full
name, but Bi seemed to be dozing, and so the matter was finally dropped.
But the hounds were out and on the scent, and it was well for Betty
sleeping quietly in her little cot beneath the roof of the humble Carson
home, that she had committed her all to her heavenly Father before she
slept.



CHAPTER X


"WELL, he gave me notice t'day," said James Ryan sadly as Jane and he
rounded the corner from her boarding-house and turned toward their
favorite movie theater. "I been expectin' it, an' now it's come!"

Jane stopped short on the sidewalk appalled:

"He gave you notice!" she exclaimed, as if she could not believe it was
true. "Now, Jimmie! You don't mean it? Did he find any fault? He'd
better not! B'leeve me, if he did he gets a piece of _my_ mind, even if
I am a poor workin' girl!"

"Oh, no, he didn't find any fault," said Jimmie cheerfully. "He was
awful nice! He said he'd recommend me away up high. He's gonta give me
time every day to hunt a new place, an' he's gonta recommend me to some
of his rich friends."

"But what's the matter of him keepin' you? Did you ast him that?"

"Oh, he told me right out that things wasn't working the way he hoped
when he started; the war and all had upset his prospects, and he
couldn't afford to keep me. He's gonta take an office way down town and
do his own letters. He says if he ever succeeds in business and I'm free
to come to him he'll take me back. Oh, he's pleased with me all right!
He's a peach! He certainly is."

"Jimmie, what d'you tell him?"

"Tell him? There wasn't much for me to tell him, only I was sorry, and I
thanked him, and I told him I was gonta stick by him as long as I didn't
have a place. Of course I can't live on air, but seeing he's willing I
should go out and hunt a place every day, why I ain't that mean that I
can't write a few letters for him now and then. He don't have that many,
and it keeps me in practice. I s'pose I've got to get another place but
I haven't tried yet. I can't somehow bring myself to give him up. I kind
of wanted to stick in my first place a long time. It doesn't look well
to be changing."

"Well, if it ain't your fault, you know, when you can't help it,"
advised Jane.

They were seated in the theater by this time, and the screen claimed
their attention. It was just at the end of the funny reel, and both
forgot more serious matters in following the adventures of a dog and a
bear who were chasing each other through endless halls and rooms, to say
nothing of bathtubs, and wash boilers, and dining tables, and anything
that came in their way, with a shock to the people who happened to be
around when they passed. But suddenly the film ended and the
announcements for the next week began to flash on the screen.

"We must go to that, sure!" said Jimmie, nudging Jane, as the Mary
Pickford announcement was put on.

Then immediately afterward came the photograph of a beautiful girl, and
underneath in great letters:

          FIVE THOUSAND DOLLARS' REWARD FOR ACCURATE
            INFORMATION AS TO THE PRESENT WHEREABOUTS
                  OF ELIZABETH STANHOPE

There followed further particulars and an address and the showing stayed
on the screen for a full minute.

Jane sat gripping the arms of the seat and trying to still the wild
excitement that possessed her, while her eyes looked straight into the
eyes of the little bride whom she had helped to escape on the night of
her wedding.

Jimmie took out his pencil and wrote down the address in shorthand, but
Jane did not notice. She was busy thinking what she ought to do.

"What do you s'pose they want her for?" she asked in a breathless
whisper, as a new feature film began to dawn on the screen.

"Oh, she's mebbe eloped," said the wise young man, "or there might be
some trouble about property. There mostly is."

Jane said no more, and the pictures began again, but her mind was not
following them. She was very quiet on the way home, and when Jimmie
asked her if she had a grouch on she shivered and said, no, she guessed
she was tired. Then she suddenly asked him what time he was going out to
hunt for another job. He told her he couldn't be sure. He would call her
up about noon and let her know. Could she manage to get out a while and
meet him? She wasn't sure either, but would see when he called her up.
And so they parted for the night.

The next morning when Reyburn entered his office Jimmie was already
seated at his typewriter. On Reyburn's desk lay a neatly typed copy of
the announcement that had been put on the screen the night before.

"What's this, Ryan?" he questioned as he took his seat and drew the
paper toward him.

"Something I saw last night on the screen at the movies, sir. I thought
it might be of interest."

"Were you thinking of trying for the reward?" asked Reyburn with a
comical smile. "What is it, anyway?" And he began to read.

"Oh, no sir!" said Jimmie. "_I_ couldn't, of course; but I thought mebbe
_you'd_ be able to find out something about her and get all that money.
That would help you through until you got started in your own business."

"H'm! That's kind of you, Ryan," said the young lawyer, reading the
paper with a troubled frown. "I'm afraid it's hardly in my line,
however. I'm not a detective, you know." He laid the paper down and
looked thoughtfully out of the window.

"Oh, of course not, sir!" Jimmie hastened to apologize. "Only you know a
lot of society folks in the city, and I thought you might think of some
way of finding out where she is. I know it isn't up to what you ought to
be doing, sir, but it wouldn't do any harm. You could work it through
me, you know, and nobody need ever know 'twas you got the reward. I'd be
glad to help you out doing all I could, but of course it would take your
brains to get the information, sir. You see, it would be to my interest,
because then you could afford to keep me, and--I like you, Mr. Reyburn,
I certainly do. I would hate to leave you."

"Well, now, I appreciate that, Ryan. It's very thoughtful of you. I
scarcely think there would be any possibility of my finding out anything
about this girl, but I certainly appreciate your thoughtfulness. I'll
make a note of it, and if anything turns up I'll let you know. I don't
believe, however, that I would care to go after a reward even through
someone else. You know, I was at that wedding, Ryan!" His eyes were
dreamily watching the smoke from a distant funnel over the roof-tops in
line with his desk.

"You were!" said Jimmie, watching his employer with rapt admiration. He
had no higher ambition than to look like Warren Reyburn and have an
office of his own.

"Yes, I was there," said Reyburn again, but his tone was so far off that
Jimmie dared approach no nearer, and resumed the letter he was typing.

About noon Jimmie called up the factory while Reyburn was out to lunch
and told Jane that he expected to go out at two o'clock. Could she meet
him and walk a little way with him? Jane said no, she couldn't, but she
would try and see him the next day, then he could tell her how he had
"made out."

At exactly five minutes after two, Jane, having watched from a telephone
booth in a drug store until Jimmie went by, hurried up to Reyburn's
office and tapped on the door, her heart in her mouth lest he should be
occupied with some one else and not be able to see her before her few
minutes of leave which she had obtained from the factory should have
expired.

Reyburn himself opened the door to her, and treated her as if she had
been a lady every inch, handing her a chair and speaking quite as if she
were attired in sealskin and diamonds.

She looked him over with bright eyes of approval. Jane was a born
sentimentalist, fed on the movies. Not for anything would she have had a
knight rescue her lady fair who did not look the part. She was entirely
satisfied with this one. In fact, she was almost tongue-tied with
admiration for the moment.

Then she rallied to the speech she had prepared:

"Mr. Reyburn," she said, "I came to see you about a matter of very great
importance. I heard you was a great lawyer, and I've got a friend that's
in trouble. I thought mebbe you could do something about it. But first,
I want to ast you a question, an' I want you to consider it perfectly
confidential!"

Jane took great credit to herself that she had assembled all these words
and memorized them so perfectly.

"Certainly!" said Reyburn gravely, wondering what kind of a customer he
had now.

"I don't want you to think I can't pay for it," said Jane, laying down a
five-dollar bill grandly. "I know you can't afford to waste your
valuable time even to answer a question."

"Oh, that's all right," said Reyburn heartily. "Let me hear what the
question is first. There may be no charge."

"No," said Jane hastily, laying the bill firmly on the desk before him.
"I shan't feel right astin' unless I know it's to be paid for."

"Oh, very well," said Reyburn, taking the bill and laying it to one
side. "Now, what is the question?"

"Well, Mr. Reyburn, will you please tell me what would anybody want to
offer a reward, a big reward, like a thousand dollars--or several of
them,--for information about any one? Could you think of any reason?"

Reyburn started. Reward again! This was uncanny. Probably this girl had
been to the movies and seen the same picture that Ryan had told him
about. But he smiled gravely and answered, watching her quizzically the
while:

"Well, they might love the person that had disappeared," he suggested at
random.

"Oh, no!" said Jane decidedly. "They didn't! I know that fer a fac'!
What else could it be?"

"Well, they might have a responsibility!" he said thoughtfully.

"No chance!" said Jane scornfully.

"Couldn't they be anxious, don't you think?"

"Not so's you'd notice it."

"Well, there might be some property to be divided, perhaps."

"I'd thought of that," said Jane, her face growing practical. "It would
have to be a good deal of property to make them offer a big reward,
wouldn't it?"

"I should think so," answered Reyburn politely, watching her plain eager
face amusedly. He could not quite get at her idea in coming to him.

"Would her coming of age have anything to do with it?" put Jane,
referring to a much folded paper she carried in her hand, as if she had
a written catechism which she must go through.

"It might." Reyburn was growing interested. This queer visitor evidently
had thought something out, and was being very cautious.

"I really can't answer very definitely without knowing more of the
circumstances," he said with sudden alarm lest the girl might take some
random answer and let serious matters hinge on his word.

"Well, there's just one more," she said, looking down at her paper. "If
a man was trying to make a girl marry him when she just hated him, could
anybody make her do it, and would anybody have a right to put her in an
insane 'sylum or anythin' ef she wouldn't?"

"Why, no, of course not! Where did you ever get such a ridiculous idea?"
He sat up suddenly, annoyed beyond expression over disturbing
suggestions that seemed to rise like a bevy of black bats all around the
borders of his mind.

"See here," he said, sitting up very straight. "I really can't answer
any more blind questions. I've got to know what I'm talking about. Why,
I may be saying the most impossible things without knowing it."

"I know," said Jane, looking at him gravely. "I've thought of that, but
you've said just the things I thought you would. Well, say, if I tell
you about it can you promise on yer honor you won't ever breathe a word
of it? Not to nobody? Whether you take the case or not?"

"Why, certainly, you can trust me to look out for any confidence you may
put in me. If you can't I should prefer that you say nothing more."

"Oh, I c'n trust you all right," said Jane smiling. "I just mean, would
you be 'lowed to keep it under yer hat?"

"Would I be allowed? What do you mean?"

"I mean would the law let you? You wouldn't _have_ to go an' tell where
she was or nothin' an' give her away? You'd be 'lowed to keep it on the
q. t. an' take care of her?"

"You mean would it be right and honorable for me to protect my client?
Why, certainly."

"Well, I mean you wouldn't get into no trouble if you did."

"Of course not."

"Well, then I'll tell you."



CHAPTER XI


JANE opened a small shabby handbag, and took out a folded newspaper,
opening it up and spreading it on the desk before him. "There!" she
said, and then watched his face critically.

Reyburn looked, and found himself looking into Betty's eyes. Only a
newspaper cut, and poor at that, but wonderfully real and mournful, as
they had struck him when she lifted them for that swift glance before
she sank in the church aisle.

"Where did you get this?" he asked, his voice suddenly husky.

"Out o' the mornin' paper." Her tone was low and excited. "Were you
wanting to try for the reward?" Reyburn asked.

There was a covert sneer in the question from which the girl shrank
perceptibly. She sprang to her feet, her eyes flashing:

"If that's what you take me for, I better be goin'!" she snapped and
reached out her hand for the paper. But Reyburn's hand covered the
paper, and his tone was respectful and apologetic as he said:

"Excuse me, I didn't quite understand, I see. Sit down, please. You and
I must understand each other or there is no use in our talking. You can
trust me to keep this conversation entirely to myself, whatever the
outcome. Will you tell me what it is you want of me?"

Jane subsided into a chair, tears of excitement springing into her eyes.

"Well, you see, it's pretty serious business," she said, making a dab at
the corner of one eye. "I thought I could trust you, or I wouldn't a
come. But you gotta take me on trust, too."

"Of course," said Reyburn. "Now, what have you to do with this girl? Do
you know where she is?"

"I certainly do!" said Jane, "but I ain't a-goin' ta tell until you say
if there's anything you can do fer her. 'Cause you see, if you can't
find a way to help her, I've gotta do it myself, an' it might get you
into trouble somehow fer you to know what you ain't supposed to know."

"I see," said Reyburn, meekly. "Well, what are you going to tell me? Am
I allowed to ask that?"

Jane grinned.

"Say, you're kiddin' me! I guess you are all right. Well, I'll just tell
you all about it. One night last November,--you can see the date there
in the paper, I was goin' home to my boardin' house in Camac Street,
an' I was passin' the side of that church on 18th an' Spruce, where the
weddin' was--you know, fer you was there!"

Reyburn looked at her astonished.

"How did you know I was there?"

"I saw you through the window, over against the wall to the street side
of the altar," said Jane calmly.

"How did you know me?"

"Oh, somebody I know pointed you out once an' said you was goin' to be
one of the risin' lawyers of the day," she answered nonchalantly, her
face quite serious.

A flicker of amusement passed like a ray of light through his eyes, but
his face was entirely grave as he ignored the compliment.

"Go on!"

"I saw there was a weddin' an' I stopped to watch a minute, 'cause I
expect to get married myself some day, an' I wanted to see how they did
things. But I couldn't get near the door, an' the windows were all high
up. I could only see folks who were standing up like you were. So I
thought I'd go on. I turned the corner and went long-side the church
listenin' to the music, an' just as I passed a big iron gate at the
back end of the church somebody grabbed me an' begged me to help 'em. I
looked round, an' there was the bride, all in her white togs, with the
prettiest white satin slippers, in the wet an' mud! I tried to get her
line, but she cried out somebody was comin' back in the passageway, so I
slipped off my coat an' hat and whisked her into 'em an' clapped my
rubbers over her satin shoes, and we beat it round the corner. I took
her to my room, an' gave her some supper. She was all in. Then I put her
to bed, an' she told me a little bit about it. She didn't tell me much.
Only that they had been tryin' fer a long time back to make her marry a
man she hated, an' now they'd almost tricked her into it, an' she'd die
if she had to do it. She wanted to exchange clothes with me, cause, of
course, she couldn't get anywhere togged out that way, so we changed
things, an' I fixed her up. In the mornin' I ran out an' got a paper,
an' found they was sayin' she was temporary insane, an' stuff like that,
an' so I saw their game was tryin' to get her in a 'sylum till they
could make her do what they wanted. I fixed her up an' got her off to a
place I know where she'd be safe. An' she's got a job an' doin' real
well. But now they've got this here reward business out everywhere in
the papers an' the movies, she ain't safe nowhere. An' I want somebody
that's wiser'n me to take a holt an' do somethin'. I can't pay much, but
I'll pay a little every month as long's I live ef it takes that long to
pay yer bill, an' I have a notion she may have some money herself,
though she didn't say nothin' about it. But there's a ring she left with
me to sell, to pay fer what I gave her. It oughtta be worth somethin'.
It looks real. I ain't sold it. I couldn't. I thought she might want it
sometime----"

But Reyburn interrupted her excitedly.

"Do you mean to say that Miss Stanhope is in the city and you know where
she is?"

"Now, don't get excited," warned Jane coolly. "I didn't say she was in
this city, did I? I didn't say where she was, did I? I said she was
safe."

"But are you aware that you have told me a very strange story? What
proof can you give me that it is true?"

Jane looked at him indignantly.

"Say, I thought you was goin' to trust me? I have to trust you, don't I?
Course you don't know who I am, an' I haven't told you, but I've got a
good p'sition myself, an' I don't go round tellin' privarications! An'
there's the weddin' dress, an' veil and fixin's! I got them. You can see
'em if you like,--that is pervided I know what you're up to! I ain't
taking any chances till I see what you mean to do."

"I beg your pardon," said Reyburn, trying to smile assurance once more.
"You certainly must own this whole thing is enough to make anybody
doubt."

"Yes, it is," said Jane. "I was some upset myself, havin' a thing like
that happen to me, a real millionairess bride drop herself down on my
hands just like that, an' I 'spose it _is_ hard to b'lieve. But I can't
waste much more time now. I gotta get back to my job. Is there anything
can be done to keep 'em from gettin' her again?"

"I should most certainly think so," said Reyburn, "but I would have to
know her side of the story, the whole of it, before I could say just
what!"

"Well, s'pose you found there wasn't anythin' you could do to help her,
would you go an' tell on her?"

Reyburn leaned back in his chair and smiled at his unique client:

"I shall have to quote your own language. 'What do you take me for?'"

"A white man!" said Jane suddenly, and showed all her fine teeth in an
engaging smile. "Say, you're all right. Now, I gotta go. When will you
tell me what you can do?" She glanced anxiously at her little
leather-bound wrist watch. It was almost time for Jimmie to return.
Jimmie mustn't find her here. He wouldn't understand, and what Jimmie
didn't know wouldn't hurt him.

"Well, this ought to be attended to, at once, if anything is to be
done," he said eagerly. "Let me see. I have an engagement at five. How
would seven o'clock do? Could I call at your boarding-house? Would there
be any place where we could talk uninterrupted?"

"Sure," said Jane, rising. "I'll get my landlady to let me have her
settin' room fer an hour."

"Meantime, I'll think it over and try to plan something."

Jane started down the long flights of stairs, not daring to trust to the
elevator, lest she should come face to face with Jimmie and have to
explain.

Reyburn stood with his back to the room, his hands in his pockets,
frowning and looking out the window, when Jimmie entered a moment later.

"I hope I'm not late, sir?" he said anxiously, as he hung up his hat and
sat down at his typewriter. "I had to wait. The man was out."

"Oh, that's all right, Ryan," said his employer, obviously not listening
to his explanation. "I'm going out now, Ryan. I may not be back this
afternoon. Just see that everything is all right."

"Very well, sir."

Reyburn went out, then opened the door and put his head back in the
room.

"I may have to go out of town to-night, Ryan. I'm not sure. Something
has come up. If I'm not in to-morrow, could you--would you mind just
staying here all day and looking after things? I may need you. Of course
you'll lock up and leave the card out when you go to lunch."

"Very well, sir."

"I'll keep in touch with you in case I'm delayed," and Reyburn was off
again. When the elevator had clanked down to the next floor Jimmie went
to the window and looked dreamily out over the roofs of the city:

"Aw!" he breathed joyously. "Now I'll bet he's going to do something
about that reward!"

Reyburn hurried down the street to the office of an old friend where he
had a bit of business as an excuse, and asked a few casual questions
when he was done. Then he went on to a telephone booth and called up a
friend of his mother's, with whom he had a brief gossip, ostensibly to
give a message from his mother, contained in her last letter to him.
None of the questions that he asked were noticeable. He merely led the
conversation into certain grooves. The lady was an old resident and well
known in the higher social circles. She knew all there was to know about
everybody and she loved to tell it. She never dreamed that he had any
motive in leading her on.

He dropped into a bank and asked a few questions, called up an address
they gave him and made another inquiry, then dropped around to his
cousin's home for a few minutes, where he allowed her to tell all she
knew about the Stanhope wedding they had attended together, and the
different theories concerning the escaped bride. Quite casually he asked
if she knew whether the bride had property of her own, if so who were
her guardians. His cousin thought she knew a lot, but, sifting it down,
he discovered that it was nearly all hearsay or surmise.

When he reached Jane Carson's boarding house he found that young woman
ensconced in a tiny room, nine by twelve, a faded ingrain carpet on the
floor, a depressed looking bed lounge against the bleary wall-paper,
beneath crayon portraits of the landlady's dead husband and sons. There
was a rocking-chair, a trunk, a cane-seat chair, and an oil stove turned
up to smoking point in honor of the caller, but there was little room
left for the caller. On the top of the trunk reposed a large pasteboard
box securely tied.

Jane, after a shy greeting, untied the strings and opened the cover,
having first carefully slipped the bolt of the door.

"You can't be too careful," she said. "You never can tell."

Reyburn stood beside her and looked in a kind of awe at the glistening
white, recognized the thick texture of the satin, the rare quality of
the rose-point lace with which it was adorned, caught the faint
fragrance of faded orange blossoms wafting from the filmy mist of the
veil as Jane lifted it tenderly; then leaned over and touched a finger
to the pile of whiteness, reverently, as though he were paying a tribute
at a lovely shrine.

Jane even unwrapped the little slippers, one at a time, and folded them
away again, and they said no word until it was all tied back in its
papers, Reyburn assisting with the strings.

"Now, ef you don't mind waitin' a minute I guess it would be safer to
put it away now," she said as she slipped the bolt and ran upstairs.

She was back in a minute and sat down opposite to him, drawing out from
the neck of her blouse a ribbon with a heavy glittering circlet at its
end.

"Here's the ring." She laid it in his palm. He took it, wondering, a
kind of awe still upon him that he should be thus handling the intimate
belongings of that little unknown bride whom he had seen lying
unconscious in a strange church a few short months before. How strange
that all this should have come to him when many wiser, more nearly
related, were trying their best to get some clue to the mystery!

He lifted the ring toward the insufficient gas jet to make out the
initials inside, and copied them down in his note-book.

"Take good care of that. It is valuable," he said as he handed it back
to her.

"Mebbe I better give it to you," she half hesitated.

"You've taken pretty good care of it so far," he said. "I guess you've a
better right to it than I. Only don't let anybody know you've got it.
Now, I've been making inquiries, and I've found out a few things, but
I've about come to the conclusion that I can't do much without seeing
the lady. Do you suppose she would see me? Is she very far away?"

"When do you want to go?" asked Jane.

"At once," he answered decidedly. "There's no time to waste if she is
really in danger, as you think."

Jane's eyes glittered with satisfaction.

"There's a train at ten-thirty. You'll get there in the morning. I've
written it all down here on a paper so you can't make any mistakes. I've
written her a letter so she'll understand and tell you everythin'. I'll
wire Ma, too, so she'll let you see her. Ma might not size you up
right."

Reyburn wondered at the way he accepted his orders from this coolly
impudent girl, but he liked her in spite of himself.

In a few minutes more he was out in the street again, hurrying to his
own apartment, where he put together a few necessities in a bag and went
to the train.



CHAPTER XII


IT was one of those little ironies of fate that are spoken about so
much, that when Warren Reyburn alighted from the train in Tinsdale
Abijah Gage should be supporting one corner of the station, and
contributing a quid now and then to the accumulations of the week
scattered all about his feet.

He spotted the stranger at once and turned his cunning little eyes upon
him, making it obvious that he was bulging with information. It was,
therefore, quite natural, when Reyburn paused to take his bearings, that
Bi should speak up and inquire if he was looking for some one. Reyburn
shook his head and passed on, but Bi was not to be headed off so easily
as that. He shuffled after him:

"Say!" he said, pointing to a shackley horse and buckboard that stood
near, belonging to a pal over at the freight house. "Ef you want a lift
I'll take you along."

"Thank you, no," said Reyburn, smiling; "I'm not going far."

"Say!" said Bi again as he saw his quarry about to disappear. "You name
ain't Bains, is it?"

"No!" said Reyburn, quite annoyed by the persistent old fellow.

"From New York?" he hazarded cheerfully.

"No," answered Reyburn, turning to go. "You must excuse me. I'm in a
hurry."

"That's all right," said Bi contentedly. "I'll walk a piece with you. I
was lookin' fer a doctor to take down to see a sick child. A doctor from
New York. You ain't by any chance a doctor, are you?" Bi eyed the big
leather bag inquiringly.

"No," said Reyburn, laughing in spite of his annoyance. "I'm only a
lawyer." And with a bound he cleared the curb and hurried off down the
street, having now recognized the direction described in Jane's diagram
of Tinsdale.

Abijah Gage looked after him with twinkling eyes of dry mirth, and
slowly sauntered after him, watching him until he entered the little
unpainted gate of the Carson house and tapped at the old gray door. Then
Bi lunged across the street and entered a path that ran along the
railroad track for a few rods, curving suddenly into a stretch of vacant
lots. On a convenient fence rail with a good outlook toward the west end
of the village he ensconced himself and set about whittling a whistle
from some willow stalks. He waited until he saw Bobbie Carson hurry off
toward Hathaway's house and return with Lizzie Hope; waited hopefully
until the stranger finally came out of the house again, touching his hat
gracefully to the girl as she stood at the open door. Then he hurried
back to the station again, and was comfortably settled on a tub of
butter just arrived by freight, when Reyburn reached there. He was much
occupied with his whistle, and never seemed to notice, but not a
movement of the stranger escaped him, and when the Philadelphia express
came by, and the stranger got aboard the parlor car, old Bi Gage swung
his lumbering length up on the back platform of the last car. The hounds
were hot on the trail now.

It was several years since Bi Gage had been on so long a journey, but he
managed to enjoy the trip, and kept in pretty good touch with the parlor
car, although he was never in evidence. If anybody had told Warren
Reyburn as he let himself into his apartment late that night that he was
being followed, he would have laughed and told them it was an
impossibility. When he came out to the street the next morning and swung
himself into a car that would land him at his office, he did not see the
lank flabby figure of the toothless Bi standing just across the block,
and keeping tab on him from the back platform, nor notice that he slid
into the office building behind him and took the same elevator up,
crowding in behind two fat men and effacing himself against the wall of
the cage. Reyburn was reading his paper, and did not look up. The figure
slid out of the elevator after him and slithered into a shadow, watching
him, slipping softly after, until sure which door he took, then waited
silently until sure that the door was shut. No one heard the slouching
footsteps come down the marble hall. Bi Gage always wore rubbers when he
went anywhere in particular. He had them on that morning. He took
careful note of the name on the door: "_Warren Reyburn_,
Attorney-at-Law," and the number. Then he slid down the stairs as
unobserved as he had come, and made his way to a name and number on a
bit of paper from his pocket which he consulted in the shelter of a
doorway.

When Warren Reyburn started on his first trip to Tinsdale his mind was
filled with varying emotions. He had never been able to quite get away
from the impression made upon him by that little white bride lying so
still amid her bridal finery, and the glowering bridegroom above her. It
epitomized for him all the unhappy marriages of the world, and he felt
like starting out somehow in hot pursuit of that bridegroom and making
him answer for the sadness of his bride. Whenever the matter had been
brought to his memory he had always been conscious of the first gladness
he had felt when he knew she had escaped. It could not seem to him
anything but a happy escape, little as he knew about any of the people
who played the principal parts in the little tragedy he had witnessed.

Hour after hour as he sat in the train and tried to sleep or tried to
think he kept wondering at himself that he was going on this "wild goose
chase," as he called it in his innermost thoughts. Yet he knew he had to
go. In fact, he had known it from the moment James Ryan had shown him
the advertisement. Not that he had ever had any idea of trying for that
horrible reward. Simply that his soul had been stirred to its most
knightly depths to try somehow to protect her in her hiding. Of course,
it had been a mere crazy thought then, with no way of fulfilment, but
when the chance had offered of really finding her and asking if there
was anything she would like done, he knew from the instant it was
suggested that he was going to do it, even if he lost every other
business chance he ever had or expected to have, even if it took all his
time and every cent he could borrow. He knew he had to try to find that
girl! The thought that the only shelter between her and the great awful
world lay in the word of an untaught girl like Jane Carson filled him
with terror for her. If that was true, the sooner some one of
responsibility and sense got to her the better. The questions he had
asked of various people that afternoon had revealed more than he had
already guessed of the character of the bridegroom to whom he had taken
such a strong dislike on first sight.

Thus he argued the long night through between the fitful naps he caught
when he was not wondering if he should find her, and whether he would
know her from that one brief sight of her in church. How did he know but
this was some game put up on him to get him into a mix-up? He must go
cautiously, and on no account do anything rash or make any promises
until he had first found out all about her.

When morning dawned he was in a state of perturbation quite unusual for
the son and grandson of renowned lawyers noted for their calmness and
poise under all circumstances. This perhaps was why the little incident
with Abijah Gage at the station annoyed him so extremely. He felt he was
doing a questionable thing in taking this journey at all. He certainly
did not intend to reveal his identity or business to this curious old
man.

The little gray house looked exactly as Jane had described it, and as he
opened the gate and heard the rusty chain that held it clank he had a
sense of having been there before.

He was pleasantly surprised, however, when the door was opened by Emily,
who smiled at him out of shy blue eyes, and stood waiting to see what he
wanted. It was like expecting a viper and finding a flower. Somehow he
had not anticipated anything flower-like in Jane's family. The mother,
too, was a surprise when she came from her ironing, and, pushing her
wavy gray hair back from a furrowed brow lifted intelligent eyes that
reminded him of Jane, to search his face. Ma did not appear flustered.
She seemed to be taking account of him and deciding whether or not she
would be cordial to him.

"Yes, I had a telegram from Jane this morning," she was scanning his
eyes once more to see whether there was a shadow of what she called
"shiftiness" in them. "Come in," she added grudgingly.

He was not led into the dining-room, but seated on one of the best
varnished chairs in the "parlor," as they called the little unused front
room. He felt strangely ill at ease and began to be convinced that he
was on the very wildest of wild goose chases. To think of expecting to
find Elizabeth Stanhope in a place like this! If she ever had been here
she certainly must have flown faster than she had from the church on her
wedding night.

So, instead of beginning as he had planned, to put a list of logically
prepared keen questions to a floundering and suspecting victim, he found
the clear eyes of Ma looking into his unwaveringly and the wise tongue
of Ma putting him through a regular orgy of catechism before she would
so much as admit that she had ever heard of a girl named Lizzie Hope.
Then he bethought him of her daughter's letter and handed it over for
her to read.

"Well," she admitted at last, half satisfied, "she isn't here at
present. I sent her away when I found you was comin'. I wasn't sure I'd
let you see her at all if I didn't like your looks."

"That's right, Mrs. Carson," he said heartily, with real admiration in
his voice. "I'm glad she has some one so careful to look out for her.
Your daughter said she was in a good safe place, and I begin to see she
knew what she was talking about."

Then the strong look around Ma's lips settled into the sweeter one, and
she sent Bob after the girl.

"Are you a friend of hers?" she asked, watching him keenly.

"No," said Reyburn. "I've never seen her but once. She doesn't know me
at all."

"Are you a friend of her--family?"

"Oh, no!"

"Or any of her friends or relations?" Ma meant to be comprehensive.

"No. I'm sorry I am not. I am a rather recent comer to the city where
she made her home, I understand."

Ma looked at him thoughtfully for a moment. It wouldn't have been called
a stare, it was too kindly for that, but Reyburn thought to himself that
he would not have liked to have borne her scrutiny if he had anything to
conceal, for he felt as if she might read the truth in his eyes.

"Are you--please excuse me for askin'--but are you a member of any
church?"

Reyburn flushed, and wanted to laugh, but was embarrassed in spite of
himself:

"Why, yes--I'm a member," he said slowly, then with a frank lifting of
his eyes to her troubled gaze, "I united with the church when I was a
mere kid, but I'm afraid I'm not much of a member. I really am not what
you'd call 'working' at it much nowadays. I go to morning service
sometimes, but that's about all. I don't want to be a hypocrite."

He wondered as he spoke why he took the trouble to answer the woman so
fully. Her question was in a way impertinent, much like the way her
daughter talked. Yet she seemed wholly unconscious of it.

"I know," she assented sorrowfully. "There's lots of them in the church.
We have 'em, too, even in our little village. But still, after all, you
can't help havin' confidence more in them that has 'named the name' than
in them that has not."

Reyburn looked at her curiously and felt a sudden infusion of respect
for her. She was putting the test of her faith to him, and he knew by
the little stifled sigh that he had been found wanting.

"I s'pose lawyers don't have much time to think about being Christians,"
she apologized for him.

He felt impelled to be frank with her:

"I'm afraid I can't urge that excuse. Unfortunately I have a good deal
of time on my hands now. I've just opened my office and I'm waiting for
clients."

"Where were you before that? You did not just get through studying?"

He saw she was wondering whether he was wise enough to help her protege.

"No, I spent the last three years in France."

"Up at the front?" The pupils of her eyes dilated eagerly.

"Yes, in every drive," he answered, wondering that a woman of this sort
should be so interested now that the war was over.

"And you came back safe!" she said slowly, looking at him with a kind of
wistful sorrow in her eyes. "My boy was shot the first day he went over
the top."

"Oh, I'm sorry," said Reyburn gently, a sudden tightness in his throat.

"But it was all right." She flashed a dazzling smile at him through the
tears that came into her eyes. "It wasn't as if he wasn't ready. Johnny
was always a good boy, an' he joined church when he was fourteen, an'
always kep' his promises. He used to pray every night just as faithful,
an' read his Bible. I've got the little Testament he carried all
through. His chaplain sent it to me. It's got a bullet hole through it,
and blood-marks, but it's good to me to look at, 'cause I know Johnny's
with his Saviour. He wasn't afraid to die. He said to me before he left,
he says: 'Ma, if anythin' happens to me it's all right. You know, Ma, I
ain't forgettin' what you taught me, an' I ain't forgettin' Christ is
with me.'"

Mrs. Carson wiped her eyes furtively, and tried to look cheerful.
Reyburn wished he knew how to comfort her.

"It makes a man feel mean," he said at last, trying to fit his toe into
the pattern of the ingrain carpet, "to come home alive and whole when so
many poor fellows had to give their lives. I've often wondered how I
happened to get through."

She looked at him tenderly:

"Perhaps your Heavenly Father brought you back to give you more chance
to do things for Him, an' get ready to die when your time comes."

There was something startling to this self-composed city chap in hearing
a thing like this from the lips of the mother whose beloved son was gone
forever beyond her teaching but had "been ready." Reyburn looked at her
steadily, soberly, and then with a queer constriction in his throat he
looked down at the floor thoughtfully and said:

"Perhaps He did."

"Well, I can't help bein' glad you're a church member, anyhow," said
Mrs. Carson, rising to look out of the window. "She needs a Christian to
help her, an' I'd sooner trust a Christian. If you really meant it when
you joined church you've got somethin' to fall back on anyhow. Here she
comes. I'll just go an' tell her you're in here."



CHAPTER XIII


BETTY, her eyes wide with fear, her face white as a lily, appeared like
a wraith at the parlor door and looked at him. It gave Reyburn a queer
sensation, as if a picture one had been looking at in a story book
should suddenly become alive and move and stare at one. As he rose and
came forward he still seemed to see like a dissolving view between them
the little huddled bride on the floor of the church. Then he suddenly
realized that she was trembling.

"Please don't be afraid of me, Miss Stanhope," he said gently. "I have
only come to help you, and if after you have talked with me you feel
that you would rather I should have nothing to do with your affairs I
will go away and no one in the world shall be the wiser for it. I give
you my word of honor."

"Oh!" said Betty, toppling into a chair near by. "I--guess--I'm not
afraid of you. I just didn't know who you might be----!" She stopped,
caught her breath and tried to laugh, but it ended sorrily, almost in a
sob.

"Well, I don't wonder," said Reyburn, trying to find something
reassuring to say. "The truth is, I was rather upset about you. I
didn't quite know who you might turn out to be, you see!"

"Oh!" Betty's hand slipped up to her throat, and her lips quivered as
she tried to smile.

"Please don't feel that way," he said, "or I'll go away at once." He was
summoning all his courage and hoping she wasn't going to break down and
cry. How little she was, and sweet! Her eyes pleaded, just as they did
in that one look in the church. How could anybody be unkind to her?

"I'm quite all right," said Betty with a forced smile, siting up very
straight.

"Perhaps I'd better introduce myself," he said, trying to speak in a
very commonplace tone. "I'm just a lawyer that your friend Miss Jane
Carson sent out to see if I could be of any service to you. It may
possibly make things a little easier for you if I explain that while I
never had heard of you before, and have no possible connection with your
family or friends, I happened to be at your wedding!"

"Oh!" said Betty with a little agonized breath.

"Do you know Mrs. Bryce Cochrane?" he asked.

Betty could not have got any whiter, but her eyes seemed to blanch a
trifle.

"A little," she said in a very small voice.

"Well, she is my cousin."

"Oh!" said Betty again.

"Her husband was unable to accompany her to the wedding, and so I went
in his place to escort Isabel. I knew nothing of your affairs either
before or after the wedding, until this announcement was brought to my
notice, and Miss Carson called on me."

Betty took the paper in her trembling fingers, and looked into her own
pictured eyes. Then everything seemed to swim before her for a moment.
She pressed her hand against her throat and set her white lips firmly,
looking up at the stranger with a sudden terror and comprehension.

"You want to get that five thousand dollars!" she said, speaking the
words in a daze of trouble. "Oh, I haven't got five thousand dollars!
Not now! But perhaps I could manage to get it if you would be good
enough to wait just a little, till I can find a way. Oh, if you knew
what it means to me!"

Warren Reyburn sprang to his feet in horror, a flame of anger leaping
into his eyes.

"Five thousand dollars be hanged!" he said fiercely. "Do I look like
that kind of a fellow? It may seem awfully queer to you for an utter
stranger to be butting into your affairs like this unless I did have
some ulterior motive, but I swear to you that I have none. I came out
here solely because I saw that you were in great likelihood of being
found by the people from whom you had evidently run away. Miss Stanhope,
I stood where I could watch your face when you came up the aisle at your
wedding, and something in your eyes just before you dropped made me wish
I could knock that bridegroom down and take care of you somehow until
you got that hurt look out of your face. I know it was rather ridiculous
for an utter stranger to presume so far, but when I saw that the sleuths
were out after you, and when the knowledge of your whereabouts was put
into my hands without the seeking, I wouldn't have been a man if I
hadn't come and offered my services. I'm not a very great lawyer, nor
even a very rising one, as your Miss Carson seems to think, but I'm a
man with a soul to protect a woman who is in danger, and if that's you,
I'm at your service. If not, you've only to say so and I'll take the
next train home and keep my mouth shut!"

He took his watch out and looked at it hastily, although he had not the
slightest idea what it registered, nor what time the next train for home
left. He looked very tall and strong and commanding as he stood in his
dignity waiting for her answer, and Betty looked up like a little child
and trusted him.

"Oh! Please forgive me!" she cried. "I've been so frightened ever since
Bob came after me. I couldn't think you had come for any good, because I
didn't know any one in the world who would want to help me."

"Certainly!" said Warren Reyburn with a lump in his throat, sitting down
quickly to hide his emotion. "Please consider me a friend, and command
me."

"Thank you," said Betty taking a deep breath and trying to crowd back
the tears. "I'm afraid there isn't any way to help me, but I'm glad to
have a friend, and I'm sorry I was so rude."

"You weren't rude, and that was a perfectly natural conclusion from my
blundering beginning," he protested, looking at the adorable waves of
hair that framed her soft cheeks. "But there is always a way to help
people when they are in trouble, and I'm here to find out what it is. Do
you think you could trust me enough to tell me what it's all about? Miss
Carson didn't seem to know much or else she didn't feel free to say."

"I didn't tell her much," said Betty, lifting her sea-blue eyes. "She
was a stranger, too, you know."

"Well, she's a mighty good friend of yours, I'll say, and she's acted
in a very wise manner. She took more precautions than an old detective
would have done. She told me only that some one was trying to make you
marry a man you did not wish to marry. Is that correct?"

Betty shivered involuntarily and a wave of color went over her white
face.

"It sounds queer," she said, "as if I hadn't any character or force
myself, but you don't understand. No one would understand unless they
knew it all, and had been through it for years. At first I didn't quite
understand it myself. I'd better tell you the story. I thought I never
could tell any one, because they were my father's family, and I know he
would shrink so from having it known, but I'm sure he wouldn't blame me
now."

"He certainly would not blame you, Miss Stanhope. I have heard that your
father was a wonderful man, with high principles. I feel sure he would
justify you in appealing to some one who was willing to advise you in a
strait like this. You know no woman need ever marry any man against her
will."

"Not if it were her father's dying wish?"

"Certainly not. Miss Stanhope, did your father love you?"

"Oh, I'm sure he did. He was the most wonderful father! I've often
thought that he would never have asked it of me if he had realized----"

"Did he ever during his lifetime seem to wish you to be unhappy?"

"Never! That was the strange part of it. But you see he didn't know how
I felt. I think I'd better tell you all about it."

"That would be the better way, if it won't be too hard for you."

Betty clasped her small hands together tightly and began:

"My own mother died when I was quite a little girl, so father and I were
a great deal to each other. He used to look after my lessons himself,
and was always very careful what kind of teachers I had. He was mother
and father both to me. When I was ten years old my governess died
suddenly while father was away on a business trip, and one of our
neighbors was very kind to me, coming in and looking after the servants
and everything and keeping me over at her house for a few days till
father got back. She had a widowed sister visiting her, a rather young
woman who was very beautiful. At least I thought she was beautiful then,
and she made a great pet of me, so that I grew fond of her, although I
had not liked her at first.

"After father came home she used to slip over every day to see me while
he was at his business, and he was grateful to her for making me happy.
Then he found out that she was in trouble, had lost her money or
something, and wanted to get a position teaching. He arranged to have
her teach me, and so she came to our house to stay.

"Somehow after that I never seemed to see so much of my father as I used
to do, for she was always there, but at first I didn't care, because she
was nice to me, and always getting up things to keep me busy and happy.
She would make my father buy expensive toys and books and games for me,
and fine clothes, and so of course I was pleased. In about a year my
father married her, and at first it seemed very beautiful to me to have
a real mother, but little by little I began to see that she preferred to
be alone with my father and did not want me around so much. It was very
hard to give up the companionship of my father, but my stepmother kept
me busy with other things, so that I really didn't think much about it
while it was first happening.

"But one day there came a letter. I remember it came while we were at
breakfast, and my father got very white and stern when he read it, and
handed it over to my mother and asked whether it was true, and then she
began to cry and sent me from the table. I found out a few days after
that that my stepmother had two sons, both older than myself, and that
she had not told my father. It was through some trouble they had got
into at school which required quite a large sum of money to cover
damages that my father discovered it, and he was terribly hurt that she
should have concealed it from him. I learned all this from the servants,
who talked when they thought I was not within hearing. There were days
and days when my father scarcely spoke at the table, and when he looked
at me it made a pain go through my heart, he looked so stern and sad. My
stepmother stayed a great deal in her room and looked as if she had been
crying. But after a few weeks things settled down a good deal as they
had been, only that my father never lost that sad troubled look. There
was some trouble about my stepmother's sons, too, for there was a great
deal of argument between her and my father, of which I only heard
snatches, and then one day they came home to stay with us. Something had
happened at the school where they were that they could not stay any
longer. I can remember distinctly the first night they ate dinner with
us. It seemed to me that it was like a terrific thunderstorm that never
quite broke. Everybody was trying to be nice and polite, but underneath
it all there was a kind of lightning of all kinds of feelings, hurt
feelings and wrong ones and right ones all mixed up.

"Only the two boys didn't seem to feel it much. They sort of took things
for granted, as if that had always been their home, and they didn't act
very polite. It seemed to trouble my father, who looked at them so
severely that it almost choked me, and I couldn't go on eating my
dinner. He didn't seem like my dear father when he looked like that. I
always used to watch my father, and he seemed to make the day for me. If
he was sad, then I was sad; and if he was glad then I was happy all
over, until one day my stepmother noticed me and said: 'See, dear little
Elizabeth is trembling. You ought not to speak that way before her,
Charles.' And then father looked at me, and all suddenly I learned to
smile when I didn't feel like it. I smiled back to him just to let him
know it didn't matter what he did, I would love him anyhow!"

During the recital Reyburn had sat with courteous averted gaze as though
he would not trouble her with more of his presence than was absolutely
necessary. Now he gave her a swift glance.

Betty's eyes were off on distance, and she was talking from the depths
of her heart, great tears welling into her eyes. All at once she
remembered the stranger:

"I beg your pardon," she said, and brushed her hand across her eyes. "I
haven't gone over it to any one ever, and I forgot you would not be
interested in details."

"Please don't mind me. I am interested in every detail you are good
enough to give me. It all makes the background of the truth, you know,
and that is what I am after," said Reyburn, deeply touched. "I think you
are wonderful to tell me all this. I shall regard it most sacredly."

Betty flashed a look of gratitude at him, and noticed the sympathy in
his face. It almost unnerved her, but she went on:

"The oldest boy was named Bessemer, and he wasn't very good-looking. He
was very tall and awkward, and always falling over things. He had little
pale eyes, and hardly any chin. His teeth projected, too, and his hair
was light and very straight and thin. His mother didn't seem to love him
very much, even when he was a little boy. She bullied him and found
fault with him continually, and quite often I felt very sorry for him,
although I wasn't naturally attracted to him. He wasn't really
unpleasant to me. We got along very nicely, although I never had much to
do with him. There wasn't much to him.

"The other brother, Herbert, was handsome like his mother, only dark,
with black curly hair, black wicked eyes, and a big, loose, cruel mouth.
His mother just idolized him, and he knew it. He could make her do
anything on earth. He used to force Bessemer into doing wrong things,
too, things that he was afraid to do himself, because he knew father
would not be so hard on Bessemer as on him. For father had taken a great
dislike to Herbert, and it was no wonder. He seemed to have no idea at
all that he was not owner of the house. He took anything he pleased for
his own use, even father's most sacred possessions, and broke them in a
fit of anger, too, sometimes, without ever saying he was sorry. He
talked very disrespectfully of father and to him, and acted so to the
servants that they gave notice and left. Every few days there would be a
terrible time over something Herbert had done. Once I remember he went
to the safe and got some money out that belonged to father and went off
and spent it in some dreadful way that made father very angry. Of course
I was still only a little girl, and I did not know all that went on.
Father was very careful that I should not know. He guarded me more than
ever, but he always looked sad when he came to kiss me good-night.

"Herbert took especial delight in tormenting me," she went on with a sad
far-away look in her eyes as if she were recalling unpleasant memories.
She did not see the set look on Reyburn's face nor notice his low
exclamation of anger. She went steadily on: "He found out that I did not
like June-bugs, and once he caught hundreds of them and locked me into a
room with them with all the lights turned on. I was almost frightened to
death, but it cured me of being afraid of June-bugs." A little smile
trembled out on Betty's lips. "Just because I wouldn't give him the
satisfaction of letting him hear me scream." She finished. "Then he
caught a snake and put it in my room, and he put a lot of burdocks in my
hat so they would get in my hair. Foolish things those were, of course,
but he was a constant nightmare to me. Sometimes he would tie a wire
across the passages in the upper hall where I had to pass to my room,
and when I fell my hands went down against a lot of slimy toads in the
dark, for he always somehow managed to have the light go out just as I
fell. There were hundreds of things like that, but I needn't multiply
them. That's the kind of boy he was. And because he discovered that my
father loved me very much, and because he knew my father disliked him,
he spent much time in trying to torment me in secret. I couldn't tell my
father, because he always looked so sad whenever there was trouble, and
there was sure to be trouble between him and my stepmother if my father
found out that Herbert had done anything wrong. One day my father came
upon us just as Herbert had caught me and was trying to cut my curls
off. I didn't care about the curls, but I knew my father did. I began to
scream. Herbert gripped me so I thought I would die with the pain,
putting his big strong fingers around my throat and choking me so I
could not make any noise."

Reyburn clenched his hands until the knuckles went white and uttered an
exclamation, but Betty did not notice:

"There was a terrible time then, and I was sent away to a school, a good
many miles from home, where I stayed for several years. Father always
came up to see me every week end, for a few hours at least, and we had
wonderful times together. Sometimes in vacation he would bring my
stepmother along and she would bring me beautiful presents and smile and
pet me, and say she missed me so much and she wished I would ask my
father to let me come back and go to school in the city. But I never
did, because I was afraid of Herbert. As I grew older I used to have an
awful horror of him. But finally one vacation father and mother both
came up and said they wanted me at home. My stepmother went to my room
with me and told me I needn't be afraid of Herbert any more, that he was
quite grown up and changed and would be good to me, and that it would
please my father to have all his family together happily again. I
believed her and I told father I would like to go. He looked very happy,
and so I went home. Herbert had been away at school himself most of the
time, and so had Bessemer, although they had been in trouble a good many
times, so the servants told me, and had to change to new schools. They
were both away when I got home. I had a very happy time for three weeks,
only that I never saw father alone once. My stepmother was always there.
But she was kind and I tried not to mind. Then all of a sudden one night
I woke up and heard voices, and I knew that the boys were back from the
camp to which they had been sent. I didn't sleep much the rest of the
night, but in the morning I made up my mind that it was only a little
while before I could go back to school, and I would be nice to the boys
and maybe they wouldn't trouble me.

"I found that it was quite true that Herbert had grown up and changed.
He didn't want to torment me any more, he wanted to make love to me,
and I was only a child yet. I wasn't quite fifteen. It filled me with
horror, and after he had caught me in the dark--he always loved to get
people in the dark--and tried to kiss me, I asked father to let me go
back to school at once. I can remember how sad he looked at me as if I
had cut him to the heart when I asked him."

During this part of the tale Reyburn sat with stern countenance, his
fingers clenched around the arms of the chair in which he sat, but he
held himself quiet and listened with compressed lips, watching every
expression that flitted across the sweet pale face.

"That was the last time I was at home with my father," she said, trying
to control her quivering lips. "He took me back to school, and he came
three times to see me, though not so often as before. The last time he
said beautiful things to me about trying to live a right life and being
kind to those about me, and he asked me to forgive him if he had ever
done anything to hurt me in any way. Of course I said he hadn't. And
then he said he hoped I wouldn't feel too hard at him for marrying again
and bringing those boys into my life. I told him it was all right, that
some day they would grow up and go away and he and I would live together
again! And he said some awful words about them under his breath. But he
asked me to forgive him again and kissed me and went away.

"He was taken very sick when he got home, and they never let me know
until he was dead. Of course I went home to the funeral, but I didn't
stay; I couldn't. I went back to school alone. My stepmother had been
very kind, but she said she knew it was my father's wish that I should
finish my school year. When vacation came she was traveling for her
health. She wrote me a beautiful letter telling me how she missed me,
and how much she needed me now in her bereavement, and how she hoped
another summer would see us together; but she stayed abroad two years
and the third year she went to California. I was sent to another school,
and because I was not asked about it and there didn't seem anything else
to do, I went. Every time I would suggest doing something else my
stepmother would write and say how sorry she was she could not give her
consent, but my father had left very explicit directions about me and
she was only trying to carry out his wishes. She knew me well enough to
be sure I would want to do anything he wished for me. And I did, of
course."

Reyburn gave her a look of sympathy and getting up began to pace the
little room.



CHAPTER XIV


"IT was not until last spring that she sent for me to come home," went
on Betty, "and was very effusive about how much she needed me and how
she was so much better, and meant to be a real mother to me now, helping
me see the world and have a good time. She took me from one summer
resort to another. Of course it was pleasant after having been shut up
in school all those years, but she kept me close with her all the time,
and I met only the people she chose to have me meet. All the time she
kept talking about 'dear Herbert' and telling how wonderful he was and
how he had grown to be 'such a dear boy.' Finally he arrived and began
the very first evening he was with us to coax me to marry him. At first
he was very courteous and waited upon me whenever I stirred, and I
almost thought his mother was right about his being changed. But when I
told him that I did not love him and could not ever marry him I caught a
look on his face like an angry snarl, and I heard him tell his mother I
was a crazy little fool, and that he would break my neck for me after he
got me good and married. Then his mother began to come to me and cry
and tell me how dear Herbert was almost heart-broken, that he would
never lift up his head again, and that I would send him to ruin. It was
simply awful, and I didn't know how to endure it. I began to wonder
where I could go. Of course I had never been brought up to do anything,
so I could not very well expect to go out into the world and make my
living."

"Didn't you have any money at all?" interrupted Reyburn suddenly.

"Oh, yes," she said, looking up as if she had just remembered his
presence. "I had always plenty of spending money, but if I went away
where they couldn't find me, why, of course, I would have to give that
up."

"Why, where did your money come from? Was it an allowance from your
stepmother, or did your father leave it to you, or what?"

"I'm not just sure," said Betty, with troubled brow. "I never really
knew much about the money affairs. When I asked, they always put me off
and said that I was too young to be bothered with business yet, I would
be told all about it when I came of age. My stepmother harped a great
deal on keeping me young as long as possible. She said it was my
father's wish that I should be relieved of all care until I came of
age. But there were some trustees in Boston. I know that, because I had
to write to them, about once or twice a year. My stepmother was most
particular about that. I think they were old friends of my own mother,
though I don't know when I learned that. Father told me once that mother
had left me enough to keep me comfortably even without what he would
leave me, so I'm sure I shall have enough to repay you if I could once
get it."

"Don't worry about me!" he exclaimed. "It seems so terrible for you to
have been alone in a situation like that! Wasn't there any one you could
appeal to for help?"

"No, not any one whom I thought it would be right to tell. You see, in a
way it was my father's honor. She was his wife, and I'm sure he loved
her--at least at first--and she really was very good to me, except when
it was a question of her son."

"I'm afraid I can't agree with you there!" he said sternly. "I think she
was a clever actress. But excuse me. Go on, please."

"At last, when things had got so bad that I thought I must run away
somewhere, my stepmother came into my room one morning and locked the
door. She had been weeping, and she looked very sweet and pitiful. She
said she had something to tell me. She had tried not to have to do it,
for she was afraid it would grieve me and might make me have hard
feelings against my father. I told her that was impossible. Then she
told me that my father on his deathbed had called her to him and told
her that it was his wish that I should marry one of her sons, and he
wanted her to tell me. He felt that he had wronged them by hating them
for my sake and he felt that I could make it all right by marrying one
of them. My stepmother said that when she saw how infatuated dear
Herbert was with me she hoped that she would be spared having to tell
me, but now that I was treating him so she felt bound to deliver the
message. Then she handed me a paper which said virtually the same thing
which she had told me, and was signed by my father in his own
handwriting."

"Was the paper written or printed?" interrupted Reyburn.

"I think it was typewritten, but the signature was papa's. There could
be no mistake about that, and he wouldn't have signed something he
didn't mean." Betty sighed as if it were a subject she had worn into her
heart by much sorrowful thought.

"It might be quite possible for him to have done that under influence
or delirium, or when he was too sick to realize."

"Oh, do you think so?" Betty caught at the hope. "It seems so awful to
go against papa's last request."

"There is nothing awful but the idea of your being tied to that--beast!"
said Reyburn with unexpected fervor. Betty looked at him gratefully and
went on:

"I was simply appalled. I couldn't think, and I made my stepmother go
away and leave me for a little while, but things got blacker and blacker
and I thought I was going crazy. I couldn't marry Herbert even to please
my father. The next day Bessemer arrived. He had been worrying his
mother a lot about money, and when he arrived I couldn't help hearing
what they said to him. They charged him with all sort of dreadful
things. They called him a disgrace, and threatened to let him be
arrested, and a great many more such things. Finally his mother ended up
by telling him she never had loved him and that if he made any more
trouble about money she would cut him off without a cent. I was sitting
upstairs in my room with my windows open, and all their talk floated
right up to me. It made me feel sick, and yet I felt sorry for Bessemer,
for lately whenever he had been around he had been kind to me, and
sometimes I had stayed near him to get rid of Herbert. We often talked
over our troubles together and sympathized with one another. He felt
sorry for me, but he was weak himself and couldn't see any way out for
either of us.

"They had pretty stormy times all that day. Late in the afternoon
Herbert and Bessemer went to their mother's room and were closeted with
her for two hours, after which Herbert went away in the car with his
suitcase and bags as if he were not coming back soon. I watched him from
my window, and in great relief went down to take a little walk, for I
had stayed closely in my room all day trying to plan what to do. One
thing that held me from running away was that it would be such a
disgrace to the family, and I knew my father would have felt it so
keenly. That was always the great trouble when the boys got into scrapes
at college, my father would groan and say he felt disgraced to be so
conspicuous before the world. So I hesitated to do what would have been
a sorrow to him had he been alive.

"Half an hour later I was sitting alone in the twilight on one of the
porches, and Bessemer came out and sat down beside me.

"He looked so sort of homely and lonesome that I put my hand on his arm
and told him I was awfully sorry for him, and suddenly he turned around
and said:

"'Say, Betty, why don't you marry _me_? Then they can't say a word to
either of us. Your father's wishes will be carried out and Herb'll have
to whistle.'

"At first I was horrified, but we talked a long time about it, and he
told me how lonely he had always been, and how nobody had ever loved
him, and he knew he wasn't attractive, and all that; and then he said
that if I married him we would go away and live by ourselves and he
would let me do just as I wanted to. He wouldn't bother me about
anything. If I didn't love him he would keep out of my sight, and things
like that, till I got very sorry for him, and began to think that
perhaps after all it was the best thing that would ever come for either
of us. So I said I would.

"It surprised me a little that my stepmother took it so calmly when we
told her. She cried a little, but did it very prettily, and kissed
Bessemer, and told him he was fortunate. Then she kissed me and said I
was a darling, and that she would be so happy if it only weren't for
poor dear Herbert.

"But after that they began to rush things for a grand wedding, and I let
them do it because I didn't see anything else in the world for me."

Betty raised her eyes and encountered the clear grave gaze of Reyburn
fixed on her, and the color flew into her cheeks:

"I know you think I'm dreadful," she said, shrinking. "I've thought so
myself a thousand times, but truly I didn't realize then what an awful
thing it would be to marry a man I didn't love. I only wanted to hurry
up and get it done before Herbert came home. They said he had been
called away by important business and might be at home any day. I gave
my consent to everything they wanted to do, and they fixed it all just
as they pleased. One thing that happened upset me terribly. When the
wedding invitations came home my stepmother carried them off to her
room. I was too sad to pay much attention anyway. But the next morning I
happened to be down in the kitchen looking over the papers that the maid
had taken down from the waste baskets to search for a missing letter and
there in the pile I found one of the invitations partly addressed and
flung aside, and the invitation was still in the envelope. I pulled it
out with a ghastly kind of curiosity to see how I looked on paper, and
there it read, Mrs. Charles Garland Stanhope invites you to be present
at the marriage of her daughter Elizabeth to _Mr. Herbert Hutton_!

"My heart just stood still. With the paper in my hand I rushed up to my
stepmother's room and demanded to know what that meant. She smiled and
said she was so sorry I had been annoyed that way, that that was a
mistake, the invitations had come wrongly engraved and she had had to
send them back and have them done over again. She was afraid I might be
superstitious about it, so she hadn't told me. She was very gentle and
sweet and tried to soothe me, and called me 'Betty,' the name my father
always had for me, and at last I went back to my room feeling quite
comfortable. She had said she always felt troubled for poor Bessemer,
that nobody could love him right, he was so homely, and now I was going
to make everything right by marrying him. She was going to try to forget
what I had done to poor dear Herbert, and just be happy about Bessemer.
She talked so nicely that I kissed her, a thing I hadn't done in years,
not since she was first married to father. But somehow the shock of
seeing Herbert's name on the invitation stayed with me, and I began to
feel gloomier about it all and to wonder if perhaps I had done right.
The last day I was terribly depressed and when I got to the church that
night it suddenly came to me that perhaps after all I was not going to
be free at all as I had hoped, but was just tying myself up to them all
for life. I was thinking that as I walked up the aisle, and my throat
had a big lump in it the way it always does when I am frightened, and
then I looked up hoping a glimpse of poor Bessemer's face would steady
me and he wasn't there at all! And right over me, waiting beside the
minister, to marry me stood _Herbert_! My knees just gave way under me,
and everything got black so I couldn't go on another step, nor even
stand up. I had to drop. I wasn't unconscious as you all thought--I
heard everything that went on, but I couldn't do anything about it.

"After they had carried me into the other room and given me things to
drink, and I could get my breath again I saw it all clearly. Herbert
hadn't given up at all. He meant to marry me anyway. He had had the
invitations printed with his name on purpose and they probably hadn't
been changed at all. Everybody in that great church out there was
_expecting_ me to marry Herbert Hutton, and I _was not going to do it_!
I didn't quite know how I was going to stop it, but I knew I had to! You
see I was brought up to think a great deal about what people would think
of me if I did anything out of the usual, and it seemed to me I had
disgraced myself forever by dropping down in the aisle. I knew Herbert
well enough to be sure he would carry that wedding through now if he had
to hold me up in his arms till the ceremony was over, and I was
desperate. I would have given everything I had in the world if the floor
had opened and swallowed me up then, but of course I knew wild thoughts
like that wouldn't get me anywhere, so I just shut my eyes and tried to
think of a way; and then I asked them all to go out a minute and let me
be quiet. The doctor who had come out of the church told them to go. I
shall always bless that man, whoever he was! Then when they were gone I
opened a door that had a key in it, and I locked it behind me and ran
away down some stairs and out a passage that led to the street. That
girl, Jane Carson, was passing and she put her own coat on me and took
me to her room and sent me here. Oh, it's been so good to get here! Do
you think they can take me away against my will?"

"Certainly not!" said the young man. "Not without some foul play, but I
don't intend to give them any chance for that. By the way, when do you
come of age?"

"In three weeks," said Betty, looking troubled. "Why, would I be safe
after I was of age?"

"You certainly would not be under their guardianship any longer," said
the young lawyer, "and they would have no right to control your actions,
unless of course you were incapacitated somehow and unfit to manage your
own affairs."

Betty looked troubled.

"I've thought sometimes, ever since I saw that paper in which they
hinted that I was temporarily insane, that they might try to shut me up
in an insane asylum. Herbert wouldn't stop at anything. Could he do
that?"

"They would have to get a doctor to swear that you were mentally
unsound," said Reyburn, looking troubled. "Does he really love you, do
you think or does he only want to get you in his power for some reason?"

"It is more like that," said Betty sorrowfully, "he couldn't really love
anybody but himself."

"Well, don't you worry. I'm going at the case at once, and I'll put
those people where they'll have to walk a chalk line before many hours
are over. The first thing I must do is to see those trustees of yours.
Can you give me the names and addresses?"

He got out his fountain pen, and Betty told him all he wanted to know,
that is, all she knew herself, and then suddenly it was train time and
he hurried away. On the steps he paused and said in a low tone:

"Are you perfectly comfortable with these people for a few days until I
can get you better accommodations where you will be safe?"

"Entirely," said Betty eagerly. "I wouldn't want to go elsewhere."

"But it must be very hard for one like you to be thrown constantly with
illiterate, uncultured people."

Betty smiled dreamily:

"I don't think they are exactly uncultured," she said slowly.
"They--well, you see, they make a friend of God, and somehow I think
that makes a difference. Don't you think it would?"

"I should think it would," said Warren Reyburn reverently with a light
in his eyes. "I think, perhaps, if you don't mind my saying it, that
you, too, have been making a friend of God."

"I've been trying to," said Betty softly, with a shy glow on her face
that he remembered all the way back to the city.



CHAPTER XV


CANDACE CAMERON paced her little gabled room restively, with face
growing redder and more excited at every step. For several weeks now she
had been virtually a prisoner--albeit a willing enough one--in the house
of Stanhope. But the time had come when she felt that she must do
something.

She had gone quietly enough about a proscribed part of the house, doing
little helpful things, making herself most useful to the madam, slipping
here and there with incredible catlike tread for so plump a body,
managing to overhear important conversations, and melting away like a
wraith before her presence was discovered. She had made herself so
unobtrusive as to be almost forgotten by all save the maid Marie, who
had been set to watch her; and she had learned that if she went to bed
quite early in the evening, Marie relaxed her watch and went down to the
servants' quarters, or even sometimes went out with a lover for a while,
that is, if the madam herself happened to be out also. On several such
occasions she had made valuable tours of investigation through the
madam's desk and private papers.

That she was overstepping her privileges as a servant in the house went
without saying, but she silenced her Scotch conscience, which until this
period of her existence had always kept her strictly from meddling with
other people's affairs, by declaring over and over again to herself that
she was doing perfectly right because she was doing it for the sake of
"that poor wee thing that was being cheated of her rights."

Several weeks had passed since her sudden re-establishment in the
family, and the reports of Betty, so hastily readjusted and refurbished
to harmonize with the newspaper reports, had not been any more
satisfying. Mrs. Stanhope had explained to the servants the day after
the excitement that Miss Betty had become temporarily deranged, and
later that she had escaped from the private hospital where she had been
taken, and they were doing all in their power to find her. In reply to
Candace's gimlet-like questions she had given the name of a hospital
where she said Betty had been taken at first, and everything seemed
altogether plausible. But as the days went by and the horror of her
absence grew into the soul of the lonely woman whose care Betty had been
for years, Candace became more and more restive and suspicious. It was
these suspicions which sent her on her investigations, and made her
uncannily wise to pry open secret locks and cover all trace of her
absence after she had gleaned what knowledge she sought.

On this particular evening her excitement was due to having come across
some correspondence bearing the signature of a man to whom a certain
letter had been addressed, which had been entrusted to her charge by
Betty's dying father and taken from her by his wife. For years she had
been worried about that, and yet she had no absolute reason to doubt
that the madam had not sent it to its destination, except as she knew
its contents and read Mrs. Stanhope's character beneath the excellent
camouflage. But to-night, even the briefest glance through the bundle of
letters showed plainly that those men in Boston never knew the master's
wishes, or at least, if they knew them, they were utterly disregarding
them.

Aroused on one point, her suspicions began to extend further. Where was
Betty? Did her stepmother know, and was she somewhere suffering, alone,
perhaps being neglected because she had not done as they wanted her to
do? If the stepmother was capable of destroying a letter, was she
perhaps not also capable of putting Betty out of the way? There were
points of detail which of course did not harmonize with any such theory
as this. Candace was no logician, but she was keen enough to feel that
something was wrong. As for that theory of Betty's insanity she scouted
it with a harsh laugh whenever it was mentioned in her hearing.
Betty--keen, sweet, trusting little Betty _insane_! Nonsense! It was
unthinkable. If she was in an asylum anywhere she was there without
warrant, and it behoved her faithful old nurse to find a way out for
her. This she meant to do against all odds, for she was thoroughly
aroused now.

She went to the window and looked down into the lighted street. Over
there not four blocks away rose the steeple of the church where Betty
had gone to be married! Around the corner was the great brick pile of
the hospital where her stepmother said she had been taken from the
church, and from which she was believed by the other servants to have
escaped.

Standing thus looking out into the light-starred city, Candace began to
form a plan, her plump tightly garmented chest rising and falling
excitedly as she thought it all out. It was up to her to find out what
had become of Betty. But how was she to get away without being
suspected? Somehow she must do it. She knew perfectly the address that
had been on that letter. She had written it down carefully from memory
as soon as it had been taken away from her. She must go to Boston and
find that man to whom it had been written, and discover whether he had
ever received it. But she could not go until she found out certainly
whether or not Betty had ever really escaped from the hospital. Who knew
but that she was shut up there yet, and the madam telling this tale all
about and advertising with a five thousand dollar reward! In the movies,
too! Such a disgrace on the family! How the master would have writhed at
the publicity of his beloved daughter--"poor wee thing!"

Candace turned from the window with her lips set, and tiptoeing to the
door, listened. Yes, it was Aileen who was coming lightly up the stairs,
singing in a low tone. It was Aileen's evening out. That meant that
Marie would be more than usually active on the upper floor. She must
manage it before Aileen left and Marie was called upstairs, or there
would be no opportunity to get away without Marie seeing her.

Hastily she gathered her silk dress, her cloak and her apoplectic hat
into a bundle with her purse and her gloves, and tied them into an old
apron, with the strings hanging free. Then stealthily opening the
window, she dropped them out into the kitchen area below, close to the
region of the ash cans. It was a risk, of course, but one must take some
chances, and the servants would all be in the kitchen just now, laughing
and talking. They would scarcely have heard it fall.

She listened a tense instant, then closed the window, and possessing
herself of a few little things, gathered hastily about the room, which
she could stuff in her pockets, she opened her door softly, closed it
behind her, and trotted off down the stairs just as if she were going
about her ordinary duty. Listening a minute outside the kitchen door she
slipped stealthily down the cellar stairs, and tiptoed over to the area
door where the ashman took out the ashes. Softly slipping the bolt she
opened the door and drew in her bundle. Then standing within, she
quickly slipped the black silk over her housemaid's gown, donned her
coat and hat and gloves, and sallied forth. A moment more and she was in
the next street with the consciousness that she "might have done the
like any time sooner, if she'd wanted, in spite of that little spy-cat
Marie."

"If I want to go back I'll just say I went after my insurance book," she
chuckled to herself as she sped down the street in the direction of the
hospital.

Arrived at the big building she asked to see the list of patients taken
in on the day of Betty's wedding, and succeeded in getting a pretty
accurate description of each one, sufficient at least to satisfy her
that Betty was not among them. Then she asked a few more bold questions,
and came away fully convinced that Betty had never been in that
hospital.

By this time it was nine o'clock, and she meant to take the evening
train for Boston, which left, she was sure, somewhere near midnight. She
took a trolley to her old lodgings where she had been since Mrs.
Stanhope had sent her away the first time, and hastily packed a small
hand bag with a few necessities, made a few changes in her garments,
then went to see a fellow lodger whom she knew well, and where she felt
sure she could easily get a check cashed, for she had a tidy little bank
account of her own, and was well known to be reliable.

Having procured the necessary funds, she made her way to the station and
found that she had still an hour to spare before the Boston train left.

Settled down at last in the back seat of a common car, she made herself
as comfortable as her surroundings would allow, and gave herself up to
planning the campaign that was before her.

Canny Candace did not go at once to the office of the brothers, James
and George McIntyre, though she looked them up in the telephone book the
very first thing when the train arrived in Boston even before she had
had a bite to eat, and her cup of tea which meant more to her than the
"bite." She reasoned that they would be busy in the early hours and not
be able to give her their undivided attention. She had not lived out all
her life for nothing. She knew the ways of the world, and she had very
strict ideas about the best ways of doing everything. So it happened
that when she was at last shown into the office of the McIntyres, Warren
Reyburn who had traveled to Boston on the sleeper of the same train that
she had taken the night before, was just arising from an earnest
conference with the two men. With her first glance, as the three emerged
from the inner office, Candace saw that the two elder gentlemen were
much disturbed and it flitted through her mind that she had come at an
inopportune moment. Then her quick eye took in the younger man and her
little alert head cocked to one side with a questioning attitude. Where
had she seen him before? Candace had the kind of a mind that kept people
and events card-indexed even to the minutest detail, and it didn't take
many seconds for her to place Warren Reyburn back in the church at the
wedding, standing against the wall with his arms folded. She had noticed
him particularly because he was so courteous to a little old lady who
came in too late to get a seat. She had studied him as he stood there,
waiting for the wedding march, and she had thought how handsome he
looked and how fine it would have been if her wee Betty had been getting
a man like that in place of the weak-faced Bessemer Hutton. She had
watched to see who he was with, and felt deep satisfaction when she
noticed him lean over and speak to Mrs. Bryce Cochrane as if he belonged
to her. He wasn't her husband, because she knew Mr. Cochrane, who had
been a favorite with Mr. Stanhope and much at the house. This man might
be Mrs. Cochrane's brother "or the likes," and she had pleased herself
watching him till Betty arrived and took all her thoughts. So now she
stood with her little round head in its hectic hat tilted interestedly
to one side, watching, ears on the keen to catch any word, for all the
world like a "bit brown sparrow" saucily perched on another man's
window, where it really had no right to be.

At last one of the McIntyre's shook hands gravely with the younger man,
and the other one attended him to the door, talking in low tones. The
McIntyre thus set at liberty, turned questioningly toward the stranger,
who was not slow in getting to her feet and coming forward.

"You will maybe be Mr. James McIntyre?" she asked, lifting her sea-blue
eyes set in her apple-red face, and fixing her firm little lips in
dignity. Candace was a servant and knew her place, but she felt the
importance of her mission, and meant to have no disrespect done to it.

"I am Mr. George McIntyre," the gentleman replied, and, indicating the
man at the door, "Mr. James McIntyre will be at liberty in a moment, but
perhaps I will do as well?"

Candace cocked a glance toward the elderly back at the door; and then
returned her look to Mr. George:

"You'll maybe be knowing Mr. Charles Stanhope?" she propounded, as if
she were giving him a riddle, and her blue eyes looked him through and
through:

"Oh, surely, surely! He was a very close friend! You--knew him?"

"I was Miss Betty's nurse who cooked the griddle cakes for you the
morning after the funeral----" she said, and waited with breathless
dignity to see how he would take it.

"Oh! Is that so!" He beamed on her kindly. "Yes, yes, I remember those
cakes. They were delicious! And what can I do for you? Just sit down.
Why, bless me, I don't know but that your coming may be very opportune!
Can you tell me anything of Miss Betty?"

Candace pressed her lips together with a knowing smile as much as to say
she might tell volumes if it were wise, and she cast a glance at the
other brother who was shaking hands now with his visitor and promising
to meet him a little later:

"Yon man'll be knowing a bit, too, I'll be thinking," she hazarded
nodding toward Reyburn as he left. "He was at the wedding, I'm most
sure----!"

The elder McIntyre gave her a quick glance and signalled to his brother
to come near:

"This is Miss Stanhope's nurse, the one who cooked breakfast for us at
the time of the funeral," he said, and to Candace, "This is Mr. James
McIntyre."

Candace fixed him with another of her inquisitive little glances:

"I've some bit papers put by that I thought ye might like to see," she
said with a cautious air. "I've kept them fer long because I thought
they might be wanted sometime, yet I've never dared bring them to your
notice before lest I would be considered meddlin', and indeed I wasn't
sure but you had them already. Will you please to look over them papers
and see if you've ever seen them before?" She drew forth an envelope
from her bag and handed it to them. "It's a bit letter that Mr. Stanhope
wrote the day he was dyin' an' then copied and give to me to mail, and
his lady took it away, sayin' she would attend to it. What I want to
know is, did ye ever get the letter? If ye did it's all right and none
of my business further, an' I'll go on my way back home again and think
no more about it; but if ye didn't then there it is, an' you ought to
see it, that's sure!"

The two men drew eagerly together and studied the trembling lines:

"It's his writing all right," murmured one, under his breath, and the
brother nodded gravely:

"You say that this was the original of a letter that was given to you to
mail to us?"

Candace nodded.

"It's what he wrote first, and got ink on it, an' then wrote it over. I
can't say what changes he made, as I didn't read it, but this he gave to
me to burn, and before I gets it burned my lady comes in and takes the
letter from me while he was sleepin'; and so I hid the bit papers,
thinkin' they might be a help to wee Betty sometime. And oh, can ye
tell me anything of my little Lady Betty? Is she safe? Did she come to
you for refuge? You needn't be afraid to tell me. I'll never breathe a
word----!"

The two brothers exchanged quick glances of warning and the elder man
spoke:

"My good woman, we appreciate your coming, and these papers may prove
very useful to us. We hope to be able to clear up this matter of Miss
Stanhope's disappearance very soon. She did not come to us, however, and
she is not here. But if you will step into the room just beyond and wait
for a little while we may be able to talk this matter over with you."

Very courteously he ushered the plump, apprehensive little woman into
the next room and established her in an easy leather chair with a
quantity of magazines and newspapers about her, but she kept her little
head cocked anxiously on one side, and watched the door like a dog whose
master has gone in and shut the way behind him; and she never sat back
in her chair nor relaxed one iota during the whole of the two hours that
she had to wait before she was called at last to the inner office where
she found the handsome young man whom she remembered seeing at the
wedding.

She presently found that Reyburn was as keen as he was handsome, but if
she hadn't remembered him at the wedding as a friend of that nice Mrs.
Cochrane, she never would have made it as easy as she did for him to
find out things from her, for she could be canny herself on occasion if
she tried, and she did not trust everybody.



CHAPTER XVI


THE mysterious disappearance of Candace from the Stanhope house caused
nothing short of a panic. Herbert and his mother held hourly wrangles,
and frantically tried one thing and then another. Day after day the
responses came in from the advertisements they had caused to be put
forth. Everyone was hot-foot for the reward, but so far little of
encouragement had been brought out. More and more the young man was
fixing his mind on the idea that Candace had something to do with
Betty's disappearance, so he was leaving no stone unturned to find the
nurse as well as the girl. To this end he insisted on seeing personally
and cross-examining every person who came claiming to have a clue to the
lost girl.

That morning, at about the same hour when Candace walked into the office
of the McIntyre Brothers in Boston, James, the butler, much against his
dignity, was ushering a curious person into the presence of the son of
the house. James showed by every line of his noble figure that he
considered this duty beneath his dignity, and that it was only because
the occasion was unusual that he tolerated it for a moment, but the man
who ambled observantly behind him, stretching his neck to see everything
that was to be seen in this part of the great house, that he might tell
about it at the fire-house, failed to get the effect. He was wondering
why in thunder such rich people as these seemed to be, couldn't afford
carpets big enough to cover their whole floors, instead of just having
skimpy little bits of pieces dropped around here and there, that made
you liable to skid all over the place if you stepped on one of them
biasly.

Herbert Hutton lifted his head and watched Abijah Gage slouch into the
room. He measured him keenly and remained silent while Abijah opened up.
There had been many other applicants for that reward that day, with
stories cunningly woven, and facts, substantiated by witnesses, in one
case a whole family brought along to swear to the fabrication; but as
yet Herbert had not found a promising clue to his missing bride, and the
time was going by. In a few days it would be too late, and his
undisciplined spirit raged within him. It was not only his bride he
wanted, it was her fortune, which was worth any trouble he might take;
and every day, every hour, every minute now, it was slipping, slipping,
slipping from his eager grasp.

Abijah was a little overawed in the presence of this insolent man of the
world, but he felt he had, for almost the first time in his life, Truth
on his side, and he was strong in the power of it. With a cunning equal
to the one that matched him he dealt out his information bit by bit,
giving only enough at a time to make his victim sure it was the real
thing this time; and then he halted stubbornly and would say no more
until that five thousand dollars was signed and sealed over to him. They
had a long argument, but in the end Bi won, and was given certain
documents which he was satisfied would stand in court. A little later
the telephone in Reyburn's office rang sharply, and when Jimmie Ryan
responded a voice that he had never heard before asked for Mr. Warren
Reyburn.

"He's out of town," Jimmie replied.

"How soon will he be back?" The voice was like a snarl.

"I'm not quite sure. He's called to Boston on business," swelled Jimmie
loyally.

An oath ripped over the wire, and Jimmie raged within and quailed. Was
his idol then losing a great case?

"He might be back in a few hours," insinuated Jimmie. "Who shall I say
called up if he should have me over long distance?"

"You needn't say anybody! I'll call up again," growled the voice, and
the man hung up.

Jimmie sat for a long time in blissful reverie. "He's getting there!" he
whispered to himself. "He'll get the big cases yet, and I can keep my
first place. I must see Jane to-night and tell her."

Meanwhile, back at Tinsdale improvements had been going on at the
Carsons'. Bob, always handy with tools, had been putting in a tank over
the bathtub. They had one at the house on the hill, only it was run by a
windmill. Bob had a friend who was a plumber's son, and from him had
obtained some lengths of second-hand water-pipe and an old faucet. He
had conceived the idea of a tank on the roof, and his first plan had
been only a rainwater tank, but gradually as his vision widened he
included a force pump in the outfit of desires. He hung around the
plumber's until they unearthed an old force pump somewhat out of repair,
and for a few days' assisting the plumber Bob acquired it, together with
after-hour help to put it into operation. The next object was a tank,
which seemed at first to represent the impossible; but the grocer at
last offered a suggestion in the shape of several large empty hogsheads
which he readily accepted at the price of four Saturdays' work in the
store.

All Bob's extra time was put into these improvements, and he was as
excited every night when it grew dark and he was forced to come to
supper because he couldn't see any longer to work, as if he had been
building an airship.

The day the hogsheads were marshaled and connected and the force pump
sent its first stream into them was a great occasion. The family
assembled in the yard, with Elise Hathaway, who had been allowed to come
over for a few minutes with Betty. Bob and his plumber friend pumped,
and Emily climbed to the attic window, which overlooked the row of
hogsheads, ranged so that the water would flow from one to the other,
and acted as pilot to the new enterprise. As the first stream from the
force pump, which Bob had lavishly painted red, crept its way up the
pipes and began to wet the bottom of the first and highest hogshead
Emily gave a little squeal of delight and shouted "It's come! It's come!
The water's come!" and the family below fairly held their breath with
the wonder of it. Not that such a thing could be, but that their own
freckled, grinning Bob should have been able to achieve it.

There was an elaborate system of tin conductors which conveyed the waste
water from the bathtub out through a hole in the wall of the little
laundry bathroom, and distributed it along the garden beds wherever its
controller desired to irrigate. Thus the system became practical as well
as a luxury. There was also an arrangement of gutter pipes for carrying
off any surplus water from the hogsheads, so saving the Carson house
from possible inundation at any time of heavy storms.

After the plumbing was finished Bob painted the laundry neatly inside
with beautiful white paint and robin's-egg blue for the ceiling, and
Betty told him it almost made one think of going swimming in the ocean.
Next he began to talk about a shower bath. Betty told him what one was
like and he began to spend more days down at the plumber's asking
questions and picking up odd bits of pipe, making measurements, and
doing queer things to an old colander for experiment's sake. The day
that Warren Reyburn came for the first time Bob had the shower part
finished and ready to erect, and the next day saw it complete with a rod
for the rubber curtain that Betty had promised to make for him. He and
she were planning how they would make further improvements on the house
before Jane and Nellie should come home for their summer vacation week.
Betty had thoroughly entered into the life of the little household now,
and was a part of it. She saved her own small wages, and grudged all
she had to spend for necessary clothes, that she might contribute
further to the comfort and beauty of the general home.

After Warren Reyburn's visit the last barrier between Betty and Ma
seemed to be broken down. As soon as she had closed the door she flew
into the other room and flung her arms around Ma's neck, bursting into
soft weeping on her motherly shoulder. Ma had done a rapid turning act
when she heard her coming, for in truth she had been peeping behind the
green window-shade to watch the handsome stranger go down the street,
but she would have dropped the iron on her foot and pretended to be
picking it up rather than let Betty suspect her interest in the visitor.

"Oh, mother," she murmured in Mrs. Carson's willing ear, "I have been so
frightened----"

"I know, dearie!" soothed the mother, quite as if she had been her own.
"I know!"

"But he was very kind," she said lifting her head with an April effect
of tears. "He's going to try to fix things for me so that I don't need
ever to be afraid of any one making trouble for me any more. You see, I
sort of ran away. There was somebody I was afraid of who troubled me a
great deal."

"Yes, dearie, I thought as much," said Ma. "Jane kind of gave me to
understand there was something like that. I'm real glad there's
somebody goin' to look into your affairs an' fix things right for you. I
knew you was restless an' worried. Now it'll get all straightened out.
He's got a nice face. I trusted him first off. He's a church member, an'
that's somethin'. They ain't all spiritual, but they're mostly clean an'
just an' kindly, when they're anythin' at all but just plain hypocrites,
which, thank the Lord, there ain't so many as some would have us
believe. Now wash your face, dearie, an' run back to your place so you
can come home early, for we're goin' to have the old hen with dumplin's
for supper to celebrate."

That was one charming thing about that household: they celebrated every
blessed little trifle that came into their lives, so that living with
them was like a procession of beautiful thanksgivings.

It was while Betty was eating the gala "hen," delicious in its festive
gravy and dumplings, that she looked off across the little dining-room
to the dark window with its twinkling village lights in the distance and
thought of the stranger. A dark fear flashed across her sweet face and
sparkled in the depths of her eyes for just an instant. Was it perhaps
the distant bay of the hounds on her trail, coming nearer every moment?
Then she remembered the heavenly Father and her new-found faith, and
turned back to the cheery little room and the children's pleasant
clatter, resolved to forget the fear and to trust all to Him who cared
for her. Perhaps he had sent the pleasant stranger, and the thought
brought a quiet little smile to settle about her lips. She laughed with
Bob and Emily at how they had got wet with a sudden unexpected shower
from the new bath while they were arranging the curtain on the rod, and
Emily had turned the faucet on without knowing it. The patient-eyed
mother watched them all and was satisfied.

How good it is that we cannot hear all the noises of the earth at the
same time, nor know of every danger that lurks near as we are passing
by! We grumble a great deal that God does not send us as much as we
think he might, but we give scarce a thought to our escape from the many
perils, lying close as our very breath, of which we never even dream.

At that moment, as they sat quietly eating their happy meal, a deadly
particular peril was headed straight for Tinsdale.

Abijah Gage and Herbert Hutton boarded the evening train for Tinsdale
together and entered the sleeper. Abijah shuffled behind, carrying the
bags, a most extraordinary and humiliating position for him. He had
never been known to carry anything, not even himself if he could help
it, since the day his mother died and ceased to force him to carry in
wood and water for her at the end of a hickory switch. He glanced
uneasily round with a slight cackle of dismay as he arrived in the
unaccustomed plush surroundings and tried to find some place to dump his
load. But the well-groomed Herbert strode down the long aisle unnoticing
and took possession of the section he had secured as if he owned the
road.

"You can sit there!" he ordered Bi with a condescending motion, dropping
into his own seat and opening a newspaper.

Bi sat down on the edge of the seat, and held on to the arm in a
gingerly way as if he were afraid to trust himself to anything so
different. He looked furtively up and down the car, eyed the porter, who
ignored him contemptuously and finally came back and demanded his
sleeper ticket with a lordliness that Bi did not feel he could take from
a negro. But somehow the ticket got tangled in his pocket, and Bi had a
hard time finding it, which deepened his indignation at the porter.

"I ain't takin' no sass from no one. My seat's paid fer all right," he
said distinctly for the enlightenment of the other passengers, and
Herbert Hutton reached out a discreet arm and dropped something in the
porter's hand which sent him on his way and left Bi snorting audibly
after him.

"You'd better shut up!" growled the dictator to Bi. "We don't want to be
conspicuous, you know. If you can't hold your tongue and act as if you
had ever traveled before, I'll get off this train at the next station
and you can whistle for your reward. Do you understand?"

Bi dropped his toothless lower jaw a trifle and his little eyes grew
narrow. This was no way to manage affable Bi. He loved a good visit, and
he had counted on one all the way to Tinsdale. He had no idea of sitting
silent.

"I understand," he drawled, "an' I'll be gormed ef I'll agree. I ain't
told you yet where we get off, an' I don't have to ef I don't wantta. Ef
you can't treat me like a gen'l'man you know where you can get off, an'
I ain't havin' to state it."

Herbert Hutton drew his arrogant brows in a frown of annoyance, and
whirled around to placate his guide:

"Now see here, you old popinjay, what's got into you?"

"No, sir, I ain't nobody's papa," babbled Bi, seeing he had scored a
point. "I have enough to do to support myself without any family."

"That's all right, have it your own way, only shut up or we'll have
somebody listening. Have a cigar. Take two. But you can't smoke 'em in
here, you'll have to go to the smoking-room. Wait! I'll see if we can
get the drawing-room."

The porter appeared and the change was effected, to the great
disappointment of Bi, who kept continually poking his head out to get a
glimpse of the fine ladies. He would much have preferred staying out in
the main car and getting acquainted with people. His cunning had
departed with the need. He had put things in the hands of this surly
companion, and now he meant to have a good time and something to tell
the gang about when he got home.

About midnight the train drew into a station and Herbert Hutton roused
himself and looked out of the window. Bi, whose cunning had returned,
followed his example. Suddenly he leaned forward excitedly and tapped
the glass with a long finger:

"That's him! That's the guy," he whispered excitedly as another train
drew in and passengers began to hurry down the platform and across to
the waiting sleeper.

"Are you sure?"

"Sartin!"

"You mean the one with the coat over his arm, and the two men behind?"
He stopped short with an exclamation.

Bi looked up cunningly. Now what was up? He saw a thunder-cloud on the
face of his companion.

With embellishments Herbert Hutton asked if Bi had ever seen the two
tall gray-haired men who were walking with their prey.

Bi narrowed his eyes and denied any knowledge, but perceived there were
more sides than two to the enigma. Now, what could he figure out of
those two guys? Were there more rewards to be offered? If so, he was a
candidate. He wondered what chance there was of getting away from H. H.
and sauntering through the train. He found, however, a sudden
willingness on the part of his companion to vanish and let him do the
scout work for the rest of the night.

With a sense of being on a vacation and a chance at catching big fish Bi
swung out through the train. Bumping down among the now curtained
berths, adjusting his long form to the motion of the express, lurching
to right and to left as they went round a curve, falling over an
occasional pair of shoes and bringing down lofty reproaches from the
sleepy porter, he penetrated to the day coaches and at last located his
quarry.

They were sitting in a double seat, the younger man facing the two older
ones, and had evidently been unable to get sleepers. Bi hung around the
water-cooler at the far end of the car until he had laid out his plans;
then he sauntered up to the vacant seat behind the three men and dropped
noiselessly into its depths, drawing his hat down well over his face,
and apparently falling into instant slumber, with a fair sample of
Tinsdale snoring brought in at moderate distances.

The conversation was earnest, in well-modulated voices, and hard to
follow connectedly, for the men knew how to talk without seeming to the
outside world to be saying anything intelligible. Occasionally a
sentence would come out clear cut in an interval of the rhythm of the
train, but for the most part Bi could make little or nothing of it.

"In all the years we've been trustees of that estate we haven't seen her
but twice," said one of the older men; "once at her father's second
marriage, and again at his funeral. Then we only saw her at a distance.
Her stepmother said she was too grief-stricken to speak with any one,
and it was by the utmost effort she could be present at the service."

"She looked very frail and young," said the other old man; "and her
hair--I remember her hair!"

Bi changed his position cautiously and tried to peer over the back of
his seat, but the voices were crowded together now, and the younger man
was talking earnestly. He could not catch a syllable. "Trustees!" That
word stayed with him. "Estate" was another promising one, and the fact
that her hair had been remembered. He nodded his old head sagaciously,
and later when the three men settled back in their seats more
comfortably with their eyes closed he slid back to the water-cooler and
so on through the sleeper to the drawing-room.

Hutton was sleeping the sleep of the unjust, which means that he woke at
the slightest breath, and Bi's breath was something to wake a heavier
sleeper. So they sat and planned as the train rushed on through the
night. Now and again Bi took a pilgrimage up to the day coach and back
to report the three travelers still asleep.

About six o'clock in the morning the train slowed down, and finally came
to a thrashing halt, waking the sleepers uncomfortably and making them
conscious of crunching feet in the cinders outside, and consulting
voices of trainmen busy with a hammer underneath the car somewhere. Then
they drowsed off to sleep again and the voices and hammering blended
comfortably into their dreams.

The passengers in the day coach roused, looked at their watches,
stretched their cramped limbs, squinted out to see if anything serious
was the matter, and settled into a new position to sleep once more.

Bi, stretched for the nonce upon the long couch of the drawing-room
while his superior occupied the more comfortable berth, roused to
instant action, slipped out to the platform and took his bearings. He
had lived in that part of the country all his life and he knew where
they ought to be by that time. Yes, there was the old saw mill down by
Hague's Crossing, and the steeple over by the soft maple grove just
beyond Fox Glove. It would not be a long walk, and they had a garage at
Fox Glove!

He sauntered along the cinder path; discovered that the trouble with the
engine was somewhat serious, requiring to wait for help, took a glimpse
into the day coach ahead to assure himself that the three men were still
safely asleep, and sauntered back to the drawing-room.

His entrance roused the sleeper, who was on the alert instantly.

"Say, we got a hot box an' a broken engyne!" Bi announced. "It'll take
us some time. We ain't fur from Fox Glove. We could santer over an' git
a car an' beat 'em to it!"

"We could?" said Hutton. "You sure? No chances, mind you!"

"Do it easy. Those guys are asleep. They won't get to the Junction 'fore
ten o'clock, mebbe later, an' they can't possibly get to our place 'fore
'leven."

"Lead the way!" ordered Hutton, cramming himself into his coat and hat.

"Better slide down on the other side," whispered Bi as they reached the
platform. "We kin go back round the train an' nobody'll notice."

As if they were only come out to see what was the matter they idled
along the length of the train around out of sight, slid down the bank,
took a shortcut across a meadow to a road, and were soon well on their
way to Fox Glove in the early cool of the spring morning, a strangely
mated couple bent on mischief.

Back on the cinder track the express waited, dreamily indifferent, with
a flagman ahead and behind to guard its safety, and while men slept the
enemy took wings and flew down the white morning road to Tinsdale, but
no one ran ahead with a little red flag to the gray cottage where slept
Betty, to warn her, though perchance an angel with a flaming sword stood
invisibly to guard the way.



CHAPTER XVII


BOB had just finished feeding the chickens when the automobile drew up
at the door, and he hurried around the house to see who it might be. He
was rather looking for the return of that nice lawyer again. He felt the
family expected him some time soon. Perhaps he would be to breakfast and
mother would want some fresh eggs.

They had dropped Bi at the edge of the village and there were only
Hutton and the driver who had brought them. Bi had no mind to get mixed
up in this affair too openly. He valued his standing in his home town,
and did not wish to lose it. He had an instinct that what he was doing
might make him unpopular if it became known. Besides, he had another ax
to grind.

Bob did not like the looks of the strange dark man who got out of the
car and came into the yard with the air of a thrashing machine bolting
into whatever came in his way. He stood sturdily and waited until he was
asked who lived there, and admitted with a stingy "yes" that it was Mrs.
Carson's house. A thundering knock on the front door followed, and the
other man in the car got out and came into the yard behind the first.

"Well, you needn't take the door down," snapped Bob, and scuttled around
the house to warn his mother, aware that he had been rude, and glad of
it.

It was Betty who came to the door, for Ma was frying bacon and eggs for
breakfast, and Bob hadn't been quite soon enough. She started back with
a scream, and eluding the hand that reached for her arm, fairly flew
back to the kitchen, taking refuge behind Mrs. Carson, with her eyes
wild with fear and her hand on her heart, while Hutton strode after her.

Mrs. Carson wheeled around with her knife in her hand and faced him:

"What do you mean by coming into my house this way, I'd like to know?"
she demanded angrily, putting her arm around Betty.

"I beg your pardon," said Hutton, a poor apology for courtesy slipping
into his manner. "I don't suppose you know it, but that is my wife you
are harboring there, and she ran away from home several months ago! I
have just discovered her whereabouts and have come to take her away!"

Ma straightened up with the air of a queen and a judge, while Betty
stifled a scream and in a small voice full of terror cried: "It isn't
true, Mrs. Carson, it isn't true! Oh, _mother_, don't let him take me!"

Mrs. Carson pushed Betty behind her, the knife still in her other hand,
and answered with dignity:

"You've made a big mistake, Mr. Herbert Hutton; this isn't your wife at
all. I know all about you."

Hutton put on a look of instant suavity.

"Oh, of course, madam, she has told you that, but I'm sorry to have to
tell you that she is not in her right mind. She made her escape from the
insane asylum."

"Oh, rats!" shouted Bob, and vanished out the kitchen door, slamming it
behind him.

Emily, frightened and white, stood just outside, and he nearly knocked
her over in his flight. He pulled her along with him, whispering in her
ear excitedly:

"You beat it down to the fire gong and hit it for all you're worth!
Quick!"

Emily gave him one frightened look and sprang to action. Her little feet
sped down the path to the lot where hung the big fire gong, like two
wild rabbits running for their life, and in a moment more the loud whang
of alarm rang through the little town, arousing the "gang" and greatly
disconcerting Bi, who was craning his neck at the station and watching
the fast-growing speck down the railroad track. That sure was the train
coming already. How had they made it so soon?

But Bob was on his stomach in the road scuttling the ship that was to
have carried away the princess. The chauffeur was fully occupied in the
house, for he had been ordered to follow and be ready to assist in
carrying away an insane person, and he had no thought for his car at
present. It was an ugly job, and one that he didn't like, but he was
getting big pay, and such things had to be done.

Bob's knife was sharp. He always kept it in good condition. It did many
of the chores about the house, and was cunning in its skill. It cut
beautiful long punctures in the four tires, until there was no chance at
all of that car's going on its way for some time to come. Then he
squirmed his way out on the opposite side from the house, slid along by
the fence to the side door, around to the back like a flash and without
an instant's hesitation hauled up his elaborate system of drainage. He
stuck the longest conductor pipe through the open window of the old
laundry, clutched at the sill and swung inside, drawing the pipe in
after him.

The altercation in the kitchen had reached white heat. Hutton's suavity
was fast disappearing behind a loud angry tone. He had about sized up
Ma and decided to use force.

It was a tense moment when Bob, his hasty arrangements made, silently
swung open the laundry door in full range of the uninvited guests and
waited for the psychological moment. Mrs. Carson had dropped her knife
and seized the smoking hot frying-pan of bacon as a weapon. She was cool
and collected, but one could see in her eyes the little devil of battle
that sometimes sat in Bob's eyes as she swung the frying-pan back for a
blow. Suddenly out flashed a cold steel eye, menacing, unanswerable,
looking straight into her own.

At that instant, unannounced and unobserved, through the laundry door
lumbered a long ugly tin conductor pipe, and the deluge began. Straight
into the eyes of the would-be husband it gushed, battering swashingly
down on the cocked revolver, sending it harmlessly to the floor, where
it added to the confusion by going off with a loud report, and sending
the chauffeur to the shelter of the parlor. Bob never knew how near he
came to killing some one by his hasty service, and Ma never had the
heart to suggest it. Instead she acted promptly and secured the weapon
before the enemy had time to recover from his shock.

Bob, in the laundry, standing on a chair mounted on a board across the
bathtub, sturdily held his wobbling conductor pipe and aimed it straight
to the mark. Of course he knew that even a well-filled phalanx of
hogsheads could not hold the enemy forever, but he was counting on the
fire company to arrive in time to save the day.

Gasping, clawing the air, ducking, diving here and there to escape the
stream, Herbert Hutton presented a spectacle most amusing and satisfying
to Bob's boy mind.

"Beat it, Lizzie, beat it! Beat it!" he shouted above the noise of the
pouring waters. But Betty, white with horror, seemed to have frozen to
the spot. She could not have moved if she had tried, and her brain
refused to order her to try. She felt as if the end of everything had
come and she were paralyzed.

Down the street with dash and flourish, licking up excitement like a
good meal, dashed the gang, the fire chief ostentatiously arraying
himself in rubber coat and helmet as he stood on the side of the engine,
while the hysterical little engine bell banged away, blending with the
sound of the bell of the incoming train at the station. Bi, with his
mouth stretched wide, and one foot holding him for the train while the
other urged toward the fire and excitement, vibrated on the platform, a
wild figure of uncertainty. Where Duty and Inclination both called,
Cupidity still had the upper hand.

For once Bi did not have to act a part as he stood watching the three
travelers descend from the train. The excitement in his face was real
and his gestures were quite natural, even the ones made by his one and
only long waving top-lock of gray hair that escaped all bounds as his
hat blew off with the suction of the train. Bi rushed up to the three
men wildly:

"Say, was you goin' down to Carson's house after that Hope girl?" he
demanded loudly.

The three men surveyed him coldly, and the young one gave him a decided
shove:

"That will do, my friend," he said firmly. "We don't need any of your
assistance."

"But I got a line on this thing you'll want to know," he insisted,
hurrying alongside. "There's a guy down there in a car goin' to take her
away. He ain't been gone long, but you won't find her 'thout my help.
He's goin' to take her to a insane institution. I let on I was helpin'
him an' I found out all about it."

"What's all this?" said Reyburn, wheeling about and fixing the old
fellow with a muscular young shake that made his toothless jaws chatter.
"How long ago did he go? What kind of a looking man was he?"

"Lemme go!" whined Bi, playing to make time, one cunning eye down the
road. "I ain't as young as I used to be, an' I can't stand gettin'
excited. I got a rig here a purpose, an' I'll take you all right down,
an' then ef he's gone, an' I s'pose he must be, 'cause your train was
late, why, we'll foller."

"Well, quick, then!" said Reyburn, climbing into the shackley spring
wagon that Bi indicated, the only vehicle in view. The two trustees
climbed stiffly and uncertainly into the back seat as if they felt they
were risking their lives, and Bi lumbered rheumatically into the
driver's place and took up the lines. It appeared that the only living
thing in Tinsdale that wasn't awake and keen to go to the fire was that
horse, and Bi had to do quite a little urging with the stump of an old
whip. So, reluctantly, they joined the procession toward the Carson
house.

As the stream from the hogshead gurgled smaller, and the victim writhed
out of its reach and began to get his bearings, suddenly the outside
kitchen door burst open and a crew of rubber-coated citizens sprang in,
preceded by a generous stream of chemicals which an ardent young member
of the company set free indiscriminately in his excitement. It struck
the right man squarely in the middle and sent him sprawling on the
floor.

Bob dropped the conductor pipe in exhausted relief and flew to the scene
of action. It had been fearful to be held from more active service so
long. Emily, outside, could be seen dancing up and down excitedly and
directing the procession, with frightened shouts, "In there! In the
kitchen! Quick!" as the neighbors and townsmen crowded in and filled the
little kitchen demanding to know where the fire was.

Mrs. Carson with dignity stepped forward to explain:

"There ain't any fire, friends, an' I don't know how you all come to get
here, but I reckon the Lord sent you. You couldn't a-come at a better
moment. We certainly was in some trouble, an' I'll be obliged to you all
if you'll just fasten that man up so't he can't do any more harm. He
came walkin' in here tryin' to take away a member of my family by force,
an' he pointed this at me!"

She lifted the incriminating weapon high where they could all see.

Herbert Hutton, struggling to his feet in the crowd, began to understand
that this was no place for him, and looked about for an exit, but none
presented itself. The chauffeur had vanished and was trying to make out
what had happened to his car.

Hutton, brought to bay, turned on the crowd like a snarling animal,
although the effect was slightly spoiled by his drabbled appearance, and
roared out insolently:

"The woman doesn't know what she's talking about, men; she's only
frightened. I came here after my wife, and I intend to take her away
with me! She escaped from an insane asylum some time ago, and we've been
looking for her ever since. This woman is doing a very foolish and
useless thing in resisting me, for the law can take hold of her, of
course."

The crowd wavered and looked uncertainly at Mrs. Carson and at Betty
cowering horrified behind her, and Hutton saw his advantage:

"Men," he went on, "there is one of your own townsmen who knows me and
can vouch for me. A Mr. Gage. Abijah Gage. If you will just look him
up--he was down at the station a few minutes ago. He knows that all I am
saying is true!"

A low sound like a rumble went over the little audience and they seemed
to bunch together and look at one another while some kind of an
understanding traveled from eye to eye. An articulate syllable, "Bi!"
breathed in astonishment, and then again "Bi!" in contempt. Public
opinion, like a panther crouching, was forming itself ready to spring,
when suddenly a new presence was felt in the room. Three strangers had
appeared and somehow quietly gotten into the doorway. Behind them,
stretching his neck and unable to be cautious any longer, appeared Bi's
slouching form. Crouching Public Opinion caught sight of him and showed
its teeth, but was diverted by the strangers.

Then suddenly, from the corner behind Ma, slipped Betty with
outstretched hands, like a lost thing flying to its refuge, straight to
the side of the handsome young stranger.

He put out his hands and drew her to his side with a protecting motion,
and she whispered:

"Tell, them, please; oh, make them understand."

Then Reyburn, with her hand still protectingly in his, spoke:

"What that man has just said is a lie!"

Hutton looked up, went deadly white and reeled as he saw the two elderly
men.

The crowd drew a united breath and stood straighter, looking relieved.
Bi blanched, but did not budge. Whatever happened he was in with both
crowds. Reyburn continued:

"I carry papers in my pocket which give authority to arrest him. If the
sheriff is present will he please take charge of him. His name is
Herbert Hutton, and he is charged with trying to make this lady marry
him under false pretenses in order to get control of her property. She
is not his wife, for she escaped before the ceremony was performed. I
know, for I was present. These two gentlemen with me are the trustees of
her estate."

Estate!

The neighbors looked at Betty respectfully.

Bi dropped his jaw perceptibly and tried to figure out how that would
affect him. The sheriff stepped forward to magnify his office, and the
silence was impressive, almost reverent. In the midst of it broke Bob's
practical suggestion:

"Shut him in the coal shed. It's got a padlock an' is good an' strong.
He can't kick it down."

Then the law began to take its course, the fire gang stepped out, and
Mrs. Carson set to work to clean up. In the midst of it all Reyburn
looked down at Betty, and Betty looked up at Reyburn, and they
discovered in some happy confusion that they still had hold of hands.
They tried to cover their embarrassment by laughing, but something had
been established between them that neither could forget.



CHAPTER XVIII


THE days that followed were full of bliss and peace to Betty. With
Hutton safely confined in the distant city, and a comfortable sum of her
accumulated allowance in the Tinsdale bank, with a thorough
understanding between herself and her trustees and the knowledge that
her estate was large enough to do almost anything in reason that she
wished to do with it, and would be hers in three weeks, life began to
take on a different look to the poor storm-tossed child. The days in the
Carson home were all Thanksgivings now, and every member of the family
was as excited and happy as every other member. There were arguments
long and earnest between Betty and her benefactor as to how much she
might in reason be allowed to do for the family now that she had plenty
of money, but in the end Betty won out, declaring that she had wished
herself on this family in her distress, and they took her as a man does
when he marries, for better for worse. Now that the worse had passed by
she was theirs for the better, and she intended to exercise the
privilege of a daughter of the house for the rest of her natural life.

Bi Gage was worried. He was still trying to get something out of the
estate for his part in the exercises, and he vibrated between Tinsdale
and Warren Reyburn's office working up his case. The five-thousand-dollar
reward was as yet unpaid, and the papers he held didn't seem to impress
the functionaries nearly so much as he had expected. It began to look as
though Bi had missed his chances in life once more, and when he took his
old seat in the fire-house and smoked, he said very little. Popular
Opinion was still crouching with her eye in his direction and it
behooved him to walk cautiously and do nothing to offend. So while he
smoked he cogitated in his cunning little brain, and hatched out a plan
by which he might get in with the heiress later, perhaps, when things
had quieted down a little and she had her money.

Betty received a pitiful letter from her stepmother, trying to explain
away her part in the affair and professing to be so relieved at the news
that Betty was still alive and well that she cared nothing about
anything else, not even the fact that poor dear Herbert was landed in
jail, or that the fortune which she had schemed so long to keep in her
own power was wrested from her so ignominiously. She begged Betty to
come back to their home and "be happy again together."

But Betty was so happy where she was that she could afford to be
generous and try to forget her wrongs. She wrote a decent little note
gently but firmly declining to come "home" ever again, making it quite
plain that she was no longer deceived by honeyed phrases, and closing
with a request that if in future any communication might be necessary it
should be made through her lawyer, Mr. Warren Reyburn.

This same Warren Reyburn had returned to his city office in a very much
exalted state of mind. He could not get away from that little hand of
Betty's that had been laid so tremblingly and confidingly in his; and
yet how could he, a poverty-stricken lawyer with absolutely no prospects
at all, ever dare to think of her, a lady of vast estates. Still, there
was some comfort in the fact that he had still some business to transact
for her, and would have to return to Tinsdale again. He might at least
see her once more. So he solaced himself on his return trip, feeling
that he had done some good work, and that he would have a pleasant
report to give to Jane Carson when he called upon her, as he meant to do
the next day.

He arrived at home to find James Ryan in a great state of excitement. A
pile of mail had arrived, and he had memorized the return addresses on
the outside of all the envelopes. One was from a big corporation, and
another bore a name widely spoken of in the circles of the world of
finance, Jimmie in close council with Jane Carson, had decided that it
must be from that person who called up twice on the 'phone and swore
such terrible oaths when he found that Reyburn was away.

Jimmie hovered nervously about, putting things to rights, while Reyburn
read his mail. He had come to the smallest envelope of all, a plain
government envelope now, and nothing had developed. Jimmie saw his first
place fast slipping away from him and his heart grew heavy with fear.
Perhaps after all nothing good had turned up yet.

Suddenly Reyburn sprang up and came toward him with an open letter,
holding out his hand in a joyous greeting:

"Read that, Ryan! We're made at last, and I shan't have to let you go
after all!"

Ryan read, the letters dancing before his delighted eyes, every one
wearing an orange blossom on its brow. It was from an old established
and influential firm, asking Reyburn to take full charge of all their
law business, and saying they had been referred to him by two old
friends in Boston, who by the way were Betty's two trustees.

"Come on, Ryan, come out to lunch with me! We've got to celebrate," said
Reyburn. "I have a hunch somehow that you have been the one that brought
me this good luck. You and a Miss Jane Carson. You both share alike, I
guess, but you were the first with your five-thousand-dollar reward
story."

"Jane Carson!" said Jimmie mystified. "Why, _she's_ my _girl_!"

"Your girl?" said Reyburn, a queer look coming in his eyes. "You don't
say! Well, you're in some luck, boy, with a girl like that! And, by the
way, next time you see her, ask her to show you her wedding dress!"

And not another word would Reyburn tell him, though he recurred
frequently to the subject during the very excellent lunch which they had
together in friendly companionship.

They spent the afternoon composing the brief and comprehensive letter in
response to the momentous one of the morning, and in the evening
together they sought out Jane Carson, Reyburn staying only long enough
to outline the ending of the Elizabeth Stanhope story, while Jimmie
remained to hear the beginning, and get a glimpse of the wedding gown,
which Reyburn assured Jane he was sure she need never return. He said he
thought if the owner of it was married ever in the future she would be
likely to want a gown that had no unpleasant associations.

Great excitement prevailed in Tinsdale as the weeks went by. Betty had
bought the lots either side of the Carson house, and wonderful
improvements were in progress. A windmill was being erected and water
pipes laid scientifically. Workmen arrived, some of them from the
village, some from the city. Extensive excavations went on about the old
house, and stone arrived. It began to be whispered about that "Miss
Stanhope," as Betty was now called, was going to build the house all
over and all of stone.

The work went forward rapidly as work can go when there is money enough
behind it, and the family, living in the little old part of the house,
and still using the faithful tin bath-tub and shower of Bob's
manufacture, now looked forward to real bathrooms on the bedroom floor,
with tiled floors and porcelain fittings. Large windows cropped out on
the new walls that were going up, a wide stone chimney and porches. A
charming little stone affair in the back yard that went up so quietly it
was hardly noticed until it was done suddenly became the home of a big
gray car that arrived in town one morning. Betty gave up her position at
the Hathaways so that she could have more time to superintend the work
and see that it was just as she wanted it, and she and Bob spent hours
going over the plans together, he making many wise suggestions. Mrs.
Hathaway called her "Miss Stanhope" with elaborate ceremony, and made
Elise kiss her whenever she met her.

Betty went to a near-by town and bought some pretty clothes, and a lot
of things for Ma and Emily and Bob. A beautiful new piano came by
express and took the place of Mrs. Barlow's tinpanny one.

Then Betty went up to the city and bought more things, furniture and
silver and curtains and rugs, and brought Jane back with her to take a
rest and see the little old house once more before it became the big new
house, and stay until she was ready to be married; for Betty was
determined to have the house ready for Jane's wedding.

When all the new beautiful things began to arrive Betty told Ma that she
had taken her in when she was poor and homeless and absolutely
penniless, and now all these things were her reward, and Betty couldn't
do enough ever to thank her for what she had done for her. They had
offered a five-thousand-dollar reward for news of her, and Ma had done
more than ten thousand and thousands of thousands of dollars' worth of
holding back news about her, and she was never going to get done giving
her her reward.

Of course Betty brought Nellie home, too, and established her in a
lovely new room just fit for a young girl, and began to pet her and fix
her up with pretty things as any loving sister might do if she had money
of her own.

All this time Reyburn had much business to transact in Tinsdale, for
Betty had asked him to look after all the little details about the
building for her, and he had to come down every week-end and look things
over to see that she was not being cheated. And once he brought Jimmie
down with him for Ma to look over and approve and they had a wonderful
time with the two best hens in the hen-coop for dinner. Ryan
incidentally gave his approval to Betty.

During these visits Reyburn was making great strides in the wisdom and
the knowledge of the love of God. One could not be in that family over
Sunday and not feel the atmosphere of a Christian home. Even Jimmie felt
it and said he liked it; that he wanted his house to be that way when
he had one. He went obediently to church with Jane, and marveled at the
way social classes were getting all muddled up in his world.

The Christmas time was coming on when the house finally got itself
completed and was ready for living, and with holly and mistletoe and
laurel they made it gay for the wedding. Betty spent several days with
Jane in New York picking out Jane's "trooso" things, and then a few more
days doing some shopping of her own, and at last the wedding day
arrived.

Nobody thought it queer, though Jimmie felt just the least bit shy when
the two trustees of Betty's estate arrived the night before from Boston
and incorporated themselves into the wedding party. Ma seemed to think
it was all right, so nobody said anything about it.

But after the ceremony when Jane and Jimmie were happily married, Jane
looking very young and pretty indeed in Betty's old wedding gown, veil
and slippers and all, and standing under the holly bell in the laurel
arch to be congratulated just as it had been arranged, there suddenly
came a hush over everybody. Jane noticed for the first time that Betty
was not anywhere in the room. Then everybody's eyes went to the wide
staircase, and here came Betty trailing down the stairs on the arm of
Reyburn, wearing still the little white organdie she had worn a few
minutes before as a bridesmaid, only she had thrown aside the
rose-colored sash and put over her brow a simple tulle veil, and her
arms were full of little pink rosebuds and lilies of the valley.

Up they walked in front of the minister just where the others had stood,
and were married with the same sweet simple service, and everybody was
so surprised and delighted and excited and breathless that Bob simply
couldn't stand it. He slipped into the little music room where the piano
had been installed, turned a handspring on the floor, and then sat down
and played chopsticks on the piano with all the pedals on, till Ma had
to send Emily in to stop him.



       *       *       *       *       *



Transcriber's Notes:

Obvious punctuation errors have been corrected.

Repeated book title was removed.

Page 30, "posible" changed to "possible" (the feathers as possible)

Page 36, "Pood" changed to "Poor" (Poor soul! Candy!)

Page 71, "beter" changed to "better" (you better go to)

Page 77, "ominious" changed to "ominous" (the ominous silence)

Page 90, repeated word "an" removed from text. Original read (by an an
inch and)

Page 121, "hrurrying" changed to "hurrying" (said Ma, hurrying)

Page 131, "wante" changed to "wanted" (I kind of wanted)

Page 131, "l" changed to "look". The space was there it just was not
printed. (It doesn't look)

Page 131, as above, "wh" changed to "when you" (you know, when you)

Page 196, "suspicians" changed to "suspicions" (these suspicions which)

Page 199, "tiptoing" changed to "tiptoeing" (and tiptoeing to the door)

Page 220, "disapointment" changed to "disappointment" (great
disappointment of Bi)





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