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Title: Come Out of the Kitchen! - A Romance
Author: Miller, Alice Duer, 1874-1942
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 "Come Out of the Kitchen! - A Romance" ***

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[Illustration: _Scene from the Play_ THE INSPECTION OF THE SERVANTS.
_Act I_]



                                COME OUT
                             OF THE KITCHEN

                              _A ROMANCE_

                                   BY
                           ALICE DUER MILLER

                         WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY
                              PAUL MEYLAN
                                  AND
                          SCENES FROM THE PLAY

                             [Illustration]

                                NEW YORK
                            GROSSET & DUNLAP
                               PUBLISHERS



                          Copyright, 1916, by
                            The Century Co.

                          Copyright, 1915, by
                     International Magazine Company
                          (HARPER'S BAZAR)

                        _Published, April, 1916_



                                COME OUT
                            OF THE KITCHEN!


                                   I


THE window of Randolph Reed's office was almost completely covered by
magnificent gold block lettering. This to any one who had time and
ability to read it--and the former was more common in the community than
the latter--conveyed the information that Reed dealt in every kind of
real estate, from country palaces to city flats. The last item was put
in more for the sake of symmetry than accuracy, for the small Southern
town contained nothing approaching an apartment house.

From behind this pattern of gold, Reed peered eagerly one autumn
afternoon, chewing the end of a frayed cigar, and listening for the
sound of a motor. He was a stout young man, of an amiable though
unreadable countenance, but like many people of a heavy build, he was
capable of extreme quickness of movement. This was never more clearly
shown than when, about four o'clock, the wished for sound actually
reached his ears. A motor was approaching.

With a bound Reed left the window, and, seated at his desk, presented in
the twinkling of an eye the appearance of a young American business man,
calm and efficient, on an afternoon of unusual business pressure. He
laid papers in piles, put them in clips and took them out, snapped
rubber bands about them with frenzied haste, and finally seizing a pen,
he began to indite those well-known and thrilling words: "Dear Sir:
Yours of the 15th instant received and contents--" when the motor drew
up before his door.

It was an English car; all green and nickel; it moved like an expert
skater on perfect ice. As it stopped, the chauffeur dropped from his
place beside the driver. The driver himself, removing his glasses,
sprang from the car and up the office steps, slapping the pockets of his
coat as he did so in a search which soon appeared to be for cigarettes
and matches.

"Sorry to be late," he said.

Reed, who had looked up as one who did not at once remember, in his vast
preoccupation, either his visitor or his business, now seemed to recall
everything. He waved the newcomer to a chair, with a splendid gesture.

"Doubtless the roads," he began.

"Roads!" said the other. "Mud-holes. No, we left Washington later than I
intended. Well, have you got the house for me?"

Reed offered his client a cigar.

"No, thank you, prefer my cigarette if you don't mind."

Reed did not mind in the least. The real estate business in Vestalia was
never brilliant, and several weeks' profits might easily have been
expended in one friendly smoke.

His client was a man under thirty, of a type that used to be considered
typically American--that is to say, Anglo-Saxon, modified by a century
or so of New England climate and conscience. His ancestors had been
sailors, perhaps, and years of exposure had tanned their skins and left
their eyes as blue as ever. His movements had the gentleness
characteristic of men who are much with horses, and though he was
active and rather lightly built, he never was sudden or jerky in any
gesture. Something of this same quietness might be detected in his
mental attitude. People sometimes thought him hesitating or undecided on
questions about which his mind was irrevocably made up. He took a
certain friendly interest in life as a whole, and would listen with such
patience to an expression of opinion that the expresser of it was often
surprised to find the opinion had had no weight with him, whatsoever.

He stood now, listening with the politest attention to Reed's somewhat
flowery description of the charms of the Revelly house--charms which
Crane himself had examined in the minutest detail.

"Never before," exclaimed the real estate agent, in a magnificent
peroration, "never before has the splendid mansion been rented--"

"Ah," said Crane with a smile, "I believe you there."

"Never been offered for rent," corrected the real estate agent, with a
cough. "Its delightful colonial flavor--"

"Its confounded dilapidation," said the prospective tenant.

"Its boxwood garden, its splendid lawns, its stables, accommodating
twenty-five horses--"

"Yes, if they don't lean up against the sides."

Reed frowned.

"If," he remarked with a touch of pride, "you do not want the house--"

The young man of the motor car laughed good-temperedly.

"I thought we had settled all that last week," he said. "I do want the
house; I do appreciate its beauties; I do not consider it in good
repair, and I continue to think that the price for six weeks is very
high. Have the owners come down?"

Reed frowned again.

"I thought I made it clear, on my part," he answered, "that Mr. and Mrs.
Revelly are beyond the reach of communication. They are on their way to
Madeira. Before they left they set the price on their house, and I can
only follow their instructions. Their children--there are four
children--"

"Good heavens, I don't have to rent them with the house, do I?"
exclaimed the other frivolously.

The real estate agent colored, probably from annoyance.

"No, Mr. Crane," he answered proudly, "you do not, as far as I know,
have to do anything you do not wish to do. What I was about to say was
that the children have no authority to alter the price determined by
their parents. To my mind, however, it is not a question of absolute
value. There is no doubt that you can find newer and more conveniently
appointed houses in the hunting district--certainly cheaper ones, if
price be such an object. But the Revelly family--one of the most
aristocratic families south of Mason and Dixon's, sir--would not be
induced to consider renting under the sum originally named."

"It's pretty steep," said the young man, but his mild tone already
betrayed him. "And how about servants?"

"Ah," said Reed, looking particularly mask-like, "servants! That has
been the great difficulty. To guarantee domestic service that will
satisfy your difficult Northern standards--"

"I am fussy about only two things," said Crane, "cooking and boots. Must
have my boots properly done."

"If you could have brought your own valet--"

"But I told you he has typhoid fever. Now, see here, Mr. Reed, there
really isn't any use wasting my time and yours. If you have not been
able to get me a staff of servants with the house, I wouldn't dream of
taking it. I thought we had made that clear."

Reed waved his impatient client again to his chair.

"There are at this moment four well-recommended servants yonder in the
back office, waiting to be interviewed."

"By me?" exclaimed Crane, looking slightly alarmed.

Reed bowed.

"I wish first, however," he went on, "to say a word or two about
them. I obtained them with the greatest difficulty, from the
Crosslett-Billingtons, of whom you have doubtless often heard."

"Never in my life," said Crane.

Reed raised his eyebrows.

"He is one of our most distinguished citizens. His collection of
tapestry, his villa at Capri--Ah, well, but that is immaterial! The
family is now abroad, and has in consequence consented, as a personal
favor to me, to allow you to take over four of their servants for the
six weeks you will be here, but not a minute longer."

Crane leaned back and blew smoke in the air.

"Are they any good?" he asked.

"You must judge for yourself."

"No, you must tell me."

"The butler is a competent person; the skill of the cook is a
proverb--but we had better have them come in and speak to you
themselves."

"No, by Jove!" cried Crane, springing to his feet. "I don't think I
could stand that." And he incontinently rushed from the office to the
motor, where three mummy-like figures on the back seat had remained
immovable during his absence.

Of these, two were female and one male. To the elder of the women, Crane
applied, hat in hand.

"Won't you give me the benefit of your advice, Mrs. Falkener," he said.
"The agent has some servants for me. The wages and everything like that
have all been arranged, but would you mind just looking them over for me
and telling me what you think about them?"

To invite Mrs. Falkener to give her advice on a detail of household
management was like inviting a duck to the pond. She stepped with a
queen-like dignity from the car. She was a commanding woman who swam
through life, borne up by her belief in her own infallibility. To be
just, she was very nearly infallible in matters of comfort and domestic
arrangement, and it was now many years since she had given attention to
anything else in the world. She was a thorough, able and awe-inspiring
woman of fifty-three.

Now she moved into Reed's office, with motor-veils and dusters floating
about her, like a solid wingless victory, and sat down in Randolph
Reed's own chair. (It was part of her philosophy never to interview a
social inferior until she herself was seated.) With a slight gesture of
her gloved hand, she indicated that the servants might be admitted to
her presence.

The door to the back office opened and the four candidates entered. The
first was the butler, a man slightly younger in years than most of
those careworn functionaries. He came forward with a quick, rapid step,
turning his feet out and walking on his toes. Only Mrs. Falkener
recognized that it was the walk of a perfect butler. She would have
engaged him on the spot, but when she noted that his hair was parted
from forehead back to the line of his collar and brushed slightly
forward in front of his ears, she experienced a feeling of envy and for
the first time thought with dissatisfaction of the paragon she had left
in charge of her own pantry at home.

She did indeed ask him a question or two, just to assure herself of his
English intonation, which, it must be owned, a residence in the South
had slightly influenced. And then with a start she passed on to the next
figure--the cook.

On her the eyes of her future employer had already been fixed since the
door first opened, and it would be hardly possible to exaggerate the
effect produced by her appearance. She might have stepped from a
Mid-Victorian Keepsake, or Book of Beauty. She should have worn
eternally a crinoline and a wreath of flowers; her soft gray-blue eyes,
her little bowed mouth, her slim throat, should have been the subject of
a perpetual steel engraving. She was small, and light of bone, and her
hands, crossed upon her check apron (for she was in her working dress),
were so little and soft that they seemed hardly capable of lifting a pot
or kettle.

Mrs. Falkener expressed the general sentiment exactly when she gasped:

"And you are the cook?"

The cook, whose eyes had been decorously fixed upon the floor, now
raised them, and sweeping one rapid glance across both her employer and
the speaker, whispered discreetly:

"Yes, ma'am."

"What is your name?"

And at this question a curious thing happened. The butler and Reed
answered simultaneously. Only, the butler said "Jane," and Reed, with
equal conviction, said "Ellen."

Ignoring this seeming contradiction, the cook fixed her dove-like glance
on Mrs. Falkener and answered:

"My name is Jane-Ellen, ma'am."

It was impossible for even as conscientious a housekeeper as Mrs.
Falkener to be really severe with so gentle a creature, but she
contrived to say, with a certain sternness:

"I should like to see your references, Jane-Ellen."

"Oh, I'm sure that will be all right, Mrs. Falkener," said Crane
hastily. He had never removed his eyes from the face of his future cook.

But Jane-Ellen, with soft gestures of those ridiculous hands, was
already unfolding a paper, and now handed it to Mrs. Falkener.

That lady took it and held it off at arm's length while she read it.

"And who," she asked, turning to Reed, "is this Claudia Revelly? Mrs.
Revelly, I suppose?"

"Why, no," answered Reed. "No, as I told you, Mrs. Revelly is in Madeira
with her husband. This is one of the Miss Revellys."

"Humph," replied Mrs. Falkener. "It is a flattering reference, but in my
time the word 'recommend' was spelled with only one 'c.'"

The cook colored slightly and flashed a glance that might have been
interpreted as reproachful at Reed, who said hastily:

"Ah, yes, quite so. You know--the fact is--our Southern aristocracy--the
Revellys are among our very--However, there can be no question whatever
about Jane-Ellen's ability. You will, I can assure you from personal
experience, be satisfied with her cooking. Mrs. Crosslett-Billington--"

"Humph!" said Mrs. Falkener again, as one who does not mean to commit
herself. "We shall see. Let the housemaid come a little forward."

At this a young woman advanced; she bore a certain resemblance of
feature to the butler, but entirely lacked his competent alertness.

"This young woman looks to me sullen," Mrs. Falkener observed to Crane,
hardly modulating her clear, dry tone of voice.

Crane betrayed his embarrassment. He wished now that he had not invited
his elderly friend's coöperation.

"Oh," he said, "I'm sure it will be all right. It must be a trifle
annoying to be looked over like this."

"The best way to settle this sort of thing is at the start," replied
Mrs. Falkener, and turning to the housemaid, she asked her her name.

"Lily," replied the young woman, in a deep voice of annoyance.

"Lily," said Mrs. Falkener, as if this were a most unsuitable name for a
housemaid, and she looked up at Crane to confirm her opinion, but he was
again looking at the cook and did not notice her.

"Well, Lily," continued the elder lady, as if she made a distinct
concession in making use of such a name at all in addressing a servant,
"do you or do you not want to take this place? There is, I suppose,
nothing to compel you to take it if you do not want. But now is the time
to say so."

Lily, with a manner that did seem a little ungracious, replied that she
did want it, and added, on receiving a quick glance from the butler,
Smithfield, "Madame."

"Well, then," said Mrs. Falkener, becoming more condescending, "we shall
expect a more pleasant demeanor from you, a spirit of coöperation.
Nothing is more trying for yourself or your fellow servants--"

Reed moved forward and whispered in Mrs. Falkener's ear:

"It will straighten out of itself, my dear madame--nothing but a little
embarrassment--a _grande dame_ like yourself, you understand me, a
tremendous impression on a young woman of this sort--"

Mrs. Falkener interrupted him.

"What is the name of the boy in the corner?" she asked.

At this, a round-faced lad of perhaps eighteen sprang forward. The most
striking items of his costume were a red neckerchief and a green baize
apron and leggings, giving to his appearance a slight flavor of a
horse-boy in an illustration to Dickens.

"I, ma'am," he said, with a strong cockney accent, "am the Useful Boy,
as they say in the States."

"He's very good at doing boots," said Reed.

"Boots," cried the boy, and kissing his hand he waved it in the air with
a gesture we have been accustomed to think of as continental rather
than British, "a boot, particularly a riding-boot, is to me--"

"What is your name?" Mrs. Falkener asked, and this time the severity of
her manner was unmistakable.

It did not, however, dampen the enthusiasm of the last candidate.

"My name, ma'am," he replied, "is B-r-i-n-d-l-e-b-u-r-y."

"Brindlebury?"

"Pronounced, 'Brinber'--the old Sussex name with which, ma'am, I have no
doubt you, as a student of history--"

Mrs. Falkener turned to Crane.

"I think you will have trouble with that boy," she said. "He is inclined
to be impertinent."

Crane looked at the boy over her head, and the boy, out of a pair of
twinkling gray eyes, looked back. They both managed to look away again
before a smile had been actually exchanged, but Crane found himself
making use for the third time of his favorite formula:

"Oh, I think I'll find him all right."

Mrs. Falkener, remembering the pitiable weakness of men, again waved her
hand.

"They may go now," she said to Reed, who hastily shepherded the four
back again into the back office. When they were alone, she turned to
Crane and said with the utmost conviction:

"My dear Burton, none of those servants will do--except the butler, who
appears to be a thoroughly competent person. But those young women--they
may have been anything. Did you not observe that their nails had been
manicured?"

Crane stammered slightly, for the fact had not escaped him, in
connection, at least, with one of the young women.

"Don't--don't cooks ever manicure their nails?" he said. "It seems
rather a good idea to me."

Reed, who was once more approaching, caught these last words.

"Ah," he said, "you were speaking of the manicuring of servants'
nails--"

Mrs. Falkener gave him a severe look.

"I was advising Mr. Crane not to engage any one but the butler."

"Indeed, how very interesting," said Reed. "Your judgment in the matter
is very valuable, madame, I know, but perhaps you do not sufficiently
emphasize the difficulties of getting any servants at all in this part
of the country. In fact, I could not undertake, if these are not
engaged--"

"Well, I could," said the lady. "I could telegraph to New York to my own
intelligence office and have three really competent people here by
to-morrow evening."

For a moment Reed looked profoundly distressed, and then he went on:

"Exactly, I have no doubt, madame. But what I was about to say was that
I could not undertake to rent the Revelly house to a staff of unknown
Northern servants. You see, these two young women have been practically
brought up in the household of Mrs. Crosslett-Billington--an old family
friend of the Revellys--and they know they would take care of things in
the way they are accustomed to--"

"Of course, of course, very natural," said Crane. "I quite agree. I'm
willing to give these people a chance. Of course, Mrs. Falkener, I
don't know as much about these things as you do, but it's only for a few
weeks, and as for their nails--"

"Oh, I can explain that," cried Reed; "in fact, I should have done so at
the start. It's an idiosyncrasy of Mr. Billington's. He insists that all
the servants in the house should be manicured, particularly those who
wait on table, or have anything to do with touching the food."

Mrs. Falkener compressed her lips till they were nothing but a seam in
her face.

"Humph!" she said again, and without another word she turned and swept
out of the office.

Left alone, the two men stood silent, without even looking at each
other, and finally it was Crane who observed mildly:

"Well, you know, they are a little queer in some ways--"

"Take my word for it," said Reed, earnestly, "you will make no mistake
in engaging them all--except that boy, but you can manage him, I have no
doubt. As for the cook, you will be surprised. Her cooking is famous in
three counties, I assure you."

An instant later, the lease was duly signed.

When the motor was safely on its way back to Washington, Mrs. Falkener
gave her companions on the back seat the benefit of her own impression.
One was her daughter, a muscular, dark-eyed girl, who imagined that she
had thoroughly emancipated herself from her mother's dominance because
she had established a different field of interest. She loved out-of-door
sport of all kinds, particularly hunting, and was as keen and competent
about them as her mother was about household management. The two
respected each other's abilities, and managed to lead an affectionate
life in common.

The man on the back seat was Solon Tucker--Crane's lawyer, by
inheritance rather than by choice. He was a thin, erect man, with a
narrow head and that expression of mouth at once hard and subtle that
the Law writes on so many men's faces. His mind was excellently clear,
his manner reserved, and his invariable presupposition that all human
beings except himself were likely to make fools of themselves. He had,
however, immense respect for Mrs. Falkener's opinions on any subject
except law--on which he respected nobody's opinions but his own, least
of all those of judges; and he believed that nothing would so
effectively lighten his own responsibilities in regard to Crane as to
marry him to Mrs. Falkener's daughter, an idea in which Mrs. Falkener
cordially agreed.

"You must make a point of staying with him, Solon," she was now
murmuring into that gentleman's rather large ear, "if, as I fear, he
actually takes this house. You have never seen such an extraordinary
group of servants--except the butler. Do you suppose it could be a plot,
a blackmailing scheme of some sort? The cook--Well, my dear Solon, a
pocket Venus, a stage ingénue, with manicured nails! He was determined
to engage her from the first. It seems very unsafe to me. A bachelor of
Burton's means. You must stay by him, Solon. In fact," she added, "I
think we had better both stay by him. Poor boy, he has no idea of taking
care of himself."

"He can be very obstinate," said his lawyer. "But I fancy you exaggerate
the dangers. You are unaccustomed to any but the very highest type of
English servant. They are probably nothing worse than incompetent."

"Wait till you see the cook!" answered Mrs. Falkener portentously.

Tucker looked away over the darkening landscape.

"Dear me," he thought to himself. "What a mountain she makes of a
mole-hill! How every one exaggerates--except trained minds!"

In Tucker's opinion all trained minds were legal.



                                   II


ON the following Monday, late in the afternoon, the old Revelly house
was awaiting its new master. Already hunters, ponies, two-wheeled carts,
an extra motor, to say nothing of grooms, stable-boys, and a tremendous
head coachman, had arrived and were making the stable yards resound as
they had not done for seventy years. But they had nothing to do with the
household staff. They were all to be boarded by the coachman's wife who
was installed in the gardener's cottage.

The house, with its tall pillared portico and flat roofed wings, lost
its shabby air as the afternoon light grew dimmer, and by six o'clock,
when Crane's motor drew up before the door, it presented nothing but a
dignified and spacious mass to his admiring eyes.

No one but Tucker was with him. He had had some difficulty in avoiding
the pressing desire of the two Falkener ladies to be with him at the
start and help him, as they put it, "get everything in order." He had
displayed, however, a firmness that they had not expected. He had been
more embarrassed than he cared to remember by Mrs. Falkener's assistance
in the real estate office, and he decided to begin his new housekeeping
without her advice. He would, indeed, have dispensed with the
companionship even of Tucker for a day or two, but that would have been
impossible without a direct refusal, and Burton was unwilling to hurt
the feelings of so true and loyal a friend, not only of his own but of
his father before him.

The dignified butler and the irrepressible boy, Brindlebury, ran down
the steps to meet them, and certainly they had no reason to complain of
their treatment; bags were carried up and unstrapped, baths drawn,
clothes laid out with the most praiseworthy promptness.

Tucker had advocated a preliminary tour of inspection.

"It is most important," he murmured to Crane, "to give these people the
idea from the start that you cannot be deceived or imposed upon." But
Crane refused even to consider such questions until he had had a bath
and dinner.

The plan of the old house was very simple. On the right of the front
door was the drawing-room, on the left a small library and a room which
had evidently been used as an office. The stairs went up in the center,
shallow and broad, winding about a square well. The dining-room ran
across the back of the house.

When Tucker came down dressed for dinner, he found Crane was ahead of
him. He was standing in the drawing-room bending so intently over
something on a table that Tucker, who was not entirely without
curiosity, came and bent over it, too, and even the butler, who had come
to announce dinner, craned his neck in that direction.

It was a miniature, set in an old-fashioned frame of gold and pearls. It
represented a young woman in a mauve tulle ball dress, full in the skirt
and cut off the shoulders, as was the fashion in the days before the
war. She wore a wreath of fuchsias, one of which trailing down just
touched her bare shoulder.

"Well," said Tucker contemptuously, "you don't consider that a work of
art, do you?"

Burton remained as one entranced.

"It reminds me of some one I know," he answered.

"It is quite obviously a fancy picture," replied Tucker, who was
something of a connoisseur. "Look at those upturned eyes, and that hand.
Did you ever see a live woman with such a tiny hand?"

"Yes, once," said Crane, but his guest did not notice him.

"The sentimentality of the art of that period," Tucker continued, "which
is so plainly manifested in the poetry----"

"Beg pardon, sir," said Smithfield, "the soup is served."

Crane reluctantly tore himself from the picture and sat down at table,
and such is the materialism of our day that he was evidently immediately
compensated.

"By Jove," he said, "what a capital purée!"

Even Tucker, who, under Mrs. Falkener's tuition, had intended to find
the food uneatable, was obliged to confess its merits.

"I say," said Crane to Smithfield, "tell the cook, will you, that I
never tasted such a soup--not out of Paris, or even in it."

"She probably never heard of Paris," put in Tucker.

Smithfield bowed.

"I will explain your meaning to her, sir," he said.

Dinner continued on the same high plane, ending with two perfect cups of
coffee, which called forth such eulogies from Crane that Tucker said
finally, as they left the dining-room:

"Upon my word, Burt, I never knew you cared so much about eating."

"I love art, Tuck," said the other, slapping his friend on the back. "I
appreciate perfection. I worship genius."

Tucker began to feel sincerely distressed. Indeed he lay awake for
hours, worrying. He had counted, from Mrs. Falkener's description, on
finding the servants so incompetent that the house would be impossible.
He had hoped that one dinner would have been enough to send Crane to
the telegraph office of his own accord, summoning servants from the
North. He had almost promised Mrs. Falkener that when she and her
daughter arrived the next afternoon, they would find a new staff
expected, if not actually installed. Instead he would have to greet her
with the news that the pocket Venus with the polished nails had turned
out to be a _cordon bleu_. That is, if she were really doing the
cooking. Perhaps--this idea occurred to Tucker shortly before
dawn--perhaps she was just pretending to cook; perhaps she had hired
some excellent old black Mammy to do the real work. That should be
easily discoverable.

He determined to learn the truth; and on this resolution fell asleep.

The consequence was that he came down to breakfast rather cross, and
wouldn't even answer Crane, who was in the most genial temper, when he
commented favorably on the omelette. In fact, he let it appear that this
constant preoccupation with material details was distasteful to him.

Crane, as he rose from the table, turned to Smithfield:

"Will you tell the cook I'd like to see her," he said. "I'm expecting
some ladies to stay, this afternoon, and I want to make things
comfortable for them. Be off, Tuck, there's a good fellow, if this sort
of thing bores you."

But wild horses would not at that moment have dragged Tucker away, and
he observed that he supposed there was no objection to his finishing his
breakfast where he was.

Smithfield coughed.

"I'm sure I beg your pardon, sir," he said, "but if you could tell me
what it is you want, I would tell the cook. She has a peculiar nature,
Jane-Ellen has, sir; has had from a child; and, if you would forgive the
liberty, I believe it would be best for you not to interview her
yourself."

Tucker looked up quickly.

"Why, what do you mean?" asked Crane.

"She is very timid, sir, very easily affected by criticism--"

"Good heavens, I don't want to criticize her!" cried Crane. "I only want
to tell her how highly I think of her."

"In my opinion, Burton," Tucker began, when an incident occurred that
entirely changed the situation.

A very large elderly gray cat walked into the room, with the step of one
who has always been welcome, and approaching Tucker's chair as if it
were a familiar place, he jumped suddenly upon his knee and began to
purr in his face.

Tucker, under the most favorable circumstances, was not at his best in
the early morning. Later in the day he might have borne such an
occurrence with more calm, but before ten o'clock he was like a man
without armor against such attacks. He sprang to his feet with an
exclamation, and drove the cat ahead of him from the room, returning
alone an instant later.

"It is outrageous," he said, when he returned, "that our lives are to be
rendered miserable by that filthy beast."

"Sit down, Tuck," said Burton, who was talking about wines with the
butler. "My life is not rendered in the least miserable. The champagne,
Smithfield, ought to go on the ice--"

Tucker, however, could not distract his mind so quickly from the thought
of the outrage to which he had just been subjected.

"I must really ask you, Burton," he said, "before you go on with your
orders, to insist that that animal be drowned, or at least sent out of
the house--"

"Oh, I beg, sir, that you won't do that," broke in Smithfield. "The cat
belongs to the cook, and I really could not say, sir, what she might do,
if the cat were put out of the house."

"We seem to hear a vast amount about what this cook likes and doesn't
like," said Tucker, dribbling a little more hot milk into his half cup
of coffee. "The house, I believe, is not run entirely for her
convenience."

It is possible that Crane had already been rendered slightly inimical to
his friend's point of view, but he was saved the trouble of answering
him, for at this moment the cook herself entered the room, in what no
one present doubted for an instant was a towering rage. She was wearing
a sky blue gingham dress, her eyes were shining frightfully, and her
cheeks were very pink.

At the sight of her, all conversation died away.

The butler approaching her, attempted to draw her aside, murmuring
something to which she paid no attention.

"No," she said aloud, pulling her arm away from his restraining hand, "I
will not go away and leave it to you. I will not stay in any house where
dumb animals are ill-treated, least of all, my own dear cat."

It is, as most of us know to our cost, easier to be pompous than
dignified when one feels oneself in the wrong.

"Pooh," said Tucker, "your cat was not ill-treated. She had no business
in the dining-room."

"He was kicked," said the cook.

"Come, my girl," returned Tucker, "this is not the way to speak to your
employer."

And at this, with one of those complete changes of manner so
disconcerting in the weaker sex, the cook turned to Crane, and said,
with the most melting gentleness:

"I'm sure it was not you, sir. I am sure you would not do such a thing.
You will excuse me if I was disrespectful, but perhaps you know, if you
have ever loved an animal, how you feel to see it brutally kicked
downstairs."

"Preposterous," said Tucker, carefully indicating that he was addressing
Crane alone. "This is all preposterous. Tell the woman to keep her cat
where it belongs, and we'll have no more trouble."

"It hasn't troubled me, Tuck," answered Crane cheerfully. "But I am
curious to know whether or not you did kick him."

"The question seems to be, do you allow your servants to be insolent or
not?"

Crane turned to the cook.

"Mr. Tucker seems unwilling to commit himself on the subject of the
kick," he observed. "Have you any reason for supposing your cat was
kicked?"

"Yes," said Jane-Ellen. "The noise, the scuffle, the bad language, and
the way Willoughby ran into the kitchen with his tail as big as a fox's.
He is not a cat to make a fuss about nothing, I can tell you."

"I beg your pardon," said Crane, who was now evidently enjoying himself,
"but what did you say the cat's name is?"

"Willoughby."

Burton threw himself back in his chair.

"Willoughby!" he exclaimed, "how perfectly delightful. Now, you must
own, Tuck, prejudiced as you are, that that's the best cat name you ever
heard in your life."

But Tucker would not or could not respond to this overture, and so Crane
looked back at Jane-Ellen, who looked at him and said:

"Oh, do you like that name? I'm so glad, sir." And at this they smiled
at each other.

"Don't you think you had better go back to the kitchen, Jane-Ellen?"
said the butler sternly.

In the meantime, Tucker had lighted a cigar and had slightly recovered
his equanimity.

"As a matter of fact," he now said, in a deep, growling voice, "I did
not kick the creature at all--though, if I had, I should have considered
myself fully justified. I merely assisted its progress down the kitchen
stairs with a sort of push with my foot."

"It was a kick to Willoughby," said the cook, in spite of a quick effort
on Smithfield's part to keep her quiet.

"O Tuck!" cried Crane, "it takes a lawyer, doesn't it, to distinguish
between a kick and an assisting push with the foot. Well, Jane-Ellen,"
he went on, turning to her, "I think it's not too much to ask that
Willoughby be kept in the kitchen hereafter."

"I'm sure he has no wish to go where he's not wanted," she replied
proudly, and at this instant Willoughby entered exactly as before. All
four watched him in a sort of hypnotic inactivity. As before, he walked
with a slow, firm step to the chair in which Tucker sat, and, as before,
jumped upon his knee. But this time Tucker did not move. He only looked
at Willoughby and sneered.

Jane-Ellen, with the gesture of a mother rescuing an innocent babe from
massacre, sprang forward and snatched the cat up in her arms. Then she
turned on her heel and left the room. As she did so, the face of
Willoughby over her shoulder distinctly grinned at the discomfited
Tucker.

Not unnaturally, Tucker took what he could from the situation.

"If I were you, Burt," he said, "I should get rid of that young woman.
She is not a suitable cook for a bachelor's establishment. She's too
pretty and she knows it."

"Well, she wouldn't have sense enough to cook so well, if she didn't
know it."

"It seems to me she trades on her looks when she comes up here and makes
a scene like this."

"Beg pardon, sir," said Smithfield, with a slightly heightened color,
"Jane-Ellen is a very good, respectable girl."

"Certainly, she is," said Crane, rising. "Nothing could be more obvious.
Just run down, Smithfield, and ask her to send up a menu for to-night's
dinner." Then, as the man left the room, he added to his friend:

"Sorry, Tuck, if I seem lacking in respect for you and your wishes, but
I really couldn't dismiss such a good cook because you think her a
little bit too good-looking. She is a lovely little creature, isn't
she?"

[Illustration: Jane-Ellen sprang forward and snatched the cat from
Tucker's knee]

"She doesn't know her place."

Crane walked to the window and stood looking out for a minute, and then
he said thoughtfully:

"If ever I have a cat I shall name it Willoughby."

"Have a cat!" cried Tucker. "I thought you detested the animals as much
as I do."

"I felt rather attracted toward this one," said Crane.



                                  III


HIS household cares disposed of, Crane went off to the stables. It was a
soft hazy autumn morning, and though he walked along whistling his heart
was heavy. These changes in background always depressed him. His mother
had been dead about two years, and at times like this he particularly
missed her. She had always contrived to make domestic difficulties not
only unimportant, but amusing. She had been pretty and young, both in
years and spirit, and had had the determining influence on her son since
his childhood.

His parents had married early and imprudently. The elder Crane, stung by
some ill-considered words of his wife's family, had resolved from the
first to make a successful career for himself. Shrewd, hard and
determined, he had not missed his mark. Burton's earliest recollections
of him were fleeting glimpses of a white, tired, silent man seldom, it
seemed to him, at home, and, by his gracious absences, giving him,
Burton, a sort of prior claim on all the time and all the attention of
his mother.

As he grew older and his father's fortune actually materialized, he
began to see that it had never given pleasure to his mother, that it had
first taken her husband's time and strength away, and had then changed
the very stuff out of which the man was made. He had grown to love not
only the game, but the rewards of the game. And Burton knew now that
very early his mother had begun deliberately to teach him the supreme
importance of human relationships, that she had somehow inculcated in
him a contempt not, perhaps, for money, but for those who valued money.
Under her tuition he had absorbed a point of view not very usual among
either rich or poor, namely that money like good health was excellent to
have, chiefly because when you had it you did not have to think about
it.

Both her lessons were valuable to a young man left at twenty-five with a
large fortune. But the second--the high delight in companionship--she
had taught him through her own delightful personality, and her death
left him desperately lonely. His loneliness made him, as one of his
friends had said, extremely open to the dangers of matrimony, while on
the other hand he had been rendered highly fastidious by his years of
happy intimacy with his mother. Her wit and good temper he might have
found in another woman--even possibly her concentrated interest in
himself--but her fortunate sense of proportion, her knowledge in
every-day life, as to what was trivial and what was essential, he found
strangely lacking in all his other friends.

He thought now how amusing she would have been about the manicured maid
servants, and how, if he and she had been breakfasting together, they
would have amused themselves by inventing fantastic explanations,
instead of quarreling and sulking at each other as he and Tucker had
done.

Tucker had been his father's lawyer. It had been one of the many
contradictions in Mrs. Crane's character that, though she had always
insisted that as a matter of loyalty to her husband Tucker should be
retained as family adviser, she had never been able to conceal from
Burton, even when he was still a boy, that she considered the lawyer an
intensely comic character.

She used to contrive to throw a world of significance into her
pronunciation of his name, "Solon." Crane could still hear her saying
it, as if she were indeed addressing the original lawgiver; and it was
largely because this recollection was too vivid that he himself had
taken to calling his counselor by his last name.

He sighed as he thought of all this; but he was a young man, the day was
fine and his horses an absorbing interest, and so he spent a very happy
morning, passing his hand along doubtful fetlocks and withers, and
consulting with his head man on all the infinity of detail which
constitutes the chief joy of so many sports.

At lunch, he appeared to be interested in nothing but the selection of
the best mount for Miss Falkener--a state of mind which Tucker
considered a great deal more suitable than his former frivolous interest
in cats. And soon after lunch was over he went off for a ride, so as to
get it in before he had to go and meet his new guests.

A back piazza ran past the dining-room windows. It was shady and
contained a long wicker-chair. The November afternoon was warm, and here
Tucker decided to rest, possibly to sleep, in order to recuperate from a
disturbing night and morning.

He contrived to make himself very comfortable with a sofa pillow and
extra overcoat. He slept indeed so long that when he woke the light was
beginning to fade. He lay quiet a few moments, thinking that Mrs.
Falkener would soon arrive and revolving the best and most encouraging
terms in which he could describe the situation to her, when he became
aware of voices. His piazza was immediately above the kitchen door, and
it was clear that some one had just entered the kitchen from outdoors.
And he heard a voice, unmistakably Jane-Ellen's, say:

"Stranger, see how glad Willoughby is to see you again. Just think, he
hasn't laid eyes on you for all of three days."

Tucker could not catch the answer which was made in a deep masculine
voice, but it was easy to guess its import from the reply of Jane-Ellen.

"Oh, I'm glad to see you, too."

Another murmur.

"How do you expect me to show it?"

A murmur.

"Don't be absurd, Ranny." And she added quite audibly: "If you really
want proof, I'll give it to you. I was just thinking I needed some one
to help me freeze the ice-cream. Give it a turn or two, will you, like a
dear?"

It was obvious that the visitor was of a docile nature, for presently
the faint regular squeak of an ice-cream freezer was heard. His heart
was not wholly in his work, however, for soon he began to complain.
Tucker gathered that the freezer was set outside the kitchen door, and
that the visitor now had to raise his voice slightly in order to be
heard in the kitchen, for both speakers were audible.

"Yes," said the visitor, "that's the way you are. You expect every one
to work for you."

"Don't you enjoy working for me, Ranny? You've always said it was the
one thing in the world gave you pleasure."

"Humph," returned the other grimly, "I don't know that I am so eager to
freeze Crane's ice-cream."

"And Mr. Tucker's, don't forget him."

"Who the deuce is Tucker?"

The listener above sat up and leaned forward eagerly.

"Tucker," said Jane-Ellen, "is our guest at present. He's my favorite
and Willoughby's. He has what you might call a virile, dominating
personality. Please don't turn so fast, or you'll ruin the dessert."

"How did you ever come in contact with Tucker, I should like to know.
Does he come into the kitchen?"

"Not yet."

"How did you see him at all?"

"Owing to his kicking Willoughby down the stairs."

"And you mean to say you stood for that? Why, my dear girl, if any one
had told me--"

"Cruel, perhaps, Ranny, but the action of a strong man."

"I think it's a great mistake," said the masculine voice in a tone of
profound displeasure, "for a girl situated as you are to have anything
to do with her employer and his guests. What do you know about these
fellows? How old is this Tucker?"

"Oh, about forty, I should think."

The listener's eyes brightened by ten years.

"What does he look like?"

"Oh, people are so difficult to describe, Ranny."

"You can describe them all right when you try."

"Well," ... Tucker's excitement became intense ... "well, he looks like
the husband on the stage with a dash of powder above the ears, who wins
the weak young wife back again in the last act."

With a long deep breath, Tucker rose to his feet. He felt like a
different man, a strong, dangerous fellow.

"Dear girl," said the masculine voice below him, "you're not going to
let this man make love to you."

"Oh, Ranny, he's never tried. He's much too dignified and reserved."

"But if he did try, you would not let him?"

"You, if any one, ought to know that it isn't always easy to prevent."

"I don't know what you mean by that. You've always prevented me, as
often as you wanted to."

"Often, but not as often as that. There, Ranny, do get on with the
ice-cream. That terrible old woman is coming to stay this evening with
her daughter, and you may be sure she'll have us all turned out if
everything isn't just right."

"Crane is supposed to be engaged to the daughter," said the male voice.

"Well, I don't envy him his mother-in-law."

"What do you think of Crane?"

There was a pause. At first Tucker feared he might have missed the
answer, but presently the question was repeated.

"I asked you what you thought of Crane."

"Oh, I've seen a good many young men of that type in my time," was the
reply.

"How strange women are," remarked the ice-cream maker, who had now once
again settled down to work. "I should have thought Crane just the man
to attract women, well built, good-looking, a splendid horseman--"

"Would you say good-looking?" asked the cook. Tucker had been putting
exactly the same question to himself.

But the speaker did not intend to answer it, he went on with his own
train of thought: "And here you go into raptures over an old fellow, old
enough to be your father--"

"Should you say I went into raptures?"

"You talk as if you were prepared to make an idol of the man."

A pleasant laugh greeted this statement. Tucker grew grave. He did not
feel that he thoroughly understood the cause of that laugh, but he took
refuge in that comfortable and all-embracing theory that women were
fond, unaccountable creatures, particularly when deeply moved.

Another explanation was offered by the man below.

"I believe you are just trying to tease me, Jane-Ellen."

"_Trying_, Ranny?"

"You know very well you can always do whatever you like with me." The
voice deepened with emotion.

"Oh, dear me, no, I can't."

"Why not?"

"I can't keep you turning steadily at that crank. Here, let me show you
how it ought to be done."

Tucker knew that she had come out of the kitchen. By leaning over the
railing he could see the kitchen door.

He leant over.

The space before the entrance was paved in large square flagstones; here
an ice-cream freezer was standing, and over it bent a young man of a
somewhat solid build, but with the unmistakable manner and bearing of a
gentleman. He straightened himself as Jane-Ellen came out, and watched
her closely as she grasped the handle of the freezer; but it seemed to
the spectator above that he watched her with other emotions than the
sincere wish to learn the correct manner of freezing.

Tucker looked straight down upon her, upon the part in her light brown
hair, upon her round little arms, for her sleeves were rolled up above
the elbow, as she said didactically:

"It ought to be a steady, even--"

But she got no further, for her pupil without a word, stooped forward
and gathering her into his arms, kissed her.



                                   IV


THERE was no doubt whatsoever in the mind of the spectator that this
caress, provoked or unprovoked, was not agreeable to its recipient. The
young man was large and heavy and she was minute and probably weak, but
the violence of her recoil was sufficient to free her within a second.

"'Her strength,'" thought Tucker, "'was as the strength of ten,'" and he
hoped it was for the reason alleged by the poet.

She stood an instant looking at her visitor, and then she said, in a
tone that no well-trained dog would have attempted to disobey:

"Go away. Go home, and please don't ever come back."

Tucker was deeply moved. It is to be feared that he forgot Mrs.
Falkener, forgot his plans for his friend's protection, forgot
everything except that he had just heard himself described as a hero of
romance by a girl of superlative charms; and that that girl had just
been the object of the obviously unwelcome attentions of another. He
recognized that the stern but sympathetic husband on the stage would
instantly have come to the rescue of the weak young wife in any similar
situation, and he determined on the instant to do so; but he found a
slight difficulty in making up his mind as to the particular epigram
with which he should enter. In fact, he could think of nothing except,
"Ah, Jane-Ellen, is the ice-cream ready?" And that obviously wouldn't
do.

While, however, he hesitated above, the dialogue below rushed on,
unimpeded.

"The truth is," said the young man, with the violence of one who feels
himself at least partially in the wrong, "the truth is you are a cold,
cruel woman who thinks of nothing but her own amusement; you don't care
anything about the sufferings of others, and in my opinion Lily is worth
ten of you."

"Then why don't you go and kiss Lily?"

"Because Lily isn't that sort. She wouldn't stand it."

This reply not unnaturally angered the cook.

"And do you mean to say I stand it? I can't help it. I'm so horribly
small, but if I could, I'd kill you, Randolph, and as it is, I hate you
for doing it, hate you more than you have any idea."

"You know very well it's your own fault. You tempted me."

"How could I know about your silly lack of self-control?"

"You've always pretended to like me."

"Just what I did--pretended. But I'll never have to pretend again, thank
heaven. I don't really like you and I never did--not since we were
children."

"You'll be sorry for saying that, when you're calmer."

"I may be sorry for saying it, but I'll think it as long as I live."

"I pity the man who marries you, my girl. You've a bitter tongue."

"You'd marry me to-morrow, if you could."

"I would not."

"You would."

"Not if you were the last woman in the world."

[Illustration: _Scene from the Play_ PAUL DAINGERFIELD SUBMITS TO
INSPECTION. _Act I_]

"Good night."

"Good-by."

The culprit seized his hat and rushed away through the shadows before
Tucker had time to think put the dignified rebuke that he had intended.

There was a pause. He was conscious that an opportunity had slipped from
him. He knew now what he ought to have said. He should have asked the
young fellow--who was clearly a gentleman, far above Jane-Ellen in
social position--whether that was the way he would have treated a girl
in his own mother's drawing-room, and whether he considered that less
chivalry was due to a working girl than to a woman of leisure.

Though his great opportunity was gone, he decided to do whatever
remained. After a short hesitation he descended a flight of steps at one
end of the piazza. The kitchen opened before him, large and cavernous.
Two lamps hardly served to light it. It was red tiled; round its walls
hung large, bright, copper saucepans, and on shelves of oak along its
sides were rows of dark blue and white plates and dishes.

Tucker was prepared to find the cook in tears, in which case he had a
perfectly definite idea as to what to do; but the disconcerting young
woman was moving rapidly about the kitchen, humming to herself. She held
a small but steaming saucepan in her hand, which was, as Tucker swiftly
reflected, a much better weapon than the handle of an ice-cream freezer.

"Good evening, Jane-Ellen," he said graciously.

"Good evening, sir."

She did not even look in his direction, but bent witch-like over a
cauldron.

"I wished to speak to you," he said, "about that little incident of this
morning. You must not think that I am by nature cruel or indifferent to
animals. On the contrary, I am a life member in the Society for
Prevention of Cruelty to them. I love animals." And as if to prove his
words, he put out his hand and gently pulled the ears of Willoughby, who
was asleep in a chair. Cats' ears are extraordinarily sensitive, and
Willoughby woke up and withdrew his head with a jerk.

Willoughby's mistress, on the other hand, made no reply whatsoever;
indeed it would have been impossible to be sure she had heard.

"How different she is," thought Tucker, "in the presence of a man she
really respects, and recognizes as her superior. All the levity and
coquetry disappear from her bearing."

"I was truly sorry," he went on, drawing nearer and nearer to the range,
"to have been the occasion--"

"You had better be careful, sir," she said, still without looking at
him, "these sauces sometimes boil over." And as she spoke she put a
spoon into the pan, and the next instant Tucker felt a small but burning
drop fall upon his hand. He started back with an exclamation.

"I am truly sorry, sir," she said, "to have been the occasion--"

He glanced at her sharply. Was she conscious of repeating his own
phrase? She seemed to be wholly absorbed in her task. He noticed how
prettily the hair grew at the back of her neck, how small and well
shaped were her ears. His manner became even more protecting.

"I am an older man than your employer--" he began.

"Yes, indeed, sir."

He decided not to notice the interruption.

"I am older and have seen more of life. I understand more, perhaps, of
the difficulties of a young, and I must say, beautiful woman,
Jane-Ellen--"

"Why must you say that, sir?" Her eyes fixed themselves on his.

"Because it is the truth, my dear child." He again approached the range,
but as a fountain instantly rose from the sauce he retreated and
continued: "I would like, if any little troubles in the household arise,
to know that you look upon me as a friend, both you and Willoughby." (He
thought it not amiss to introduce the comic note now and again.) "I have
some influence with Mr. Crane. I should be glad to do you a good turn."

"You can do me one now, sir."

"Pray, tell me what it is."

"You can go away and let me get the dinner."

"You want me to go?"

"The kitchen is no place for gentlemen."

Tucker laughed tolerantly.

"Did you think so ten minutes ago?"

For the second time she looked in his direction, as she asked quickly:

"What do you mean?"

"Your last visitor was not so respectful."

She had put down the saucepan now, and so he approached and tried to
take her hand.

Perhaps this is as good a time as any other to describe the sensation of
taking Jane-Ellen's hand. The ordinary mortal put out an ordinary hand,
and touched something, something presumably flesh and blood, but so
light, so soft, so pliant, that it seemed literally to melt into the
folds of his palm, so that even after the hand had been withdrawn (and
in this instance it was instantly withdrawn) the feeling seemed to
remain, and Tucker found himself staring at his own fingers to see if
they did not still bear traces of that remarkable contact.

It was just at this moment that Brindlebury entered the kitchen and
said, in a tone which no one could have considered respectful, that the
motor was coming up the drive.

Tucker was more apt to meet an awkward situation--and the situation was
slightly awkward--by an additional dignity of manner rather than by any
ill-considered action.

"Ah," he now observed, "in that case I think I must go and meet it."

"I think I would, if I were you," replied the boy, and added to the
cook, in case there was any mistake about his meaning: "It seems to me
there are too many men in this kitchen in the course of the day."

"Well, goodness knows they're not here to please me," said Jane-Ellen.

Tucker, who understood that this reply had to be made, wished,
nevertheless, that she had not made it with such a convincing sincerity
of manner. He turned and left the kitchen, and, as he went up the piazza
stairs, became aware that the boy was following him.

He stood still at the top, therefore, and asked with that hectoring tone
which many people think so desirable to use with servants:

"What's this? You wish to speak to me?"

The boy hardly troubled to approximate civility as he answered:

"Yes; I just wanted to tell you that Jane-Ellen is my sister."

Tucker laughed with indulgent good humor.

"Indeed," he said. "Well, I cannot confess, Brindlebury, to taking a
very deep interest in your family relations."

"It's this much interest, that I don't want you going into the kitchen
to talk to her."

"Tut, tut," said Tucker. "I think I shall have to report you to your
employer."

"And I may have to report you."

This was so beyond the bounds of convention that Tucker thought best to
ignore it. He merely turned on his heel and walked into the house,
where, in the hall, he found the two Falkener ladies taking off their
coats.

Mrs. Falkener was all graciousness. She was engaged in unwinding a veil
from her face, and as she freed her nose from its meshes she said
briskly:

"And how is the housekeeping going? How is your staff working?"

Crane got them into the drawing-room, where tea was waiting. Mrs.
Falkener spoke to him, but she cast a secret glance of question at
Tucker. Under most circumstances he would have replied by raising his
eyebrows, shrugging his shoulders, closing his eyes, or conveying in
some manner the true reply to her demand. But now he merely looked into
his teacup, which he was diligently stirring. He found himself uncertain
what to do. He had no intention of mentioning the afternoon's incidents
to Crane. He did not wish, he told himself, to tell on a poor young
woman, and perhaps deprive her of her job. Besides, it is very difficult
to tell a story in which you have been an eavesdropper, and tell it with
any sort of flourish and satisfaction. The geography of the balcony was
such that he would have to confess either to having leaned as far over
the rail as possible, or else to having been in the kitchen. But the
insolence of the boy Brindlebury put a new face on the matter. He
deserved reproof, to say nothing of the fact that he might tell in a
mistaken desire to protect his sister from annoyance. To tell any of
this to Mrs. Falkener was to put a weapon in her hands which she would
not fail to use to get Jane-Ellen out of the house within twenty-four
hours. Tucker's first idea was that he did not wish Jane-Ellen to leave
the house.

But, as he sat stirring his tea, another thought came to him. Why should
she not leave, why should she not become his own cook? Crane, after all,
only offered her employment for a few weeks, whereas he--He decided that
it would be better for Crane to get rid of her; he decided, as he put it
to himself, to be perfectly open with his friend. If Crane turned her
out, then he, Tucker, would be there, helpful and ready, like the
competent middle-aged hero of the drama, whom she herself had so well
described.

He joined but little in the conversation round the tea-table, and Mrs.
Falkener, watching him narrowly, feared from his gravity that something
serious had happened, that the situation was worse than she had
imagined. What, she wondered, had occurred in the last twenty-four
hours? What had those evil women with manicured nails accomplished in
her absence? She manoeuvered two or three times to get a word with
Tucker, but he seemed unconscious of her efforts.

When at last they all agreed it was time to dress for dinner, Tucker
laid a detaining hand on his host's arm.

"Could I have just a word with you, Burt?" he said.

Crane always felt like a naughty child when his friend spoke to him like
this.

"Wouldn't later do?" he asked. "I want to get a bath before dinner, and
if we keep it waiting we may spoil some of those wonderful dishes that
star-eyed beauty in the kitchen is preparing for us."

"It is about her I want to speak to you."

Both ladies and Crane turned instantly at these words. Then the
Falkeners with a strong effort of self-control left the room, and the
two men were alone.

"Well, what is it?" said Crane, rather sharply.

Tucker was now all suavity.

"I'm afraid, after all," he began, sitting down and swinging one leg
over the other, "that you won't be able to keep that young person. I'm
afraid Mrs. Falkener was right. Women know these things at a glance."

"What things?"

"Why, I mean that in spite of her good dinner, I'm afraid your cook,
Burt, is not--Well, I'd better tell you just what is in my mind."

"Surely, if you can," said his host and client.

"I went out for a little while about dusk on the back piazza, which you
know is just above the kitchen, and a conversation below is audible
there. At first I did not pay much attention to the murmur of voices,
but gradually I became aware that some one was making love to
Jane-Ellen--"

"Who was it?" asked Crane. "That wretched boy? That smug butler?"

"Alas, no," said Tucker. "If it had been one of the other servants I
should not have thought it much harm. Unhappily, it was a young
gentleman, a person so much her social superior--Well, my dear fellow,
you get the idea."

"No one you knew, of course?"

"I never saw him before."

"How did you see him at all?"

This was the question that Tucker had been anticipating.

"Why, to tell you the truth, Burt," he said, "when I realized what was
going on, I thought it my duty for your sake to find out. I looked over
the railing--and just at the psychological moment when he kissed her."

Crane was tapping a cigarette thoughtfully on the palm of his hand, and
did not at once answer. When he did, he looked up with a smile, and
said:

"Lucky dog, is what I say, Tuck."

"I don't think," answered his friend, "that that is quite the right
attitude for you to assume."

"What do you think I should do?"

"Dismiss the girl."

Another pause.

"Or," added Tucker, magnanimously, "if you shrink from the interview, I
shall be very glad to do it for you."

Crane looked up.

"No, thank you," he said. "I think you have done quite enough. I should
not dream of imposing upon you further." He walked to the bell and rang
it. Smithfield appeared.

"Tell the cook I want to see her," he said.

After a brief absence Smithfield returned.

"I beg pardon, sir," he said, "but the cook says if she leaves dinner
now it will be spoiled, and won't after dinner do?"

Crane nodded.

"You know," said Tucker when they were again alone, "it is not always
necessary to tell servants why you are dispensing with their services.
You might say--"

Much to his surprise, Crane interrupted him with a laugh.

"My dear Tuck," he said, "you don't really suppose, do you, that I am
going to dismiss that peerless woman just because you saw an
ill-mannered fellow kiss her? I shall administer a telling rebuke with a
slight sketch of my notions on female deportment. It would take more
than that to induce me to send her away. Indeed, I was thinking of
taking her North with me."

This was a serious suggestion, but Tucker could think of no better way
to meet it than to raise his eyebrows; and Crane went off whistling to
dress for dinner.

He whistled not only going upstairs, but he whistled in his bath and
while he was shaving. The sound annoyed Tucker in the next room.

"It almost seems," he thought, "as if he were glad to see the woman
again on any terms." And yet, he, Tucker, knew that she considered Crane
quite a commonplace young man--not at all like a hero in the third act.

The way Crane had taken his suggestions was distressing. Tucker did not
feel that he thoroughly understood what was in the younger man's mind.
His first intention to tell Mrs. Falkener nothing began to fade. It
would have been all very well if Burton had been sensible and had been
willing to send the cook away and he, Tucker, had been able to engage
her, to ignore the whole matter to Mrs. Falkener. Indeed, it would have
been hard to explain it. But, of course, if Burton was going to be
obstinate about it, Mrs. Falkener's aid might be absolutely necessary.

"After all," he thought, "candor is the best policy among friends."

He dressed quickly and was not mistaken in his belief that Mrs.
Falkener would have done the same. She was waiting for him in the
drawing-room. They had a clear fifteen minutes before dinner.

"Now tell me, my dear Solon," she said, "just what you think of the
situation."

"I think badly of it."

"Yes," said Mrs. Falkener, not yet quite appreciating the seriousness of
his tone. "I do, myself. That idiotic housemaid, Lily--I could have told
him that name would never do--hooked me twice wrong, and left my
daughter's dirty boots on top of her best tea-gown."

"Ah, if incompetence were all we had to complain of!"

"The cook?"

"Is perfection, as far as cooking goes. But in other respect--Really, my
dear Mrs. Falkener, I am in doubt whether you should let your daughter
stay in this house--at least, until Burton comes to his senses."

"You must tell me just what you mean."

Tucker decided to tell the story reluctantly.

"Why, it happened this afternoon, Burton was away with his horses, and
quite by accident I came upon his pretty cook in the arms of a strange
young man, a person vastly her social superior, one of the young
landholders of the neighborhood, I should say. Seemed to assume the most
confident right to be in Burton's kitchen--a man he may know in the
hunting field, may have to dinner to-morrow. I don't know who he is, but
certainly a gentleman."

"How very unpleasant," said Mrs. Falkener. "Did the woman take in that
you had detected her?"

"Yes, and seemed quite unabashed."

"And now I suppose you are hesitating whether or not to tell Burton?"

Tucker was naturally cautious.

"And what would you advise?"

"It is your duty to tell him at once, and get such a person out of the
house."

"You think if I told him, he would dismiss her?"

"I am confident he would, unless--"

"Unless?"

[Illustration: _Scene from the Play_ OLIVIA HEARS OF HER FATHER'S
CRITICAL ILLNESS _Act II_]

"Unless he has himself some interest in her."

"Ah," said Tucker, with a deep sigh, "that's the question."

At this moment Miss Falkener, looking very handsome in a
sapphire-colored dress, came in. She, too, perhaps, had expected that
somebody would be dressed a little ahead of time for the sake of a few
minutes' private talk. If so, she was disappointed.

"Ah, Cora," said her mother brightly, "let us hear how the piano sounds.
Give us some of that delightful Chopin you were playing last evening."

Cora, to show her independence of spirit, sat down and began to play
ragtime, but neither of her auditors noticed the difference.

"You mean," whispered Mrs. Falkener, "that you have reason to suppose
that Crane himself--?"

"Why, to be candid, my dear lady," replied Tucker, "I did tell him. You
may have noticed I seemed a trifle abstracted at tea time. I was
considering what it was best to do. Well, when you left us, I told him.
What do you think he said? 'Lucky dog.' That was all. Just 'lucky dog.'"

"Meaning you?"

"No, no, meaning the fellow who had been kissing the cook."

"Dear me," said Mrs. Falkener, "how very light minded."

"It shocked me--to have him take it like that. And he would not hear of
dismissing her. He intends merely to reprove her, so he says. But what
reproof is possible? And the most alarming feature of the whole
situation is that, to my opinion, he is looking forward to the
interview."

"The woman must be sent out of the house immediately," said Mrs.
Falkener with decision. "I wonder if higher wages would tempt her?"

"I see your idea," answered Tucker. "You think I ought to offer a
position. I would do more than that to save Burt."

"A position as cook, you mean?"

"Why, Mrs. Falkener, what else could I mean?"

"Oh, nothing, Solon, I only thought--"

The friends were still explaining away the little misunderstanding when
Crane came down, and dinner was announced.

Mrs. Falkener, with of course the heartiest wish to criticize, was
forced to admit the food was perfection. The soup so clear and strong,
the fried fish so dry and tender, even the cheese soufflé, for which she
had waited most hopefully, turned out to be beautifully light and
fluffy. Having come to curse she was obliged to bless; and her praise
was delightful to Crane.

"Yes, isn't she a wonder?" he kept saying. "Wasn't it great luck to find
any one like that in a place such as this? Tuck, here, keeps trying to
poison my mind against her, but I wouldn't part with a cook like that
even if she were a Messalina."

Mrs. Falkener, who couldn't on the instant remember who Messalina was,
attempted to look as if she thought it would be better not to mention
such people in the presence of her daughter.

"Tuck's an inhuman old creature, isn't he, Mrs. Falkener?" Crane went
on. "I don't believe he ever had a natural impulse in his life, and so
he has no sympathy with the impulses of others."

Tucker smiled quietly. It came to him that just so the iron reserve of
the middle-aged hero was often misinterpreted during the first two acts
by more frivolous members of the cast.

As they rose from table, Miss Falkener said:

"It's such a lovely night. Such a moon. Have you seen it, Mr. Crane?"

"Well, I saw it as we drove over from the station," returned Crane, a
trifle absently. He had become thoughtful as dinner ended.

"Do you think," said Cora, "that it would be too cold to take a turn in
the garden? I should like to see the old box and the cedars by
moonlight."

"Not a bit. Let's go out. I have something to do first, but it won't
take me ten minutes. But," he added, "you must not catch cold and get
laid up, and miss the run to-morrow. I'm going to put you on a new Irish
mare I've just bought." And they found themselves talking not about the
garden, but the stable.

In the midst of it Smithfield came into the drawing-room with the
coffee, and Crane said to him, in a low tone:

"Oh, Smithfield, tell the cook I'll see her now, in the little office
across the hall."

Smithfield looked graver than usual.

"Beg pardon, sir," he said, "but the cook was feeling tired and has gone
up to bed, sir."

Crane was just helping himself to sugar.

"She cooked this coffee, didn't she?" he said.

"Yes, sir."

"She can't have been gone very long then."

"About five minutes, sir."

"Go up and tell her to come down," said Crane.

He turned again to Miss Falkener and went on about the past performances
of the Irish mare, but it was quite clear to all who heard him that his
heart was no longer in the topic.

Smithfield's return was greeted by complete silence.

"Well?" said Crane sharply.

"Beg pardon, sir," said Smithfield, "Jane-Ellen says that she is very
tired, and that if the morning will do--"

"The morning will not do," answered Crane, with a promptness unusual in
him. "Go up and tell her that if she is not in my office within ten
minutes, I'll come up myself."

Smithfield bowed and withdrew.

Silence again descended on the room. Mrs. Falkener and Tucker were
silent because they both felt that thus their faces expressed more
plainly than words could do that this was just about what they had
expected. But Cora, who was young enough to understand that anger may be
a form of interest, watched him with a strangely wistful expression.

After what seemed to every one an interminable delay, Smithfield entered
again. He looked pale and graver than any one had ever seen his
habitually grave countenance.

"Jane-Ellen is in your office now, sir," he said.

Crane rose at once and left the room followed by Smithfield.



                                   V


JANE-ELLEN was standing in the office, with her hands folded, and an
expression of the utmost calm upon her face. Crane came in quickly and
would have shut the door, but for the fact that Smithfield was
immediately behind him.

"Beg pardon, sir," he said firmly, sliding into the room, "but I must
look to the fire."

Crane frowned.

"The fire's all right," he said shortly.

But Smithfield was not to be put off his duties, and began to poke the
logs and sweep the hearth until peremptorily ordered to go.

When the door finally closed behind him, Crane stood silent a moment
with his hand on the mantelpiece. The whole tone of the interview, upon
which it now occurred to him he had rushed somewhat too hastily, would
be decided by whether he spoke standing up or sitting down. His feelings
were for the first, his intellect for the latter position.

His intellect won. He sat down in a deep chair and crossed his legs. As
he did so, the cook's eyes, which had hitherto been fixed on the
carpet, now raised themselves to the level of his neat pumps and black
silk socks. He was aware of this, but did not allow himself to be
disconcerted.

"I suppose you can guess why I sent for you, Jane-Ellen," he said.

"The dinner was not satisfactory, sir?"

"I doubt if you could cook an unsatisfactory dinner if you tried," he
returned. "No, the trouble is over something that happened an hour or so
before dinner."

"You did not approve, perhaps, of that gentleman, Mr. Tucker, coming
into the kitchen? But, indeed, I could not help that."

"Oh," said Crane, "so Tucker was in the kitchen, was he?"

"Yes, sir, until Brindlebury told him the motor was coming with the
ladies."

"No," said Crane, "the difficulty is over a former visitor of yours. I
think it my right, even my duty to prevent anything happening in this
house of which I disapprove, and I do not approve, Jane-Ellen, of
strangers coming into my house and kissing the cook."

He looked at her squarely as he said this, but her eyes remained fixed
on his feet as she replied docilely:

"Yes, sir. Perhaps it would be better for you to speak to the young man
about it."

"Ah," returned her employer, as one now going over familiar ground, "you
mean to imply that it was not your fault?"

She did not directly answer this question. She said:

"I suppose in your class of life a gentleman would not under any
circumstances kiss a young lady against her will?"

"Well," answered Crane, with some amusement, "he certainly never ought
to do so. And by the way, one of the points about this incident seems to
be that the young man in question had the appearance of being a
gentleman."

"He certainly considers himself so."

There was a pause, then Crane said, seriously:

"I don't want to interfere in your concerns further than I have to, or
to offer you advice--"

"But I should be so glad to have you offer me advice, sir. It is one of
the few things a gentleman may offer a girl in my position and she
accept with a clear conscience."

For the first time Crane looked at her with suspicion. Her tone and look
were demure in the extreme. He decided to go on.

"Well, then," he said, "if I were you I would not have a gentleman,
especially such an impulsive one, hanging about, unless you are engaged
to him with the consent of your family."

She raised her chin, without lifting her eyes.

"It's not the consent of our families that's lacking," she remarked.

"Oh, he's asked you to marry him?"

"Almost every day, sir, until to-day."

"And to-day he didn't?"

"To-day he said he wouldn't marry me, if I were the last woman in the
world."

"And what did you think about that?"

"I thought it wasn't true, sir."

Crane laughed aloud at this direct answer.

"And it sounds to me as if you were right, Jane-Ellen," he said. "But,
at the same time, I can't see for the life of me why, if you don't mean
to marry him, you let him kiss you."

"If you please, sir, it's not always possible to prevent. You see I'm
not very large."

Crane looked at her, and had to admit that the feat would be extremely
easy. She hardly came to one's shoulder; almost any man--Hastily putting
aside this train of thought, he said in a more judicial tone:

"You know your own affairs best. Is the young man able to support you?"

"Yes, sir, very comfortably."

"And yet you don't consider marrying him?"

"No, sir. I don't love him."

Matters had suddenly become rather serious.

"You would rather work for your living than marry a man you don't love?"
Crane asked, almost in spite of himself.

For the first time the cook looked up, straight at him, as she answered:

"I think I would rather die, sir."

This time it was Crane's eyes that dropped. Fortunately, he reflected,
she could not have any idea how sharply her remark had touched his own
inner state. How clearly she saw that it was wrong to do just what he
was contemplating doing--to marry for prudence, rather than for love.
He found himself speculating on the genesis of the moral sense, how it
developed in difficulties rather than in ease. That was why he could
learn something on the subject from his cook. Here was a girl working
for her living, working hard and long, for wages which though he had
once, he remembered, told Reed they seemed excessive, now appeared to
him the merest pittance; certainly it seemed as if all the hardships of
such a life would be smoothed away by this suggested marriage, and yet
she could assert clearly that she would rather die than make it; whereas
he, with nothing very much at stake, had actually been contemplating for
several months the making of just such a marriage--He was interrupted by
her respectful tones:

"Will that be all, sir?"

"Yes," he answered in a voice that lacked finality. "I suppose that's
all, except if that fellow comes bothering you any more, let me know,
and I'll tell him what I think of him."

Jane-Ellen lifted the corner of her mouth in a terrible smile.

"Oh," she said, "I don't think he'll come bothering any more."

"You're very optimistic, Jane-Ellen."

"I beg your pardon, sir, those long words--"

"Very hopeful, I meant. He'll be back to-morrow."

"Not after what I said to him."

"Well, Jane-Ellen, if you have really found the potent thing to say
under such circumstances, you're a true benefactor to your sex."

She looked at him with mild confusion.

"I'm afraid I don't rightly understand, sir."

He smiled.

"It was my way of asking you what you had said to him that you imagined
would keep him from coming back."

"I told him I had only pretended to like him, all these years. People,
particularly gentlemen, don't like to think you have to pretend to like
them."

Crane laughed aloud, wondering if the girl had any idea how amusing she
was. In the pause that followed, the sound of a deep masculine voice
could be heard suddenly under their feet. The office was immediately
above the servants' sitting-room, and it was but too evident that a
visitor had just entered.

Crane looked at the cook questioningly, and she had the grace to color.

"Why, did you ever, sir," she said. "There he is, this very moment!"

"Shall I go down and forbid him the house?" asked Burton, and though he
spoke in fun, he would have been delighted to act in earnest.

"Oh, no, sir, thank you," she answered. "I am not going back to the
kitchen."

This reminded her employer of the extreme difficulty he had experienced
in seeing his cook at all.

"Why did you try and get out of seeing me, Jane-Ellen?" he said. "You
knew about what I had to say, I suppose?"

"I had a notion, sir."

"And were you afraid?"

At this question, the cook bent her head until a shadow fell upon it,
but Crane had a clear impression that she was laughing, so clear that he
said:

"And may I ask why it is a comic idea that a servant should be afraid of
her employer?"

The cook now raised a mask-like face and said most respectfully:

"No, sir, I was not exactly afraid," and, having said this, without the
slightest warning she burst into an unmistakable giggle.

Nobody probably enjoys finding that the idea of his inspiring terror is
merely ludicrous. Crane regarded his cook with a sternness that was not
entirely false. She, still struggling to regain complete gravity at the
corners of her mouth, said civilly:

"Oh, I do hope you'll excuse my laughing, sir. The fact is that it was
not I who tried to avoid seeing you. It was Smithfield's idea."

"Smithfield!" cried Crane.

"Yes, sir. He had the notion, I think, that you might be very severe
with me, sir, and Smithfield is peculiar, he has a very sensitive
nature--"

"Well, upon my word," cried Crane, springing to his feet, "that is
exactly what Smithfield says about you. It seems to me I have a damned
queer houseful of servants."

The cook edged to the door.

"Perhaps it seems so, sir," she said. "Will that be all for to-night?"

"Yes. No," he added hastily, "I have one more thing to say to you,
Jane-Ellen, and it's this. Don't make the mistake of fancying that I
have taken this whole incident lightly. I don't. It really must not
happen again. Understand that clearly."

"You mean if that gentleman came back, you would dismiss me, sir?"

"I think I would," he answered.

"Even if it weren't my fault?"

"Was the fault entirely his, Jane-Ellen?"

"Ask him, sir."

"You know much more about it than he does. Was the fault entirely his?"

The cook wriggled her shoulders, crumpled her apron and seemed unwilling
to answer a direct question directly. At last an idea occurred to her.
She looked up brightly.

"It was the ice-cream, sir," she said. "I was trying to teach him how to
freeze ice-cream slowly. It ought to be done like this." And bending
over an imaginary freezer, she imitated with her absurdly small hand the
suave, gentle, rotary motion essential to the great American luxury.

As he stood looking down on her, it seemed to Crane extraordinarily
clear how it had all happened, so clear indeed that for a second it
almost seemed as if he himself were in the place of the culprit whose
conduct he had just been condemning.

He stepped back hastily.

"No, Jane-Ellen," he said, "it was not all his fault. Of that you have
convinced me."

She stretched out her hand to the door.

"Will that be all, sir? The cook, you know, has to get up so very early
in the morning."

He tried to counteract the feeling of pity and shame that swept over him
at the realization that this young and delicate creature had to get up
at dawn to work for him and his guests. The effort made his tone rather
severe as he said:

"Yes, that's all. Goodnight."

"Good night, sir," she answered, with her unruffled sweetness, and was
gone.

He stood still a moment, conscious of an unusual alertness both of mind
and emotion. And that very alertness made him aware that at that moment
there was a man in his kitchen against whom he felt the keenest
personal animosity. Crane would have dearly liked to go down and turn
him out, but he resisted the impulse, which somehow savored of Tucker in
his mind. And what, by the way, had Tucker been doing in the kitchen?
And Smithfield, why had Smithfield tried to interfere with his seeing
the cook? He found plenty of food for reflection.

Among other things he had to consider his return to the drawing-room.
Looking at his watch he observed that a longer time had elapsed since he
left it than he had supposed. There would be comments, there would be
attempted jokes from Tucker. Well, that would be easily met by a
question as to Tucker's own interest in the culinary art. Mrs.
Falkener's methods of attack were not subtle, either. But Cora--he
wished Cora would not just look at him as if he had done something
cruel.

But, as is so often the way when we prepare ourselves for one situation,
quite another one turns up. The three were not sitting, awaiting his
return. The drawing-room was empty except for Mrs. Falkener, who was
reading when he entered, and instead of betraying a conviction that he
had been too long away, she looked up and said chattily:

"Well, did you reduce the young woman to order?"

"That is a good deal to expect from an unaided male, isn't it?" said
Burton, very much relieved.

"Ah, it depends on the male, my dear Burton. You, I imagine, could be
very terrifying if you wished to be. What did the young woman do? Weep,
protest, declare that it had all taken place quite without her consent?"

Burton smiled. He had no intention whatsoever of sharing his recent
experiences with Mrs. Falkener.

"Ah," he said, "I see you know your own sex thoroughly. Where are Tuck
and your daughter?"

"Solon is taking a turn on the piazza; he hopes it will make him sleep
better; and Cora was tired and has gone to bed." Mrs. Falkener sighed.
"Cora doesn't seem very well to me."

"I'm sorry to hear that," returned Crane. "I thought she was looking
very fit this evening." He spoke more lightly than he felt, however, for
something portentous in Mrs. Falkener's tone struck him with alarm.

"Sit down, Burton," said she, sweeping her hand toward a cushioned stool
at her side. "I want to say something to you."

Crane found himself obeying, with his hands between his knees, and his
toes turned in, like a school boy who has forgotten his lesson; then,
becoming aware of this pose, he suddenly changed it--crossed one leg
over the other, as he had done in the office a few minutes before.

In the meantime, Mrs. Falkener was saying:

"The truth is, I'm afraid that we must cut our visit short, delightful
as it promises to be."

"Oh, Mrs. Falkener, we're not making you comfortable. What is it?"

"No, Burton, no." Mrs. Falkener held up her hand. "You are making us
perfectly comfortable--at least, in all essentials. And who minds
roughing it now and then for a week or so? It's good for us," she added
playfully. "The housemaid is not--but no matter."

"What has the housemaid done?" asked Crane with what semblance of
interest he could summon, but as he spoke his heart went out in sympathy
to every hotel and boarding-house keeper in the world. "Good heavens,"
he thought, "suppose my living depended on my pleasing them, what a
state I should be in!" Aloud he said: "What has Lily been doing?"

"Nothing, nothing. Lily means well, I'm sure, in spite of her
lackadaisical ways. It is quite a privilege, I assure you, to be waited
on by such an elegant young lady. She hooked me up wrong twice this
evening, and when I not unnaturally objected, she stuck a pin in me. Oh,
by accident, I'm sure. No, I have no fault to find with Lily,
whatsoever."

"I'm glad to hear that," said Crane, punctuating his sentence to allow
himself to indulge in a half-suppressed yawn. "Who is it, then? Not
Smithfield? Or the boy?"

"Oh, I should never have anything to do with that boy," said Mrs.
Falkener, bridling. "Oh, never in the world. I think he's half-witted. I
saw him stick out his tongue at Solon this evening."

Crane laughed, though he knew he ought not to.

"Did Solon see?"

"No. The boy contrived it so that Solon had just looked away."

"Well, then, perhaps he's not half-witted, after all," said Burton. "It
occurs to me that perhaps that is the only reply to a good deal that
Solon says."

"I'm devoted to Solon," replied Mrs. Falkener, drawing herself up, "and
I must say you ought to--"

"I am, I am," said Crane, hastily, "but I am at the same time able to
understand why Brindlebury possibly isn't. But come, Mrs. Falkener, if
it isn't these servants that are driving you away, what is it?"

"I don't know how to explain it," said Mrs. Falkener. "It's not really
clear to me, myself. I'm sure I don't want to be unkind, or to hurt any
one's feelings, least of all yours, my dear Burt." And she leaned over
and laid her hand on his. Crane gave it a good brisk squeeze and
returned it to her lap as if it were too dear for his possessing; and
she went on: "I own I am anxious about Cora. She is very deep, very
reserved; she tells me nothing, but she is not happy, Burton."

"I'm sorry for that," said Crane, in a very matter-of-fact tone. He got
up and went to a table where the cigarettes were. The profound male
instinct of self-preservation was now thoroughly awake, and he knew
exactly what he was in for. Only, he noted, that if he had had this
interview with Mrs. Falkener before he had seen the cook, he might quite
easily have been persuaded that, in the absence of any more definite
vocation, he had been created to make Cora Falkener's life tolerable to
her. As it was, he saw perfectly that altruism was no sound basis for
matrimony.

"You don't understand what it is to be a mother, Burt."

Crane admitted with a shake of his head that he didn't.

"But I have an instinct that this is not the best place for Cora."

"Well, if you were a man, Mrs. Falkener," said Crane, "I should say that
that instinct was the result of being poorly valeted. It must be a bore
for women to have a wretched maid like Lily. Don't you think that if I
found some one a little more competent that you and Cora would feel you
could put in at least a week or so with us? The hunting is really going
to be good, and Cora does enjoy hunting."

Mrs. Falkener refused to lighten the tone of the conversation. She shook
her head.

"No," she said, "no. I'm afraid even a good maid would not help. In
fact, to speak plainly, my dear Burton--"

But at this moment the door opened and Tucker came in. His hair was
somewhat rumpled by the wind, his hands were still in his pockets as he
had had them during his constitutional on the front porch, and his eyes,
contracted by the sudden light, looked almost white.

"Well," he said, "are you enjoying this musical party downstairs?"

All three listened in silence, and could hear the strains of "Home,
Sweet Home" coming from below.

"They have a phonograph and they are singing in parts," said Tucker, as
if this somehow made it worse.

"If we got Miss Falkener down, we might do something ourselves," said
Crane, but there was nothing frivolous in his manner when he rang and
told Smithfield there was too much noise downstairs.

Smithfield begged pardon and had not a notion it could be heard
upstairs. Crane said the boy's, Brindlebury's, tenor carried some
distance, and, Mrs. Falkener and Tucker having gone, he added that the
house could be shut for the night.

Then he went to the table, and his eye fell again upon the miniature in
the pearl frame. He took it up. There was no doubt about it, there was
an extraordinary likeness to Jane-Ellen. He smiled to himself. How very
charming she would look, he thought, in a mauve ball dress.

Raising his eyes, he found Smithfield looking at him with an expression
he did not thoroughly like.



                                   VI


ON the stroke of seven o'clock the next morning, Burton came downstairs
with that exactness which even the most careless man can display in
regard to his favorite sport. The rigors of the cub-hunting season being
over, the meet did not take place until eight.

Cora was not yet ready for breakfast, and Crane went to fill his
cigarette case before starting.

The drawing-room was still dark and in disorder. Crane lit a match to
find his way to the table where the tobacco was kept. It was the same
table on which had lain the miniature of the lady in the mauve ball
dress; and as he held up his lighted match, his eyes sought once more
that enchanting pearl circle. The flame died down and burned his fingers
before his eyes had encountered what they were looking for. He lit a
second match, and then a candle, before he could assure himself that the
miniature was really gone.

He sprang into the hall and called: "Smithfield!" with a violence that
had little respect for late sleepers.

Smithfield came hurrying out of the dining-room.

"Where's the miniature that used to be on this table?"

"The what is it, sir?"

"The miniature, a picture in a pearl frame."

Smithfield looked thoughtful.

"And what was it a picture of, sir?"

"Of a lady."

"In a black lace cap, and she with white hair, sir?"

"No," said Crane, "she was young and lovely, in a ball dress and a
wreath. You must remember it. It was here yesterday."

Smithfield shook his head blankly.

"No, sir," he said, "I can't rightly say that I remember it, but I'll
inquire for it."

Crane swore with an uncontrollable irritation--irritation at Smithfield
for being so stupid, irritation that he himself had been so careless as
to leave the picture about among a houseful of unknown servants.

He was not distracted even by the sight of Cora coming downstairs,
looking very workmanlike in her habit with her hat well down over her
brows, and her boots, over which Brindlebury had evidently expended
himself, showing off her slender feet.

They breakfasted alone; but Burton's mind ran on the loss of the
miniature, and he did not really recover his temper until he had mounted
Cora, found all the straps of her skirt, adjusted her stirrup, loosened
the curb for her, and finally swung himself up on his own hunter, a big
ugly chestnut.

The meet was near-by and they were going to jog quietly over to it. They
took a short cut across the lawn, and at the sight of the turf, at the
smell of the fresh clear morning, the horses began to dance as
spontaneously as children will at the sound of a street organ. Crane and
Cora glanced at each other and laughed at this exhibition of high
spirits on the part of their darlings.

No horseman is proof against the pleasure of seeing one of his treasured
animals well shown by its rider; and the Irish mare had never looked as
well as she now did under Cora's skilful management. He told her so,
praising her hands, her appearance, her understanding of the horse's
mind; and she, very fittingly, replied with flattery of the mare and of
Crane's own remarkable powers of selection.

They were getting on so well that Burton found himself saying earnestly:

"You really must stay on as long as I do, Cora. Don't let your mother
take you away, as she wants to."

The girl's surprise actually checked the mare in her stride.

"My mother is thinking of going away?" she cried.

Well, of course, he wanted her to stay, wanted her, even, to want to
stay, but somehow he did not want her to be so much terrified at the
thought of departure, did not want her black eyes to open upon him with
such manifest horror at the bare idea of departure.

He suggested sending the horses along a little, and they cantered side
by side on the grass at the roadside. Crane kept casting the glances of
a lover, not at Cora, but at the black mare, as she arched her neck to a
light touch on the curb, so that the sunlight ran in iridescent colors
along her crest.

Presently they saw two horsemen ahead of them, one of them in that
weather-stained pink that, to hunting eyes, makes the most beautiful
piece of color imaginable against the autumn fields.

"That's Eliot, the Master," cried Crane. "The hounds must be just ahead.
He's a nice old fellow; let's join him. I can't make out who the other
one is--no one who was out the last time we hunted."

The canter had given Cora a color. She looked straight before her for a
moment, and then she said:

"I think I recognize that other man."

"Who is it?"

"Some one I should like you to know, Burt. His name is Lefferts."

The lane was now too narrow for four to ride abreast. Crane drew Eliot
to his side. He wanted to ask him about the Crosslett-Billingtons, for
since the disappearance of the miniature, he had made up his mind to
investigate the references of his staff. But strange to say, Eliot had
never heard of the Billingtons, of their collection of tapestry, or
their villa at Capri. He wished to talk of the Revellys.

"A great loss they are to the county, Crane, though, of course, we gain
you. I wonder where they are. Gone North, I heard, though I thought I
saw one of the boys out the morning of the day you came. The Revellys
will hunt anything, from a plow-horse to a thoroughbred. Hard up, you
know. Glad they consented to rent their house. Didn't suppose they ever
would. Too proud, you know. They have things in it of immense value.
Portrait of the grandfather, Marshall Revelly. Second in command to
Stonewall Jackson at one time. I'd like to have you know them. Paul, the
elder brother, is a man of some ability; may make his mark. And the
younger daughter, Miss Claudia Revelly--" Do what he would, Eliot's
voice changed slightly in pronouncing the name. "--Miss Claudia is one
of our great beauties, the recipient of a great deal of attention. Why,
sir, last summer, when Daniel W. Williams, the Governor-elect of this
State, saw Miss Claudia at--"

But the story, in which, to be candid, Crane did not take a great deal
of interest, was interrupted by Cora who pushed her mare forward in
order to attract Crane's attention and to introduce him to her
companion.

The young man was extraordinarily good-looking. His eyes were a strange
greenish-brown color, like the water in the dock of a city ferry; his
skin was ivory in hue and as smooth as a woman's, but his hands and a
certain decisiveness of gesture were virile in the extreme.

"We ought to have a good run," said Crane, in order to say something.

"If any run can be good," answered the young man.

"You don't like hunting?"

"I hate anything to do with horses," answered Lefferts, plaintively.
"You must admit they are particularly unintelligent animals. If they
weren't, of course they wouldn't let us bully them and ride them about,
when they could do anything they wanted with us. No, I only do it
because she," he nodded toward Miss Falkener, "makes me."

Cora, looking very handsome, laughed.

"He's a poet," she said.

"Is that why he has to hunt?" asked Crane, and he wondered if poetry had
anything to do with the excellence of the young man's coat and boots.

"Yes, poets have to be athletic nowadays. It's the fashion, and a very
good one, too."

"There are other forms of athletics I don't hate nearly as much,"
Lefferts went on to Crane, "swimming, for instance, and sailing, and
even walking isn't so bad. It doesn't need so much preparation, and
getting up early in the morning, and all that sort of thing."

"Fortunately, I know what's best for him," said Cora.

"She makes me think she does," said the poet, still plaintively.

Crane wanted to ask Cora where and how she had acquired this rather
agreeable responsibility, but he had no opportunity before they were
off.

He and Cora started together, less, perhaps, from chivalry on Burton's
part than because of his desire to watch the performance of the mare,
but in the course of the run they became separated, and he finally
jogged home alone.

He dismounted in the stable-yard and stood watching one of the grooms
loosening the saddle-girths, while he and the head man discussed the
excellent conduct of his own horses as compared with the really pitiable
showing of other people's, and debated whether the wretched
deterioration in a certain Canadian bay horse ridden that day by the
Master of Hounds was owing to naturally poor conformation on the part of
the horse, or deplorable lack of judgment on the part of the rider.

In the midst of these absorbing topics, Crane suddenly became aware that
Smithfield was waiting for him at the gateway. He stopped short in what
he was saying.

"You wanted to speak to me, Smithfield?"

"When you've finished, sir."

Crane had finished, he said, and turned in the direction of the house
with the butler at his side.

"There's been a terrible disturbance at the house, sir, since you went
out this morning."

"Oh, my powers!" cried Burton. "What has been happening now?"

Smithfield was stepping along, throwing out his feet and resting on the
ball of his foot with the walk that Mrs. Falkener had so much admired.

"Well, sir," he said, "the trouble has been between Mr. Tucker and
Brindlebury."

Crane groaned.

"I don't defend the boy, sir. I fear he forgot his place."

"Look here, Smithfield," said Crane, "candidly, now, what is the matter
with all of you? You know you really are a very queer lot."

Thus appealed to, Smithfield considered.

"Well, sir," he said, "I think the trouble--as much as any one thing is
the trouble--is that we're young, and servants oughtn't to be young.
They should be strong, healthy, hard working, but not young; for youth
means impulses, hopes of improvement, love of enjoyment, all qualities
servants must not have." The man spoke entirely without bitterness, and
Crane turning to him said suddenly:

"Smithfield, what do you think about class distinctions?"

For the first time, Smithfield smiled.

"I think, sir," he said, "that if they were done away with, I should
lose my job."

"Well, by heaven, if I were you, then," cried Crane, with unusual
feeling, "I'd get a job that wasn't dependent on a lie, for if I believe
anything it is that all these dissimilarities between rich and poor, and
men and women, and black and white, are pretty trivial as compared with
their similarities. It's my opinion we are all very much alike,
Smithfield," and Crane, as he spoke, was astonished at the passion for
democracy that stirred within him.

"That, sir," replied Smithfield, "if you forgive my saying it, is the
attitude toward democracy of some one who has always been at the top.
There must be distinctions, mustn't there, sir, and you would probably
say that the ideal distinction was along the line of merit--that every
one should have the place in the world that he deserves. But, dear me,
sir, that would be very cruel. So many of us would then be face to face
with our own inferiority. Now, as things are, I can think that it's only
outside conditions that are keeping me down, and that I should make as
good or even better a master, begging your pardon, than you, sir. But
under a true democracy, if I were still in an inferior position, I
should have to admit I belonged there, which I don't admit at all now,
not at all."

"But how about my not admitting that I'm a master?" said Crane.

"In one sense, perhaps you are not, sir," answered Smithfield. "For,
after all, some training is necessary to be a servant, particularly a
butler, but for the exercise of the functions of the higher classes, no
training at all seems to be required. Curious, isn't it, sir? Utterly
unskilled labor is found only among the very rich and the very poor."

The conversation had brought them to the house, without the case of
Brindlebury having been further discussed. Suddenly realizing this,
Crane stopped at the foot of the steps.

"Now, what is it that's happened?" he asked.

Smithfield showed some embarrassment.

"I'm afraid, sir," he said, "that some rather hot words passed. In
fact--I do so much regret it, sir, but I fear Brindlebury actually
raised his hand against Mr. Tucker."

It was a triumph of self-control that not a muscle of Burton's face
quivered at this intelligence.

"If that is true," he said, "the boy will have to go, of course."

"I had hoped you might wish to hear both sides, sir."

"No," answered Crane. "I might hear what Brindlebury had to say, or I
might understand without hearing, or I might know that I should have
done the same in his place, or, even, going a step farther, I might
think him right to have done it, but the fact remains that I can't keep
a servant who strikes a guest of mine. That's a class distinction,
Smithfield, but there it is."

Smithfield bowed.

"If I might suggest, sir, perhaps you do not understand rightly how Mr.
Tucker--"

"Nothing like that, Smithfield. Tell the boy to go, go this afternoon.
Pay him what's right and get him out." He ran up the steps, but turned
half-way and added with a smile: "And you know there really isn't
anything you could tell me about Mr. Tucker that I haven't known a
great deal longer than any of you have."

He went in. Tucker and Mrs. Falkener were sitting side by side in the
drawing-room, with that unmistakable air of people who expect, and have
a right to expect, that they should be given an opportunity to tell
their troubles. The only revenge that Crane permitted himself, if indeed
revenge can be used to describe so mild a punishment, was that he
continued to ignore their perfectly obvious grumpiness.

"Well," he said, "you look cozy. Hope you've had as good a day as we
have."

Tucker opened his mouth to say "We have not," but Crane was already in
full description of the run, undaunted by the fact that neither of his
listeners, if they were indeed listeners, could be induced to manifest
enough interest in his story to meet his eye.

"I'm glad some one has enjoyed the day," said Tucker, as Crane paused to
light a cigarette. He laid an unmistakable emphasis on the words "some
one."

Crane patted him on the shoulder.

"Thanks, Tuck," he said; "I believe that's true. I believe you are glad.
Yes, we had a good day--three foxes, and your daughter, Mrs. Falkener,
went like a bird. She's a wonderful horsewoman--not only looks well
herself, but makes the horse look well, too."

At this Mrs. Falkener's manner grew distinctly more cheerful, and she
asked:

"And, by the way, where is Cora?"

Tucker, annoyed at the desertion on the part of his ally, pressed his
hand over his eyes and sighed audibly, but no one noticed him.

"I took a wrong turn in search of a short cut and lost the rest of
them," said Crane. "But she'll be back directly. She's perfectly safe.
She was with Eliot, our neighbor, and a fellow named Lefferts, whom she
seemed to know."

"Lefferts!" cried Mrs. Falkener. "That man here! O Burton, how could you
leave my daughter in such company? O Solon, you remember I told you
about that man!"

Tucker nodded shortly. He wasn't going to take any interest in any
one's grievances until his own had been disposed of.

"What's the matter with Lefferts?" said Crane. "He's staying with Eliot,
and they asked us all over to lunch to-morrow. Shan't we go?"

"No, nowhere that that young man is," cried Mrs. Falkener, who seemed to
be a good deal excited by the news. "He's an idler, a waster. Why,
Burton," she ended in a magnificent climax, "he's a poet!"

"So Cora told me."

"He affects to be devoted to Cora," her mother went on bitterly, "and
follows her about everywhere, without the slightest encouragement on her
part, I can assure you, but I have known him to take a most insolent
tone about her. The very first time I ever saw him, he was sitting
beside me at a party, and I said, as Cora came across the room with that
magnificent walk of hers, 'She moves like a full-rigged ship, doesn't
she?' He answered: 'Or rather, more like a submarine; you never know
where she'll pop up next. Yes, there's a sort of practical mystery about
Cora very suitable to modern warfare.' He called her Cora behind her
back, but not to her face, be sure. And very soon a poem of his appeared
in one of the magazines--'To My Love, Comparing Her to a Submarine.' I
thought it most insulting."

"And what did Cora think?" asked Crane.

"She hardly read the thing through. Cora is far too sensible to pay much
attention to poetry."

"But poets are different, I suppose," answered Crane. Personally, he was
pleased with the submarine simile.

"No, nor poets, either," said Mrs. Falkener tartly, and rising she
hurried away to see if by some fortunate chance her errant daughter had
returned without letting her know.

Left alone, Crane decided to give his friend his long-desired chance.

"Well, Tuck," he said, "you look in fine form. What have you been doing
since I went away?"

"I have not had a very agreeable day," said Tucker, in a voice so low
and deep that it was almost a growl.

"No? Not a return of your old dyspepsia, I hope," said Crane.

Tucker shook his head impatiently.

"At breakfast," he said, "I heard from Mrs. Falkener, who had heard from
her daughter, that you had observed the loss of the miniature that used
to lie on this table. Such things cannot be taken lightly, Burton. The
owners might put almost any price on an article of that kind--wretched
as it was, as a work of art--and you would be forced to pay. You see, it
could not be replaced. I thought it my duty, therefore, to send for each
of the servants and question them on the subject."

"You thought it your duty to send for Jane-Ellen, Tuck?"

Again Tucker frowned.

"I said I sent for all of the servants. Smithfield displayed, to my
mind, a most suspicious ignorance and indifference to the whole subject.
The housemaid was so hysterical and frightened that if I did not know a
great deal of such cases, I should suspect her--"

"And was the cook frightened?" said Crane, with a flicker of a smile.

"No," Tucker explained, "she did not appear to be frightened, but then,
I may tell you that I do not suspect the cook of complicity in the
theft."

"The deuce you don't!" said Crane. He found himself suddenly annoyed
without reason, that Tucker should have been interviewing and
questioning his servants during his absence; stirring up trouble, he
said to himself, and perhaps hurting the feelings of a perfectly good
cook. Suppose she had decided to leave as a result of these activities
of Solon's! He found he had not been listening to the account his friend
was giving of the conversation, until he heard him say:

"It seems Jane-Ellen had never been in this room before; she was very
much interested in everything. I saw her looking at that splendid
portrait of General Revelly, and she asked--in fact, she made me give
her quite a little account of his life--"

"A little lecture on the Civil War, eh?" said Crane.

His tone was not wholly friendly and Tucker did not find it so. He
colored.

"Really, Burton," he said, coldly, "in case of crime, or of theft, a
man's lawyer is usually supposed to know what it is best to do."

"Possibly, but I see no point in having dragged the cook into it."

"I see even less point in treating her on a different plane from any of
the other servants."

"It almost seems, Tuck, as if you enjoyed your constant interviews with
her."

"That is just, I regret to say, Burton, what I was thinking about you."

"It seems to me," said Crane, "that this discussion is not leading
anywhere, and might as well end."

"One moment," exclaimed the other, "my story is not finished. When it
came to be the turn of that boy Brindlebury, in whom I may as well tell
you I have no confidence whatever, his manner was so insolent, his
refusal to answer my questions so suspicious--Well, to make a long story
short, your boot-boy, Burton, attempted to knock me down, and I had, of
course, to put him out of the room. The situation is perfectly simple.
I must ask you either to dismiss him, or to order the motor to take me
to the train."

There was a short pause, during which Crane very deliberately lit a
cigarette. Then he said in a level tone:

"The boy is already dismissed. He is out of the house at this moment,
probably. As to the other alternative--the ordering the motor--I will,
of course, do that, too, if you insist."

But Tucker did not insist.

"On the contrary," he said, "you have done all I could desire--more,
indeed, for you have evidently decided against the boy before you even
heard my side of the case."

"One cannot always decide these cases with regard for eternal justice,"
said Crane.

Before Tucker could inquire just what was meant by this rather
disagreeable pronouncement, Smithfield appeared in the doorway to say
that Jane-Ellen would be glad if she might speak to Mr. Crane for a
moment.

This was what Crane had dreaded; she was going to leave. His anger
against Tucker flared up again, but he said, with apparent calmness,
that Jane-Ellen might come in. Tucker should see for himself the effect
of his meddling. Tucker suggested in a sort of half-hearted way that he
would go away, but his host told him, shortly, to remain.

Jane-Ellen entered. There was no doubt but that she was displeased with
the presence of a third party. She made a little bob of a curtsy and
started for the door.

"I'll come back when you're alone, sir."

"No," said Crane. "Anything you have to say can be said before Mr.
Tucker."

"Oh, of course, sir." But her tone lacked conviction. "I wanted to speak
about Brindlebury. He is very sorry for what happened, sir. I wish you
could see your way--"

"I can't," said Crane.

Jane-Ellen glanced at Tucker under her eye-lashes.

"I know, sir," she went on, "that there could be no excuse for the way
he has acted, but if any excuse was possible, it did seem--" She
hesitated.

"You wish to say," interrupted Burton who now felt he did not care what
he said to any one, "that Mr. Tucker was extremely provoking. I have no
doubt, but that has nothing to do with it."

"Really, Burton," observed his guest, "I don't think that that is the
way to speak of me, particularly," he added firmly, "to a servant."

"It's sometimes a good idea to speak the truth, even to servants,
Solon," returned Crane. "You are provoking, and no one knows it better
than I have known it during the past fifteen minutes. But your powers of
being provoking have nothing to do with the matter, except
theoretically. The boy has got to go. I want him to be out of the house
within an hour. That's all there is to the whole question, Jane-Ellen."

"But, oh, sir, if he is sorry--"

"I doubt very much if he is sorry."

"Oh, why, sir?"

"Because I feel sure that in his place I shouldn't be sorry in the
least, except for having failed--if he did fail."

"I know it's a great liberty, sir, but I do wish you could give him
another chance." Her look was extraordinarily appealing.

"What in the world is Brindlebury to you, Jane-Ellen?"

"Didn't Mr. Tucker tell you, sir? He's my brother."

"No, he didn't tell me. Did you know he was Jane-Ellen's brother,
Solon?"

"Brin told him, himself, sir." She was a little overeager.

Tucker frowned.

"Yes, I believe the boy did say something to that effect. I own I was
not much interested in the fact, and I can't say I think it has any
bearing on the present situation."

Crane was silent for an instant. Then he said:

"No, it hasn't. He's got to go," and then he added, quite clearly, and
looking at his cook very directly:

"But I am sorry, Jane-Ellen, not to be able to do anything that you ask
me to do."

She looked back at him for an instant, with a sort of imperishable
sweetness, and then went sadly out of the room.

Between Crane and his legal adviser no further words were exchanged.

Crane went and took out one of the motors and rushed at a high rate of
speed over the country, frightening one or two sedate black mules, the
only other travelers on the roads, and soothing his own irritation by
the rapidity of the motion.

More and more he regretted not having been able to grant the favor
Jane-Ellen had so engagingly asked, more and more he felt inclined to
believe that in Brindlebury's place he would have done the same thing,
more and more did he feel disposed to fasten upon Tucker all the
disagreeableness of the situation.



                                  VII


HE did not get back until almost dinner time. The meal was not an
agreeable one, though Jane-Ellen's part of the performance was no less
perfectly achieved than usual. It was evident that there had been a
scene between the two ladies. Cora's eyes were distinctly red, and
though Mrs. Falkener's bore no such evidence, she looked more haggard
than was her wont. Tucker was still feeling somewhat imposed upon,
Smithfield's manner suggested a dignified rebuke, Crane felt no
inclination to lighten the general tone, and altogether the occasion was
dreary in the extreme.

As soon as they had had coffee, Cora sat down at the piano, and drawing
Burton to her by a request for more light, she whispered:

"Won't you take me out in the garden? I have something I must say to
you."

Crane acquiesced. It was a splendid, misty November night. The moonlight
was of that sea-green color which, so often represented on the stage, is
seldom seen in nature. The moon concealed the bareness of the
garden-beds, lent a suggestion of mystery to the thickets of what had
once been flowering shrubs, and made the columns of the piazza, which in
the daytime showed themselves most plainly to be but ill-painted wood,
appear almost like the marble portico of an Ionic temple.

The air was so still that from the stables, almost a quarter of a mile
away, they could hear the sound of one of the horses kicking in its
stall, and the tune that a groom was rather unskilfully deducing from a
concertina.

Crane whistled the air softly as he strolled along by his companion's
side, until she stopped and said with great intensity:

"I want to say something to you, Burton. I'm not happy. I'm horribly
distressed. I ought not to say what I'm going to say, at least the
general idea seems to be that girls shouldn't--but I have a feeling that
you're really my friend, a friend to whom I can speak frankly even about
things that concern me."

"You make no mistake there, Cora," he returned.

He was what is considered a brave man, with calm nerves and quick
judgment; physical danger had a certain stimulating effect upon him;
morally, too, he did not lack courage; though good-naturedly inclined to
have everything as pleasant as possible, he was not in the least afraid
to make himself disagreeable. But now, at the thought of what Miss
Falkener was going to say to him, he was frankly and unmistakably
terrified. Why, he asked himself? Young and timid girls could go through
such scenes and, it was said, actually enjoy them. Why should he be
unreasoningly terrified--terrified with the same instinctive desire to
run away that some people feel when they see snakes or spiders? Why
should he feel as if prison walls were closing about him?

"Two years ago, when you and I first began to see each other," Miss
Falkener went on, in a voice that she kept dropping lower and lower in
order to conceal its tremors, "I liked you at once, Burton. I liked you
very much. But, aside from that--you know, I'm not always very happy
with my mother, aside from liking you, I made up my mind in the most
cold-blooded, mercenary way, that the best thing I could do was to
marry you."

"Well, I call that a thoroughly kind thought," said Crane, smiling at
her, as a martyr might make a little joke about the lions.

"It wasn't kind," said Cora. "It was just selfish. I supposed I would be
able to make you happy, but really, I thought very little about you in
the matter. I was thinking only of myself. But I've been well repaid for
it--" She stopped, almost with a sob; and while she was silently
struggling for sufficient self-control to continue, Crane became aware
that the front door had opened, letting a sudden shaft of yellow light
fall upon them through the green moonshine, and that Tucker had come out
on the piazza. He was looking about; he was looking for them. Not a
sound did Burton make, but if concentration of thought has any unseen
power, he drew Tucker's gaze to them.

"Burton," said Tucker.

There was no answer.

"Burton!" he called again.

Miss Falkener raised her head.

"Some one called you," she said.

Then Crane's figure became less rigid, and he moved a step forward. He
was saved for the time, at least.

"Want me, Tuck?" he said.

Solon came down the steps carefully. He had reached an age when the eye
does not quickly adjust itself to changes of light.

"Yes," he said, "I do want to see you. I want to ask you one question.
Did you or did you not assure me the boy Brindlebury had left the
house?"

"I did so assure you," answered Crane, "and I had been so foolish as to
hope we had heard the last of him. Smithfield told me before dinner that
he left early in the afternoon."

"Smithfield lied to you. The boy is in bed in his own room at this
moment."

"How do you know?"

"Go and see for yourself."

Crane was just angry enough at every one to welcome any action. Only a
few seconds elapsed before he was in the servants' wing of the house.
All the doors were standing open, disclosing black darkness, except one
which was closed, and under this a bright streak was visible.

Crane flung himself upon this, thinking it would be locked, but
evidently Brindlebury had not thought any such precaution necessary. The
door at once yielded, and Crane entered.

Brindlebury, fully dressed, was lying flat on his back on the bed, with
his legs crossed in the air; a cigarette was in his mouth (one of
Burton's cigarettes), a reading-lamp was at his elbow, and he was
engaged in the perusal of a new novel which Crane had received the day
before, and had strangely missed ever since. On the floor near-by was a
tray, empty indeed, but bearing unmistakable signs of having been well
filled only recently.

Crane took the cigarette from Brindlebury's mouth, and the book from his
hand.

"Now," he said, "I'll give you five minutes to get your things together
and get out." There were no signs that packing had ever been
contemplated; all Brindlebury's belongings were undisturbed.

The boy looked at Crane. He would like to have answered, but he could
not think of anything to say, so he got up slowly and tried to smooth
his hair which was very much rumpled.

"I'm not positive I have such a thing as a bag," he observed at length,
but a little search revealed one in the closet. It was marked "B.
Revelly."

"A token of respect from your late employer, I suppose," said Crane.

The boy did not answer. He was rather sulkily putting on his clothes. He
was not a neat packer. A tooth-brush and some pipe tobacco, a wet sponge
and some clean shirts, boots and pajamas were indiscriminately mixed.

The five minutes, unmarked by any conversation, had almost elapsed when
light steps were heard in the hallway, and a voice exclaimed:

"Did you have a good dinner, honey?" and Jane-Ellen came spinning into
the room, all the demureness gone from her manner.

At the sight of her employer, she stopped, and her hand went up to her
mouth with a gesture expressive of the utmost horror. Brindlebury did
not stop packing. He was now filling in the corners with shaving soap
and socks.

His sister turned to Crane.

"Oh, sir," she wailed, "we've acted very wrongly."

"Jane-Ellen," replied Crane, "that really doesn't go. It was a good
manner, and you worked it well, but it is now, if you will forgive my
saying so, old stuff. I cannot look upon you as a foolishly fond sister,
trying to protect an erring brother. I think it far more likely that you
are the organizer of this efficient little plan to keep him here
unobserved, eating my food, reading my books, and smoking, if I am not
greatly mistaken, my cigarettes."

"Oh, Brin, do you take Mr. Crane's cigarettes?" said Jane-Ellen.

"Not unless I'm out of my own," said her brother.

"Without clearing his own honesty, he impugns my taste," said Crane.

It was plain that Jane-Ellen was going to make another effort to improve
the situation. She was thinking hard. At last she began:

[Illustration: At the sight of Crane, Jane-Ellen stopped with a gesture
of the utmost horror]

"I don't defend what we've done, sir, but if you would have let me see
you alone this afternoon, I was going to ask that Brindlebury might stay
just for this one night. Only I couldn't speak before Mr. Tucker, I'm so
afraid of him."

"There you go again," said Burton. "You're not telling the truth. You're
not in the least afraid of Tucker."

"Well, not as much as I am of you, sir."

"Jane-Ellen," said Crane, "I believe you are a very naughty girl." He
was surprised to find that every trace of ill temper had left him.

"I know what you mean, sir," said the cook, and this time her voice had
a certain commonplace tone. "And it's true. I haven't always been
perfectly honest with you, but a servant can't be candid and open, sir;
you know, yourself, it wouldn't do."

"I'd like to see it tried," returned Crane.

"Well, I'm honest now, sir," she went on, "in asking you to let Brin
stay. He'll apologize, I'm sure--"

"I will not," said the boy, still packing.

But his sister hardly noticed the interruption.

"He will do what I tell him when he comes to think it over, if you will
only relent. Don't you think you are just a little hard on him? He is my
brother, and it would make me so happy if you would let him stay."

The desire to make others happy is not a crime, yet Crane felt nothing
but shame at the obvious weakening of his own resolution under the
peculiarly melting voice of Jane-Ellen. He glanced at the boy, he
thought of Tucker, he looked long at Jane-Ellen. Who knows what might
have happened if his eyes, which he decided he must wrench away from
hers, had not suddenly fallen upon a small object lying undisguised on
Brindlebury's dressing-table.

It was the pearl set miniature.

All three saw it almost at the same instant. The hands of all went out
toward it, but Crane's reached it first. He took it up.

"Have you any explanation to offer, Brindlebury?" he said.

"I can explain," exclaimed Jane-Ellen.

"I'm sure you can," Crane answered. "The only question is, shall I
believe your explanation."

"He took it because it reminded him of me. That's the only reason he
wanted it."

Crane looked from the miniature to the cook. He knew that this was also
the only reason why he himself wanted it.

"Jane-Ellen," he said, "go downstairs and order the motor to come to the
side door at once."

"Mr. Crane, you're not going to have Brin arrested?"

He shook his head.

"I ought to, perhaps, but I am not going to. I'm going to take him in
the motor to what I consider a safe distance, and drop him."

"Just like a stray cat," gasped Brindlebury's sister.

"Cats usually come back," said the boy, with a return of his normal
spirits.

"Cats have nine lives," replied Crane, significantly.

Something about the tone of this remark put an end to the conversation.
Jane-Ellen obediently left the room. Brindlebury struggled frantically
to strap his bulging bag, and succeeded only with the assistance of
Crane.

When they went downstairs, the motor was already ticking quietly at the
side door. No one was visible, except Jane-Ellen, who was wistfully
watching it.

Brindlebury got in, and set his bag upright between his knees; Crane got
in, and had actually released the brake, when, looking up at the cook
still standing there, he found himself saying:

"Do you want to come, too, Jane-Ellen, to see the last of your brother?"

Of course she did; she looked hastily about and then turned toward the
stairs, but Crane stopped her.

"No," he said, "don't go up. There's a coat of mine there in the coat
closet. Take that."

Immediately she reappeared in a heavy Irish frieze overcoat he had had
made that spring in New Bond Street. It was an easy fit for Crane; it
enveloped Jane-Ellen completely. The collar which she had contrived to
turn up as she put the coat on, stood level with the top of her head;
the hem trailed on the ground, and the sleeves hung limp from below the
elbows. She looked like a very small kitten wrapped up in a very large
baby's blanket. But she did not allow this superfluity, of cloth to
hamper her movements; she sprang into the little back seat, and they
started.

After about half an hour, Crane stopped the car. They were now in the
outskirts of the main town of the district.

"This is where you get out," he said.

Brindlebury obeyed.

"Smithfield paid you your wages, I believe," and Burton plunged into his
own pocket. "Well, there's something extra."

At this, a trembling might have been seen in the right sleeve of the
frieze coat, and the next second, Jane-Ellen's hand emerged from the
cuff, and Crane for the first time experienced the touch of her fingers.
She pushed his hand away from her brother's.

"Don't take that money, Brin," she cried.

Brindlebury's hand dropped.

"No, of course not. What do you take me for?" he said. Then he snatched
off his cap and kissed his sister good-by, and, picking up his bag, he
disappeared into the darkness.

There was a moment's silence between the other two, before Crane said:

"Better get into the front seat. You'll be more comfortable."

Holding up her coat, as if it were a coronation robe, Jane-Ellen stepped
in, sat down, and wrapped it carefully about her knees--a process in
which Crane by the greatest effort of self-control did not join. Again
the brake squeaked and the motor moved forward.

A great deal has been said about silence as a method of spiritual
communion, but few of us, in social situations, at least, have the
courage of these convictions. Most hostesses, on looking about a silent
dinner-table, would be more apt to think that they were watching a
suspension of diplomatic relations, rather than an intercommunication of
souls. But there are moments for all of us when we value silence as
highly as Maeterlinck himself and this, in Burton's opinion, was one of
them.

The moonlight, so much more beautiful and affecting than he had found it
earlier in the evening in the garden, the smooth, quick motion, the damp
night air blowing against his face, made him acutely aware of the
presence at his side of that small, still companion. He felt no need of
speech, nor did he speculate as to her state of mind. He drove, and
enjoyed life deeply.

They were nearly at home again, before he asked:

"Why was it you did not wish your brother to take what I offered him?"

"Because," she answered, in a tone of simplicity and sincerity he had
never yet heard from her, "it would not have been good for him. He's
young, and takes things too easily. He ought not to have money he does
not work for."

"I am glad that you feel like that," he said. "I was afraid you refused
to let him have it, because you were angry at me for sending him away."

He was afraid that she would relapse into her old tone of mock servility
and assure him that she would never be guilty of the liberty of
criticizing her employer, but she did not. She said:

"But I was not angry at you. I should not have respected you if you had
done anything else."

He answered seriously:

"You knew that I was sorry not to do what you asked me to do?"

"Yes, I knew," she said.

They did not speak again.

They left the car at the garage and walked to the house. There had been
failure in coöperation, for Smithfield evidently had not known of the
expedition. The side door was locked, and so was the front door.

"I suppose I'd better ring," said Crane reluctantly. Somehow he was not
eager to face Smithfield's cold, reproving glance.

"No, follow me," whispered Jane-Ellen.

She led him to the kitchen entrance and pointed to a window.

"I don't believe that window has had a bolt for sixty years," she said.

"And to think," returned Crane, as he gently raised it, "that before I
took the house I complained of its being out of repair."

He climbed in and opened the kitchen door for her. He had a match, and
she knew the whereabouts of a candle. They still spoke in whispers.
There was, of course, no real reason why they were so eager to let the
household sleep undisturbed, yet they were obviously united in the
resolution to make no unnecessary sound.

"Wouldn't you like something to eat?" breathed Jane-Ellen.

"A good idea," he answered.

She divested herself of his coat and beckoned him to the ice-box. They
had entirely ceased to be master and servant.

"Some of that chicken salad you had for dinner," she murmured, "if any
of it came down. I dare say it didn't though. Smithfield's so fond of
it."

Crane laughed.

"You mean he eats in the pantry?"

She nodded.

"All butlers do, and Smithfield's a little bit greedy, though you'd
never guess it, would you?"

They laughed softly over Smithfield, as they spread out their simple
meal on the kitchen table. Jane-Ellen showed a faint disposition to wait
upon her employer, but it was easily vanquished by his assertion that he
would eat nothing unless she sat down, too. A few minutes later, it was
he who was doing whatever work was to be done, and she sitting with her
elbows on the table watching him. There seemed, after all, nothing
unnatural in this new relation.

Presently, Willoughby, hearing the sound of dishes, or smelling the
chicken salad, awoke and jumped on the table.

"Do you mind him?" asked his mistress in melting tones.

Crane didn't mind him at all. He offered the cat a bit of chicken.
Willoughby seemed to enjoy it, chewing it with quick little jerks of his
head. And presently, he raised a paw and deflected a fork which Crane
was carrying to his own mouth. Even this Crane appeared to find amusing.

Before they had finished, the kitchen clock behind them suddenly and
discordantly struck once. Burton started and half turned his head, but
she stopped him.

"Let's guess what time it is," she said. "Of course, it's later than
half past ten. It might be half past eleven."

"Or even half past twelve."

"It could be one."

"But certainly not half past."

They looked around. It was half past.

Jane-Ellen sprang up.

"Oh, how dreadful!" she exclaimed, without, however, any very real
conviction. "How terribly late, and I have to get up so early in the
morning."

"It makes me desperately ashamed," said Crane, "to think you have to get
up to cook for all of us and that I can sleep just as late as I want
to."

She laughed.

"If you haven't anything worse to worry about than that, you're very
lucky."

But he had something to worry about, and as soon as she was gone, he
began to worry about it, namely, the painful and complicated situation
of a man who has fallen in love with his cook.



                                  VIII


MRS. FALKENER never came down to breakfast. At nine to the minute, her
bell tinkled, and Lily staggered up to her room bearing a tray, from
which, it subsequently appeared, many essentials had been forgotten; the
next ten minutes were spent by the unfortunate housemaid in trips to the
pantry in search of salt, powdered sugar or a tea-strainer.

Cora, however, came down and poured out coffee for the two men. She
looked handsome and vigorous in this occupation, and Crane, sitting
opposite to her, wondered if it were his destiny to sit so for the rest
of his life. He watched her thin white hands--strong as steel, they
were--moving about among the cups. He had once admired them intensely.
But now he knew that hands did not have to be so firm and muscular to
accomplish wonderful achievements in all sorts of ways.

At ten, Mrs. Falkener came swimming down the stairs, all suavity and
brightness. The evening before, while Crane had been struggling with
the problem of Brindlebury's misdeeds, she and Tucker had had another
council of war. A new attack upon the cook had been planned, which they
felt sure would bring to light delinquencies that even Crane could not
overlook.

"Come, Burton," she said as she entered the sitting-room, "aren't you
ever going to offer to show me the kitchen? You know that to an
old-fashioned housekeeper like myself, it is the most interesting part
of the whole house."

Such interest, Crane felt inclined to answer, was not confined to
old-fashioned housekeepers. Her suggestion roused conflicting desires in
him; the desire to see Jane-Ellen, and the desire to protect her from
Mrs. Falkener.

"Tuck could tell us all about it," he said slyly.

Tucker, who was reading the paper, pretended not to hear, and presently
Crane rang the bell.

"Tell the cook, Smithfield," he said, "that Mrs. Falkener and I are
coming down to inspect the kitchen in about ten minutes."

When Smithfield had gone, Mrs. Falkener shook her finger at Crane.

"That was a mistake, my dear Burton," she said, "a great mistake. Take
them unaware whenever you can; it is the only way to protect ourselves
against the unscrupulous members of their class."

"Crane," said Tucker, without looking up from his paper, "wants to give
the young woman plenty of time to smuggle out any superfluous young man
who may be visiting her at the moment."

"Well, I'm no gum-shoe man, Tuck," Burton replied, leaving all of his
hearers in doubt as to whether or not he had emphasized the word "I."

Tucker laughed sarcastically.

"No, my dear fellow," he answered, "your best friend would not accuse
you of having talents along the detective line."

"Perhaps not," replied Crane. "And by the way, did I tell you that the
miniature had turned up all right?"

Tucker's face fell. He had depended a good deal on the loss of the
miniature as a lever to oust the whole set of servants.

"No," he said. "Where was it discovered?"

"Oh, it had just been moved," answered Crane. "It was lying on another
table, when I happened to notice it." He took it out of his pocket and
looked at it. "I think now, I'll keep it in my room for safety. You
approve of that, don't you, Tuck?"

Tucker, who felt that in some way he was being deceived, would not
answer, and in the pause Mrs. Falkener rose and said chattily,

"Well, shall we be off?"

"Coming with us, Solon?"

"No, I'm not," returned Tucker crossly.

"Didn't mean to offend you," Crane answered. "I thought you liked
kitchens, too."

Downstairs, they found the kitchen empty. Jane-Ellen was standing just
outside the door watching Willoughby, who was exciting himself most
unnecessarily over preparations which he was making to catch a bird that
was hopping about in the grass near by. The great cat crouched, all
still except the end of his tail, which twitched ominously, then he
rose, and, balancing himself almost imperceptibly on his four paws,
seemed about to spring; then abandoning this method, too, he crept a
little nearer to his victim, his stomach almost touching the earth. And
then the whole exhibition was ended by the bird, who, having
accomplished its foraging expedition, lightly flew away, leaving
Willoughby looking as foolish as a cat ever does look.

Jane-Ellen stooped and patted him.

"You silly dear," she said caressingly.

It was Willoughby who first saw Crane. With a vivid recollection of the
previous evening's feast of chicken from the salad, the cat ran to him
and bumped his nose repeatedly against Crane's legs in token of fealty
and gratitude. Burton felt unduly flattered. He lifted Willoughby, who
instantly made himself very soft and heavy in his arms and showed every
disposition to settle down and go to sleep.

Mrs. Falkener looked at him sentimentally.

"How all animals take to you, Burton, at first sight!" she said.

Crane bent over and replaced Willoughby slowly on the ground, while
Jane-Ellen turned her head away for an instant. Mrs. Falkener went on:

"What a nice, bright kitchen you have, Jane-Ellen. A good range, though
old-fashioned. How bright you keep your copper. That's right." She
wandered away in her tour of inspection. "See, Burton, this blue plate.
It looks to me as if it might have value. And this oak dresser--it must
be two hundred years old." She was across the room and her back was
turned. Crane and the cook stood looking at each other. "How charming,
how interesting!" Mrs. Falkener continued. "And you would not believe me
when I said that the kitchen was the most interesting part of the
house."

"I did not disagree with that," said Crane, still looking at Jane-Ellen.

"Oh, my dear boy, you would never have come down if I had not made you."

"One doesn't always do what one wants to do," said Crane.

Mrs. Falkener turned. The kitchen had revealed none of the enormities
she had expected--not even a man hidden in the kitchen closet, the door
of which she had hopefully opened; but one chance still remained. The
ice-box! In her time she had known many incriminating ice-boxes. She
called loudly to be taken to it.

"It's this way, madame," said the cook.

Mrs. Falkener drew Crane aside.

"That," she said, "is the very best way to judge of a cook's economical
powers. See how much she saves of the dishes that come from the upstairs
table. Now, last night I happened to notice that the chicken salad went
downstairs almost untouched."

For the first time in years, Burton found himself coloring.

"Oh, really?" he stammered. "I had an idea that we had eaten quite a lot
of it."

"No," returned Mrs. Falkener firmly, "no, a good dish went down. Let us
go and see."

Crane glanced at Jane-Ellen. He thought she had overheard.

They reached the ice-box; the cook lifted the lid, and Mrs. Falkener
looked in. The first sight that greeted her eyes was the platter that
had borne the salad she had liked so much. It was almost empty.

"Why, Jane-Ellen," she said, "where is all the rest of that excellent
salad?"

At this question, Jane-Ellen, who was standing beside the chest, gave
the lid a slight downward impulsion, so that it suddenly closed with a
loud, heavy report, within half an inch of Mrs. Falkener's nose.

That lady turned to Burton.

"Burton," she said, with the majesty of which she was at times capable,
"I leave it to you to decide whether or not this impossible young woman
did that on purpose," and so saying she swept away up the stairs, like a
goddess reascending Olympus.

"Look here, Jane-Ellen," said Crane, "I don't stand for that."

"Oh, sir," replied the culprit, with a return to an earlier manner, "you
surely don't think I had anything to do with it?"

"Unhappily, I was watching your hand at the time, and I know that you
had."

Jane-Ellen completely changed her method.

"Oh, well," she said, "you did not want her going on any more about the
old salad, did you?"

"I don't want the end of my guest's nose taken off."

"It's rather a long nose," said the cook dispassionately.

"Jane-Ellen, I am seriously displeased."

At this the cook had a new idea. She extracted a very small handkerchief
from her pocket and unfolded it as she said:

"Yes, indeed, sir, I suppose I did utterly forget my place, but it's
rather hard on a poor girl--one day you treat her as if she were an
empress, and the next, just as if she were mud under your feet." She
pressed the handkerchief to her eyes.

"Jane-Ellen, you know I never treated you like mud under my feet."

"It was only last night in my brother's room," she went on tearfully,
"that you scolded me for not being candid, and now at the very first
candid thing I do, you turn on me like a lion--"

At this point Crane removed her hands and handkerchief from before her
face, and revealed the fact, which he already suspected, that she was
smiling all the time.

"Jane-Ellen, what a dreadful fraud you are!" he said quite seriously.

"No, Mr. Crane," answered Jane-Ellen, briskly tucking away her
handkerchief, now that its usefulness was over. "No, I'm not exactly a
fraud. It's just that that's my way of enjoying myself, and you know,
sometimes I think other people enjoy it, too."

"Do you think Mrs. Falkener enjoys it?"

"I wasn't thinking of Mrs. Falkener," replied Jane-Ellen, with a twinkle
in her eyes.

"Burton!" called Mrs. Falkener's voice from the head of the stairs.

Crane and his cook drew slightly closer together, as if against a common
enemy.

"Do you suppose she can have heard us?" he asked.

"I think she's perfectly capable of trying to hear."

Crane smiled.

"I took a great risk, Jane-Ellen, when I advised you to be candid."

"Burton!" said the voice again.

"Merciful powers!" exclaimed Crane. "She calls like Juliet's nurse."

The cook laughed.

"But you must be prompter than Juliet was."

"What do you know about Shakespeare, Jane-Ellen?"

"Moving pictures have been a great education to the lower classes, you
know, sir."

He moved toward the stairs, but turned back to say,

"Good-by, Jane-Ellen."

She answered:

"'Think you that we shall ever meet again?'" and then even she seemed to
feel that she had committed an imprudence and she dashed away to the
kitchen.

Crane ascended the stairs slowly, for he was trying to recall the lines
that follow Juliet's pathetic question, when he suddenly became aware of
Mrs. Falkener's feet planted firmly on the top step, and then of that
lady's whole majestic presence. He pulled himself together with an
effort.

"Do you suppose that girl could have dropped that lid on purpose?" he
asked, as if this were the question he had been so deeply pondering.

"I feel not the least doubt of it," returned Mrs. Falkener.

He shook his head.

"It seems almost incredible," he answered, moving swiftly across the
hall toward the sitting-room, where Tucker and Miss Falkener were
visible.

"On the contrary," replied the elder lady, "it seems to me perfectly in
keeping with the whole conduct of this extraordinary young person." They
had now entered the room, and she included Tucker and her daughter in an
account of the incident.

"You know, Solon, and you, too, Cora, how easy I am on servants. I must
admit, every one will confirm it, that my own servants adore me. They
adore me, don't they, Cora? No wonder. I see to their comfort. They have
their own bath, and a sitting-room far better than anything I had myself
as a young woman. But in return I do demand respect, absolute respect.
And when I am looking into an ice-box, examining it, at Burton's special
request, to have that young minx slam down the lid, almost catching my
nose, Solon, I assure you, almost touching my nose, as she did it!"

Tucker listened attentively, tapping his eye-glasses on his left palm.
Then he said:

"And what did you do about it, Burton?"

Crane had gone to the bookcases and taken down a volume of Shakespeare.
He was so profoundly immersed that Tucker had to repeat his question.
This is what he was reading:

    _Juliet_: Think you that we shall ever meet again?

    _Romeo_:  I doubt it not, and all our woes shall serve
              For pleasant converse in the days to come.

He looked up, vainly trying to suppress a smile.

"What did I do about what, Tuck?"

"About your cook's insulting Mrs. Falkener."

Crane replaced the volume and walked to the window.

"Oh," he said, "I stayed behind a moment--"

"A moment!" said Mrs. Falkener, with something that would have been a
snort in one less self-controlled.

At this instant, Crane's attention was attracted by a figure he saw
crossing the grounds, and he decided to create a diversion.

"Oh, look!" he exclaimed. "Do come and see the housemaid going out for a
walk. Did you ever see anything smarter than she looks?"

The diversion was of a more exciting nature than he had intended. Mrs.
Falkener came to the window and uttering a piercing exclamation, she
cried:

"The woman has on Cora's best hat!"

"Not really?" said Crane, but it did seem to him he remembered having
seen the hat before.

"It is, it is," Mrs. Falkener went on, in some excitement. "Call her
back at once. Solon, do something. Call the woman back."

Tucker, thus appealed to, threw open the window, and with an extremely
creditable volume of voice, he roared:

"Lily!"

The girl started and turned. He beckoned imperiously. She approached.

"Come in here at once," he said sternly.

Mrs. Falkener sank into a chair.

"This is really too much," she said, making fluttering gestures with her
hands. "Even you, Burton, will admit this is too much. Stand by me,
Solon."

"Don't say even I, Mrs. Falkener," returned Crane, "as if I had been
indifferent to your comfort."

"Don't be so excited, Mother," said Cora. "You know it probably isn't my
hat at all. Lily has probably been copying mine."

Mrs. Falkener shook her head.

"I should know a Diane Duruy model anywhere," she said.

At this moment, Lily entered, and good temper did not beam from her
countenance.

"I had permission from Smithfield to go out," she began defiantly.
"Smithfield sent me over to look up a boy to replace Brin--"

"The trouble is not over your going out," said Crane.

[Illustration: "Cora," said Crane, "is that your hat?"]

"What is the trouble, then?"

"The trouble," said Mrs. Falkener, seeing Crane hesitate for a word,
"is that you have on my daughter's hat."

"Your daughter's hat!" said Lily contemptuously. "Nothing of the kind."

Mrs. Falkener turned to Tucker.

"This is intolerable. This is insufferable," she cried. "To have that
woman standing there in Cora's hat, which I chose myself and paid
forty-five dollars for at a sale, and cheap, too, for a Diane Duruy
model; to stand there and tell me I don't know the hat when I see it--"

"Cora," said Crane, "is that your hat?"

"Why, yes, I'm afraid it is," answered Cora, rather reluctantly.

"Lily, have you any explanation to make?" he asked.

"None at all," replied the housemaid, looking like white granite.

"Cora," said Crane, "you did not by any chance say anything that could
have led Lily to believe you meant to give her the hat?"

Miss Falkener smiled.

"No," she said. "My mother would not encourage such a generous impulse
in regard to a French hat."

"Then, Lily," said Burton, "take off the hat, and give it back to Miss
Falkener, and go and pack your things and be out of the house in an
hour."

"You must have her luggage searched," said Tucker.

"Give the hat back!" cried Mrs. Falkener. "What good will that do? Do
you suppose that I would ever let Cora put it on her head again, after
that woman has worn it? She may as well keep it now."

"I shall," answered Lily. "It's mine."

The girl's determination impressed Crane more than it did the others,
though even he could not see any loop-hole of escape for her. He rang
the bell, and when Smithfield appeared, he said:

"Smithfield, I have dismissed Lily. We found her leaving the house in
one of Miss Falkener's hats."

"Oh, begging your pardon, no, sir," said Smithfield. "It is really not
Miss Falkener's hat. Surely, Lily, you explained it?"

"I don't care to speak to them at all," answered Lily.

"Oh, that's no way to speak to your employers, my girl," said
Smithfield. "The explanation is this, sir: I understand those great
French houses send out many hats alike, sir, and this one was given to
Lily by a friend, by Mrs. Crosslett-Billington, to be exact, sir, she
thinking it a trifle youthful for herself after she had bought it, and I
can't but say she was right, sir, she being a lady now nearing sixty,
though hardly looking forty-five. The first evening the ladies came,
sir, when Lily had done unpacking their things, she mentioned in the
kitchen that Miss Falkener had a hat similar to her own, and we all
advised her, sir, under the circumstances, not to wear it during the
ladies' stay, as being more suitable and respectful; and she agreed not
to, but young women when they have pretty things, dear me, sir, they do
like to wear them, and that I presume is why she put on the hat, in
spite of our warnings, and I'm sure she regrets it heartily, sir."

"I don't," said Lily. "I'm right glad I did."

"Tut, tut," said Smithfield, "no way to answer, no way to answer."

"Cora," Crane said, "would you go up and see if your hat is in your
room?" Cora agreed and left the room at once.

Complete silence reigned until she returned. She was carrying in her
hand a hat, the exact duplicate of that which the housemaid wore. They
looked from one to another. Lily's triumph was complete.

"Lily," said Crane, "an apology seems to be due to you, which I have
great pleasure in offering you, but I must say that if you had been just
a trifle more civil, the whole mistake might have been cleared up sooner
and more agreeably."

"I think it outrageous," observed Mrs. Falkener, rising. "I think it
perfectly outrageous that any servant should own a hat which anywhere
but at a special sale must have cost sixty or seventy dollars."

"And now I'll tell you what I think outrageous," said Lily, her soft
Southern drawl taking on a certain vigor, "and that is that women like
you, calling themselves ladies, should be free to browbeat and insult
servants as much as they please--"

"Shut up, Lily," said Smithfield, but she paid no attention.

"No," she said, "no one knows what I've put up with from this insolent
old harridan, and now I am going to say what I think."

"Oh, no, Lily," said Crane, taking her by the arm, "you really are not.
We're all sorry for the incident, but really, you know you can't be
allowed to talk like that."

"But, Mr. Crane," drawled Lily, "you don't appreciate what a dreadful
woman she is--no one could who did not have to hook her up every
evening."

Between Smithfield and Crane, she was hustled out of the room.

Alone in the hall, Crane and his butler held a consultation.

"She's got to go, Smithfield. Why in the world wouldn't she hold her
tongue? Poor girl, I felt every sympathy with her."

"Oh, sir," exclaimed Smithfield, "what shall we do? Jane-Ellen and I
really can't run the house entirely alone, sir."

"Of course not, of course not," Burton answered. "You must get some more
servants. Get as many as you please--black, white, or red--but for
heaven's sake get the kind that won't be impertinent to Mrs. Falkener."

Smithfield shook his head.

"That's a kind will be hard to find, sir, begging your pardon," he
observed.

Crane thought it best to ignore this remark.

"I tell you what to do," he said. "Call up Mr. Eliot and say we should
all be glad to accept his invitation to lunch to-day if he can still
have us. That will give you a little time to look about you. By
to-morrow you ought to be able to find some one."

He waited to get Eliot's answer before he returned to the sitting-room,
where he saw that Tucker and Mrs. Falkener had had a long, comfortable
talk about their grievances and their own general righteousness. He
hated to break into the calm that had succeeded by announcing that they
were all going out to lunch.

"Burton," said Mrs. Falkener, directing a stern glance at her daughter,
"I explained to you yesterday that was an invitation I did not care to
accept."

"I know," said Crane, "but my household is now so short-handed that it
seemed a question of lunching out or getting no lunch at all. If you
really object to going to Eliot's, I dare say they could give you
something cold at home, if you did not mind that. You will come, won't
you, Cora?"

"With pleasure," answered Cora.

Crane's manner was unusually decisive, and Mrs. Falkener saw that it was
time to make things smooth.

"Oh, no," she said. "No, if you are all going, I shall go, too. Only,
home is so delightful, I hate the thought of leaving it."

"It hasn't seemed very delightful to me for the past few minutes,"
answered Burton, "but I'm glad if you've enjoyed it."

"Ah, Burton, my dear, you take these things too seriously," replied Mrs.
Falkener. "A little trouble with the servants--an everyday occurrence in
a woman's life. You of the stronger sex must not let it worry you so
much. When you've kept house as many years as I have, you'll learn that
the great thing is to be firm from the beginning. That's the only
criticism I could make of you, Burt, a little weak, a little weak."

Tucker here rose, pressing his hand over his eyes.

"I think, if you don't mind, I won't go," he said. "I've a slight
headache. Oh, nothing much, but I'll lunch quietly here, if you'll let
me--a slice of cold meat and a glass of sherry is all I shall require."

If Crane were weak, he did not look so at this moment.

"I am sorry, Solon," he answered, "but it would be very much more
convenient, if you went with us." He had no intention of leaving Tucker
alone in the house with Jane-Ellen, while Smithfield was scouring the
countryside for fresh servants.

"I'm not thinking so much of myself," said Tucker, "but of you. I fear I
should not be much of an addition to the party."

"But I think of you, Tuck," answered his host.

"What in the world would there be for you to do at home, except talk to
the cook?"

Tucker said, rather ungraciously, that of course he would go if Crane
wished him to, but that--

Crane, however, did not allow him to finish his sentence.

"Thank you," he said briskly. "That will be delightful. We shall be
starting at half-past twelve."



                                   IX


ELIOT'S large library, to which Crane and his party were led on their
arrival, looked as only a room can look which has been occupied for
several hours by a number of idle men. All the sofa cushions were on the
floor, all the newspapers were on the sofas, cigarette ashes were
everywhere, and the air was heavy with a combination of wood and tobacco
smoke, everybody's hair was ruffled, as if they had all been sitting on
the back of their heads, and Eliot, himself, now standing commandingly
on the hearth-rug, was saying:

"Yes, and he did not have a sound leg when he bought him, and that must
have been in 1909, for I remember it was the last year I went to
Melton--" He broke off reluctantly to greet his guests.

Lefferts, who looked peculiarly neat and fresh among his companions,
approached Burton, who was beside Mrs. Falkener.

"They have been talking for three hours," he observed, "about a splint
on the nigh foreleg of a gray horse that doesn't belong to any of them.
Sit down, Mrs. Falkener, and let us have a little rational conversation.
Doesn't that idea attract you?"

"Not particularly, since you ask me," replied Mrs. Falkener, not
deigning even to look at the poet, but sweeping her head about slowly as
if scanning vast horizons.

"The rational doesn't attract you," Lefferts went on cheerfully. "Well,
then we must try something else. How about the fantastic-sardonical, or
the comic-fantastical, or even better, the--"

But Mrs. Falkener, uttering a slight exclamation of impatience, moved
away.

Lefferts turned to Crane, with his unruffled smile.

"She doesn't like me," he said.

"Cora," he added, very slightly raising his voice so as to attract the
attention of Miss Falkener, who immediately approached them, "Cora, why
is it your mother hates me so much?"

"She certainly does," returned Cora frankly. "You know, Leonard, you are
really rather stupid with her. You always begin by saying things she
doesn't understand, and of course no one likes that."

Lefferts sighed.

"You see, she stimulates me so tremendously. One gets used to just
merely boring or depressing one's friends, but to be actively hated is
exciting. People who have lived through blood feuds and tong wars tell
you that there is no excitement comparable to it. I feel a little like
the leader of a tong whenever I meet Mrs. Falkener. Cora, would you
belong to my tong, or would you feel loyalty demanded your remaining in
your mother's?"

They went in to luncheon before Cora was obliged to answer, and here
Lefferts contrived to sit next to her by the comparatively simple
expedient of making the man who had already seated himself at her side
get up and yield him the place.

Crane, sitting between his host and another man, enjoyed a period of
quiet. Without his exactly arranging it, a definite plan for the
afternoon was growing up in his mind--a plan which, it must be
confessed, had been first suggested by Tucker's idea of staying at home,
a plan based on a vision of Jane-Ellen and Willoughby holding the
kitchen in solitary state.

Crane knew that luncheons at Eliot's were long ceremonies. Food was
served and eaten slowly, you sat a long time over coffee and cigars, and
at the smallest encouragement, Eliot would bring out his grandfather's
Madeira. And after that you were unusually lucky if you escaped a visit
to the stables, and that meant the whole afternoon.

So he awaited a good opportunity after lunch was over, when Tucker,
under pretense of reading a newspaper, had sunk into a comfortable doze,
and Mrs. Falkener, while carrying on a fairly connected conversation
with Eliot, was really concentrated on preventing Lefferts from taking
Cora into another room. This was Crane's chance. He slipped into the
hall, found his coat and hat, unearthed his chauffeur and motor, and
drove quickly home, sending back the car at once to wait for the others.

He did not, as his impulse was, go in the kitchen way. He did not want
to do anything that might annoy Jane-Ellen. At the same time, he
rebelled at the notion of having always to offer an excuse for seeing
her, as if he were so superior a being that he had to explain how he
could stoop to the level of her society. He wanted to say frankly that
he had come home because he wanted more than anything in the world to
see her again.

The first thing he noticed as he went up the steps of the piazza was
Willoughby sleeping in the warm afternoon sun. Then he was aware of the
sound of a victrola playing dance music. The hall-door stood wide open;
he looked in. Smithfield and Jane-Ellen were dancing.

Though no dancer himself, Crane had never been aware of any prejudice on
the subject; indeed, he had sometimes thought that those who protested
were more dangerously suggestive than the dances themselves. But now he
felt a wave of protest sweep over him; the closeness, the identity of
intention, seemed to him an intolerable form of intimacy.

The two were quite unconscious of his presence, and he stood there for
several minutes, stood there, indeed, until Jane-Ellen's hair fell down
and she had to stop to rearrange it. She looked very pretty as she stood
panting and putting it up again, but she exerted no attraction upon
Crane. Disgust, he thought, was all he now felt. One did not, after all,
as he told himself, enter into competition with one's own butler.

He went quietly away, ordered a horse and went for a long ride. A man
not very easily moved emotionally, he had never experienced the
sensation of jealousy, and he now supposed himself to have reached as
calm a judgment as any in his life. Everything he had ever heard to
Jane-Ellen's discredit, every intimation of Tucker's, every sneer of
Mrs. Falkener's, came back to him now. He would like to have sent for
her and in the most scathing terms told her what he thought of her--an
interview which he imagined as very different from his former reproof.
But he decided it would be simpler and more dignified never to notice
her in any way again. On this decision he at last turned his horse's
head homeward.

Smithfield let him in, as calm and imperturbable as ever.

"Your afternoon been satisfactory, Smithfield?" inquired his employer.

Smithfield stared.

"I beg pardon, sir?"

"Have you succeeded in finding a boy to replace Brindlebury?"

The butler's face cleared.

"Oh, yes, I believe I have--not a boy, exactly, quite an elderly man,
but one who promises to do, sir."

"Good." Crane turned away, but the man followed him.

"Miss Falkener asked me to tell you when you came in, sir, that she
would be glad of a word with you. She's in your office."

Crane stood absolutely still for a second or two, and as he stood, his
jaw slowly set, as he took a resolution. Then he opened the door of his
office and went in.

Two personalities sometimes advance to a meeting with intentions as
opposite as those of two trains on a single track. Crane and Cora were
both too much absorbed in their own aims to observe the signals of the
other.

"Cora," began Crane, with all the solemnity of which the two syllables
were capable.

"Oh, Burton," cried the girl, "why did you leave Mr. Eliot's like that?
It has worried me so much. Did anything happen to annoy you? What was
it?"

"I sent the car right back for you."

"It wasn't the car I wanted."

Crane began at once to feel guilty, the form of egotism hardest to
eradicate from the human heart.

"I'm sorry if I seemed rude, my dear Cora. I thought you were settled
and content with Lefferts. I did not suppose any one would notice--"

"Your absence? Oh, Burt!"

He became aware of a suppressed excitement, an imminent outburst of some
sort. A sudden terror swept over him, terror of the future, of the deed
he was about to do, terror even of this strange and utterly unknown
woman whom he was about to make a part of his daily life, as long as
days existed. For a second he had an illusion that he had never seen,
never spoken to her before, and as he struggled against this queer
abnormality, he heard that in set, clear and not ill-chosen terms he was
asking her to marry him.

She clasped her hands together.

"Oh, it's just what I was trying to prevent."

"To prevent?"

"Burt, I've treated you so badly."

He looked at her without expression.

"Well, let's get the facts before we decide on that."

The facts, Cora intimated, were terrible. She was already engaged.

"To Lefferts?"

She nodded tragically.

Crane felt a strong inclination to laugh. The world took on a new
aspect. Reality returned with a rush, and with it a strong, friendly
affection for Cora. He hardly heard her long and passionate
self-justification. She knew, she said, that she had given him every
encouragement. Well, the truth was she had simply made up her mind to
marry him; nothing would have pleased her mother more, but she did not
intend to shelter herself behind obedience to her mother; she had
intended to do it for her own ends.

"That was what I tried to tell you last evening in the garden, Burt. I
deliberately schemed to marry you, but you mustn't think I did not like
and admire you, in a way--"

"There's only one way, Cora."

This sent her off again into the depths of self-abasement. She had no
excuse to offer, she kept protesting, and offered a dozen; the most
potent being her uncertainty of Crane's own feelings for her.

"You behaved so strangely for a man in love, Burt," she wailed, "I was
never sure."

"In the sense you mean, I was not in love with you, Cora."

"And yet, you want to marry me?"

"In your own words, I liked and admired you, but I was not in love. The
humiliating truth is, my dear girl, that I was so fatuous as to believe
that you were fond of me."

There was a short silence, and then Cora exclaimed candidly:

"Aren't people queer! Here I have been worrying myself sick over my
treatment of you, and now that I find you are not made unhappy by it, do
you know what I feel? Disappointed, disappointed somehow, that you don't
love me!"

Crane laughed.

"I also," he said, "have been slightly oppressed by the responsibility
of your fancied affection, and I, too, am conscious of a certain
flatness in facing the truth."

Cora hardly listened.

"It seems so queer you don't love me," she murmured. "Why don't you love
me, Burt?"

At this they both laughed, and went on presently to the more detailed
consideration of Cora's affairs. She and Lefferts had met the winter
before; she had not liked him at first, prejudiced perhaps by the fact
that he was a poet, and that he pretended to dislike all the things she
cared for, but she had found, almost at once, that he understood more
about the things he hated than most men did about their favorite topics.

"He's really wonderful, Burt," she said. "He understands everything,
every one. Do you know, he told me yesterday that I needn't worry about
you--that you weren't in love with me. Only I did not believe him. He
said: 'What confuses you, my dear, is that Crane is undoubtedly in
love, one sees that clearly enough, but not with you.'"

"He did not just hit it there, though," answered Crane, in a rather
feeble tone. Cora, however, was in a condition of mind in which it was
not difficult to distract her, and she continued without paying any
further attention to the example of Lefferts' extraordinary insight. She
went on to say that she had had no idea that she was in love, until one
day when she found herself speaking of it as if it had always been.
Crane asked about Lefferts' worldly prospects, which turned out to be
extremely dark. Had he a profession? Yes, such a strange one for a
poet--he was an expert statistician, but, Cora sighed, there did not
seem to be a very large demand for his abilities.

Among the many minor responsibilities inherited from his father, Crane
remembered a statistical publication. He immediately offered its
editorship to Lefferts. Cora's answer was to fling her arms about his
neck.

"Oh, Burt," she said, "you really are an angel!"

It was Crane's idea of what would have happened if Mrs. Falkener had
entered at this moment, which she did not, that made him ask how matters
stood in regard to her.

"She doesn't know," answered Cora, "and I don't think she even suspects,
and I'm such a coward I can't make up my mind to tell her. Every time I
see Leonard he asks me if I have, and now he is threatening to do it
himself, and that you know, Burt, would be fatal."

"Cora," said Crane, "I am about to prove that I am no fair weather
friend. With your permission, I will tell your mother."

No permission was ever more easily secured.

It was now five o'clock, an hour when the elder lady became restless if
not served with a little tea and attention. Crane rang and ordered tea
for two served in the office, and then sent Smithfield to ask Mrs.
Falkener if he might have a word with her. She and her daughter passed
each other on the threshold.

"How cozy this is," she began as she seated herself by the fire.
"Smithfield keeps the silver bright, but I'm afraid he has no judgment.
Have you seen the man he has engaged instead of that dreadful boy?--why,
he's so old and lame he can hardly get up and down stairs. He'll never
do, Burton, take my word for that."

"I have something more serious to say to you than the discussion of
domestic matters, Mrs. Falkener," said Crane; and for one of the few
times in her life, Mrs. Falkener forgot that the house contained such a
thing as servants. A more important idea took possession of her
attention.

Burton began to speak about romance. He said he did not know exactly how
an older generation than his looked at such questions; for his own part,
he regarded himself in many ways as a practical and hard-headed man, and
yet more and more he found himself gravitating to the belief that
romance, love, the drawing together for mutual strength and happiness of
two individuals, was the only basis for individual life. People talked
of the modern taste for luxury; to his mind there was no luxury like a
congenial companion, no hardship like having to go through life without
it. Love--did Mrs. Falkener believe in love?

"Do I believe in love, my dear Burt?" she cried. "What else is there to
believe in? No girl, no nice girl, ever marries for any other reason.
Oh, they try sometimes to be mercenary, but they don't succeed. I could
never forgive a woman for considering anything else."

"I thought you would feel like that," said Crane. "I thought Cora was
wrong in thinking you would oppose her. For, prudent or not from a
worldly point of view, there is no doubt that she and Lefferts are in
love."

The blow was a cruel one, and perhaps cruelly administered. Mrs.
Falkener, even in the first instant of disaster, saw and took the only
way out. Love, yes. But this was not love, this was a mere infatuation
on one side, and a dark and wicked plot on the other. She would never
forgive Burton, never, for being a party to this scheme to throw her
daughter, her dear Cora, into the arms of this adventurer. Burton, who
had always professed such friendship for her! She would not stay another
moment in his house. There was a six-thirty train to the North, and she
and her misguided daughter would take it.

Crane began to see why Cora, for all her physical courage, dreaded a
disagreement with her mother. He himself felt as if an avalanche had
passed over him, leaving him alive but dazed.

Mrs. Falkener sat with her handkerchief pressed to her eyes, not so much
to wipe away her tears, for she was not crying, but to shut out the
sight of her perfidious young host.

"Be so kind," she directed from behind this veil, "as to give orders for
the packing of my trunks, and let Cora know that we are leaving
immediately."

Burton hesitated.

"I am afraid, since the housemaid has left, there isn't any one to pack
for you, Mrs. Falkener," he said. "Won't you delay your going until
to-morrow? I can't bear to have you leave me like this."

Mrs. Falkener shook her head.

"Call Solon," she said. "No, don't ask me to stay. And why, pray, can't
the cook make herself useful, for once?"

Mrs. Falkener was not, of course, in a position to know that Crane would
not at the moment stoop to ask any favor of Jane-Ellen. He was glad of
an excuse to escape, however, and summon Solon to take his place. He
found Smithfield in the hall and explained to him that the ladies were
called suddenly away, and then he himself walked down to the garage to
arrange for their departure.

When he came back he found the house in the sort of turmoil that only a
thoroughly executive woman in a bad temper can create. Smithfield, Cora
and Jane-Ellen seemed to be all together engaged in packing. Solon and
the new man were running up and down stairs with forgotten books and
coats and umbrellas, while Mrs. Falkener was exercising a general and
unflattering supervision of every one's activities. To say the new man
was running is inaccurate. Even Tucker's dignified celerity hardly
deserves such a word. But the new man, crippled and bent as he was,
attained only such velocity as was consistent with a perfectly stiff
left leg. Crane really felt he ought to interfere on his behalf, when he
saw him laboring downstairs with heavy bags and bundles. He probably
would have done so, had not his mind been distracted by coming
unexpectedly upon a little scene in the upper hall. Cora was trying to
press a fee into the hand of Jane-Ellen, and Jane-Ellen was refusing it.
Both were flushed and embarrassed.

"I wanted to give you this because--"

"Oh, I couldn't, really; I've not done any--"

"Oh, you've been such a--"

"Oh, no, miss, I've not done--"

The approach of Crane enabled the cook to escape. Cora turned to Burton.

"She's worked so hard, and she wouldn't take a tip," she said. "And you
never felt anything like her little hands, Burt. It's like touching a
bird."

"Yes, I know," said Crane. "I mean, they look so. I want just a word
with you, Cora," he continued, rather rapidly. "I'm afraid I haven't
done you much good except that your mother is angrier with me than she
is with you, and that's something."

"Oh, I don't care, now it's over," she answered. "And you'll tell Len
this evening all that's happened, and where to write to me, and we
shall both be grateful to you as long as we live."

At this moment, Mrs. Falkener in hat, veil, and wrap swept out of her
room, followed by Smithfield, Tucker and the old man, carrying the last
of her possessions. The moment of departure had come.



                                   X


AFTER the departure of the ladies, Tucker and Crane stood an instant in
silence on the piazza. Solon, who had been waked from his customary
afternoon nap by the frantic summons of Mrs. Falkener, was still a
little confused as to all that had happened, and had gathered nothing
clearly except that Burton was in some way very much to be blamed.

"It's too bad," he observed, "to have them go off like that. We shall
miss them, I fear."

Crane was standing with his hands in his pockets, watching the
tail-light as it disappeared down the drive.

"Let us avoid that, Tuck, by going away ourselves."

"You mean to leave here?"

"Why not? The experiment has not struck me as a very happy one. Our
servants have gone, our guests have left us, and for my part, I am eager
to be off as well."

The time had come, then, when Jane-Ellen was to be friendless and out of
a job; the third act was here.

"Anything that suits you pleases me, Burton," said Tucker.

"In that case," answered Crane, "I will telephone Reed to come over at
once and make arrangements for giving up the house. We can't, I suppose,
catch that night train, but with luck we may get away to-morrow
morning."

"You seem in a great hurry."

"I'd like never to see the place again," returned Burton.

In the moment of silence that followed this heartfelt exclamation, a
figure came briskly around the corner of the piazza, a figure
discernible in the light shed by the front door.

"Oh, come here," said Crane.

The figure betrayed no sign of having heard, unless a slight
accentuation in its limp might be so interpreted.

"What's your name?" shouted Burton.

The old man looked up.

"Yes, yes," he said, in a high shaking voice, "I'm lame; you're right
there, sir. I've been lame these twenty years, and carrying down all
them trunks has put sich a crick in my back as never was."

"I asked you your name," repeated his employer.

"When I came? Why, this afternoon, sir. It was your butler engaged me. I
worked at the hotel here once, and Mr. Smithfield he come to my wife and
says, 'Susan,' he says, he knowing her since he was a little boy--"

"Let me look at you," said Crane sternly.

But the elderly man, still talking to himself, retreated into the
shadow.

And then Tucker was surprised to hear his host exclaim with violence:

"By Jove, the young devil," and to see him hurl himself off the piazza
at its highest point. He would have landed actually on top of his
decrepit servitor, had not the old man developed an activity utterly
unsuspected by Tucker, which enabled him to get away down the avenue
with a speed that Crane could not surpass.

"Well, well, what are we coming to?" Tucker murmured as he watched them
dodge and double around trees and bushes. Presently they passed out of
the light from the house, and only the sound of their feet beating on
the hard avenue indicated that the fugitive had taken to the open.

Solon was still peering nervously into the dark when at last his host
returned. Crane was breathing hard, and held in his hand a small furry
object that Tucker made out gradually to be a neat gray wig.

"Oh," said Burton, still panting and slapping his side, "I haven't run
so hard since I was in college. But I should have got him if it hadn't
been for his superior knowledge of the ground."

"My dear Burton," said Tucker crossly, "what in the world have you been
doing?"

"What have I been doing? I've been trying to catch that wretched boy,
Brindlebury, but it's as well I didn't, I dare say. I thought his limp a
little spectacular this afternoon when the trunks were being carried
down. But his deafness--the young fool!--that deafness, never found
anywhere but on the comic stage, was too much for me. He runs fast, I'll
say that for him. He led me through a bramble hedge; backed through,
himself. That's when I got his wig."

"I should not be surprised if we all were murdered in our beds," said
Tucker.

"That's right, Tuck," said Crane, "look on the cheerful side. Come with
me now, while I speak to Smithfield. I want to know what he has to say
for himself."

Smithfield, looking particularly elegant in his shirt sleeves, a costume
which shows off a slim figure to great advantage, was rather languidly
setting the dinner-table for two; that is to say, he was rubbing a
wine-glass, shaped like a miniature New England elm-tree, to remove the
faint imprint of his own fingers.

"Smithfield," said Crane briskly, "I'm afraid your new useful man isn't
going to be very useful. He seems to me too old."

Smithfield placed the glass deliberately upon the table.

"He's not so old as he appears, sir," he answered. "Only sixty-six his
next birthday."

"A married man?"

"No, sir, a widower of many years. His wife died when her first baby was
born--that's Mr. Crosslett-Billington's present chauffeur. That's how I
happened to get the old fellow. And when the rheumatism--"

"Smithfield," said Crane, "that's about enough. Put down that glass, put
on your coat and hat, and get out. You're lying to me, and you've been
lying to me from the beginning. Don't stay to pack your things; you can
settle all that with Mr. Reed to-morrow. Get out of my house, and don't
let me see you again. And," he added, throwing the gray wig into his
hands, "there's a souvenir for you."

Smithfield, without the least change of expression, caught the wig,
bowed, and withdrew.

"And now, Tuck," Crane added, turning to his lawyer, "I wish you would
go and telephone Reed to come here at once and clear this whole thing
up. Tell him I'll send the motor for him as soon as it comes back."

"It's dinner-time now," observed Tucker.

"Ask him to dinner then," said Crane. "I must go and see that Smithfield
really gets out of this house."

[Illustration: _Scene from the Play_ THE DINNER. OLIVIA, LEFFERTS,
TUCKER, WEEKS AND CRANE. _Act III_]

Both tasks had been accomplished when at about eight o'clock Tucker and
Crane again met in the hall. Smithfield had been actually seen off the
place, Tucker had telephoned Reed and despatched the motor for him,
and now the sound of an approaching car was heard.

"That can't be Reed, yet," said Tucker, "there hasn't been time."

Crane shook his head.

"It isn't the sound of my engine, either," he answered.

Headlights came sweeping up the drive, and a few minutes later,
Lefferts, in full evening dress, entered the house.

"I'm afraid I'm a little bit late," he said, "but I missed a turn."

For an instant Crane regarded him blankly. Then he remembered that once,
ages before, or perhaps no earlier than that very afternoon, he had
invited Lefferts to dinner. And at the same time he realized what had
not heretofore occurred to him, that there was no one in the house to
serve dinner, except Jane-Ellen, who had, in all probability, cooked
dinner for only two. Reed might be there at any minute. It was really
necessary, in so acute a domestic crisis, to put pride in his pocket and
go downstairs and speak to his cook.

He put his hand on Lefferts' shoulder.

"Awfully sorry, my dear fellow," he said, "that things are not quite as
anticipated. Tucker will tell you we have had rather a stormy afternoon.
Give him a cigarette and a cocktail, Tuck, and I'll be back in a
minute." He disappeared down the kitchen stairs.

With what different feelings, he said to himself, did he now descend
those stairs; but, when he was actually in the kitchen, when Willoughby
was once again bounding forward to greet him, and Jane-Ellen was
allowing herself that slow curved smile of hers, he was surprised and
disappointed to find that his feelings were, after all, much the same as
before. Over his manner, however, he was still master, and that was cold
and formal in the extreme.

"I wanted to speak to you, Jane-Ellen," he began, but she interrupted.

"This time," she said gaily, "I know what it is that you are going to
scold about."

"I am not going to scold."

She laughed.

"Well, that's a wonder," and glancing at him she was astonished to find
no answering smile. "Are you really angry at me," she asked, "on account
of this afternoon?"

"This afternoon?"

"On account of that silly plan about Brindlebury? I did not know they
were going to do it, and when it was done, I couldn't betray them, could
I?"

Crane made a gesture that seemed to indicate that he really had no means
of judging what his cook might or might not do.

"You believe me, don't you?"

"Believe you?" said Crane. "I haven't considered the question one way or
the other."

"Why, Mr. Crane," said Jane-Ellen, "whatever has come over you that you
should speak like that?"

"This has come over me," answered Crane, "that I came down here in a
hurry to give some orders and not to discuss the question of veracity."

The figure of Jane-Ellen stiffened, she clasped her hands behind her
back.

"And what are your orders?" she said, in a tone of direful monotony.

Crane, as has been stated, was no coward, and even if he had been, anger
would have lent him courage.

"There are two gentlemen coming to dine--four in all," and as he saw
Jane-Ellen slightly beck her head at this, he added recklessly, "as
Smithfield is gone, you will have to serve dinner as well as cook it."

"No," replied the cook. "No, indeed. Certainly not. I was engaged to
cook, and I will cook to the very best of my abilities, but I was not
engaged to be a maid of all work."

"You were engaged to do as you're told."

"There you are mistaken."

"Jane-Ellen, you will serve dinner."

"Mr. Crane, I will not."

The problem of the irresistible force and the immovable body seemed
about to be demonstrated. They looked each other steadily and hostilely
in the eyes.

"We seem," said Crane, "to be dealing with the eternal problem between
employer and employee. You're not lazy, the work before you is nothing,
but you deliberately choose to stand on your rights, on a purely
technical point--"

"I do nothing of the kind."

"What are you doing then?"

"I'm making myself just as disagreeable as I can," answered Jane-Ellen.
"Of course, I should have been delighted to do anything for any one who
asked me politely. But when a man comes into my kitchen and talks about
giving orders, and my doing as I'm told, and serving dinner, why, my
answer is, he ought to have thought of his extra guests before he
dismissed my brothers--"

"Your brothers!" cried Crane. "Do you mean to say that Smithfield is
your brother too?"

"Well, I didn't mean to tell you," said the cook crossly, "but it
happens to be true."

From the point of view of the irresistible force, the problem was now
completely resolved.

"O Jane-Ellen!" he cried, "why in the world didn't you tell me so
before?"

"I can't see what it has to do with things."

"It has everything," he answered. "It makes me see how wrong I have
been, how rude. It makes me want to apologize for everything I have
said since I came into the kitchen. It makes me ask you most humbly if
you won't help me out in the ridiculous situation in which I find
myself."

"But I don't see why Smithfield's being--"

"It would take a long time to explain," answered Burton, "although, I
assure you, it can and shall be done. Perhaps this evening, after these
tiresome men have gone, you will give me a few minutes. In the meantime,
just let me say that I was angry at you, however wrongly, when I came
down--"

"I'm not sure but that I'm still angry at _you_," said the cook, but she
smiled as she said it.

"You have every right to be, and no reason," he returned. "And you are
going to be an angel and serve dinner, aren't you?"

"I said I would if asked politely."

"Though how in the world I shall sit still and let you wait on me, I
don't see."

"Oh," said Jane-Ellen, "if you never have anything harder to do than
that, you are very different from most of your sex. And now," she added,
"I'd better run upstairs and put two more places at the table, for it's
dinner-time already."

"If I come back later in the evening, you won't turn me out of the
kitchen?"

She was already on her way upstairs, but she turned with a smile.

"It's your kitchen, sir," she said.

Crane followed her slowly. It occurred to him that he must have a talk
with Lefferts. He found him and Tucker making rather heavy weather of
conversation in the drawing-room. Tucker had naturally enough determined
to adopt Mrs. Falkener's views of Lefferts. He had conformed with
Crane's request and given the poet a cigarette and a cocktail, but he
had attempted no explanation beyond an unsatisfactory statement that the
ladies had been called away unexpectedly.

"Nothing serious, I hope," Lefferts had said.

"I hope not," Tucker had returned, and not another word would he utter
on the subject.

Lefferts was, therefore, glad to respond to Crane's invitation to come
into the office for a few minutes and leave Tucker to the contemplation
of his own loyalty.

Left alone, Tucker's eager ears soon detected the sound of dishes in the
dining-room, and he knew that this could be produced by the hand of no
other than Jane-Ellen. The moment seemed to have been especially
designed for his purpose, and he decided to take advantage of it.

Jane-Ellen was setting the table with far more energy than Smithfield
had displayed; in fact her task was almost finished when Tucker entered,
and, advancing to the mantelpiece, leaned his elbow on the shelf and
smiled down upon her benevolently.

"The time has come sooner than we anticipated when I can be of
assistance to you, Jane-Ellen," he said.

"Yes, indeed, sir," she returned with a promptness that fifteen years
before would have made his heart beat faster.

"Thank you for giving me the opportunity."

"The finger-bowls, sir," she interrupted, flicking a napkin in their
direction, "they ought to be filled; not too full, sir; that's quite
enough, it isn't a tub, you know. And now, if you've a match about you,
and gentlemen always have matches, I believe, would you light the
candles, and then, yes, I do think we're about ready now."

Tucker, who could not very well refuse such trivial services when he
was offering one much more momentous, poured a little water from the ice
pitcher into the glass finger-bowls, but he did it with such dignity and
from such a height that he spilled much of it over the doilies. The cook
did not reprove him directly, but she changed the doily with a manner
that seemed to suggest that another time she would do the job herself.
And when Tucker took a neat gold match-box from his pocket and prepared
to light the candles, she coolly took the whole thing out of his hands,
remarking that he might set the shades on fire and then they'd be in
what she described as "a nice way."

Observing that she was about to leave the room, he put himself before
the door.

"I want just a word, Jane-Ellen."

"No time now, sir. Perhaps to-morrow morning."

"To-morrow will be too late. You must know this evening. I don't want to
say a word against Mr. Crane; young men who have always had everything
they want are naturally thoughtless. But I can't bear to see you turned
out at a moment's notice--"

"Turned out?"

"Yes, Mr. Crane is going either to-night or to-morrow morning. Didn't he
tell you?"

He had her attention now. She looked at him intently.

"Mr. Crane going? I thought he had the house for six weeks."

"So he had, but he's bored with it. Miss Falkener has gone, and he sees
no reason for staying on. He'll be off either at midnight or in the
morning. You're about to lose your place, Jane-Ellen."

She stood staring before her so blankly that it grieved him to see her
so deeply concerned about the loss of her position, and he pressed on.

"I can't bear to think of your comfort being dependent on the caprices
of Crane, or any one. Come to me, Jane-Ellen. This is no life for you,
with your youth and beauty and charm. I could offer you a position that
you need never leave, never, unless you wanted to--"

"Please move from the door, sir."

"Not until you've heard me," and he moved toward her as if to take her
in his arms.

At some previous period of time, the Revellys, presided over by a less
elegant functionary than Smithfield, must have been in the habit of
summoning the family to meals by means of a large Japanese gong that now
stood neglected in a corner. To this, Jane-Ellen sprang, and beat it
with a vigor that made the house resound.

The next instant Crane burst into the room.

"What's the matter?" he exclaimed, and added, fixing his eyes on his
lawyer,

"What the deuce are you doing here, Tuck?"

"I," said Tucker, "was giving Jane-Ellen what help I could in setting
the table."

"Like hell you were."

"Do you mean you doubt what I say?"

"You bet I do."

"And may I ask what you do think I was doing?" asked Tucker.

"I think you were making love to the cook."

"Gentlemen, gentlemen," murmured the cook, "won't you please let me go
down and attend to the dinner. The chicken will be terribly overdone."

Nobody paid any attention to the request.

"Well," said Tucker, "I certainly wouldn't turn a poor girl out at a few
hours' notice, as you mean to do."

"Who says I mean to?"

"You told me yourself you meant to leave to-morrow."

"And what kind of a job were you offering her?"

"I tell you I was trying to help her."

"And is that why she rang the gong?"

"She rang presumably because dinner was ready."

"There's another presumption that seems to me more probable."

"Burton, I shall not spend another night under your roof."

"I had reached the same conclusion."

Tucker turned with great dignity.

"The trouble is," he said, "that you have not the faintest idea of the
conduct of a gentleman," and with this he walked slowly from the room.

The cook did not now seem so eager to get back to the kitchen. She stood
twisting a napkin in her hands and looking at the floor, not unaware,
however, that her employer was looking at her.

"The trouble really is, Jane-Ellen," he said gently, "that you are too
intolerably lovely."

"Oh, sir."

"'Oh, sir, oh, sir!' You say that as if every man you knew had not been
saying the same thing to you for the last five years."

Jane-Ellen had another of her attacks of dangerous candor.

"Well, a good many have said it, sir," she whispered, "but it never
sounded to me as it did when you said it." And after this she had the
grace to dart through the door and downstairs, so fast that he could
hear her little heels clatter on each step as she went.

In the hall he found Tucker, standing under a lamp, studying a
time-table, with glasses set very far down his nose. Opposite, Lefferts
was leaning against the wall, his arms folded and the expression on his
face of one who has happened unexpectedly upon a very good moving
picture show.

Seeing Crane, Tucker folded up his time-table and removed his glasses.

"Your other guest has just arrived," he observed.

"Oh, is Reed here?"

"Yes," said Lefferts, "he's in your office taking off his coat."

"And you may be interested to know," added Tucker, with a biting
simplicity that had impressed many juries in its time, "you may be
interested to know that he is the man I found kissing Jane-Ellen last
week."

"What, Reed!" cried Crane, with a gesture that might have been
interpreted as ferocious.

Hearing his name called, Reed came hurrying out.

"Yes," he said, advancing with outstretched hand, "here I am. Sorry to
be late, but I was ready before--"

"We'll go in to dinner," said Crane shortly. Tucker and Reed moved first
toward the dining-room. Lefferts drew his host aside.

"Just one moment," he said. "You went off so quickly when that gong rang
that I did not have any chance to tell you how I feel about your
generosity. It makes--"

Crane grasped his hand.

"You have an opportunity this very moment," he replied, "to repay me for
anything I ever have done or may do for you. Talk, my dear fellow, talk
at dinner. Do nothing but talk. Otherwise, I shall knock those two men's
heads together."

Lefferts smiled.

"I doubt if you'd get much sense into them even if you did," he
murmured.

"No," answered Burton, "but I should have a great deal of enjoyment in
doing it."



                                   XI


THEY sat down at table, and, as Crane looked at his guests, he had
little hope that even Lefferts' cheerful facility could save the
situation. Circumstances would be too much against him. Even the poet
himself could hardly be at his best, having just arrived in the hope of
dining with his lady-love to find she had been spirited away by an irate
mother. This in itself was enough to put a pall on most men; yet, of the
three guests, Lefferts seemed by far the most hopeful. Tucker was
already sullen and getting more sullen every moment. Crane knew the
signs of his lawyer's bearing--the irritable eye that would meet no
one's directly, the tapping fingers, the lips compressed but moving.
Tucker was one of those people cursed by anger after the event. His
nature, slow moving or overcontrolled, bore him past the real moment of
offense without explosion; but with the crisis over, his resentment
began to gain in strength and to grow more bitter as the opportunity for
action receded more and more into the past. Crane knew now that Tucker
was reviewing every phrase that had passed between them; every injury,
real or fancied, that he had ever received at Crane's hands; these he
was summoning like a sort of phantom army to fight on his side. No,
Tucker was not a guest from whom any host could expect much genial
interchange that evening.

Reed, on the other hand, was too unconscious. Placid, good-natured,
confident in his own powers to arrange any little domestic difficulties
that might have arisen, he sat down, unfolded his napkin, and turned to
Lefferts in answer to the inquiry about real estate which Lefferts had
just tactfully addressed to him.

"The great charm of this section of the country," he was saying, "is
that from the time of its earliest settlement it has been in the hands
of a small group of--" At this instant Jane-Ellen entered with the soup.
Reed, who had expected to see Smithfield, stopped short, and stared at
her with an astonishment he did not even attempt to disguise. Lefferts,
following the direction of his eyes and seeing Jane-Ellen for the first
time, mistook the subject of Reed's surprise.

"Oh," he said, as the girl left the room, "is this 'the face that
launched a thousand ships'?"

Tucker, who was perhaps not as familiar with the Elizabethan dramatists
as he should have been, replied shortly that this was the cook.

"A very beautiful little person," said Lefferts, imagining, poor fellow,
that he was now on safe ground.

"I own," said Tucker, "that I have never been able to take much interest
in the personal appearance of servants."

"You sometimes behave as if you did, Tuck," remarked his host.

"If you are interested in beauty," observed Lefferts, "I don't see how
you can eliminate any of its manifestations, particularly according to
social classes."

"Such a preoccupation with beauty strikes me as decadent," answered
Tucker crossly.

"Indeed, how delightful," Lefferts replied. "What, exactly, is your
definition of 'decadent'?"

Now in Tucker's vocabulary the word "decadent" was a hate word. It
signified nothing definite, except that he disliked the person to whose
opinions he applied it. He had several others of the same
sort--hysterical, half-baked and subversive-of-the-Constitution being
those most often in use. This being so, he really couldn't define the
word, and so he pretended not to hear and occupied himself flicking an
imaginary crumb from the satin lapel of his coat.

Lefferts, who had no wish to be disagreeable, did not repeat the
question, but contented himself by observing that he had never tasted
such delicious soup. Reed shook his head in an ecstasy that seemed to
transcend words. Only Tucker scowled.

As Jane-Ellen entered at this moment to take away the soup-plates,
Crane, who was growing reckless, decided to let her share the
compliment.

"The gentlemen enjoyed the soup, Jane-Ellen," he said, "at least, Mr.
Lefferts and Mr. Reed did, but Mr. Tucker has not committed himself. Did
you enjoy the soup, Tuck?"

Tucker rapped with his middle finger.

"I care very little for my food," he answered.

"Well," said Crane, "I've heard of hating the sin and loving the sinner;
I suppose it is possible to hate the cooking and--and--" He paused.

"I did not say I hated the cooking," answered Tucker. "I only say I am
not interested in talking about it all the time."

"All right," said Burton, "we'll talk about something else, and you
shall have first choice of a topic, Tuck."

"One moment before we begin," exclaimed Reed, "I must ask, where is
Smithfield?"

Crane turned to him.

"Smithfield," he said, "in common with my two guests, the housemaid Lily
and the boy Brindlebury, have all left, or been ejected from my house
within the last twenty-four hours."

"You mean," gasped Reed, "that you and Mr. Tucker and the cook are alone
in the house!"

"I regret to say that Mr. Tucker also leaves me this evening."

"But--but--" began Reed, in a protest too earnest to find words on the
instant.

"We won't discuss the matter now," said Crane. "I have several things to
talk over with you, Mr. Reed, after dinner. In the meantime," he added,
looking around on the dreary faces of all but Lefferts, "let us enjoy
ourselves."

"Certainly, by all means," agreed Reed, "but I would just like to ask
you, Mr. Crane--You can't mean, you don't intend, you don't
contemplate--"

"Oh, I won't trouble you with my immediate plans," said Crane, and
added, turning to Lefferts, "my experience is that no one is really
interested in any one else's plans--their daily routine, I mean, and
small domestic complications."

"Oh, come, I don't know about that," answered Lefferts, on whom the
situation was beginning vaguely to dawn. "Mr. Reed struck me as being
very genuinely interested in your intentions. You are genuinely
interested, aren't you, Mr. Reed?"

Reed was interested beyond the point of being able to suspect malice.

"Yes, yes," he said eagerly, "I am, genuinely, sincerely. You see, I
understand what would be said in a community like this,--what would be
thought. You get my idea?"

"I own I don't," answered Burton suavely, "but I will say this much,
that in deciding my conduct, I have usually considered my own opinion
rather than that of others."

"Of course, exactly. I do, myself," said Reed, "but in this case, I
really think you would agree with me if I could make myself clear."

"Doubtless, doubtless," answered Crane, and seeing that Jane-Ellen was
again in the room, he went on: "What is it exactly that we are talking
about? What is it that you fear?"

Reed cast an agonized look at the cook and remained speechless, but
Tucker, with more experience in the befogging properties of language,
rushed to his assistance.

"It's perfectly clear what he means," he said. "Mr. Reed's idea is that
in a small community like this the conduct of every individual is
watched, scrutinized and discussed, however humble a sphere he or she
may occupy; and that if any young woman should find herself in a
position which has been considered a compromising one by every author
and dramatist in the language, she would not be saved from the
inevitable criticism that would follow by the mere fact that--"

But here something very unfortunate happened. The lip of the ice-water
pitcher, which Jane-Ellen was approaching to Tucker's glass, suddenly
touched his shoulder, and a small quantity of the chilling liquid
trickled between his collar and his neck. It was not enough to be called
a stream, and yet it was distinctly more than a drop; it was sufficient
to cut short his sentence.

"Oh, sir, I'm so sorry," she cried, and she added, with a sort of wail,
looking at Crane, "You see how it is, sir, I'm not used to waiting on
table."

"I think she waits admirably," murmured Lefferts aside to his host.

"Extremely competent, I call it," said Crane clearly. "Don't give it
another thought, Jane-Ellen. See," he added, glancing at Tucker's face
which was distorted with anger, "Mr. Tucker has forgotten it already."

"Oh, sir, how kind you are to me!" cried the cook and ran hastily into
the pantry, from which a sound which might have been a cough was
instantly heard.

"Yours is a strange but delightful home, Crane," observed Lefferts. "I
don't really recall ever having experienced anything quite like it."

"You refer, I fancy," replied Crane, "to the simple peace, the assured
confidence that--"

"That something unexpected is going to happen within the next ten
seconds."

Tucker and Reed, both absorbed in their private wrongs, were for an
instant like deaf men, but the latter having now dried his neck and as
much of his collar as was possible, showed signs of coming to, so that
Crane included both in the conversation.

"Lefferts and I were speaking," he said, slightly raising his voice, "of
the peculiar atmosphere that makes for the enjoyment of a home. What,
Mr. Reed, do you think is most essential?"

"Just one moment, Mr. Crane," said Reed. "I want to say a word more of
that other subject we were speaking of."

Crane's seat allowed him to see the pantry door before any one else
could. On it his eyes were fixed as he answered thoughtfully:

"Our last subject. Now, let me see, what was that?"

"It was the question of the propriety of--"

"Fish, sir?" said a gentle voice in Reed's ear. He groaned and helped
himself largely and in silence.

Lefferts, who was really kind-hearted, pitied his distress and decided
to change the topic.

"What a fine old house this is," he said, glancing around the
high-ceilinged room. "Who does it belong to?"

"It belongs," answered Tucker, "to a family named Revelly--a family who
held a highly honored position in the history of our country until they
took the wrong side in war."

"In this part of the country, sir," cried Reed, "we are not accustomed
to thinking it the wrong side."

Tucker bowed slightly.

"I believe that I am voicing the verdict of history and time," he
answered.

It was in remorse, perhaps, for having stirred up this new subject of
dispute that Lefferts now went on rapidly, too rapidly to feel his way.

"Well, this present generation seems to be an amusing lot. Eliot was
telling me about them last night. He says one of the girls is a perfect
beauty. Now, what was her name--such a pretty one. Oh, yes," he added,
slightly raising his voice, as his memory gave it to him, "Claudia."

"What?" said the cook.

"Nobody spoke to you, Jane-Ellen," said Crane, but his eyes remained
fixed on her long and meditatively as she handed the sauce for the fish.

Lefferts continued:

"Eliot said that she was a most indiscriminating fascinator--engaged to
three men last summer, to his knowledge. Our Northern girls are infants
compared--"

Reed suddenly sprang up from the table.

"I'd be obliged, sir," he said, "if you'd tell Mr. Eliot, with my
compliments, that that story of his is untrue, and if he doesn't know
it, he ought to. I don't blame you, sir, a stranger, for repeating all
you hear about one of the loveliest young ladies in the country, but I
do blame him--"

At this the cook approached him and said with a stern civility:

"Do sit down and eat your fish, sir, before it gets cold." They
exchanged a long and bitter glance, but Reed sat down.

"I'm sure you'll believe," said Lefferts, "that I'm sorry to have said
anything I ought not, particularly about any friend of yours, Mr. Reed,
but the truth is, I thought of it only as being immensely to the credit
of the young lady, in a neighborhood which must be, you'll forgive my
saying, rather dull if you're not fond of hunting."

"The point is not whether it is to her credit or not," returned Reed,
who was by no means placated, "the point is that it is not true."

"Probably not," Lefferts agreed, "only," he added, after a second's
thought, "I don't see how any one can say that except the young lady
herself."

"Miss Claudia Revelly," answered Reed, "is one of the most respected and
admired young ladies in the State, I may say in the whole South. I have
known her and her family since she was a child, and I should have been
informed if anything of the kind had taken place."

As he said this, the glance that the cook cast at him was
indescribable. It was mingled pity and wonder, as much as to say, "What
hope is there, after all, for a man who can talk like that?"

"Undoubtedly you're right, Mr. Reed," said Lefferts, "and yet I have
never heard of a girl's announcing more than one engagement at a time,
although it has come within my experience to know--"

"But, after all, why not?" said Crane. "Perhaps that will be the coming
fashion. We shall in future get letters from our friends, which will
begin: 'I want you to know of the three great happinesses that have come
into my life. I am engaged to John Jones, Peter Smith and Paul Robinson,
and I feel almost sure that one of these three, early next June--'"

Seeing that Reed was really growing angry, Lefferts hastened to
interrupt his host.

"I think you might tell us, Mr. Reed," he said, "what the great beauty
of the county looks like?"

"I can't think that this is the time or place for retailing the charms
of a young lady as if it were a slave market," answered Reed; and it
seemed to Crane that the cook, who had come in to change the plates,
looked a little bit disappointed.

"No, not as if it were a slave market," said Lefferts, "because, of
course, it isn't."

"I can see no reason, Reed," said Crane, "why you shouldn't give us a
hint as to whether Miss Revelly is blond or brunette, tall or short."

"Perhaps I see reasons that you do not, sir," answered the wretched real
estate man.

"Well," said Crane, "I tell you what, Jane-Ellen must have seen her
often,--Jane-Ellen," he added, "you've seen Miss Revelly. What does she
look like?"

Jane-Ellen advanced into the room thoughtfully.

"Well, sir," she said, "it isn't for me to criticize my superiors, nor
to say a word against a young lady whom Mr. Reed admires so much, but I
have my own reasons, sir, for thinking that there was more in those
stories of her engagement than perhaps Mr. Reed himself knows. Servants
hear a good deal, you know, sir, and they do say that Miss Revelly--"

"Claudia!" burst from Reed.

"Miss Claudia Revelly, I should say," the cook corrected herself. "Well,
sir, as for looks--let me see--she's a tall, commanding looking lady--"

"With flashing black eyes?" asked Crane.

"And masses of blue-black hair."

"A noble brow?"

"A mouth too large for perfect beauty."

"A queenly bearing?"

"An irresistible dignity of manner."

"Jane-Ellen," said Crane, "I feel almost as if Miss Claudia Revelly were
standing before me."

"Oh, indeed, sir, if it were she, it's you who would be standing," said
the cook.

"For my part," said Crane, turning again to the table, "I had imagined
her to myself as quite different. I had supposed her small, soft-eyed,
with tiny hands and feet and a mouth--" He was looking at Jane-Ellen's
mouth, as if that might give him an inspiration, when Reed interrupted.

"I regret to say, Mr. Crane," he said, "that if this conversation
continues to deal disrespectfully with the appearance of a young lady
for whom--"

"Disrespectfully!" cried Crane. "I assure you, I had no such intention.
I leave it to you, Jane-Ellen, whether anything disrespectful was said
about this young lady."

"It did not seem so to me, sir," answered the cook, with all her
gentlest manner. "But," she added, glancing humbly at Reed, "of course,
it would never do for a servant like me to be setting up my opinion on
such a matter against a gentleman like Mr. Reed."

"What I mean is, if Miss Revelly were here, do you think she would
object to anything we have said?"

"Indeed, I'm sure she would actually have enjoyed it, sir."

"Well, then, she ought not," shouted Reed sternly.

Jane-Ellen shook her head sadly.

"Ah, sir," she said, "young ladies like Miss Revelly don't always do
what they ought to, if report speaks true."

"May I ask, without impertinence, Burton," said Tucker, at this point,
"whether it is your intention to give us nothing whatsoever to drink
with our dinner?"

"No, certainly not," cried Crane. "Jane-Ellen, why haven't you served
the champagne?"

The reason for this omission was presently only too clear. Jane-Ellen
had not the faintest idea of how to open the bottle. Crane, listening
with one ear to his guests, watched her wrestling with it in a corner,
holding it as if it were a venomous reptile.

"For my part," Tucker was saying, "I have a great deal of sympathy with
the stand Mr. Reed has taken. Any discussion of a woman behind her back
runs at least the risk--"

Suddenly Crane shouted:

"Look out! Don't do that!" He was speaking not to Tucker, but to the
cook. His warning, however, came too late. There was the sound of
breaking glass and a deep cherry-colored stain dyed the napkin in
Jane-Ellen's hand.

All four chairs were pushed back, all four men sprang to her side.

"Let me see your hand."

"Is it badly cut?"

"An artery runs near there."

"Is there any glass in it?"

They crowded around her, nor did any one of them seem to be averse to
taking the case entirely into his own control.

"There are antiseptics and bandages upstairs," said Crane.

"Better let me wash it well at the tap in the pantry," urged Reed.

"Does it hurt horribly?" asked Lefferts.

Tucker, putting on his glasses, observed:

"I have had some experience in surgery, and if you will let me examine
the wound by a good light--"

"Oh, gentlemen," said Jane-Ellen, "this is absurd. It's nothing but a
scratch. Do sit down and finish your dinner, and let me get through my
work."

As the injury did not, after a closer observation, seem to be serious,
the four men obeyed. But they did so in silence; not even Lefferts and
Crane could banter any more. Tucker had never made any pretense of
recovering his temper, and Reed seemed to be revolving thoughts of deep
import.

As they rose from table, Crane touched the arm of Reed.

"Come into the office, will you? I have something I want to say to you."

"And I to you," said Reed, with feeling.



                                  XII


ONCE in the little office, Crane did not immediately speak. He drew up
two chairs, put a log on the fire, turned up the lamp, and in short made
it evident that he intended to do that cruel deed sometimes perpetrated
by parents, guardians and schoolmasters in interviews of this sort--he
was going to leave it to the culprit to make a beginning.

Reed, fidgeting in a nearby chair, did not at once yield to this
compulsion, but finally the calm with which Crane was balancing a pen on
a pencil broke down his resolution and he said crossly:

"I understood you had something to say to me, Mr. Crane."

Crane threw aside pencil and pen. "I thought it might be the other way,"
he answered. "But, yes, if you like. I have something to say to you. I
have decided to break my lease and leave this house to-morrow."

"You don't mean to go without paying the second instalment of the rent?"

"Why not? The Revellys have broken, or rather have never fulfilled
their part of the contract. I took the house on the written
understanding that servants were to be supplied, and you are my witness,
Mr. Reed, that to-night I have no one left but a cook."

"Oh, come, Mr. Crane! We only agreed to provide the servants. We could
not guarantee that you would not dismiss them. You must own they showed
no inclination to leave the house."

"No, I'll not deny that," returned Burton grimly.

"No sane man," continued Reed eagerly, "would allow the payment of his
rent to depend on whether or not you chose to keep a staff of servants
in many ways above the average. You'll not deny, I think, sir, that the
cooking has been above the average?"

Crane had reached a state of mind in which it was impossible for him to
discuss even the culinary powers of Jane-Ellen, particularly with Reed,
and so he slightly shifted the ground.

"Let us," he said, "run over the reasons for which I dismissed them: The
housemaid, for calling one of my guests an old harridan; the boy, for
habitually smoking my cigarettes, for attempting to strike Mr. Tucker,
and finally, for stealing a valuable miniature belonging to the house;
the butler, for again introducing this same larcenous boy into the house
disguised as a lame old man. The question is not whether I should have
kept them, but whether I should not stay on here and have them all
arrested."

Reed's face changed. "Oh! I hope you won't do that, Mr. Crane," he said.

Burton saw his advantage. "I should not care," he answered, "to go
through life feeling I had been responsible for turning a dangerous gang
loose upon the countryside."

"They are not that, sir. I pledge my word they are not that."

"There is a good deal of evidence against that pledge."

"You doubt my word, sir?"

"I feel there is much more to be explained than you seem willing to
admit. For instance, how comes it that you are a--I will not say
welcome--but at least assured visitor in my kitchen?"

Reed felt himself coloring. "I do not feel called upon," he replied, "to
explain my conduct to any one."

"In that case," said Crane, getting to his feet, "this interview might
as well end. I shall leave to-morrow, and if you and your friends, the
Revellys, feel yourselves aggrieved, we can only take the matter into
court. If the record of these servants is as excellent as you seem to
think, they can have nothing to fear. If it isn't, the whole matter will
be cleared up."

This was the crisis of the conversation, for as Crane moved to the door,
Reed stopped him.

"Wait a moment, Mr. Crane," he said. "There are circumstances in this
connection that you do not know."

"Yes, I guessed that much."

"If you will sit down, I should like to tell you the whole story."

Crane yielded and sat down, without giving Reed the satisfaction of
knowing that his nervousness at the expected revelation was as extreme
as Reed's.

"The Revellys, Mr. Crane, are among the most respected of our Southern
gentry. They fought for the original liberties of this country, and in
the war of secession--"

Crane nodded. "I know my history, Mr. Reed."

"But, sir, their distinguished position and high abilities have not
saved them from financial reverses. The grandfather lost everything in
the war; and the present owner, Henry Patrick Revelly, has not been
completely successful. Last winter a breakdown in his health compelled
him to leave the country at short notice. His four children--"

"Four children, Mr. Reed? Two girls and two boys?"

"Four grown children, Mr. Crane. The eldest is twenty-six, the youngest
seventeen. They were left with a roof over their heads and a sum of
money--a small sum--to provide for them during the absence of their
parents. Not a satisfactory arrangement, sir, but made in haste and
distress. Mrs. Revelly's devotion to her husband is such that in her
alarm for him, she did not perhaps sufficiently consider her children.
At the moment when, left alone, their difficulties began to press upon
them, your offer, your generous offer, for the house was made. There was
no time to submit it to their parents, nor, to be candid with you,
would there have been the slightest chance of Mr. Revelly's accepting
it. He has never been able to tolerate the mere suggestion of renting
Revelly Hall. But the four young people felt differently. It was
natural, it was in my opinion commendable, that they decided to move out
of their home for the sake of realizing a large sum--the largest sum
probably that had come into the family purse for many years. But an
obstacle soon appeared. You had insisted that servants should be
provided. This was impossible. They tried earnestly. Miss Claudia told
me herself that she went everywhere within a radius of twenty miles,
except to the jails. At last it became a question of refusing your
offer, or of--of--I believe you have already guessed the alternative."

"This is not a time for the exercise of my creative faculties, Mr. Reed.
What was their decision?"

Reed's discomfort increased. "I wish you could have been present as I
was, Mr. Crane, on that occasion. We were sitting round the fire in the
sitting-room, depressed that Miss Claudia's mission had not succeeded,
when suddenly she said, with a determination quite at variance with her
gentle appearance, 'Well, I've found a cook for him--and a mighty good
one, too.' 'Where did you find her?' I asked in astonishment, for only a
moment before she had been confessing absolute failure. 'I found her,'
she answered, 'where charity begins.' I own that even then I did not get
the idea, but her brother Paul, who always understands her, saw at once
what was in her mind. 'Yes,' she went on, 'I've found an excellent cook,
a good butler, a rather inefficient housemaid, and a dangerous extra
boy,' and she looked from one to the other of her family as she spoke.
Her meaning was clear. They themselves were to take the places of the
servants they could not find. As Paul pointed out, the plan had the
advantage of saving them the trouble of finding board and lodgings,
elsewhere. Miss Lily was opposed from the start. Her nature, exceedingly
refined and retiring, revolted, but no one in the Revelly family can
bear up against the combined wills of Paul and Miss Claudia. How the
plan was carried out you know."

There was a short silence. It was now some days since Crane had
suspected the identity of his servants, an hour since Jane-Ellen had
turned at the name of Claudia and made him sure. Nevertheless the
certainty that Reed's confession brought was very grateful to him; so
grateful that he feared his expression would betray him, and he assumed
a look of stern blankness.

Seeing this, Reed thought it necessary to plead the culprits' cause.

"After all, Mr. Crane, was there not courage and self-sacrifice needed?
You see this explains everything. The miniature of their grandmother was
taken upstairs for fear its likeness to Miss Claudia might betray them.
Miss Lily, who as I said never approved of the plan, was
constitutionally unable to be calm under the accusation of stealing a
hat, made, as I understand, rather roughly by Mrs. Falkener. I should be
very sorry if your opinion of the Revelly family--"

"I can't see what my opinion has to do with the situation," said Crane.
Every moment now that kept him from Claudia was to him an intolerable
bore. He drew his check-book toward him. "However, your story has
convinced me of this--my only course is to pay my rent in full."

Reed began to feel the pride of the successful diplomat. "And one other
thing, Mr. Crane. You see the necessity of not mentioning this. It would
make a great deal of talk in the country. A young lady's name--"

Burton rose quickly. It was not agreeable to him to have Reed pleading
with him for the preservation of Claudia's reputation.

"Here's your check," he said.

Reed pressed on. "And another thing will now be equally clear to you, I
am sure. Miss Revelly cannot possibly spend the night here alone."

"That," replied Crane, "is a question for Miss Revelly herself to
decide. My motors are at her disposal to take her anywhere she may
choose to go." And he opened the door as if he expected that Reed would
now take his departure.

But Reed did not move. "I cannot go away and leave Miss Revelly here
alone with you," he said.

"Of the two alternatives," said Crane, "you might find it more difficult
to stay in my house without my consent. But I'll leave it this way--do
you think Miss Revelly would regard your presence as a protection?"

"I don't understand you, sir."

"Your last visit to my kitchen did not, I believe, inspire her with
confidence. Shall we leave the decision to her?"

Reed went out in silence. He had had no reconciliation with Jane-Ellen
since that fatal kiss in the kitchen, and he knew she would not now side
with him. He decided to go away and find her brothers.

Lefferts, meanwhile, left alone, had stretched himself on a sofa, and
was smoking, with his eyes fixed on the ceiling.

"My dear fellow," cried Crane with some compunction, "were you waiting
to see me?"

"I was waiting for my motor," answered the poet. "You know that,
imagining this to be an ordinary dinner-party, I ordered it back at a
quarter before eleven."

"Where's Tucker?" asked Burton.

At this moment a step was heard on the stairs and Tucker, dressed in a
neat gray suit, adapted to traveling, wearing a cap and goggles and
carrying his bag, descended the stairs.

On seeing his host he approached and held out his hand. "Good-by,
Burton," he said, "I hope the time will come when you will forgive me
for having tried too hard to serve you. For myself, I entirely forgive
your hasty rudeness. I hope we part friends."

Crane hesitated, and then shook hands with his lawyer. "There's no use
in pretending, Tucker," he said, "that I feel exactly friendly to you,
and, if you'll forgive my saying so, I can't believe that you feel so to
me. You and I have got on each other's nerves lately; and that's the
truth. How much that means, only time can show. Sometimes it is very
important, sometimes very trivial; but while such a state exists, I
agree with you that two people are better apart. Good-by."

Here, Jane-Ellen, who had just finished putting the dining-room in
order, came out into the hall followed by Willoughby. As she saw
Tucker, she had one of her evil inspirations.

Springing forward, she exclaimed: "Oh, wasn't it a pity, sir, you had to
do your own packing! Let me put your bag in the motor for you."

Tucker was again caught by one of his moments of indecision. He did not
want Jane-Ellen to carry his luggage, but he did not consider it
dignified to wrestle with her for the possession of it, so that in the
twinkling of an eye she had seized it and carried it down the steps.

But he was not utterly without resource. He had been holding a
two-dollar bill in his hand, more from recollections of other visits
than because he now expected to find any one left to fee. This, as
Jane-Ellen came up the steps, he thrust into her hand, saying clearly:

"Thank you, my girl, there's for your trouble."

Jane-Ellen just glanced at it, and then crumpling it into a ball she
threw it across the hall. Willoughby, who like many other sheltered
creatures retained his playfulness late in life, bounded after it,
caught it up in his paws, threw it about, and finally set on it with his
sharp little teeth and bit it to pieces. But neither Tucker nor the cook
waited to see the end. He got into the car and rolled away, and she went
back to the kitchen.

Crane glanced at Lefferts, to whom plainly his duty as host pointed, and
then he hurried down the kitchen stairs, closing the door carefully
behind him.



                                  XIII


JANE-ELLEN was shaking out her last dishcloth, her head turned well over
her shoulder to avoid the shower of spray that came from it. He seated
himself on the kitchen-table, and watched her for some time in silence.

"And is that the way you treat all presents, Jane-Ellen," he asked,
"throwing them to Willoughby to tear to pieces?"

"That was not a present, sir. Presents are between equals, I've always
thought."

"Then, Jane-Ellen, I don't see how you can ever hope to get any."

She looked at him and smiled. "Your talk is too deep and clever for a
poor girl like me to understand, sir."

He smiled back. "They've all gone, Jane-Ellen," he said.

The news did not seem to disturb the cook in the least. Reed would have
been shocked by the calmness with which she received it.

[Illustration: "And there was no truth in it?"]

"And now you're all alone, sir," she replied.

"Absolutely alone."

She was still pattering about the kitchen, putting the last things to
rights, but--or so it seemed to Crane--a little busier than her
occupation warranted.

"They left early, sir, didn't they? But then it did not seem to me that
they were really enjoying themselves, not even Mr. Lefferts, though he
is such an amusing gentleman. Every one seemed sad, sir, except you."

"I was sad, too, Jane-Ellen."

"Indeed, sir?"

"Something was said at dinner that distressed me deeply."

"By whom, sir?"

"By you."

She did not stop her work nor seem very much surprised, but of course
she asked what her unfortunate speech had been.

"I was sorry to hear you say you believed in Miss Revelly's triple
engagement."

At this she did stop short, and immediately in his vicinity. "But I did
not know you knew Miss Revelly."

"Yet I do."

"And when I was describing her--"

"It was as if I saw her before me."

"I am sorry I said anything about a friend of yours, sir. I had supposed
she was quite a stranger to you."

"Sometimes it seems to me, too, as if she were a stranger," Crane
answered. "Each time I see her, Jane-Ellen, she seems to me so lovely
and wonderful and miraculous that it is as if I saw her for the first
time. Sometimes when I am away from her it seems to me quite ridiculous
to believe that such a creature exists in this rather tiresome old
world, and I feel like rushing back from wherever I am to assure myself
that she isn't just a creation of my own passionate desire. In this
sense, I think she will always be a stranger, always be a surprise to me
even if I should have the great felicity of spending the rest of my days
with her. Does it bore you, Jane-Ellen, to hear me talking this way
about my own feelings?"

Jane-Ellen did not answer; indeed something seemed to suggest that she
could not speak, but she shook her head and Burton went on.

"So you see why it distressed me to hear from so good an authority as
yourself that she had already engaged herself three times. It is not
that I am of a jealous nature, Jane-Ellen, but when I ask her to be my
wife, if she should say yes, I should want to feel sure that that
meant--"

"Oh, Mr. Crane!" said Jane-Ellen, "I said that to make Mr. Reed angry."

"And there was no truth in it?"

There was a pause. Jane-Ellen looked down and wriggled her shoulders a
little.

"Well," she admitted, "there was some truth in it. They were not exactly
engagements. We think in this part of the world that there's something
almost too harsh in a flat no--oh! the truth is," she added, suddenly
changing her tone, "that girls don't know what they're doing until they
find that they have fallen in love themselves."

"And do you think by any chance that this revelation may have come to
Miss Revelly?"

"I know right well it has," answered Jane-Ellen.

"Oh, my dear love!" cried Crane and took her into his arms.

The kitchen clock, loudly ticking, looked down upon them on one side,
and Willoughby, loudly purring, looked up at them from the other, and a
good deal of ticking and purring was done before Claudia broke the
silence by saying, like one to whom a good idea has come rather late:

"But I never said it was through you that the revelation came."

"You mustn't say that it hasn't even in fun--not yet."

"When may I?"

"When we've been married five years."

Sometime later, when, that is to say, they had talked a little longer in
the kitchen, and then shut it up for the night, and had gone and sat a
little while in the parlor so that he might realize that she really was
Miss Claudia Revelly, and they had sat a little while in the office so
that she might act out for him the impression he had made an her during
that first famous interview when he had reproved her conduct, when all
these important conversations had taken place, Crane at last took her
hand and said gravely: "I mustn't keep you up any longer. Good night, my
darling." And he added, after an instant, "I'm so glad--so
grateful--that your mind doesn't work like Reed's and Tucker's."

"Like theirs--in what way?"

"I'm glad you haven't thought it necessary to make any protest at our
being here alone."

A slight motion of his beloved's shoulders told him she was not fully at
one with him.

"How foolish, Burton, of course I trust you absolutely, only--"

"Only what--"

She evidently felt that it was a moment when something decisive must be
done, for she came and laid her head, not on his shoulder, but as near
as she could reach, which was about in the turn of his elbow.

His arm was coldly limp. "Only what?" he repeated.

"Only we're not really alone."

"What do you mean, Claudia?"

"They're all here--my brothers and sister."

"What, Smithfield, and Lily, and even Brindlebury?"

She nodded in as much space as she had.

"Where are they?" he asked.

"They're playing Coon-Can in the garret. And oh," she added with a
sudden spasm of recollection, "they'll be so hungry! They haven't had
anything to eat for ages. I promised to bring them something as soon as
the house was quiet, only you put everything out of my head."

"We'll give them a party in the dining-room--our first," said Crane.
"I'll write the invitation, and we'll send Lefferts to the garret with
it."

"Don't you think I'd better go up and explain?" said Claudia.

"The invitation will explain," answered Burton. It read: "Mr. Burton
Crane and Miss Claudia Revelly request the pleasure of the Revellys'
company at supper immediately."

They roused Lefferts, who had by this time fallen into a comfortable
sleep. "Just run up and give this note to the people you'll find in the
garret, there's a good fellow," said Crane.

Lefferts sat up, rubbing his eyes. "The people I'll find in the garret,"
he murmured. "But how about the little black men in the chimney, and the
ghosts who live in the wall? This is the strangest house, Crane, the
very strangest house I ever knew." But he took the note and wandered
slowly upstairs with it, shaking his head.

On the landing of the second story, his eye caught the whisk of a skirt,
and pursuing it instantly, he came upon Lily. He cornered her in the
angle of the stairs.

"Hold on," he said, "I have a note for you, at least I have if you are
one of the people who live in the garret."

Lily, knowing nothing of the explanation that had taken place between
Reed and Crane, was not a little alarmed at being thus caught in a house
from which she had been so recently dismissed. She did not think quickly
in a crisis, and now she could find nothing to say but "I don't exactly
live in the garret."

"How interesting it would be," observed Lefferts, "if you would sit down
here on the stairs and tell me who you are."

"There's nothing to tell," said Lily, wondering what she had better
admit. "I'm just the housemaid."

"Oh," cried Lefferts, "then there are lots of things to tell. I have
always wanted to ask housemaids a number of questions. For instance,
why is it that you always drop the broom with which you sweep the stairs
at six in the morning? Why do you fancy it will conduce to any one's
comfort to shut the blinds and turn on all the lights in a bedroom on a
hot summer evening? Why do you hide the pillows and extra covering so
that one never finds them until one is packing to go away the next
morning? If you are a housemaid, you do these things; and if you do
these things, you must know why you do them."

Lily smiled. "I'm afraid I was a very poor housemaid," she answered.
"Anyhow, I'm not even that any more. I was dismissed."

"Indeed," said Lefferts. "Now that must be an interesting experience. I
have had several perfectly good businesses drop from under me, but I
have never been dismissed. Might I ask what led to it in your case?"

A reminiscent smile stole over Lily's face. "Mr. Crane dismissed me,"
she said, "for saying something which I believe he thought himself. I
called Mrs. Falkener an old harridan."

Lefferts shouted with pleasure.

"If Crane had had a spark of intellectual honesty, he'd have raised your
wages," he said. "It's just what he wanted to say himself."

"Oh! I was glad to be dismissed," returned she. "I never approved of the
whole plan anyhow." And then fearing she had betrayed too much, she
added, "And now you might tell me who you are."

"My name is Lefferts."

"Any relation to the poet?"

It would be impossible to deny that this unexpected proof of his fame
was agreeable to Lefferts. The conversation on the stairs became more
absorbing, and the note was less likely to be delivered at all.

In the meantime Claudia, while setting the table in the dining-room, had
sent Crane down to the kitchen floor to get something out of the
ice-box. As Crane approached this object about which so many sentimental
recollections gathered, he saw he had been anticipated. A figure was
already busy extracting from it a well-filled plate. At his step, the
figure turned quickly. It was Brindlebury.

Even Brindlebury seemed to appreciate that, after all that had occurred
in connection with his last departure, to be caught once again in
Crane's house was a serious matter. It would have been easy enough to
save himself by a confession that he was one of the Revellys, but to
tell this without the consent of his brother and sisters would have been
considered traitorous in the extreme.

He backed away from the ice-box. "Mr. Crane," he said, with unusual
seriousness, "you probably feel that an explanation is due you." And
there he stopped, not being able at the moment to think of anything to
say.

Crane took pity on him. "Brindlebury," he said, "it would be ungenerous
of me to conceal from you that our relative positions are reversed. At
the present moment the power is all in your hands. Have a cigarette. I
believe you used to like this brand."

"Only when I had smoked all my own."

"You see, Brindlebury, it is not only that I am obliged to forgive you,
I have to go further. I have to make up to you. For the truth is,
Brindlebury, that I want to marry your sister."

"You want to marry Jane-Ellen?"

"More than I can tell you."

"And what does she say?"

"She likes the idea."

"Bless my soul! you are going to be my brother-in-law."

"No rose without its thorn, I understand."

The situation was too tempting to the boy's love of a joke. He seated
himself on the top of the ice-box and folded his arms.

"I do not know," he said, "that I should be justified in giving my
consent to any such marriage. Would it tend to make my sister happy? The
woman who marries above her social position--the man who marries his
cook--is bound to regret it. Have you considered, Mr. Crane, that
however you may value my sister yourself, many of your proud friends
would not receive her?"

"To my mind, Brindlebury, these social distinctions are very
unimportant. Even you I should be willing to have to dinner now and then
when we were alone."

"The deuce you would," said Brindlebury, and added, "but suppose my
sister's lack of refinement--"

"I can't let you talk like that even in fun, Revelly," said Crane. "Get
off your ice-box and let us go back to Claudia."

"Ah, you knew all along?"

"I have suspected for some time. Reed told me this evening."

But when they reached the dining-room, Claudia was not there. She had
gone herself to tell her news to her brother Paul. He was sitting alone
in the garret with the remnants of the game of Coon-Can before him.
Claudia came and put her hand on his shoulder, but he did not move.

"Do you know what I have made up my mind to do?" he said. "I mean to go
and make a clean breast of this to Crane. The game is about up, and I
don't think he's had a square deal. He's a nice fellow, and I'd like to
put myself straight with him."

Claudia remained standing behind her brother, as she asked, "You like
him, Paul?"

"Very much indeed. I think he's behaved mighty well through all this.
Don't you like him?"

There was an instant's pause, and then Claudia answered simply:

"I love him, Paul."

Her brother sprang to his feet. "Don't say that even to yourself, my
dear," he said. "You don't know what men of his sort are like. Spoilt,
run after, cold-blooded. He's not like the men you've ruled over all
your life--"

"No, indeed, he's not," said Claudia.

"My dear girl," her brother went on seriously, "this is not like you.
You must put this out of your head. After all, that oughtn't to be very
hard. You've hardly known the man more than a few days."

"Paul, that shows you don't know what love is. It hasn't anything to do
with time, or your own will. It's just there in an instant. People talk
as if it were common, as if every one fell in love, but I don't believe
they do--not like this. Look at me. I've only known this man as you say
a little while, I've only talked to him a few times, and some of those
were disagreeable, and yet the idea of spending my life with him not
only seems natural, but all the rest of my life--you and my home--seem
strange and unfamiliar. I feel the way you do when you've been living
abroad hearing strange languages and suddenly some one speaks to you in
your own native tongue. When Burton--"

"Burton?"

"Didn't I tell you we're engaged?"

"My dear Claudia, you must admit we don't really know anything about
him."

"You have the rest of your life for finding out, Paul."

They went downstairs presently to supper--a meal that promised to be a
good deal more agreeable than dinner had been. For all Paul's expressed
doubts, he had every disposition to make himself pleasant to his future
brother-in-law, and even Lily had felt his charm. Lefferts, the only
person in the dark as to the whole situation, served as an excellent
audience. All four recounted--together and in turn--the whole story,
from the moment when the idea had first occurred to Claudia, at eleven
years of age, that she would like to learn to cook, down to the subtlest
allusion of that evening's dinner-table.

Then suddenly there was a loud peal at the front door-bell. Every one
knew instantly what it was--Reed returning to make one more effort to
save Claudia's reputation.

"Well," said Paul, sinking down in his chair and thrusting his hands
still deeper into his pockets, "I shan't let him in. My future depends
on my getting over the habit of answering bells."

"Same here," said Brindlebury.

"I certainly shan't open the door for the man," said Crane, "and Claudia
shall go only over my dead body."

Again the bell rang.

Lily rose. "I shall let him in," she said, "I think you are all very
unjust to Randolph."

Claudia smiled as her sister left the room.

"There," she said, "that's all right. No one has such a good effect on
Randolph as Lily has. In fifteen minutes he will be perfectly calm and
polite. In half an hour she will have persuaded him he likes things
better the way they are."

"I should think," said Lefferts, glancing at Claudia, "that it might
take her a little longer than that."

It did take her a little longer.


THE END



ZANE GREY'S NOVELS

       *       *       *       *       *

May be had wherever books are sold.     Ask for Grosset & Dunlap's list

       *       *       *       *       *

THE LIGHT OF WESTERN STARS

    A New York society girl buys a ranch which becomes the
    center of frontier warfare. Her loyal superintendent
    rescues her when she is captured by bandits. A surprising
    climax brings the story to a delightful close.

THE RAINBOW TRAIL

    The story of a young clergyman who becomes a wanderer in
    the great western uplands--until at last love and faith
    awake.

DESERT GOLD

    The story describes the recent uprising along the border,
    and ends with the finding of the gold which two prospectors
    had willed to the girl who is the story's heroine.

RIDERS OF THE PURPLE SAGE

    A picturesque romance of Utah of some forty years ago when
    Mormon authority ruled. The prosecution of Jane Withersteen
    is the theme of the story.

THE LAST OF THE PLAINSMEN

    This is the record of a trip which the author took with
    Buffalo Jones, known as the preserver of the American
    bison, across the Arizona desert and of a hunt in "that
    wonderful country of deep canyons and giant pines."

THE HERITAGE OF THE DESERT

    A lovely girl, who has been reared among Mormons, learns to
    love a young New Englander. The Mormon religion, however,
    demands that the girl shall become the second wife of one
    of the Mormons--Well, that's the problem of this great
    story.

THE SHORT STOP

    The young hero, tiring of his factory grind, starts out to
    win fame and fortune as a professional ball player. His
    hard knocks at the start are followed by such success as
    clean sportsmanship, courage and honesty ought to win.

BETTY ZANE

    This story tells of the bravery and heroism of Betty, the
    beautiful young sister of old Colonel Zane, one of the
    bravest pioneers.

THE LONE STAR RANGER

    After killing a man in self defense, Buck Duane becomes an
    outlaw along the Texas border. In a camp on the Mexican
    side of the river, he finds a young girl held prisoner, and
    in attempting to rescue her, brings down upon himself the
    wrath of her captors and henceforth is hunted on one side
    by honest men, on the other by outlaws.

THE BORDER LEGION

    Joan Randle, in a spirit of anger, sent Jim Cleve out to a
    lawless Western mining camp, to prove his mettle. Then
    realizing that she loved him--she followed him out. On her
    way, she is captured by a bandit band, and trouble begins
    when she shoots Kells, the leader--and nurses him to health
    again. Here enters another romance--when Joan, disguised as
    an outlaw, observes Jim, in the throes of dissipation. A
    gold strike, a thrilling robbery--gambling and gun play
    carry you along breathlessly.

       *       *       *       *       *

THE LAST OF THE GREAT SCOUTS,

By Helen Cody Wetmore and Zane Grey

    The life story of Colonel William F. Cody, "Buffalo Bill,"
    as told by his sister and Zane Grey. It begins with his
    boyhood in Iowa and his first encounter with an Indian. We
    see "Bill" as a pony express rider, then near Fort Sumter
    as Chief of the Scouts, and later engaged in the most
    dangerous Indian campaigns. There is also a very
    interesting account of the travels of "The Wild West" Show.
    No character in public life makes a stronger appeal to the
    imagination of America than "Buffalo Bill," whose daring
    and bravery made him famous.

       *       *       *       *       *

Grosset & Dunlap,             Publishers,                       New York



KATHLEEN NORRIS' STORIES

       *       *       *       *       *

May be had wherever books are sold.     Ask for Grosset & Dunlap's list.

       *       *       *       *       *

MOTHER. Illustrated by F. C. Yohn.

This book has a fairy-story touch, counterbalanced by the sturdy reality
of struggle, sacrifice, and resulting peace and power of a mother's
experiences.

SATURDAY'S CHILD.

Frontispiece by F. Graham Cootes.

Out on the Pacific coast a normal girl, obscure and lovely, makes a
quest for happiness. She passes through three stages--poverty, wealth
and service--and works out a creditable salvation.

THE RICH MRS. BURGOYNE.

Illustrated by Lucius H. Hitchcock.

The story of a sensible woman who keeps within her means, refuses to be
swamped by social engagements, lives a normal human life of varied
interests, and has her own romance.

THE STORY OF JULIA PAGE.

Frontispiece by Allan Gilbert.

How Julia Page, reared in rather unpromising surroundings, lifted
herself through sheer determination to a higher plane of life.

THE HEART OF RACHAEL.

Frontispiece by Charles E. Chambers.

Rachael is called upon to solve many problems, and in working out these,
there is shown the beauty and strength of soul of one of fiction's most
appealing characters.

       *       *       *       *       *

_Ask for Complete free list of G. & D. Popular Copyrighted Fiction_

       *       *       *       *       *

Grosset & Dunlap,             Publishers,                       New York



Transcriber's Notes:

On page 64, the [oe] ligature was replaced with "oe".

On page 124, "made up mind" was replaced with "made up my mind".

On page 128, a closing quotation mark was added after "if I am not
greatly mistaken, my cigarettes.".

On page 161, "glace" has been replaced with "glance".

On page 204, the word "overcontrolled" was retained, as is, although
current usage would be "over-controlled".

On page 212, the word "latter" probably should have been "former" but
this clearly was not a typographical error.

The inconsistencies in the hyphenation of the words "everyday" and
"nearby" were not corrected.

In the ads for Zane Grey's Novels, a period was added after "Wild West
Show".





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