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Title: The Bachelors - A Novel
Author: Orcutt, William Dana, 1870-1953
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Bachelors - A Novel" ***

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[Illustration: "LAUGH IF YOU LIKE; I SHAN'T MIND. THE MORE RIDICULOUS
YOU MAKE IT THE SHORTER WORK IT WILL BE."--_See page 244_]



THE BACHELORS
A NOVEL


BY
WILLIAM DANA ORCUTT

AUTHOR OF
"THE MOTH," "THE LEVER," "THE SPELL," ETC.


[Illustration]


HARPER & BROTHERS PUBLISHERS
NEW YORK AND LONDON
MCMXV


COPYRIGHT, 1915
BY HARPER & BROTHERS



       *       *       *       *       *

THE BACHELORS

       *       *       *       *       *



       *       *       *       *       *

I

       *       *       *       *       *


They were discussing Huntington and Cosden when the two men entered the
living-room of the Club and strolled toward the little group indulging
itself in relaxation after a more or less strenuous afternoon at golf.
It was natural, perhaps, that no one quite understood the basis upon
which their intimacy rested, for entirely aside from the difference in
their ages they seemed far separated in disposition and natural tastes.
Cosden's dynamic energy had made more than an average golf-player of
Huntington, and in other ways forced him out of the easy path of least
resistance; the older man's dignity and quiet philosophy tempered the
cyclonic tendencies of his friend. The one met the world as an
antagonist, and forced from it tribute and recognition; the other, never
having felt the necessity of competition, had formed the habit of taking
the world into his confidence and treating it as a friend.

These differences could not fail to attract the attention of their
companions at the Club as day after day they played their round
together, but this was the first time the subject had become a topic of
general conversation. The speaker sat with his back to the door and
continued his remarks after the newcomers came within hearing, in spite
of the efforts made by those around to suppress him. The sudden hush and
the conscious manner of those in the group would have conveyed the
information even if the words had not.

"So you're giving us the once over, are you?" Cosden demanded, dropping
into a chair. "You don't mean to say that the golf autobiographies have
become exhausted?"

"I never heard myself publicly discussed," added Huntington as he, too,
joined the party. "I am already experiencing a thrill of pleasurable
excitement. Don't stop. Connie and I are really keen to learn more of
ourselves."

"Well," the speaker replied, with some hesitation, "there's no use
trying to make you believe we were listening to Baker's explanation of
how the bunkers have been located exactly where the golf committee knows
his ball is going to strike--"

"Heaven forbid!" Huntington exclaimed; "but don't apologize. I
congratulate the Club that the members are at last turning their
attention to serious things. 'Tell the truth and shame the
devil'--provided it is Connie, and not me, you are going to shame."

"Don't mind me in the least," Cosden added. "My hide is tough, and I
rather like to be put through the acid test once in a while."

"Oh, it isn't as bad as all that," the speaker explained. "We love you
both, but in different ways, yet we can't make out just where you two
fellows hitch up. Now, that isn't _lèse-majesté_, is it?"

"What do you think, Connie?" Huntington asked, lighting his pipe. "Is
that an insult or a compliment?"

"I don't see that it makes much difference from this crowd. We don't
care what they say about us as long as they pay us the compliment of
noticing us. That's the main point, and I'm glad we've been able to
start something."

"But why don't you tell us?" insisted the speaker. "You aren't
interested in anything Monty cares for except golf, and he hasn't even a
flirting acquaintance with business, which is your divinity, yet you two
fellows have formed a fine young Damon and Pythias combination which we
all envy. Why don't you tell us how it happened?"

"I don't know," Cosden answered, serious at last and speaking with
characteristic directness. "I never stopped to think of it; but if we're
satisfied, whose concern is it, anyhow?"

"If friendship requires explanation, then it isn't friendship," added
Huntington. "Connie contributes much to my life which would otherwise be
lacking, and I hope that he would say the same of my relation to him."

"Of course--that goes without saying; but neither one of you is telling
us anything. If you would explain your method perhaps we might become
more reconciled to some of these misfits lying around the Club--like
Baker over there--"

"We have a thousand members--" Baker protested.

"What has that to do with the present discussion?"

"Why pick on me?"

"Which is the misfit in my combination with Monty?" Cosden demanded.

"I'm not labeling you fellows," the speaker disclaimed--"I couldn't if I
tried; but each of you is so different from the other that such a
friendship seems inconsistent."

There was a twinkle in Huntington's eye as he listened to the persistent
cross-examination. "We are bachelors," he said quietly. "That should
explain everything; for what is a bachelor's life but one long
inconsistency? If our friends were all alike what would be the need of
having more than one? This friend gives us confidence in ourselves,
another gives us sympathy; this friend gives us the inspiration which
makes our work successful, another is the balance-wheel which prevents
us from losing the benefit which success brings us. Each fills a
separate and unique place in our lives, and, after all, the measure of
our life-work is the sum of these friendships."

The two responses demonstrated the difference between the men. William
Montgomery Huntington came from a Boston family of position where wealth
had accumulated during the several generations, each steward having
given good account to his successor. He had taken up the practice of law
after being graduated from Harvard--not from choice or necessity, but
because his father and his grandfather had adopted it before him. His
practice had never been a large one, but the supervision of certain
trust estates, handed over to his care by his father's death, entailed
upon him sufficient responsibility to enable him to maintain his
self-respect.

It would have been a fair question to ask what Montgomery Huntington's
manner of life would have been if his father had not been born before
him. He lived alone, since his younger brother married, in the same
house into which the family moved when he was an infant in arms. Modern
improvements had been introduced, it is true, in the building just as in
the generation itself; but the walls were unchanged. The son succeeded
to the father's place in directorates and on boards of trustees in
charitable institutions, and he performed his duties faithfully, as his
predecessor had done. Now, at forty-five, he had reached a point where
he found it difficult to distinguish between his working and his leisure
hours.

Cosden's heritage had been a healthy imagination, a robust constitution,
and an unbelievable capacity for work. Even his uncle Conover, from whom
he had a right to expect compensation for the indignity of wearing his
name throughout a lifetime, had left him to work out his own salvation.
His parents had never worn the purple, but, being sturdy, valuable
citizens, they spent their lives in fitting their son to occupy a
position in life higher than they themselves could hope to attain; and
Cosden had made the most of his opportunities. Seven years Huntington's
junior, he had succeeded in a comparatively short time in extracting
from his commercial pursuits a property which, from the standpoint of
income, at least, was hardly less than his friend's. He, too, was a
product of the university, but his name would be found blazoned on the
annals of Harvard athletics rather than in the archives of the Phi Beta
Kappa. His election as captain of the football team was a personal
triumph, for it broke the precedent of social dominance in athletics,
and laid the corner-stone for that democracy which since then has given
Harvard her remarkable string of victories. The same dogged
determination, backed up by real ability, which forced recognition in
college accomplished similar results in later and more serious
competitions. In the business world he was taken up first because he
made himself valuable and necessary, and he held his advantage by virtue
of his personal characteristics.

Cosden was not universally popular. He won his victories by sheer force
of determination and ability rather than by diplomacy or finesse. In
business dealings he had the reputation of being a hard man, demanding
his full pound of flesh and getting it, but he was scrupulously exact in
meeting his own obligations in the same spirit. To an extent this
characteristic was apparent in everything he did; but to those who came
to know him it ceased to be offensive because of other, more agreeable
qualities which went with it. They learned that, after all, money to him
was only the means to an end which he could not have secured without it.

To the man whose ruling passion is his business it is natural to measure
himself and his actions by the same yardstick which has yielded full
return in his office; to him whose property stands simply as a counter
and medium of exchange the measure of life is inevitably different. The
good-natured chaffing at the Club was forgotten by Huntington before he
stepped into his automobile, but it still remained in Cosden's mind. As
the car rolled out of the Club grounds he turned to his companion.

"Monty," he said, "what is there so different about us that it attracts
comment?"

"We should have found out if you hadn't snapped together like a steel
trap. There was the chance of a lifetime to learn all about ourselves,
and you shut them off by saying, 'If we're satisfied, whose concern is
it, anyhow?'"

"Of course we are different," Cosden continued; "that's only natural. No
two fellows are alike. I wonder if what you said about our being
bachelors hasn't more truth than poetry in it.--Give me a light from
your pipe."

"What is the connection?"

Cosden suddenly became absorbed and gave no sign that he heard the
question. When he spoke his words seemed still more irrelevant.

"Monty," he said seriously, "I want you to take a little trip with me
for perhaps two or three weeks, or longer. What do you say?"

Huntington showed no surprise. "It might possibly be arranged," he said.

Again Cosden relapsed into silence, puffing vigorously at his cigar as
was his habit when excited. Huntington watched him curiously, wondering
what lay behind.

"Did you ever try smoking a cigar with a vacuum cleaner?" he asked
maliciously. "They say it draws beautifully, and consumes the cigar in
one-tenth the time ordinarily required by a human being."

Cosden was oblivious to his raillery. "What do you think of marriage?"
he demanded abruptly.

The question, and the serious manner in which it was asked, succeeded in
rousing Huntington to a point of interest.

"What do I think of-- So that's the idea, is it, Connie? That's why you
picked me up on what I said about bachelors? Good heavens, man! you
haven't made up your mind to marry me off like this without my consent?"

"Of course not," Cosden answered, with some impatience; "but what do you
think of the idea in general?"

Huntington looked at his companion with some curiosity. "Well," he said
deliberately, "if you really ask the question seriously, I consider
marriage an immorality, as it offers the greatest possible encouragement
to deceit."

Cosden sighed. "You are a hard man to talk to when you don't start the
conversation. I really want your advice."

"Would it be asking too much to suggest that you throw out a few hints
here and there as to the real bearing of your inquiry, so that I may
come fairly close on the third guess?"

"I've decided to get married," Cosden announced.

"By Jove!" The words brought Huntington bolt upright in his seat. "You
don't really mean it?"

"That's just what I mean. It occurred to me on the way home from the
office last night. What you said about a bachelor's life being an
inconsistency reminded me of it. I believe you're right."

Huntington regarded him for a moment with a puzzled expression on his
face; then he relaxed, convulsed with laughter. Cosden was distinctly
nettled.

"This doesn't strike me as the friendliest way in the world to respond
to a fellow's request for advice on so serious a subject."

"You don't want to consult me," Huntington insisted, checking himself;
"what you need is a specialist. When did you first feel the attack
coming on? Oh, Lord! Connie! That's the funniest line you ever pulled
off!"

"Look here," Cosden said, with evident irritation; "I'm serious. With
any one else I should have approached the subject less abruptly, but I
don't see why I should pick and choose my words with you.

"And the trip"--Huntington interrupted, again convulsed--"'for two or
three weeks, or longer'? Is that to be your wedding-trip, and am I to go
along as guardian?"

The older man's amusement became contagious, and Cosden's annoyance
melted before his friend's keen enjoyment of the situation.

"Oh, well, have your laugh out," he said good-naturedly. "When it's all
over perhaps you'll discuss matters seriously. Can you advance any sane
reason why I should not marry if I see fit?"

"None whatever, my dear boy, provided you've found a girl who possesses
both imagination and a sense of humor."

"I have reached a point in my life where I can indulge myself in
marriage as in any other luxury," Cosden pursued, unruffled by
Huntington's comments. "I've slaved for fifteen years for one definite
purpose--to make money enough to become a power; and now I've got it. Up
to this time a wife would have been a handicap; now she can be an asset.
After all is said and done, Monty, a home is the proper thing for a man
to have. It's all right living as you and I do while one's mind is
occupied with other things, but it is an inconsistency, as you say.
Now--well, what have you to put up against my line of argument?"

"Am I to understand that all this, reduced to its last analysis, is
intended to convey the information that you have fallen in love?"

"What perfect nonsense!" Cosden replied disgustedly. "You and I aren't
school-boys any more. We're living in the twentieth century, Monty, and
people have learned that sometimes it's hard to distinguish between love
and indigestion. I won't say that marriage has come to be a business
proposition, but there's a good deal more thinking beforehand than there
used to be. A woman wants power as much as a man does, and the one way
she can get it is through her husband. It's only the young and
unsophisticated who fall for the bushel of love and a penny loaf these
days, and there are mighty few of those left. Get your basic business
principles right to begin with, I say, and the sentimental part comes
along of itself."

Huntington was convinced by this time that Cosden was seriously in
earnest. He had believed that he knew his friend well enough not to be
surprised at anything he said or did, but now he found himself not only
surprised, but distinctly shocked. He had joked with Cosden when he
first spoke of marriage, but in his heart he regarded it with a
sentimentality which no one of his friends suspected because of the
cynicisms which always sprang to his lips when the subject was
mentioned. He believed himself to have had a romance, and during these
years its memory still obtained from him a sacred observance which he
had successfully concealed from all the world. So, when Cosden coolly
announced that he had decided to select a wife just as he would have
picked out a car-load of pig iron, Huntington's first impulse was one of
resentment.

"It seems to me that you are proposing a partnership rather than a
marriage," he remarked.

"What else is marriage?" Cosden demanded. "You've hit it exactly. I
wouldn't take a man into business with me simply because I liked him,
but because I believed that he more than any one else could supplement
my work and extend my horizon. Marriage is the apotheosis of
partnership, and its success depends a great deal more upon the
psychology of selection than upon sentiment."

Huntington made no response. The first shock was tempered by his
knowledge of Cosden's character. It was natural that he should have
arrived at this conclusion, the older man told himself, and it was
curious that the thought had not occurred to Huntington sooner that the
days of their bachelor companionship must inevitably be numbered. There
was nothing else which Connie could wish for now: he had his clubs, his
friends, and ample means to gratify every desire; a home with wife and
children was really needed to complete the success which he had made. He
had proved himself the best of friends, which was a guarantee that he
would make a good husband. Huntington found himself echoing Cosden's
question, "Why not?"

"Have you selected the happy bride, Connie?" he asked at length, more
seriously.

"Only tentatively," was the complacent reply. "I met a girl in New York
last winter, and it seems to me she couldn't be improved upon if she had
been made to order; but I want to look the ground over a bit, and that
is where you come in. Her name is Marian Thatcher, and--"

"Thatcher--Marian Thatcher!" Huntington interrupted unexpectedly. "From
New York? Why--no, that would be ridiculous! Is she a widow?"

Cosden chuckled. "Not yet, and if she marries me it will be a long time
before she gets a chance to wear black. What put that idea in your
head?"

"Nothing," Huntington hastened to say. "I knew a girl years ago named
Marian who married a man named Thatcher, and they lived in New York."

"She is about twenty years old--"

"Not the same," Huntington remarked. Then after a moment's silence he
laughed. "What tricks Time plays us! I knew the girl I speak of when I
was in college, and I haven't seen her since her marriage. Go on with
your proposition."

"Well, she and her parents went down to Bermuda last week, and it
occurred to me that if you and I just happen down there next week it
would exactly fit into my plans. More than that, I have business reasons
for wanting to get closer to Thatcher himself. We've been against each
other on several deals, and this might mean a combination. What do you
say? Will you go?"

"Next week?" Huntington asked. "I couldn't pick up stakes in a minute
like that."

"Of course you can," Cosden persisted. "There's nothing in the world to
prevent your leaving to-night if you choose."

"There's Bill, you know."

"Well, what about Bill? Is he in any new scrape now?"

"No," Huntington admitted; "but he's sure to get into some trouble
before I return."

"Why can't his father straighten him out?"

Huntington laughed consciously. "No father ever understands his son as
well as an uncle."

"No father ever spoiled a son the way you spoil Bill--"

Huntington held up a restraining hand. "It is only the boy's animal
spirits bubbling over," he interrupted, "and the fact that he can't grow
up. You and I were in college once ourselves."

Huntington was never successful in holding out against Cosden's
persistency, and in the present case elements existed which argued with
almost equal force. He was curious to see how far his friend was in
earnest, and was this combination of names a pure coincidence? He
wondered.

The car came to a stop before Huntington's house.

"Well," he yielded at length, as he stepped out, "I presume it might be
arranged.--Let Mason take you home. You've given me a lot to think
over, Connie--"

"This wouldn't break up our intimacy, you understand," Cosden asserted
confidently. "No woman in the world shall ever do that; and it will be a
good thing for you, too, to have a woman's influence come into your
life."

"Perhaps," Huntington assented dubiously; "but because you show symptoms
of lapsing is no sign that I shall fall from the blessed state of
bachelorhood. I supposed that our inoculation made us both immune, but
if the virus has weakened in your system I have no doubt that any woman
you select will have a heart big enough for us both."

"If she hasn't, we won't take her into the firm," laughed Cosden.



       *       *       *       *       *

II

       *       *       *       *       *


Huntington was unusually preoccupied during the period of dinner. Even
when alone he was in the habit of making the evening meal a function, in
which his man Dixon and his cook took especial pride. But to-night the
words of praise or gentle criticism were lacking, one course succeeding
another mechanically without comment of any kind. When Dixon followed
him up-stairs to the library with coffee and liqueur he found him with
his _Transcript_ still unfolded lying in his lap; and, whatever may have
happened in the mean time, the same attitude of abstraction prevailed
when Dixon returned, three hours later, received his final instructions,
and was dismissed for the night. Cosden had undoubtedly dropped off into
that slumber which belongs by right to the man whose day has presented
him with a brilliant inspiration; but Huntington still sat alone,
absorbed in his own thoughts.

The chronicler has already intimated that Huntington was possessed of a
sentimental nature, but were he to stop there he would understate the
real truth. Huntington was exceedingly sentimental--far more so than he
himself realized, which made it natural that his friends should be
deceived. He was a bachelor not from choice, as he would have the world
think, but from circumstance, and the absence of home and wife and
children represented the one lack in an otherwise entirely satisfactory
career. It was the only thing his father had not provided for him, and
he himself had not possessed sufficient energy to take the initiative.

The conversation on the way home from the Club brought matters fairly
before Huntington's mental vision. One moment it seemed monstrous that
his friend of so many years' standing should deliberately announce his
intention of entering into an estate from which he himself must perforce
be barred, yet while the treachery seemed blackest Huntington found
himself acknowledging that it was the proper step for Cosden to take,
and admiring that characteristic which saved him from committing his own
mistake. Yet, if years before he had only--but herein lies the most
extraordinary evidence of Huntington's sentimentality. If the story were
told--and it can scarcely be called a story--it would begin and end like
Sidney Carton's in one long "what might have been."

It was the mention of the name quite as much as the subject of their
conversation which started in motion all that mysterious machinery which
forces the present far out of its proper focus, disregards the future,
and brings into the limelight those events of the past which the
intervening years have magnified. No one can really explain it, and the
wise make no attempt. "Marian Thatcher," Cosden had said. She was Marian
Seymour when he had known her, twenty-odd years before, and the Marian
he had known married a man named Thatcher right under the very noses of
the legion of admirers, himself included, who fluttered about her. Of
course it was only a coincidence, this combination of names, for the
girl Cosden spoke of was only twenty; but just as substances combined by
chemists in their laboratories begin to ferment and produce unwonted
conditions, so did the combination of those two names start in
Montgomery Huntington's brain that series of mental pictures which
caused him to forget that the hour had come when sane persons of his age
and disposition sought repose.

This was not the first time that he had thus outraged Nature, and for
the selfsame cause. Not a year of the more than twenty had passed
without at least one mental pilgrimage to the shrine which had become
more and more sacred as time piled itself on time. Satisfied that he
alone was awake in the house, Huntington rose and drew a small table
before his chair, and with a key taken from his pocket unlocked the
drawer. It was a curious performance at that hour of night, and he
seemed to be filled with guilty apprehensions, for he glanced from time
to time at the closely-curtained door as if fearing interruption. The
lock yielded readily and the contents of the drawer lay in front of him.
Then, before seating himself again, he laid a fresh log on the open
fire, turned off the lights, and resumed his favorite seat, with the
table and the open drawer before him, illumined only by the flickering
glare from the fireplace.

For a moment he threw himself back in his chair, shading his eyes with
his hand as if the mental picture was even more delectable than the
sight of the actual objects before him. Then he sat upright again, with
a deep sigh, and transferred from the open drawer to the top of the
table a most remarkable collection of articles, which seemed to belong
to any one else rather than to him.

There was a long white glove, which he reverently unfolded and placed at
the further edge of the table-top; there was a bunch of faded flowers,
the dried petals of which fell softly onto the white glove in spite of
the delicacy of his handling; there was a yellowed envelope, from which
he drew a brief note, read it word by word, shook his head sadly,
replaced the note in its covering, and laid the envelope tenderly on the
table beside its fellow-exhibits. A piece of pink ribbon followed the
envelope, and then--fie! Monty Huntington! where did you get it?--then
came a pink satin slipper; and the exhibition was complete.

The showman seemed well satisfied with what he saw before him, for he
reached across to his smoking-table and found as if by instinct a
well-burnt brier pipe, with stem of albatross wing, which he filled with
his own mixture of Arcady and puffed contentedly, his eyes fixed upon
the exhibits. Then the dim, flickering light and the incense of the
tobacco accomplished their transmogrification. No longer was he William
Montgomery Huntington, lawyer, man of affairs, director, trustee
and--bachelor; he was Monty Huntington, senior in Harvard College, back
in his rooms in Beck after his Senior Dance, stricken by the darts of
that roguish Cupid who shot his shafts from the soft tulle folds of the
gown worn that night by this same Marian, the casual mention of whose
name even now caused him to forget his age and position and the dignity
demanded in a bachelor of forty-five.

The cloud of fragrant smoke concealed the fact that the long white glove
was empty now; the flickering light made golden the words of the brief
note which thanked him for the evening which his escort had made so
wonderful a memory in a young girl's heart; the faded flowers were
things of color and fragrance, more sweetly redolent because they had
risen and fallen with her breath of life; the pink ribbon seemed to have
a dance-card at one end and to be tied to a graceful wrist at the other;
and the slipper--yes, the slipper--the dreamer smiled as he recalled the
fleeting figure which flew up the brownstone steps behind her chaperon
when he had last seen her, in playful fearfulness because he had managed
to whisper in her ear that she was the sweetest, dearest, most
bewitching maiden he had ever seen. The slipper had dropped off, and
remained in his possession by right of capture since the owner would not
come outside the door to claim her own.

He had intended to make this selfsame slipper the excuse for following
up what he was convinced was the romance of his life; but Marian Seymour
had already returned home to New York when he called three days later.
This was a disappointment, still at that moment it seemed but a
postponement after all, for he was sailing for Europe a fortnight hence
and could easily reach New York a day or two earlier than he had
planned. Thus far the idea was capital; but when the second call was
paid, with the pink slipper safely reposing in his pocket, he found that
the dainty foot to which the slipper belonged had stepped upon an ocean
steamer which sailed the day before.

Even this second misadventure failed to dampen his ardor. Good fortune
had arranged for him to follow in her direction, and surely, when once
upon the same continent, the slipper would be a lodestone of sufficient
potency to draw together two souls such as theirs. Yet he returned six
months later without having had the expected happen, and soon after
landing he learned of her engagement to a Mr. Thatcher.

There is a certain gratification which comes to the experienced man of
the world of twenty-two when he finds himself a martyr; and Monty
Huntington enjoyed this gratification to the utmost. He was
conscientious in believing himself to be wretchedly unhappy, but as a
matter of fact he had in the instant become a hero to himself. Women
were faithless: misogamists in prose and poetry had so chronicled the
fact, and he had already, at this early age, become the victim of their
perfidy. Marian Seymour should have known the depth of his love for her;
she should have known that he would have told her of his affection had
she given him the opportunity; and the mere fact that he had never so
declared himself was not of the slightest importance. She had
deliberately disregarded his impassioned though unexpressed sentiments
toward her, and had thrown herself away on a man he did not even know!

Fortunately, Time treats with kindly hand those tragedies which are
imagined as well as those which actually exist. Each year added to the
luster of the memory. Marian Seymour herself would not have recognized
her own face could Huntington have translated it out of the figments of
his mind upon the crude medium of canvas. And, be it said, had
Huntington come face to face with the original during these years, it is
doubtful whether he would have recognized her; for the idealization had
become absolutely real to him. No sculptor had ever modeled hand and arm
so perfect as that which the yellowed glove had held; no foot was ever
shaped with graceful line equal to that which once the satin slipper had
incased. The faithlessness of woman had long since been forgotten, and
the sanctity of this romance, which might have been, provided all the
details which it would otherwise have lacked. Each year made it more
real, until now there was no doubt about it. Other men worshiped at the
shrine of departed dear ones with no greater sincerity than did
Montgomery Huntington revere this near-romance of his life.

So, as he sat there, he was not the bachelor his friends considered him,
but rather a man bereft of wife and children. Cosden, knowing nothing of
this secret grief, had wantonly torn the veil aside and exposed the
wound. Yet, with the sorrow of the widower and the childless, there must
have come back to Huntington some memories which were not sad, for when
Dixon happened upon him in the morning, soundly sleeping in his
favorite chair with this curious exhibit before him, and with a pink
slipper firmly grasped within his hand, there was a smile as if of
happiness upon his face. And Dixon, discreet valet that he was, showed
no surprise, a half-hour later, when he found the table and its strange
contents carefully put away without his aid, or when his master summoned
him to his room, where he appeared to be just rising as usual from a
sleep as restful as it had been unportentous.



       *       *       *       *       *

III

       *       *       *       *       *


"Then I shall leave Bermuda feeling that my beautiful dream is wholly
incomplete."

Mrs. Henry Thatcher spoke with a degree of resignation, but her tone
signified that the apparent retreat was only to gain strength for a
final advance which was sure to gain her point. She knew that this
discussion with her husband would end as all their differences of
opinion ended, and so did he. Perhaps his opposition was the inevitable
expression of his own individuality which every married man likes to
make a pretense of preserving; perhaps it pleased him to see his wife's
half-playful, half-serious attack upon his own judgment in gently
forcing him into a position where her wishes became his desires.

"Better to have your dream incomplete than his privacy invaded," was the
apparently unmoved reply. "When an owner plants a sign, 'Private
Property,' conspicuously at the entrance to his estate, he is sure to
have some idea in the back of his head which is as much to be respected
as your curiosity is to be gratified."

"It is a compliment in itself that we wish to see the grounds," she
persisted; "the owner, whoever he is, could not consider it otherwise."

"A compliment which has evidently been repeated often enough to become a
nuisance--hence the sign."

Marian Thatcher sighed heavily as she threw herself back in the
victoria. Her husband was holding out longer than usual.

"I simply must see the view from that point," she declared; "and until I
can examine that gorgeous _bougainvillea_ at closer range I refuse to
return to New York."

"There!" laughed Edith Stevens, looking mischievously into Thatcher's
face, "that is what I call an ultimatum! Come, Ricky,"--speaking to her
brother--"let us walk back to the hotel. It will be humiliating to see
Marian disciplined in public!"

"You all are making me the scapegoat," Marian protested. "You know that
you are just as eager to get inside those walls as I am. Look!" she
cried, leaning forward in the carriage. "Isn't that-- Yes, it _is_ a
century plant, and it's in bloom! Oh, Harry! you wouldn't make me wait
another hundred years to see that, would you?"

"Let me be the dove of peace," Stevens suggested, manifesting unusual
comprehension and activity as he stepped out of the carriage. "I'll run
in and beard the jolly old lion in his den."

Thatcher shrugged his shoulders good-naturedly, Marian clapped her hands
with delight, and Edith Stevens smiled indulgently as they settled back
to await the result of the embassy.

This midwinter pilgrimage to Bermuda was the result of a sudden impulse
made while the Stevenses were their box-guests at the opera in New York
two weeks before. They had exhausted the superlatives forced from their
lips by the dramatic transformation from December to June--from ice and
snow to roses and oleanders; they had followed the beaten track,
touching elbows with the happy bride and the inquisitive traveler,
seeing the sights in true tourist fashion; they had passed through the
stage of quiet contentment, satisfied to sit on the broad sun-piazza of
the "Princess" in passive lassitude, watching others experience what
they had seen, learning the regulation forms of recreation indulged in
by those who settled down more permanently. From the same point of
vantage they had watched the great sails of the pleasure-boats pass so
close beside them that they could have tossed pennies upon their decks;
they saw the gorgeous sunsets behind Gibbs' Hill, with the ravishing
changes of color and light and shade thrown upon the myriad of tiny
islands scattered picturesquely throughout the bay.

Then the period of inaction turned into a desire to learn more deeply of
the beauties which the tourist never sees, and they poked through the
narrow "tribal" lanes and unfrequented roads on foot, on bicycles, or
_en voiture_, searching for the unexpected, and finding rich rewards at
the end of every quest. It was one of these expeditions which led them
to the highest rise of Spanish Point, where they stopped their carriage
before the entrance to a private estate, within the walls of which they
saw evidences of what the hand of man can do in supplementing Nature's
work.

Presently Stevens could be seen coming toward them, waving his hat as a
signal for their advance. The driver turned in through the gateway.

"He's a mighty decent sort," Stevens announced as he met the approaching
vehicle. "Can't make out whether he's English or American, but he
offered no objections whatever."

"There!" Marian cried triumphantly; "of course he feels complimented! If
his grounds were merely the commonplace no one would want to disturb his
'privacy,' as Harry calls it. Did you ever see such a spot?"

"Wonderful!" echoed Edith, equally impressed by the luxuriant bloom on
either side of the driveway. "Thank Heaven here is a man who knows how
not to vulgarize flowers."

As they reached the front of the coraline stone house the owner stepped
forward to greet them. He was a man of striking appearance, and his
visitors found their attention at once diverted from the beauty
surrounding them to the personality which manifested itself even in this
brief moment of their meeting. He was fairly tall, but slight, the
narrowness of his face being accentuated by the closely-cropped beard.
As he removed his broad panama he disclosed a heavy head of hair, well
turned to grey, which, with the darkness of his complexion, was set off
by the white doe-skin suit he wore. As he came nearer his visitors were
instinctively impressed by the expression of his face, for the high
forehead, the deep, restless, yet penetrating eyes, the refined yet
unsatisfied lines of the mouth, belonged to the ascetic rather than to
the cottager, to the spiritual seeker for the unattainable rather than
to the owner of an estate such as this.

"I am glad you discounted my apparent inhospitality," he said, with
pleasant dignity. "The tourists would overrun me if I did not take some
such measure to protect myself; but I am always glad to welcome any one
whose interest is more than curiosity."

"It is good of you to make a virtue out of our presumption," Marian
replied as their host assisted them to alight. Then their eyes met and
there was instant recognition.

"Philip!" she cried in utter amazement. "Is it possible that this is
you--here?"

The man bowed until his face almost touched the hand he still held, and
the surprise seemed for the moment to deprive him of power of speech. He
courteously motioned his guests to precede him through an arbor of
_poinsettia_ into a tropical garden on a cliff overhanging the water.

"Harry," Marian continued, still excited by her experience, "this is
Philip Hamlen--you've heard me speak so many times of him. My husband,
Mr. Thatcher, Philip," she added, as the two men shook hands; then she
presented him to the Stevenses.

Outwardly Hamlen showed none of the confusion which Marian so plainly
manifested. He was the self-contained host, seemingly interested in the
coincidence of the unexpected meeting, but by no means exercised over
it.

"Welcome to my Garden of Eden," he said, smiling, as the magnificent
expanse of cliff and sea greeted them--"thrice welcome, since to two of
us this is in the nature of a reunion."

It was a revelation even in spite of their expectations. Involuntarily
the eye first took in the turquoise water and the crumbling, broken
shore-line undershot by the caves formed by the pounding of centuries of
waves against the layers of animal formation. Except for the great
dry-dock and the naval barracks across the entrance to Hamilton Harbor,
all seemed as Nature had intended it.

Then, as the vision narrowed to its immediate surroundings, the visitors
realized how much art had accomplished in making the garden into which
their host had shown them seem so completely in harmony with the
brilliant setting of its location. They had thought of Bermuda as the
home of the Easter lily, not realizing that this is but a seasonal
incident; they could not have believed it possible to make the luxuriant
bloom of the tropical trees, shrubs, and flowers so subservient to the
beauty of their foliage, yet so marvelous a finish to the brilliancy of
the whole. The great rubber-tree extended its awkward branches in
exactly the right directions to add quaint picturesqueness; the
_poincianas_, as graceful as the rubber-tree was _gauche_, lifted their
smooth, bare branches like elephant trunks, from which the great leaves
hung down in magnificent clusters; the calabash, with its own ungainly
beauty, proved its right by exactly fitting into the landscape at its
own particular corner and the row of giant cabbage-palms stood like
sentinels, adding a quiet dignity suggestive of the East. Between these
and other massive trunks the smaller trees and flowering shrubs were
interspersed in so original and bewildering a manner that each glance
forced a new exclamation of delight. The night-blooming cereus crawled
like an ugly reptile in and out among the branches of the giant cedars,
but the bursting buds gave evidence that at nightfall they would redeem
the hideous suggestiveness of the trailing vine. Cacti and sago-palms
formed brilliant backgrounds for the lilies of novel shapes and colors,
and for the other flowers which vied with one another for preference in
the eye of their beholder.

The conversation was commonplace in its nature, and in it Marian took
little part. The vivacity which usually made her conspicuous in any
group had entirely left her. Her interest in the view from the Point and
in the magnificent vegetation had vanished, and her eyes followed Hamlen
as he indicated each special beauty to his guests. Edith Stevens was the
only one who sensed the unusual; the men were too discreet or too
occupied by the novelty of their experience.

"Do you mind, Harry," Marian said aloud, turning to her husband, "if the
gardener shows you around the grounds? It has been years since I last
saw Mr. Hamlen, and there are some matters I simply must talk over with
him."

Nothing Marian Thatcher asked or did ever surprised her husband or her
friends. The abruptness of the question, and the certainty she
manifested that her request would at once be complied with, were
characteristic. In the present instance, however, it was obvious that
the unexpected meeting touched some hidden spring which took her back to
a time in her life before they themselves had claims upon her, and they
respected her desire to be alone with her revived friendship. A few
moments later, with jocose chidings that she had appropriated for
herself the chief attraction of the estate, they moved off under the
guidance of the gardener, who was proud of the interest manifested in
the results of his work in carrying out his master's plans.

"Please don't come back for at least half an hour," Marian called after
them. Then she turned to her companion.

"So this is where you disappeared to?"

Hamlen bowed his head. He was not so careful now to conceal his
emotions, and it was evident that old memories were stirred within him,
as well.

"Could I have found a more beautiful exile?" he asked.

"How many years have you been here?" she demanded.

"I left New York the week following the announcement of your engagement
to Mr. Thatcher. Perhaps you can figure it out better than I. Time has
come to mean nothing to me here."

"That was in ninety-three," Marian said, reflecting,--"over twenty years
ago! You have been here ever since?"

Hamlen hesitated before he answered. "I have been back to the States
only once--when my father died. I have made short excursions to London,
to Paris, to Berlin, to Vienna; but the world is all the same, and I was
always glad to return here, to this retreat."

"Twenty years of solitude!" Marian repeated. "Don't tell me that it was
because of--"

"I came here because I wanted to get away from every old association,"
Hamlen interrupted hastily. "I settled down here because I loved this
beautiful island--and I love it still."

"But your friends, Philip--"

A tinge of bitterness crept into his voice. "Friends?" he repeated after
her. "What friends did I ever have whom I could regret to leave behind?"

"I know," she admitted, striving to ease the pain her words had
inflicted; "but your father--and your classmates."

"Yes--my father. I was wrong to leave him. Had I waited but two years
longer, I should have left behind me no ties of any kind. But the good
old pater understood me; he was the only one who ever did."

"Haven't you kept in touch with any one at home?"

"This is 'home,'" he corrected.

"Not for you, Philip," she insisted. "This is a Garden of Eden, as you
yourself called it, this is a dream life of sunshine and the fragrance
of flowers, this is the home of the lotus-eaters, for the present moment
enticing men--and women, too--away from the stern pursuits of life; but
it is not 'home' for such as you."

"I have found it all you say and more," Hamlen replied firmly; "but it
has not been the life of inactivity which you suggest. The very things
which tempted you to turn in here from your drive show that my years of
patient study and experiment have not been altogether in vain. Inside
the house I have my library, which can scarcely be equaled in the
States. There I keep up my work more assiduously than I could possibly
have done elsewhere. The literature of the past belongs to me, for I
have made it part of myself. I know Homer, Vergil, Dante, Shakespeare,
not as books only, but almost word for word. I can speak five languages
as well as my own. Is this the existence of the lotus-eater, Marian? Is
this merely the dream life of sunshine and of flowers?"

She looked at him long before replying. Then she rested her hand gently
upon his arm.

"It's the same Philip, isn't it?--the same old Philip who refused, over
twenty years ago, to recognize the real significance of life? The same
Philip--older, more refined by the chastening of time, more polished by
the refinement of accomplishment, but with his eyes still closed to the
difference between the means and the end."

The expression on Hamlen's face showed that he failed utterly to
comprehend.

"Why had you no friends to leave behind you?" she asked abruptly,
realizing the cruelty of her question, but determined to make him see
her point.

"Because no one understood me," he answered doggedly.

"Was it their failure to understand you, or your failure to give them
the opportunity?"

"Both, perhaps. I had no time to fritter away in college; most of the
men did."

"There you are! Can't you see what I mean? The particular things the
fellows did there were forgotten within twenty-four hours, but the
friendships formed while doing them have endured throughout their lives.
The 'things' were the means, the experience was the end. What
friendships can you have here?"

Instead of answering her, Hamlen rose and motioned silently that she
precede him through the arbor and up the path to the edge of the cliff.

"Do you think I can be lonely while I hear the surge of that great ocean
upon my shore?" he demanded. "Do you think I miss the friendships which
so often bring sorrow in their wake while I can conjure up from the past
the most glorious friends the world has ever known, visit with them,
argue over my pet theories, and give them all this setting here whose
counterpart can never be surpassed?"

She smiled sadly in reply. "You have built your life upon the same basis
as this island itself," she said--"upon the foundations of what is dead
and past. You have argued with yourself until you have come to believe
the fallacy you preach--that you, an Anglo-Saxon, can be content with
such a life as this. Are you true to your responsibilities? Are you--"

"What do I owe the world?" he interrupted. "I ask from it nothing but
peace and solitude, and surely even the most insignificant has a right
to that without incurring responsibilities. Why, Marian, I stand here
upon this Point, as the little steamers leave their trail of smoke
behind them, and thank God that for one day, three days, a week, we are
cut off from the world. There is nothing I love so much as this
separation from my fellow-men."

"Then how fortunate, after all--" she began, but he interrupted her.

"That is another story," he insisted. "I am speaking of what life means
to me to-day, not what it might have meant under other circumstances."

They strolled slowly back into the garden and settled themselves upon a
stone seat which commanded a superb view of the surrounding country. It
was her heart rather than her eyes which controlled Marian now, and she
saw before her nothing but this man-grown boy, who at an earlier time in
her life had exercised an absorbing influence upon her. It was her
heart, still loyal to the friendship which remained, struggling to find
the right word which should start in motion the machinery to bring the
latent potentiality into action.

"Your ideas are no different now than then," she said at length, "except
that time has intensified them. You used to compare what you found in
books with what you found in life, to the distinct disadvantage of the
realities."

"Yes," Hamlen admitted; "and it is just as true to-day."

"Do you know why?" she demanded pointedly.

"Because life is so full of insincerity."

"No," she protested, "you are wrong, absolutely wrong. The real reason
lies in you. You have always given of yourself in your intellectual
pursuits, and have received in kind. In your relations with life you
have never given of yourself, and again you have received in kind.
Philip, Philip! why don't you study yourself as you do your books, and
even now learn the lesson you need to know?"

"Was that why--back there--" he began.

She paused for a moment as the conversation took her back to the earlier
days.

"You thought me changeable," she evaded the question; "but for that you
yourself were responsible. You drew me to you with irresistible force,
then repelled me by your intolerance of all those lighter interests
which were natural to youth of our age. Your letters stimulated my
ambition, your conversation stirred in me all that was best; but as soon
as we were separated I felt a lack which for a long time I was unable to
understand."

"Why did you come," he asked, "to awaken these memories I have tried so
hard to forget?" but she seemed not to hear him.

"Then I realized what a dream it was," she continued. "Music to you
meant canon and fugue, counterpoint and diminished sevenths; to me it
was the invitation to dance. You had no friends, and I was frightened
by your willingness to be alone. You had nothing in common with me
or my friends; you gave my heart nothing to feed upon except
intellect--intellect, and I found myself one moment beneath its hypnotic
influence, the next striving to break away from its oppression. Perhaps
this was what you had in mind, Philip, that we two run off to some
island such as this, to spend our lives in Utopia, alone except for
ourselves and your books."

"For me, that would have been all I could have asked."

"But no one, Philip, can live on that alone. We need to draw from our
companionship with others in order to give of it to each other. And you
forget"--she smiled mischievously--"that when Aristotle begins to bore
you he can be placed back upon the shelf. You couldn't do that with a
wife! Admit, dear friend, that I or any other woman would have made you
utterly wretched."

"I will admit that of any woman other than you."

They rose as by mutual impulse and strolled about the garden for several
moments in silence, the thoughts of each centered upon the past.

"See this wild honey." Hamlen touched the curiously formed leaf. "It
took me months to make it twine about that tree."

"How long would it have taken to make a baby's fingers twine about your
heart?" Marian asked meaningly.

A twinge of pain shot across his face. "Have you--children?" he asked.

"Forgive me, Philip," she answered contritely. "Yes," in answer to his
question; "a daughter, whom you shall meet at the hotel, and a big,
strapping son. He's a senior at Harvard now, and his name is--Philip."

Hamlen suddenly seized her hand and pressed it to his lips. "Your
husband won't begrudge me that," he said, with a quaver in his voice.

"Thank God!" Marian cried unexpectedly. "It is a relief to find even a
small defect in that intellectual armor of yours! Philip, you are a
humbug, and you deceive no one but yourself! It is not solitude which
you love, it is not friendship which you despise; it is simply that you
have made a virtue out of a condition which exists because you don't
know how to change it. Let me help you now."

"How can the leopard change his spots?" he demanded incredulously.

"Go back with us when we sail for New York week after next. Leave things
here just as they are, and keep this wonderful spot as a retreat when
life becomes too strenuous. Harry and I will return here with you if you
wish us to, and will introduce so many serpents into your Garden of Eden
that you'll relegate us to the cliff while you take refuge in your
library. But between now and that time go back with us into that life
which is your life. Place yourself where you can feel the competition of
what goes on about you. Try pushing against the current, and learn the
joy of contact with something which opposes. Study the people around
you, and make friends--it's not too late, with your splendid personality
and with me to show you how. Come and get acquainted with your namesake.
Help him to learn from you what you can teach him better than any one I
know, and learn from him what his youthfulness can teach you. Will you
do it, Philip? Will you let this wonderful work you've done here be the
means and not the end? Will you put your accomplishments where they can
be of value, instead of hoarding them, as a miser does his gold?"

He stood watching her wonderful animation as she spoke with a conviction
which swept him off his feet. In the past she had listened to him, and
he could but be conscious of the domination which his mind had held over
hers; now he knew their positions to be reversed. Was this what the
world had given her? And the boy--Philip, named after him. Why was it
that the lessons he had taught himself during all these years proved so
inadequate to combat the yearning which he felt within him?

Marian was not slow to sense the conflict in his heart, nor to follow up
her advantage.

"What have you really accomplished, Philip?" she asked quietly. "Be
generous in sharing your splendid development with us."

"I could not give this up," he protested.

"Of course you couldn't, and you should not," she assented. "Give up
nothing, but simply add to what you have by assimilating from others. I
want you to know my husband, my children, and my friends, and I want
them to know you. Say that you will return with us, Philip."

He gazed at her helplessly, then turned his head aside. The emotion
against which he had fought for twenty years had escaped from his
control, and he was ashamed that another should see what he knew his
face betrayed.

"It is impossible," he said, when he was himself again; "it would not be
fair."

"To whom?" she demanded.

"To you--or to your husband--"

"Nonsense! We all understand one another too well for that! It is the
boy who needs you and whom you need."

Hamlen turned to her again. "The boy," he repeated after her--"Philip!
You would let him come into my life?"

"I desire nothing so much," she answered resolutely, a great joy surging
in her heart as she seemed to see the barrier between him and life
crumbling before her attack.

"Would the boy permit it? I might not be able--"

"Let me be judge of that," she smiled.

The man passed his hand wearily over his eyes as Mrs. Thatcher watched
his uncertainty with fearfulness and yet with eager expectancy. She knew
that she could say no more, that there was danger in bringing further
pressure upon this spirit already extended to its extremest tension; and
yet she longed to take advantage of what she had gained in awakening the
latent human element and in disturbing the complacency which habit had
established upon premises so false.

"Oh, Marian!" Hamlen cried at length, in a voice so full of suffering
that it staggered her; "the world is not to be trusted even when you
hold it up so temptingly before me. It always has been false and always
will be so for me. Each time I have given it the chance it has struck me
a harder blow than before. No, Marian, I can't expose myself again. If I
could make myself a part of some one else--if this boy-- No, no! I
couldn't take the risk. You mustn't ask me. You mean it kindly, but--"

"Trust me," Marian said softly. "Come," she continued, nodding in the
direction of the returning party. "I will tell Harry that you are dining
with us to-night at the 'Princess.'"



       *       *       *       *       *

IV

       *       *       *       *       *


It was in the long, spacious dining-room of the "Princess" that Cosden
pointed out the Thatcher party to Huntington, and Hamlen was with them.
Naturally enough Huntington's eyes first rested on the girl's face, and
in it he found enough that was reminiscent to cause a start. It was
Marian Seymour as she must have looked when he knew her, but not at all
as he had come to think of her during the intervening years. How
ridiculously young she was! But Huntington had discovered that young
people were getting to look younger every year now. It almost annoyed
him, whenever he went to Cambridge to straighten out some mix-up of
nephew Billy's, to see how much smaller and younger the students were
to-day than when he was there. He remembered distinctly that he and his
mates had been men when he was in college; but the present generation
was made up of youngsters who should not be allowed abroad without their
nurses.

Miss Thatcher, whom Cosden pointed out to him, came within the same
category. She carried herself with a dignity not always seen in girls of
her age, but she was undeniably young. Then his glance passed from her
to the older woman whom he took to be her mother, and he found himself
guilty of staring shamelessly. This was undoubtedly the Marian Seymour
of sainted memory, now delightfully matured into an extremely attractive
matron of thirty-eight or forty. The slight figure had changed but
little from what he remembered; the face still showed traces of its
former mischievous vivacity, even though it had become more decorous.
Such changes as he saw were only those which come in the natural
development of a charming girl into a well set-up woman of the world. So
this was the genius who would have presided over his household if he had
happened to find her at home upon either of those two momentous
occasions, or if he had happened to discover her in Europe on that
eventful trip and had happened to tell her of his devotion, and,
incidentally, she had happened to respond to his declaration of undying
affection.

His inspection was as complete and analytic as the distance between the
two tables would permit. She was a fascinating woman, he acknowledged,
and yet--she was so different from what he had pictured her. The wife
with whom he had mentally lived these twenty years he himself had
created out of the all-too-scanty materials of memory, added to
substantially by what his imagination had skilfully selected of what he
thought she ought to be. He had not been more successful in his creation
than Nature herself, he was forced to admit, but while looking at Mrs.
Thatcher he experienced the mortifying sensation of being a
self-convicted bigamist.

Curiously, he had never thought of her as growing older along with him.
His glance returned to the daughter's face, and in it he found a closer
semblance to what his mind had pictured. She was more mature than her
mother had been, yet she possessed many of the same physical
characteristics. Was it possible that she might have been his daughter?
Here came the third distinct shock. For the first time he had something
against which to measure his own age, and involuntarily he touched his
heavy head of hair to reassure himself that baldness, that advertisement
of advancing years, had not overtaken him in the moment.

"Well," Cosden interrupted his reveries; "I'm waiting to hear your first
impressions."

Huntington started guiltily, as if his friend had witnessed the
gymnastics his mind had executed. It was natural that Cosden, being
nearest to him, should come in for the force of the reaction.

"How do you suppose I can express an opinion on a girl half-way across a
room the size of this?" he answered with as much asperity as ever crept
into the evenness of his tone.

Cosden looked up surprised. "Why, Monty!" he expostulated, "don't get
peevish!"

"Don't bother me with foolish questions," was the ungracious rejoinder.
"I'm studying the situation. Later I'll give you my impressions."

"But you've seen her," Cosden persisted. "What do you think of the
perspective?"

"She is very young," Huntington replied, regaining his composure and
realizing that to fall in with Cosden's mood was easier than to explain
his own.

"She's twenty--just the right age for a man thirty-eight," was the
complacent reply. "I've figured it all out. A woman grows old faster
than a man, and eighteen years is just the proper handicap."

"Which is her husband?" Huntington asked.

"Her husband?" Cosden repeated after him.

"I mean her mother's husband," Huntington corrected hastily; "which one
is Mr. Thatcher?"

"The man with the smooth face; I don't know the others. We'll meet them
later."

As the party left the dining-room Mr. Thatcher recognized Cosden and
fell behind to greet him.

"Well met!" he exclaimed cordially, after being presented to Huntington.
"It is a relief to see some one I know. Down here on a vacation trip, I
suppose?"

"Why--yes," Cosden hesitated, seeing some deeper meaning behind the
bromidic question; "that is, I thought so until I saw you. Now I'm not
quite sure."

Thatcher laughed. "I had the same idea, but I can't seem to get away
from business; it pursues me! I've stumbled onto something--not very
tremendous, but still it may be a good thing. I'd be glad to have you
look it over with me if you care to. We'll discuss it later if you don't
object to talking shop during leisure hours."

Cosden's face assumed that keen, resourceful expression which his
friends knew so well. "I'm never too much at leisure to discuss
business," he said.

"Good! Now, when you and Mr. Huntington have finished dinner, join us on
the piazza and we'll all have our coffee together."

Huntington looked at his friend significantly as Thatcher moved away. "I
didn't come down here on a business trip," he suggested.

"It won't interfere with you at all," Cosden reassured him. "Thatcher is
a big man, and has a good eye for things. What he has in mind may be
well worth looking into."

"So long as you don't let it divert us from our main purpose I won't
object," Huntington conceded gravely; "but the spirit of the chase is on
me, and I can't mix sport and business. This is the first time I have
ever approached a girl from a matrimonial point of view, even
vicariously. I'm beginning to enjoy it and I refuse to be thrown off the
scent."

       *       *       *       *       *

There is no moon like a Bermuda moon. The contrast between its soft yet
brilliant light--as it fell first upon the harbor, throwing the islands
into silhouette, then flooding the piazza--and the electric glare, out
of which the two men stepped ten minutes later, made a deep impression
upon Huntington. The eyes of his friend, however, were focused upon the
little party, chatting merrily about the table, awaiting their arrival.

"I had them postpone our coffee," Thatcher explained as he presented
Cosden to the Stevenses and to Hamlen, and Huntington to each. "We shall
enjoy it the more for having you with us."

Huntington found himself sitting between the daughter and Hamlen, while
Cosden sat next to Mrs. Thatcher across the table. There had been no
recognition, and Huntington was glad of it; he preferred to introduce
the subject in his own way and at his own time. The girl, however, had
already discovered a bond.

"Aren't you Billy Huntington's uncle?" she asked.

"Yes," he admitted; "but where in the world did you meet him?"

"He is a particular friend of my brother Philip's," she explained.
"Philip is a year ahead of him at Harvard, you know, but they are great
pals. My brother always has him at the house whenever he's in New York."

"Well, well!" laughed Huntington. "The young rascal never told me
anything about it! But wait a minute--Phil Thatcher--why, of course!
Billy has had him in to dine with me several times. So he's your
brother!"

"Yes; I was sure I was right," she smiled. "We're friends already,
aren't we?"

"We are," Huntington acquiesced gravely; "and I shall do something
particularly nice for Billy to show my appreciation of what he has done
for me."

Mrs. Thatcher caught the general drift of her daughter's conversation,
and she leaned across the table.

"Are you not a Harvard man, Mr. Huntington?" she asked. "If so, you and
Mr. Hamlen must have been in college at about the same time."

"Yes," Huntington replied; and turning to Hamlen he gave the year of his
graduation.

"That was my Class also," was the reply; but there was nothing in
Hamlen's manner to invite reminiscence.

"Hamlen--Philip Hamlen," Huntington repeated meditatively. "I don't
believe we knew each other, did we? But the name is familiar. I have it!
You are the lost Philip Hamlen our Class Secretary has been searching
for; I have seen the name in the list of missing men each time a Class
Report has been issued. You must send him your history, my dear fellow.
We're proud of our Class, and we don't want to lose sight of a single
member."

There was a bitterness in Hamlen's voice as he replied. "My history
would interest no one; it is better that I remain among the 'missing
men.'"

Huntington sensed at once what lay behind his classmate's response. "No
college graduate can afford to do that," he expostulated. "Whether one
wishes it so or not, he has accepted a heritage which carries with it
responsibilities, and these force him to his capacity for the honor of
his Class and of his Alma Mater."

Mrs. Thatcher was following the conversation not only with interest, but
with a certain degree of anxiety.

"Mr. Huntington is right, Philip," she added; "you know that he is
right."

Hamlen moved uneasily in his chair. "It is curious how much more
interested our classmates become in us after we separate than while we
are together in college," he said significantly.

"Why is it curious?" Huntington persisted. "Why is it not the natural
sequence of events?"

"You could not understand." Hamlen spoke with rising emotion. "You had
everything in college; I had nothing. You remember my name only because
you've seen it listed amongst the 'missing men'; but I knew you the
moment I saw you. Back there you were Monty Huntington, manager of the
crew, member of all the exclusive societies, in everything, a part of
everything. Your classmates courted your acquaintance, and the four
years at Cambridge meant something to you. To me they meant nothing
except what I learned in the class-rooms. You as an alumnus owe all that
you say to the Class and to the Alma Mater, for both gave you much; I
owe them nothing, for they gave me nothing."

"My dear fellow!" Huntington expostulated hastily, "forgive me for
touching on so tender a subject; yet I am glad I did, for it is only
fair that you let me set you right. The college world is a small one,
and its citizens are young, untried boys. They are sometimes selfish and
cruel and unreasonable without meaning it, while they are enjoying what
is to most of them their first freedom, and they are trying to conduct
themselves like full-grown men. There are heartburns which at the time
seem tragedies. Then the undeveloped citizens of this little world, the
biggest of them, pass out into the great world, for which the college
life is only a training-school, and become infinitesimal parts of it.
There the ratio becomes readjusted. What seemed essentials--like the
clubs, for instance, or athletics--become non-essentials as the men look
back upon them; become simply pleasant memories of delightful
companionship. The next few years represent the real trying-out period,
and each member of the Class measures up his fellow-members by what they
have done since college. The mere fact of being members of the same
Class is the bond. I don't care what you did in college, Hamlen; but I
sha'n't let you get away from me until you tell me what you've done
since, or until you promise that I shall see you when next you come to
Boston. The fact that I didn't know you in college makes me the more
keen to know you now."

"I thank you a thousand times!" Mrs. Thatcher cried impulsively. "What
you have said in five minutes will do more to set Mr. Hamlen right than
weeks of argument from me. I found him to-day in a veritable paradise
which he has built here, and where he has lived alone practically since
he left college. I am trying to persuade him to come back into the world
again, and you can help me to accomplish it."

Hamlen was visibly affected by Huntington's cordiality. "This has been a
bewildering day," he said. "For over twenty years I have lived alone,
nursing a resentment toward college and life in general until it has
come to be a religion. This afternoon Mrs. Thatcher finds me
unexpectedly and begins to batter down my defenses; now Mr. Huntington,
without realizing it, attempts to complete the demolition. Don't wonder
that I'm not myself to-night; but I thank my classmate for what he has
said, just as I thank Mrs. Thatcher for her earlier efforts."

"Mr. Huntington," Thatcher remarked, "you have given Stevens and me a
new idea of the value of a college degree. I wasn't especially keen
about having my boy go to college, but now, by George! I wouldn't have
it otherwise."

"Huntington is a living propagandum for Harvard," Cosden said lightly,
realizing the desirability of leading the conversation into a less
serious channel. "My degree represents simply an additional tool to use
in carving out success, to him it means idolatry. If Huntington's house
was on fire, I should expect to see him climbing down the firemen's
ladder in his pink pajamas with his precious sheepskin under his arm
carried as tenderly as a mother would a child."

"Oh, you may make light of it," Huntington replied good-naturedly, "but
Hamlen and I are treading on sacred ground. The one weakness of college
life is that the opportunities it offers come before we are competent to
appreciate or embrace them. That is what brings about the condition
which he has misunderstood. It would be much better if we all could have
two years of college when we're seventeen and the other two when we're
forty."

The conversation drifted into smoother channels, but by the time the
party separated the acquaintance had developed to a point far beyond an
ordinary first meeting. Underneath it different elements were at work in
each one's mind and heart, put in motion by the unexpected intensity of
almost the earliest words which had been exchanged. Hamlen was the first
to leave. He said good-night casually to the group, but managed to
separate Huntington from the others.

"You have done much for one of your classmates to-night," he said
simply. "I thank you for it."

"Nonsense!" Huntington protested. "I'm more than delighted to have this
opportunity to know you--and I want to know you better."

"Will you come to my villa some day this week?"

Hamlen seemed to hang expectantly upon the answer.

"Of course," Huntington replied promptly. "If you hadn't asked me, I
should have come anyhow. It's an inherent right which I demand."

Hamlen pressed his hand and turned to Mrs. Thatcher, who walked with him
to the door.

"I don't know whether to thank you or to curse you, Marian," he said
feelingly in a low voice. "Through you I have had more interjected into
my life in this single day than in the twenty-odd years which have
passed by. Is this the dawn of a to-morrow or the epitome of human
suffering? Are you my Genius or my Nemesis? Before God I ask the
question seriously. I myself cannot answer it."

"Don't try," she answered, smiling; "let Time do that!"



       *       *       *       *       *

V

       *       *       *       *       *


Cosden had been sitting on the hotel piazza half an hour when "Merry"
Thatcher emerged from the dining-room, gazed about the almost total
vacancy as if looking for some one, and then advanced, recognizing in
the solitary smoker an acquaintance of the night before.

"I'm always the first one," she complained after greeting him. "We're
going sailing this morning, but I might have known that no one else
would be down for breakfast at anywhere near the appointed time."

"Why not cheer me up while you're waiting?" Cosden suggested. "I formed
the habit of early rising years ago when I had to do it; now that I
don't have to, the habit still sticks."

"Mr. Huntington hasn't appeared yet?" she inquired.

Cosden laughed, and then looked at his watch. "When you come to know Mr.
Huntington better you will admire his mathematical precision: he is
never late, but he never arrives a moment earlier than is necessary. The
breakfast hour is over at nine-thirty; at nine-fifteen you will observe
the gentleman leisurely strolling in the direction of his table, with
every detail of his morning dress perfectly adjusted, as if the world
had placed all its time at his disposal, when in reality he can just get
his order in and have it served hot."

The girl smiled at the description of his friend. "Not many men are so
dependable," she commented.

"There is only one William Montgomery Huntington," Cosden admitted
cheerfully. "It would be exactly the same if the closing of the
breakfast room was four-thirty instead of nine-thirty."

The smile on her face changed to a deeper expression as she looked out
across the harbor. She turned to Cosden suddenly.

"Wasn't he splendid last evening when he talked about the
responsibilities of college life! For the first time I wished I were a
boy!"

"He is a very intense person on some subjects; that happens to be one of
them."

The girl could not fail to interest Cosden, even if he were not already
attracted by his previous slight acquaintance, for the present mood
showed her at her best. The nickname "Merry," given to distinguish the
younger Marian from her mother, scarcely served as a descriptive
appellation, for underneath the girlish vivacity ran a serious vein
which gave her unusual poise, and made her seem older than she was. To
Cosden she appeared at that moment the embodiment of attractive
girlhood, for the big panama, almost encircling her face, well set off
the dark hair and the sympathetic brown eyes, while the color which
plainly showed in her cheeks, despite the depth of the complexion, gave
just the touch needed to heighten the effect. The soft lines of the
white flannel skirt and the pink silk sweater disclosed the youth and
litheness of the figure. Cosden was surprised to find himself noticing
these details so carefully, and accepted the fact as evidence that his
interest in the girl was even deeper than he had supposed.

"I love intensity in men," she said simply; "so many seem ashamed to
show it no matter how strongly they may feel!"

"That is due to the training of life," Cosden explained, caring little
what direction the conversation took so long as they became better
acquainted. "The higher up you go, the greater the repression. Diplomacy
is the climax of gentlemanly concealment of one's real feelings, and the
art among arts of courteous insincerity. In business, of course, there's
a reason--"

"Can't a man be sincere in business?" she asked, looking at him with
eyes so deep and straightforward in their expression that he found the
question disconcerting.

"Why,--of course," he stumbled; "but 'sincerity' isn't exactly a
business expression. If I let you know by my manner that I was eager to
buy something which you wanted to sell, or to sell something you wanted
to buy, it would naturally affect the price, wouldn't it?"

"Ought it to?" she persisted. "Why isn't that taking advantage?"

Cosden smiled indulgently. "Some time, if you like, I will give you a
learned discourse on values and what affects them, but anything so
erudite now would take your mind off the gaieties of your sailing
trip."

"Will you?" Merry exclaimed delighted. "Father always makes fun of me
when I ask serious questions. I am sure I should hate business, because
it seems always to be a question of taking advantage of some one else;
but I should like to know something about it."

"You don't approve of taking advantage of some one else?"

"It is exactly the opposite of what we are taught to consider right,
isn't it?"

"How about bargain-sales when you are home?" Cosden asked with apparent
innocence. "Do you ever patronize them?"

"Why, yes," Merry replied frankly; "I frequently wait for them when I
want some particular thing, and my allowance is running low."

Cosden laughed outright. "If consistency were really a jewel, then would
woman go unadorned!"

"How in the world are you going to twist what I said into an
inconsistency?"

"I'll let you make the demonstration yourself. Here is the problem: a
dealer, believing a demand to exist for a certain article, lays in a
stock to supply that demand. If you, and other dear ladies who really
intend to buy the article, purchased when he first offered it for sale,
his estimate of the demand would have been correct. But you all have
learned the habits of the shops, so instead of rushing to his counters
you play 'possum until the dealer really believes that he has
over-estimated the demand, and down goes the value to him and
consequently the price to you. Then you rush frantically from your
lairs and secure the article you have really wanted from the beginning
at a bargain price. Don't you admit that you are taking advantage of the
dealer?"

"Oh, you men do put things in such a disagreeable way!" Merry laughed.
"We have to do that to protect ourselves against the outrageous prices
they charge in the first place."

"It's all a game," Cosden said seriously, "and a mighty fascinating one.
So long as you stick to the rules you may bluff all you choose, and the
best bluffer takes the blue chips."

"I'm sure I should hate it," Merry repeated. "I'm going to learn to be a
teacher, so that if some one outbluffs father I can fall back upon a
respectable pursuit."

"Even then you'll still be in the bluffing game," chuckled Cosden.
"Think of the knowledge a teacher has to assume which he doesn't
possess!"

"Oh, dear!" she exclaimed in despair. "Why be an iconoclast? You leave
me nothing but matrimony--"

"The worst bluff of all," interrupted Huntington, stepping forward from
behind their chairs, immaculate in white flannels and a panama which
rivaled Merry's. "Seeing Mr. Cosden in an academic mood, I could not
resist the temptation to snare the nuggets of wisdom which fell from his
lips. This must be my excuse for eavesdropping."

"There he is," Cosden said significantly to Merry. "You'd never dream
that he'd come within an ace of missing his breakfast, would you?"

"Missing what?" Huntington demanded. "In what little pleasantry has my
friendly critic been indulging himself?"

"Let the critic answer for himself," Cosden retorted. "I predicted to
Miss Thatcher the exact moment when you would appear, thus proving
myself a prophet."

"You take yourself too seriously, Connie. You're no prophet, nor even
the son of a prophet; you're simply a good observer. Some men run a
block and then wait five minutes for a car; I learned years ago that it
was wiser to walk deliberately to the white post and arrive there at the
precise moment. But I don't let that car get away from me, my friend."

"If my memory serves me right, Mr. Huntington, you were not always so
deliberate," remarked Mrs. Thatcher significantly.

Huntington looked up quickly, unaware until then that the other late
breakfasters had followed so closely on his heels.

"The night has been telling tales," he said.

"It was stupid of me not to recognize you before," she answered.

"Do you and Mother know each other?" Merry asked, much interested in the
new turn of the conversation.

"Your mother," said Huntington gravely, "did me the honor to accept my
escort to our Senior Dance--I won't tell you how many years ago. She
deliberately broke my heart, sailed away to Europe, and then returned
and married your father, just out of pique. Now that you know the story
of my life, I ask you, why should I accelerate my motions, as my
captious companion seems to think I should, when your mother's quixotic
conduct deprived me years ago of all possible incentive?"

"Then you are really the Monty Huntington I knew!" Mrs. Thatcher
exclaimed. "I was sure of it when you spoke of your Class to Philip
Hamlen."

"I was sure it was you before you spoke at all," he said quietly. "I
recognized an aroma the moment I came into your presence--"

"An aroma?" Mrs. Thatcher interrupted questioningly.

"I know not whether it was fragrance or reminiscence, but either is
equally sweet."

Huntington's gallantry, half assumed, half real, as it seemed to those
who heard his words, passed simply as a pleasantry with all except
Cosden, who knew his friend too well not to recognize the presence of
something deeper beneath the lightly spoken expressions. But Thatcher's
voice brought him back from his surmises.

"We are counting on you both to join us," he insisted. "Our party will
be incomplete without you."

"Please come," Mrs. Thatcher added. "For the last twenty-four hours I
have been renewing all my girlhood friendships, and poor Edith Stevens
here hasn't had a chance even to express an opinion. That for Edith is
real self-sacrifice."

"Edith is sitting back and learning a thing or two," Miss Stevens
retorted calmly.

"Do come and give her a chance to demonstrate," Mrs. Thatcher appealed.

"I suppose bachelors are as necessary to the demonstration as
guinea-pigs to the laboratory," Huntington said. "Come on, Connie; let
us take a chance."

No truer statement had ever been made in jest than that the previous
twenty-four hours had been a period of self-sacrifice to Edith Stevens.
She was younger than Mrs. Thatcher, and their friends accused them of
accepting each other as foils to accentuate their contrasting
characteristics. Miss Stevens was slight and erect, and was always
gowned with a taste and skill which gave her an air of distinction; her
friend possessed such striking fascination of person and manner that she
gave distinction to any fashion she might adopt. Mrs. Thatcher's
activities accomplished results; Edith's seemed simply the expression of
an eternal unrest. The younger woman's hair was light, and her eyes
blue, while Mrs. Thatcher was a perfect brunette; and the approach of
the two women to the same subject was always from a different
standpoint. Yet they had been the closest of friends from school days.

Except with Marian, Edith, as a rule, dominated the situation at all
times. Now, however, she found herself absolutely side-tracked, while
her friend occupied the center of the stage in the interesting character
of past or present object of admiration from three perfectly good men.
Men were a hobby with Edith Stevens. Her brother feelingly remarked that
the only reason she never married was that no individual male possessed
the composite attributes she demanded. To be one of three women,
surrounded by five men, and not to be able to command the attention of
any one of them except her brother was nothing less than irony. She had
tried flirting with Thatcher years before, and had long since given him
up in despair; Hamlen was annexed by Marian before she had even a chance
to compete, and of the two remaining eligibles Huntington suddenly
confessed himself a part of the flotsam her friend had left behind in
her beblossomed path toward the altar.

"Take one more look at Mr. Cosden, Marian," she said maliciously, as the
little party walked slowly down the steps toward the yacht. "Perhaps he,
too, was an early admirer."

Mrs. Thatcher laughed. "No," she reassured her, "I'm sure he never
crossed my horizon until last night. I'll renounce all claims on him,
but don't you set your cap for Philip Hamlen; I have other plans for
him."

"Where is Mr. Hamlen?" Edith demanded. "Didn't you invite him?"

"No," Marian replied quickly. "It would be cruel not to give him time to
recover his balance after yesterday. Heigh ho!" she sighed. "I wonder
whether I'm glad or sorry that I found him here."

"I've been waiting for a report on that reunion," Edith said
suggestively. "I haven't forgotten the letters which we used to read
together years ago."

"Weren't they wonderful?" Marian exclaimed. Then she added, after a
pause, "I don't believe I realized until yesterday the depth of
suffering which a sensitive soul can reach."



       *       *       *       *       *

VI

       *       *       *       *       *


The sailing-party disembarked at the landing steps of the "Princess"
shortly after six o'clock, and were greeted by a tall young man whose
face was almost concealed by the broad brim of his hat, turned down as
if to protect its owner from possible prostration from the sun. At the
opposite end of the young man the white trouser-legs were turned up at
least two laps higher than would have been expected, so that hat and
trousers together made a normal average. Below the turn-up of the
trousers showed a considerable expanse of white-silk hosiery,
terminating in spotless white buckskin shoes; below the down-turned
hat-brim was a grin which extended well across the boyish face.
Altogether, the young man warranted the attention he attracted.

The skipper made so perfect a landing that the identity of those on
board was disclosed only at the last moment; but the single glance the
young man had was sufficient to reassure him, and he stepped forward
eagerly.

"Hello, everybody!" he cried cheerfully. "Wish you Happy New-Year!"

Merry was the first to grasp the significance of the excitement. "Why,
it's Billy Huntington!" she exclaimed.

"Of course," he admitted, still grinning; "who else would charge down
here like a young dace just for the pleasure of wishing you the
compliments of the season?"

The young man paused long enough to assist the ladies over the rail,
with a greeting to each.

"There's your uncle," Merry said, nodding in the direction of the men;
"don't you recognize him?"

"Surest thing you know," Billy answered, still hanging back. "I'm
waiting to see if he will recognize me, under all the circumstances."

"Come here, you young rascal," Huntington responded to the implied
question as he stepped on the pier; "come here and give an account of
yourself."

"Well," Billy replied slowly, clinging to the extended hand as a refuge,
"you see I didn't know Mr. Cosden came down with you, and it was
vacation, and I thought you'd be awfully lonely here without me--"

"I see," his uncle said dryly; "it was all on my account."

Billy seemed to feel the necessity of further explanation. "Of course I
knew Merry--the Thatchers were here. Phil told me--"

"Too bad Philip couldn't have come with you," Mrs. Thatcher remarked.

"Yes; he went up to the Lawrences' house-party for over Christmas as he
planned."

"How did you leave your worthy parents?" Huntington inquired.

A look of dismay passed over the boy's face. "I forgot to telegraph them
from New York, and I meant to cable just as soon as I arrived." Then an
expression of relief came to his assistance: "But they'll know I'm with
you--somewhere."

Huntington sighed. "Another reckoning for me when I return!" he said
resignedly; "but it's worth it all to know that you 'charged down here
like a young dace' as soon as you realized your poor uncle's 'awful
loneliness.'"

"Then it was you who tried to signal us from the tender?" Merry came to
his rescue.

"Yes; I thought it was you; I wigwagged until I almost plunged
overboard. I've got to go back Monday, to reach Cambridge in time to
register, so I hated to lose a whole day out of three."

"There's one thing about a college education which Mr. Huntington didn't
mention last evening," Thatcher remarked to Cosden as they walked toward
the bar for the anteprandial cocktail; "it gives a boy freedom of action
and breadth of imagination."

"Huntington left out a whole lot of things he might have touched on,"
Cosden said testily. "That's a topic on which we don't agree, and never
shall. There is a boy with many sterling qualities going to waste
because Monty has more wishbone than backbone in the matter of
discipline."

"Don't get started on that, Connie," Huntington's voice came from the
rear. "I've no doubt it's deserved, but that boy keeps me from
remembering that my own days of irresponsibility are so far behind me. I
believe I enjoy him the more because I haven't a parent's duty to
perform."

"It's a sort of reciprocity without personal liability," laughed
Thatcher.

"Exactly. I wonder sometimes if what we gain by experience is worth what
we lose in illusion.--Aren't you coming up-stairs to dress for dinner,
Billy?" Huntington continued, as his nephew and Merry walked past them,
engaged in an animated conversation.

"Don't wait for me," was the prompt response. "I'm a bear at dressing,
and I'll be ready before Dixon has put in your collar-studs."

"I feel easier down here since I know that you're off duty, too, and not
likely to upset my apple-cart while I'm away," Thatcher remarked to
Cosden with a smile. "Did you know, Mr. Huntington," he continued,
turning, "that your friend is a wrecker of other men's plans?"

"It's the best thing he does," Huntington agreed promptly. "That exactly
explains my presence here."

Cosden was immensely pleased by Thatcher's acknowledgment of his
importance, but he tried to carry it off lightly.

"Oh, well," he said indifferently, "you must let me have my innings once
in a while. I have to get to you sometimes to make up for other bouts
which I've been glad to forget."

"You'll join us, of course," Thatcher added, to Huntington.

"I can resist anything but temptation," Huntington replied soberly; "I
love the enemy."

"This cocktail-drinking is a curious thing," Thatcher remarked. "In cold
weather we take it to warm us up, in warm weather to cool us off; when
we are depressed it is to cheer us, and when we're happy it's because we
want to celebrate. And there you are.--How about the Consolidated
Machinery deal?" Thatcher changed the subject abruptly, and spoke to
Cosden. "Are we going to fight each other on that?"

"I'm afraid we'll have to," Cosden admitted frankly; "but I'll be glad
to talk it over with you. From here, the interests look too far apart
even to compromise."

Cosden and Huntington went up in the elevator together, leaving Thatcher
on the piazza.

"What the devil did that young cub show up here for just at this time?"
Cosden demanded.

"Didn't you hear?" Monty explained innocently. "He wanted to cheer me up
in my 'awful loneliness.'"

"Lonely fiddlesticks!" Cosden protested irritably. "Don't you grasp the
fact that his coming is going to mess things up?"

"Why, no," Huntington said slowly, pausing at the door of his room to
give his friend opportunity to finish his remarks; "I can't for the life
of me see that."

"Don't you see that it's Merry Thatcher the kid is making up to?"

"Oh, ho!" Huntington exclaimed. "So that's the situation! It was stupid
of me not to understand."

"Well, that's it; and I won't have it."

"Of course you won't; but how are you going to stop it?"

"That's your job, Monty. It's up to you to send him about his business."

"That doesn't appeal to me as a sporting proposition," Huntington said
after a moment's deliberation. "I didn't come down here to help you get
a corner in anything, but merely as an observer, and to give you expert
advice. Now you suggest a combination--trust, as it were--of two
full-grown men against a half-baked boy. It isn't worthy of you, Connie,
and I'm not sure that it isn't an illegal restraint of trade. Oh, no; I
couldn't think of it."

"I'd like to see you in the same situation just once," growled Cosden.
"Why the devil can't you send the boy home?"

"If I did, he'd come back so quick he'd meet himself going away,"
Huntington said gravely; "but as a matter of fact I understand that he
plans to go on Monday, and there's no boat sailing before then anyhow."

He opened the door of his room and stepped inside.

"I might add, Connie," he continued, "that if you're afraid to take
chances with a boy like that I don't feel much confidence in the final
outcome of your benedictine expedition."

"I'm serious in this," Cosden snapped back. "My bump of humor evidently
got light-struck in the developing. Billy has twenty years ahead of him
to pick out a girl while I haven't, and he must understand that I mean
business."

"Of course he must," agreed Huntington. "It hadn't occurred to me until
you spoke of it that there was the remotest chance of having Billy show
sense enough to become interested in any girl so well calculated to
make a man of him. In fact, I doubt very much whether his own intellect
has carried him so far. It's all right for you or me to contemplate
committing matrimony, but a young man, in these days of increasing cost
of everything, is likely to become a grandfather before he can afford to
be a father. Only the other day, Connie, the thought came to me that if
this high cost of living continues it will make death a necessity of
life."

"You are evidently in no frame of mind to discuss anything serious now,"
Cosden retorted; "I'll wait until after dinner."

"Do!" Huntington's face brightened. "Look at the reproachful expression
on the bosom of that beautiful white shirt which Dixon has laid out for
me. Can't you almost hear the pathos in its tone as it asks to be
filled?"

The door slammed, and Cosden's heavy tread could be heard as he
disgustedly retreated down the hall to his own room.

One of the compensations of maturity is that the adjustment of proper
proportions comes more quickly than to youth. It may be that Cosden saw
the modicum of truth which lay beneath his friend's bantering; it may be
that he was ashamed to have shown any uncertainty in his mind as to the
final outcome of his embassy. At all events, he seemed to be in the best
of humor when he dined with Huntington and the boy, and even accepted
with good grace the unexpected announcement that Billy and Merry were to
"take in" the dance at the "Hamilton." It may be that he was determined
to demonstrate his strength of mind, for when the little party
reassembled on the piazza, and the young people disappeared soon after
the coffee, he devoted himself to Edith Stevens with an assiduity which
caused Huntington to smile quietly to himself. Stevens and Thatcher,
finding the ladies well provided for, went down-stairs for a game of
billiards. Mrs. Thatcher cheerfully accepted Huntington's invitation to
stroll to the pier, leaving Miss Stevens and Cosden by themselves.

"I've made an appointment for you on Monday morning," Thatcher remarked
to Cosden as he passed by.

"Good! I'll keep it," was the prompt response.

"What do you think of Marian's resurrection?" Edith asked him when they
were alone.

Cosden looked in the direction of the pier. "Do you mean--" he began.

"Oh, no!" she interrupted him. "That is merely a revival, which I
imagine may develop into an experience meeting. I mean Mr. Hamlen. Think
of a devotion that forces a man to bury himself for twenty years! I
could throw myself on his neck for restoring my lost belief in the
constancy of man."

"I hadn't heard that side of the story," Cosden observed.

"It was while we were at school together," Edith explained. "Marian was
irresistible then--as now, and every man she met lost his head
altogether; but for a time she and Mr. Hamlen were engaged. Then she
married the last man we expected; but she and Harry have been very
happy. It simply shows that you never can tell."

"Did you know Hamlen then?"

"No; but I heard enough about him. If he had been merely intelligent
instead of intellectual he might have had her just as well as not. He
simply frightened her out of it."

"Where did Monty come in?"

"I never heard of him; things couldn't have gone very far."

"You remember what he said just before we started out this morning? I
know him pretty well and Monty doesn't speak like that unless there is
something back of it."

"Well," Edith laughed, "I'm sure I should have known, even so. Why, I
could reel off so many names that you would think Marian was a heartless
coquette; but it wasn't that at all. She simply loved attention, as all
women do."

"How about the daughter?" queried Cosden.

"Merry?" Miss Stevens interrogated. "Oh, Merry is an up-to-date,
twentieth-century thoroughbred. Marian has never known just what to make
of her because she isn't like other girls, but to my mind the comparison
is all to her credit. I'm generous when I give the child so good a
character, for I know she heartily disapproves of me."

Cosden was pleased with the intuition he had shown in his selection. "I
should think young Huntington would bore her about as much as a
youngster in kilts," he said, to draw her out.

"He is her brother's friend, she adores athletics and dancing, and she
is exercising the prerogative of her age and sex."

There was a silence of several moments, during which time Cosden was
debating with himself whether it was too late for him to bring his
dancing of the vintage of the nineties up to the present confusion of
innovations. He had scoffed at modern dances but it might become
necessary to revise his views.

"What an unusual ring you have," Miss Stevens exclaimed, leaning over
his hand which rested upon the arm of his chair. "Is there a romance
connected with it?"

Cosden took it off and handed it to her. "No," he said. "When you know
me better you will understand that romance doesn't come into my make-up.
I bought that ring myself particularly to avoid any sentiment. I can
take it off when I like, wear it or not as I choose, and if I lose it
nobody's heart is broken."

"That is an original idea," she laughed; then her face sobered. "I used
to think romance was everything," she said seriously. "Now I wonder if
what we call romance isn't another word for illusion. As I look back at
my girl friends and see how many romances became tragedies, and how many
matter-of-fact marriages, like Marian's and Harry's, have developed into
real unions, I'm inclined to think that romance is a form of hypnotism."

"You've expressed my idea to a dot," Cosden replied emphatically.
"Huntington is a sentimentalist, and he stamps my common-sense ideas as
evidences of a commercial instinct. I've seen just what you've seen, and
I believe that the business of life rests on exactly the same basis as
the business of trade."

"Take Harry Thatcher, for example," Edith continued her own
conversation rather than replied to his; "there's nothing brilliant
about him outside his business success, but you always know where to
find him. He's a comfortable man to have around. With men, they say he
dominates everything he goes into, but in his home,--well, every now and
then he stands out just on principle, but as a matter of fact even his
ideas are in his wife's name."

Mrs. Thatcher and Huntington approached them returning from their
moon-bath on the steps of the pier.

"Did you ever see so wonderful a night, Edith?" she exclaimed with
enthusiasm. "This atmosphere, and the renewing of my friendship with Mr.
Huntington, make me feel like a girl again."

"Monty must have been composing poetry," Cosden remarked.

"No," Huntington disclaimed promptly; "poetry is the one contagious
disease of youth which I have escaped. But Mrs. Thatcher has helped me
to set back my clock of life more than twenty years, and that is an
achievement of which I feel justly proud."



       *       *       *       *       *

VII

       *       *       *       *       *


Sunday morning found the party possessed of divers minds regarding the
proper use to make of the wonderful sunshine and the mild yet bracing
air, delicately scented with thousands of blooms on every side. Mr. and
Mrs. Thatcher announced definitely that they proposed to hear the band
concert at the Barracks, which gave a certain basis upon which to hang
other plans. Billy Huntington suggested to Merry that they walk to Elba
Beach, and Cosden, with the cordial disapproval of Edith Stevens and
Billy, invited himself to accompany the young people on their walk.
Huntington accounted for himself by reporting that Hamlen had
telephoned, asking him to make the promised visit that morning, so the
Stevenses joined forces with the Thatchers, and the plans were complete.

Hamlen was visibly ill at ease when Huntington arrived. It was the only
time during the twenty years of his residence there that any guest had
been received at his villa by invitation of its owner. The new
experience excited him, but the sincerity of Huntington's admiration of
the grounds, and the friendliness of his attitude, made it impossible
for any barrier long to exist between them. A touch of the old-time
bitterness passed through Hamlen's mind, soon after Huntington's
arrival, as he thought what it would have meant to him during any one of
those four years at college to have had Monty Huntington come to his
room in the same spirit of comradeship! Yet, he admitted to himself, the
tragedies of that small world did lose some of their poignancy in
retrospect, just as Huntington had said. He had been at a disadvantage
in that the world into which he had been graduated was not the great
world of which his classmate spoke, but rather another little one,
smaller even than that which had tortured him,--so small that he had
remained still instead of growing, as the others had, into an estate
from which he might look back with broader vision.

This much at least had borne fruit from the conversation at the hotel,
but beyond this there was an impression still deeper which increased
Hamlen's spirit of unrest. From the time when he began to feel things
strongly there had existed in him a sense of justice which completely
dominated his other attributes. By the time he entered college this
sense had assumed exaggerated proportions, and he had reached a point
where he was looking for injustices, and was quick to resent them. He
might have made a place for himself in athletics had he not expected
some one else to take the initiative; he might have made friends except
that he waited to be sought out. When he saw other fellows around him
succeed where he had failed, the sensitiveness of his nature placed his
classmates on trial, appointed himself judge, and condemned them as
guilty of injustice, the most heinous crime in the category of sin. As a
penalty, he had banished them from his life. The fact that they bore
their punishment with seeming indifference served only to twist the
knife in the wound.

His devotion to Marian Seymour gave his strange nature its only outlet.
Her father and his had been bosom friends in boyhood, and they had hoped
to see their children bound together in even closer ties. The tense,
deep nature of the boy dominated,--even more so after he went to college
and she to school, and they saw less of each other. He was different
from other boys she knew, and at first it pleased her vanity that he had
no thought for any one else, even though he demanded so much of her.
Then she became fairly terrified by his intensity, and when she broke
the engagement, just after his graduation, she welcomed her release.

Her engagement and marriage to Thatcher supplied the final evidence that
the whole world was built upon a structure of injustice, and Hamlen fled
from it with a sense of leaving behind a thing despised. During all
these years the judge had worn his ermine, and the world represented the
condemned prisoner, working out its sentence, but somehow failing to
gain salutary results from its long chastisement. Now a belated witness
appears, supplying testimony which shakes the integrity of the judicial
decision. Huntington presents the case from a position new to the
self-appointed judge, and Hamlen had spent many hours since that
eventful meeting wondering whether the world had really been on trial
or he himself. Many of the words which Marian had spoken, which had not
made their impression when he first heard them came back with redoubled
force after Huntington had added his testimony to hers. "Was it their
failure to understand you or your failure to give them the opportunity?"
she asked. "The citizens of the college world are young, untried boys,"
Huntington explained, "trying to conduct themselves like full-grown
men." What right had he to condemn them because in their youth and
inexperience they had fallen below the standard older men had set? Had
he a right to expect them to search him out any more than they a right
to demand the same of him? "You drew me to you with irresistible force,"
Marian admitted, only to make the agony the more unbearable when she
added, "Then you repelled me by your intolerance of all those lighter
interests which were natural to youth of our age." Intolerance! That was
a form of injustice, and he had judged her guilty upon the same
indictment! "Each member of the Class measures up his fellow-members by
what they have done since they have left college," Huntington had said.
Every word seemed seared into Hamlen's brain as he put himself through
this fierce analysis. "What have you really accomplished?" was Marian's
question.

So Hamlen had struggled with himself during the intervening hours, and
now Huntington came to him as a classmate, as a friend, claiming kinship
and insisting upon recognition of his claim. If Monty Huntington had
been what Hamlen believed him to be in college, he would not now have
forced himself upon him in spite of his own rude disclaimers of any
present desire for recognition. If he had misjudged Huntington had he
not misjudged his other classmates, had he not misjudged the world at
large?

This was the doubt which had been raised in Hamlen's mind, and with it
came a sense of responsibility and the necessity of restitution should
that doubt turn into a certainty. Forty-eight hours earlier he had asked
Marian, "What do I owe the world?" and it was from Huntington he
received his answer. It was uncanny how closely the two opinions of the
case, made by persons widely separated in viewpoint and environment,
dovetailed each into the other. This interview with Huntington would
settle all doubt, he was convinced, and if the injustice proved to be
vested in himself alone, what was there left for him out of the wreck he
had made of life? What wonder that he was ill at ease; what wonder that
his heart beat more quickly as he realized that the moment of his own
conviction might be at hand!

They walked about the grounds, as the others had done, and Huntington's
exclamations were no less enthusiastic; yet it was obvious that this was
but a prelude to the real purpose of his visit. They paused for a moment
as they came back through the garden, and the hesitation forced the
question from Hamlen's lips.

"Don't you care to see the view from the Point?"

"Not to-day," Huntington answered frankly. "I want to come again and
examine every cranny; but to-day, Hamlen, my interest lies in something
deeper. You have shown me what you are by profession; now show me what
you are by nature. You remember the old Greek adage, 'Would you know a
man, give him power.' My version of it is 'Would you know a man, give
him leisure'; for leisure is the expression of power, the stored-up
capital of that unmeasured treasure called Time whose currency is in the
blood and which promotes life itself. Here, in these grounds, your work
has been similar to that of any one of us in his office. Now I want to
know the man. Take me to his workshop."

Hamlen understood him beyond the necessity of further words. He had told
Marian that it was in his books that he found his relaxation, but it was
not to his library that he now silently led his guest. It was to a small
room on the back of the villa, in which Huntington found cases of type,
a hand-press, and a bench containing every description of binder's
tools. As they entered Hamlen closed the door behind them.

"I don't know why I brought you here," he spoke apologetically, "except
that by what you just said you seemed to know this place existed. No one
else has ever entered with me, for I have a sentiment about it which
would seem ridiculous to any one except myself."

"It is a miniature printing-office and bindery combined!"

"This is where I spend my leisure. This is where I withdraw into a
solitude even more complete than that in which I live. These
books"--pointing to a case near by--"represent the pitifully meager
contribution which I have made to the world while you and my other
classmates have taken the positions to which you are entitled. That I
show them to you now is a confession of the narrow outlook I have always
had on life."

Huntington was busy examining the volumes, one by one, giving no sign
that he heard the crisp words. He turned the leaves critically, he
examined the bindings, he studied the typography and the designs. Then
at length he looked up.

"I was mistaken when I said I did not know you," he remarked.

"I don't understand," Hamlen replied.

"Printing as an art has always been a hobby of mine," Huntington
explained. "With two exceptions I have every one of these books in my
collection at home."

The color came into Hamlen's face. "You mean--" he began.

"I mean that these splendid examples of the bookmaker's art have
attracted much attention among those of us who understand what they
represent, and I count myself fortunate to be the first to solve the
mystery which has surrounded them, when I next meet with my
fellow-collectors."

"How is it possible," demanded Hamlen, "that any of these should have
fallen into your hands?"

"Were they not placed upon the market?"

"I did not suppose any of them reached America," Hamlen explained. "Out
of curiosity to see what would happen I sent the first volumes to a
dealer in London, and he has been kind enough to take the subsequent
volumes as they have been issued."

"And kind enough to himself," Huntington added, "to call the attention
of all the leading collectors to the uniqueness of the work. Some time I
will show you his circulars if you care to know what he thinks of you;
and I may add that there is none of us who considers his claims
exaggerated."

"Then the work is good?" Hamlen asked, unable to conceal his excitement.

"It is superb both in conception and execution; but its greatest merit
is its originality. Most of the good printing and binding which we have
to-day rests definitely in conception upon some one of the great
master-printers or binders of the past: the work of Aldus, Jenson,
Étienne, Plantin, Elzevir, Baskerville, Didot, William Morris, is drawn
upon to greater or less degree by every modern printer, the volumes of
Grolier, Maiolus, or Geoffroy Tory are revived in nearly every modern
binding of importance; but your books are absolutely unique. Frankly, I
don't sympathize with all of them, but there is not one which does not
interest me. Tell me, where did you learn the art of bookmaking enough
to make yourself a master?"

"Your praise is too high," Hamlen answered deprecatingly.

"I am not praising your work," Huntington insisted; "that would be
presumptuous. Its merit has passed far beyond the point where praise
from me could affect it. Each volume which comes into the market is
hungrily snatched up, and we all have been eager to discover who the
master was. Where did you learn so much?"

"I have been interested in the mechanics of printing ever since, as a
boy, I had my first press," explained Hamlen; "but I only turned to it
seriously after I came here and felt the need of something to keep my
mind engaged. I have in my library examples from probably most of the
great printers and binders, but--I'm afraid you won't understand me when
I say it--they have never interested me particularly, nor do they now. I
am only interested in what I do myself; and when I explain I am sure you
will not think me egotistical."

"Go on," Huntington urged as Hamlen paused, but there was a break before
the speaker continued.

"You said a moment ago that you did not sympathize with some of my
books; that is perfectly natural. I said just now that I was only
interested in my own work; that, too, I believe, is natural. I have no
knowledge of the great _incunabula_, I know nothing of the history of
printing, and in making these few books I have had no thought of
producing examples of the printer's or the binder's art: they stand to
me simply as symbolic of certain phases of myself,--some good, perhaps,
some bad; but all representative of my mood when they were made. I tell
you, Huntington"--Hamlen continued with deep intensity--"I tell you now
what I have never before put into words, that those are not books at
all; they are simply the expression of a something in my soul which
demands an outlet, and it comes out through my finger-tips. That sounds
absurd, but it is the solemn truth!"

"Absurd?" cried Huntington. "My dear fellow, what you have just said is
the explanation of the books which we collectors, poor simple fools,
haven't been able to give. Don't you see that by your very act you have
placed yourself among the masters? What else are the sculptures of
Michelangelo, the paintings of Raphael, but the expression of their
messages to the world made through the media with which they were
familiar? With them it was stone and canvas, with you it is type and
paper and leather. Thank God you couldn't write!"

Hamlen listened to him in amazement, unable to grasp at once the
significance or the breadth of all he heard. It was natural that
Huntington's last words should be the first in his hearer's mind.

"What do you mean,--'thank God you couldn't write'?"

"I mean that what you have just told me is the reason why the arts of
painting, architecture and sculpture have stood still these four hundred
and fifty years. Stop and think, man! Who in those arts has surpassed
the work of the old masters within that limit of time? No one, I say; no
one! And why? Think of your dates! Four hundred and fifty years take us
back to the invention of printing. That was what did it! With all it
accomplished for the cause of learning it was the death-knell to the
further development of the arts; for with the invention of printing came
an easier way to give to the world that message which the human soul
contains. Since then the real artist, whoever he was, instead of
laboring to express his message in stone, or bronze, or on canvas, has
simply taken pen and ink and patient paper and given the outpourings of
his soul to the dear public in the form of a book. Again I say, thank
God you couldn't write!"

When Huntington turned to his companion he was amazed to see that he had
dropped upon a stool, with bowed head resting on his hands, was sobbing
like a child. With a woman's tenderness and intuition Huntington gently
rested his hand upon his head.

"We have torn off the bandages too fast, my friend," he said quietly.
"Philip Hamlen doesn't belong among the 'missing men'; he belongs among
the masters of art of his generation."



       *       *       *       *       *

VIII

       *       *       *       *       *


Between Cosden and Billy Huntington the breach had become well-defined
during the past twenty-four hours. Up to this time the boy had
considered him merely as an unsympathetic personality, whose advice to
his uncle frequently made the task of carrying his point more difficult;
but as the point was always eventually carried Billy had borne him no
permanent ill-will. Cosden looked upon him as a spoiled child, to be
punished frequently on general principles just for the good of the
service. Now, however, affairs assumed a different footing: the boy,
jealous of the passing moments which brought the sailing of the
"Arcadian" nearer at hand, regarded the older man's action in joining in
the walk to Elba Beach as a distinct intrusion; while Cosden,
unconsciously applying his familiar business principles, deliberately
determined to eliminate the possible competition of a diverting
influence by exhibiting to the "prospect" a superior line of samples.
Not that he really considered Billy worthy of such serious attention,
but he was exercising that precaution which more than once had saved him
from committing a business mistake.

Merry Thatcher was not unaware of the relations which existed between
the two, even though Cosden's present viewpoint was naturally unknown to
her. Billy had been particularly frank in his expressions the evening
before, and as they started off that morning he found opportunity to
paint his feelings in vivid colorings. Considering the situation as
amusing rather than serious, she held herself as a neutral observer.

When it became evident that Cosden was in earnest in his suggestion to
accompany them, Billy was seized with an inspiration.

"What kind of bike do you ride, Mr. Cosden?" he asked, stopping in front
of the bicycle-shed of the "Princess."

"Bike?" Cosden echoed. "I thought we were going to walk."

"Oh, no!" Billy assured him with confidence. "It's too far for Merry to
hike it along the pavements, and these roads are bully for wheels."

"All right," Cosden assented without further hesitation. "I haven't
ridden for some time, but I guess I haven't forgotten how."

"You know it's pretty tricky, riding down here in Bermuda," Billy
cautioned him. "You have to turn out to the left, and all that sort of
thing."

"I'll take care of that," Cosden answered with decision, recognizing
what was in the boy's mind. "You go ahead and get the wheels."

Billy's glance at Merry as Cosden turned aside to say a word to
Huntington was most expressive, and he managed to speak with her in an
undertone before the older man rejoined them.

"The big stiff!" he ejaculated. "I hope he takes a header on this first
hill!--You know how to ride, don't you?"

Merry's laughing nod reassured him. "Yes," she said; "it will be loads
of fun!"

"Great! then let's tear things up a bit, and give him a run for his
money."

Huntington stepped up with Cosden as the negro boy brought out the
wheels.

"So you're going back to first principles, Connie?" he asked. "It must
have been you who suggested bicycles."

"No; Billy wants to show me a thing or two about riding."

"Show _you_!" Huntington laughed. "You'll have your hands full, my boy,
riding with him. Why, he won everything in sight in the bicycle-races on
the Mott Haven team when he was in college. He was as good as a
professional then, and I don't believe he's forgotten it all yet. Throw
out your chest, Connie, and let the lady admire your medals."

Billy's face fell, and he looked at Merry dubiously. "Let's walk," he
said.

"No, you don't!" Cosden insisted. "This was your idea, and now we'll see
it through. Come on."

There was a complete reversal in the boy's spirits. The way Cosden
handled the wheel showed clearly enough that bicycle-riding was second
nature to him, and Billy's interest in the trip had obviously waned. But
Merry had already mounted and was starting on behind Cosden, so nothing
remained for him but to follow. Down past the tennis-courts, out onto
Front Street, winding through the closely-packed buildings of the town
itself, past Parliament House and Pembroke Hall, with its magnificent
group of Royal Palms, then around the harbor, they soon found themselves
riding between gardens and great trees on either side, which protected
the coraline houses, with their curious tiled roofs, from the glare of
the sun and the inquisitive gaze of the passers-by.

"Can you take that hill without dismounting?" Cosden challenged Merry,
as they approached a steep rise in the road.

"Try me!" she answered gaily.

"Oh, what's the use in tiring Merry all out?" Billy protested. "This
isn't an endurance test; we're out for fun."

"We'll wait for you," the girl taunted him laughingly, and the two shot
ahead for the hill. The boy muttered something about Mr. Cosden which
undoubtedly would have been much to the point had it been heard, and
pedaled hard to make up for their start, but he reached the top of the
incline in considerably poorer condition than either of the others.

"Whew!" Billy puffed, "let's stop a minute; there's a dandy view from
here."

"Shall we rest?" Cosden asked Merry.

"Not on my account," she replied unhelpfully. "I'm perfectly fresh, and
the ride is exhilarating."

"Then it would be a pity to be held back by Billy's inexperience,"
Cosden commented, glancing at him with a malicious smile. "On, on to
Elba Beach!"

The boy managed nearly to keep up with them for the balance of the
distance, but was quite ready to throw himself on the ground when they
arrived at their destination.

"Those are the 'boilers,' Billy," Merry announced to him, as they found
the expanse of sea spread out before them, with the curious coral atols
in the foreground, around which the water seethed.

"Nothing that boils interests me in the least," was the unenthusiastic
reply. "Lead me to an ice-chest and I'll give it the bunny-hug. Say, Mr.
Cosden, you are some rider, aren't you? And Merry is no slouch!"

"I'm glad you suggested the change," Cosden said. "I have underrated
your headwork, my boy."

"You certainly ride mighty well for a man your age,--doesn't he, Merry?"
Billy continued with apparent good humor, but, aggravated to a point of
impertinence by the patronizing attitude, he determined to break even
with his tormentor. "Your wind is good, and the way you pedaled up that
hill made me forget that you were old enough to be my father. You're
mighty well preserved, aren't you?"

Cosden was nettled. "Your idea of age needs some revision," he retorted
sharply. "If I were to figure things the same way, I would suggest that
the next time you come to Elba Beach you use an automobile perambulator
instead of a bicycle.--Now let's call it quits."

"They don't allow automobiles down here," Billy corrected seriously.
"That's one reason why I came. I never want to see a buzz-wagon again."

"Skid, collision, run-over, smash-up--" Merry began helpfully.

"No--worse still," Billy rejoined slowly, evidently surveying the past
in his mind.--"Say, Phil was in this, too."

"Phil?" the girl echoed anxiously. "He wasn't hurt, was he?"

"No, not hurt exactly; but we both had the shivers all right, and the
more I think it over the less of a joke it seems to me. You see, Bud
Warner has a crackerjack car, and he asked Phil and me to dash out with
him one afternoon. The first thing we knew he turned in at a place out
in Belmont, rode to the front door, and went on in to fuss a dame there
that he's been rushing. Well, Phil and I cooled our heels half an hour
waiting for him and then we thought we'd get even by giving him the
slip, for it was a good two miles' walk to the cars and Bud is no bear
as a walker. We slid out with the motor all right, but just before we
reached Harvard Square a wise-guy cop pinched us for stealing the car,
and ran us both in."

"Arrested you for stealing?" Merry demanded.

"Surest thing you know," Billy confirmed. "When Bud found we'd slipped
him, he was sore, and to get even he telephoned the police-station, gave
them the number of the car, and said it had been stolen. Oh! we were in
bad, for fair."

"And Uncle Monty far from home," commented Cosden.

"Yes," Billy admitted; "I didn't know it at the time or I should have
been still more peeved. Well--we stayed there in the cooler for two
hours when Bud showed up and was brought in where we were. He gave us
the once over, and acted as if he'd never seen us before in all his
young life. 'I couldn't have believed it of such respectable-looking
young men,' he said,--the darned hypocrite! 'I couldn't send them to
State's prison,' said he, 'on account of their families.' Then he made
an imitation like thinking, and finally he said, 'Officer, I withdraw
the charge of theft, but ask you to hold the prisoners for exceeding the
speed limit.--What's the bail? I'll help them out for the sake of their
families.' So he bailed us out, and we went back together, with Bud
thinking he'd played us a fine, swell joke."

"Did you jump your bail?" Merry inquired, thoroughly amused.

"No; we didn't dare. We came up before the judge next morning, and it
cost us ten bones apiece and costs. That's what made me so short on my
Christmas money."

"I'll guarantee you found some way to get around that," Cosden said,
suggestively egging him on to display his youthfulness.

Billy grinned. "I had to," he admitted. "I thought I could get some
money from Uncle Monty, but he had gone away, so I had Mother's present
charged to Father, and Father's present charged to Mother."

"Frenzied finance!" cried Cosden, amused in spite of his desire to
disparage the boy. "You are wasting your time in college; you should be
in Wall Street."

"Your advice ought to be good, Mr. Cosden," agreed Billy, "for you
certainly know how to make your money work overtime. I can always tell
when Uncle Monty gives me any of the tired cash he wins out of you from
the gratitude it shows for getting a little rest."

Cosden did not like Billy's come-backs, and he did not like the
amusement which he saw restrained in Merry's face. Still, he accepted
the responsibility in large measure for putting himself on the boy's
level.

"I'd like to have charge of your business education," he said
significantly.

"It may come to that," the boy said with a total lack of enthusiasm.
"That's the one real threat Uncle Monty always holds over me."

"You are impertinent--" Cosden realized that the ragging was going too
far.

"Who began it?" was the retort.

"Who is going to invite me to have some strawberries and cream?" Merry
interrupted, feeling it to be her mission to come to the rescue, and
recognizing Billy's mistake in antagonizing so close a friend of his
uncle.

Billy was on his feet in an instant, but Cosden was ahead of him.

"I know the place," Merry said. "You see, I'm the old settler here, so
I'll show you all the attractions. Think of strawberries and cream in
January!--Won't you go ahead of us, Mr. Cosden, and ask the boy to put a
table out on the piazza? It will be lovely there."

As Cosden moved out of earshot she turned to her companion.

"You must not upset him like that, Billy," she reproved him firmly;
"your uncle will never forgive you."

"He has no right to butt in on us," the boy protested gloomily.

"But he's here, and you must be civil to him. Think how much older he is
than you are, and you're quarreling with him as if he were your own
age."

"Oh, I'll be civil to him if he'll only can his grouch. Why, he got sore
with me for kidding him about his age, yet you noticed how old he is
yourself."

"He isn't old, Billy. Why, he's younger than Mr. Huntington, isn't he?"

"Perhaps he is; but Uncle Monty always makes you feel that he's your own
age. I never think of him any differently than I do of any of my other
pals. But Mr. Cosden--ugh!"

"I know, Billy; but you don't want to say anything that will queer you
with your uncle, do you?"

Billy looked at her quizzically before he replied, then his broad,
good-natured grin replaced the frown.

"I get you, Stevie--what's the feminine for Steve, anyhow? You mean that
a fellow ought not to make _pâté de foie gras_ out of the goose that
lays the golden eggs.--Say, Merry, you're wonderful, you are,--simply
wonderful!"



       *       *       *       *       *

IX

       *       *       *       *       *


On their return from the Barracks Mrs. Thatcher and Edith Stevens left
the men on the piazza and went up-stairs for the ostensible purpose of
lying down, but with that ease with which two women change their plans
when once alone they found themselves sitting in Marian's room, engaged
in a heart-to-heart conversation.

"I really think he might do," Edith remarked, à propos of nothing.

As Mrs. Thatcher was intimately acquainted with Edith's mental processes
the remark was more intelligible than might have been expected.

"You don't mean Philip Hamlen?"

Edith laughed. "No; you warned me off of him yesterday. I mean Mr.
Cosden."

"At it again?" Marian laughed. "Edith, you are absolutely incorrigible!
It has been so long since you have played ducks and drakes with a man
that I really believed you had reformed. You are old enough to know
better!"

"I presume it will be the same with him as with the others," Edith
sighed. "That is my great weakness, I admit: I like a man just so long,
and then he bores me stiff. I don't see how a married woman stands it
to have only one man around her all the time. If you were as honest as I
am you would admit that it would be a relief to you, every now and then
if you could pour out your breakfast coffee with some one else sitting
in front of you instead of Harry."

"Harry answers very well, thank you."

"Habit, nothing else," Edith insisted. "He's as much a part of the
family furniture as the grand piano. But that's what gives me hope: if
you and so many other women can endure it, why can't I?"

"There are hundreds of men; why pick on Mr. Cosden?"

"I had a long, experimental conversation with him last night while you
and Mr. Huntington were holding your revival meeting on the pier, and I
really think he might do. Tell me what you know about him."

"Only what Harry has told me. They have had some business dealings
together, and Harry says he has made a lot of money. The fact that Monty
Huntington is his friend is his best recommendation."

"Mr. Huntington has a good social position in Boston, hasn't he?"

"Good heavens, yes! I believe one of his ancestors discovered Beacon
Street, or something of that kind; but that doesn't imply that Mr.
Cosden has the same position. A bachelor may have friends at his clubs
whom he does not necessarily bring into his social circle,--especially
in Boston."

"Mr. Cosden is frightfully commercial," Edith meditated aloud.

"So are you," Marian broke in laughing.

"I don't mind that," Edith continued, "so long as he has a human side.
I believe I could serve as a counter-irritant to keep him from remaining
merely a machine.

"You mustn't take away his capacity as provider," Marian teased her; "he
would need a fairly stiff income to sail the good ship 'Edith Stevens.'"

"With everything I want costing more and everything I own yielding less,
that is of vital importance, of course. But I really believe
Cossie--Connie--whatever they call him, might do."

"Well, it's fine to have that all settled, my dear," Marian agreed,
still showing her amusement. "Now, when are you going to break the news
to him?"

"Ah! that's another question!" Edith answered, entirely unabashed.
"Couldn't you find out from Mr. Huntington something about his hobbies
and his antipathies?"

"Of course; unless you select some one else in the mean time. Perhaps
we'd better wait until after luncheon."

"Oh, I'm serious," Edith protested,--"provided of course that he
measures up all right. The more I think it over the more serious I
become. Ricky was particularly trying this morning; I'm aghast at the
amount of last month's bills, and all in all it makes me realize the
importance of not letting one's age become an indiscretion. Even you
referred to my passing years."

"Poor Ricky!" Marian said sympathetically; "he never gets any credit for
sacrificing himself."

"I've acted in the interests of my sex," Edith asserted stoutly. "Ricky
is a joke. Except for the fact that he's my own brother I'd say he was
a scream. If it hadn't been for me he would have married some girl and
bored her to extinction. She couldn't have escaped him, but I can.
Somebody owes me a debt of gratitude."

"Well," Marian sighed, "I wish you luck; if Mr. Cosden isn't smart
enough to protect himself it will be his own fault."

"Why be catty, Marian?" Edith retorted with asperity. "It isn't
becoming."

Marian laughed. "You silly child!" she said. "You are the most supremely
selfish creature in the world, but you are so blissfully unconscious of
the fact that I love you for it. Some one has to stand up for Ricky;
Heaven knows he can't stand up for himself."

"Very good." Edith was only partly mollified. "I've no doubt Ricky will
be exceedingly grateful, but if you were to ask me I'd say that you have
men enough on your hands already without him. Now, I'm going to my room
to dress for luncheon. Afterwards, when you find an opportunity, I want
you to pump Mr. Huntington dry about Cossie--Connie--I'll never get used
to that name!--and leave me to do the rest."

Unconscious of plots and counterplots, Cosden and Huntington sauntered
innocently onto the piazza after their noonday meal. Billy had managed
to get himself invited to the Thatchers' table, so the two friends had
lunched by themselves. Both were self-centered, but neither noticed it
because of his own abstraction. Cosden was measuring up the girl as his
opportunity for observation broadened, Huntington was still affected by
his experience with Hamlen. Curiously enough, in spite of their
friendship, or perhaps because their intimacy gave each so clear a
knowledge of the other's characteristics neither one cared to speak of
the subject which was uppermost in his mind. "Monty is too much of a
cynic to appreciate my situation here," Cosden told himself; and
Huntington, without even mentally putting it into words, knew that
Hamlen did not and never would appeal to Cosden.

Shortly after the men had lighted their cigars the party from the
Thatchers' table joined them. Marian noticed that Edith casually dropped
into the chair beside Cosden's, and was amused to see that she began
operations at once.

"What are we going to do this afternoon?" Edith queried breezily.

"We've all been going since breakfast," Stevens suggested; "why not sit
still for a while?"

"Ricky!" said his sister severely, "no one asked your opinion. What in
the world is the use of sitting still? We can do that at home."

"What do you suggest?" Cosden asked her incautiously.

"Have you been to Harrington Sound?"

"No," he admitted; recognizing at once that he had given an unwise
opening.

"Then why don't you let me show you the way?" Edith asked, as if the
thought had only just occurred to her.

A chorus of approval went up from Huntington, Mrs. Thatcher and Billy.

"Suppose we all go," Cosden said, seeking safety in numbers.

"We have taken the drive several times," Mrs. Thatcher abetted Edith in
her conspiracy, "and I am sure Mr. Huntington is too gallant to leave
us. You can drive over and back comfortably by dinner-time."

"Won't you stop on the way home and get me some coral sand?" Merry
asked. "Edith will show you the beach."

A drive with Miss Stevens was the last thing Cosden had intended, but as
there seemed no possible escape he rose to the occasion and at once
ordered the victoria. Nor was the enthusiasm of Billy's send-off
balm-of-Gilead to his soul as the carriage moved away from the hotel
steps. Edith, in a suit of white Bermuda doe-skin, with a small purple
hat perched rakishly on her head, and carrying a purple parasol with
handle of abalone pearl, was looking her best, and to the amused
onlookers her snapping eyes and beaming countenance seemed to promise
compensation.

"I wish we might have a word together about Hamlen," Huntington remarked
to Marian as they turned back to the piazza.

"That is the very subject which is uppermost in my mind," she replied
eagerly. "You saw him this morning?"

"Yes; and he has absorbed my thoughts ever since. Suppose we sit down
and talk him over."

The others in the party left them to themselves. They had heard
Huntington's preliminary remark, and understood that they had no part in
the conversation.

"He is a pathetic figure," Huntington continued, "and he has won a
sympathy from me which I never remember to have given to any one before.
Think of twenty years of solitude! By Jove! he is the Modern Edmond
Dantes!"

"I've known him since he was a boy," Marian said as Huntington paused
for a moment. "If you are to understand the situation, perhaps I ought
to tell you more. For a time, we were engaged, but these relations were
broken off soon after his graduation. In fact I feel that I am to a
certain extent responsible for his present condition, for he left
America as soon as he heard of my engagement to Mr. Thatcher."

Huntington looked up quickly. "That gives Hamlen and me another bond of
sympathy," he said quietly.

"What do you mean?" she asked, surprised.

"That same announcement produced disastrous effects upon my life as
well."

"Why, you never saw me half a dozen times--"

"Once was enough," he replied seriously.

"Your imagination is as highly developed as your gallantry, Mr.
Huntington," Marian laughed; "but we mustn't let ourselves become
diverted.--Philip Hamlen was always sensitive and moody, but until I
discovered him down here I had no idea these characteristics could
become so exaggerated."

"He believes himself always to have been misunderstood," Huntington
added. "To-day he felt that we met on common ground, and the gratitude
in his eyes still haunts me."

"Can't we do something for him, between us?" she asked earnestly.

"We must," Huntington assented with decision. "I am still puzzling over
the problem. Have you anything to suggest?"

Mrs. Thatcher did not reply at once, and Huntington respected her
silence. He realized that her answer could not be given spontaneously,
that the proposition was too vital for anything but the most serious
consideration. As a matter of fact, however, she had already considered
it. Marian Thatcher was a woman of strong impulses, with strength of
will equal to carry them through to success. She had been appalled by
Hamlen's condition, and felt keenly her personal responsibility. During
the hours which had intervened since the accidental meeting, many of
them sleepless hours of the night, she had searched her mind for some
expedient which should in part work restitution. She had discovered a
possible solution, but it was of a nature so intimate that she hesitated
to take Huntington into her confidence.

"I had thought--" she began at length, but then she paused. "We must
pull him out of himself," she began again; "we must get him where he
will find something to think of other than himself."

"Suppose that to be accomplished, what then?"

"I had thought--he needs--he needs a woman who believes in him, to give
him courage, to restore his lost faith in himself. A friendship such as
you or any other man can give will help much, but if the right woman
could happen to come into his life--"

"Isn't that taking too long a step for a first one? Huntington
inquired.

"Perhaps; but I feel myself so largely responsible that it would mean
much to me to atone--"

Marian's intensity made its impression upon Huntington even as it had
upon Hamlen; but he could not follow her. How a married woman could make
atonement just at this crisis was not clearly apparent. She realized
that her stumbling remarks must be confusing.

"It is difficult for me to tell you just what I have in mind," she
stated definitely at length. "You don't know me well enough not to
misunderstand, and you don't know Merry. But if I am to accept your aid
I must run that risk, mustn't I?"

"I shall try not to misunderstand--"

"You mustn't think me unmotherly or indelicate," she continued. "It may
be the last thing in the world which ought to happen, but if Philip
Hamlen and Merry should take it into their heads to marry it would seem
almost like poetic justice, wouldn't it?"

"By Jove, no!" Huntington ejaculated hastily, with visions of Cosden
swimming before his eyes.

"Of course you are surprised," Marian said, laughing consciously; "but
if you think of it you must admit that Merry would make him an ideal
wife, and I believe he would be a wonderful husband. Her interest has
always been in men older than herself, and he is only now ready to enjoy
his youth. Of course, it is only an idea, but stranger things than that
have happened."

"Well," he said guardedly, sparring for time, "that may be the ultimate
outcome; but first of all we must do a bit of humanizing. I would like
to take him back to Boston to pay me a long visit if he would go. After
that, we could see how things worked out."

"Splendid!" Marian exclaimed; "and being in Boston he would be nearer my
Philip. That was the one suggestion which seemed to appeal to him when I
tried to persuade him to leave Bermuda. He would be much more likely to
accept the suggestion from you than from me. The boy is named for him,
and I believe they could do much for each other."

"Capital!" echoed Huntington. "I know from experience how much a boy can
do to keep an older man from thinking too much about himself. We are
making progress. I will do my best to drag him away from here, and if I
succeed we will arrange with Philip to take charge of that side of his
education."

Marian smiled gratefully as she heard the plan put definitely into
words. "You have relieved me of an oppressive burden," she said
feelingly. "It is such a relief to talk the matter over with some one
who really understands. Don't misjudge me by what I suggest about Merry.
I can't forget the closeness of those earlier relations, I can't forget
my responsibility, and I shouldn't be true to myself if I failed to do
all in my power to bring Philip Hamlen back to himself."

"His natural qualities and his helplessness form a strong appeal,"
Huntington replied evasively. "I shall be glad to assist in this
socialistic experiment, Mrs. Thatcher, but I'm not quite sure that I am
wholly sympathetic."

"You will see more reason in my suggestion after you know them both
better," Marian said confidently, placing her hand within the one
outstretched to her. "When you do, I am sure I shall have your cordial
co-operation in bringing about the match."

"If you are right, I shall ask that my case be placed next upon the
calendar."

"Willingly!" Mrs. Thatcher laughed. "I'll find a wife within a month."

"Heaven forbid!" he cried. "Unless--" he added slyly;--"unless you
become a widow in the mean time!"



       *       *       *       *       *

X

       *       *       *       *       *


For some reason best known to himself Huntington did not confide to
Cosden the fact that Mrs. Thatcher had suggested the possibility of a
match between Merry and Hamlen. She had referred to it as "poetic
justice"; perhaps Huntington, knowing his friend to be unsympathetic in
his relations toward poetry in general, might fail to appreciate the
present application, particularly since he himself, though possessing
pronounced fondness for the poets, had not fully risen to the idea. As a
matter of fact, the suggestion shocked him no less than Cosden's
business-like proposition concerning his own marriage. What were people
thinking of, these days!

He looked forward to the morrow and to the sailing of the "Arcadian"
with a sense of partial relief, for Billy's boyish infatuation and
Cosden's impatient demands for interference had considerably disturbed
his tranquillity. Huntington was a man of action when he so elected, and
he enjoyed doing things when they were of his own choice and could be
done in his own time and way; but nothing annoyed him more than to be
forced into action by another's choice or election. Now, just as he saw
one disturbing element about to be eliminated, another of seemingly
greater magnitude loomed up on the horizon, and he cordially wished
himself back in Boston with nothing more serious than the east winds to
worry him.

But no disturbing element was apparent in his face as he stepped out
onto the piazza after his leisurely breakfast the following morning.
Glancing around, he discovered Cosden and Miss Stevens standing at the
further corner, watching the hustle of the departing guests.

"You're just in time to witness the great event of the day," she greeted
him as he joined them, pleased that she had Cosden and Huntington even
temporarily to herself. "One of the best things they do down here is to
arrange the sailings to New York at a time when one may see the boat off
without getting up at all hours of the night."

Cosden started to speak and then paused, looking at her narrowly to make
certain that by no possible construction could any answer of his be
twisted into an invitation to drive to St. George's, or to some other
point equally remote.

"Your remark shows that you and Mr. Huntington have much in common," he
observed at length.

"Ability to sleep is an evidence of a clear conscience," she asserted.

"Which explains my restless nights, and the necessity of making up my
quota at the wrong end," Huntington said.

"But you come from New England, Mr. Huntington," Edith expostulated.
"I've always heard a lot about the New England conscience."

"I'll wager you never heard anything good about it," Huntington smiled.

"Does it ever really keep any one from doing the things he wants to do?"
she asked mischievously.

"No," Huntington answered gravely; "it simply makes him very
uncomfortable while he's doing them."

"I thought your sleeplessness might be caused by anxiety lest that
precious nephew of yours forget to take the boat this morning," Cosden
remarked dryly.

Huntington was quietly amused. "How about you?" he asked.

"I'm here to throw him bodily on board at the first sign of any change
of plan."

"You speak as if you had a grudge against the boy," Edith said, looking
surprised.

"Not at all," Cosden demurred; "Billy is all right, but he covers too
much territory. Since he landed I haven't been able to put my foot on
the ground without stepping on him. His Alma Mater needs Billy more than
I do, and, as Monty says, we alumni must be loyal to our Dear Mother."

"His Alma Mater will have to do without him for a few days longer unless
he appears soon," Edith remarked calmly, pointing toward the dock. "The
tender has just started and will be here at the pier in a moment."

Both men sprang to their feet.

"Where in the world can that boy be?" Huntington demanded with real
concern.

"You go up to his room and I'll look around down here," Cosden said,
taking command of the situation.

Huntington disappeared with astonishing alacrity, while his friend
deserted Miss Stevens to pursue the search down-stairs.

"Why don't you find Miss Thatcher?" Cosden suggested, coming back to her
as the idea struck him; "that will probably locate the boy."

"I'd rather watch the man-hunt from here," she retorted coolly. "I don't
want to miss seeing you throw him bodily on board."

The tender came slowly alongside the "Princess" steps, taking on board
the passengers from the hotel. Cosden and Huntington both appeared from
different directions as the gang-plank was drawn up and the little
steamer's screw began to churn. Huntington was out of breath, but not
empty-handed--he carried with him a bag which showed evidences of hectic
packing, with pajama strings hanging out from the partially closed top.

"He hadn't even packed his things!" Huntington panted indignantly.

"Stay here a moment," Cosden said, leaving him standing irresolutely at
the top of the stone steps, watching the stretch of water increase
between the departing tender and the pier.

"Please turn this way," Edith called, leveling her camera at him from
the piazza rail. "I want to be sure to get that suit-case into the
picture."

"Wait until Connie comes back," Huntington begged.

At that moment a disheveled figure appeared running frantically up the
"Princess" driveway.

"I've lost my boat!" Billy cried with well-simulated despair.

"You did it deliberately, you young rascal!" Huntington cried, aroused
at last to exasperation.

"Uncle Monty!" Billy's face wore an injured expression which would have
fitted a Raphael cherub. "You know I wouldn't have missed that boat for
anything. I'm sure to be rooked if I'm not in Cambridge Thursday."

Cosden joined them in time to hear Billy's expostulations. "We couldn't
let that happen," he said comfortingly. "Come on; I've fixed it up with
the jolly skipper in this motor-boat. He swears he can reach the
'Arcadian' before the tender does. Quick! there isn't a minute to lose!"

"But I haven't packed my bag--"

"Here it is!"

Huntington removed Billy's one remaining hope, and the boy saw that he
was fairly beaten.

The broad grin returned to his face as he took his bag. "That's mighty
good of you, Mr. Cosden," he said, with such apparent sincerity that it
disarmed his uncle's wrath. "There aren't many men who would help a
fellow out like that. I won't forget it!"

He ran down the stone steps and took his place in the stern of the
motor-boat. "Good-bye, everybody! Say, Uncle Monty, explain to Merry why
I didn't have time to say 'good-bye' to her, and don't forget that this
joy-ride is on Mr. Cosden. Good-bye!"

They watched the little boat speed after the tender, which by this time
had reached the narrows; then they turned back to the piazza.

"We've succeeded in making ourselves fairly conspicuous," Cosden
remarked. "A good deal of fuss over one small boy, eh, Monty?"

"Thank you so much!" Edith cried enthusiastically as they joined her. "I
haven't seen so much excitement since I arrived,--and I love to watch
two live men in action."

"It's frightful, being stared at, isn't it?" Cosden protested.

"Don't believe a word he says, Miss Stevens," Huntington retaliated. "He
really loves to be stared at; it's the disappointment on the people's
faces after looking at him that causes the worry.--Now, Connie, you can
put your foot on the ground without stepping on Billy. How are you
planning to take advantage of your opportunity?"

Cosden glanced at his watch. "I have an appointment with Thatcher at
eleven on that little business proposition. We're to meet at the
'Hamilton.' I've just about time to keep it. As for you, I suggest that
you invite Miss Stevens to show you the way to the Devil's Hole. They
have a wonderful collection of fish over there, which the Scotch keeper
puts through their paces every little while whenever he needs the money.
I commend your attention to the bachelor-fish: it has a bad disposition,
makes itself obnoxious to its fellow-creatures, and would be sarcastic
in its conversation if it had the power of speech."

With this parting shot Cosden made his excuses to Miss Stevens and
walked over to the "Hamilton." His spirits had improved immensely within
the past half-hour, and the proximity of his appointment caused him to
forget for the moment that his vacation trip thus far had distinctly
bored him. To Cosden a vacation consisted, as Henry James would have
described it, of "agitated scraps of rest, snatched by the liveliest
violence." On other occasions, when he sought relaxation, he had found
it in strenuous physical exercise; in the present instance he had
intended to engage himself in the more unfamiliar occupation of offering
a partnership to Merry Thatcher in the "Cosden Social Development
Company, Limited," although he had not expressed it to himself in just
these words. In this expectation he had so far signally failed. Had he
been a baron of old he might have seized the prospective bride bodily
and made off with her to his ancestral castle, but, even with the
handicap imposed by modern civilization, now that the diverting
influence had been eliminated, he believed the opportunity was nearer to
the point of offering itself. The fact that Thatcher had turned to him
in this proposition, whatever it was, not only pleased him as a further
evidence of recognition, but supplied him with an agreeable outlet for
his pent-up energy.

Cosden had told Huntington that Thatcher was a "big man," and his
friend, having learned his business vocabulary, understood what was
meant by this designation: Thatcher was a man of substantial means, held
influential positions on important boards, and wielded a power in the
financial circles in which he moved. Cosden had been far-sighted, he
told himself, to have happened upon the scene at this particular
juncture, for Thatcher would scarcely have gone out of his way to invite
him to join in the enterprise except for the coincidence of their
meeting; and Cosden was not averse to being included in the Thatcher
group of operators.

Thatcher was awaiting him on the lower piazza when he arrived at the
"Hamilton."

"I wanted to have a few words with you before we join this promoter
person up-stairs," he explained, "so I sent Stevens on ahead to tell him
we are on our way. Duncan is the man's name. He's a Scotchman who has
lived down here for many years. He has little education, and you could
cut his brogue with a knife."

"I won't object to his brogue if his signature is any good at the foot
of a check," Cosden interrupted.

"He doesn't come in on that end," Thatcher continued. "The idea is his,
and he can be of service later on if we proceed with it. It isn't very
large, and we can finance it easily if the thing is worth taking up at
all. The scheme is to fit Bermuda out with a trolley system, and to
bring the right tidy little island down to the twentieth century."

"Not a bad suggestion," Cosden commented,--"and a great improvement upon
the present system of bicycling." Billy would have rejoiced had he known
how stiff his adversary's legs were after the famous ride to Elba Beach.
"Why hasn't some one thought of it before?"

"Duncan will tell you the story as he has told me," Thatcher said
rising. "Come, let us go to him now. Ricky will have exhausted his
vocabulary by this time."

Cosden smiled at the mention of Stevens' name. "He's a curious
fellow,--Stevens," he remarked. "With that vacant expression on his face
he ought to make a corking poker-player. Is he interested in this
deal?"

"Ricky interested in business?" Thatcher laughed. "He would run a mile
to avoid it! No, he's just a messenger this morning; but Ricky is all
right in his way. He's the society member of his family. He isn't a
heavy-weight, but when it comes to dancing or the latest word in men's
attire, you can't overlook Ricky."

       *       *       *       *       *

Cosden's departure left Huntington and Miss Stevens together on the
piazza of the hotel. The bustle attendant upon the sailing had quieted
down but Huntington had not recovered from the unusually violent action
of the past few moments.

"I was going over to have another visit with Hamlen," he remarked, "but
the morning is gone."

"It isn't eleven o'clock yet," Miss Stevens commented.

"By Jove! is that all? Well, it's too late now, but I'll go this
afternoon.--It seems as if ages had passed since breakfast! Do you
suppose they'll keep that boy on board once they get him there?"

"Of course," she laughed. "Why worry about him?"

"I'm not worrying," Huntington protested. "I never worry,--I don't
believe in it. Worry is for parents and married people generally."

"What a cynic you are on the subject of marriage," Edith remarked; "you
never pass an opportunity to knock it, do you?"

"Am I so heartless as all that?" Huntington inquired by way of answer.
"But why can't you and I, who may class ourselves among those fortunate
ones who have escaped the snares, be honest with each other and enjoy
watching the thraldom of others who have shown themselves less
discreet?"

"How do you know that I do class myself among the fortunate ones?"

"Because you are unmarried, and seeing you is to know that you could not
enjoy that blessed state except through choice."

Edith smiled at his gallantry, wondering whether he was really as
flippant as he would have her think.

"If a woman were to take that position she would be accused of 'sour
grapes,' wouldn't she?"

"Probably; such is the instinctive pessimism of the times. It is so much
easier to do the conventional when one sees it going on all about him
that people are intellectually incapable of comprehending that to avoid
the obvious may be a matter of pre-determination, and an evidence of
strength rather than the result of accident or an act of omission."

"Does Mr. Cosden share your views upon this subject?" Edith inquired.

"Not at the present moment, if I am credibly informed by my
observations."

Edith looked at him critically. "Do you mean that he is engaged?" she
asked pointedly.

"Oh, no," Huntington disclaimed promptly, conscious that he was talking
of his friend with considerable freedom, but suddenly inspired with the
idea that it might help the situation; "no, I didn't mean that at all.
He isn't as careful as he used to be about exposing himself; that is
what I was trying to say. You see, I don't know how long inoculation
holds good: it's seven years for smallpox, and three years for typhoid.
How long should you say a man could hold out against matrimony on the
same ratio?"

"When was Mr. Cosden 'inoculated,' as you call it?" she asked, smiling.

"When he started out to make his fortune, about fifteen years ago."

"Then I'm sure it has run out of his system long since," she laughed.
"He ought to be very susceptible."

"I'm afraid you're right," Huntington sighed. "Of course, Connie has a
strong, robust constitution and he may pull through, but I will admit
that I've seen symptoms lately which cause me some anxiety. Did you
notice anything while you were out driving?"

"I noticed a good many things, but nothing which would contribute to the
subject you mention. He was about as responsive as the wrong side of a
mirror, but I talked at him until he had to say something in
self-defense."

"Dear me!" Huntington held up his hands deprecatingly. "That is one of
the worst symptoms possible. I had no idea that it had gone as far as
that. You and I must take Connie in hand."

"Who is the girl?" Edith demanded abruptly.

"Ah! I am counting on you to help me find out."

"It all must have happened before you came down here."

"On the contrary; Connie was quite himself until he reached Bermuda.
Since then--"

"Why, he hasn't met any one here except--"

"You and Miss Thatcher," Huntington completed. "You see how the search
narrows itself. I shall continue my investigations until I discover the
truth.

"How perfectly ridiculous!" Edith cried, not yet convinced as to his
sincerity. "Why, Merry is a mere child, and--what makes you think there
is anything of that kind in Mr. Cosden's mind?"

"His vindictiveness. Haven't you noticed the way he treated Billy? And
he has actually been harsh with me on two occasions. It isn't like
Connie; and if it affects him like this now, Heaven alone knows what the
outcome will be if matters go further. You know the old song:

  "_You may carve it on his tombstone, you may cut it on his card,
  That a young man married is a young man marred._"

"There you go again," laughed Edith; "the cynic once more leaps into the
limelight."

"But won't you pledge yourself to assist me in my noble work? Why not
form ourselves into a society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Single
Persons, and be sworn to do all we can to intervene between matrimony
and its victims?"

"Of course each would be at liberty to use his own judgment?" queried
Edith, amused.

"Yes; so long as he did not confound judgment with sentiment."

"That is a capital suggestion," she agreed smiling. "I will gladly join
you. Our first undertaking, I presume, will be to prevent affairs from
going any further between Merry and Mr. Cosden--granting that they
exist?"

"I don't say that. I recognize in you a superior person, and as such I
have absolute confidence that you will act in accord with the unwritten
constitution of our Society."

"Thank you for that confidence," Edith said still smiling. Then she
added enigmatically, "Whenever I accept a responsibility I always rise
promptly to the emergency. In the present instance it requires careful
consideration. Now, if you will excuse me I will take my morning
constitutional."

Huntington was not sorry to have a few moments of solitary
contemplation. Throwing away a half-smoked cigar, he drew his pipe from
his pocket and filled it with his favorite mixture--unchanged since he
first became acquainted with it at college. A cigarette represented to
Huntington the casual inconsequence of youth, a cigar the aristocracy of
smoking, a pipe that comfortable companionship which encourages
relaxation and introspective thought. With the first whiff he pulled his
hat down over his face, settled deep in his chair, and began to run over
the events of the past few days. Huntington's mind was methodical if not
always orderly, and his account of stock, when finally classified under
the head of "responsibilities," summed up about as follows:

     _Responsibility 1_: To keep peace with Connie, and yet
     persuade him against or frighten him out of his present
     assinine intentions.

     _Responsibility 2_: To pull Hamlen out of the solitary life
     which he had affected, and to force him to assume that
     position in the world to which he rightly belonged.

     _Responsibility 3_: To demonstrate to Mrs. Thatcher that her
     unmotherly idea of making restitution to Hamlen by throwing
     her daughter at his head was the product of an overwrought
     sentimentality rather than a rational suggestion.

     _Responsibility 4_: To become sufficiently intimate with
     Merry, the direct or indirect occasion of the entire
     complication, to be able to judge as to the probable outcome
     of all the other responsibilities.

The sum total of his obligations appalled him, and he found himself
proceeding in a mental circle, making no progress beyond the
recapitulation. He was not displeased, therefore, when he found himself
interrupted in his reveries by a bell-boy who stood before him, holding
out a tray containing a telegram. He took it mechanically, wondering who
had located him in this island retreat. Opening the yellow envelope he
read the following message, sent by wireless from the "Arcadian":

     "_That Cosden person has slipped it over on me this time,
     but I depend on you to watch out for my interests with
     Merry. She is the one best bet. Don't let that antique
     vintage of 1875 annoy her with his attentions. I know I can
     trust you. Please cable money to me in New York care of
     Hotel Biltmore to pay for this message and other expenses to
     Cambridge._

  "BILLY."

Huntington groaned aloud as he twisted uncomfortably in his chair.
"Another responsibility to add to the others!" he cried, "and I believed
bachelor's life one of freedom and ease! If ever I get out of this mess
I'll bury myself in some monastery, and let its cold grey walls protect
me against the matrimonial madness of the world!"



       *       *       *       *       *

XI

       *       *       *       *       *


By a curious coincidence Edith Stevens' "morning constitutional" took
her in the direction of the "Hamilton," and by another coincidence,
equally curious, she met Thatcher, Cosden, and her brother as they
emerged from the hotel after their conference with Duncan. Cosden was
still in an elated mental condition as a result of the fact that he had
again placed himself within the control of his master passion. Even
though Thatcher spoke of the enterprise as "small," it was an opening
wedge, and Cosden knew how to make the most of an opening.

The visit to Bermuda had already taught him that he was engaging in a
game of which he did not know even the first rudiments. It had seemed
easy enough to him when he first undertook it, but the experience of
these few days had undeceived him. When in the past he had wanted
anything, he simply played the game until he won out; now he saw that in
spite of his claim that marriage firmly rested upon basic business
principles, there was a certain hiatus which could not be filled in by
the education derived from every-day business routine in a
counting-room. He had met no discouragements as yet, but he was making
no beginning, and that of course was retrogression.

As he saw Miss Stevens approaching Cosden was seized with one of those
inspirations which had made his business career so signal a success. It
was stupid of him not to have thought of it before! Whenever he wanted
advice upon factory management he employed the best expert he could
secure; now that he required specialized service in the matter of
approaching Miss Thatcher upon the delicate subject he had in mind, why
should he not employ the same method? Every woman was by nature a
specialist in affairs of this kind, and from what he had already seen of
Miss Stevens he believed he could scarcely have selected one better
fitted to act in the capacity suggested.

It was easy enough to manoeuver matters so that he should walk back
with her to the "Princess," especially as she seemed unconsciously to
fall in with his plans by addressing her greeting particularly to him.
Cosden's response was so cordial and his pleasure in seeing her so
sincere that Edith was thoroughly mystified. Previously he had seemed
preoccupied, and appeared to endure her companionship rather than seek
it; now he threw aside his indifference and met her as a comrade. An
instant understanding flashed across her mind: Huntington had hinted
that his friend had suddenly developed interesting tendencies, and had
said plainly that the objective was either Merry Thatcher or herself.
Could it be that--well, perhaps it would not be necessary to use force
after all! Then, as a result of that curious feminine paradox, her next
thought was contradictory: "If he is really interested in me then I
shall lose interest in him." Still, the game was worth playing out.

They turned in at the little shaded lane which offers a short cut to the
hotel, but instead of entering the hallway Cosden stopped and indicated
the steps leading down to the tennis-courts.

"Would you mind having a very personal conversation with me down there?"
he asked with so much significance in his voice that Edith became almost
agitated.

"I'd love to sit down for a moment," she assented. "I've been walking so
long that I could take that bench in my arms and hug it."

"I'm in a quandary," Cosden began without preliminaries as soon as Edith
had adjusted herself where she would appear to best advantage. "I have
an idea that you can help me out."

"First aid to the wounded is right in my line," Edith assured him
helpfully.

Even with the inspiration which expectancy on the part of an audience is
always supposed to give a speaker, Cosden's fluency became somewhat
modified when he actually touched upon his main topic.

"I'm a peculiar sort of man, I've no doubt--"

"I wouldn't give a snap of my finger for a man who didn't possess
individuality," she interrupted emphatically.

"Well, perhaps it is more than individuality. Men seem to understand me
all right, but I've never had a sister, and I've been too tied down by
my business to cultivate women. I'm a man's man--I suppose that about
expresses it."

"That's a good recommendation; look at my brother,--he's a lady's man.
Would you change individualities with Ricky?"

"Perhaps not," Cosden said guardedly; "still in this matter your brother
could probably give me a pointer or two.--Hang it all! when I talk to a
man I don't have any difficulty in making myself understood, but here I
am, floundering round with you like a school-boy!"

"Just imagine for the moment that I am a man and that you are talking to
me about some one else--"

"That's it exactly; I knew you would understand. I thought Monty would
help me out, but he absolutely refuses to take me seriously. The truth
of the matter is that I've decided to get married."

Even with the preparation given her by Huntington's remarks Cosden's
statement came with an abruptness which surprised Edith into a becoming
flutter. Her eyes fell for the moment and she could feel a flush come
into her face. Knowing how some men admire the combination of blue eyes
and rosy cheeks she hastened to look up, but was disappointed to find
her companion's gaze resting upon the distant horizon.

"You have decided?" she asked archly; "where does the girl come in?"

"Oh, she'll come in all right at the finish, I've no doubt," Cosden
replied. "I'm taking you at your word, and I'm talking to you just as I
would to a man. I want you to tell me what I ought to do to make sure
that nothing goes wrong. I've always got what I've gone after, and it
would break me all up to come a cropper just because I hadn't handled
the matter right."

"Have you given the prospective bride any suggestion of your
intentions?" Edith inquired, her eyes again drooping.

"Not a word. That's not my way. I always plan things out to the finish,
and then it's plain sailing to the end."

"Have you reason to think she cares for you?"

"She has no more idea that I think of marrying anybody than you had
before I began to tell you; but I don't see why she should have any
special objection to me. The whole point is, I'm somewhat older than
she, and I'm not sure that I speak the same language."

Edith's mind executed some lightning mathematical calculations, and she
wondered if he were older than he looked.

"There is not too much difference, I am sure."

"Just eighteen years," Cosden announced with finality.

The color left Edith's face, and then it returned with greater strength.
Her surprise showed only in her snapping eyes, for she held herself well
in hand; but her mind was working fast. She was thankful enough that he
had been so wrapped up in himself that he was oblivious to her mistake.

"It would serve him right if I did marry him, to pay him back for this,"
was what her eyes said, but the words she spoke fitted well enough into
Cosden's understanding.

"Well, of course, eighteen years is a good deal--"

"Just the proper handicap." Cosden repeated the phrase he had used in
his discussion with Huntington. "Women grow old faster than men."

Edith bit her lip to hold back the caustic reply which was almost
spoken. He certainly was intent upon his purpose, but that did not
excuse his lack of gallantry. His friend could give him points on that!
The responsibility she had told Huntington she would assume became a
real one!

"Perhaps," she seemed to assent; "but of course it makes a difference
who the girl is. If I knew her--"

"You know her all right; it's Merry Thatcher."

"Oh!" she exclaimed, as if the identity was a complete surprise. "Yes,
you would have to plan your campaign pretty carefully with Merry. She is
a girl with definite ideas of her own, and she might not be influenced
by the fact that you always get what you go after."

Cosden looked at her suspiciously.

"Yes; I think I could help you," she added quickly.

"I'd be mighty grateful if you would," Cosden said with obvious relief.

"Now, let me see--" Edith proceeded carefully, but the way was clearing
before her. "I think you will need to take quite a course of training,"
she laughed. "Are you prepared to do that?"

"When I place myself in my doctor's hands I usually take his medicines."

"All right; then we'll start in at once. I must ask you a lot of
questions. Are you fond of athletics?"

"Next to my business, it's my longest suit."

"There is the first point of common interest. You are making a good
start.--Are you fond of reading?

"I like a good detective story."

"How about Stevenson and Ibsen and Lafcadio Hearn?"

"Not in mine, except 'Treasure Island' and 'Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.'"

Edith pursed her lips. "Not so good on the second test, Mr. Cosden. How
about opera?"

"My favorites are 'Lohengrin' and the 'Merry Widow.'"

"Horrors! That you must keep sacredly hidden from the dear girl. I've
known her to go to the opera eight times in one week, and sigh for more.
Of course you adore orchestral music?"

"You'll have to score zeros against me on music, but perhaps I can come
back strong in some other branches."

She held up a finger chidingly. "You from Boston, and don't rave over
your Symphony Orchestra! That is a real blow! I supposed every one in
Boston went to the Symphony concerts just for the prestige, even though
he couldn't tell whether the orchestra was playing or only tuning up."

"You see I'm not trying to sail under false colors."

"Well, now I come to the supreme test of all: do you dance?"

Cosden threw up his hands in real despair. "You are making me look
ridiculous," he said. "I knew the old dances, but I've never put myself
up against the new ones. I suppose I could learn."

"Well, well, well!" ejaculated the fair inquisitor. "All I can say is
that you showed real business judgment in coming to me first. Merry
would have made short work of you; she's crazy about dancing. Oh, don't
look so serious; the case may not be so hopeless as it seems."

"I don't see how it could be much worse." Cosden was genuinely
chagrined.

"It isn't every one who finds a fairy godmother waiting for him when he
comes out of his chrysalis, Mr. Cosden," Edith explained. "She will help
young Lochinvar to throw aside his antiquity and come down to date. In
two weeks' time you'll feel so spritely that Mr. Huntington and his
friends of equal age will bore you,--all provided that you follow your
instructor's precepts."

Cosden caught the contagion of her optimism. "It's mighty good of you,
Miss Stevens. I have no right to ask so much of a comparative stranger."

"Don't worry a bit," Edith reassured him. "You are to start right in and
practise on me. I'll teach you the new steps, and coach you in all
that's needful. You may lose your breath and a few friends, but I'll
guarantee to show you how to win a wife. Now you may begin your
education by leading me in to luncheon."



       *       *       *       *       *

XII

       *       *       *       *       *


Out of the helpless floundering in the lap of his "responsibilities" a
realization came to Huntington that immediate action of some sort was
imperative to prevent him from breaking his most zealously observed
commandment, "Thou shalt not worry." His antipathy to this favorite
pastime was not due to an acceptance of the Japanese theory that worry
produces poison in the human system, but rather to a willingness on his
part to let others do what he himself found distasteful. It was an
article of faith with him to avoid the unpleasant. During luncheon
Cosden was wrapped in his own thoughts, which gave final opportunity for
this realization to crystallize into a conclusion that the moment was at
hand to demonstrate his good intentions to Mrs. Thatcher, and to become
better acquainted with her daughter,--all in a single operation.

"If my leaving the table won't disturb your reflections--" he began.

Cosden looked up quickly and smiled. "I didn't intend to be such poor
company, Monty," he apologized. "The fact is, I have a good deal on my
mind. Of course you can't understand what that means; all you have to do
is to eat three meals a day, stand still while Dixon dolls you up at
stated intervals and go to sleep at night after he tucks you away in
your little trundle-bed."

There was an indulgent expression in Huntington's eye as he listened.
"Yes," he acquiesced; "it is always difficult for any one to see the
other fellow's viewpoint. But don't apologize; I think I like you better
when you're quiet.--Now, if you don't mind, I'll have a word with Mrs.
Thatcher."

He strolled leisurely to the table where the Thatcher party sat.

"I am going over to Mr. Hamlen's villa this afternoon," he announced; "I
wonder if Miss Merry would care to go with me."

"I'd love to," the girl replied promptly, with evident eagerness in her
voice. "Especially if you are going to talk with him as you did the
other evening," she added.

"You're taking that Hamlen chap rather seriously, aren't you?" Stevens
volunteered.

"He's entitled to it," Huntington said with a decision which Stevens
took to be a rebuff, and subsided.

Mrs. Thatcher was quick to understand that Huntington was acting in
response to her suggestion of the night before, and her face showed her
appreciation.

"I have wanted Merry to see those wonderful grounds," she exclaimed;
"this is just the time to do it."

"When does our Society go into executive session?" asked Edith, with a
significant smile; "my committee wishes to report progress."

"Splendid!" Huntington responded. "The notices shall be sent out at
once." Then he turned again to Merry. "You'll go?" he asked.

"Of course I will; I'll be ready whenever you say."

"I'll telephone Hamlen and see what time he would prefer to have us
come."

       *       *       *       *       *

"Shall we walk?" she asked him, as they met at the appointed hour on the
piazza of the hotel.

"It's over two miles," he suggested doubtfully. The idea of walking
anywhere when a conveyance was within reach never occurred to Huntington
naturally.

"I don't mind the distance at all unless you do," she replied; "I always
walk when I can, and the afternoon is delightful."

As Huntington regarded his vivacious companion he was conscious of
another shock similar to those he had experienced when he first saw her
and her mother the evening of his arrival. She had discarded the
unconventional costume of the morning, exchanging it for an afternoon
gown of softest texture, so girlish, yet to the practised eye revealing
in every detail the artist's creation,--arraying herself with such
special care that her escort could not fail to understand her
appreciation of his attention. It was Marian Seymour once more whose
hand he held in his as he assisted the girl down the long steps, and his
mind leaped back again over the five and twenty years. But what a
difference at his end of the picture! She was the same, but he--well,
the years had dealt kindly with him he must admit, but forty-five at
best must pay homage to twenty! Her youthful figure was disguised but
not hidden by the quaint gown of white Georgette crêpe and lace,
relieved from its monotone by a soft, moon-blue satin girdle,
embroidered with roses and leaves in pastel shades. The wide-brimmed hat
of the same crêpe, its crown of blue satin banded with flowers, the
dainty parasol, and the white kid colonials completed a becoming
costume. Huntington concluded that his slipper, so carefully preserved
at home, was as antique a souvenir as himself! "Shall we walk?" she
asked; he would have liked nothing better than to parade up and down
forever before every one he knew with this splendid young creature
beside him, exhaling all that glowing health and youth could add to the
natural charms which were her birthright! Particularly was he unable to
resist giving Cosden a look of triumph as they passed by him at the
steps.

"Room for one more in your party?" Cosden asked, rising impulsively.

"Full house, Connie," was the uncompromising response. "We're off on a
missionary trip, and you wouldn't be interested."

To Merry herself this was an adventure as pleasing as it was unusual.
Huntington had made a deep impression upon her on that one occasion to
which she so often referred. In her quiet, tense way the girl was a
hero-worshiper, and in that single moment Huntington had qualified for
the hero's crown. That he should have selected her as his companion for
this afternoon was enough to set her cheeks aglow and to make her eyes
sparkle with girlish anticipation.

"I'm afraid my nephew Billy has been imposing on your good-nature, these
days," he began.

"Billy?" she laughed. "Not a bit of it! Billy is the best fun ever. I
never saw such an irrepressible boy; he's just like a big St. Bernard
pup!"

Huntington decided to remember this for later use in time of need.

"I suppose we old-stagers forget how youthful we were at his age, but
sometimes it seems to me as if Billy would never grow up."

"Oh, he's all right, Mr. Huntington," Merry reassured him. "My brother
Phil is older, but every now and then he breaks out just the same. I
think they're lots of fun. It's only when they become serious that I
feel worried about them."

"Billy isn't often guilty of that," was Huntington's comment. "When he
and I are alone I don't mind having him bubble over. It keeps me young,
so I rather like it; but down here it seemed as if he was getting in
every one's way,--just like a puppy, as you say. Mr. Cosden--"

"I'm afraid Mr. Cosden doesn't remember his own boyhood as well as you
remember yours," Merry interrupted. "How much more he would enjoy
himself if he had a bump of humor, wouldn't he?"

"Connie? Why, I never noticed that he lacked humor. Of course Connie is
very intense; he goes at his business as if it were the only thing in
life, and when it comes to play it's the same way. Now that you speak
about it, I don't know that I have noticed much sense of humor in him.
Perhaps that's why we pull together so well."

"I'm glad you asked me to go with you this afternoon," Merry continued.
"Mother has told me something about Mr. Hamlen, and I feel terribly
sorry for him. He was so miserably unhappy the other evening. She says
he has one of the most wonderful places she ever saw."

"He has; but I believe you will be even more interested in studying the
man than his frame. The morning I spent with him stands out as an event
in my life. You heard us discussing college the other evening; well,
Hamlen is the product of the one great fault in the life at Harvard when
we were there."

"For Phil's sake, I hope all the faults are overcome by now."

Huntington smiled. His face was one which smiled easily, adding to the
charm of his low, well-modulated voice.

"Most of the faults have been eradicated," he replied, "but weaknesses
will always exist. Perhaps I should have called this a weakness. To-day
it is partially remedied, and I believe that the new freshman
dormitories are going to be a large insurance clause against it."

"I don't believe I understand--"

"Nor can you until I cease speaking in enigmas," laughed Huntington. "I
once went to a lecture William James gave on Pragmatism, and all I took
away as a reward for my hour of careful listening was that 'nothing is
the only resultant of the one thing which isn't.' I upbraided him for it
when next we met, and he explained that the prerogative of a philosopher
is that he can retreat behind meaningless expressions and still be
considered wise. I am no philosopher, so it is cowardly of me to try to
take similar advantage of you. Hamlen is a college-made recluse, and
there is no denying the fact that at Harvard there has been less effort
made by the students to find out the personal characteristics of their
classmates than at any of the other colleges. Each fellow has had to
show them forth himself, and it had to be done his freshman year. If he
held back, as Hamlen did, they have let him stay in his shell; then he
concluded they didn't like him."

"But a boy can't advertise his characteristics--"

"No; but he can manifest them in legitimate ways. Why, my freshman year
there was a little fellow in the Class who didn't weigh a hundred
pounds, and had no more strength than a cat; but he went in for crew,
football, baseball, track athletics, debating,--and everything else you
could imagine. He was no good in any of them, and didn't come within a
mile of making any team. We all made fun of him and we all loved him for
his grit. He didn't have to advertise; we knew him through and through.
That is the kind of boy that makes good at Harvard."

"Some boys wouldn't realize the importance of this until too late, with
no one to tell them, would they?"

"That is the whole point, Miss Merry, and it hasn't taken you as long to
see it as it has taken the college authorities. When Hamlen and I were
there no one made any effort to shake us up together. I had my own small
circle of friends, and we cared precious little for any one outside of
it. If I had known Hamlen then as I have come to know him here in less
than a week, I should have insisted on his being one of that little
circle; but I didn't know him at all. I am watching this segregation of
the freshmen with great interest. It seems as if they must get to know
each other better now; but if this experiment doesn't solve the problem
then the authorities must keep on trying until they find one that does."

They walked on in silence for several moments. Huntington was deeply in
earnest, and Merry eager to hear every word. Her father, not being a
college man, had always been more or less intolerant of the claims made
by college graduates, so her ideas had naturally been colored by his
views. Her brother was sent to Harvard because his mother wished it, not
because Thatcher had changed his opinions, and Merry's new views, as
gained by her brother's life there, had not given her any deeper
understanding. What Huntington said to Hamlen supplied her with another
viewpoint, and she was keenly interested in this continuation of the
same subject.

"Hamlen is a man cowed and embittered by his experiences," Huntington
said, speaking again. "Every time he has gone out into the world it has
been head foremost, without looking. He has butted against stone wall
after stone wall when he could have seen the opening had he used his
eyes. Each time he has been bruised he has fancied that the world struck
him, when in reality the wound was self-inflicted."

"Has he no friends--no hobby which can take him out of himself?"

"He believes himself to be friendless, but he has a hobby; I discovered
it when I was at his villa yesterday. Do you happen by any chance to
know anything of the artistic side of bookmaking?"

"I took some lessons from Cobden-Sanderson while we were in London two
winters ago, but I haven't done much with what I learned."

"Did you really?" Huntington stopped short and looked at her in genuine
surprise. "That is a curious coincidence! I hadn't the remotest idea,
when I asked the question, that you knew there was anything in a book
except the story. Well, that does simplify matters! Hamlen has a
hand-press and a miniature bindery, and has made some really exquisite
volumes. It is his one remaining human trait. I've known the books for
years, but no one could find out who made them. Well, well! I promise
that you shall see Hamlen this afternoon in a mood quite different from
the one you saw him in the other night; you shall know the man as I know
him, and better than he knows himself!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Huntington noticed a new light in Hamlen's eyes as he greeted them at
the villa. The man was more reserved in the presence of a third person,
but Huntington was relieved to find that the fact of Merry's coming did
not throw his host back into that restrained attitude which he
manifested when first they met.

"I have brought you another congenial soul," Huntington explained.

"Can there be such--for me?" Hamlen demanded, but his guest continued as
if he had not heard.

"Quite accidentally I find that Miss Merry has been a pupil of
Cobden-Sanderson's, and I want her to see what you have done in this
miniature island press of yours."

"I should be so interested," Merry exclaimed eagerly.

"How can it interest any one but me?" Hamlen asked incredulously. "I am
parading my inmost self in public, and it seems indecent."

"I should not wish to intrude--" the girl began but Hamlen held up a
deprecating hand, and the expression on his face refuted the apparent
lack of courtesy.

"I am sure you won't misunderstand, Miss Thatcher, being, as Mr.
Huntington says, a congenial soul. It is I who am apologizing. To have
any one show interest in what I do is a new experience, and I hesitate
for fear I may be indelicate. And yet I want to show you what I've
done!"

"Of course I understand," Merry replied cordially; "I'm proud to be
among the first to see your work."

"Before we go indoors, may I not take you around the grounds?" he turned
to Huntington. "Perhaps you are in the mood for it to-day?"

"By all means," his guest responded. "It will give us exactly the right
atmosphere for what is to follow."

Huntington rejoiced to see Hamlen's attitude. For an hour they wandered
from one point to another, Merry in a state of ecstasy from the superb
beauty of it all, Hamlen supremely happy in this sympathetic
companionship of which he knew so little, and Huntington contentedly
watching the life-drama enacting before his eyes. On the stage such a
sudden change from tragedy to comedy would have been considered crude,
for who could write lines of such delicacy as to portray the yearning of
a human soul, or what actors are there so great that they could mimic
the birth of hope? "God is the master-dramatist, after all," Huntington
murmured to himself as he studied the changes which made the tortured
derelict of a few days before into the contained and self-respecting
host.

They returned to the house, and Hamlen took them to his press and
bindery. Huntington purposely kept in the background, asking a question
now and then, adding a word only where it was necessary, and giving his
host the opportunity of explaining the finer points of the work to the
responsive and comprehending mind of the girl. Little by little he could
see the real Hamlen emerge from his manufactured self under the
influences around him.

But his interest was not wholly centered in Hamlen. Until to-day
Huntington had observed Merry only in her relation to others; now he
felt a personal pride in the way she carried herself, in her quick
understanding, her sympathetic responsiveness. He felt unconsciously for
these brief moments a pleasurable sense of possession which added to his
enjoyment.

"Now take us to your library," he said to Hamlen at length. "You told me
that you had there some examples of the old master-printers at which you
had scarcely looked. I want to see them; perhaps they may show us the
influences which unconsciously affected your work."

"Most of them belonged to my father," Hamlen explained, as he opened the
door for his guests to pass through into the larger room.

"He was a collector, then?"

"In a small way. As I look back, he must have known a good deal about
old books; but I had no interest then, so they made little impression."

Huntington glanced around at the shelves critically.

"Classics, classics, classics!" he cried. "Good heavens, man, do you
mean to tell me that you haven't any modern books at all?"

Hamlen flushed. "There are many of these which I don't know well yet,"
was his reply. "Until then why should I accept counterfeits?"

Huntington had already found the shelf which held the _incunabula_ and
the later examples of printing.

"Jenson, Aldus--ah, here is the 'Hypnerotomachia Poliphili,' and a
splendid copy! That is the only illustrated volume Aldus ever issued,"
he explained to Merry as he turned the pages. "Here is where you found
that half-diamond formation of the type," he added, speaking to Hamlen,
and pointing to the printed page.

Hamlen bent forward. "I didn't even remember that it had ever been
used," he said. "I simply felt the necessity of filling out my page."

"So did Aldus," Huntington answered significantly. "Here is one of
Étienne's Greek books. Splendid work, isn't it? And yet, after giving
France the crown of typographical supremacy which Italy had lost, he had
to flee for his life because he wouldn't let his books be censored!"

"My father had a fine copy of Plantin's 'Polyglot Bible.'" Hamlen drew
one of the massive volumes from the shelf.

"Yes," Huntington replied, glancing critically at it and then at several
of the other books; "your father must have known his subject well, for
these examples follow the supremacy of printing from Italy down to
modern times. See, starting with Aldus, you have one of Étienne's, then
one of Plantin's, representing the period when Belgium snatched the
prestige from France, then here is a 'Terence' of Elzevir's, printed
when Holland was supreme; then Baskerville's 'Vergil,' which gave
England the crown in the eighteenth century--"

"Where does Caxton come in?" Merry asked.

"He belongs to the period of Aldus, but his work was distinctly inferior
to that of his Italian rival.--I say, Hamlen, where did your father go,
after Baskerville?"

Huntington, continuing his examination of the volumes, answered his own
question. "Here it is,--a beautiful example of Didot's 'Racine,' printed
in that type which he and Bodoni cut together. Splendid judgment your
father showed! This explains everything: you come naturally by your
genius. What you have called instinct is really inheritance. Now the
next; what is it?" Huntington became impatient in his eagerness.

"That is as late as my father's collection went."

"But surely you have a Kelmscott 'Chaucer'?"

"Yes; I bought one when I was in England."

"Put it up here just after the 'Racine.' There you are: except for
Gutenberg's 'Mazzarine Bible,' which you may be excused for not
possessing because of its rarity, you have a complete set representing
the best printing which has been done in each epoch."

"You see how little I realized it," Hamlen apologized.

"You expressed your realization in the most tangible way possible, my
dear fellow! You produced examples which are worthy to stand on the same
shelf with those masterpieces. We won't put any living printer's work
there yet, until Time has placed its value upon it, but I'll wager that
when the next selection is made the books of Philip Hamlen will receive
consideration."

"I wish I might believe that," Hamlen said with deep feeling; "it would
mean everything to me."

"You must believe it. When you come to Boston, and find out how other
collectors regard your work, you'll think my praise is tame. Until then,
believe what I tell you, and take out of it the gratification which
belongs to you.--I want you to go back to Boston with me, Hamlen, and
pay me a visit. Will you do it?"

The change in subject was so abrupt that it took his host entirely
unawares.

"Do you mean that, Huntington?" he asked.

"Of course I mean it. In fact, I insist upon it. I want to take you home
to exhibit to my jealous friends as my own discovery.--Then it's all
agreed."

"I couldn't leave here," Hamlen said soberly.

"I'll wait for you," Huntington replied. "I'm really in no hurry at
all."

Hamlen laughed, and it was the first time Huntington had seen his
reserve break down. He could not help contrasting it with the burst of
emotion which had preceded his departure only the day before.

"You are a hard man to resist," Hamlen said lightly; "but that is
something for the future. Let me have it to look forward to."

"Well, I haven't left Bermuda yet, and I don't want to go without
you.--Now, Miss Merry, I must get you safely back to the hotel. Do you
feel equal to another walk?"

"I'm eager for it," she replied.

At the door Hamlen managed to have a word alone with Huntington.

"You knew her mother when she was a girl, you said?"

"Yes;--slightly," was the guarded reply.

"She was wonderful!" he exclaimed with much feeling. Then he added, "The
daughter is very like her, don't you think?"



       *       *       *       *       *

XIII

       *       *       *       *       *


Hamlen's remark remained in Huntington's mind long after it was spoken.
He himself had been impressed by Merry's resemblance to her mother as
they set out on their afternoon's pilgrimage; yet his reply to Hamlen's
question was a prompt denial. Huntington's mind centered itself upon
this paradox as they walked down the long driveway, and he wondered why
he had impulsively yet deliberately given an impression so at variance
with what he knew to be the facts. Seeking for self-justification, he
turned his head slightly so that he might inspect his companion more
closely without attracting her attention. After all, he satisfied
himself, the resemblance was occasioned more by certain intangible
characteristics than by any similarity of features. Marian Seymour
possessed a beauty of more startling type than her daughter; indeed,
until that afternoon Huntington had thought of Merry as an attractive
rather than a beautiful girl. Now that the subject forced itself upon
him he realized she was both, and that the type proved so satisfying
that he had been content to enjoy it without the temptation of analysis.

Huntington's further acquaintance with the daughter emphasized his
disapproval of her mother's idea regarding her possible marriage to
Hamlen, and this led him to make a comparison between Marian Seymour as
she was to-day and the idealization with which he had been so long
familiar. Her beauty still remained, her fascination was perhaps greater
since experience had given substance to her girlish vivacity and charm,
and her energy was such that she unconsciously dominated every situation
of which she was a factor. She was evidently devoted to her husband and
to her children, but her force of personality dominated them as it did
all others with whom she came in contact. Huntington had rather admired
this trait in a woman, but now it clashed with his own judgment. He gave
her credit for believing that she would be acting in her daughter's
interest, but her suggestion did shock him, for it seemed to show a lack
of sympathetic understanding. The idea of Merry married to Philip
Hamlen! The man was all right, in his way, of course. Eventually he
might become less of the recluse and more nearly human; but obviously he
was too old and too settled in his eccentricities to be inflicted on any
woman, and least of all on a girl like this.

"But still, confound him!" Huntington said to himself, "he came out of
his chrysalis far enough to take notice!"

Then his thoughts jumped from Hamlen to Cosden. Connie was more alive
than Hamlen could ever be expected to become, but the same arguments
applied to him in greater or less degree. It was easy enough to
understand what had attracted him, for Connie always instinctively
sensed in anything the really vital assets. Now that Huntington was
becoming better acquainted with Merry he resented more and more the idea
of this coldly-calculated courtship, and he wondered why this
characteristic of Cosden's had not more often offended him in the past.

From this point it was an easy shift to Billy,--dear, lovable, spoiled,
heedless Billy! Of course he loved Merry, just as he had always loved
every beautiful object he had ever seen; and, naturally enough, he
wanted this beautiful object just as he had wanted hundreds of others
during his brief but meteoric career. And still of course, he looked to
his Uncle Monty to gratify his whim in this as in all other cases! It
was going to the other extreme: Billy was as much too young and
irresponsible as the others were too old and unsuitable. This much
Huntington was able to settle definitely in his mind, and his arrival at
a conclusion brought with it a sense of relief.

Huntington suddenly became aware that his introspection had occupied
more time than courtesy permitted, but Merry, absorbed in her own
thoughts, had not noticed his abstraction. He tried to relieve the
tension.

"'Silence is golden, speech is silvern,'" he quoted. "What do you say to
our adopting a silver standard?"

Merry's laugh showed that the interruption was welcome. "You always say
the least expected thing, Mr. Huntington!" she exclaimed. "My mind was a
thousand miles from here."

"A thousand miles," Huntington repeated reflectively. "I'm fairly good
in geography, but I'm afraid I'll have to ask you the direction before
I locate the spot."

"Straight up," she responded, half entering into his mood, half
returning to her serious vein,--"straight in that kingdom where desire
to do the right and wise thing is not hampered by a lack of knowledge."

"You would like to help Hamlen?"

"Indeed I would!"

What a serious face it was! Huntington studied it with satisfaction yet
with twinges of conscience.

"I should not burden you with my problem," he said penitently. "Why
should youth be made to carry loads which belong to older shoulders?"

"Please--" the girl protested eagerly. "I want you to do it. I
appreciate your confidence so much that I am eager to be of some real
service."

"You like--responsibilities?" he queried.

"It isn't living to be without them, is it? They seem to come of their
own accord to men: a woman usually has to work hard to find any that are
worth while."

"Some women do," Huntington admitted; "others have more than their share
without deserving them. Burdens usually seek and find the willing
shoulders."

"Of course; but I mean the women who have been brought up as I have
been. I've always had everything I wanted, and my parents have protected
me against everything. They even protest when I rebel against my own
uselessness by going into settlement work, and in other small ways try
to express my individuality."

"Such as the course in bookbinding with Cobden-Sanderson?"

Merry smiled consciously. "That was such a poor attempt, because I had
no ability. My squares were uneven, my backs were wrinkled, and it was
really such sloppy work."

"Granting that what you say is true, yet the experience gained in doing
it enabled you to understand Hamlen to-day far better than if you had
never attempted it. That is the main point, isn't it?"

"I suppose nothing we do is ever wholly lost," she admitted. "I did
understand Mr. Hamlen, but that understanding has brought me no nearer
to the point where I can help him."

"You helped him to-day more than any one has ever done except
myself.--You see how frankly I accept first glory."

"I helped him?" Merry protested. "Why, I only listened and allowed
myself to be entertained."

"Yes; but there is a difference in the way one does even that. He
hesitated to show you his work and yet he wanted to show it to you. That
was the struggle between the habit of years to restrain his real feeling
and the desire which your sympathetic personality created in him. And
the desire won out. Each time the habit is broken its power over him
becomes weaker. Now do you see the value of the service you rendered
him?"

"It is wonderful how clearly you analyze things!" the girl exclaimed
admiringly. "All I could see was depressing, but you found encouragement
in everything."

"Surely those beautiful books encouraged you?"

"Yes; but they emphasized the awful pity of the deliberate repression of
his full ability."

"Still; the fact that the demand for expression was as stronger than the
will to repress it shows the character beneath."

"Then not to express one's individuality shows a lack of character?"
Merry inquired soberly.

"I think I sense some personal application," Huntington answered
guardedly. "I must know more before I utter further words of wisdom."

The girl looked up into his face inquiringly, and then laughed
consciously. "I am really becoming frightened by your power to
understand," she said, only half jokingly. "I do mean to make a personal
application. I want to express myself individually, but, being a woman,
I cannot find the opportunity. If I really had character I'm sure that I
should force the opportunity."

Huntington realized that in hesitating to answer her question he had
been wiser than he knew. The seriousness which appeared from time to
time on the girl's face, then, was not a passing mood, but rather the
index of warring emotions. An unguarded word at this moment might do
much injury to a nature which was striving to find itself.

"Do you know yet what form you wish your individuality to take?" he
asked cautiously.

"Not exactly," was the frank response. "What I object to, is that a girl
isn't allowed to become interested in anything that is worth while. She
is given her education and 'brought out,' after which, whether she likes
it or not, she seems to be placed in a position of waiting for some man
to come along to marry her. Why can't she be allowed to do something,
just as a boy is, until she finds out whether she wants to marry or
not?"

"That would be a fatal error!" Huntington explained with mock gravity,
hoping to lighten the serious turn the conversation had taken. "If any
such idea gained ground marriage would become the exception rather than
the rule. How many girls do you think would ever marry if they were
permitted to find any other real interest in life?"

"But I'm serious, Mr. Huntington," Merry protested, showing that she
felt hurt by his flippancy. "I couldn't bear to be a nonentity all my
days. Think of realizing one's own ambitions only by marrying a man who
could fulfil them! I could not be happy unless I contributed my share to
the real life which we jointly lived."

"You could do it," Huntington said with conviction, "but not every woman
could.--See that old man bowing to us. Suppose we go and speak with him.
Do you mind?"

"Every one is so courteous here," she exclaimed as they crossed the
narrow road. "I never pass one of the natives without receiving a
greeting of some kind, and the children are forever shyly forcing
flowers or fruit upon me. It makes one love the place."

The old man was overjoyed to have attracted attention. He hobbled
forward with difficulty as they approached, and bowed as low as his
infirmities would permit.

"You are welcome to Bermuda," he said with a cracked, high-pitched
voice. "We are pleased to have strangers visit us."

"Your visitors remain strangers but a little while," Huntington answered
him, "because of your hospitality."

"Won't you come in and sit down?" the old man urged.

"Not to-day, thank you; but if we should not be intruding it would be a
pleasure to return some other time."

"You could not intrude, sir," he insisted; "for I am only waiting."

"Waiting?" Huntington questioned.

"Yes; waiting for that," and he pointed to a tall cedar growing inside
the yard, beside which was the stump of another tree.

"He wants to tell us something," Merry whispered.

"They were planted there sixty years ago," the old man continued, "the
two of them. They were little slips, stuck in our wedding-cake as is our
custom here, when my wife and I were married. We put them in the ground,
for everything takes root in this soil, and they grew side by side for
fifty years. Then that one fell"--pointing to the stump,--"and the next
day my wife was taken sick and died. We made her coffin from the cedar
wood of that tree, sir. Now I'm waiting for the other one to fall. That
was ten years ago now, so it won't be long."

"Isn't that a beautiful idea?" Merry exclaimed, touched by the
unconscious pathos of the old man's words. "We would like to come back
and have you tell us about your wife."

"She was a sweet, young girl like yourself when I married her," he
replied. "We were both born here and never left the island. But the maps
aren't fair to us; we're not so small"--he straightened and waved his
arm--"we're not so small, as you can see."

They left him happy over the unusual break in his monotony, and
continued their walk to the hotel.

"Here is the other side to the picture," Huntington remarked. "This old
man and his wife, and hundreds of others no doubt, live their lives out
here happy and contented with their nineteen square miles of world, yet
you and I are pitying Hamlen because of his self-exile under
circumstances infinitely more acceptable!"

"It is a question of what one has within, isn't it?" Merry asked, "that
something which keeps one from being satisfied with anything less than
the most and the best that life can give him and he can give to life."

Huntington looked at her with undisguised admiration. "You couldn't have
stated it better if you had taken all the college courses in the world,"
he said. "You're a wonderful little girl, Miss Merry, and if you don't
let your heart play pranks with that well-balanced head of yours you
will certainly achieve your great ambition."

They were near the hotel now, and the conversation had strayed so far
from the original subject that the girl did not follow him.

"My great ambition?" she asked. "And that is--"

"I won't tell you until we're up the steps."

"Well?" she demanded archly, as at length they stood on the piazza.

"You will marry a man who will let you contribute your share to the real
life which you will jointly live."

The laughing response which he had looked for was not spoken, but to his
amazement Merry turned from him without a word and disappeared within
the hallway.



       *       *       *       *       *

XIV

       *       *       *       *       *


Thatcher and Cosden chartered one of the hotel carriages the next
morning and started on a tour of inspection over the route plotted out
by Duncan for the proposed trolley-line. After passing beyond the town
limits, and with the long stretch of superb coral road ahead of them,
Thatcher turned to his companion.

"Why can't we get together on the Consolidated Machinery?" he asked
pointedly.

"The public demands that your nefarious trust be compelled to recognize
its rights," Cosden replied smiling.

"Good!" Thatcher smiled in response. "Now that you have that piffle off
your chest, please go on."

"This time we have the goods," Cosden added significantly.

"If you are so sure of it, why don't you show them to us? Then we can
tell whether it's a real hold-up or merely an attempt."

"That's just the point, and the sooner your crowd realizes it the less
time you will waste. This is not a hold-up game; we have the goods, and
we can make a better thing by operating than by selling out."

"You have courage to buck up against an organization as strong as ours."

"Not only courage but capital enough to see us through."

The antiquated stage-coach, plying between St. George's and Hamilton,
lumbered past them. Cosden smiled as he turned to his companion.

"There's a perfect illustration of the situation," he said. "Your
machines belong to the same vintage as that old coach, yet by
maintaining a monopoly, as you have been able to do until now, you have
succeeded in forcing manufacturers to employ antique methods, and to pay
you a whacking big royalty for the privilege of remaining twenty years
behind the times. That stage-coach will stand as much chance of
continuing on its beat, if our trolley scheme goes through, as your
machines have of keeping out of the scrap-heap when ours once get on the
market. This isn't any news to you, Thatcher, and that's what makes your
whole crowd so anxious."

"If what Duncan tells us is correct," Thatcher retorted quickly, "we
have just about as much show of pulling off the trolley scheme as you
fellows have of putting this machinery game over on us. Somebody has
been going to do this to us for twenty years, but somehow the
manufacturers keep coming back to renew their contracts."

"Of course they do," Cosden admitted; "they haven't dared to do anything
else. Look at the terms in your leases! Any manufacturer would have to
be absolutely sure that the new machines were backed strongly enough to
keep you from punishing him for his temerity. That can now be
guaranteed, and with the element of fear eliminated they will flock to
us, rejoicing that they have the opportunity to leave their shackles of
bondage behind them."

"Another Emancipation Proclamation!" laughed Thatcher; but Cosden found
the moment to impress the enemy with the strength of his position too
opportune to allow himself to be diverted.

"Think of it, Thatcher," he cried with characteristic enthusiasm. "In
less than two years they can save enough, through the economies of
production, to buy their machines outright, instead of continuing year
after year to pay you tribute with nothing at the end to show for it. We
give them methods as well as machines, and show them how an ordinary
workman can produce the high-grade output of a skilled operative by
means of the improved automatic features of our machinery. The makers of
medium-quality goods can now turn out work equal to that heretofore
produced only by high-grade manufacturers."

"You're a grand salesman, Cosden," Thatcher said lightly. "Your company
ought to put you on the road! Our people would pay you a big salary to
handle the sales end of our organization."

"I shouldn't be worth ten dollars a week to them. There are three kinds
of salesmen, Thatcher: one sells his concern, another sells his
customers, and the third sells his goods. A man can't belong in the
third class unless he himself believes in what he's selling. I've been
making these machines for our crowd for five years, including the
experimental period, and I know what I'm talking about. Four big plants
are now being equipped, and when they once begin running you'll see your
royalties dropping away from you like friends after a failure. The fact
that you have had a monopoly has encouraged your people to keep their
eyes on the stock-market instead of on the improvement of their
machines, and our biggest asset is the fact that every manufacturer who
is leasing from you to-day is sore over his treatment."

"That goes without saying," Thatcher admitted; "they would be sore if we
gave them the machines outright. But if you are so sure your
improvements are valuable, why go to the expense of duplicating our
selling and manufacturing equipment when we stand ready to make a fair
trade?"

"The new machines wouldn't be worth as much to you as they are to us."

"Why not?"

"Because you would never use them. The improved models would simply be
side-tracked to keep them from competing against your antiques. You
would be paying whatever it cost to get hold of them for hush money,
just as you have done a hundred times before."

"Suppose we did: what difference would it make to you, so long as you
get a good thing out of it? I don't understand that your company was
organized for philanthropic purposes."

"No; business and philanthropy usually work better when they're given
allowances for separate maintenance, but in this particular case the two
seem to be walking along hand in hand. Self-interest, Thatcher, is the
strongest motive in the world, and when you find a proposition which
offers self-interest to the buyer as well as to the seller you have an
irresistible argument."

"This is a great road-bed for a trolley-line," Thatcher remarked,
leaning over the side of the carriage. "The construction problem ought
to be a simple one."

"The proposition to have a line of cars run here is so obvious that
there must have been powerful objections to obstruct it all these
years," Cosden answered, quite content to await Thatcher's pleasure in
resuming the main topic of their conversation.

It was a beautiful clear, cool morning, and the sea at their left
sparkled brilliantly in its sapphire splendor. To the right of the
carriage road were attractive cottages, overgrown with blooming
_bougainvillea_ or other less spectacular foliage. Every now and then a
more pretentious mansion appeared, built on some elevation which
commanded a view of the water on either side, and surrounded by heavy
clumps of cedar and fan-leaved palmettos. Frequently the road passed
between high walls of solid coral limestone, from the crevices of which
the ever-decorative Bermuda vegetation showed scarlet, orange and purple
blooms against the green.

"There must be something more than sentiment," Thatcher commented. "I
suspect that we shall uncover some large personal interests here which
have been strong enough to protect themselves--"

"And find concealment behind the convenient screen of sentimentality,"
completed Cosden.

"Exactly. I wouldn't spend any time on it at all except that it seems so
important to the people themselves."

Cosden laughed so spontaneously that Thatcher looked up quickly, trying
to grasp the unintended humor in his last remark. His companion was
hugely amused and made no effort to conceal it.

"Well?" Thatcher interrogated good-naturedly; "aren't you going to let
me in on it?"

"It's funny, that's all," Cosden replied; "but it's perfectly good
business either way you work it. Simply a question of how you sit when
you have your picture taken."

Thatcher's face demanded further explanation, but before Cosden spoke
again by way of enlightenment his amused expression disappeared, and he
became serious.

"I don't know as it is so funny, after all," he said. "When you spoke of
being interested in this trolley scheme principally because it was so
important to the people, I couldn't help thinking how inconsistent you
were."

"Inconsistent?" Thatcher echoed.

"Suppose you owned that line of stage-coaches, and leased it out just as
you do these machines. Then some men came along and proposed to build a
trolley-line which would push the stage-coaches off the map. That's what
our new machines will do to your old ones. In one case you're interested
in the improved method because it is so important to the people; in the
other you say, 'The people be damned.' But you're no different from the
rest of us. Our so-called consistency is as full of holes as a sieve;
but it's always the other fellow who sees it. We're too close to
ourselves to get the perspective."

"I am relieved," Thatcher said. "If it is only a question of
inconsistency I'll take a chance on holding my own. But sometimes we are
not so inconsistent as we seem. The 'other fellow' thinks he has a joke
on us when in reality he only sees part of the situation. This
'nefarious trust,' for example which you cite as a hideous illustration
of grinding monopoly, took hold of an industry, twenty years ago, and
brought system out of chaos, shouldered all the risk, taught
manufacturers how to make money out of their business, and enabled small
factories to become big ones by leasing them machines which they could
not afford to buy. The trust has prospered, but so have the
manufacturers. Who shall say that those who took the risks are not
entitled to the rewards, or that the system introduced and developed by
the trust was not as much in the interests of the people as this
trolley-line we are proposing?"

"There isn't much of anything we can't prove if we argue long enough, is
there?" Cosden retorted. "If I hadn't heard all that before, and if I
hadn't seen the way the 'system' worked out, I should be almost
persuaded. Some one told me once that there were two sides to every
story except that of Cain and Abel, but I came across an Icelandic myth
a while ago in which Abel was the murderer, and since then I've refused
to believe anything until I know the other side. Probably the only way
for you and me to agree on this question is for each of us to buy some
stock in the other fellow's company."



       *       *       *       *       *

XV

       *       *       *       *       *


Edith had secured the necessary records for the victrola from the hotel
office, and she and Cosden were alone in the ball-room ready for the
first lesson in modern dancing. Cosden had never before noticed how
enormous the room was, or how many of its windows opened onto the
piazza, or how curious the average hotel guest is when a novice is about
to be initiated into the mysteries of terpsichorean art.

"Pay no attention to them," Edith reassured him. "Those who know how to
dance have had to go through it, and those who haven't learned are
perishing for an opportunity. Listen!" she cried, as the music began.
"Can you possibly make your feet behave when you hear that heavenly
one-step? Look!"

Lifting her skirts gracefully above her ankles, Edith made herself a
veritable part of the music, pirouetting up and down and around, while
he watched her in mingled admiration and trepidation.

"There!" she cried, stopping before him; "it's perfectly simple, you
see. Now, you try it."

"By myself?" he inquired.

"Of course," she laughed. "How else can you learn?"

"All right," was the dubious assent; "but don't you think we might pull
those curtains down?"

"Nonsense! You might as well start in,--you couldn't look more foolish
than you do now."

"All right," he again assented, and took his place on the floor.

"Now, left foot forward--one, two, three, four. No; left foot, I said.
That's it. Now rise a little on your toes. Don't be so heavy, and for
Heaven's sake look as cheerful as you can!"

"This is awful!" Cosden ejaculated, mopping his forehead. "Don't you
think it's too warm a day to begin?"

"It isn't warm; it's really cool, and you haven't begun to begin yet.
Now start in again. Left foot,--left I say, one, two--oh! that miserable
victrola has stopped!"

"Let me wind it up," Cosden insisted quickly, glad of the opportunity to
struggle with something tangible.

"Now we'll try again," Edith said amiably. "This time get started before
the music runs down. Watch me just a moment. There,--now you know what
to do. Left, dear man, left,--not right, and rise on your toes, one,
two, three, four. Why don't you pay attention to the music?"

"I think I could learn better without the music. It throws me off."

"Move with it; then it will help you."

"I can't; it mixes me up."

"Don't you feel any impulse to move your feet when you hear that music?"

"Yes; I feel an inordinate desire to run out of the room."

"But, seriously, doesn't the rhythm of that one-step make you
instinctively want to dance?"

"Not the slightest. I never wanted to dance in my life until now, and
only now because you tell me that it's part of the game."

"Did you ever play any musical instrument?"

"Oh, yes; when I was a boy I played the bones in a minstrel show."

"Well, there's a ray of hope.--Wind up the victrola again, and we'll
start all over. You do wind it beautifully!"

"This is too big a job you've undertaken," he told her as they again
stood facing each other. "Let's call it off."

"No, indeed," Edith protested. "It is only fair to say that you are not
what would be called a natural dancer, but that will bring all the more
glory to your instructor when once you've learned. Why, look at the
tricks they teach animals! I'm not a bit discouraged, are you?"

"Are we down-hearted?" he echoed in a spirit of bravado.

"Not a bit of it; now we'll dance together, and I'll try to pull you
around. There, put your arm around my waist,--that's right. Hold me
closer,--don't be afraid. Imagine I'm your sister if it will keep you
from being embarrassed. Left foot forward--ta, ta, ta, ta--that's
better. No, let me lead. There, we can go forwards and backwards anyway,
but you mustn't step on my feet. That's the first thing to learn,--dance
on your own feet."

"I beg your pardon--"

"That's all right; I don't mind it at all. But when we stop dancing,
you know, you must take your arm away from my waist. How quickly you
overcame that early embarrassment!"

"I don't intend to give you another chance to suggest that I'm afraid,"
Cosden retorted. "I may not know much about girls or dancing, but if you
think I haven't nerve enough to put my arm around your waist,--well,
it's up to me to demonstrate."

"You bold, bad man!" Edith pointed her finger at him in mock-reproach.
"I sha'n't dare go on with the lesson until I've forgotten your
threatening attitude! Now let's see if a little turn on the piazza won't
give us courage to continue."

Cosden assented with alacrity. "Splendid notion!" he exclaimed; "that
will give me a chance to cool off."

"You are warm," she admitted, looking him over critically and noting
that his collar was completely wrecked. "You must read the Polite Book
of Dancing Etiquette--"

"Oh, Lord!" Cosden groaned.

"You will find there many useful suggestions which will add to your
popularity with your partners. For instance, it tells you that when
overheated by the exercise you should stand erect and throw your chin
out; then the perspiration will run down the back of your neck and be
less noticeable.--Come now, see what a light Bermuda breeze will do to
cheer you up."

Edith was well pleased with the results of the first lesson. She had
felt some misgivings, for Cosden was the most masterful man she had ever
met. If this masterfulness could not be broken down, then her plans
could not be carried out; but she recalled the fact that Henry Thatcher,
so pliable in his wife's hands, was spoken of as dictatorial and
self-confident in his business relations. If this was true of Thatcher,
it might be equally true of Cosden, and the experiment was well worth
trying. In the hour just past Edith had proved her sagacity to herself.
Cosden explained his present docility by saying that he always obeyed
his doctor's orders; Edith had discovered in that brief time two facts
unknown even to himself: that his confidence came only from a knowledge
of his own strength, that in treading new and unknown paths he was not
only willing to be led but accepted guidance gratefully.

After this important discovery, she intuitively came to a better
understanding of the man. "Men know more than they understand, and women
understand more than they know," some one has tritely said. Edith
Stevens was a woman, and understanding was enough; she did not crave to
know. When Cosden stated so flatly, "I always get what I go after," she
had thought him a tactless braggart, who deserved to be shown his place;
now, with this new light thrown upon his character, she understood his
remark quite differently. The man knew but one way to accomplish his
purpose, and that was to go directly at it, head-on, overpowering
opposition by the force of his momentum. In his beginnings, Edith
surmised, he had not always felt so confident, and these bold assertions
were made partly to give himself additional courage and partly to
conceal from the world the existence of any doubt as to his ultimate
success. What had been first a policy became a habit, and if Edith were
correct in her analysis Cosden was at the present moment repeating his
early experiences.

       *       *       *       *       *

Time in Bermuda cannot be figured by calendar days. Whether this is due
to the evenness and perfection of the temperature, which so satisfies
the physical demands as to eliminate all desire for change, or to the
natural beauty which exorcises those sordid demands life elsewhere
compels, it would be difficult to determine; but the fact remains that
except for the sailing of the little steamers a week is like a long,
delicious day, with the nights a passing incident,--a curtain drawn for
a moment to deprive the vision of its wondrous panorama, lest the spirit
become satiated and thus less appreciative.

More than a fortnight had passed since Billy Huntington's spectacular
departure, yet no one suggested that vacation days were drawing to an
end. It was Thatcher who found least to occupy him, yet even he had
fallen beneath the spell and was content to drift. By this time Marian
was fully convinced that a match between Hamlen and Merry was
foreordained, and that her mission was to drag him forth from his exile;
but she was not satisfied with her progress in either one of her
self-imposed labors. Hamlen was a changed man since the new
companionship came into his life, but whenever he was brought up against
the question of leaving his retreat the old terror seized him, and he
slipped back behind his defenses.

"I wish I might," said he to her one day, "believe me, I wish I might;
but you don't know what you ask. The bitterness of my attitude toward
the world has become an abnormal condition which you could not be
expected to understand. Your visit here has tempered it--I know now that
there are exceptions; but don't urge me against my better judgment. Let
me remember this visit in all its happiness; perhaps its memory will
enable me later to do as you suggest."

Huntington was no more successful in his efforts. His classmate listened
to him patiently and showed a full appreciation of the friendly
suggestions; but no promise could be exacted, and Hamlen seemed stronger
than the combined forces against him. Yet, in spite of disappointments,
Huntington was optimistic.

"We may not be able to take him with us," he admitted to Marian, "but
after we are gone he will find this place unendurable. Time will be our
ally."

Cosden's sudden intimacy with Edith Stevens mystified Huntington, but he
welcomed it as a temporary respite. So long as Cosden was making no
exertion to advance his interests with Merry, no more active effort
could be expected from his friend. He asked no questions and Cosden
vouchsafed no information, which on both sides marked a change in the
relations of the two men.

Edith was equally mysterious with Marian, smiling sagely when her friend
tried to draw her out; but she admitted or denied nothing. She
faithfully performed her self-assumed duties, and Cosden lived up to his
agreement to take the medicine his doctor prescribed. By this time he
was able to pull through on the one-step and the canter waltz, but his
great success was the fox-trot. This, he discovered without assistance,
is danced in as many ways as there are individual dancers, so he
developed an original "series" which gave him supreme satisfaction,
since as he explained, no one could prove whether he or his partner was
at fault when a mistake was made. Edith had long since given up all hope
of having him follow the music, but he had actually learned the steps,
and his persistency in pursuing with grim relentlessness what she knew
to be an irksome duty could but win her respect.

In fact, she looked upon the result of her experiment with no little
pride. Each afternoon the two might be seen on the ball-room floor,
working away as if their lives depended upon it, with the Victrola
repeating over and over the same tunes which, except for her own
persistency, would have driven Edith mad. Always after the dancing
lesson they promenaded the hotel piazza "to cool off," and their joint
devotion to their undertaking was so assiduous that it became almost a
feature of the hotel life. Edith's triumph came when Merry was called in
to "assist" at one of the later lessons. Try as they would, Cosden and
his new partner were at odds in each effort they made to dance together,
while with Edith he succeeded passably well. In Cosden's mind there
could be but one explanation.

"I always thought she knew how to dance," he expressed it after Merry
left them alone. "How little you can judge of anything until you know
how to do it yourself!" And Edith, wise person that she was, did not
explain to him that this was the first time he had danced without her
guiding hand!

Cosden had become dependent upon his chief adviser in other ways than
dancing. He found her so sympathetic in listening to his problems and so
helpfully intelligent in discussing them that he gradually confided to
her more of his intimate affairs than he had ever shared with any one
else. Ostensibly, she was adviser only in his affair with Merry, but it
was a short step to extend her line of operations without having him
realize that she was exceeding her contract. She explained matters which
seemed subtle to him with such clearness, her counsels were so wise and
her criticisms so fearless that Cosden's admiration was profound.

"You are a bit severe, you know," he said to her one day; "but I like
it. The only reason I go to a specialist is because I know he
understands his subject better than I do, and so I swallow what he tells
me, hook, line and sinker. And you are a great success as an expert in
your line, Miss Stevens,--you're all right."

Whereupon Edith courtesied gracefully and answered demurely, "Thank you,
sir; I am glad I give satisfaction."

Thatcher and Cosden had carried the trolley proposition as far as lay
within their power, and awaited a response from the Bermuda government
before they could proceed. This threw Cosden back again upon his
original purpose, to which he clung with a bulldog tenacity. Edith knew
by this time that when his mind once settled upon a course diversion was
an impossibility, so she encouraged rather than opposed him. She left
Cosden's confidence in himself undisturbed while she encouraged his
dependence, and complacently permitted affairs to take their course.
Just when the master stroke would be delivered she could not tell, but
she was prepared to have it descend suddenly at any moment.

The fortnight had given Huntington a new lease of life. His efforts to
humanize Hamlen forced him out of his habitual course along the line of
least resistance, and without analyzing his new sensations he found them
to be agreeable. In addition to this Merry and he were boon companions
now, and he discovered that the vivacity of a young girl was no less
effective in making him forget his years than the noisier enthusiasm of
his youthful nephew. Merry accepted her responsibilities with great
seriousness, and discussed Hamlen's persistent obstinacy with Huntington
from every possible angle. In fact, Huntington made a point of inventing
new angles in order to prolong the discussions, and to supply the excuse
for walks and drives which threw them much together.

As a result of their growing intimacy Huntington came to favor Billy's
ambitions far above those of Cosden. He had not changed in his
conviction that neither one of them was at all suited to the girl, but
if it could be possible to hold matters in abeyance until the boy might
be developed up to her, there would at least be much satisfaction to him
personally if Merry could be kept in the family. Of course he must be
loyal to his friend, but as Cosden seemed to be finding much pleasure in
Miss Stevens' companionship his conscience did not suffer any twinges
which were too painful to be endured.

But complacency is ever a forerunner of seismic upheavals. The days had
repeated themselves often enough now for Huntington to regard their
routine as practically fixed, and he was anticipating the usual quiet,
after-breakfast smoke on the piazza, during which period he would
discuss with Merry some new attack upon Hamlen's obstinacy, or some new
trip during which the attack could be devised. This had seemed such a
certainty to Huntington that Cosden's words were in the nature of a
shock.

"Miss Thatcher and I are going sailing this morning," he announced.

"Eh--what? Oh, sailing--are you?" Huntington stumbled a bit before
recovering himself. "It's a fine morning for that," he continued with
decision.

"You've been doing better lately, Monty," Cosden complimented him. "At
first I didn't think you were going to help me out at all, but for some
time now you've been putting yourself right into it, just as I wanted
you to. What have you to say about the girl now? She's all right, isn't
she?"

"You don't mean that you're still serious in that direction--"

"Of course I am. Why should you think I had changed my mind?" Cosden
interrupted. "I don't often do that, do I?"

"But you have hardly seen her."

"I've been biding my time, Monty, that's all, while Miss Stevens coached
me up a bit. It's really a great game,--there's more to it than I
thought."

"You are absolutely unsuited to each other."

"Why, Monty, I believe you're jealous!"

"Well, suppose I am?"

Cosden showed his amusement. "I would take that as a challenge from any
one but an old cynic like you," he laughed.

Huntington failed to enter into Cosden's lightheartedness. "This is a
serious matter, Connie," he insisted. "That little girl is too fine to
have her name bandied like this. I give you warning right here that I
step down and out on this proposition. I can't imagine a worse crime
than to harness a high-strung, thoughtful, sentimental child like that
to a human adding-machine like you, and I won't be a party to it."

The younger man realized at last that his friend was serious. He looked
at him soberly for a moment, then he placed his hand on his shoulder.

"Is this all our friendship amounts to?" he asked.

"It is the greatest act of friendship I have ever been called upon to
show you," Huntington returned. "You would be as wretched with her as
she with you. I felt sure that you had come to the same conclusion, and
I admired your good sense."

"Is there by any chance some deeper reason?" Cosden demanded pointedly.

"No, Connie," Huntington replied quickly; "don't be ridiculous! I am
just as unsuited to her as you are. Why, I'm old enough to be her
father! But somewhere there is a man who is meant for her and who is
worthy of her, and I only hope that he will appear before any one
persuades her into making a mistake.

"Don't you think her capable of taking care of that herself?"

"Frankly, I do. I don't think you have the remotest chance of
interesting her."

"What has happened to lower me so in your estimation?" Cosden persisted,
puzzled rather than resentful. "Our friendship dates back a good many
years, Monty, and this is the first time you ever made me feel you
disapproved of me. Does it mean--"

"It means that I'm proving my friendship now," Huntington interrupted,
"by telling you an unpleasant truth. During this long friendship, which
I never prized more highly than I do this moment, I have watched you
work out your success, often against heavy odds. All this I have
admired, Connie, but to win as you have done has been at a cost I had
not realized until I saw you under these new conditions: it has kept you
from developing those finer instincts which a man needs to guide him at
a time like this."

"You mean romance, I suppose, and sentiment."

"I mean a sensing of the proportions and a respect for appropriateness
even if it interferes with your preconceived plans. Your interest in
this girl exists admittedly because of what an alliance with her will do
for you: it will bring you closer to the group of operators of which her
father is the head, she will preside with credit over your household,
through her you may perhaps secure social advantages which now you feel
are beyond your reach."

"Isn't all that legitimate?"

"Entirely legitimate, measured by laws of barter and sale,--but to my
mind eminently improper when applied to Miss Thatcher."

As Huntington grew more and more intense Cosden's attitude gradually
became normal again, and an indulgent expression replaced the serious
aspect which his face had assumed as their conversation progressed.

"Well, Monty," he said, slapping him on the back, "you've got that off
your mind, and it's a good thing to have happen. What you want is to
take your endorsement off my social note; that's all right,--consider it
done. Your sentimental notions are great in story-books but less
valuable in every-day life. You stick to your ideals, and I will to
mine. I've made up my mind to get married, and you know what happens
when once my mind is made up."

"You are absolutely hopeless!" Huntington cried despondently.

"Hopeful, you mean," laughed Cosden, "in spite of your gloomy
forebodings. What you say ought to shake my confidence in myself, no
doubt, but somehow I think I'd rather hear it direct from Miss Thatcher
herself. Hello!" he exclaimed as he looked at his watch, "it's time to
start. Cheer up, Monty! Really, things aren't half as bad as they look
from where you sit!"



       *       *       *       *       *

XVI

       *       *       *       *       *


However abrupt Cosden's action may have appeared to Miss Stevens or to
Huntington, in his own mind he believed himself to have selected the
psychological moment for which he had patiently waited. It was true that
he had seen comparatively little of Merry Thatcher, but the time had
been well spent in preparation for the grand event. Now, particularly
since Huntington had spoken as he did, Cosden was eager to put his
new-found knowledge to the test, and to disprove his friend's
contention.

It was a business axiom with Cosden that an order must be half sold
before the salesman approached the prospective buyer. "People don't buy
anything these days," he hammered into his sales-manager; "they have to
be sold." And Cosden was a man who practised what he preached. The
frankly-admitted lack of familiarity on his part with the particular
market in which he proposed to trade was offset, he believed, by the
expert coaching he had received from Miss Stevens; and this should have
prepared him for any emergency. After all, were not the principles the
same the world over? Somewhere, back in the hazy, academic past when
Latin had been compulsory, he remembered that a certain gentleman whose
name he could not then recall had plunged _in medias res_. He remembered
distinctly how much this act had won his admiration; now he proposed to
emulate his illustrious predecessor.

Even granting that Cosden's self-analysis was correct to the extent that
he possessed no romance in his make-up, the present surroundings were
such as to suggest the "psychological moment" even to the most obtuse.
The sloop, after running before the wind, was skilfully guided in and
out among the little islands and past the beautiful shores of Boaz and
Somerset by a hand on the tiller to which sailing was evidently
second-nature. The girl rested against the gunwale, her eye alert, her
face lighted by a smile of quiet contentment, her white, lithe figure
brightly contrasted against the varying background of blue water and the
green of the islands as they were left behind.

"Where did you learn to handle a boat?" Cosden asked her, interrupting
the silence which she seemed content to accept.

"Oh, there's nothing to it here," she answered. "I wonder if they have a
breeze like this all the time in Bermuda? It seems to be ready-made for
the visitors. But I think it would become monotonous, don't you? I like
something to work against."

"You have evidently sailed a boat before."

"I'm on the water a good deal every summer. Father gave me a knockabout
two years ago, and I've had lots of fun in her. It isn't always as
simple on Narragansett Bay as it appears to be here."

"You seem to be pretty good at anything you undertake."

"Oh, no!" Merry laughed deprecatingly. "I play at everything, and
perhaps that is why I am not particularly good at anything. Phil says I
have more courage than judgment."

"That sounds like jealousy! I'll wager you can beat him in most games,
unless he is better than the youngsters I know."

"I can, in some," she admitted, "but Phil is a great oarsman. He's on
the crew at Harvard, you know," she added with a pride which amused
Cosden; "he will probably row against Yale again this year. But Phil
doesn't go at other sports as hard as I do. I have to go at them hard. I
simply must be doing something. Mother calls it restlessness and Father
says it's because I haven't grown up yet. Perhaps they are both right;
but whatever it is I just can't help it."

"I hope you will never grow up, if to lose your enthusiasm is the
penalty."

"Then you don't think it's unwomanly?" she asked, grateful for his
approval.

"On the contrary," Cosden asserted. "It is enthusiasm which wins in
everything to-day. Confidence in one's self, belief in one's subject,
enthusiasm in its presentation; that is my daily creed."

"But you are a man," Merry protested. "You have made your success, so
you have a right to have confidence in yourself--"

"My success is only partially complete," Cosden interrupted, quick to
seize the easy opening. "When I left college I undertook to make money:
I did make it. Then I undertook to compel that money to earn me a place
in the business world: I made that dream come true. Now I have reached
the third effort. My money is of value only so far as it secures for me
what I want, and a part of what I want I can't get alone: that is a
home, with the right woman in it. A man can make his clubs and all that
sort of thing by himself, but it takes a woman to secure for him the
social life which he ought to have. I'm looking for that woman now, and
I intend to get her."

A smile crossed Merry's face as Cosden concluded his matter-of-fact
statement. "You are demonstrating your daily creed," she said.

"Of course I am. If I didn't you would accuse me of inconsistency."

"Have you found the woman you--intend to get?"

"I'm not sure. What kind of woman do you think she ought to be?"

Merry's face sobered, and she became thoughtfully serious. "First of
all, a woman who loved you," she said at length; "that goes without
saying."

It was Cosden who smiled this time. "I see you still have some
old-fashioned ideas left; I had looked upon you as absolutely
up-to-date."

"Is love old-fashioned?"

"Love is a result rather than a cause. It comes from the combination of
one or more causes: propinquity, similarity of tastes, natural
attributes, I might go on indefinitely. Two natures are attracted to
each other before marriage, but love really comes as a result of the
closer companionship which follows. Could anything be more common-sense
or scientific than that?"

"Is that what men believe?" she asked.

"Not all; which explains the appalling list of matrimonial bankrupts."

They were out beyond Ireland Island now, past the great dry-dock and the
barracks. The girl brought the boat about and started on the homeward
tack.

"That is a very interesting idea," she said soberly as she shifted to
starboard. "It never occurred to me that love had become a commodity.
That is very interesting."

"But you haven't told me what kind of woman you think my wife should
be," Cosden insisted.

"She should be a poor girl, of good birth and personal attractions," she
answered promptly.

"Why poor?"

"Because otherwise she would be giving everything and you nothing. You
must supply something which she lacks or it wouldn't be a fair trade,
would it? If a woman loves a man, there is no need to measure what she
gives against what she receives, but your 'common-sense' plan suggests
it, and from a 'scientific' standpoint I should think it absolutely
essential."

"But your statement is not correct, Miss Merry," Cosden protested
earnestly. "You would do me an injustice if you stopped at that point:
am I not offering her my name and my protection?"

"Of course all this is an imaginary situation," Merry laughed
mischievously, "or I shouldn't dare to speak so freely; but in justice
to my sex I can't stop now: suppose her name is as good as yours, and
that she is entirely competent to protect herself?"

"Great Scott! Don't tell me you are a suffragist!"

"But you would want this woman you--intend to get to be a suffragist,
wouldn't you?"

"Not under any circumstances!"

"Still, your marriage is to be on an up-to-date common-sense, scientific
basis: can it be unless you and your wife stand on equal terms?"

"I never saw such a girl to ask questions," Cosden protested almost
petulantly. "You must have been going to woman's suffrage meetings all
winter."

Merry laughed outright. Her triumph was too obvious not to be enjoyed;
but she quickly checked herself.

"I have been very rude," she said contritely; "but what you said so
completely destroys the vision which every girl has in her heart that I
couldn't resist the temptation to tease you. No, Mr. Cosden; I'm not a
suffragist, and I never attended a public meeting in my life. Mother
thinks I'm too young to enter into such things; but I've read a good
deal, and I can't see why, in this scientific age, men and women
shouldn't stand side by side at the ballot-box as well as elsewhere. For
myself, I'm not quite ready for it, but I admit that it is nothing but
sentiment--a holding on to a bit of old-fashioned precedent if you
like--which holds me back. It seems to mar that vision I just spoke of,
Mr. Cosden, even as your ideas completely destroy it."

She was in earnest now, and the girlish, mischievous attitude had
completely vanished. Her grasp upon the tiller tightened, her eyes
looked far ahead and Cosden knew that in this mood she would have
welcomed a young typhoon--anything to struggle with, rather than the
smooth lapping of the water against the sides of the boat as the light
wind bore them tranquilly on toward their landing. Even to him,
unaccustomed as he was to the finer sensibilities which expressed
themselves in every feature of the girl's face, the surging thoughts
which forced so tense a silence commanded silence in his own response.
It was the closest he had ever come into a woman's inner shrine, and
instinctively he respected it.

It was her own movement--a brushing back of a strand of hair which the
breeze had loosened and blown across her face--which finally broke the
tension, but her eyes did not drop. Still looking far ahead of her she
spoke again, but the words seemed addressed more to herself than to her
companion.

"I can't bear to give that vision up," she said quietly, "and yet I
never expect to see it realized."

"Tell me what it is," Cosden urged as she paused. "Visions aren't
exactly in my line, but perhaps you can make me see this one."

"It's silly of me; you wouldn't be interested, of course."

"But I am," he insisted. "Please go on."

"Well," the girl said consciously, "since you have confided your creed
to me, I'll tell you what my vision is,--but you mustn't laugh at it for
it means a great deal to me."

"I promise--cross my heart," Cosden replied.

"In this vision each one of us atoms, man or woman, has a distinct
individuality, and each atom is intended to express its own
individuality alone and in its own way unless two atoms become joined
together by laws of natural attraction. In that case these two continue
on their way together, each strengthened by the combination, and thus
enabled to express their joint individuality as neither could do alone.
But love must be the crucible, Mr Cosden. Common-sense won't merge them,
science won't do it. The two atoms can't be made into one without the
crucible."

They were almost at the "Princess" landing now, and Merry gave her full
attention to her duties as skipper. As the boatman took possession,
Cosden assisted her onto the landing and they walked slowly up the stone
steps. At the top she turned to him suddenly, the brightest of smiles
replacing her former seriousness. Cosden marveled at the rapidity with
which her mood changed.

"That's my vision, Mr. Cosden," she said simply; "don't think it too
foolish. I must have some guide just as you have your daily creed. I
haven't confidence in myself, but I do believe in my subject, and you
tell me that I have enthusiasm. Please let that atone."

"But that vision of yours--" Cosden demanded doubtfully. "You asked me
if all men regard marriage as I do; let me ask you if all women have
that vision, as you call it."

"I suppose they have. If not, why should they give up their
independence?"

"I thought all women wanted to marry--"

"That is where _you_ are not up-to-date, Mr. Cosden," she laughed.
"Perhaps the woman you--intend to get has no vision; if so, it will be
that much easier. But she must be poor, Mr. Cosden,--you really mustn't
take advantage of her!"



       *       *       *       *       *

XVII

       *       *       *       *       *


Huntington passed an uncomfortable half hour after watching Merry and
Cosden start off on their sailing-trip, and he was glad to have Edith
Stevens break in upon his unprofitable self-communion. Cosden had put
into words a fact which until then Huntington had stubbornly refused to
acknowledge: he had actually reached a point where he heartily
disapproved of his friend. Connie had said it, and the realization that
what he said was true shook the long-established friendship to the core.

As he analyzed the case Huntington found it difficult to explain why
this complete change in conditions should suddenly have taken place.
Cosden was no different from what he had been during all these years of
their intimacy. In fact, he knew no one among his friends who was so
absolutely consistent in conducting his life in accord with principles
established before their friendship began. Others had commented on
Cosden's commercial instincts, and Huntington always defended him, yet
now these same traits caused him to criticise his friend even more
severely than those whose attitude he had previously thought
unwarranted.

The change, then, Huntington concluded was in himself rather than in
Cosden; and from this point he tried to discover what that change really
was. What had their relations been during these years? They had never
come together in any business way, and Huntington now for the first time
wondered why it would not have been natural for Cosden to turn over to
his office some of his frequent cases in litigation. It had not
previously occurred to him that he might have expected it, but now he
wondered. This in itself was evidence that his friend did not consider
him seriously in the practice of his profession. The real fact was that
they had played together, and that their intimacy had stopped at that
point. Huntington now recalled that in gratifying those characteristics
which found enjoyment in music, art or literature he instinctively
sought the companionship of other friends, and the same analysis
revealed to him that Cosden had done likewise in turning to other and
more kindred spirits in living that part of his life with which his
friend had little sympathy. It had all happened so naturally that
Huntington had never realized until now that in spite of their intimacy
there was a side to each man's life into which the other never entered.

This was the explanation as Huntington thought it out, and the fact that
it could be explained at all gave promise of readjustment. The present
situation did not require any change in the relations of the two
friends. It had been precipitated by the accidental pulling aside of a
curtain which revealed a picture Huntington must always have known was
there, but at which he had always steadfastly refused to look. The
mistake came when Cosden insisted that he peer behind the curtain, and
became intensified when he permitted himself to be drawn into that side
of his friend's life in which he should have known he had no part. The
friendship need be in no way affected: simply restore the old relations,
use greater discretion in keeping them within the bounds which Nature
had prescribed for them, and all would be as before.

Huntington abhorred an enigma because when once focused in his mind a
mental impossibility was created to rid himself of it. He found it
lurking behind his _Transcript_ in the evening, it tried to crystallize
itself in the smoke of his last pipe before retiring, it flirted with
him coyly over his coffee-cup the next morning. Until the figment became
a reality and was dismissed it was a haunting menace to his peace of
mind. Now that he had discovered an explanation of his disapproval of
Connie and had found the antidote, that particular enigma was disposed
of, and he should have been free to resume his normal state; but to his
further discomfiture this was just what he found he could not do. He had
cut off one of the Hydra's heads, but others remained which spat at him
viciously.

Why was it that Cosden's attitude caused him such peculiar annoyance at
this particular time? Had he been entirely straightforward with his
friend, had he been quite frank in answering Hamlen's question regarding
Merry's resemblance to her mother? Huntington's disgust with himself at
that first slip became intensified by its repetition. He recalled De
Quincey's arraignment of the murderer on the ground that murder so
dulls the sensibilities that it is an easy step from this to falsehood.
Huntington, with his Puritan ancestry, would have allowed himself to be
torn by wild horses before he would deliberately tell an untruth, yet
here, on two separate occasions, he had undeniably juggled with the
facts.

When Cosden suggested that there might be some deeper reason for his
objections he promptly and equivocably denied the implication that he
had any interest in Merry beyond that of an older friend; yet he now
knew that the denial was absolutely false. What he told Cosden was what
ought to be the case rather than what the case really was. This was his
secret, and he had protected it in the easiest way, which as usual was a
cowardly subterfuge. The fact that he had made a misstatement or that he
had a secret to conceal had come to him only during this period of
self-communion since the little sloop sailed away, leaving him alone
with his reflections. What he said to Cosden, that he was equally
unsuited to Merry and that he was old enough to be her father, expressed
the cold, hard facts; but he needed no second-sight to tell himself that
during these days of companionship, such as he had never before known,
the girl's sweet personality had penetrated the sham armor of the cynic,
and that he was face to face with an emotion far deeper than any he had
experienced from time to time in his library, in front of that table
with its curious exhibits, with the stage-like accessories of the
albatross-stem pipe and the flickering light from the burning logs. How
tinsel-like it all seemed to him now, compared with this
flesh-and-blood experience in the open air, with its glorious setting of
the sea and the beautiful island foliage!

He had reached this point in his mental activities when he saw Miss
Stevens approaching, and he greeted her cordially. Face to face with
this latest revelation, he disliked his own company. His
responsibilities, which had seemed terrifying to him so short a time
before, now appeared insignificant compared with the new responsibility
with which he had saddled himself. He thought little at this moment of
the burdens imposed upon him by Mrs. Thatcher, by Cosden, or by Billy:
he must now protect the girl against himself, and that would be the
hardest task of all.

Edith Stevens, as well as Huntington, found herself without her usual
occupation this morning. Cosden told her, the evening before, of his
plan to take Merry sailing, so she reverted to her natural habit of late
rising, from which she had temporarily reformed herself, knowing that
Cosden always breakfasted early and was usually looking for
companionship. Seeing Huntington absorbed in self-contemplation she
gravitated in his direction.

"We've lost our little playmates, haven't we?" she said cheerfully, as
he rose and pulled up another piazza chair for her. "Why isn't this a
good time for our Society to go into executive session?"

"Capital!" Huntington assented, replying only to the second part of her
question. "Is the secret-service department ready to make its report?"

"I've found the girl," she announced bluntly; "but I imagine you know
already who she is."

"The girl Connie is going to marry?" Huntington simulated a proper
attitude of interrogation.

"The girl he thinks he wants to marry," she corrected.

"Oh! he only thinks so. That's it, is it?"

Edith raised her eyes from the toe of her buckskin shoe, which she had
been poking vigorously with her sunshade, and smiled brightly.

"Yes," she said; "that's it."

"You speak with conviction."

"Well," Edith explained, "I know Mr. Cosden better now than when the
Society last met. He wants to get married, and he thinks he has picked
out the right girl, but--"

"But--what?"

"But--he hasn't; that's all." And again Edith smiled brightly into
Huntington's face.

"Connie isn't in the habit of making mistakes; he usually gets what he
goes after."

"So he told me," she admitted, with an expression on her face which
Huntington thought significant; "but there's always a first time to
everything; and this is where Mr. Cosden meets his Waterloo."

"I understood that you had been coaching him--"

"So I have."

"But I thought we agreed--"

"We did; and I've lived up to our agreement. You watch his face when he
comes in! I'm oozing out the balance of the morning here simply to give
myself that satisfaction."

"You must have some inside information which has not been incorporated
in your report."

"Not exactly; but I know Mr. Cosden and I know Merry. When he begins to
trade for a wife she won't understand the language, and if he tries to
teach it to her--well, he may learn something himself."

"You think he will propose to her this morning?"

"If she lets him get as far as that. He's been working up to this point
ever since he arrived, and the only way to cure him was to let him have
his own way."

It was a novel experience to Huntington to see any one other than Cosden
himself undertake to manage his personal affairs. The certainty with
which Miss Stevens spoke evidenced a closer acquaintanceship with Connie
than Huntington had realized existed.

"What will happen when this episode is over? Do you care to prophesy?"
he asked.

"He will come back to his counsel to have his wounds bandaged, and then
the education of Mr. Cosden will continue from the point where it was
temporarily interrupted."

"You are assuming a great responsibility," Huntington suggested.

"I'm still retained," she answered demurely. "That's what you lawyers
call it, isn't it?"

Edith rose and sat for a moment on the edge of the piazza rail, her eyes
looking down the harbor. She was impatient for the returning boat, and
made no attempt to conceal it. At last her vigilance was rewarded, and
she returned to her chair.

"S-ssh! they're coming!" she said mysteriously, placing her finger on
her lips. "We mustn't seem to be waiting for them. Talk to me!"

Huntington tried to obey her instructions during the intervening
moments, but it was obvious that Miss Stevens heard little of what he
said. She was intently watching the steps yet endeavoring to appear
entirely unconcerned. Merry was the first to see them, and she came
forward with her usual animation and enthusiasm.

"We've had a wonderful sail!" she said. "The morning was simply perfect,
and it is such fun to play hide-and-seek among these little islands."

"She knows how to handle a boat all right," Cosden said from behind, but
his tone did not reflect the girl's vivacity.

"Why, it's like sailing a toy boat in a bath-tub," Merry disclaimed.
"You come down to the shore some time when there's a good breeze and
I'll show you some real sailing. Mr. Cosden is such good company!" she
added, turning to the others. "He has given me some really new ideas,
and that is more than one usually gains from a sailing-party. I'm going
to think them over so that I can argue with him more intelligently next
time we have a discussion.--I must run up now and get ready for lunch."

Cosden remained behind.

"Come sit down with us, Connie," Huntington urged.

"I prefer to stand," was the unexpected answer, yet in spite of his
remark he sat down on the piazza rail which Miss Stevens had so recently
vacated. He too looked down the harbor, but his companions realized that
it was not the panorama which interested him. They also sensed the
kindliness of silence. At last he turned toward them.

"I don't know why I shouldn't speak before both of you," he said. "You,
Monty, are my oldest friend, and Miss Stevens has been good enough to
let me take her into my confidence. I want you both to look me over and
tell me what's the matter with me."

"You look perfectly good to me, Connie," Huntington replied lightly,
scenting unpleasantness, and helplessly trying to divert it.

"You know what I mean," Cosden replied brusquely, determined to force
the issue, "and I want you to take me seriously. What you said this
morning gave me a jolt, of course, but it didn't sink in deep enough to
affect my confidence in myself. Now it's gone all the way through and
come out the other side, and at the present moment I feel as big as a
two-spot in a pinochle deck."

"Did she refuse you?" Edith asked, with almost too much eagerness in her
voice.

"Refuse me?" he echoed. "She didn't even give me the satisfaction of
recognizing that I had the slightest intention to propose."

"Then what did happen?" Huntington demanded. "You seemed to be on the
best of terms when you came up here, and Merry complimented you on being
good company."

"She was rubbing it in, that's all. We didn't have any trouble; that
isn't the point. I planned this out, as you both know, with the definite
idea of asking her to marry me, and before I knew what had happened she
had twisted the situation around where I was on the defensive and had
made myself look so ridiculous that I wouldn't have had the nerve to
propose to a colored cook. There is something in all this which I don't
understand, and I must understand it. I'm average intelligent, I've had
some experience in life, and if a slip of a girl like that can make me
lose my confidence then there's something radically wrong. You struck it
right this morning, Monty, and I tell you it hurts!"

The man's humiliation was so complete that both his companions were
eager to relieve him. Huntington's loyalty to his friend caused instant
forgetfulness of his recent resentment.

"Don't mind what I said, Connie," he urged contritely. "I had no right
to speak as I did."

"You had every right," Cosden insisted. "All these years you have seen
the lack of this something in me, and you've overlooked it because you
were my friend. This morning you had sand enough to tell me the
unpleasant truth when you knew I ought to hear it. What I want to find
out now is what these 'finer instincts' are, and how I am to get them."

The momentary silence which followed was evidence of the difficulty his
auditors found in answering his appeal. He was in such deadly earnest
that it was impossible to avoid direct reply. When this mood was on him,
Huntington knew that he would deal with nothing but facts.

"Let me leave you and Mr. Huntington to discuss this," Edith said,
rising.

"Please," Cosden detained her. "We are past the point of sensitiveness.
I want your advice as well as Monty's. I'm up against something I don't
understand," he repeated, "and I'm looking to you two to show me up to
myself."

"What is the use, Connie?" Huntington expostulated. "You have gone alone
all these years living your own life; why disturb yourself now over
something to which you have always been blissfully indifferent?"

"Can't you see that the situation has changed, Monty? It was all right
until I found out that I was different from other people. This is what
the boys at the Club meant when they jollied us about our friendship. I
always thought I was as good as anybody, but if an experience like this
can make me lose my confidence in myself then the matter is really
serious. It is this confidence which has made it possible for me to
accomplish what I have, and if I once lose it then my strength is gone.
It's all I have, Monty,--I can see that now. I must protect it, and you
must help me. You must tell me what the trouble really is; I don't care
how brutally frank you are so long as you tell me."

"Then come over here and sit down," the older man said gently. "I will
try to make it clearer to you. The finer instincts I referred to can't
be bought, for they are not for sale; they come from every-day contact
with the humanities, and with those whose lives are spent in this
atmosphere. Your business has been your religion, Connie, and you are
branded with its ear-marks as plainly as the goods your factories
produce. Now, for the first time, you find yourself in an atmosphere
which considers business only as a means to bring the refinements of
life within closer reach, and it stifles you because of your
unfamiliarity with it."

Cosden listened patiently to the lengthy discussion which followed with
the same attention which he gave to Thatcher when the trolley
proposition was outlined, but his expression when Huntington finally
paused and looked up showed bewilderment rather than comprehension.

"I hear your words, Monty," he said frankly, "and your meaning is as
dense as Merry's talk about her 'vision.' But there's one thing you
haven't said, probably because you want to spare my feelings, which no
doubt explains the whole thing. This knowledge of the 'finer instincts'
comes naturally to you, Monty, because you were born in that atmosphere
you speak of; I wasn't. Some men acquire them as a result of their own
efforts, some devote their efforts to other things, as I have done. 'You
can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear.' Isn't that what you really
mean to say, Monty?"

"You are too severe on yourself, Mr. Cosden," Edith said
sympathetically, affected by the spectacle of this strong,
self-sufficient man suffering under the lash without realizing in the
least the power which wielded it. In his complacent mood she had longed
for the ability to wound his self-assurance, but the climax had been
reached without her assistance, and the woman in her failed to find the
satisfaction she had anticipated.

"Well," Cosden said finally, rising and holding out a hand to each, "I
can't say that you've given me much enlightenment, but you've made some
things fairly clear. It will be a long time before I can look my
business in the face without blushing; but I count on those who are
really my friends to stand by me while I pumice down the marks of the
branding-iron. In the meantime, don't you think for a moment that I'm
indifferent to this thing we're talking about. Now that I know it
exists, in spite of your doubts, I intend to get it. If business
interferes, I'll cut out business. I refuse to let anything stand
between me and what I want."



       *       *       *       *       *

XVIII

       *       *       *       *       *


Cosden pursued the subject now uppermost in his mind with the same
relentless energy which he applied to other and more agreeable
undertakings. He had no desire to make himself a "ladies' man," such as
Edith Stevens described her brother and as he knew him to be; but this
idea that he was unfitted to enter into any circle he might choose,
provided he could force the entrance, was as novel as it was
disagreeable. When Huntington first intimated that he lacked certain
qualities Cosden had not taken him seriously. Monty was a Brahmin,
albeit one of the best of fellows, and this class had never been an
object of his envy nor considered by him an example to be emulated.
Cosden had discovered that those who constituted it were eager enough to
know him and to be intimate with him when once they came to realize, in
a business way, that this relationship might serve their own best
interests. Born outside the sacred circle, he expected nothing else, and
the fact of his friendship with Huntington, and his close
acquaintanceship with others of the same stamp, seemed to him a triumph
of merit over birth. If a man could trace his ancestry back to the right
people he became a member of this group automatically, and in spite of
lack of personal achievement. How much more credit, Cosden argued, to
the man who forced recognition through sheer accomplishment alone.

For this reason he felt that Monty's criticism, if it was to be taken as
such, was the expression of a class rather than an individual. It was
not to be expected that his friend, reared in so unpractical an
atmosphere, should sympathize with or even understand this common-sense
approach to the subject of marriage. It was natural, indeed, that he
should be shocked by it; yet it had been a surprise to have the
easy-going Monty rouse himself to the extent of making definite
objections to the method of procedure. But Cosden had observed that
Huntington's conscience every now and then, like his liver, became
overburdened, and on these rare occasions he was liable to make remarks
which would sting if taken seriously.

Now, however, it had been brought home to him that perhaps, after all,
his friend's comments might contain a grain of truth. The fact was
forced home not so much by what Merry Thatcher said to him as the wide
divergence of viewpoint which became apparent as a result of their
discussion. Cosden instinctively felt himself in the presence of
something higher and finer than himself, and this feeling put him at a
disadvantage. When he had ridden to Elba Beach with Merry and Billy they
were companions and all met on the same footing; now, with Merry alone,
he realized that the girl looked upon him as a man with ideas rather
than ideals, and with a creed of life which she neither understood nor
cared to understand. Yet he was not the first man to apply business
principles to this all-important partnership, and others had not made
themselves ridiculous. "Your business has been your religion and you are
branded with its ear-marks," Monty told him. It was the branding which
caused the trouble, Cosden concluded. The "finer instincts" could not be
bought, perhaps, but surely they might be acquired. He had been too
crude in the manner of expression. It came down to a question of finesse
in this as in any other transaction of life, and when reduced to this
medium he thought he understood.

To arrive at this point required time. After a brief and silent luncheon
with Huntington Cosden set out by himself for a long walk, returning in
season for dinner in what appeared outwardly his normal mental
condition. In the evening he visited with the little group which had
formed the habit of taking their coffee together on the piazza, however
far their paths might diverge during the day. Even Edith Stevens was
deceived, but Huntington knew his friend's temperament well enough to
realize that he was working everything out in his mind preparatory to
the next step, by which he would endeavor to regain the lost ground.

By the following morning Cosden had arrived at several definite
conclusions, and his courage returned. He breakfasted at his usual early
hour, and Edith Stevens, for some reason best known to herself, came
down-stairs at about the same time. After breakfast, as had become
almost a habit, they sat together on the piazza, he with his cigar, she
with an infinite nothing upon which from time to time she plied a not
overworked needle.

"Well," he said at length, knocking off the ash from his cigar and
regarding it contemplatively for some moments before he
continued,--"Monty gave it to me good and straight yesterday, didn't
he?"

"You asked him to--"

"I know I did. You remember the man who said he didn't get what he
expected, and some one told him he was lucky not to get what he
deserved? Well, I got both."

"Mr. Huntington had to say what he thought; you forced him to."

"But I didn't really believe he did think it. I've been bowling along
all these years, and I suppose I've become too complacent. When I called
myself names yesterday I hadn't the slightest idea that any one would
agree with me. It was a case where I wanted to be contradicted."

"Oh!" was all that Edith said, but the exclamation conveyed more to
Cosden regarding her real attitude than a whole vocabulary.

"Then you agree with Monty?" he demanded.

Edith had expected this crisis to come, so it did not find her wholly
unprepared. In fact she had been awaiting it as the point from which his
education was to be continued, as she had explained to Huntington. She
pursed her lips a little as she replied.

"Yes--and no," she answered slowly, showing a serious consideration of
the subject which impressed Cosden. "I think he was right in saying that
business has left its mark upon you, but entirely wrong in his
assumption that what you lack can't be acquired."

"Of course it can," Cosden agreed emphatically; "and what is more, it's
going to be acquired. I don't intend to have anything stand in my way.
The only thing to consider is just how and when."

"Exactly," she encouraged him,--"just how and when. These are the
questions. Have you answered them?"

"Not yet. I'm trying first to understand what Monty meant. I thought I
had learned the game. While, as I've told you, I started out with the
definite intention of making money, I've bent over backwards to conduct
my affairs so that they should be absolutely above criticism. I believed
that in doing this I proved that I had those 'finer instincts' which
mean so much to Monty. I've made other people play the game square with
me, but I've always played it square with them. My principle has been to
fix things so that the other fellow would do right because he had to,
and I would do right because I wanted to. You have to do that because
the other fellow doesn't always want to. Take one case for example: I
had a contract for a number of years with a house to supply them with
goods of a certain standard, made in accord with a fixed formula. Six
months ago my superintendent told me that by some mistake at the factory
these goods had been ten per cent. below the standard called for,
covering a period of nearly five years. My customer had made no
complaint--he supposed he was getting what the contract called for, and
so did I. The natural thing to do was to make all future deliveries up
to standard and to let it go at that; but that isn't my way. The man had
paid for something he hadn't received, and it was up to me to make good.
So I figured out the difference between the two grades, and the volume
of business, and sent him an explanation and a check for $6500."

"That must have been a pleasant surprise for him, and you made a
customer for life."

"Yes," Cosden replied, with a queer expression on his face: "it was a
pleasant surprise for him all right. He wrote me a beautiful letter,
telling me what a noble, upright thing it was to do, and that he didn't
believe another man in the trade would have done it. He even expressed
his deep appreciation. Last month the contract came up to be renewed,
and he canceled it because another house cut me a quarter of a cent a
pound, and I wouldn't meet it."

"I never heard of such a thing!" Edith cried indignantly. "But you have
the satisfaction of knowing that you did the right thing."

"Yes; I have the satisfaction and the other fellow has the contract. But
I am only telling you about it to show you why I can't understand Monty.
I thought I was showing some of those finer things he says I don't
possess. The man who canceled that contract was born with those
wonderful 'instincts,' and exhales them with every breath."

"I don't believe you do understand just what Mr. Huntington means," she
said quietly.

"Let me tell you something more," Cosden went on. "There is many a
corporation right in the city of Boston that spends more money in
lobbying at the State House than it does in producing its goods, yet
the officers of those same corporations go around without having their
best friends tell them they are 'branded with the ear-marks' of their
business. They are just as commercial as I am, and some of them aren't
nearly as careful to play the game straight. That is where I can't
comprehend Monty's attitude. If a man observes the 'finer instincts' in
his business, as I believe I do, why isn't the brand it marks him with a
hall-mark of respectability in any society in which he wants to mingle?"

Edith had been very busy with her fancy-work, and she did not look up
when Cosden appealed to her for an answer.

"Now you're getting nearer to what Mr. Huntington means," she said with
decision. "You know your business world,--its customs and its standards,
and as you have just explained they are not always consistent. The same
is true of the social world, and that, as I understand it, Mr.
Huntington knows better than you do. The social world has its customs
and standards just the same, and in many cases they are equally
inconsistent. You can't explain these inconsistencies in one any more
than in the other; they simply exist. What you still have to do is to
become familiar with them as you have with those in the business world."

"That is where the wife comes in,--that's what she's for," Cosden
insisted. "That's the very reason I want to marry a woman who knows that
end of the game. When I select a partner in my business I don't want him
to handle my end, but rather some part of it which he can do better than
I can. And the same thing ought to apply here."

"Perhaps it ought, Mr. Cosden, but that is just the point,--it doesn't;
and the first thing Mr. Huntington would tell you is that the two don't
mix. Here are two distinct worlds which touch each other very closely;
the one admits the other to a certain extent, the other never admits the
one."

"Then the wife won't do it?"

"Not alone. Many a wife has accomplished for her husband what he never
could have gained for himself, but only when the man has permitted her
to teach him how to leave his business behind him when he leaves his
office. Business plays its part in the social world, but it is one of
those polite amenities not to recognize the machinery which makes
society possible."

Cosden moved uncomfortably in his chair. "I'm not a climber," he said.
"I haven't any desire to force myself in where I'm not wanted; but here
I am, a member of some of the best clubs in my own city, recognized in
the business world, and acquainted with every one who is worth knowing.
Until within twenty-four hours I supposed that I was as much a part of
the social organization as I chose to be,--no more, no less. Now, the
best friend I have in the world tells me point blank that the very thing
I supposed was most to my credit is a bar across the path I have elected
to take. I'm not ready yet to admit it. Monty says that I've lost
something, but he's wrong: apparently the attributes he has in mind I
never even possessed."

"Then the more reason to exert yourself until you do possess them."

"But if I lack them, why haven't I felt the lack before?" he appealed.
"I'm thrown all the time with the very men on whom the social life of
Boston rests."

"Where, if I may ask?"

"In business, and at my clubs."

"But not in their homes?" Edith pursued.

"No," Cosden admitted; "there has never been any reason to meet them
there."

Edith folded her work deliberately and looked squarely at her companion.

"My friend," she said with decision, "'the time has come, the Walrus
said, to talk of many things.' Some one must set you right. You have too
much knowledge in other directions to be so childlike in this. If you
still look upon me as confidential adviser, I'll appoint myself that
one."

"I should be eternally grateful."

"Then don't be offended if I speak plainly. I believe that I understand
the situation exactly: you have pursued the even tenor of your way all
these years, following a definite plan, and accomplishing your set
purpose. In the confidence of having accomplished it, you decide that
the moment has arrived to exercise a side of your nature which up to
that moment has scarcely interested you, and you try to put your new
thought into execution as mechanically as you have carried through every
other purpose which you have ever had. Your election to your clubs, no
doubt, was the result of careful and business-like plans, laid down when
your name was first proposed, and followed up with the same
irreproachable persistency which would be applied to any other business
undertaking."

"Of course," he acknowledged: "that is the only way to put anything
through."

"So your clubs, which you have looked upon to certain extent as social
achievements, have been only a part of your every-day business routine,
after all?"

"Yes; if you choose to put it that way."

"Then let me tell you that however intimate you become with any man, you
are not admitted to his social circle until he has presented you to his
wife or sisters, and has invited you to his home. Every woman knows
that, and I supposed every man did."

"My ignorance is perhaps the best evidence of how crude I really am,"
Cosden said soberly.

"Don't say crude," Edith protested considerately; "say rather that your
social life has been undeveloped. Until this new desire for a home came
to you the necessity of considering that side had not appealed, and when
you once decided to make the grand plunge the only way you knew how to
go at it was as if you were selecting a partner in your business.
Perhaps, as you say, the same rules ought to apply, but I assure you
they don't. And that is just where you stand now."

"Then I will learn the rules which do apply," he asserted with
determination. "But why, if this is so all-important, have you yourself
so little use for society?"

"It is a very different matter, my friend, to make light of something
which you have and something which you lack. I may despise society, but
if it was society that despised me you'd see me starting a campaign in
New York that would make a football game look like a funeral
procession."

Cosden regarded his animated companion for some moments in silence, but
any one who knew him would have recognized that his mind had seized upon
the germ of a new idea which pleased him, but which he was considering
critically for the moment.

"Look here," he said suddenly. "It doesn't take me long to make up my
mind. Why couldn't I persuade you to start a campaign like that for
me--for us--in Boston?"

The abruptness of the suggestion, and the complete change from the
subdued and humiliated seeker after light back to the dominating man of
affairs who forces the solution of his dilemma, took even the astute
Edith by surprise.

"Am I by any chance to consider that as an offer of marriage?" she
demanded.

"That is just what I mean. What do you say?"

"Well, of all things!" She rose to her feet and walked up and down the
piazza with Cosden following close behind. It was a moment or two before
she recovered herself, and then she turned on him.

"I take back all the sympathy I ever gave you," she cried indignantly,
"and I hate myself for having tried to help you with my advice."

Cosden regarded her outbreak with consternation. "I always supposed an
offer of marriage was the greatest compliment a man could pay a woman,"
he exclaimed surprised.

"It is no compliment when such an offer is based so cold-bloodedly upon
business advantage. You come down here to get a wife, which you have
decided in your counting-room will increase your assets. The first girl
you select doesn't fit into your plans, as you had expected, so you look
me over critically, tell me it doesn't take you long to make up your
mind, and offer me a partnership.--All that remains, I suppose, is for
us to discuss office hours and the division of the profits! My word! You
are the most mercenary human creature I ever met!"

Edith was splendid in her anger, but Cosden refused to take her
seriously.

"Come," he insisted; "you are far too sensible to look at it that way.
Why, every one in the hotel is asking if we are engaged. What shall I
tell them?"

"Tell them you proposed to me and that I refused you," she retorted
defiantly, turning from him and disappearing through the open door.



       *       *       *       *       *

XIX

       *       *       *       *       *


"Well Marian, my play-time is over for the present," Thatcher remarked
as he folded a cable he had just received and placed it in his pocket.
"They need me at the office, so I'll sail on Monday. There's no reason
for you to leave until later unless you wish to."

She looked up at him with an expression of such real disappointment that
he felt the unspoken reproach.

"We have stayed a month longer than we intended, as it is," he
explained, "and my going need not hasten your plans at all."

"I don't want you to return alone, Harry, and I loathe the thought of
turning my back on this enchanting spot. Truly, each day makes it more
difficult to leave it."

"Then if you don't go at once the problem may become serious," he
laughed.

"You are so different down here, Harry, I hate to give you up to
business again. That is a wife's real rival; I'm jealous of it."

"A rival which has made our pleasures possible, so you should be
friends. Only a few years more of it, little woman, and then you may
plan my days as well as yours. Then we'll have one long play-time
together."

"You've been saying that for five years," she protested petulantly; "but
we seem to come no nearer. Haven't we enough to do that now?"

"Who shall say what 'enough' really is?" he smiled, taking her hand in
his and looking with affection into her deep eyes. "That isn't what
holds me; it takes time to work out of the old interests without serious
loss, Marian, and present conditions aren't helpful."

"I suppose not," she agreed unwillingly; "but do make the period of
waiting as short as possible. Merry and Philip are grown now, and I'm
hungry for another honeymoon, such as we have been having here."

"Some day, little woman, some day!"

"Don't say that, Harry!" she protested again, this time more vigorously.
"There is no expression in the English language I detest so much as
'some day.' When I was a little girl I had an uncle who was forever
going to take me somewhere or give me something 'some day'; and 'some
day' never came! I've always looked upon those two words as a diabolical
combination invented by older people as an aggravation to children. But
I will be patient, Harry. Can't you start in now to take some medicine
which will be sure to clear your blood of business by the time these
things you speak of work themselves out?"

"If present conditions continue," he laughed, "they will accomplish what
you wish better than anything so homeopathic as physic. We shall all be
thrown out of business whether we like it or not. This cable I have just
received," he continued more soberly, "is a case in point: the
government is starting in to 'investigate' one of our pet interests, and
the stock has begun to drop out of sight already. It is paternalism with
a vengeance: protecting the infant industries to encourage their growth,
and then spanking them when they respond!"

"Well," Marian sighed, "it's all Greek to me, but if you say it's wrong
then I know it is. Now," she added, slipping her arm through his, "let's
go over to the pool and see what is going on there."

Shouts of laughter and sounds of splashing greeted them as they reached
the top of the tiled steps of the "Princess" pool, and they paused for a
moment to see the finish of an exciting race.

"You're too fast for us, Miss Merry," Huntington acknowledged his
defeat. Then he turned to Cosden who finished just behind him.

"Aren't you ashamed of yourself to let a girl beat you like that,
Connie?" he demanded.

"How about yourself?" was the retort; "you always claimed to be some
swimmer."

"You let me win!" Merry declared.

"Indeed I didn't," Huntington protested stoutly. "It is eminently unfit
that woman should defeat man in any athletic contest; she has beaten us
out in everything else, and we must reserve something. Perhaps Connie
let you beat him,--did you, Connie?"

Cosden laughed consciously. "Did I ever let any one beat me in anything
when I could prevent it?" he asked.

"There you are," Huntington waved his arms dramatically. "We admit
ourselves temporarily defeated, but not disgraced. As for myself, I
shall immediately go into strict training, in an endeavor to alter my
lines from endurance to speed."

The Thatchers strolled along the edge of the pool and seated themselves
on one of the benches at the farther end of the enclosure.

"Here come Edith and Philip Hamlen," Marian called her husband's
attention to the new arrivals; "where do you suppose she found him?"

"Hello, people," Edith greeted them. "Mr. Hamlen has been waiting for
you in the hotel, and I told him I thought we should find you here. This
looks to me like a perfectly good party."

"Come sit with us," Thatcher urged, drawing up another bench. "We
elderly folk will watch the children at play."

Edith suddenly caught sight of Cosden and she perceptibly stiffened.
"Children!" she echoed, with an inflection of her voice and a toss of
the head which attracted Marian's attention. "How is it that Mr. Cosden
goes into the water? I should think he would be afraid of rust."

"I supposed it was by your orders, Edith," Marian said smiling. "Isn't
he still acting under your instructions? But why 'rust'?"

"Certainly not by any orders of mine," she replied with emphasis. "What
he needs as an adviser is a machinist to keep that wonderful business
head of his in repair. Wouldn't you think it would rust if he got it
wet?"

Edith's new attitude was more intelligible to Marian than to the men,
but discretion suggested a change of subject.

"Harry is taking us home with him on Monday," she announced, suddenly
turning to Hamlen and watching him narrowly as she spoke.

"On Monday?" Hamlen repeated after her. The color rushed into his
usually pale face, and a tremor in his voice showed how much the news
affected him. "You are going Monday?"

"The Thatcher family intact," Marian answered him; "I don't know about
the others."

"Of course Ricky and I go when you do," Edith added. "I'm quite ready.
The place is beginning to pall on me."

There was an injured look in Hamlen's face as he turned to her quickly.
"Don't say that of my beautiful island!" he begged.

"Oh, the place is all right," Edith assured him; "it is simply some of
the foreign element I don't like."

"Must you really go?" Hamlen asked Thatcher appealingly.

"It is my master's voice, and we slaves of the market dare not disregard
the call."

Hamlen forced a smile. "I shall miss you," he said simply.

"Come with us," Marian urged in a low voice. "That would make our visit
here complete."

The man made no response, yet she could see no signs of weakening. The
color left his face and it was now more ashen than before. The lips were
tightly compressed as if he feared to trust them, and his hands clenched
the walking-stick he held in front of him with a grip of iron. He
mastered himself at last, and the pathetic smile which wrung Marian's
heart whenever she saw it returned to his face. It was too clearly the
reflection of a wound which pride alone concealed from sight.

"You are too generous," he said at length, feeling the necessity of
making some response,--"far too generous; but it is like you, Marian.
Huntington is generous too, but you both are mistaken in your kindness.
There are some exotic growths which can't be transplanted; I am one of
those."

He paused for a moment; then he continued: "I must ask one more favor
before you go--come to me to-morrow afternoon and let us have a final
celebration in honor of our reunion. Come to my villa, all of you, and
in the midst of the family I have created--my flowers, my trees--let me
dedicate my home anew to the dear friends who have brought life back to
me, even though they too will soon join the memories amongst which I
must continue to live. Give me this last experience to remain with me
after you are gone."

"Of course we will, Philip,--we would love to come," Marian replied,
affected by his words and the depth of emotion which his voice
expressed. "It will be the one remembrance we would most rejoice to take
back with us if we can't take you. For these days, Philip," she added in
a voice so low that he alone could hear,--"these days have not been
vital ones for you alone, dear friend. Our meeting has brought back much
to me which I shall always cherish, and beyond all I wish I might be the
means of giving you back that happiness you lost through me."

"No, no! You mustn't say that, Marian!"

"Oh, but I feel the burden of it, Philip! You give me no chance to make
restitution. If you would only come--"

A tremor ran through his frame but he quickly controlled himself. "No,
Marian," he said firmly; "you must come to me!"

While the little group were conversing together the bathers had left the
pool, and now one by one appeared from the bath-houses, radiant from
their invigorating exercise, and looking for new worlds to conquer.
Cosden was first, and he seated himself on the bench beside Edith.

"Am I forgiven?" he asked in a low tone, but with a smile which
expressed confidence in the answer.

"I never talk shop outside of business hours," was the chilling
response, as she drew herself slightly away from him and looked straight
ahead.

Merry was not far behind, and her appearance prevented Edith's hauteur
from becoming too apparent.

"Mr. Huntington and I are going to have another race to-morrow morning,"
she announced. "I'm sure he let me beat him this time just to humiliate
me the more when he shows what he can really do."

"I'd back you against the field if I could find any takers," Cosden
insisted. "That shows what I think of his chances."

"It's great fun, anyway. Isn't this a fine old world, Momsie?" she cried
impulsively, throwing her arms around her mother's neck and kissing her.

"'Here comes the bride,'" chanted Cosden as Huntington finally walked
toward them with his dignified stride. "If I took as much time to prink
as you do I believe I could fuss myself up to look like something."

"You'd need a file!" Edith ejaculated spitefully.

"I beg your pardon?" Cosden interrogated, but no explanation was
vouchsafed.

"This looks to me like a council of war," Huntington remarked.

"Call it rather a demobilization," Thatcher corrected. "I have made
myself everlastingly unpopular by deciding to return to New York on
Monday. Marian insists on leaving when I do, and the Stevenses are
equally considerate of my pleasure. So I've spoiled everything."

"I have only been waiting for some one stronger than I to determine my
own departure, so I include myself among the refugees. And Hamlen will
go with me, won't you, my friend?"

Hamlen held up his hand deprecatingly. "I must complete my sentence of
exile," he said with finality.

"Have you heard anything from New York?" Cosden inquired. "I left orders
not to cable."

"The market is bad, and liable to become worse."

"Then my vacation is over, too. How about the trolley project?"

"Another postponement. I'll give you the details later."

"Mr. Hamlen has invited us to have tea with him to-morrow afternoon as a
farewell celebration, and I have accepted for all."

"Not a farewell, Mrs. Thatcher," Huntington corrected, looking across at
Hamlen. "There are some souls to whom we never say farewell. If he
won't come with us now it simply means a brief postponement. This friend
of mine cannot come into my life as he has done these weeks and then go
out of it again. He and I have already lost too many years of the
companionship which should have been ours; now together we must make up
for lost time."

Hamlen looked at him gratefully but did not answer. In single file the
little party walked along the narrow edge of the pool, down the steps
and back to the hotel. Cosden manoeuvered so that he had a word with
Edith before they separated.

"I sha'n't let you be cross with me," he said.

"I'm not cross; 'disgusted' is the word if you really want to know."

"But suppose my speaking was more sudden than my decision?"

"I would rather not discuss it, if you please."

"I've seen a great deal more of you than I have of Merry--"

"But when you make up your mind, Mr. Cosden--" Edith recalled his own
words.

"I never change it without reason," he replied. "And more than that, it
is very unprofessional to desert a client just when he needs you most."

"When a client disregards his counsel's advice it is time to change
counsel," she retorted with decision.

"Oh, dear, no!" Cosden replied in so conciliatory a tone that she was
partly mollified. The words rang with greater sincerity than she had
believed him to possess. "That isn't the way real counsels do at all,
especially when the client is so contrite."

"What is their custom?" Edith asked, amused in spite of herself.

"They charge it up on the bill and make him pay handsomely for his
presumption."

"Oh!" she said, weakening a little in the caustic attitude she had
assumed. "If it comes down to a matter of bookkeeping perhaps we can
effect a compromise."



       *       *       *       *       *

XX

       *       *       *       *       *


"To-day, Connie, is Saturday, to-morrow is the Sabbath, in which we are
not permitted to toil, neither can we spin, and on the day which
followeth we sail," Huntington remarked at luncheon.

Cosden regarded his companion critically. "It doesn't rhyme so I know it
isn't poetry; then it must be Scripture."

"Freely paraphrased, it means that this afternoon is the last
opportunity we shall have to exercise our golf-clubs on Bermudian soil."

"Enough said," Cosden answered sententiously; "I'll be ready whenever
you are. What a relief it will be to play on a real course again when
the season opens at home!"

"I admit that this is the one great deficiency of an otherwise admirably
ordered resort," Huntington agreed. "Still, it is a whole lot better
than no course at all, so let us be philosophers.--I'll be ready in an
hour."

The afternoon's round proved an eventful one to Huntington. Not that his
clubs were under better control, or that he was less penalized by the
atrocious lies encountered so frequently. Not that he succeeded in
defeating his opponent, which was usually the measure of an eventful
day; but he found Cosden in a state of mind which gave him infinite
relief.

The weak spots shown up by the analysis Huntington had made of his
friendship with Cosden caused him real anxiety, explain them as he
would. It was one thing to play with a man three times a week and
another to live with him for a month of consecutive holidays. He had
wondered whether their relations could ever return to what he had
believed them to be before the shock came to his sense of propriety.
Cosden's new state of mind shifted the balance so that the scales hung
even, and the hope thus engendered made him indifferent to sliced
drives, bad lies, or topped approaches. To Huntington, a friendship such
as this had been assumed the proportions of a trust, and to disturb it
was to shake the foundations of his every-day life to a most disquieting
extent.

"This visit to Bermuda hasn't been at all what I expected," Cosden
confided to him; "but I'm inclined to think it has been a success after
all."

"I have found much to interest me here," Huntington admitted.

"Between you and Miss Stevens I've learned a few things about myself I
didn't know before. The experience hasn't been altogether palatable, but
perhaps it will prove salutary."

"That is ancient history now, Connie," Huntington protested, following
his usual custom of avoiding the unpleasant. "Why bring it up again?
Keep your mind on your game."

"It hasn't become ancient history yet," he insisted. "I want you to
understand that I appreciate your friendliness in going out of your way
to say disagreeable things when you thought I needed to hear them. It
isn't every one who would have done it."

"That's all right; now let's forget it."

"I don't want to forget it. In fact I'm particularly keen on remembering
it. I tackled a job before I knew how to handle it, with the inevitable
consequences. Now I think I can come nearer to understanding what the
game is."

He paused long enough to negotiate a particularly difficult stymie which
Huntington had laid him on the third green. As the ball dropped into the
cup he looked up with a satisfied smile.

"You see I can play a game that I do understand, don't you, Monty? I'm
going to play this new game just as well after I'm on to it. You were
right: that little Thatcher girl is all I thought she was, but we are
absolutely unsuited. I had to find it out for myself, but now it is as
clear to me as it has been to you from the beginning. And this isn't the
only thing I've found out."

"The air is pretty clear down here, Connie; one can see a long ways."

"Yes, when he's supplied with a pair of binoculars like you and Miss
Stevens. The thing I can see clearest now is that I'm not ready to marry
any girl just at present."

Huntington stopped as he was about to swing, dropped his club, and
seized Cosden by the shoulders.

"Then you aren't going to desert me!"

"Hold on!" Cosden cried as he released himself; "you're going too fast!
Don't overlook the fact that I said 'just at present.' It may be I
shall never marry, but something tells me that there are wedding-bells
for me before I get through with it. There's no doubt at all, however,
that before that takes place I must acquire some of those flossy things
you've taught me to look for. I'm going to take a few hundred shares in
some humanizing company and see what it does for me. Then I'll find out
just what there is in it, and let the future take care of itself."

Now that Cosden had come to these eminently satisfactory conclusions
Huntington was too wise to offer any advice. His courage rose as this
responsibility rolled away from his overburdened shoulders, and he dared
hope that before he reached New York Mrs. Thatcher would voluntarily
abandon her quixotic notion concerning Merry and Hamlen. This would
leave him free to pull the strings for Billy,--but here he sighed. Could
he hope ever to bring the boy up to the standard he himself would insist
upon before permitting any thought of an alliance? And was the sigh all
because of doubts of Billy? Forty-five must give way to twenty, but he
admitted to himself that the supreme burden of all remained. If some of
those years could only be turned back! But he knew himself now, and in
that knowledge rested power.

Sunday dawned bright and clear, one of those superlative days which
Bermuda produces now and then as an aggravation to her departing
visitors, and to demonstrate that she herself can improve even upon her
own perfection. Those who had planned to devote the morning to packing
against the morrow's sailing found the voice of duty too weak to make
itself heard above the irresistible call to the open. Mr. and Mrs.
Thatcher seized the opportunity to drive again to Harrington Sound,
Merry and Huntington took a final walk to Elba Beach, while Cosden
insisted that Edith Stevens permit him to escort her to the Barracks and
the band concert. This left Ricky Stevens entirely out in the cold, but
he was so accustomed to it that he did not even notice that it had
happened again. Cheerfully lighting a cigarette, after the others had
departed, and swinging his stick with an energy deserving of better
things, he devoted the morning to making a final round of the
tobacco-shops, laying in a huge amount of additional smoking materials.

By afternoon all were again united, and set off together for Hamlen's
villa. Their host elected to receive them in the garden instead of at
the house, and as the guests passed through the rustic arbor, vivid in
the coloring of the _poinsettia_ which bore it down, each felt in
varying degree the dramatic effect of the reception. Hamlen stepped
quietly forward to receive them, clad in the familiar white doe-skin
suit which was never so effective as against its present background. His
manner was courtly, but the reserve his friends had seen broken down
during their visit again possessed him, and his face, even when he
smiled to welcome them, was reminiscent of some great renunciation.

"Forgive me for not meeting you when you first drove up," Hamlen said to
Marian. "In my sentimentality I preferred to greet you here. These
trees, these shrubs, these flowers," he indicated, "I planted one by
one. I tended them in their infancy, I have watched them in their
growth. To me they have personalities as much as human beings. They
represent my family, they are all I have, and, as I told you yesterday,
I want them to join me in this last meeting before you depart and leave
us to ourselves."

Their host's attitude was not fully appreciated except by the three who
knew him best, so it was natural that by degrees the party separated in
such a way that Mrs. Thatcher, Merry and Huntington were left with him
while the others explored the grounds in greater detail.

"For the first time in my life, Marian," Hamlen said, "I shall regret to
see a steamer pass my Point and leave me cut off from the world. As I
told you, always before I have gloried in it. To-morrow--"

"We shall be waving to you to-morrow, Philip, and wishing you were with
us."

"It won't be long," Huntington added, "before you will be on one of
those same steamers on your way to us."

"I hope so," was the non-committal reply.

"We do want you, all of us," Merry smiled persuadingly. "We have come to
know each other so well here that we shall miss not being where we can
run in to disturb you in your work."

"I shall miss those interruptions too, and the work will be all I
shall have to fall back upon. Somehow," he added, turning to
Huntington,--"somehow I haven't been able to do the same work since you
have been here. I don't understand it. I have been happier during these
weeks than in all the years which preceded them, yet my work has not
been so good. Why is it?"

"The reason is obvious," Huntington answered quietly, but with a degree
of satisfaction in his tone. "In what you say I find a pledge that you
will come to us. Our visit, Hamlen, has disturbed the equilibrium of
your life; it can never be the same again. Your work now is not so good
because your mind has found a new horizon, and refuses to confine itself
within the narrow compass which it had before. You can't do as good work
again until your life finds new anchorage. Then you will reach heights
beyond your dreams; but it will be through your friends that the new
anchorage will come. We can afford to be patient, Hamlen, for you must
surely turn to us; you cannot avoid it no matter how hard you try."

Huntington's magnetic voice affected Hamlen as deeply as his words. His
vision seemed so clear, his domination so complete that it startled the
weaker man. Mrs. Thatcher and Merry knew at that moment that, if he
chose, Huntington could have compelled Hamlen to follow him to the ends
of the earth; and the response their host made showed that he recognized
it too.

"You won't force me, Huntington?" he appealed.

"It must come only when you wish it," was the reassuring reply; "but
when that moment does arrive, know well, dear friend, how hearty a
welcome awaits you."

Hamlen took his hand in both his own and gazed for a long moment into
Huntington's face. "Classmate--friend," was all he said, but those who
heard the words knew them to be enough.

As they mixed again with the others, and the conversation became more
general, the seriousness of Hamlen's earlier bearing partially wore
away, relieving the unnatural tension which had almost turned an
informal social function into the observance of a religious rite. Then
the shadows lengthened, and two of the servants brought out a rustic
table laden with eatables, with a huge bowl of strawberries as a
centerpiece. There was no need of decoration beyond its cut-glass and
rare china, for each dish was a selected masterpiece.

"A Class Day spread in February!" Merry exclaimed enthusiastically. "How
we shall miss these strawberries when we get home!"

"'Strawberries may come and strawberries may go, but prunes go on
forever,'" Cosden added, glancing at Edith for approval.

The whole experience affected Mrs. Thatcher deeply. She saw the Hamlen
of her youth full of promise and ambition, she saw the Hamlen of to-day
bound hand and foot in the bonds of his false sophistry. What would he
have been had she not broken her word to him? She was vaguely conscious
that her present emotion was deeper than any she had ever been called
upon to feel for her husband or for her children; she half-sensed the
fact that previously her deepest feelings had been for herself. Now she
felt a sympathy which demanded restitution, and the impulse must be
worthy since it was for the happiness of some one other than herself. Of
course, Merry should not be coerced against her will,--but if it could
only be!

Every episode, however epochful, must end, and Marian rose at length,
indicating that the good-byes must be spoken.

"You'll be down to see us off, Philip?" she asked.

"No," he answered unexpectedly; "if you will excuse me I should prefer
to watch you from my Point up there. I want you to remember me amid my
own surroundings, rather than as a part of something to which I don't
belong."

       *       *       *       *       *

Next morning, as the little tender passed Spanish Point, carrying its
passengers to the "Arcadian," three persons stood in the stern waving to
a solitary figure standing erect and motionless. When he made out the
greetings from the boat he raised his arm high above his head and held
it there, like a Roman of old, in stately recognition. He gave no sign
that he saw their further salutes, yet they knew he could not fail to
see them. They remained there until the figure became smaller and
smaller, and then finally was cut off altogether by a turn in their
course.

"This is too much for me!" Mrs. Thatcher cried suddenly, as if
apologizing for the break in her voice. "If I don't get my mind on
something else I shall burst into tears! I'm going forward with the
others."

Merry and Huntington still lingered, hoping that they might catch one
more glimpse of the solitary watcher; but in vain. When the girl turned
toward him Huntington saw that tears glistened in her eyes.

"That is the most pathetic figure I have ever seen!"

Huntington made no answer, but at that moment he became conscious that
he was holding a small hand tightly grasped within his own. Impulsively
he raised it to his lips, then he as suddenly released it.

"To seal our friendship," he explained consciously, "at this crisis in
the life of one who has been the means of bringing us together. I owe
him much for that!"



       *       *       *       *       *

XXI

       *       *       *       *       *


The "Arcadian" rested lazily at anchor just outside the harbor,
apparently as willing as other visitors to drift on the tide of peace
and contentment. The coils of smoke, rising straight upward from its
funnels, supplied the only sign of intended departure. The bustle and
activity usually attendant upon a sailing seemed absent, and the boat
lay there like a pleasure-yacht ready to take on board its master's
guests.

This impression deepened as the passengers from the tender were
transferred on board and moved about the spacious decks, visiting their
state-rooms resplendent with inviting brass bedsteads in place of the
discouraging berths, and inspecting the swimming-pool.

"You must be sure of your weather before you indulge yourself there,"
Cosden remarked. "They told us, coming down, of a dignified British
admiral who was tempted to a plunge, but no sooner was he in the pool
than a young cyclone struck the boat, and for twenty minutes he was
thrown forwards and backwards and sideways in spite of the efforts of
the stewards to get him out. As he weighed nearly three hundred pounds
the situation became serious. Finally, when the water was drawn off, he
was dragged upon the stone slabs more dead than alive and held there
until the storm abated, indifferent to the dignity of his person or to
the glory of the British navy."

"That ought to act as an excellent flesh-reducer," Huntington commented.
"Perhaps it would serve in my efforts to alter my lines for speed."

"I don't see that you need it," Edith laughed; "but we'll all be down to
give encouragement."

"About that time you'll be making love to your little brass bedstead,"
remarked Mrs. Thatcher.

Edith's face fell. "I forgot all about that!" she cried aghast. "You
don't think it will be as rough going back as it was coming down, do
you? Oh! I forgot all about that!"

"It's certain to be bad enough to make you feel 'very annoyed,'" Marian
confirmed maliciously.

"Let's go on deck," Ricky Stevens said with a sudden show of interest;
"it's so awfully stuffy down here!"

Edith gave him a glance of approval. "For once in your life, Richard
Stevens, you have a real idea. I can feel the boat beginning to roll
now."

"Nonsense!" Huntington laughed, "we're scarcely out of the harbor yet;
but the deck is much the better place; we are passing close to the shore
and this last view of the islands is beautiful. We shall have ample
opportunity to inspect the boat later on."

"I've seen all I want to," Edith asserted, as they started back to the
companion way. "It was silly of me to forget that awful experience
coming down. I am sure the boat is rolling, in spite of your denials."

"Then look," Huntington insisted, as they stepped out on the deck again.
"You could navigate this sea in a canoe."

"Well, anyway," she compromised, "I shall be much more comfortable in my
little steamer chair, so lead me to it."

Mrs. Thatcher, still affected by her last sight of Hamlen, was glad to
sit down beside her friend while the others walked up and down the
decks, watching the passing panorama of the shore, knowing that it would
last too short a time at best.

"Marian," Edith said suddenly, "I have a presentiment that I shall die
of seasickness on this trip home, and there is something I want to say
to you while I can."

"No one ever died of seasickness, child," Marian laughed; "but if you
have something serious on your conscience the sooner you get it off the
better."

"It's Mr. Cosden," Edith explained.

"I noticed that something had gone wrong in that quarter. Has he escaped
you, after all?"

"It is really too bad of you to take advantage of me when I'm so ill!"

"My poor Edith!" Marian said soothingly, "forgive me, dear; I forgot
your serious condition for the moment. Tell me about Mr. Cosden."

"He is impossible," the invalid announced. "I really thought there was
some hope for him until a few days ago, but he is so frightfully
commercial that he crocks."

"He--what?"

"It comes off on everything he touches. He can't look at anything from
any other standpoint. It's a tragic disappointment to me, and I think
it just as well that I am going to expire from this awful seasickness. I
really thought I could train him, but he's too crude. That is the only
word to use."

"He can't be that or he couldn't be Monty Huntington's friend. I rather
like him. He's blunt and matter-of-fact and all that; but I like to see
a man with confidence in himself."

"I have an idea that Mr. Huntington has somewhat revised his opinions. I
certainly have; and whatever anybody else may think I agree with
myself."

"That ought to be comforting to you, my dear; but I'm really sorry
things haven't pulled through this time. I'm afraid it's your last
chance. What did he do that was crude,--refuse to propose?"

Edith sat bolt upright, her cheeks flaming, with all signs of her recent
indisposition vanished.

"I hate you in that tantalizing mood, Marian Thatcher! You always put
the meanest interpretation on everything! Of course he proposed, but he
didn't do it in a nice way; he just figured it out as if it was one of
his business deals, and made me feel as if I ought to go right to the
shipping department and get packed up."

"My dear Edith," Marian expostulated; "you mustn't be so fastidious. It
doesn't make so much difference how these men propose; the main thing is
to have them do it. Truly, I'm disappointed in you! Here you have been
working desperately to lead him to a point where he would let you put
the ball and chain on him, and then, for some silly little reason, you
let him get away from you! Really, I'm disappointed! From what I've
seen, you two seem admirably suited to each other."

"You don't understand, Marian," she protested; "he made this trip for
the express purpose of picking out a wife--"

"In Bermuda? Why couldn't he find one nearer home?"

"The girl he had selected for the distinguished honor was in Bermuda--"

Marian Thatcher was interested. Her amusement over her friend's
annoyances, real or imagined, became tempered by curiosity, and that
changed a passing incident into an event.

"He told you this and yet proposed to you? Who was the other girl?"

"You really don't know?"

"Certainly not. Why should I know? This is all news to me."

"I'm glad to be able to tell you something, my dear Marian," Edith said
complacently. "You are so terribly superior it really cheers me up to
have the chance to add to your knowledge, even in a small way. Mr.
Cosden came down here for the purpose of proposing to Merry."

"To Merry!" Marian cried. "That man had the audacity to think he could
marry my child! Well, upon my soul! Why, he never saw her more than two
or three times before he came to Bermuda! How could he possibly have
fallen in love--"

"In love!" Edith laughed. "Love? That's a real joke! Mr. Cosden has
never dealt in that commodity! I tell you, Marian, he just picks out the
thing he wants, and then he gets it--"

"He could never get _my_ daughter."

"But you just said you admired men who had confidence in themselves--"

"I didn't say I cared for men with such unmitigated nerve as that. The
idea!"

"You thought us well suited to each other."

"Certainly I did; that's an entirely different matter. You are just as
mercenary as he, and I think you would make a perfect team,--but Merry!
Ho, ho! The audacity of it!"

Sitting on the edge of her steamer chair Marian tapped the deck
excitedly with her toe and carefully adjusted an imaginary crease in her
skirt. Suddenly she turned again to her companion.

"So he came down to get Merry,--and proposed to you?"

"Yes; rather well manoeuvered, wasn't it? You see, don't you, that my
mercenary instincts saved you from an unpleasant maternal duty?"

"I bless you for it," Marian said heartily; "but you've refused him, so
that leaves him loose to begin over again. He's not safe yet."

"I wouldn't worry about that just now," Edith reassured her. "Mr. Cosden
has learned a few things since he has been under my instruction, and I
think he will be less precipitate."

"Why don't you continue the good work and polish him up for yourself?
You must have found some good points or you wouldn't have gone to all
this trouble."

"No, Marian; it's too big a contract. I once had hopes but they are
gone. The first thing I knew he'd have me packed up in spite of myself
and shipped off somewhere. I'm very disappointed, but I dare not take
the chance."

It was fortunate, if Miss Stevens was to unburden her heart to her
friend at all, that she acted so promptly, for after the headland of St.
George's and St. David's light-house faded away in the distance it
became apparent that the elements were not kindly disposed toward those
on board the "Arcadian." The air became oppressive in its sultriness,
and the clouds gathered ominously. Within an hour the calmness of the
sea was forgotten. The little party playing shuffleboard found it
difficult to keep their feet, and of a sudden a sharp, vicious squall
struck the boat, sending all uncertain passengers to their state-rooms.
Luncheon, served with difficulty, found a reasonable number at their
seats, but by dinner-time the "good sailors" might have selected any
locations they chose. Nature had declared a division, and the state-room
stewards found far greater demand upon their services than did those in
the dining-saloon. The majority of the passengers simply endured until
the safe haven of New York harbor might be reached, the minority
adjusted themselves to the conditions and made the most of them.

Merry and Huntington were among the fortunate minority.

"At last I have found something to struggle against!" she cried
enthusiastically during the storm, as they stood in a sheltered position
on deck watching the quivering steamer plow steadfastly through the
great waves.

"Still eager for a struggle!" Huntington exclaimed smiling,
understanding the spirit of the girl better than he cared to
acknowledge. "I don't like to think of you as struggling at all."

"I must," she said firmly. "Unless I do, I feel myself slipping
backwards."

"Of course," he admitted, "struggling means development, yet my wish for
you is freedom from anything which opposes. Is it selfishness on my
part, this desire to keep you as you are, or is it merely another of
those paradoxes of which life is made up?"

"Whatever it is," Merry answered simply, "I know that your wish is for
my good, for I know you are my friend."

She turned toward him as she spoke and looked full in his face with an
expression of confidence in her own which tested Huntington's
self-denial. But the years--the inexorable years--were there!

"It is you who have made me realize the necessity of struggling," she
continued. "It is through the companionship I have had these weeks with
you, and your friendship, that I have been able to crystallize ideas
which before were so uncontrolled that they made me restless and
discontented. What I heard you say to Mr. Hamlen, what I have seen in
your every-day philosophy has taught me to concentrate my efforts in one
grand struggle with myself."

"If you keep it there," Huntington answered, "I shall be content; it
would be no kindness to wish it otherwise. But one of these days, little
friend, some man will come along with a nature equal to your own, and in
the division of the struggle you will find the happiness multiplied.
That will be your chance to contribute your share to the real life which
you will jointly live."

"You have remembered what I said that first time we walked home from Mr.
Hamlen's!"

"I shall always remember it. From it I first learned the depth and
beauty of your womanhood."

"Please, Mr. Huntington--" she begged deprecatingly; but her companion
saw no reason to recall the words.

On the second morning the passengers came up on deck in anticipation of
landing in the afternoon. Even Edith Stevens had passed through the
ordeal without the fatal results she had predicted. Cosden seized the
first opportunity for a final word of reconciliation.

"Don't give me up," he urged. "I've learned a lot of things down here,
and I appreciate what you have done for me more than I have shown. I'm
going to do a bit of sandpapering when I get home, and I want you to let
me run in to see you once in a while in New York, just to report
progress."

And Edith, either because after her experiences she felt too weak to
combat him, or because she thought he needed encouragement, ingloriously
capitulated.

The final good-byes were said on the dock, after the customs officials
had completed their inspection.

"Of course we'll see you in New York now and then," Mrs. Thatcher said
to the two men; "and when we open up at the shore we must plan a real
reunion."

"I shall hope to have Hamlen here by then," Huntington remarked.

"You are more optimistic than I; but in the mean time I shall be eager
to receive news of him through you."

"Drop in at the office next time you're in town, Cosden," said Thatcher;
"we'll talk over Consolidated Machinery and the Bermuda Trolleys."

"I'm thinking of getting out of business altogether, to devote myself to
art," was Cosden's enigmatical reply; but the expression on Edith
Stevens' face showed that at least she understood.



       *       *       *       *       *

XXII

       *       *       *       *       *


Nearly a month passed after their return to Boston before Huntington and
Cosden really saw anything of each other. They met casually, they
telephoned, they lunched in company with other friends at down-town
clubs, but neither one suggested an old-time getting together, and each
felt relieved by the omission of the other. Yet the reason each man held
for this feeling, had he openly acknowledged it, was as opposed to the
other's as were the characteristics of the men themselves. Huntington
craved nothing so much as an opportunity to be alone, that he might
review the extraordinary happenings of the past few weeks and thus
fortify himself sufficiently to prevent any lapse from what he knew to
be his duty; Cosden required a return to his usual feverish business
activity in order to digest his new ideas. Huntington remembered the
wonderful sunshine and the fragrant flowers, in the midst of which he
always saw a sweetly serious face peering out at him in spite of his
efforts at banishment; Cosden forgot everything except that he had been
shown up to himself in a light which demanded immediate and drastic
consideration. To both men the weeks just ended, including those which
had elapsed since their return had been epoch-making. But
self-confidence revives with time, however great a shock it may receive
and when Huntington finally invited his friend to dine with him Cosden
found himself quite ready to accept.

This first meeting was more formal than any which had taken place during
the many years of their acquaintance. Cosden often spoke of the relief
it was to him to be permitted to drop in at his friend's house in such
an intimate way,--without "fussing up," as he expressed it; now he
appeared in his dinner-coat, dressed as immaculately as Huntington
himself always was. His manner was more contained, and even though it
was evident that his restraint was studied Huntington was interested and
pleased to observe that as yet, at all events, the influence of the
Bermuda experiences made itself felt.

"Well, Monty," Cosden said as he lifted his cocktail-glass, "I'm glad to
be aboard again. I've been associating a good deal lately with a fellow
named Conover Cosden, and I must admit he bores me. Let's have this and
then a little dividend just for good luck.--By the way, I saw you at the
Symphony last night."

"At the Symphony?" Huntington echoed surprised. "You don't mean to
say--"

"Oh, yes, I do!" he laughed rather consciously. "Not that it means much
to me yet, but I've reached a point where I can call it an orchestra
instead of a band, anyway. Mighty fine concert, wasn't it? I know I'm
right, for I read the criticism in the paper this morning."

"How long are you going to keep this up?"

"To the bitter end!" Cosden declared dramatically. "If music has charms
to calm the savage beast now is its chance to demonstrate! That isn't
all, but you wouldn't believe any more. As a matter of fact I'm taking
in everything which begins with H for fear I may miss some one of those
'humanities'!"

Huntington gazed at him in sheer amazement.

"That's right," Cosden emphasized, only slightly embarrassed by the
expression of incredulity on his friend's face. "Instead of being merely
a 'sow's ear' I'm going the whole hog, and so far I've managed to pull
through without casualties. Now what do you and Edith Stevens think of
your handiwork!"

"By Jove, Connie!" Huntington exclaimed feelingly, "it's wonderful, and
I congratulate you. I had no idea--"

"Other than that I would remain without those 'finer instincts' all my
life," he finished for him. "Well, maybe I will, even at that; but at
all events I'm giving the whole thing the once over. If my health and
strength hold out perhaps when you and I make another vacation trip
together you won't be mortified by your friend as you were last time."

"Nonsense, Connie!" Huntington protested. "We both got out a little
beyond our depth down there, and things didn't look quite normal to us."

"Both?" Cosden demanded. "Where do you come in? That was my party, if I
remember correctly, and I got all the presents."

Huntington for the moment had been forgetful that he alone knew how much
the Bermuda days had disturbed his own equilibrium, and he recognized
that he had been almost guilty of betraying himself.

"Well," he said lightly, "I interjected myself into your affairs in a
shameless fashion, so whatever blame there is I insist on taking my full
share.--What you tell me is simply incredible!"

"Don't give me too much credit for it yet. Like everything else in my
life there's a selfish motive back of it. Edith Stevens never said a
truer thing than that it is a different matter making light of something
which you have and something which you lack. Measuring things up on this
basis shows me that nearly every time I've opened my mouth I've put my
foot in it. Now I'm going to play safe and make myself very, very wise
on some subjects regarding which I've been a bit of a scoffer. Then, if
I don't want to, I won't do them, but never again because I can't do
them!"

"You needn't be ashamed of your motive; many a man has had one less
worthy. But what is your business doing all this time?"

"Well, well, well!" Cosden laughed. "Good old Monty! We've been together
nearly an hour, and you are the first to mention business! You wouldn't
have believed I could go as long as that without speaking of it, would
you? But let me tell you I have them all guessing down at the office. I
can see it every day. Of course, I'm keeping my eye on things as much as
ever, but I'm not making so much noise about it. You see this is
something I have, so I can afford to treat it lightly. Now I have
something to measure myself by, and it helps a lot.--But don't let us
spend all the time talking about me; what have you been doing with
yourself?"

"Drifting, as usual," Huntington replied, regretting that the
conversation turned on him; "wishing I might take twenty years off my
life and begin over again."

"Why, Monty! You say that so seriously I really believe you mean it!
What's happened? It isn't like you."

"Nothing, dear boy, nothing at all," Huntington disclaimed quickly,
trying to throw off the mood which had so promptly attracted his
friend's attention. "I've seen quite a bit of Billy and his friend Phil
Thatcher since I came home, and--I envy them their youth."

Cosden looked at him long and searchingly before he spoke. "You're in a
curious mood to-night," he said at length. "During the years I've known
you I've never before seen you other than a philosopher, taking life day
by day as you found it, and getting all there was out of it."

"What is philosophy unless one can find the stone?" Huntington exclaimed
with feeling. "It is the philosopher's stone I want to-night, and I
can't get it. I'm feeling my age, Connie, and the sensation isn't
agreeable."

"Your age!" Cosden determined to overpower the surprising obsession.
"The idea of talking age at forty-five! Out with it, man! Tell me what
has taken hold of you. I've left you too much by yourself lately, and it
hasn't been a good thing for you."

"That's it, Connie," Huntington smiled weakly. "You mustn't do it again.
First you take the heart out of me by declaring that you are going to
get married, then you cheer me up by becoming normal again, and lastly
you neglect me just as if you had taken the fatal step after all."

"That's better," Cosden said, rising from his dessert and putting his
arm around his friend's shoulders. "Come on up-stairs and we'll gossip
over our cigars like two old cats. It won't be long before we can get
out on the links again, and then you'll forget that you have any age at
all. Age! the idea! Why, Monty, you and I have only just begun to live!"

Arm in arm they walked slowly to the library in silence, but each one
wondered at the new characteristic he had discovered in the other.
Huntington was touched by Cosden's show of affection, the first time he
had ever seen it manifested; Cosden marveled at the first break he had
ever seen in his friend's self-possession. However easy-going Huntington
might be, he always held himself well in hand; and Cosden envied him
this trait. Huntington knew Cosden to be kind-hearted, but believed him
to consider any outward demonstration as an evidence of weakness. The
mutual discovery, surprising as it was, drew them closer together, and
each realized that whatever had been the means a change had come in
their relations which placed their friendship on a higher plane.

"There's something deeper in this than appears on the surface," Cosden
declared insistently as he held the light for Huntington and then lit
his own cigar. "You said down-stairs that we both got out beyond our
depth at Bermuda, and perhaps you meant more than I realized. Then,
when we met the Thatchers, it developed that you and Mrs. Thatcher had
known each other years ago. Now, tell me, is there any association
between these two ideas, and is this by chance the explanation of the
changed Monty I find here to-night?"

Huntington did not reply at once. He was annoyed with himself that he
had uncovered so much of his heart, and he had been pondering how to
extricate himself from the delicate position. Under no circumstances
must Cosden or any one else know how deep an impression Merry Thatcher
had made upon him. The first duty he owed to her was to stand before the
world simply as a devoted, older friend; his duty to himself was to
prevent his associates from discovering how many kinds of fool he was to
permit any such ridiculous condition to arise as that which at present
existed. Now Cosden had unconsciously shown him the way out.

"Yes, Connie," he replied calmly; "there is an association which may be
made of those ideas, and since you have spoken of it I will ask you to
stand by me at the finish. There is something I have intended to do ever
since I came home, but I lacked the courage; now you have given it to
me."

Huntington rose abruptly, and crossing to the opposite side of the
library he lifted the little mahogany table which stood there, placing
it before the fire in front of the easy-chair from which he had just
risen. Then he seated himself, and taking from his pocket the key to the
small drawer he turned it in the lock. Cosden watched him with an
interest far deeper than curiosity, for he felt from his friend's
manner that the turning of the key unlocked something within him which
until that moment had been closely hidden.

"It will be better to get it out of my system," Huntington said finally,
after bringing all the accessories together.--"You never knew of my
romance, did you?"

"Never," Cosden acknowledged; "I supposed you were the one man who had
passed through life unscathed."

"I couldn't have told you of it before because you wouldn't have
understood, but now you will appreciate matters better if you know the
facts.--Do you remember my surprise when you first mentioned the name of
Marian Thatcher?"

"Why, yes; you asked if she was a widow."

"Exactly. Mrs. Thatcher was Marian Seymour when I first met her, my
senior year at college. There is no need to go into particulars; the
fact remains that I was hard hit.--Look at these!"

He pulled out the drawer and laid the various exhibits on the top of the
table. Cosden leaned forward and gingerly lifted the long white glove,
looking into Huntington's face with a curious expression as he did so.
Huntington met his gaze squarely, nodding his head in affirmation of the
unasked question.

"What's this?" Cosden demanded, laying down the glove and picking up the
slipper.

"You see," was the unabashed reply; "it went as deep as that. Laugh if
you like; I sha'n't mind. We'll clean up this whole business to-night,
and the more ridiculous you make it the shorter work it will be."

"I would have laughed a month ago," Cosden admitted; "but, as you say, I
understand some things now that I didn't before. Every man has a
right to a romance, and he's entitled to have it respected."

"Thanks, dear boy; but romances don't belong to five-and-forty, and this
farce has gone far enough. Now we'll watch it go up in smoke, as most
romances do. But first let us pay it befitting honor."

Dixon appeared in response to the bell.

"A bottle of Moët & Chandon, '98," Huntington ordered.

During the time required by Dixon the two men puffed silently at their
cigars. Huntington feared lest some inopportune word might disturb the
success of his stratagem; Cosden, believing that he was witnessing the
final act in the tragedy of his friend's life, respected the solemnity
of the occasion.

"Now, Connie," Huntington rose with the glass in his hand, "I ask you to
drink to the dearest girl in the world, past, present and future,--to
Marian Thatcher, God bless her!"

"To Marian Thatcher--God bless her!" Cosden repeated after him; and
Huntington turned away to chuckle to himself that he had paid homage to
the reality while his friend believed him to be giving tribute to the
figment. He blessed the figment for bestowing her name upon the reality!

"Now for the renunciation," Huntington said solemnly, and one by one he
laid the long-cherished trophies upon the fire, watching in silence
their reduction to the elements. His success filled him with a spirit
of bravado. The opportunity might never come again.

"Once again, Connie old boy!" he cried.

He held out his disengaged hand and grasped Cosden's as he lifted his
refilled glass.

"To Marian Thatcher--God bless her!"

Cosden still held his glass after his friend placed his on the table.

"Would it seem a sacrilege if I asked you to join me in a toast?" he
asked, with an unnatural hesitation in his voice.

"Why,--no," Huntington said wonderingly. "Fill up the glasses again."

Then he held his high, waiting for his friend to speak.

"To Edith Stevens," Cosden finally blurted out,--"God bless her!"

"Edith Stevens!" Huntington almost choked in his surprise. "You don't
mean--"

"I don't know what I mean," Cosden admitted, blushing furiously; "but I
miss her like blazes, and I'm either in love or else I'm suffering from
a new disease the doctors haven't named!"



       *       *       *       *       *

XXIII

       *       *       *       *       *


The letter postmarked "New York," announcing Hamlen's arrival, did not
take Huntington by surprise, but it fulfilled his expectations sooner
than he expected. The desirability of making certain changes in
investments, the letter explained, made it necessary for Hamlen to come
to the States, and if his classmate's invitation to Boston still held
good he would be glad to avail himself of the opportunity to renew their
friendship.

This announcement found Huntington in the introspective mood which had
alarmed Cosden, and suggested a comparison in which he placed himself
under the microscope for a mercilessly minute analysis. Hamlen was
convinced that he had made a failure of life, but what had he,
Huntington demanded of himself, accomplished which could entitle him to
claim success? He had not separated himself from his fellow-men, it was
true, he had been a decent citizen, performing such duties as came to
him with faithfulness and ability,--yet what had he really contributed
to the community or to the life in which he lived which made it better
because he had been a part of it? He had created nothing, nor even made
an effort to create. No painting bore his signature; no volume added
his contribution to the world's knowledge on any subject; no
philanthropic or business enterprise owed its inception to his
initiative; no child of his was growing up to bear its share in the
struggle of to-morrow or to bless his memory for parental sacrifice and
guidance. Hamlen at least had given himself to the world in the
wonderful volumes which would live after him, even though their
creator's identity never was disclosed. Hamlen at least had made the
flowers and the shrubs of his island estate bear witness to the power
within him which refused to be restrained; but Huntington's labors, if
he could dignify them by so serious a name, had been perfunctory at
best. He was rich in the world's goods and in human friendships, he was
respected by all who knew him. For what? he demanded: because his
grandfather and his father before him had created, and had played their
part so well in the developing life of the city of their birth that a
luster had been given to the family name. His virtues were wholly
negative; his was a reflected glory and undeserved. The position in the
community which Huntington knew himself to occupy, and the fact that
Hamlen, because of his exile, would be considered to have forfeited his
position, struck him as a commentary on the value of popular esteem and
the lack of proportion in accrediting to each individual what was his
proper due.

Hamlen had nothing to his credit in the columns where Huntington scored
heaviest: he was a poor citizen in his relations to those around him; he
took no part in making others happier for his companionship or stronger
by his example; his life had always been pointed inward, and yet, even
with the limitations needlessly imposed upon it, there had been
something within him, which Huntington had never felt within himself,
great enough and strong enough to rise superior to these limitations, to
burst the bonds by which Hamlen had sought to hold it back, and to force
the expression of its own individuality! There, at least, was something
positive; and yet the world would have called Huntington a success and
Hamlen a failure! "We have torn off the bandages too fast," Huntington
had complacently told Hamlen on that eventful first visit. Was it not
presumption on his part when until now his own vision had been equally
restricted? Huntington's first impulse was to make a frank admission,
when Hamlen arrived, of the wide divergence between what people credited
to him and what his real position ought to be; then he realized that his
friend needed some one to look up to. He must, for a time at least,
accept the position, however ironical it seemed; but he felt himself an
impostor and a fraud.

Since his return home Huntington had been more than ever grateful for
the diverting influence of Billy's irresponsibility, and he encouraged
him to come frequently to the house and to bring his friends with him.
He would not have believed that a two months' absence could produce so
momentous a change of his entire viewpoint. The calm tranquillity in his
mental equipoise was seriously disturbed, and he welcomed anything which
took his mind off himself and his personal affairs.

He had urged Billy to bring young Thatcher in to dine with him, for in
view of what Marian had said he hoped that Hamlen and the boy would make
good with each other when once they met. Thus far Billy had always
selected an evening when Huntington was engaged, but with the certainty
that Hamlen would soon arrive a special effort produced a mutually
convenient date, and the two boys appeared eager for their dinner and
obviously ready to be entertained.

Philip Thatcher carried himself better than his friend, and seemed
older. His work on the crew had developed his frame and given him a
poise which does not come to those college students who watch athletic
sports from the side-lines. He had represented his university in
competition, and this responsibility showed itself to his advantage.
Those same "animal spirits" which gave Billy his boyish manner found a
natural outlet, in Philip's case, during the hours of physical athletic
training. His face was more his father's than like Mrs. Thatcher's; yet
at times Huntington discovered expressions or mannerisms resembling his
sister, which was enough to add to the interest he had already taken in
the boy.

"Hello, Uncle Monty!" Billy announced their arrival. "We've come in to
eat ourselves out of shape."

When this operation had been performed, and the coffee period took them
back to the library, Huntington settled down to the real purpose of the
evening.

"Philip," he said, "there is a man coming to visit me next week whom I
want you to know and who wants to know you. He is an unusual character.
I wish you would show him something of what Harvard life is to-day, and
when you get acquainted tell me what you think of him."

"I should be glad to meet any friend of yours, Mr. Huntington," the boy
answered.

"He has a greater claim on you than simply as my friend," Huntington
continued. "He was also a friend of your mother's, years ago, and while
we were in Bermuda he showed us all a great deal of attention. He lives
there."

"You mean that Hamlen chap?" Billy asked. "Is he really coming here?
He's a dead one!"

"Don't let Billy's remarks prejudice you, Philip," Huntington urged.
"Hamlen is a classmate of mine who has passed through some unfortunate
experiences. He has lived by himself ever since he graduated, seeing
hardly any one, and he will find much that is unusual when he returns to
Boston and Cambridge after his long exile. He is a real man, Philip, and
I want you to help me bring him back into the present again. Will you do
it?"

"I'll try,--gladly," was the hearty answer. "It sounds like a pretty big
contract, but if I can really help I shall be glad to do it."

"I know you will," Huntington said; "I was sure of it."

"Why don't you ask me?" Billy demanded. "Why go out of the family?"

"You may come into it later, but I want his first impressions to be
favorable."

"Stung!" Billy cried, laughing. "But I don't care. I don't care what
happens now, for Phil has asked me to spend the Easter recess with him
in New York, and I shall see Merry again."

"So it is still 'Merry,' is it?" Huntington asked, looking at him with
an expression which any one other than a boy would have noticed. "By
this time I thought there might have been a dozen others."

"Merry is still the one best bet," Billy insisted. "Phil here doesn't
know what a cinch it is to have a sister like that."

"I believe it's because of Merry that you like me," Phil declared, half
seriously.

"Well," Billy said guardedly, "it may have been the fact that you were
her brother that first attracted me--"

"Why, you never saw her until we'd known each other several months--"

"We were acquainted before that," was the admission; "but I really came
to know you after you introduced me to her. That, Phil, was the best
thing you ever did. It was after I met Merry that I discovered that you
were the finest old scout in the world."

"You make me tired!" Philip answered disgustedly. "I never saw any one
so crazy over a girl. There are lots of other things in the world,
Billy, besides girls. I'd hate to think of getting engaged up and having
to train around with just one girl all my life."

"That's because you can't marry Merry,--she's your sister."

"I don't make any exceptions,--Merry's just a girl, like the rest of
them."

"You don't appreciate her, that's all."

"Oh, Merry is all right, of course. She and I have always been good
pals, and we've played together like two boys. She'd make any one a good
wife if he didn't mind being bossed."

Huntington listened to the tilt between the boys with amusement, and yet
with a real feeling of envy. What riches these youths possessed with
life all before them, its mysteries still unexplained, its illusions
still unshattered!

"I thought your sister the finest girl I ever met," he said to Philip,
curious to see what response the boy would make.

"Oh, she wouldn't show that side to you," Philip replied; "it's only
with people her own age."

Huntington winced. There it was again, and again he had brought it upon
himself! To these boys he seemed an antique fossil of humanity, entitled
to respect and veneration! He must appear the same to her. "People of
her own age,"--of course, that was the natural thing as it would appear
to any one. Again he cursed himself inwardly for being fool enough
deliberately to open up the wound.

Billy was delighted to hear his uncle's comment on the girl, and beamed
contentedly.

"You see, Phil," he said, "even Uncle Monty noticed what a corker she
is, and usually he never looks at a girl twice. Uncle Monty is a cynic
on marriage, a woman-hater and all that sort of thing. Yet even he
noticed Merry."

"Don't say that, Billy!" Huntington protested with unusual vehemence.

"But you are," the boy insisted. "The last time I dined here with you
and Mr. Cosden, before you went to Bermuda, I heard you tell him that
many a married man who seemed contented was only resigned."

"That doesn't mean that I'm a 'woman-hater'; I won't stand for it! Be
careful what you say!"

Billy looked at him in amazement. It was a rare thing to see his uncle
ruffled.

"I beg your pardon, Uncle Monty," he apologized. "I didn't intend to
bump any one's feelings. Truly I wasn't joshing at all,--I thought you
meant it! But I'm glad you didn't, for now you'll be more sympathetic
with me, and you can help me a lot."

"All right, boy," Huntington said soberly. "I know you didn't mean
anything by what you said, but marriage is a mighty sacred thing and you
ought not to speak lightly of it."

"How's Mr. Cosden?" Billy asked, eager to get the conversation onto
safer grounds.

"Well and happy; he dined with me last week."

"Say, but he can ride a bicycle!--What did he have against me down at
Bermuda?"

"He said you covered too much territory."

"I don't see where I got in his way, but he was forever butting in on
Merry and me. And the way he hustled me off in that little speed-boat! I
never had any one take such an interest in my getting back to college on
time! That must have cost him quite a bit of kale. I can't understand
it."

"It was because he is so good a friend of mine," Huntington explained.
"He saw a youngster down there who flopped around like a big St. Bernard
pup"--Huntington was gratified that his memory still retained Merry's
simile,--"and he served the best interests of his friend by keeping you
from making a mistake on your latest flop. Doesn't that clear things
up?"

"As clear as mud," Billy grunted. "I guess I need one of those
glass-bottomed boats they use down there to see the spinach and the
gold-fish. I could see the gold-fish all right, but the spinach was on
me.--That reminds me, Uncle Monty, will you lend me a hundred dollars?"

"For what, this time?"

"I want to lend it to Phil,--he's broke because his father has cut down
his allowance."

"Billy!" Philip cried aghast; "I told you that in confidence. I wouldn't
think of borrowing money from Mr. Huntington."

"How in the world do you expect to get a hundred dollars out of me
unless I land Uncle Monty for it?--and he asked, 'for what?' You heard
him."

"It's all right, Phil," Huntington said reassuringly. "Billy doesn't
have any secrets from me because he can't keep them. I would much rather
lend the money to you than to him."

"That isn't fair," Billy protested. "Phil is sure to pay it back, and I
need it."

"I don't know what has happened," Philip explained without paying any
attention to what his friend was trying to say, "but all of a sudden Dad
wrote that I must cut my expenses in two. That's a hard thing to do in a
minute, and I don't see why I should do it anyway, for Dad has all kinds
of money."

"These are hard times in Wall Street, my boy," Huntington answered him,
"and many a rich man's son has to cut his corners. If your father has
written you that I advise you to follow his instructions. He isn't a man
to say it unless he means it.--I'll gladly help you out while you're
getting adjusted."

"Thank you, Mr. Huntington, but perhaps I won't need it. Even cut in two
my allowance is bigger than most of the boys'."

"Fathers are so inconsiderate," Billy yawned; "very few of them
understand their sons."

"A paraphrase of the old saw, Billy," Huntington commented. "To-day we
would say that it is a wise stock which knows its own par."

"Or a wise corn which knows its own popper," laughed Billy.

"Or a wise beast which knows its own fodder," Philip added,--"now we're
all even!"

"Speaking of fodder," Billy said, showing renewed signs of life, "let's
go down to the Copley-Plaza and get something to eat."

"After the dinner you ate?" Huntington demanded.

"That was over two hours ago, and I'm as hollow as a tin can. Come on,
Phil."

"You can't be serious, Billy," insisted Huntington.

"I sure am. Whenever I get a real square feed I have a pain, and
to-night I've felt perfectly comfortable."

"All right, go on if you feel that way," his uncle replied. "Take him
away, Phil, and let him stuff himself until he has a pain! I'll let you
know when Hamlen arrives, and then I'll count on you to help me out.

"Better include me," Billy insisted.

"The next time I ask you to dine with me, young man, I'll thank you to
get filled up at the hotel first!"



       *       *       *       *       *

XXIV

       *       *       *       *       *


The Stevenses, brother and sister, lived together in the old family
mansion in Washington Square. The income from the property left behind
by the elder members of the family would have been ample if Richard had
contributed even a modest amount as a result of his daily exertion; but
as exertion had never proved one of Ricky's strong points, except in
opposition to his sister's efforts to bully him into business, Edith was
forced to practise many economies to make the divided sum serve her
requirements.

"If you ever showed half the ability after you got into business that
you do in keeping out of it, you'd make a howling success," she told
him; yet in spite of her perennial resentment she made many personal
sacrifices to enable her brother to lead his aimless existence. They
were a curious combination of selfishness and generosity, each going to
extremes in both. Each criticised the other in unstinted terms, yet
underneath it all lay an affection which would have carried either
through fire and brimstone had the other required it.

Richard Stevens still kept up his social activities, but Edith moved in
a smaller and quieter circle made up of old-time friends. She knew she
could not compete, in these days of extravagant entertainment, and
unless she could repay her social obligations in kind she preferred not
to accept. She could not have everything she wished, so she selected
what she believed contributed most to her happiness and peace of mind.
All this had been carefully considered, and having been thus settled she
philosophically accepted conditions as they were. She exacted much from
her brother by way of attention, and he responded willingly, still
finding ample leisure outside her demands to live his own life in a
manner which satisfied himself.

It was the morning after one of Richard's off nights, when Edith sat
leisurely finishing her late breakfast and reading the head-lines in the
morning paper, that her brother put in his belated appearance.

"Morning, Ricky," she greeted him cheerfully. "Up for all day?"

"I think so," was the doubtful answer. "I'm awfully tired. I'd have been
down sooner except that I couldn't decide whether to stay in bed until
lunchtime and give up my breakfast, or get up and have my breakfast and
give up my rest. Even now I believe I made a mistake, for I'm awfully
tired and I don't feel hungry."

"You might go back to bed again," Edith suggested helpfully.

"No; I'm dressed now, and that would be too much trouble.--I think I'll
make my breakfast off a jolly little bottle of Célestin."

Edith laughed. "Too much wine last night, Ricky?"

Stevens made a wry face. "I'll have to give up dancing or drinking, one
or the other," he said emphatically; "it isn't scientific. Wine should
be allowed to stand in the stomach just as it ought to stand in the
bottle. This idea of churning it up by dancing is all wrong. I'd rather
dance while I'm dancing and drink while I'm drinking; but every one else
wants to do both things at the same time. It's all wrong.--That Célestin
has a beastly bad taste this morning." He examined the bottle
critically. "I was afraid the maid had brought me Hunyadi by mistake."

"I was in at Marian's yesterday," Edith remarked. "Mr. Hamlen has
arrived, and she expects Philip and Billy Huntington at the house over
Easter."

"Has Hamlen been there yet? He's a melancholy sort,--about as cheerful
as a hearse. Feeling as I do this morning I think I'd rather like to see
him; but I hope to feel better soon."

"No; he hasn't been there yet. Marian tried to get him out for dinner,
but some other friends were to dine with her so he wouldn't come."

"He's a queer one,--but that reminds me: that Cosden man is in town."

"He is?" Edith exclaimed, arresting her coffee-cup on its way to her
lips and poising it in mid-air. "Why didn't you tell me before?"

"I couldn't until now; it was only yesterday I saw him. He was much more
civil than in Bermuda. Wanted to know about you and all that sort of
thing. He's going to telephone you before he goes back."

"Very kind of him, I'm sure," Edith sniffed. "Perhaps I'll be in and
perhaps I won't."

"Well that's your affair; you needn't see him on my account. But if you
were to ask me, I'd say he's not such a bad sort."

"I didn't ask you, Ricky," Edith said significantly, and Stevens, with
precedent to guide him, refrained from further discussion of the topic.

Yet in spite of the snap in her eyes when she commented on Cosden's
inquiry it so happened that she was in when he telephoned, and she was
also at home, arrayed in her most fetching afternoon gown, when he
called an hour later. Not that he would notice whether she wore gingham
or alpaca, she told herself, but she owed it to her self-respect to
appear her best.

She had expected to see Cosden in his business suit with bulky contracts
and other papers bulging from his pockets, rushing in and out again like
a hurricane; but instead she beheld him entirely at his ease in cutaway
and silk hat, with immaculate grey spats over his patent-leather boots.
He carried himself with an air quite different from that she had become
familiar with in Bermuda, and the reception she had planned for
him--brief, matter-of-fact and bristling with satire--required a certain
modification.

"I wasn't looking for a social call," Edith said guardedly after a
non-committal greeting. "I thought perhaps you had some business matter
to discuss."

"Still unforgiving!" Cosden smiled. "What can I do to make you
forgetful?"

"Of what?" Edith asked with well-feigned surprise.

"Then suppose we assume that you have forgotten."

"Aren't you over here on business?"

"Yes; and pleasure, too. This is the pleasure."

Her mystification was genuine. Was this the self-assertive, vivified
piece of machinery she had known three months before? Cosden could but
see her surprise and it pleased him.

"I told you I should find out what was the matter with me. Have I
partially succeeded?"

"Yes," she acknowledged frankly; "what did it?"

"Huntington and--you."

"But you couldn't change like this in so short a time; no one could."

"Most of it is probably on the surface," he admitted cheerfully.
"Underneath is the same Cosden branded with the ear-marks of his
business. But I'm on my way, and if there's enough of a change to have
you notice it, then there's hope!"

"Have you seen the Thatchers?" Edith asked, not knowing just how to
answer him.

"I saw Mr. Thatcher yesterday. He asked me to dine with them to-night,
but I thought I'd wait until next time I'm over. He says Mrs. Thatcher
is planning to have our whole Bermuda party down at the shore in July.
You will be there, of course?"

"If it's in July, I shall be. Marian has invited me to spend the month
with her."

"Good! that was one of the things I called to find out."

"What are the others?"

"Whether you are forgiving and--forgetful."

Edith laughed at the serious way he asked the question.

"Are you laughing at me or with me?" he demanded half in earnest.

"Why, I don't know what to make of you."

"Make whatever you like,--it's in your hands!"

"But I feel we ought to become acquainted all over again.

"So do I; that is another one of the things I wanted to find out.--Will
you dine with me to-night, and then go to the theater afterwards?"

"Why--" she hesitated.

"It's the best possible way to get acquainted over again," he insisted.

"I'm not sure that I want to," Edith retorted; "but I will admit that
you've excited my curiosity."

"That's something," Cosden replied good-naturedly. "Why isn't an evening
together the easiest way to satisfy it?"

"All right," Edith said with sudden decision. "I really must know more
about this."

"The veneer may wear off before the evening is over."

"That's what I'm thinking," she answered frankly. "I'm wondering how
deep it really goes."



       *       *       *       *       *

XXV

       *       *       *       *       *


Easter came to New York, as it did to other places, and with it came
Billy Huntington and Philip to the Thatchers. "Always have something to
radiate from," some one once advised, "if only a fly-speck." To Billy,
Boston was the fly-speck, entirely satisfactory as a point of radiation
but far too respectable, much too decorous, and altogether too near home
to be associated with his idea of a good time. Billy's life had been
running so long on high gear that the lower speeds had almost been
forgotten. This was typical of the times rather than a suggestion that
the boy himself exceeded the speed limit. It was the limit which
insisted upon exceeding itself, and he simply extended his pace to keep
up with everything around him,--the limit of yesterday kept becoming the
commonplace of to-day.

In New York Billy always found the limit just enough ahead of what it
was in Boston to give him the additional thrill which added zest to his
life. The very atmosphere seemed charged with a different ozone, filled
with microbes impelling incessant activity. Everything not already in
motion seemed straining at its leash, impatient to dash forward at the
earliest opportunity. No one ever seemed satisfied to where he was, but
hurried onward to somewhere else or something different. It was the city
of unrest but never of discontent, for the changing, kaleidoscopic
conditions came as a result of a demand from those who had the price to
pay. It fascinated Billy, as it fascinates its tens of thousands, and as
he leaned back in the Thatchers' limousine, held up by the lines of
traffic on Fifth Avenue, then dashing forward to make up for lost time
between the intersecting streets, he turned his beaming face toward his
friend and murmured contentedly, "This is the life!"

"The ride home gets worse every time I take it," was Philip's comment.
"If things keep on they will have to make the Avenue a double-decker
street."

"By that time New-Yorkers will ride home in their aeroplanes," Billy
replied. "You can't hold them down by a little thing like congestion."

Billy loved it, and for him the car turned off the Avenue all too soon,
in its final dash for the East Side. He wanted more time between his
arrival at the Grand Central Station and his appearance at the Thatcher
mansion to shake off what he felt to be his Boston provincialism, and to
feel outwardly as well as inwardly the real New-Yorker which he craved
to be.

"What are we doing to-night?" Billy asked as they drew near their
destination.

"I wrote Dad to get tickets for some show. You said you wanted to see
everything in town."

"Great! Merry will go, won't she?"

"I don't know. I can manage Mother and Dad all right, but when it comes
to Merry, that's different."

"But she knows I'm coming--" Billy showed signs of feeling aggrieved.

"Oh, she'll probably go all right. Why fuss until we find out? But I
don't think she's as crazy about you as you are about her."

"Girls always conceal their real feelings," Billy explained sagely.

"Perhaps," Philip conceded very little; "but Merry isn't like most
girls. Sometimes she seems about my own age and sometimes old enough to
be my mother. But have it your own way; I should worry."

The welcome was hearty enough to satisfy even Billy, so the pessimism of
his friend was at once forgotten. Mrs. Thatcher opened her arms wide to
both boys, while Merry, though less demonstrative, was equally cordial
in her reception.

"I'm awfully glad to see you," Billy said with a sincerity which could
not be doubted, and grinning all over. "It seems ages since Mr. Cosden
and Uncle Monty pushed me off the pier down at Bermuda."

Merry laughed. "That was a splendid idea of yours, Billy, to miss the
steamer, but I was afraid you couldn't work it."

"S-ssh," Billy placed a finger on his lips. "Don't ever breathe that
where Uncle Monty could hear you! I've made him believe it was a real
accident."

"We're dining at seven, boys," Mrs. Thatcher interrupted; "that will
give us comfortable time to reach the theater."

"Are we all going?" Phil asked.

"All but your father; he's feeling too tired to-night."

"Dad's well, isn't he?" Philip demanded quickly.

"Yes,--but tired," his mother answered. "He's all right. Now run along
and dress or you'll be late for dinner."

On his way up-stairs Philip stopped in his father's room. "Hello, Dad!"
he cried, pushing the door open unceremoniously. "Why, Dad,--you're not
well! Mother said you were only tired."

Thatcher was sitting in front of the great, old-fashioned desk which
Philip had associated with business and mystery since his childhood
days, and when the door was unexpectedly thrown open it disclosed him
resting his head upon his hands. The papers which Philip usually saw
spread out on the desk were lacking, so the position his father had
taken was the result of habit rather than present necessity. It was the
expression on the elder man's face which forced the exclamation.

Thatcher rose quickly and stepped forward to greet his son. "Nonsense,
boy! I'm all right," he exclaimed with an effort to speak lightly which
did not escape Philip; "I'm just tired, as your mother said.--I didn't
hear you come in or I would have been down-stairs to meet you."

"You're not all right," Philip protested stoutly, still holding his
father's hand and looking squarely into his face. "You don't need to do
this with me, Dad; I'm a man now, and we ought to talk together like
men.--Has this anything to do with what you wrote me about my
allowance?"

"We'll discuss it in the morning, Phil," Thatcher evaded. "Get dressed
now, and later we'll talk things over like two men, as you say. It will
help me to do that. Don't worry, boy; everything will come out all
right."

"That's a promise, Dad?"

"Yes; we'll put our heads together in the morning."

Thatcher was as gay as the young people when they sat down to dinner,
and entered into the enjoyment of the home-coming so heartily that
Marian was relieved.

"All you needed, Harry, was to have Phil come home," she said. "Couldn't
you telephone for another ticket and go with us?"

"Not to-night; I have work to do. To-morrow Phil is going to lend a
hand, and then perhaps we'll have some play together.--Tell us of your
uncle, Billy."

"Oh, Uncle Monty is all right,--except that he's become so terribly
sober and serious. What did you people do to him down at Bermuda? He
hasn't been the same since."

"He was serious down there," Merry asserted.

"Oh, he never was a cut-up, of course," Billy explained; "but he was
always saying things to make you laugh, and I could jolly him just as if
he was one of the fellows."

"Can't you do it now?" Mrs. Thatcher inquired.

"No; if I do he gets sore. Why, only the other night Phil and I went in
there to dinner. I made some remark about his being a woman-hater, and
he got huffed up in a minute. Didn't he, Phil?"

"Monty Huntington a woman-hater?" Mrs. Thatcher laughed. "No wonder he
was 'huffed'!"

"But he never married, did he? Isn't that a sure sign that he's a
woman-hater?"

"Oh, dear no!" Mrs. Thatcher insisted. "That may be taken quite as much
as an evidence of his profoundest respect and veneration for woman. In
fact, if fifty per cent. of the men who do marry would refrain from it
no greater tribute could be paid us!"

The boy looked at her inquiringly. "Do all older people run marriage
down like that?" he inquired. "Every time the subject comes up some one
gives it a knock. With Uncle Monty, of course, it's sour grapes, because
now he's so old no one would think of marrying him, but--"

"He's not so old," Merry interrupted unexpectedly and with such force
that Billy was taken by surprise.

"Oh, ho!" Billy cried. "So that's the way the land lies! Now you've said
a mouthful. This is a case of mutual admiration! Uncle Monty told us the
other night that you were the finest girl he ever saw."

"He did!" Merry cried, the blood rushing into her cheeks and her face
aglow with pleasure. "I wish I thought he really meant it!"

"He meant it all right," Philip corroborated. "Mr. Huntington doesn't
make mouth-bets. He was calling me down for saying that you were just
like other girls."

"Were you so ungallant as that?" Thatcher asked. "Whatever else
happens, Phil, we must stand up for the family."

"Of course," he admitted; "but Billy was talking about Merry in
superlatives as usual, and I was trying to quiet him down."

"Phil is doing his best to put me in wrong again," Billy protested. "Now
I'll tell you just what happened and you can judge for yourselves: I was
telling Uncle Monty how happy I was to be invited here for Easter, and
how glad I should be to see you all--"

"You never said a word about any one but Merry," Philip interrupted.

Billy looked vindictively at his friend and then smiled sheepishly.

"I meant all of you, of course. Then Phil tried to jolly me about caring
for girls and for Merry in particular--"

"Don't be foolish, Billy!" Merry exclaimed.

"My! but it's hard to tell a story here, but I'm going to do it if I
burst a blood-vessel! Uncle Monty agreed with me, and then said that
Merry was the finest girl he ever saw. That from him is some praise,
because he never cuts in on girls at all; but you've made a hit with
him, Merry, and you might as well know it."

"I'm glad he hasn't forgotten me," she said quietly, but the color
remained in her face after the conversation turned upon other topics.

"What I said a moment ago isn't 'knocking,' as you call it, Billy," Mrs.
Thatcher resumed; "it is experience. We older folk know from what we've
seen, and from what we've been through, the dangers young people run
during the inflammable age; so we sound the warning. You are at that age
now, Billy, so your friends are trying to protect you. Philip apparently
hasn't arrived there yet, but he will; and then we'll try to protect him
from the idea that the 'only girl' is the one he happens to fancy while
the period lasts."

"You're making me look like a flivver!" the boy said with mortification
in his voice; "and before Merry, too!"

"No, my dear; you mustn't take it that way. I'm talking no more freely
than you have been. We consider you one of the family, so I'm speaking
to you just as I would to Philip."

Billy's face was fiery red, but he never flinched in his dogged
determination.

"I don't care who knows how much I think of Merry," he said defiantly.
"You've spoiled my visit! I'm not a bit ashamed--"

"Forgive me, Billy," she soothed him gently,--"of course you're not
ashamed. I wouldn't speak to you like this if you weren't one of my own
boys; but I do want you to realize that it is seldom that early fancies
are more than impersonal idealizations. I'm glad you and Merry like each
other, and I hope you will always be the best of friends; but, in
applying our idealization to the one who at the moment comes nearest to
the realization, a mistake is usually made because the one we are really
looking for hasn't yet crossed our horizon."

"Sometimes, perhaps," Billy conceded; "but there are exceptions."

Mrs. Thatcher smiled at his persistency. She liked the boy, and had
seized on this opportunity to spare him the greater disappointment which
she felt sure would come.

"Yes," she answered kindly; "there are exceptions. I know of one in my
own experience, but in this case it only made it more unfortunate. I
knew a boy once who applied the idealization formed during the
inflammable period to a girl who at that time thought she cared for him.
Then her horizon broadened and she found and married the man she really
loved; but the boy held on to his early ideal, becoming a recluse,
embittered against the world and incapable of seeing that unless the
ideal becomes a reality to both it can never safely amount to anything."

Thatcher looked at his wife questioningly, and Merry's eyes also
fastened themselves upon her mother's face. Marian's voice as much as
her words disclosed more than she intended. As she paused Philip,
supposing the conversation to be concluded, mentioned the name which was
in each one's mind except the boys'.

"By the way, Mother," he remarked, "Mr. Huntington wants me to meet a
friend of his named Hamlen, who, he says, used to be a friend of yours."

"Yes," she said, looking up at him quickly,--"yes; I, too, wish you to
meet Mr. Hamlen. He is in New York now. Perhaps you will see him before
you return. I want you to know him well."

As Thatcher assisted them in getting off to the theater, he managed to
draw Marian one side.

"Hamlen's name is Philip, isn't it?" he asked.

She nodded, wondering at the question.

"Was that why you gave our boy the same name--and was it Hamlen you
referred to just now?"

"Yes, Harry."

He drew her gently to him and kissed her. "Poor chap!" he said. "If I
had known that I would have made a greater effort to be friendly with
him."



       *       *       *       *       *

XXVI

       *       *       *       *       *


During these depressed months Thatcher was not the only man of affairs
who saw the successes of his career threatened with disaster as a result
of the unnecessary burdens imposed by inexperienced and impractical
officials at Washington. Business groaned aloud as destructive control
and regulation delayed and paralyzed commerce. Labor, hand in hand with
its new ally Theory, stalked abroad through the land, demanding shorter
hours and increased wages, receiving recognition as a privileged class
from those in authority, exempt from respecting others' rights, which is
necessary to create and preserve responsibility: substance when it
struck at Capital, shadow when Capital in self-defense struck back. The
corporations which formed the pulse of the country's life were so
harassed that they paused in their constructive energies, wondering what
new menace would rise up before them, and yet were expected to give
better service while bound hand and foot by unwise legislative
restrictions, and burdened by unnecessary legislative demands for
increased expenditure. Samson, shorn of his strength by the shears of a
legalized Delilah, was expected to hold up with his enervated arms the
pillars of the temple which "psychological" complacency was pulling
down.

The first serious rumors reached Thatcher in Bermuda, and when he
returned to his office his far-sighted perception told him that the
business world was face to face with a real crisis. Many of his
enterprises were in a condition where to pause in aggressive action
meant going backwards, entailing loss upon all concerned; yet to proceed
in the face of conditions as they were was to invite disaster and even
to imperil the stability of his firm.

Cosden had felt the result of the depression in decreased business, but
he did not realize as soon as Thatcher the far-reaching results
inevitable from the new governmental policy. His horizon was local
compared to that of the New York operator, and he regarded the
conditions as a phase of business life, bound to appear once in so
often, rather than a blow at the basis upon which the commercial world
rested. He cut down his expenses in proportion to his reduced volume of
business, strengthened his relations at his banks, and considered his
sails trimmed to weather any storm.

Thatcher had invited him to call, and Cosden had no idea other than to
make the most of the intimacy which had developed in Bermuda. More than
that, the machinery matter they had touched upon had progressed even
better than he expected. If Thatcher was still curious to learn more
about the details the time had now come when he could safely be told.
But to Cosden's surprise the subject was not once directly referred to
during their interview. Thatcher was cordial and affable, seemingly
interested in the general conversation and frank in his discussion of
various topics which presented themselves, but, as it appeared to
Cosden, strangely reticent upon certain specific subjects on which he
would have been glad to draw him out. It was only when Cosden paused for
a moment at the door of the private office that Thatcher made any remark
which gave his visitor an insight as to what was in his mind.

"The full meaning of these present conditions evidently has not struck
Boston yet," he said. "Let me tell you that these are times when the
wise man learns how to wait. Instead of blaming your customers who
hesitate to give you the usual orders you should scrupulously
investigate the credit of those who do."

"I can wait," Cosden said confidently. "I've always held myself back
from spreading out too thin, and if there's a storm coming on top of
this sloppy weather I'm fixed where I can meet it better perhaps than
some others."

"You are to be congratulated," Thatcher told him with so much feeling
that Cosden took it as a personal compliment and departed well satisfied
with his interview.

When he next met Huntington in Boston they discussed this among other
topics, and Cosden was surprised to have his friend ask him point-blank
whether he had heard rumors regarding Thatcher's firm.

"You're dreaming, Monty," he replied with conviction. "Thatcher is a man
who makes money whichever way the market turns. That's what I admire so
much in him. I only win out when things go one way, but he wins coming
and going. What in the world put that idea in your head?"

The chance remark which Billy had made regarding the reduction in
Philip's allowance was too much in the nature of a confidence to be
repeated, but it had left Huntington with a definite impression that
Thatcher must be feeling the conditions acutely or he would not have
begun to curtail expenses at home. To a man who lived as Thatcher did,
Huntington knew that this would be the hardest duty he would find to
perform. Cosden's question was answered lightly.

"Wall Street is being hit hard," he said. "I am hoping that so good a
fellow as Thatcher won't be caught in the reaction."

"Don't worry about that," Cosden laughed. "You'll find when the sky
clears that he has looked far enough ahead to make even the storm pay
him tribute."

"Hamlen arrives to-morrow," Huntington remarked, changing the subject
lest his question raise some doubts in Cosden's mind which might linger.
"I shall give myself up to him a good deal while he is here, so you
mustn't be surprised if you don't see as much of me as usual. He needs
me more than you do."

"That may be," Cosden admitted, "but how about you? I have an idea that,
with the peculiar state of mind you've been in lately, you will forget
your overpowering sense of age better with me than you will with him."

"Perhaps," Huntington admitted, smiling; "but I must think of him
first."

"You don't mind my butting in on you both once in a while?"

"On the contrary; but I know how little you have in common with Hamlen.
I'm afraid he may bore you."

"You forget my reincarnation," Cosden said dryly. "Who knows but that I
was a professor of classical antiquities in my previous existence? If he
bores me I'll cut out; but I've an idea that he can teach me a thing or
two, and just now I'm keen on becoming educated."

There was a marked restraint in Hamlen's manner when Huntington met him
at the station and motored him to the Beacon Street house. His
embarrassment and the all too obvious efforts he made to impress upon
his friend the occasion of his leaving Bermuda would have convinced
Huntington, if he had not already known, that the real reason was that
which he had already anticipated in his prediction to Mrs. Thatcher. Yet
no one but Hamlen knew the agony of loneliness he had experienced when,
after watching the steamer disappear, he returned to his empty villa. No
one but Hamlen knew of the struggle he had passed through in his efforts
to readjust his life, or of the terror which came to him with the final
realization that he could no longer find solace in the work which he had
previously forced to absorb his waking hours.

It was this terror Huntington saw in his classmate's eyes which told him
all that any one would ever know of the real tragedy. Hamlen looked
years older,--his face was more sallow, his hair more grey. Huntington
looked at him in pity, and felt apprehensive lest the task he had
allotted to himself had been too long postponed. Then the thought came
back to him, "He considers himself a failure and me a success!"

The welcome was such as to reassure Hamlen as much as anything could.
Huntington made him feel as much at home as was possible for one whose
mental poise was so sadly disordered. No special effort was made at
conversation; everything was treated as a matter of course. Little by
little Hamlen found himself, and as he spoke more freely Huntington
entered into his spirit, but followed rather than led.

"It is a relief to get into this quieter atmosphere after New York,"
Hamlen remarked after they had sat in silence for some moments at the
table after dinner. "I felt as if I had been suddenly put down in a
whirling maelstrom, and there wasn't a minute when I did not expect to
be annihilated the next!"

Huntington laughed quietly. "A New-Yorker would consider that the most
subtle compliment you could pay his city. It is not enough to have the
stranger merely impressed; he must be appalled!"

Hamlen raised his hands in a silent gesture.

"Have you arranged your business matters to your satisfaction?"
Huntington asked, rather by way of conversation than from curiosity.

"Yes," Hamlen answered, but with a mental reservation which his friend
noticed,--"yes; and yet even that wasn't as I expected."

He paused a moment, gazing into the fire which Huntington had ordered
lighted to take off the chill which the late Spring still left in the
air.

"I am puzzled about it," Hamlen continued. "You see, most of my
investments have been in England, and it seemed to me that it would be
wise to take advantage of an opportunity I had to realize on them, and
to reinvest here in the States while everything is so much below its
real value. Knowing Mr. Thatcher as I did I naturally went straight to
him about it. He was most kind in advising me to hold off a while
longer, as securities are likely to fall still further; but when I asked
him to accept my money on deposit he declined, and offered instead to
give me a letter of introduction to a bank."

"Why, Thatcher's house does a large banking business."

"That is what puzzles me; why should he decline my account?"

"I don't believe he meant just that," Huntington explained; "he probably
wanted you to understand that he was not looking for business from his
friends."

"No, he flatly refused to accept it; for I tried to insist upon it. I
know few people here now, and I didn't feel like entrusting so
considerable a sum to any institution, however well recommended, without
personal acquaintance with some of its officers."

"I don't understand it."

"Nor I. Of course, I had no alternative, so I deposited it in the bank
Thatcher suggested."

"Did you see much of the family while you were in New York?" Huntington
queried.

Hamlen looked up quickly, with a return of the apprehensive expression
his face had worn earlier.

"I saw them several times," he said. Then, after a moment's hesitation,
he added: "Later, you must let me impose still further upon your
friendship. I have no one else to counsel me."

Hamlen's voice was apologetic.

"I sha'n't consider that you accept my friendship at its par value
unless you call upon me in any way I can be of service to you."

"Then perhaps you won't mind if I speak now," Hamlen responded eagerly.
"It really has been preying upon me until I am unfitted for anything
else. It would be a relief to share it."

After saying this Hamlen found it more difficult to continue. "You
probably don't know," he said at length, "that Mrs. Thatcher and I knew
each other intimately years ago."

"Yes," Huntington acknowledged frankly; "Mrs. Thatcher told me, while we
were in Bermuda."

Hamlen was relieved. "It was a very close intimacy," he continued. "I
feel that perhaps I ought to be guided by her judgment now, yet I find
it difficult to accept for many reasons. In short, she thinks that I
should marry."

During the last few moments Huntington had anticipated this
announcement, but he refrained from making comment. Hamlen looked over
at him for a word of encouragement, but as none came he went on.

"I know myself to be entirely unfitted, and it is the last thing in the
world I should have thought of; but lately I have mistrusted my own
judgment, which leaves me absolutely without a guide of any kind. So
when any one I respect as I do Mrs. Thatcher makes such a statement,
and even suggests the possibility of my marrying her own daughter, I
don't know what to do. I can't believe that the girl would consider me
as a husband, yet Marian is confident that if it could be arranged it
would be for the happiness of all concerned."

"Are you fond of Merry?" Huntington demanded.

"As Marian's daughter, yes. I admire her tremendously, for in some ways
she reminds me of her mother. But what in the world have I to offer
her?"

"What has any man to offer the woman he marries," Huntington replied
with feeling, "in comparison to what she brings into his life? He stakes
nothing but his liberty; she stakes her future as well as her present."

"I know; but what do you advise me to do?"

"Has it occurred to you that Mrs. Thatcher is assuming a great
responsibility in pledging her daughter's consent?"

"Yes; I am afraid her influence over the girl is as strong as it is over
me. She is a very magnetic woman."

"Do you mean that you question your own strength?"

"That is exactly what I mean," he answered, dropping his eyes.

"My promise of assistance was an empty one, after all," Huntington said
with more bitterness than had ever before crept into his voice. "The
alchemy of a woman's heart is past the comprehension of a bachelor like
myself. But why settle your problem so hastily? You are here with me
now, and what I intend to show you of life will fit you better than
anything else to answer that question for yourself. Don't let it
overwhelm you. See how far you can enter into what goes on about you,
and then draw your conclusions regarding the probabilities of the
future."

"Are marriages ever successful when one's heart is made up of burnt
ashes?"

"Don't ask me that, my friend!" Huntington begged. "You and I have
reached an age where we are entitled to use logic and judgment, and to
live the years which remain to us as those two attributes may dictate.
For the next few weeks I want you to imagine that you are back in
college again, with no responsibilities heavier than that of enjoying
yourself better than before because your sense of proportion has been
developed by experience. When these weeks are past, we may again
consider whether our hearts are made up of burnt ashes or of rich
Harvard crimson blood. Until then, my friend, let us steadfastly refuse
to be stampeded, and claim the benefit of every doubt."



       *       *       *       *       *

XXVII

       *       *       *       *       *


Philip Thatcher responded to the suggestion made by Huntington and his
mother with such conspicuous success that within a fortnight Hamlen
accepted his leadership from one experience to another with wonderment
and devotion. The fact that the boy was his namesake formed the first
bond, and with confidence once established intimacy developed rapidly.
Boys to Hamlen had been unknown quantities, creatures to be endured if
necessary but avoided if possible, and Philip did much to raise the
standard of his genus in the older man's mind. Billy's explosive
outbursts startled him for a time, but he learned to understand even
these, and accepted them at their true value.

The responsibility came to young Thatcher at just the time when he was
best prepared to accept it. During the Easter recess his father suddenly
discovered that the boy had become a man, and it was with real
gratification that he took him into his confidence. To Philip, the
statement of present conditions made impending disaster seem conclusive,
and it was with difficulty that Thatcher persuaded him that many things
might happen to ease the situation before calamity really overtook him.
The boy wanted to leave college at once, and to throw himself into some
sphere of business activity so that his income might be added to the
family exchequer to keep the wolf from the door! His father,
strengthened by the youthful loyalty and enthusiasm, pointed out the
value, as a personal asset to himself, of actually possessing a college
degree, now so nearly secured, and sent the boy back to Cambridge with a
determination to make the most of the few remaining months in preparing
himself to rush into the breach and save his family from the threatening
malignant specters.

The whole experience was a sobering one to Philip, and resulted in
putting him nearer on a plane with Hamlen. To the one, the world had
already proved its unreliability; to the other, it was now on trial with
every presumption of speedy conviction. Each event in the day took on a
new significance in the boy's mind, and Hamlen's dependence made him
feel that he was already man-grown, taking his place in the front rank
of the battle of life.

Huntington watched these developments with a curious sensation of
interest and surprise. The most he had hoped was that Philip might take
the man far enough into undergraduate activities to give him by
assimilation a fresh viewpoint, but he found his guest largely taken off
his hands by one who was accomplishing the desired results far better
than he himself could do. Day by day he saw Philip winning a deeper hold
upon the affections of his older friend, and he marveled at the changes
taking place in Hamlen. For himself, he quietly forced him to meet such
of their classmates as were in Boston, preparing them by a brief outline
of Hamlen's experiences to extend a fitting welcome; but he left it to
Philip to show him what the new Harvard really is.

It was impossible to have all this happen without misgivings and
questioning on the part of his guest.

"I appreciate all this," Hamlen said to him one evening; "but don't for
a minute think that I take credit for the sudden interest on the part of
the fellows who never noticed me when I was in college. That belongs to
you. With the position you had then, and which you hold in the Class
to-day, the boys would drink healths and sing, 'For he's a jolly good
fellow' to a Fiji islander if he happened to be your friend."

"Suppose we grant all that," Huntington answered frankly; "what
difference does it make? Didn't you tell me that you owned a piece of
land in Oklahoma on which oil was struck?"

"Yes," Hamlen replied; surprised that his friend should so abruptly turn
the conversation. "What has that to do with our discussion?"

"How much did you value it before you discovered what it contained?"

"It was a joke; I begrudged even paying the taxes."

"Now you consider it well worth including among your investments?"

"Naturally. It is one of the best things I own."

Huntington smiled at him quietly. "Don't you see the application? It is
no reflection on those who walked over that land that they were ignorant
of the riches which lay beneath their feet. It is no reflection on the
sincerity of your classmates that they like you now and did not know you
before. I discovered what you really are, Hamlen, quite as accidentally
as you struck oil in that apparently worthless land in Oklahoma. Now I
stand simply as the promoter of a property which has proved its worth."

When Hamlen unpacked his trunk at Huntington's house he produced a
volume of Milton's "Areopagitica" which he placed in his friend's hand.

"This is the latest issue from the 'Island Press,'" he said. "It was
nearly completed before you all came down to Bermuda and disturbed my
peace of mind. I put the covers on after you left, but I haven't been
able to produce a thing since. I believe this is the last book I shall
ever make."

Huntington turned the leaves with great interest. "Exquisite!" he
exclaimed. "Quite the best example you have turned out. I love that type
of yours, Hamlen, for I feel it is the exemplification of William
Morris' definition of the Type Ideal,--'pure in form, severe without
needless excrescences, solid without the thickening and thinning of the
line, and not compressed laterally.' You have carried out what he set
himself to do and failed. How many copies did you print?"

"Only fifty."

"Splendid! But I am selfish enough to wish there was but one, and that I
owned it! I never saw finer presswork in my life."

"You may gratify your wish if you like," Hamlen replied indifferently.
"I have the whole lot in my trunk up-stairs, and you may destroy the
other forty-nine if you choose. They are yours to do with as you will."

"You don't mean it!" Huntington cried, enthusiastically.

He fondled the copy in his hand, and his face was lighted by the
pleasure of the moment. Then he laughed.

"It is a frightful temptation, Hamlen! Think of owning the only copy in
existence of a book like that! Bibliomania leads one on almost to crime,
and it would be nothing less to prevent other collectors from enjoying
this wonderful volume. I accept the gift proudly, Hamlen; I will make
good use of it."

At the next monthly gathering of his fellow-collectors in their
attractive club-house Huntington took Hamlen with him as his guest. He
introduced him to his friends, but made no reference to the fact that he
was the creator of the productions of the Island Press. They listened to
an interesting paper, and then seated themselves at the long
supper-table to prove that even bibliomaniacs are human. Here Huntington
adroitly turned the conversation upon the subject of Hamlen's work.

Huntington had told his friend that when once he heard the opinions of
other collectors the words of praise spoken at Bermuda would seem mild;
and the prediction proved true. Hamlen's cheeks burned as he heard his
work extolled and himself compared to the master-printers of the past.
There could be no doubt of the sincerity of the comment, for no one but
Huntington knew his identity; and the pleasure he felt was so intense
that it almost overcame him.

As the discussion waned Huntington made his dramatic play. Each member
present was handed a copy of the "Areopagitica," on the fly-leaf of
which Hamlen had written his autograph.

"A gift from our guest," Huntington explained; "and each copy is
inscribed by the master-printer of the Island Press."

The silence which followed heightened the effect of Huntington's _coup_,
and Hamlen felt the blood rushing to his face. Huntington watched the
proceedings with evident relish, and as comprehension followed surprise
in the minds of his fellow-members he held his glass aloft.

"To the health, gentlemen, of Philip Hamlen, our master-printer, an
American, thank God, who knows how to preserve that art preservative of
all arts!"

It was the first triumph Hamlen had ever tasted, and as Huntington
watched his face he feared that in the desire to give him the confidence
of approval he had over-estimated his friend's physical strength. But
joy never kills, and the first weakness was conquered by the necessity
of living up to the position which had been thrust upon him. He
responded bravely, and Huntington smiled contentedly as he saw still
another barrier broken down between Philip Hamlen and the world he
believed to be against him. On their way home no word was spoken in the
motor-car, but when safe within the retreat of the library, which Hamlen
had learned to love, the pent-up emotion burst forth.

"Then I have done something after all!" he cried. "My life has not been
all a mistake! Heaven knows what a mess I've made of it, but at least
there is something saved out of the wreck? You think they meant it,
don't you, Huntington?" he asked beseechingly, and he found his answer
in the beaming countenance of his friend. "I had no idea it would mean
so much, that so wonderful an experience as I had to-night could ever
come to me. Even now I can't understand it. Those little books are only
expressions of myself; I made them merely for personal gratification."

"In doing so, my friend, you gave yourself to us; and more than that no
man can do!"

The wonderful weeks went by, filled with a bewildering series of unusual
experiences for Hamlen and of continuing satisfaction to Huntington.
Philip unfolded to him day by day the various elements which went to
make the new Harvard spirit, and Huntington supplemented the boy's
efforts by keeping his guest in touch with the graduate activities
centered in and reaching their climax in the building of the "Home of
the Harvard Club" in Boston, dedicated as "the tomb of Harvard
indifference." Hamlen saw the freshmen segregated in their own
dormitories, and forced to become acquainted one with another, and he
realized what it would have meant to him at a similar time in his life
if heads wiser than his own had compelled him to show himself to his
classmates. He stood within the massive Stadium, he went to a
mass-meeting at the Harvard Union, he followed the crew on the Charles
in the launch "John Harvard," proud that Philip, his namesake, had won
a place in the boat. He spent many hours at the Harvard Club with
Huntington, watching the democracy which means unity, and the unity
which means fellowship. For the first time he felt a pride to be a part
of it, for the first time his degree stood to him as something more than
what he learned from books. Philip was to row against Yale, and he felt
that he himself, at last, was to take part in an intercollegiate
contest, once the ambition of his life. He was no longer a man without a
college, but was one of that great brotherhood which recognizes its
heritage, and stands ready to live up to the responsibilities this
heritage entails.



       *       *       *       *       *

XXVIII

       *       *       *       *       *


Huntington placed his house at the disposal of the Thatchers during
Class Day week, and urged them to arrive the Saturday before so that he
might show them something of Boston before the college festivities set
in. He had corresponded freely with Mrs. Thatcher during the weeks
Hamlen had been his guest, sharing with her his own gratification that
their joint undertaking proceeded with such promise of success. But each
letter she wrote contained some reference to her desire to carry the
rejuvenation to a climax.

"Don't let him get too young," she wrote in one, "or Merry won't care
for him. She always feels more at home with older men."

In another, accepting Huntington's invitation, she added: "Your
suggestion is particularly fortunate as it will give Merry a chance to
see Philip Hamlen under ideal conditions."

There was no escape. Mrs. Thatcher still assumed that he was as eager to
bring about the match as she herself, and with woman's pertinacity
presented the matter to him in such a way that he was forced to act as
her ally whether he chose to do so or not. He had no restitution to make
to his classmate, he stoutly assured himself, and because a charming
woman felt a moral obligation to bring about "poetic justice" there was
no reason why he should be stampeded into aiding and abetting a scheme
of which he thoroughly disapproved. Huntington reasoned it out logically
and conclusively, arrived at a definite determination to have no part in
it, and then did the one thing which Mrs. Thatcher most desired by
inviting them all to his home. Such is the innate inconsistency of man
when he attempts to defeat the plans of a clever woman who always has
her way!

Yet, curiously enough, Huntington believed that he was acting on his own
initiative, and that this plot of his to have the girl near by, where he
could again enjoy her companionship without betraying how much she had
become to him, was a triumph of diplomatic genius. He even dreaded lest
a refusal of his hospitality should defeat his carefully-laid plans,
never realizing that the idea itself had come through the most delicate
psychological suggestion between the lines of a letter which touched on
every subject but the one in point. Such is the inevitable climax of
man's originality when his plans include feminine co-operation!

Hamlen did not again refer to the matter on which he had sought advice
until Huntington told him that the Thatchers were to arrive. Then his
manner took on that phase which his host knew well, and the old
apprehensiveness returned. The change was so noticeable that it could
not be passed by without comment.

"Don't you want to see them?" Huntington demanded flatly. "You act as if
their coming really frightened you."

"It does," Hamlen admitted frankly.

"Why should it?"

Huntington had come closely enough to him now to speak pointedly, and
Hamlen seemed grateful for it. He wanted to be treated like other men,
even though at times the new experience hurt; and his friend more and
more took him at his word. "Why should it?" Huntington repeated.

"Because I can't trust myself yet. All is going so well that I fear
something may happen to cause a setback."

"Nonsense! The old dread of meeting people hasn't worn off yet, but you
are making splendid strides. I shall be proud to have Mrs. Thatcher see
you as you are now."

"I am not myself when I am with her," Hamlen insisted, avoiding his
friend's eyes as he spoke.

"If you prefer, I'll put you up at the Club while they're here."

"I should prefer it; but I think I had better fight it out while I have
you near at hand to help me."

There was a new note of determination in his voice, but the dread was
still there. "I do not want to marry Miss Thatcher, Huntington," he said
slowly, with emphasis on every word; "yet unless you help me I shall do
it. I cannot resist Mrs. Thatcher if she is determined to accomplish
this. You spoke of logic and judgment when we talked of it before, but
these are not enough. Marian is a wonderful woman. She believes that
this marriage will be for our happiness, but I tell you, Huntington, it
would be a tragedy for us both. I have never had but one woman in my
heart, and any effort to dethrone that image would produce a condition
for which I cannot hold myself responsible. That is what I fear, and you
must help me."

"Of course I'll help you, my dear fellow," Huntington reassured him,
"but are you not exaggerating Mrs. Thatcher's attitude? I can't believe
that she will proceed further when she knows how you really feel."

Hamlen shook his head. "You have heard of men who lost their reason by
being accidentally locked in a tomb overnight--think what it has meant
to me to live with the specters of the dead for twenty years! As I look
back, I wonder that I've held together at all! I'm not rational even
now,--I know that; but I'm improving every day. What you have looked
upon as an obsession, an eccentricity, has been a condition over which I
have had no control, but through you I have been able to partially
extricate myself. Mrs. Thatcher stirred the dead embers when she found
me in Bermuda, and beneath them lay the smoldering flames which had
slowly consumed my life. That I was able to hold them in check there
gave me courage to accept your point of view, and I know that I have
gained strength during these weeks I have spent with you."

"You are stronger in every way," Huntington said with decision. "If you
were able to hold yourself in check then, you should now feel doubly
safe."

"Perhaps," Hamlen admitted doubtfully; "that is why I don't follow my
strong impulse to let you put me up at the Club. I want to test myself
still further. Whenever Marian Thatcher's name is mentioned I feel such
a confusion of emotions that I realize how far I am yet from being my
own master. I must either conquer or else return to the old life."

"I'll stand by you--of course I will!" Huntington laughed, hoping to
lessen Hamlen's apprehension by treating the subject lightly. "Keep the
specters of the past back among the dead where they belong; don't let
them stalk in your present in which you are just beginning to find what
life really is. Mrs. Thatcher is a beautiful woman of flesh and blood
and not an avenging Nemesis!"

"My God, Huntington! can't I make even you understand!" Hamlen cried
out. "It is the fact that Marian Seymour is a beautiful woman of flesh
and blood that the specter stalks! You who have never loved can't
sympathize as I do with the aboriginal man who struck down whomever
stood between himself and the woman he wanted, and carried his prize
bodily to his cave. I boasted that these twenty years had given me
opportunity for super-intellectual development, but instead I find
myself controlled by almost primeval instincts. My respect for law is
weakened, my regard for the rights of others seems stultified. This
woman has been mine since we were boy and girl together, Huntington, and
I want my woman! Before she broke the engagement my domination was too
complete, for it made her fear me; when we met twenty years later it was
she who dominated. Now, as I am coming back to myself, I feel my former
power returning, and I know that if I chose I could compel a
subservience of her will to mine. That is what I dread, for my exile
has destroyed my sense of proportion. If I do not exercise my own
strength then I must let her will be supreme, and that means that I
shall marry the girl while I worship the mother.--Don't belittle my
fearfulness, Huntington; it is a real thing to be reckoned with."

"Whether real or not," Huntington said kindly, "the fact that you think
it so is enough. I shall not advise you nor urge you to do anything
except what you yourself think wise, and so far as I can, whenever or
wherever you wish it, I will help you."

This discussion left a deep impression upon Huntington. He had never
looked upon Hamlen as a man of force, but rather as a visionary of
nervous tenseness; yet this outburst showed a strength which would have
carried his classmate far had it been properly directed. In spite of his
present activities Huntington could see that Hamlen still lived much in
his past,--the unconscious return to Mrs. Thatcher's girlhood name was
evidence of that, his reference to the ghostly companions of his Bermuda
life was equally convincing. What puzzled him was Hamlen's conviction
that Mrs. Thatcher was determined to compel the suggested alliance
against his will. This Huntington could not believe. She had expressly
stated to him that it was only an idea to be acted upon in case it
proved wise. Had Hamlen shown an interest in Merry, then undoubtedly
Marian's influence would be exercised in his behalf; but surely a
mother's heart would not be insistent in so serious a crisis! In this at
least Hamlen's apprehensions carried him too far.

The opportunity to satisfy himself came to Huntington the day after his
guests arrived. They had motored down the North Shore and back to the
Club for lunch on a bright Sunday morning which seemed prepared
especially to show Boston's environs off to best advantage; and as they
strolled about the Club grounds he found himself paired off with Mrs.
Thatcher.

The evening before had developed nothing of any moment. The two boys
rushed in after dinner, completely monopolized the situation for such
time as they were present, and then dashed off to keep a college
engagement. Things were too "thick," Billy explained to Merry, to have a
real visit. Thatcher seemed worn out and asked the indulgence of his
host to permit his early retiring; Mrs. Thatcher was happy and
complacent, rejoicing in the change she found in Hamlen and grateful to
her ally for having brought it about; Merry appeared strangely quiet,
but even if her presence had been wholly silent it would have seemed a
benediction to Huntington, whose sentiments no one suspected, and on
whom all depended for the expression of their individual purposes.
Huntington smiled grimly to himself as he recalled Hamlen's
matter-of-fact assumption that love had never entered into his life; he
even questioned whether his friend's self-imposed restraint was more
difficult than the repression of his own emotion!

After luncheon they walked out onto the golf links, Huntington and
Marian finding a retreat in one of the thatched-roof shelters from which
they could command an extended view on all sides. Thatcher and Hamlen
had fallen behind, following Merry, who was eager to secure a better
idea of the earlier holes in the course. Marian seated herself and then
looked up into Huntington's face with an expression of complete
satisfaction.

"It is simply wonderful!" she exclaimed.

"It is a fine course--"

"I'm not thinking of the course," she interrupted. "What you have done
with Philip Hamlen is simply wonderful!"

"You must give your boy his share of the credit; his influence over
Hamlen is no less than mine."

"I am glad my son could do something toward paying his mother's debt,"
she replied feelingly. "Now if you and I can complete the work I shall
feel that restitution has been amply made."

"You refer to your daughter?"

"Yes; if I can see Merry married to Philip Hamlen I shall be blissfully
content."

Huntington did not reply at once. He must be fair to this woman of whose
determination he could now have no doubt; he must be fair to Hamlen, but
above all he must be fair to the girl herself. Could he assume any
position of impartiality? Would not each word really be a cry from his
own heart, not against Hamlen but against any one who should create a
barrier between himself and her? But Hamlen had besought his aid, so
after all a responsibility existed, not of his making, which could not
be shirked. He would meet the issue squarely with special care to
eliminate himself.

"I regret to say that I cannot sympathize with that plan," he said
deliberately.

Mrs. Thatcher looked at him in complete surprise. "I thought we
agreed--"

"I have had greater opportunity to study Hamlen since we last talked."

She was genuinely distressed by Huntington's attitude. "I have set my
heart upon it," she said firmly. "Through me his life was wrecked; it
would be only justice if I helped him to find his happiness."

At that moment Huntington wondered how Marian Seymour could ever have
attracted him. He had told Hamlen that the alchemy of a woman's heart
was past his comprehension, but he had believed that mothers' hearts
were all the same. He knew that Mrs. Thatcher was devoted to her
daughter, yet her insistence appeared to him inexplicable and
reprehensible. Had his companion been a man he would have told him so;
under the present circumstances he spoke more guardedly.

"Being friends and allies, we should be frank in expressing our
conviction," he explained; "this must excuse my otherwise unwarranted
objections."

"You know Merry now. Don't you agree with me that her interest is in men
older than herself?"

"Has she been consulted?"

Mrs. Thatcher flushed. "No," she answered; "I shall not speak to her
until Philip Hamlen has been persuaded."

"You think she will acquiesce?"

"I am sure of it. She may not understand at first, but I am certain that
she will feel as I do. Who could fail to see that he would be an ideal
husband for her?"

"What would your life have been if you had married Hamlen?"

"But he has changed,--he has learned much from his experience."

"He is still, and always will be an abnormal personality," Huntington
insisted. "Marriage, in my opinion, has no place in his life, and no
woman could possibly endure his eccentricities. He can still find much
to interest him among men, but I beg of you not to pursue an experiment
which contains so many elements of danger."

"You put it strongly, Mr. Huntington."

"I feel it strongly; that must be my excuse."

Mrs. Thatcher was visibly affected. It was several moments before she
spoke, and Huntington could see that she resented his attitude.

"You look at it wholly from a man's standpoint," she protested. "No one
with Philip Hamlen's temperament can find the life he craves in
companionship with men alone. Of course I respect your convictions, but
you in turn must respect mine. I am so sure I am right that I cannot
abandon the hope I have so long cherished. It will be more difficult of
accomplishment without you, but if necessary I must carry it through
alone."

"Forgive me, Mrs. Thatcher,--but are you not thinking of him and of your
obligation more than of your daughter?"

"You surely don't think I would force Merry against her will!"

"Sometimes we leave one a free moral agent," Huntington said pointedly,
"and at the same time bind him with chains stronger than iron by
expression of our own desires."

The approach of Hamlen and Merry brought the unsatisfactory discussion
to a forced conclusion, and Huntington rejoiced that it saved him from
further expostulations. Thatcher had returned to the club-house to
telephone, leaving Hamlen and Merry by themselves. Hamlen responded to
Merry's spontaneous vivacity, and both were in the best of spirits as
they walked toward the shelter. He was heavier now and it became him.
The sallowness had left his face and a slight color appeared in his
cheeks. The girl beside him, as always when enthusiastic, radiated
happiness. Her companion could scarcely keep up with her as she half
walked half ran up the slight incline.

"Look at them!" Mrs. Thatcher exclaimed, turning to Huntington. "Who are
you to tell me I am wrong!"

Huntington was spared the necessity of reply for Merry had reached them.
Mrs. Thatcher rose and strolled away by herself to relieve her
overwrought feelings.

"Oh, for a golf-skirt and a bag of clubs!" the girl cried. "When may I
play this adorable course?"

"To-morrow morning," Huntington replied promptly, "if my guests permit
me to provide them with other entertainment. After to-morrow I must give
you up to those most exalted of personages, the Seniors."

"I'd love to play this course," Merry said gratefully,--"but you're
going over for Class Day, aren't you?"

"Yes; but we old grads don't count as against the Seniors. They are the
heroes and we bend the knee. On Thursday we shall walk respectfully up
to the graduating class, bow politely, and say, 'We who are about to
die, salute you'!"

Merry laughed gaily. "Then, the next day, these heroes jump down off
their pedestals, walk respectfully up to the old grads, bow politely,
and say, 'Please give us a job'!"

"Don't be an iconoclast, Miss Merry," Huntington retorted. "These boys
may be looking for jobs, but they are richer than any of us: they have
youth, and life is before them."

"Grandpa!" the girl laughed mischievously.

"I sha'n't let you call me that!" he cried, really piqued.

"Then don't be so unfair to yourself!" she retaliated; "you are the
youngest 'old' man I ever met!"



       *       *       *       *       *

XXIX

       *       *       *       *       *


It was with real regret the following morning that Huntington watched
his ball drop into the cup on the eighteenth green. The round had been
too perfect, the experience too enjoyable to come to an end so soon.

"Five down," Merry remarked. "That looks to me like a real defeat."

"I'm glad to find some game I can play better than you," Huntington
replied banteringly. "I'm still sore over our swimming-races in Bermuda.
But in all fairness I must admit that this course is built for a man's
game, and the premium on the length of the wooden clubs was all that
saved me to-day."

"You are generous,--but I acknowledge my defeat. Do we have to go home
now?"

"There is at least an hour between us and the rigid convention of
luncheon," Huntington answered. "Shall we spend it on the piazza?"

"It is much nicer beneath one of these great trees," she said, suiting
her action to the word and sitting down upon the grass. "Come. Let us
imagine that we're back in Bermuda again!"

Huntington seated himself beside her, still rebellious that their
moments together were passing so swiftly. He had wondered how she would
appear to him when he saw her again, half hoping to find that the charm
of the earlier setting had exaggerated her attractiveness, half dreading
an awakening. This would have simplified his problem, but it would also
have robbed his life of the richness which had entered it. Even though
he saw his course plainly plotted out for him, there was a delicious joy
in knowing that there existed one who had awakened in him that which
alone is best and without which no man's experience can be complete.

But his half-hope was not to be gratified nor his half-dread realized.
The girl was different, but the intervening months had done their work
well. She seemed older and more mature, yet this passing of the girl
into womanhood had been accomplished without marring those
characteristics which he had before admired. His eyes rested on her face
longer than he realized, as these thoughts passed through his mind, but
until she spoke he had no idea that she had noticed the closeness of his
scrutiny.

"Well," she said smiling, "do you approve?"

He made no apology, for they understood each other too well, but instead
accepted her question seriously.

"Entirely," he replied with an air of sincerity which forced the color
into her face. "The expression of the mouth, the tilt of the head, the
sparkle in the eyes,--all is perfection. But you suggested that we
imagine ourselves back in Bermuda. For myself, I should not dare to try
it, for it could never be the same."

"Should we want it to be?" she asked earnestly. "An experience repeated
must have something added or it fails to satisfy. To be the same would
bring disappointment. I've argued that all out with myself, so I'm sure
I'm right."

"Why should you have done that?" he demanded.

"Because those were the most wonderful days I have ever known," she
explained simply and without embarrassment. "I found myself wishing them
back; then I realized that if I could have my wish gratified it wouldn't
satisfy me. I was unhappy when I went down there for no reason in the
world except that I couldn't seem to find my place. With all their love
no one at home has ever understood me, and I had reached a point where I
didn't understand myself. Then you gave me the chance to know Mr.
Hamlen, and in what you said to him and to me I saw what happens when
one has no anchorage. That was what had made me unhappy,--I was drifting
horribly."

"You concealed it well," Huntington said. "All the time we were together
I never suspected that you had a care in the world."

"That is a compliment to yourself," the girl answered. "With your
optimism you draw out the best in every one. See what you did with Mr.
Hamlen down there, and what you have done with him since! You are the
most completely happy person I have ever met, and--don't scold!--I have
tried to imitate you. I haven't been very successful yet, but I'm
trying. Some time, when the supreme test comes, I shall accept it, and
then you will see what your example has accomplished."

The sincerity of the girl's words made Huntington uncomfortable. At
first it pleased him to discover how genuine was her respect, but as she
continued he found himself embarrassed by the character she gave him.

"I shall begin to think myself somebody if you go on," he expostulated.
"You are crediting me with attributes I don't seem to recognize."

"That is because they come so naturally to you," she explained. "You are
happy because your life is spent in making other people happy. That is
the lesson I learned."

"You were doing that long before I met you, and you are doing it now."

"No," she insisted; "it may have seemed so to you, but I was really
trying to find happiness for myself, and because I was thinking of
myself it didn't come. Since I returned home I've tried your plan, and
so far it has worked splendidly."

"But the supreme test," Huntington asked,--"what is that to be?"

"Oh, I don't know," she answered with an effort to speak indifferently;
"being a girl I suppose it will be my marriage."

"That should be the supreme triumph of your happiness rather than the
test."

"I used to think so but I've changed my mind. I had a vision once of
what I thought marriage ought to be.--We spoke of it in Bermuda, and you
made fun of it, don't you remember? I'm convinced now that it was all
wrong."

"You said that you would marry only a man who would let you contribute
your share to the real life which you would jointly live."

"Yes," Merry answered consciously; "and you laughed at me! But you were
right. I ought not to think so much of myself." She paused a moment.
"The man I really loved probably wouldn't care for me at all," she
continued soberly, her eyes averted. "If I am convinced that I can make
the man I marry happy, then I am more certain of finding happiness
myself. That is making a tremendous compromise with sentiment, but don't
you think it more sensible, after all?"

"Then the supreme test, as I understand it, would be to marry a man you
thought you could make happy whether you cared for him or not?"

Merry nodded her head in affirmation. A sudden suspicion came into
Huntington's mind, and he looked at the girl curiously.

"Has your mother been talking to you upon this subject?" he demanded
with more directness than he had a right to use.

"Why, no," she answered, showing her surprise. "She thinks me too
indifferent to men; but we have never discussed the matter seriously
because there has been no occasion."

Huntington was relieved by her words but her ideas were not reassuring.
He started to tell her that she was entirely wrong, but he checked
himself because he realized that differing with people had now come to
be a habit with him. Two days before he had carefully explained to
Hamlen how erroneous his convictions were only to discover that he
himself had been in error. Yesterday he had differed with Mrs. Thatcher,
and now he found his ideas at variance with Merry's. Instead, he lifted
the girl's left hand, which rested on the grass beside him, and gently
pointing to the third finger he looked earnestly into her deep eyes.

"Merry," he said calling her by her name for the first time, "when the
moment comes for some man to slip a gold band on there I want you to
remember what I tell you now. You have pictured me as an apostle of
optimism and as the happiest person you know. I could tell you something
about that, but instead I'll try to live up to your picture. But this
much is gospel truth, and I want you to remember it: that gold band will
stand as a symbol and the circle means completeness. It doesn't stand
for sacrifice, or for supreme tests, or for anything of that sort,--it
does stand for just what you saw in your 'vision.' A very wise person
once said that marriage was either a complete union or a complete
isolation, and he was right. My friends think me a cynic on this
subject, but my cynicism is a result of the complete isolation I see
every day in the lives of my friends. I want your marriage to be a
complete union, little girl, and that can't come if you apply your
present ideas to a sacrament so sacred that every-day principles become
meaningless. Marriage is the merging of all that is beautiful in two
lives, and unless the love on each side strives to outdo the other in
contributing to the joint account, the beauty fades, and the gold
circlet stands as a symbol of slavery instead of representing the most
wonderful relation which mortals are permitted to enjoy."

"Mr. Huntington!" she exclaimed in a low tone, "I had no idea you looked
upon marriage like that! I didn't believe any man did! It makes me have
more faith in my vision. Still, after all, that doesn't change the fact
itself, for you are the exception. But, feeling as you do, I know now
that the only reason you are not married is that you have never found
the girl."

Huntington looked full into her face before he turned his head aside. "I
did find the girl," he answered with a depth of feeling in his voice;
"but I found her too late."

"Forgive me!" Merry cried impulsively, convinced that she had torn open
a concealed wound.

"There is nothing to forgive, dear child," he said quickly. Then with
that smile which took the world in its embrace he added, "Don't waste
your sympathy on me; life has already given me more than I deserve."

"I am so sorry," Merry replied soberly. "She must have been a wonderful
girl to win such a love."

"She was," he answered.



       *       *       *       *       *

XXX

       *       *       *       *       *


Billy Huntington was the founder of an original secret organization
called the "Club for Undesirables." Being the founder he was privileged
to write the By-Laws, and these consisted of a single Article: "The
members of this Club shall be elected by the non-members." Exercising
his prerogative he had proposed, seconded and elected Cosden and others
of his acquaintance who failed to attain the standards he demanded of
those around him; and now he unanimously declared Mrs. Thatcher a member
in full standing.

These were not red-letter days for the boy. Ever since his visit to New
York at Easter the times had been out of joint, and he blamed Merry's
mother for it all. From his viewpoint the visit had been a "frost," and
he nursed his resentment so successfully that he came to look upon it as
a virtue. Uncle Monty noticed the change, but having no knowledge of the
cause gave Billy credit for at last showing symptoms of growing up.
Philip looked upon his tragedy as a huge joke, and made his friend's
life wholly unendurable by frequent veiled allusions to the "inflammable
age," rubbed in as only a college chum can do. The sympathy he craved
was sadly lacking, so he sought compensation by sympathizing with
himself.

Billy would have been better satisfied with the completeness of his
martyrdom had he been able to include Merry among those who abused him,
but he could discover no point where she had failed to preserve an
aggravatingly consistent neutrality. She was always friendly, accepting
his extravagant expressions of devotion with a good-natured indifference
which robbed them of all significance She had taken no exceptions to her
mother's humiliation of him, nor had she taken advantage of it;
everything progressed with a disgusting sameness, when he had
confidently expected that the result of his visit would be to acclaim
him Merry's accepted suitor, and thus raise him to the seventh heaven of
delight.

While Hamlen had been in Boston Billy found himself again side-tracked.
Not only was Uncle Monty engaged, but Philip devoted much of his time to
his new responsibility. Everything conspired to throw Billy back upon
his own resources, and here he developed a decided hiatus. The boy's
strongest point was his ability to fit in with some one else's plans,
and of all his friends Philip proved most fertile in his suggestions.

Now Class Day was at hand, and as it was not his Class Day he felt
himself eclipsed by the added glory which came to Philip and the other
Seniors. As an under-class man he counted for absolutely nothing. When
he was a freshman, the comparative size of the halos worn by his Class
and the graduating students was an open question of debate; from a
sophomore's standpoint, he was near enough the freshmen to be able to
look down upon them with a gratifying sense of superiority; but as a
Junior there was nothing to do but to wait for the coming year,--and
waiting was a game not included among Billy's favorite indoor or outdoor
sports. He had expected little from the visit of the New York friends,
owing to the presence of "the Gorgon" as he christened Mrs. Thatcher,
and in this expectation he was not disappointed. Merry herself was fully
occupied, and her mother took every opportunity to prevent diverting
influences from affecting what she considered a crucial moment. So
Billy, thoroughly disgruntled, drew himself up with a dignity which he
did not know he possessed, denied himself to the visiting friends, and
permitted the procession to move on without him.

Philip himself, being at New London with the crew, was prevented from
taking personal participation in the Class Day festivities, but the
classmate whom he delegated as substitute proved an ideal host. In
Philip's absence Huntington had no compunctions in joining with Hamlen
in the Thatchers' celebration; had the boy been there he would have felt
it an intrusion for any one outside the family to share with them the
triumph which comes but once in a college man's life. So they passed
together from spread to spread, in and out of the Yard, listening to the
music, admiring the attractive costumes and the still more attractive
girls, entering into everything with a spirit which even Hamlen felt,
and which took Huntington back to his own Class Day, so many years
before.

When the march to the Stadium was formed Huntington led Hamlen to that
portion of the line where their own classmates were assembled, and
presented him to each. Only a few remembered him, but all gave him a
welcome which confirmed Huntington's predictions. Hamlen noticed who the
men were standing side by side, and was impressed by the fact that while
in college the groups had been made up quite differently. He and
Huntington, then, did not form so grotesque a combination as he had
imagined. Other members of his Class, who knew each other but slightly
while in Cambridge, since then had discovered characteristics in each
other which drew them together. As Huntington said to him in Bermuda,
the ratio had become readjusted, the essentials only were remembered,
and the real bond was the fact of being members of the great fellowship.
Then the procession started, and he fell into step with the new life
which it had taken him so long to find.

After the exercises at the Stadium, Cosden, at Huntington's suggestion,
took Hamlen with him to the Varsity Club, where the athletic heroes of
past and present congregated. There was a motive back of the suggestion,
and the effect on Hamlen of seeing these men, whose importance college
ideals had magnified, in their present relation to the world and to
their fellow-men, justified the experiment. Some of the old captains or
record-holders showed unmistakably their continued pre-eminence; others
had fallen back into the ranks after their temporary standard-bearing.
Hamlen could understand it now: what they did in college was of
importance only to the extent that it fitted them for what was to
follow; it was the use they made of this fitting in the after-life which
produced the permanent effect. This was the difference between the means
and the end which Marian tried to explain to him in Bermuda.

Then came Commencement as a crescendo. It would have meant little to
Hamlen had it preceded Class Day, but each new experience gave him
fuller understanding and richer enjoyment. He saw again the same members
of his Class and felt now that he knew them; he met others, and was able
to mingle freely as a fellow-classmate. On Class Day the alumni came as
a unit, on Commencement they separated into Class groups, each with its
own spread and reunion, offering greater opportunity for intimate
exchanges of personal experience and mutual confidence.

The climax came the following day with the boat-race at New London. The
Thatchers had returned home immediately after Class Day with plans of
their own still to be carried out, so Huntington and Cosden formed the
body-guard which convoyed Hamlen to the great event. Huntington knew
that he could not credit his friend's feverish anticipation wholly to
the dawning interest in Harvard events, but was equally content to see
how personal a triumph Philip's seat in the boat had become to him. Had
Hamlen's nervousness been shared by his namesake and the other oarsmen
the result of the race might have been foreshadowed! He changed his mind
about going so many times that Huntington finally insisted upon a
definite decision.

"Of course I want to go," he explained; "but I never saw a Harvard crew
win and I can't believe I'm going to now."

"Perhaps you won't," was the frank disavowal of responsibility. "The
worm must turn again some time, and it may be that this is the year, but
Harvard has the habit of winning now, and that goes a long way."

"It would kill me to see Phil lose!" Harden said with deep feeling.

"Tell me," Huntington said,--"tell me frankly for my gratification, is
your eagerness to see Harvard win to-morrow wholly on Phil's account, or
have these days brought your crimson blood near enough to the surface to
make you keen for the crew to win because it's a Harvard crew? Don't
deceive yourself or me. I really want to know."

Hamlen hesitated before making reply, then he returned Huntington's look
with a frankness which conveyed much. His eye was clear and responsive
now; the haunting terror had left it. He met the question squarely.

"Until this moment," he said, "I supposed myself sincere in believing
that my interest lay wholly in having that boy come through victorious,
but as you put it to me now I know there is a reason which lies deeper
still. Thanks to you, dear friend, notes in my life which have always
before been mute have now been struck, and I am finding a wonderful joy
in the melody produced. I have awakened to my heritage, and I realize
what I have missed in denying myself its privileges. I want Harvard to
win, Huntington, because it's Harvard. I shall always want Harvard to
win for the same reason. It may be better for the sport to have the
victories alternate, it may be impossible to defend anything so selfish
as a desire for an unbroken line of victories for years to come; but
still I want it. There is no occasion to argue it, there is no logic to
support it; I just simply want it!"

Huntington regarded him with a satisfaction too deep for outward
exuberance. "I knew the spirit was too strong to accept limitations!" he
exclaimed quietly but with an exultant ring in his voice. "I knew that
no man could once place himself within the influence of college ideals
and not recognize their existence. You have tested my convictions,
Hamlen, but my faith has remained 'calm rising through change and
through storm.'"

The strength of Huntington's emotion impressed Hamlen deeply. His own
dawning was so recent that at first he could not believe it possible for
his friend to be so affected by the subject under discussion.

"Do other Harvard men feel as strongly as you do?" he demanded
questioningly.

"Of course," Huntington replied; "but it isn't a question of Harvard any
more than of other colleges. We shout for our Alma Mater, but no more
lustily than the Yale or the Princeton man or the men of the smaller
colleges shout for theirs. It is merely the expression of the spirit of
loyalty and the sense of obligation, Hamlen. Not to express it is
unnatural, not to feel gratified when another laurel wreath is placed
upon the brow of our Dear Mother is a lack of filial devotion which I
refuse to believe exists."

They elected to see the race from the observation-train, that they
might watch the positions of the crews from beginning to end rather than
at any fixed point. There was no novelty in the experience for
Huntington or Cosden except the ever-present uncertainty of the outcome,
but to Hamlen even the crowds which he had previously avoided added to
his excitement by imparting to him the thrill of their repressed
expectancy. He resented the calmness of his companions as they perused
their morning papers on the train. He tried to follow their example, but
found himself mechanically reading over and over again the statistics of
the two crews. Harvard was the favorite, but that he took as a bad omen
for he still remembered the Harvard teams which had gone into their
contests with the odds on their side, and had failed to win the expected
victories. Harvard overconfidence was a byword when he was in college,
and it was overconfidence which he feared now.

They took their places on the improvised seats of the platform
freight-cars, ready to be hauled to the point of vantage at the start,
but the train seemed frightfully deliberate in getting under way. Hamlen
glanced at his watch nervously and was surprised that so little time had
elapsed since his last observation. Finally they found themselves
opposite the judge's boat. Harvard was already nearing the mark and the
Yale crew followed only a few lengths in her wake. Hamlen watched the
manoeuvers, disturbed by the conflicting cheers coming in sharp
staccato from every direction. At last the boats lined up in position.
Hamlen fancied that he could hear the referee's challenge: "Ready,
Harvard? Ready, Yale?" Then the pistol cracked out with reverberating
echoes, the oars gripped the water, the shells shot forward, and the
race was on!

Hamlen's face set grimly and he sat bolt upright, taking no part in the
mad cheering or the boisterous excitement. His eyes followed every
stroke of the oars, and he suffered keenly as the Yale boat took a lead
of half-a-length at the quarter-mile. Then he saw Harvard settle down to
her work with a stroke quickened enough to enable her to take the
advantage. The same stroke kept the crimson boat forging steadily ahead.
At the half-mile the positions were reversed, at the mile clear water
showed between the shells, another mile added two lengths more, in spite
of Yale's plucky efforts to close in on the gaping space. At three miles
Harvard had five lengths to the good, and for the first time Hamlen
relaxed his tense attitude.

"If it would not be a case of overconfidence," he said quietly to his
companions, "I should say that Harvard was going to win!"

"Nothing but an act of God can save Eli now!" Cosden replied between his
cheers. "Why don't you yell?"

"I can't," Hamlen said; "I feel it too much!"

Still the crimson boat gained, and the contest had changed into a
procession.

"Do they ever lose with a lead like that?" he asked Huntington
anxiously.

"Lose!" his friend shouted,--"lose! They're gaining every stroke! Rah!
rah! rah! Harvard! Harvard! Harvard! There they go across the line!"

He threw his arms deliriously around Cosden and Hamlen and they
performed a war-dance on the unsubstantial seats. Every Harvard
sympathizer on the train had gone mad, and the Yale streamers were
buried in the avalanche of crimson flags.

"Another one!" Huntington shouted; "another wreath for the Alma Mater,
Hamlen! Rah, rah, rah! Harvard!"

Hamlen had caught the contagion and was as affected with delirium as
those around him. He shouted his college yell over and over again,
unconscious that it was the first time in his life he had ever done so.
Huntington, the sedate Huntington, was cavorting like a two-year-old,
yet Hamlen saw nothing incongruous in his conduct. Cosden was so hoarse
that his cries resembled a wheezy calliope, yet they were sweet music in
Hamlen's ears. Harvard had won, Philip had won, he had won!

At the station a crowd of undergraduates were singing hilariously:

  "_Bring the bacon home, John,
    We cannot eat it all.
  We sometimes got a taste of it
    When you and I were small.
  But now you bring it home, John,
    In springtime and in fall.
  It seems an awful waste of it,
    We cannot eat it all._"

There was the hectic scramble for seats on the special train. Snatches
of other songs came from here and there, and spasmodic cheering; but
gradually the excitement settled down into the quieter calm of satisfied
accomplishment. It was an orderly crowd which deserted the train at
Back Bay, but the men bunched on the platform, before they separated,
and again burst into song. The jibes were forgotten, the boastings
hushed. These had their place only in the first expressions of exultant
victory. A deeper sentiment seized the celebrating host, which was
expressed with uncovered heads:

  "_Fair Harvard! thy sons to thy jubilee throng,
    And with blessings surrender thee o'er,
  By these festival rites, from the age which is past
    To the age which is waiting before._"

Hamlen watched them in silence, touched with a new emotion by the sound
of the words, familiar enough, but which now took on a different
meaning. Huntington was right: it was not a boat-race he had just
witnessed, it was not the celebration of a victory over Yale, it was a
"festival rite," consecrating anew to its Alma Mater that brotherhood to
which he belonged, in grateful acknowledgment of the character and power
developed beneath her beneficent influence which placed within its reach
"the Earth and all that's in it."



       *       *       *       *       *

XXXI

       *       *       *       *       *


In July, commercial stagnation increased, and the machinery of business
which before had creaked dismally in its daily routine now groaned aloud
in its travail; and the pity was that the conditions which caused it
were artificially created. There was capital enough, but the banks
hoarded it against possible contingencies; the crops were heavy, but it
was suicidal for the railroads to move them at the rates legislated by
the government; there were contracts to be let, but no one dared give
them out or accept them because of the shadow which hung gloomily over
every great industry in the shape of governmental paternalism and
interference. Stocks representing property intrinsically valuable
dropped lower and lower in the market, dividends which had been earned
were diverted into surplus as further margin of safety against future
developments, unknown and therefore to be feared. Incomes shrank in some
cases almost to the vanishing-point, while Washington reveled in an orgy
of those good intentions with which they say Hell is paved.

Cosden by this time had come to a full realization of the significance
of Thatcher's warning, and he understood now why the New York operator
had shown so little interest in the attack on the Consolidated Machinery
corporation which had seemed inevitable. In view of conditions as they
had developed, and as Thatcher had foreseen them, no new enterprise
would be launched until opportunity presented itself to take advantage
of its inherent strength. The old-established company need fear no
competition while its own business was dropping off in such alarming
proportions. So Cosden again reduced expenses, still further extended
his bank affiliations, and settled back to meet whatever conditions
might arise, knowing that his sagacity had placed him outside the pale
of those fighting for their existence.

In this latter class was Thatcher. The very success of his varied
interests now made them shining lights to attract the attention of the
authorities in Washington. One by one he saw them attacked, and day by
day he watched the dropping values of the stocks, called on by the banks
to increase his collateral, drawing deeper and deeper into his personal
resources which he had considered ample for any emergency. The strain
was terrific yet the only break he permitted himself was during the week
of his son's graduation.

The question of the summer home gave Thatcher much concern. The heavy
expense of its upkeep made it an item to be considered at this time, yet
he could not bring himself to the point of doing what he knew would be
an act of wisdom. In their town house the Thatchers lived the usual
formal life which belonged to their position, but it was Sagamore Hall
they always meant when they spoke of "home." To relinquish it, even
temporarily, seemed to Thatcher nothing less than sacrilege.

The estate consisted of some sixty acres wonderfully located on
Narragansett Bay with nearly a mile frontage on the sea. A rolling,
close-cropped lawn, bordered on either side by avenues of trees, ran
back three hundred yards from the beach before the stately, old English,
half-timbered mansion was reached, the broad expanse of green carpeting
making a perfect harmony of perspective. The two great end gables of the
house formed a shallow forecourt, filled in by a brick terrace with
balustrade. Between these gables, the central façade, a double-storied
loggia of stone, reminiscent of a Dorsetshire manor house, was
strikingly beautiful with its splendid sculptured decorations.

The opposite front of the mansion faced the road, though removed some
distance from it, and was approached through a gateway and a winding
avenue in keeping with the dignity of the building itself. To the south,
connected by shaded walks, was an unusual garden, the boundaries of
which were marked by rare trees and shrubs so arranged that they formed
a pyramidal mass of verdure, against which perennial blooms of rare and
beautiful plants showed their bewildering colors to the best advantage.
This garden represented what Marian had put of herself into the estate
during the twenty years they had lived there, and to her and to Thatcher
each flower, shrub or tree represented something personal and recalled
some happy experience.

At Sagamore Hall Marian really lived, keeping out of doors most of the
time, entertaining her friends in a manner which made every one feel
that each of the many attractions had been arranged for his own special
enjoyment. Here the Bermuda party was again united. Thatcher still kept
his wife in ignorance of the business complications which now seemed
certain to overwhelm him. Marian noticed that he was tired and worried,
but this had happened so many times before that she had come to look
upon these conditions as deplorable but none the less inevitable factors
in her husband's business life. In fact he had so explained on earlier
occasions when she questioned him, and had discouraged her from showing
too much concern. She recognized that he was scarcely in a mood for the
reunion she had planned, but justified her insistence on the ground that
he needed the relaxation; while he deemed it wise to yield rather than
attempt an explanation.

Edith Stevens had been their guest for a fortnight before the other
members of the party arrived. Philip was entertaining several of his
college chums, including Billy Huntington, but Mrs. Thatcher
particularly requested her daughter to have no guests during this visit,
holding herself free to assist in the entertainment.

Since her return home after the Class Day festivities Merry had shown
little interest in what went on around her. Had her mother noticed it
she would have passed it over lightly as "one of the child's moods," but
Mrs. Thatcher was too completely engrossed in her own great scheme to be
keenly sensitive to anything around her. In fact Merry's attitude
seemed peculiarly receptive, and encouraged her, a few days before
Hamlen was expected, to take her daughter into her confidence.

In answering Huntington's question Marian expressed greater confidence
in Merry's acquiescence than she really felt. To herself she admitted
that she did not understand her daughter. Since the elaborate plans for
Merry's social life fell through because of the girl's lack of interest
and failure to respond, Marian had almost given up in despair. Merry was
unlike the daughters of the Thatchers' friends, who might be counted on
at all times to do the expected thing when given the expected
conditions; with her it was always the unexpected which happened. She
loved athletics, not because of the companionship of boys, as other
girls did, but for the games themselves; she was fond of dancing, but
she would as soon dance with another girl as with a man,--it was the
rhythmic motion of the dance itself which fascinated her; she had no
interest nor ability in making "small talk," but was always eager to
discuss problems which her mother felt she might better leave alone; she
tolerated young people of her own age, but expressed her real self only
when thrown with older friends. Mrs. Thatcher worried more over her
daughter's future than over any other phase of the family life, and the
solution which now seemed to offer itself contained so much promise that
Marian believed it to be foreordained.

It was not easy to broach the subject, but when once accomplished Marian
talked on for some time without waiting for Merry to enter into the
discussion. It was important, she felt, that the girl should know the
whole story before being permitted to express an opinion. As the full
significance of her mother's words dawned upon Merry there was an
instinctive recoil, but she listened with outward calm. Marian believed
herself to be suggesting nothing save deepest concern for her daughter's
future; Merry heard nothing but a personal appeal for sacrifice. The
romance of her mother's early experience, the results which came from
the breaking of the engagement, her own interest and participation in
Hamlen's new life,--all went to strengthen the appeal, but still it
asked for sacrifice.

As she listened Merry's mind was working fast. What were the relations
existing between them? She admired her mother tremendously, and was
proud of the attention her beauty excited wherever they went. She
respected her, for no wife or mother ever carried herself in these
positions with greater regard for the proprieties. Did she love her? Of
course! what a question to come to a girl's mind! Did she? The question
repeated itself insistently. Merry wondered. If this were disloyalty,
then the thought itself formed the offense; to analyze it was imperative
before putting it aside. The girl knew that she was face to face with
the crisis of her life, that the question now in mind had really been
the cause of that unrest she had failed to understand.

"Is this something which you ask me to do?" Merry inquired at length.

"No, my dear; that would be exceeding a mother's rights."

"But you wish it?"

"Yes; that is a different matter."

"I wonder if it is," the girl said soberly.

"It is a very different matter," Marian insisted. "I am thinking only of
you, dear child. Unless you felt convinced, as I do, that your marriage
would mean your happiness, I should be the last one to wish it."

"Why don't you let me wait, as other girls do, until I find the man I
love?"

"Because you're not like other girls, Merry--"

"I've always been a disappointment to you, haven't I, Momsie?" she asked
suddenly.

"Not that, dear," Marian disclaimed. "Of course it has worried me that
you would never be intimate with young people your own age. I have never
understood it--"

"That is because I never had any girlhood, Momsie," Merry explained
seriously. "I grew up too soon. When I was little I couldn't play like
other children because my governess was always teaching me manners; so I
had nothing to do but think."

"What are you talking about, child!" Mrs. Thatcher protested. "You are a
perfect tomboy, even to-day!"

"I've had to make up for lost time, Momsie. You never saw me play when I
was little; that came after I became old enough to have my own way. Then
I learned games, but not as a child learns them; they were serious
problems, to be thought out because I had formed the habit of thinking.
While I was away at school I felt older than the other girls there, and
I wasn't interested in what interested them; that gave me a chance to
think some more. Then I came home, and you gave me that wonderful
coming-out party! It was after that I disappointed you most, wasn't it,
Momsie? I couldn't live the life the other débutantes did--talking silly
nonsense until early morning with men who hadn't any sense at all,
rushing to _thés dansants_ smoking cigarettes, and all that sort of
thing."

"I never knew that you did smoke cigarettes," Marian said severely.

"I don't suppose the mothers of the other girls knew it either; it was
the secrecy which made it sporty and gave the smoking its only interest.
I couldn't stand it, Momsie! I had to be doing something worth while!
Finally you let me have my own way, very much against your will, and
since then I've been a tomboy, as you say. Father gave in on the boat,
and I've spent hours in her, all by myself, trying to find out what the
things worth while are. I haven't been very successful yet, Momsie, but
I do know that it is a waste of time to fool around with boys like Ted
Erskine when one may find a chance to talk with a real man like Mr.
Huntington."

"Mr. Hamlen is a real man, too, Merry. If you knew something of life--"

"It's because I know too much of life, and understand too little. Mr.
Huntington has helped me to understand."

"I had hoped that by being so much with him, you would be the more
prepared to appreciate Mr. Hamlen," Mrs. Thatcher said.

"I wish I might have been more with you, dearie."

Marian looked up quickly. "What do you mean by that?" she demanded.
"Haven't I given all my leisure to my family?"

"You have had so very little leisure, Momsie."

"I have had my own interests, of course--"

"I'm not criticising you, dearie," Merry hastened to interpose; "I'm
only trying to explain myself to you."

"I have done my best to prepare my children for the life they would
naturally enter--"

"Isn't life what we live every day, Momsie? It isn't all made up of
worldly things, is it?"

"Upon my word!" Marian cried. "One would think that I had entirely
neglected my family!"

"No, Momsie; you have been most ambitious for us, and have made sure
that we could have everything you thought we ought to have. Truly it
isn't that I don't appreciate what you have done; I simply can't
understand why any one should want the things you consider essential.
Why, for instance, are you so anxious for me to be married?"

"Because it is natural at this time in your life, Merry." Mrs. Thatcher
was determined to have no quarrel, in spite of what she considered just
provocation. "It is a mother's duty to advise her daughter when she sees
her on the verge of a mistake."

"Suppose I felt that I didn't care to marry, Momsie, that I should be
happier to go through life expressing my own individuality?"

"Don't let us get started on that," Marian protested. "You know how
little patience I have with feminism in any form. I do wish we might
discuss some subject in a normal way as other mothers and daughters do,
Merry," she continued, softening. "I have your interests on my mind all
the time, I want to help you to understand yourself and life, I love you
so, dear child,--and yet, whenever we try to talk anything over, it
always turns into an argument. What I have suggested to-day I have
thought of for months, I have considered it from every standpoint before
presenting it to you, but you give me no credit for that. Before you
even know how you feel about it you are ready to dismiss it. I really
think my efforts for your happiness are entitled to more consideration."

"You think this would be for Mr. Hamlen's happiness too?" Merry asked
soberly.

"I am sure of it," Marian replied, seeming to see a sign of yielding in
the girl's question.

"Why hasn't he spoken to me himself?" Merry asked at length.

"He will speak, of course; but to meet with another disappointment would
undo all the advance he has made."

"I can't think of Mr. Hamlen as a married man," Merry continued; "I
can't believe that he would be happy under conditions changed from what
they are now. If he could only go on living with Mr. Huntington--"

"That is out of the question, of course," Mrs. Thatcher answered. "Mr.
Huntington has accomplished a miracle in bringing him out of his old
obsession, and if it were possible to surround him now with normal
conditions there is no limit to the heights he might reach."

"Has he told you that he cared for me?"

"Not in so many words," her mother admitted; "that is scarcely to be
expected. I understand him so much better than he does himself. He
disparages his abilities, which is not a bad characteristic in a
husband, and without some assurance of success I doubt if he would ever
mention the subject to you. But you know what it would mean to him. I
shall never urge you against your will, my dear," she repeated with real
feeling,--"you know that without my telling you; but I do feel my own
responsibility so keenly! He was a boy of such promise, as he is to-day
a man of rare capabilities if the right one could only guide him in
making use of his talents. Haven't you felt this yourself, my dear, when
you have been with him?"

Merry passed her hand wearily over her forehead. She could not
understand why she did not at once protest against what she felt to be
an unnatural suggestion. Still, the constancy of the lover, the sympathy
which she had felt for Hamlen since their first meeting in Bermuda, and
her own state of uncertainty combined in a confused way in the girl's
mind. Huntington's face was before her as her mother spoke of Hamlen,
his voice was in her ears, his words echoed in her heart: "I found the
girl too late!" Mrs. Thatcher thought Merry's hesitation came from a
consideration of the arguments just advanced, but what Huntington had
said formed the greatest argument of all. This closed for her all hope
of happiness coming as a direct response to the craving of her heart,
and left her only the possibility of attaining it through the indirect
means of giving happiness to some one else.

"That is what he would do," she whispered; and the thought brought
comfort.

"Haven't you felt this?" Mrs. Thatcher repeated at length, to recall the
girl to herself. "You have always seemed so much more at home with older
men, and he must have appealed to you. He would respond so quickly to
the sympathy you could give him."

"Wouldn't it be wrong to marry a man you didn't love?" Merry asked
quietly.

"But you respect him, don't you, dear? And respect is the first step
toward love. I wouldn't have you marry him unless that came, but there
is plenty of time before the wedding need be considered."

"I am very unhappy!" Merry exclaimed suddenly, with a little catch in
her voice.

"Unhappy, my dear!" Mrs. Thatcher cried with real sympathy, drawing the
girl's head upon her shoulder. "Why should you be unhappy? Tell Mother."

"I don't know, myself," Merry admitted, crying softly. "I've been
unhappy ever so long. Now and then things have seemed to straighten out,
but never for long at a time. Now I'm more unsettled than I have ever
been, and I don't feel as if I could be much of a success in making any
one else happy while I feel so miserable myself."

"This may be just what you need to help you find yourself, my dear,"
Mrs. Thatcher answered, kissing her affectionately. "Oftentimes, when
we are wretched ourselves, we find happiness in giving it to others.
Don't promise me anything, dear child, except that you will think the
matter over carefully, and be prepared to settle it wisely when the time
comes. Let me say again, unless you decide for yourself that your life
will be made richer and brighter by marrying Philip Hamlen, of course I
should not wish you to consider it."

Unconsciously Mrs. Thatcher had touched upon the same argument Merry had
used with herself. The girl had striven for happiness and failed to find
it; she had evolved a creed which called for ideals which she had come
to believe did not exist; she had demanded something for herself before
she thought of giving of herself. In her failure she had proved her
fallacy. The one person who had it in his power to disprove her present
contentions must consider her a visionary without the character to make
the visions real. Romance had already come to him, and having found the
girl too late that chapter in his life was closed. He was happy because
he always thought of others rather than himself. That was the only royal
road after all. There was nothing repellent about Hamlen. He had many
attributes which compelled admiration, and if he once became settled,
that in itself might release the indisputable abilities he possessed to
accomplish the great work which might lay before him. But would marriage
give that to him? Was she the one to bring about the metamorphosis which
her mother so confidently predicted? Would happiness come to her as a
result of giving it to him?

The thoughts and the questions crowded through her mind in such numbers
and with such conflicting incoherence that she could hope to find no
answers. But her decision need not be made now--that one fact remained
clear and she clung to it. Perhaps another day would bring relief.

"I will think it over, Momsie," she promised in a tired voice. "Forgive
me if I haven't seemed considerate. I want to do the right thing, dear,
but it is so hard to know what that is."

"You are a darling!" Mrs. Thatcher cried, kissing her affectionately.
"Don't worry about that. Mother will help you to find out."



       *       *       *       *       *

XXXII

       *       *       *       *       *


Merry's promise to consider the suggestion was equivalent to a victory,
in her mother's mind. True, it had not been won without a cost, for the
girl's plain, straightforward comments left their sting; but, after all,
they represented only a child's distorted viewpoint which failed to
appreciate the manifold demands upon a parent's time. Marian knew that
she had been a devoted mother, and she craved appreciation; but this was
more than she could expect. Merry's strictures were merely another
expression of her peculiar and unfathomable nature.

The promise was the most that Marian could ask for, and with this
concession she did not doubt her ability finally to show the child that
the older judgment was wise and far-sighted. She knew that Merry had not
given the promise lightly, and that once given she would be
conscientious in fulfilling it. Her yielding, even to this extent,
atoned for many instances in the past where the girl had seemed
self-willed in insisting upon following her own judgment in spite of
advice from all the family to the contrary; but these were unimportant
incidents compared with the one at issue. Marian was now quite content
to let her daughter have her own way in anything and everything provided
she did not interfere in the gratification of carrying this one great
desire of her mother's life to a happy conclusion.

The relations which had existed between her and Philip Hamlen, and the
responsibility she assumed for the aftermath, had become greatly
magnified during these months. It was natural that she should feel a
real satisfaction if she were able to repair the harm she had
unwittingly inflicted; but Huntington's question, "Are you not thinking
of him and of your obligation more than of your daughter?" proved so
disquieting that before speaking to Merry she had made doubly sure in
her own mind that the only way her responsibility affected her present
actions was to color the result with the romance of the past. She was
sincere in her conviction that at every step of her progress she had
been guided solely by a desire for her daughter's complete and final
welfare, and in her efforts she could find nothing other than a mother's
natural love and anxiety.

There was another satisfaction, Marian admitted to herself, but it had
no bearing upon the situation until after she became convinced that her
attitude was justified from Merry's standpoint. She had never forgotten
Hamlen's domination over her as a girl. At the moment when she met him
so unexpectedly in Bermuda she felt the old-time sensation of dread she
had experienced so many times when alone with him during their childhood
days and the period of their engagement. She had never loved him; this
knowledge had come clearly to her during the years which had
intervened. When she accepted the tacit understanding of an engagement
it was because of the dominating influence of his mind over hers rather
than a response from her heart to his fierce devotion. The break came on
the occasion of the Senior Dance at Harvard to which she accepted Monty
Huntington's escort. Hamlen, bitter against college and college life,
and having no interest in the graduating festivities, not only refused
to attend the dance but forbade her to go without him. Her indignation
gave her strength to rebel against his domination. Later she sailed for
Europe, feeling a profound sense of relief that she had been able to
break the fetters which had bound her, she then realized, against her
will.

The Hamlen she met at Bermuda was not the unreasonable boy of twenty
years before. He was still bitter, but they met on terms which gave her
the ascendency. Those traits which she had admired were accentuated, and
the fierce intensity had become modified. Now it was her mind which
controlled and his which yielded. He had tried to hold out against her
in refusing to come to America, but he had yielded; he was now trying to
hold out against her judgment that his marriage to Merry would restore
the lost equilibrium, but again he would yield.

Still, above all other considerations, the great fact stood out in
Marian's mind that the match itself was ideal. Merry would find in him
an intellectual force which would satisfy her natural predilections; she
would give him in her spontaneity a leaven to perpetuate the normal
expressions of life which Huntington had taught him to understand. She
would give him the youth which he had lost, he would give her the
response which her unusual development could never obtain from a younger
man. The balance was perfect. The mother's heart rejoiced that her
efforts could make so noble a gift to her daughter, while the woman's
heart found equal satisfaction that these same efforts could pay the
debt of years in ample measure.

It would have been a relief if her plans for entertaining the Bermuda
party could have been carried through without including Huntington, but,
entirely aside from the fact that this omission would have been a marked
slight, his co-operation in bringing Hamlen to this satisfactory
condition had been so conspicuous that there was no alternative. Mrs.
Thatcher was apprehensive lest he take advantage of his influence with
Hamlen to strengthen his will against her judgment; but this was a
chance she had to take.

Could she have read his mind Marian would have found nothing to fear
from Huntington. His familiarity with Merry's nature made him aware,
soon after his arrival, of the fact that something of unusual moment had
occurred. There was a hectic excitement in her welcome, a yearning in
her eyes, otherwise unexplained, which went straight to his heart and
prepared him for the climax in the great renunciation of his life.

"When the supreme test comes," she had told him, "I shall accept it";
and he was convinced that the test had come and been accepted.

"Ah, well!" he sighed deeply, "who am I to interfere?"

It was the second day after his arrival before they finally found
themselves alone together, and he realized that Merry had been awaiting
this opportunity to have with him one of those intimate conversations
which previously he had so much enjoyed. Now, knowing what was coming,
he dreaded it. Until the words were spoken he could at least deceive
himself into believing that he might be wrong, and this self-deception
was all he now had left.

"Let us sit down here in the sand," she said to him, "just as we used to
at Elba Beach."

"I wish we were back there now," he answered feelingly, as he responded
to her request.

"We always wish for something we have had, instead of something we are
going to have, don't we?" she asked, her hand modeling indefinite
figures in the damp sand. "I wonder why that is."

"Because the past is known, and we can select the happy moments as we
choose. The future is unknown, and we must take it as it comes."

"Oh, if we could only look into that future!" she exclaimed suddenly.
"If we could only be sure that in it we could correct our mistakes! How
that would simplify the problems of the present!"

"Why speak so strongly?" he asked. "That belongs to those who have
mistakes to correct."

"I have been thinking of myself all my life," she replied, at once
making the personal application. "I formed an ideal which I insisted
upon realizing, and when I found it at last it proved beyond my reach."

"To have found it at all is more than most of us can claim."

Her hand paused in its idle motions, and she looked up at him
inquiringly.

"But you found yours."

"Don't!" he said softly, a twinge of pain crossing his face.

"I've hurt you again!" she cried impulsively. "Don't you see how selfish
I am? That proves it! There is no one I wouldn't rather hurt than you,
yet twice I've done it. Please forgive me; I'll not do it again."

"There is nothing to forgive," he insisted as he did before. "I'm too
sensitive, that is all. Sometimes Life draws back the curtain and shows
us a wonderful picture of what might have been, to test the strength of
the philosophy the years should have taught us. The strong say, 'That is
not for me,' and pass it by; the weak stretch out their arms and cry in
vain for what they ought to know is not for them. I am among the weak."

"You among the weak!" she cried incredulously. "How little you
appreciate yourself! It is of your strength which you must give me now,
for I am trying to be true to what you have taught me by your example:
by making some one else happy I am going to seek for happiness myself."

It had come! Huntington needed no further confidence to complete the
avowal. He must be careful not to endanger the possibility of success
coming to the efforts which this brave spirit was prepared to make.
Hamlen was almost normal now. If this must be, Huntington knew that he
had played his part in preparing his classmate for the supreme joy which
ought to come to him in sharing the life of such a girl. At least he had
made her happiness possible. But the irony of her reference to his
teachings!

"Then you are ready for the supreme test?" he asked in a low voice.

"If it comes."

Then it had not come! The reaction took him to an absurd extreme until
his sober sense returned and he realized that this made no change. If
Hamlen were eliminated, still the years remained. He saw still more
clearly that his opposition was not impartial. If Merry were to tell him
of her engagement to some younger man of whom he might wholly approve,
how could he take their hands in his and pronounce the banal
benediction, "God bless you, my children!" His heart would cry out and
his spirit rebel as bitterly in one case as in the other. Except for the
question of age he must admit that Hamlen was eligible; that what he
lacked in certain traits was offset by super-abundance in others. If
Huntington were to be consistent he must efface himself; to interfere
would be to accept greater responsibility than he had a right to assume.

"You are prepared to marry a man you do not love because you hope to
make him happy, and thus gain happiness yourself?" he repeated the
problem slowly, emphasizing every word.

"Yes," she replied deliberately; "and the reason I so want to peer into
the future is to make certain that either one of these results is
assured."

"I suppose Hamlen is the man," Huntington said soberly.

"He has spoken of it to you?"

"Yes; he mentioned it soon after he came to visit me."

"Then he does care for me? I had not realized that."

How could the question be answered? Even if Huntington felt himself free
to repeat the confidence Hamlen had given him it would mar the
perfection of the sacrifice for Merry to know the truth. Her very
eagerness for happiness might bring it, and at whatever cost to himself
he wanted that to come to her!

"When we spoke of it Mr. Hamlen was not in a condition to know what his
feelings really were," Huntington replied guardedly. "He realized his
limitations, and questioned, much as you do, the possibility of making
any other person happy. Since he has learned more of the world he is
greatly changed, but we have not again referred to the subject."

"With us both feeling our limitations, and with both striving to
accomplish the same result, don't you think we ought to be successful?"

There was an appealing expression in Merry's face which besought a
confirming answer. Huntington could not resist it.

"It must be so," he said with decision. He smiled into her tense face
with a confidence his heart denied. "It must be so," he repeated.
"Somewhere there must be a divinity which watches over gentle souls like
yours, and brings them their reward."



       *       *       *       *       *

XXXIII

       *       *       *       *       *


While Huntington's spirits sank lower and lower Cosden's rose to a point
which made him oblivious to the cares and worries of the world around
him. He had passed through the probationary period with Edith Stevens
with marked success, and this opportunity of consecutive days with her
amid such congenial surroundings filled him with a delight which he had
never found in his business successes. Edith was right, Huntington was
right, Cosden admitted, in their contention that there was something
finer and more satisfying than business ideals; but he gave Edith the
credit for having proved it to him.

He went to extremes in this swing of the pendulum as in all others, but
the net result was a smoothing down of many of the rough corners, and a
tempering of the aggressive individualism which had often offended.
Cosden sized himself up correctly when he remarked to Edith, "I never
expect to be the finished product Monty is, but I'm going to quit
advertising the fact."

Edith could but admire the persistency with which he worked upon his
disagreeable problem. Her curiosity to see "how deep it went" developed
during the course of several other experiences together, into a complete
willingness to forget past delinquencies, and a real desire to encourage
him in the pursuit of his new course. It interested her to see that the
same forcefulness which had made itself disagreeable before was the very
agent which had accomplished the change she admired; that it was this
same dogged determination which maintained the present poise and gave
him the new dignity.

Marian was delighted by the way her guests grouped themselves, and
everything seemed to play wonderfully into her hands. Edith appropriated
Cosden and appointed herself his hostess; brother Ricky enjoyed himself
hugely motoring around the country in one of the Thatcher automobiles,
and did not ask to be considered except at meals; Philip kept his boy
friends engaged in an absorbing series of outdoor activities which
prevented Billy from interfering with her plans for Merry; Mr. Thatcher
was so engrossed with business matters that he became almost a
negligible quantity, which his guests understood and overlooked;
Huntington so far, Marian rejoiced to admit, had carried himself
admirably, dividing his time between Merry, Hamlen and herself in such a
way as to be really helpful instead of a menace to her plans. Never had
she entertained a group of friends so accommodating, and she was more
deeply appreciative at this time than she cared to state.

Edith and Cosden strolled down a leaf-covered walk, flanked by antique
statuettes, to an attractive pavilion at the end of the vista. Here they
seated themselves after a leisurely walk about the estate. Edith knew
she was taking chances, but as she felt quite capable of defending her
position she saw no reason why she should not enjoy Cosden's continued
devotion.

"I've ordered tea served here," she announced. "We seem to be a little
early."

"I'm in no hurry," Cosden replied cheerfully; "are you?"

"I have forgotten how to hurry, after these delicious weeks here," Edith
answered, leaning back in her rustic chair. "I think it agrees with me
to be deliberate, as Marian is. I am going to cultivate it."

"You are deliberate with me, all right," he declared. "I don't quite
understand myself nowadays. Usually when I find that I am making little
progress along one line I shift onto another, but now I seem perfectly
contented to sit back and watch you act your part. That shows that
there's something deeper in all this, doesn't it?"

"You might shift back to Merry," she replied calmly.

"No," he said with decision; "I've learned the rules now, and you don't
catch me revoking.--Tell me, if you don't like me, why do you let me
hang around like this, and if you do like me, what's the use of putting
me off so long?"

"There are loads of people I don't even take the trouble to like or
dislike, whom I 'put off,' as you call it."

"Do you really dislike me?"

"No," Edith drawled slowly, as if deliberating; "I can't say that. In
fact I think I rather like you--in spots."

Cosden leaned forward eagerly. "Isn't it stronger than that?" he
demanded.

"I can't say it is," she replied, her voice manifesting the same
interest which she might show if he had asked any other commonplace
question; "but don't get down on your knees now, for here comes the tea
and I loathe demonstration before servants."

"All right," Cosden said with resignation but without losing his
cheerfulness; "you don't discourage me a bit. I guess counsel is just
collecting a little extra fee for that break in Bermuda. I'll wait."

"I know how many lumps you take in your tea, and I know that you prefer
cream, but shall I pass you the raspberry jam?"

"No, thank you," he replied promptly. "My mother always used to dose me
up with calomel disguised in raspberry jam, and I can't eat it now
without tasting the medicine."

"Very well," Edith laughed, "try some honey. But please tell me what has
put your friend Monty in the dumps. At Bermuda he was stimulating, but
down here he's as cheerful as a crutch."

"Monty in the dumps?" Cosden echoed, surprised. "Why, I hadn't noticed
it. Just before Hamlen came to visit him, he was way down,--bemoaned his
age, and all that sort of thing. I thought we'd got him out of that. I
must look him over and see what the trouble is.--Here come our hostess
and Hamlen. Did you ever see such a change in any one?"

Marian approached with her brightest smile. "I'm glad Edith is keeping
you from being bored," she said. "I'm afraid I've been very remiss."

"I don't see how you could divide yourself into much smaller bits, Mrs.
Thatcher," Cosden replied. "This is a big family you have at present."

"The bigger the better," she exclaimed brightly. "I hoped I should find
you out here, and as I see the tea is still hot perhaps Edith will let
us join you. Philip and I have been walking and talking until we are
really tired."

"I am entranced with all this," Hamlen said, turning to Edith. "I had no
idea, when I paraded my few acres at Bermuda, that I was competing with
an estate like Sagamore. I wonder some one didn't rebuke me for my
presumption!"

"Isn't that a pretty compliment!" Marian cried. "You have put yourself
into every inch of your beautiful place, Philip; Harry and I have only
done that to a very small extent. It is beautiful, I admit, and I love
it just as I love the beauties with which you have surrounded yourself
at home."

"It makes little difference, after all, where one finds it, so long as
it is beauty," Hamlen replied. "'The dawn is my Assyria; the sunset and
moonrise my Paphos and unimaginable realms of faerie; broad noon shall
be my England of the senses and the understanding; the night shall be my
Germany of mystic philosophy and dreams.' I used to think Emerson must
have written that in Bermuda, but it might have been written here."

Edith caught the expression on Cosden's face and almost laughed.

"What's the use?" he whispered to her without being detected. "This pace
is too swift for me! He reeled that off as easily as I could the latest
quotations on copper!"

"Oh, Philip!" Mrs. Thatcher exclaimed, "I can't tell you what it means
to me to see you yourself again after that awful shock you gave me at
Bermuda! Truly, when we left you behind us I gave up hope."

"What hope there was you took away with you, so I was forced to follow."

"Come, Cossie--Connie--," Edith stumbled,--"if I'm to call you by your
given name you'll have to change it to something reasonable,--this is no
place for us."

"Don't let us drive you away," Marian protested.

"That's all right; we want to be driven away. If we stay longer, and Mr.
Hamlen talks like that, Mr. Cosden will become sentimental.--Bye, bye."

Mrs. Thatcher and Hamlen watched them as they strolled leisurely up the
path, Edith swinging her parasol and Cosden walking meekly beside her.
Finally Marian turned to him and laughed.

"What a dance that girl is leading him!"

"Do you think she cares for him?"

"In her way; but if he marries her he will have earned her!--He went
down to Bermuda on purpose to become engaged to Merry."

"He did!" Hamlen exclaimed, surprised; "why, they were never together
when I saw them."

"Nor often at other times. Of course, it was ridiculous,--but with you,
Philip, she'll be the happiest girl in all the world."

His eyes dropped quickly as she turned the conversation, and the
expression on his face completely changed.

"You are wrong, Marian," he protested; "no happiness can ever come to
any woman through me."

"Don't disparage yourself," she answered gently. "You are a different
man from what you were. Do you think I would counsel this if I were not
sure?"

"You believe it, Marian," he conceded, "and I wish I shared your
confidence. But I know myself. The time when I might have made something
of what I had passed long ago. If I am to go on at all it must be with
my real self suppressed, and the only way to do this is to plod my path
alone."

"Why slip back, Philip? Why suppress your real self?"

"I know the danger of permitting it to assume control."

"When last we talked you seemed willing to accept my judgment."

"I am still, in everything but this. I appreciate your desire for my
happiness, Marian, but you are taking a responsibility beyond what is
wise. I am complimented by your daughter's willingness to listen to an
offer of marriage from me, but if the test really came she could not
meet it."

"She would, Philip,--she would."

"I cannot comprehend it," he continued; "she has seen me at my worst."

"She understands you, and appreciates the wonderful qualities you
possess. She is too young to know the depth of love, but old enough to
recognize what a man like you can become to her. If you would only
speak with her you too would understand."

Hamlen moved uncomfortably in his chair, and was silent for what seemed
an interminable period. When at last he turned he spoke with a
conviction which shocked her.

"No, Marian," he said deliberately; "it can never be. Let us end this
farce before it goes too far."

"Philip!" she cried, seeing her work of months crumbling before her, and
reading in his determined face the miscarriage of what she believed to
be predestined. "I can't permit you to destroy the years which remain to
you."

She leaned over and took his hand in hers. Success had been so near that
she could not see it slip away from her now without a supreme effort.
Merry needed such a man as this and Hamlen needed her. Why should these
false ideas, created by years of self-depreciation, stand in the way of
what she knew was best?

"I can't let you destroy the years which remain to you," she repeated
earnestly. "I can't see my child's happiness marred by your foolish
insistence upon ideals which rest on conditions now long since passed
away. Philip, if you loved me once, show it now by your confidence in my
judgment, by your faith in my purpose. Tell me one reason why this
should not be."

"If I loved you once?" he echoed her words with a force which startled
her. "Tell you one reason why this should not be? The one answers the
other, Marian; for that love, intensified by the denial of twenty
years, is now a power I can't withstand."

"Philip!" she cried, striving to release her hand which he held in a
grip which hurt her, "you don't mean that you still--"

"I mean that I have never ceased to love you, Marian. Look at me now and
tell me if you doubt it. Even while I cursed you for ruining my life, I
loved you. Every day of the twenty years I have lived alone I have had
your face before me, I have held out my arms beseeching you to come to
me, I have beaten my head against the wall in despair that the one
longing of my heart could never hope for realization."

"You never told me--I did not know--"

"I have at least been strong enough to keep my secret, Marian; but it is
sacrilege for you to talk to me of marriage to your daughter. Now that
you know the truth you will urge no further. Could anything be more
dishonorable than to offer myself to her when even to-day my love for
you is beating at my heart until I can scarcely contain it? No, no! let
us have an end to all this mockery! In the name of a life's devotion, in
the name of the love you once had for me--"

"Release me, Philip," she entreated, frightened by his tenseness; but he
only tightened his grip upon her hand. She realized the importance of
terminating this impossible situation, regardless of the pain it might
inflict.

"I never loved you, Philip," she said deliberately. "At the time, I
thought I did; but it was my mind and not my heart you dominated."

He dropped her hand as if she had struck him, and, dazed, supported
himself against the rustic chair.

"You never loved me?" he repeated brokenly after her. "You never--oh,
God! why did you tell me that! Why did you come back into my life to
stir up those forces which had crushed me, but which I had at last
subdued!"

Then he turned his eyes upon her, full of the reproach which he dared
not trust himself to speak.

"If it was the domination of my mind then, why should it not be now?" he
asked in a voice which trembled with emotion. "Look at me, Marian!"

"Don't, Philip, I entreat of you; you frighten me!

"Look at me!" he commanded, and she slowly raised her head and gazed
into his face.

"Do you remember the last time you looked at me like that?" he asked
quietly, but even in his low tones there was a compelling force she
recognized.

"Come," he said rising, and drawing her toward him. "If it was not love
which brought you to my arms before, then it must be the same impulse
to-day. Come, Marian, it is not the daughter I want, it is you,--my
beloved, my sweetheart of years gone by!"

"Philip!" she protested feebly, "Philip--I entreat--" but the old,
irresistible influence was too strong, and he folded her in his arms.

In a moment his face changed as if touched by a magician's wand. The
lines which years and disappointment had traced were miraculously
smoothed away, and the expression of contentment was that which comes
only when the seeker has at last reached the consummation of his quest.
The lips moved silently, the eyes looked far into the distance. The past
was forgotten, the future unheeded, but the wonderful present was his!

A convulsive sob from Marian finally brought him to himself. He loosened
his hold, and gazed into her face with abject horror.

"My God!" he cried, as he allowed her limp form to slip back into the
chair. "What have I done! Marian, child, speak to me! Tell me that you
forgive me! It was the years which did it, not I; Marian! speak to me!
Tell me you forgive me!"

He gazed helplessly around as no response came. She lay there, her head
resting on the back of the chair, sobbing hysterically but giving no
sign that she even heard his words. He watched her until at last she
opened her eyes and regained control. Then he spoke again.

"Leave it unspoken, Marian," he exclaimed with an agony in his voice
which the suspense intensified. "I have said it to myself. I have made
myself an outcast, a pariah! Let me take you to the house. Then you need
never think of me again."

"No," she said brokenly; "leave me here."

"This is the end, Marian!" The words came short and crisp. "I ask your
forgiveness no more. There are some things which are past forgiveness. I
only ask you to forget.--Good-bye!"



       *       *       *       *       *

XXXIV

       *       *       *       *       *


The long, sleepless night which followed Marian's harrowing experience,
painful as it was, proved the most vital moment of her life. From
girlhood it had been hers to receive rather than to give. Her beauty and
vivacity had always attracted attention and homage, her positive nature
demanded and was given leadership, until she came to regard this as
natural and to be expected. To have Huntington question her judgment was
as novel as it was unpleasant, to have Merry suggest a worldliness in
her approach to life struck her as absolutely incongruous. Mrs. Thatcher
knew herself to be a competent woman, and as no one before had
questioned her ethics, she accepted the successful outcome of her
undertakings as conclusive proof that her judgment was correct.

She might pass Huntington's comment by as the expression of one who
could look at any question only from a man's standpoint, she could make
light of what Merry said on the ground that the girl knew so little of
life; but in her experience with Hamlen she had come face to face with a
mistake so real that it compelled a readjustment of her perspective. She
could harbor no resentment against him: the climax had come as the
direct result of her own error in judgment, and the responsibility
belonged to her alone. Ever since that eventful meeting in Bermuda she
had seen the battling of conflicting emotions. To her more than to any
one else should have come knowledge of the limit beyond which this
self-tortured soul could not be pressed. She had deceived herself in
regard to the reclamation; Hamlen's condition remained unchanged;
Huntington had simply developed him to a point where he had gained
better control. Beneath the deceptive smoothness of the surface still
surged the turmoil started twenty years before, seething with
unsatisfied yearnings, and kept under only by the superb strength of
will which she herself at last had broken down. Huntington had warned
her of the danger but she refused to recognize its existence. Marian
could blame no one but herself, and the fact that her intentions had
been of the best did not mitigate the tragedy she had perpetrated. This
latest buffet of the world would be conclusive evidence to Hamlen that
he had no place in its daily routine.

Marian had reached this point in her mental struggle when the most awful
thought of all suddenly came to her.

"Would the harm stop there!"

She sat bolt upright, staring ahead into the grey dawn which lighted the
chamber through the long windows. "Merciful God!" she cried aloud,--"not
that! not that!"

A moment later she sprang out of bed and threw a kimono about her. Then
she opened the window-door and passed out onto the little balcony. The
sun was just rising, and Marian unconsciously first felt the beauty of
the breaking day. It had been long since she had seen a sunrise! She
stood watching it for a brief moment, brushing back with her hand the
mass of beautiful hair which fell about her shoulders and lay against
her ashen cheeks. Then she stepped forward, and facing the East like a
Sun-worshiper of old fell upon her knees in an agony of prayer. The God
who made a world like this she supplicated, who flooded it with the
radiance of such a day, would not so punish her for a single act of
folly! Mistaken as it was, behind it all lay a desire to atone, an
effort for the happiness of others. He would not ask for retribution
such as that!

Relieved by her outburst she returned to her chamber. She must see
Huntington. He would know what to do. He would be God's agent to prevent
the awful climax. But it would be several hours before she could disturb
him, and these hours must be endured.

Huntington responded promptly to the summons when it reached him,
wondering what the occasion might be. Marian's explanation of Hamlen's
disappearance the night before had been so diplomatic that he had
accepted it, so the real story was a complete surprise. He listened
intently as she told him everything, sparing herself in no degree,
anxious only to receive from him some assurance that her fears were
unwarranted.

"You should have told me sooner," was the only criticism Huntington
made, after learning the details.

"I was completely dazed," Marian explained helplessly. "This awful
thought only came to me in the early morning. You don't think it too
late! Don't tell me that!"

"It is useless to speculate," he answered gravely. "Knowing Hamlen as we
do, and knowing how high his sense of honor, the next step seems
inevitable. He will consider that he has sinned against the woman he
loves, and will demand of himself an expiation beyond what he would
exact from any one else. I shall do my best to find him. Let us hope it
will be in time."

"Couldn't I go with you?--No, of course I couldn't,--but how can I
endure it until I know? What can I do to help?"

Huntington had risen, ready to take his motor-car which had been
summoned when first he learned the facts. There was no excitement in his
manner, but an alert readiness to undertake his duty with the least
possible delay. As Mrs. Thatcher asked the question a sternness seemed
to come into his face, but his voice was kindly as he replied.

"Whatever you tell the others," he said with decision, "Merry must know
the whole truth. There is another tragedy going on in that little girl's
soul which needs a mother's care. That is where you can help.--I shall
telephone you as soon as I have news."

As the crunching of the wheels on the gravel road died away Mrs.
Thatcher rose and went to her daughter's room. Never before had she so
promptly followed another's suggestion, but at that moment she felt an
aversion to her own judgment, and welcomed the opportunity to follow
rather than to lead.

       *       *       *       *       *

"All this mystery is getting on my nerves," Edith remarked to Cosden as
they sauntered out onto the piazza after a later breakfast. "Mr. Hamlen,
after seeming perfectly rational with us in the _bosquet_ yesterday,
rushes into the house, packs his belongings, and disappears without
saying 'good-bye' to any one. Marian, also rational when we saw her
yesterday, becomes invisible to the naked eye, and sends word she has a
headache--the first I've ever known her to have. This morning she is
down to breakfast before any one of us is up except Mr. Huntington, who
by a strange coincidence also craves an early breakfast for the first
time on record. Marian has gone up-stairs again, and our friend Monty
has motored off to Heaven knows where. Now then, what's the answer?"

"Why not accept Mrs. Thatcher's explanation until you have a better
one?" Cosden asked, drawing his chair nearer to hers.

"Because it's too fishy, and my curiosity is aroused."

"In that case I'm sure you'll find out all about it," he said smiling.

"Why aren't you interested?"

"I'm perfectly comfortable," he explained, "and so entirely satisfied
with the present company that I can spare Hamlen, Monty, and even Mrs.
Thatcher just as well as not."

"Then you're going to leave me to do the work?" she demanded. "That's
just like a man!"

"I'm glad they're gone," Cosden admitted. "It gives me just the chance
I've been waiting for: will you marry me?"

"Again?" Edith inquired.

"No; just this once."

"It would serve you right if I did!"

"I dare you to!"

"No! no! no! no!" she cried.

"Give me an option for thirty days."

"You silly!" she laughed. "For a sensible man you can be more kinds of
foolish than any one I know."

"Flattery doesn't hurt anybody unless he swallows it," Cosden retorted
complacently.

Whither their gibes would have carried them is needless to consider, for
they were interrupted by the approach of a motor-car up the driveway.

"Monty has made a quick trip," Cosden observed, "now you can satisfy
your curiosity."

"On the contrary," Edith retorted rising, "the plot thickens. That is
Harry Thatcher. What in the world has happened to send him motoring down
here at ten o'clock in the morning?"

They passed through the hallway to the _porte cochère_ on the opposite
side of the house. Thatcher was just descending from the car.

"Hello!" he greeted Edith, who was ahead. "Where's Marian?"

"Up-stairs. What brings you home at this time of day?"

"Don't disturb her yet," he exclaimed, disregarding her question. "I
want a word with Cosden first. You'll excuse us?"

Locking his arm through Cosden's Thatcher led him back onto the piazza
which the two had just left.

"What's wrong?" Cosden asked. "Market gone to pieces?"

"It's hell,--nothing less," Thatcher answered, speaking with an
excitement unnatural to him. "I left New York at four o'clock this
morning. I've come to you, Cosden, as a last resort. We've fought each
other on every deal we've ever been in, so you understand how hard I'm
pushed. If you're fixed so that you can put me next to a bunch of cold,
hard cash, you can have anything I control at a fraction of its value.
This is your chance to make your everlasting fortune if you can command
the cash."

"You don't mean it!" Cosden exclaimed. "Are you caught as bad as that?"

"Worse than that. Securities are dropping out of sight. Germany will
declare war inside of a week, and there is danger of other big nations
becoming involved. If they do, God only knows what will happen to the
money system of the world; it is strained already to the breaking-point.
You may thank Heaven, Cosden, that your investments are not in
speculative stocks! But we're losing time. I must get back by three
o'clock. Is there any chance of pulling off my forlorn hope? If not,
we'll close our doors to-morrow."

"Do you actually mean that, Thatcher?"

"Exactly that. I don't advise you to do this unless you're fixed so that
you can carry things comfortably, for I tell you we're in for a crisis;
but if you can, it's the opportunity of a lifetime, and by sacrificing
my personal interests I can save my house."

"How much do you need?"

"Half a million, in cash. I'm that much short of what I must have to see
me through. It might as well be a billion!"

"What do you offer for it?"

"Five million in Consolidated Machinery stock."

Cosden whistled and then became contemplative, while Thatcher waited
eagerly for his reply. The hesitation in itself was encouraging, for it
indicated that Cosden could raise the money if he cared to do it.

"As a matter of fact, Thatcher," Cosden said at length, "I've been
laying my pipes for just this moment ever since the trouble began, and
I'm fixed where I can handle it all right; but I don't quite like the
proposition as it stands."

"Then make your own proposition."

"I've counted on having my available cash earn me something handsome, of
course; but I don't think I'd enjoy my profits much if I got them by
cleaning you out."

"We must forget friendship and all else at a time like this," Thatcher
cried. "For God's sake, man, if you can do it, don't stand on any
foolish sentiment! It may ruin me, but my house will weather the storm.
I ask it as a favor."

"How soon must you have the money?"

"By to-morrow."

"All right; I'll give you drafts to take back to New York."

"Thank God!" Thatcher exclaimed feverishly. "And you'll take the stock?"

"No, I don't want the stock. Give me your note."

"But I haven't a dollar's worth of collateral to put up with it.
Everything I own is pledged."

"Damn the collateral! The signature will be genuine, won't it? That's
good enough for me."

"You advance it simply as a loan?"

"Of course. Now let's get the drafts fixed up, and you run back to New
York and keep your finger on the pulse of the market."

"You're sacrificing the chance of your life, Cosden," Thatcher
exclaimed. "Why should you do this for me?"

"I don't quite understand it myself," Cosden admitted; "but as long as I
want to why not make the most of it? I might change my mind."

"And we've always said you were a hard man, Cosden!" Thatcher exclaimed
with gratitude in his voice.

"I was once," he admitted; "but lately I've been getting humanized, and
anybody can slip anything over on me. Now you trot back to New York and
cable Willie Kaiser that I disapprove of his declaring war."

"You are a friend in need!" Thatcher grasped his hand cordially. "I'll
run up for a word with Marian, and then back into the vortex. Keep your
eye on the cable news, Cosden. Hell is breaking loose!"

As Thatcher rushed up-stairs Cosden relit his cigar which had gone out
during the excitement, shoved his hands into his pockets, and walked
meditatively up and down the piazza. He was immensely pleased with
himself, and felt entitled to his self-approval.

"Even old Monty couldn't have done that better," he muttered. "Good old
Thatcher--I hope it pulls him through!"

"What's the matter with Harry?" Edith demanded in a stage whisper,
appearing from nowhere.

"He forgot his umbrella yesterday," Cosden lied, speciously, "and he's
afraid it's going to rain."

"Oh, you tantalizing brute!" she cried, stamping her foot indignantly.
"I wouldn't marry you if you were the last man in the world!"



       *       *       *       *       *

XXXV

       *       *       *       *       *


Huntington's mind worked hard as he settled back in the motor-car and
surveyed the situation. It was impossible for him to have been so
intimately associated with Hamlen all these weeks without assimilating
his friend's manner of thought and action accurately enough to follow
him in this climax of his tragedy. Of his determination he had no doubt;
that he had as yet put it into execution was another matter. Huntington
believed that Hamlen would wish to see him once more before he visited
upon himself the extreme penalty which his hypersensitive nature would
decree.

It was shortly after noon when the car drew up in front of Huntington's
home. Mrs. Thatcher, in her feverish efforts to assist, had suggested
that the fugitive might have gone across to Newport to take the boat
from there to New York; but Huntington figured it differently. Hamlen
disliked and distrusted New York, while Boston had become a second home
to him. His belongings, such as he had brought with him from Bermuda,
were still in the Beacon Street house, and Huntington was sure that
following the instincts of a homing pigeon he would return there by the
straightest path.

Still, the doubt lingered with sufficient persistency to quicken
Huntington's movements up the brownstone steps. As he let himself in,
Dixon met him in the hallway.

"Mr. Hamlen,--is he here?" Huntington demanded.

"Yes, sir; he's up-stairs and very wild, sir."

"Wild?" Huntington queried. "When did he arrive?"

"Last night, sir, about ten o'clock. When I let him in he rushed past me
and went up-stairs, sir. I followed him, thinking he might need
something, but he turned on me and cursed me, sir. When I ventured to
take him some breakfast he swore at me again, and told me to get out of
the way. I'm glad you've come, sir. I was at a loss to know what to do
about luncheon."

Huntington waited to hear no more, but mounted quickly to Hamlen's room
and knocked gently on the door.

"Keep out, I tell you!" came a hoarse, guttural voice so unlike Hamlen's
that it startled him. "How many times must I tell you to leave me
alone!"

"It is I,--Huntington."

There was a sound of shuffling feet, the pushing back of a chair, and
the door was flung open.

"I knew you would come to me!" Hamlen cried, extending his hand eagerly.
"You are the one man on earth who would stand by me!"

"Of course; but you've given me a devilish shock, old man. Come
down-stairs where we can talk things over."

"Yes, we must do that," he assented, following. "My only fear was that
you might not understand, and would delay your coming. I couldn't have
waited long."

"I came as soon as I learned the facts."

"I should not have doubted. Now let us sit down."

The real shock to Huntington was that so great physical change could
take place within so short time. Hamlen seemed years older. His erect
carriage had slackened, his face was sunken, his hands and body twitched
nervously, and his eyes burned with a consuming fire. Pity filled
Huntington's heart, and he leaned over and placed his hand on his
friend's knee.

"You mustn't take it like this," he said quietly. "There is something to
be said on both sides."

Hamlen looked at him with a wan smile. "I wish there were," he said;
"but let us not speak of that. To you, at least, there is no need of
explanation. I told you what I dreaded,--well, the worst has come to
pass; that's all there is to it."

"No!" Huntington contradicted, determined that he should not bear all
the blame; "there is much more to it than that. You and I are not the
only ones who understand. Mrs. Thatcher instructed me to ask your
forgiveness for her blindness. She understands, too, Hamlen, and she
knows that she brought it on herself."

"Marian asks _my_ forgiveness!" he repeated stupefied,--"she asks me to
forgive her?"

Huntington nodded.

He pressed his hands against his temples. "My God, man! Is the world all
topsy-turvy! I forget my obligations toward my hostess, I am false to
my responsibilities as a friend, I force myself upon a married woman
whom in all honor I am bound to protect,--and she asks me to forgive
her! You are mocking me, Huntington. It is unworthy of you!"

"It is the provocation she understands, Hamlen, and having unwittingly
given it, she accepts the responsibility, as she should. I'm not sure
that I myself am not the one to blame, for I knew better than she the
forces held back only by your self-control. If I had been more insistent
in my warning all might have been different."

"That may explain, but it does not condone."

"At least it mitigates. The beaver, innocently enough, undermines a dam
in securing material to build its home, and the waters rush down to the
destruction of the surrounding country. Surely you can't blame the
waters! Nor can you seriously blame the beaver for not comprehending
those natural laws of cause and effect.--Come, Hamlen, admit there's
something in what I say, and realize that this is an accident rather
than a tragedy."

Again Hamlen tried to smile, but the expression on his face failed to
reassure.

"It would be well for me if it were you upon the bench," Hamlen said
gravely. "The prisoner at the bar would receive far more leniency than
he will from me! No, Huntington; I can admit nothing. I believed that I
reached my lowest depth before I met you all in Bermuda. I believed my
life was over,--a miserable, useless, lonely life if you will, but at
least an honest one. Then you instilled hope into my dry bones. Judgment
warned me not to listen to you, human weakness tempted me to make one
further effort to redeem myself. I came to you here. Out of the bigness
of your heart you gave me of yourself, you taught me what life really
was. I acknowledge my debt, Huntington, and am grateful to you. Don't
mistake that, my friend, in what I am going to say. The joy of the new
experience lulled me into a sense of false security. I thought myself
like other men, strong enough to hold the passionate love I have always
borne that woman down, down where no one could ever see it. That was my
arrogance, Huntington; for it, I am paying the price."

"She understands now if she never did before," Huntington reiterated.
"She felt her responsibility for your lonely years, and in trying to
atone made matters worse."

"It is not her place to protect me," Hamlen continued with conviction.
"Take your own simile, with which you try to ease my sense of shame:
even though the waters are not to be blamed, what do people do with
them? Do they let them continue on their path of destruction? No, dear
friend, your arguments are kindly meant, but untenable. I intend to put
those waters where they will do no further harm."

Huntington's face set in determined lines. "So you will dare to assume
the prerogatives of man and God?" he demanded sternly.

Hamlen had never seen Huntington in this mood, and his eyes shifted
uneasily as they met the unflinching gaze of his friend.

"There will be no scandal, Huntington," he said quietly; "I shall not
thus repay your royal hospitality. There are some matters I must turn
over to you, and as my friend I know you will accept them. Then I will
grasp your hand for the last time, thank you from the bottom of my heart
for giving me back the life I had abandoned, and pass on,--whither, it
concerns myself alone."

"What are the matters you have in mind?" Huntington asked, hoping that
some word of Hamlen's might give him inspiration.

"First, as to my property," Hamlen replied with returning confidence as
his friend showed willingness to listen. "Here is my will." He drew a
folded sheet from his pocket, on which he had written perhaps twenty
lines. "Please look it over, and tell me if it is legally drawn when the
necessary signatures are added."

Huntington took the paper, with difficulty focusing his mind upon the
written words.

"Yes," he said, looking up at length; "this document is wonderfully
simple and direct in its statements. The only possible attack upon it
would be to raise an issue as to your mental status at the time you drew
it up."

"Could any one question that?"

"Your later actions will determine," Huntington said significantly.

Hamlen laughed nervously. "Fortunately there is no one left who would
have any interest to contest.--As I told you, the bulk of my property is
now in liquid form on deposit in New York, which simplifies your work as
executor. That, you see, I want to give to Harvard."

He paused for a moment and became meditative. "How little I thought, six
months ago, that I should become a benefactor of the college I then
despised! That is your work, my friend,--making me realize my
obligation.--Hold on a minute: I want to add to that document! My
bequest shall go to Harvard as the 'William Montgomery Huntington
Foundation, given by a friend, the income to be used to foster larger
acquaintance and closer intimacy amongst the members of each freshman
class.' Make a note of that, will you? There may be other changes."

Huntington made the necessary notations. It was best to humor him until
his entire plan was outlined.

"Now, as to the estate in Bermuda," he went on. "You see what I've done
with it,--but have I been quite delicate? This whole affair, and its
outcome, will be humiliating to that sensitive little girl, and this
might be a constant reminder. I would like her to have it; she would
appreciate my trees and my flowers,--their fragrance might help her to
forget my grave offense. Then again, perhaps Marian would see in this
act an effort on my part to atone. I couldn't leave it to her, but do
you think the girl would understand my motive?"

"Better than any one I know," Huntington replied.

Hamlen seemed to have reached the end of his elaboration, and was
silent.

"How soon is this remarkable document to become operative?" Huntington
demanded.

"Six months from to-day if you do not hear from me to the contrary, or
upon receiving proof of death."

"All right," Huntington rejoined with apparent complacency. "I'll have
it drafted in proper form and you can execute it to-morrow or next day.
Now listen to me."

Hamlen looked up at him anxiously. Everything was progressing so well
that the new tone in Huntington's voice gave him apprehension.

"It is always well to have these matters provided for, and if you
haven't a will it is time you drew one up. As to the disposition of your
property, it is yours to do with as you like, and I appreciate the
compliment you have paid to me. Up to this point I have no right to
interfere."

Hamlen stiffened at the suggestion of interference. "There are limits,"
he said quietly, "even to the rights of a friendship such as ours."

"True; but we haven't begun to reach them yet. You acknowledge--don't
you?--that you still have an obligation to our Alma Mater which is
unsatisfied?"

"I think I have acknowledged that in a substantial way," Hamlen replied,
surprised.

"What can you think of an Alma Mater which would accept money in
exchange for the life of one of her sons? Do you consider her as
mercenary as that?"

"When the son has forfeited his right to life--"

"Who are you to take upon yourself the judicial ermine, Hamlen?"
Huntington said sternly. "You have years before you yet to devote to her
welfare. If you are a man, fulfil your obligations during your natural
lifetime, and then supplement your labors by the princely gift you have
in mind. If you will insist on assuming all the blame for this
regrettable affair, don't let it make you shirk your duty, but go at
life again with an added incentive to pay your debt."

"You demand of me what is beyond my strength. I can't go on."

"That is cowardice, Hamlen.--Forgive the word," he added quickly as he
saw the color mount to his friend's cheeks, "forgive the cruelty; but I
must make you see yourself."

"It takes some courage to carry through what I have in mind," he
protested.

"Not the slightest in the world," Huntington contradicted. "Just pull a
wretched little trigger, pump half an ounce of lead into your diseased
brain, and you think your troubles are over. I know the pleasures of
this world, my friend, but I am entirely ignorant of those of the next.
Let us take our chances on these when our time comes, not before. No,
Hamlen, the easy thing is to side-step our difficulties here; it is the
hard thing to stand up in our boots and say, 'Yes, I've broken your
laws, I've outraged your sensibilities; but I'm going to atone for what
I've done.' You have that strength, Hamlen, and I sha'n't let you pass
it up."

"I'm sorry I waited for you!" Hamlen retorted sullenly.

"No, you're not; for you are an honest man." It was hard for Huntington
to be brutal, but this was the moment when Hamlen must be forced to
yield if at all. "You said a moment ago that I gave you back the life
you had abandoned; then that life belongs to me. If you destroy it, you
rob me of something which is mine, and that is theft. I don't care
whether you agree with me or not, but I demand of you my property, on
which you gave up your claim. If I leave it in your hands will you
protect it for me, and deliver it to me when I am ready to make use of
it?"

This was a new idea to Hamlen, and he could not meet it. He was only
conscious that Huntington was taking full advantage of his influence
over him, and was driving him on relentlessly. He shifted his eyes
uncomfortably, and in them was bitter resentment.

"You leave me no alternative," he said helplessly. "For God's sake tell
me what you want!"

"I don't know," Huntington admitted frankly; "but for the present give
me your promise that you will stay here until I reach my decision. I
must go back to Sagamore to relieve the anxiety of those who are
suffering on your account. When I return I shall hope to have found the
solution. Have I your promise?"

Hamlen leaned forward, burying his face in his hands.

"You are too strong for me," he muttered. "I must do as you wish."

Huntington laid his hand kindly on the bowed head.



       *       *       *       *       *

XXXVI

       *       *       *       *       *


In spite of Mrs. Thatcher's watchfulness, Billy had seen Merry and met
his Waterloo. Blissfully unaware of the momentous happenings about him,
and determined to "get even" with "the Gorgon," the boy developed a plot
of his own which was perfect in conception barring one important detail:
he and Merry were to slip away in a motor-car, dash over to Fall River
to a young clergyman he knew, have the knot tied before interference was
possible, and then return to Sagamore Hall for the parental blessing.
The question of license occurred to him, but that was a mere detail
which could be arranged on the way over.

It was several days after this brilliant idea came to Billy before he
found opportunity to take Merry into his confidence, but the more he
thought it over the more strongly it appealed. The fact that she seemed
even less responsive than usual did not discourage him, for girls, he
had discovered, always act exactly contrary to their real feelings in
affairs of this kind. The details were so absurdly simple and the
outcome would be so eminently satisfactory that the possibility of
failure became more and more remote. But, as the strength of any chain
is determined by its weakest link, it was in this one omitted detail
that Billy's plan slipped up; the idea did not appeal to Merry with
sufficient force even to be given serious consideration.

As a matter of fact the boy could not have selected a less opportune
moment for presenting his forlorn hope. Merry had reached that ecstatic
height to which martyrs attain. Joan of Arc was no more zealous to
sacrifice herself to save Orléans than was Merry to pay the debt of
honor her mother owed to Hamlen. It may be that the Maid was influenced
in her heart by other motives beyond the "heavenly voices" which are
generally accredited; it may be that Merry was more susceptible to the
"call" she believed had come to her for some reason other than a
willingness for martyrdom,--but in both cases the sincerity of the
response was too genuine to be questioned. Billy's infatuated wooing
seemed to her like sacrilege, and his mad plan for elopement too
ridiculous for discussion.

"Let us be friends, dear Billy," she said to him sweetly and
gently,--"just friends, you and Philip and I. We'll always have the best
of times together, help each other over the hard places, and sympathize
with every sorrow which comes to any one of us."

"No!" he protested vigorously, kicking viciously at an inoffensive root
protruding slightly beneath his foot. "Nix on this brother and sister
game; there's nothing in it."

"I need you as a friend, Billy,--I need you this very minute!"

Billy pricked up his ears at the words and at the pathetic note in
Merry's voice; but he did not intend to be caught off his guard.

"What do you mean 'need me as a friend'? Want me to run an errand for
you? All right, off I go."

"No, Billy; I need your sympathy. We're old pals, and ought to stand by
each other."

He looked at her with a dawning understanding.

"Merry," he said, with the conviction of one who has made a great
discovery,--"you're unhappy!"

"Perhaps," she admitted; "I'm not sure."

"I knew it!" he declared with satisfaction. "You are unhappy and I know
the reason why: you're in love with me without realizing it. You're
fighting against your destiny and you don't understand what the trouble
is. That's why you are unhappy."

"No, no, Billy; that isn't it."

"Yes, it is; you take my word for it. We'll just slip it over on the
whole bunch, get married, and then you'll see. You'll be as happy as a
lark."

"Oh! Billy, I do wish you'd be serious!"

"Serious? ha! I should say I was serious! And to show you how sure I am
I'm right, I'll make you a sporting proposition: if our getting married
doesn't shake your fit of blues then we'll call the whole thing off.
What do you say?"

Merry laughed in spite of herself. "You certainly are the most
impossible boy! You speak of getting married as if it were a set of
tennis."

"It's easy enough to get a divorce. Why don't you take a chance? Come
on, be a sport!"

When he found this wooing ineffective, Billy adopted the tragic _motif_.
"Every time I think I've picked a rose," he declared disconsolately, "it
turns out to be poison ivy; and here I am, stung again!"

It was unfortunate for Billy that Merry could never take him seriously.
While the boy poured out his youthful protestations she was gentle and
considerate, but her appeal to his reason proved futile because no such
thing existed. Later, when alone, the absurdity of the situation gave
her an outlet, and she laughed quietly to herself. Poor, dear,
easy-going Billy! She would have spared him even these imaginary
heart-pangs if she could, but the real meaning of life and its
responsibilities was yet for him to learn.

Constant in the purpose to which she had consecrated herself, Merry
received her mother on that eventful morning with mind prepared to
accept the supreme test. She had been standing at the window before her
chamber door opened, looking out across the broad lawn to the wide
expanse of water sparkling in the morning sun. She had watched a stately
four-master sailing majestically by; she had watched the little pleasure
craft, darting in and out as if playing at hide and seek. The great ship
pursued its dignified course, following the track laid down for it by
the mariner's chart; the frolicsome boats went hither or thither,
whichever way the favoring wind filled their sails. The great ship by
holding steadfastly to her course would eventually reach that port
toward which she had set out, with her mission fulfilled; the little
boats would return to the moorings from which they fluttered with no
other purpose accomplished than the pleasure of the passing moment. Yes,
Merry had told herself, it was purpose which counted. She had dashed out
over and over again on brief excursions, but even her serious errands
had been undertaken because they gave her pleasure. Unless the course be
charted, unless the goal be predetermined, there could be no permanence,
no majestic dignity to any performance. The time had come when she would
permit no wavering. She would show her confidence in the experience of
the older mariner, who had plotted out the chart, by following it
without the semblance of a doubt.

"I'm ready, Momsie," she said brightly, turning toward Mrs.
Thatcher,--"why, Momsie! what's the matter? It's all right, dearie. I'm
sure we'll be very, very happy. I'm ready to see Mr. Hamlen whenever you
say. It's all right, dearie."

Mrs. Thatcher sat down wearily, and Merry slipped to the floor at her
feet, looking wonderingly up into her strained face. Marian leaned
forward impulsively and kissed her, resting her cheek against the girl's
face.

"My darling!" she said in a low, tense voice. "I have made a horrible
mistake!"

The spoken words started a flood of tears which until then Marian had
been able to restrain. The full weight of the responsibility again
rushed over her. She had dared to interfere in two lives which should
have been allowed to find their own expression, she had dared to pit her
human judgment against Nature. What would be the final outcome? With
Merry, she could not believe it would result in anything more serious
than a further confusion of ideals, but with Hamlen she knew well how
disastrous the effect must be. How could she make matters clear to this
dear child when her own brain was so bewildered!

But when the tears had relieved the tension, and Marian felt the
sympathetic encouragement of the heart beating against her own, the
mother love, as always, rose triumphant over mental and physical
limitations. During the next hours, amid confidences and revelations
which enabled each at last to understand the other, mother and daughter
experienced that rare communion which had been denied them, but which
was theirs by right. The sacrifice Merry had been ready to make
accomplished its purpose without necessity of execution; the sincerity
of her mother's purpose became clear, and the girl discovered the
natural refuge where she might always find relief from overpowering
perplexities. When they went down-stairs together, with arms around each
other, and strolled out into the rose-garden, there was a new meaning to
the sunlight and to the fragrance of the flowers. Marian saw in it a
promise that her morning supplication might not have been in vain.

       *       *       *       *       *

The telephone message from Huntington that Hamlen had been located and
that all was well relieved Marian's apprehensions, and left her with
such thankfulness and joy that she was able to join her remaining guests
in the day's activities. How all could be well she was unable to
comprehend, for the shock to Hamlen's nature must have been too great
for easy convalescence; but at all events the worst had not happened,
and until Huntington returned no further details could be obtained.
Merry, too, entered into the family life for the first time with any
show of interest. Philip and Billy, who now alone remained of Philip's
friends, annexed themselves in the absence of something better to do.
Billy was still disgruntled, but his malady seemed to be located in his
head rather than in the region of his heart.

Activity was an absolute necessity to Marian, so she announced that
instead of the usual dinner they would picnic on the shore at a spot
perhaps two miles distant from Sagamore Hall. Not that this required
physical exertion for her, but it was a novelty which would prove
diverting. As the sun sank low, the little party boarded the electric
launch.

"Excuse me for asking, Marian, but where does the picnic come in?" Edith
demanded, noting the total absence of baskets and bottles and the other
usual paraphernalia. "I don't want to criticise, but I'm no air-plant."

Marian laughed, "Have faith," she replied. "A relief train is even now
on its way to save you from starvation."

"Too bad for Huntington and Hamlen to miss all this," Cosden remarked,
hoping to call forth some word of explanation.

"If you vote it a success, we may repeat it after they return," she
answered evasively. "Perhaps then we can include Harry."

"That reminds me," Edith broke in, looking vindictively toward Cosden.
"Perhaps you will tell me why Harry rushed down here like a lost soul
and then back again to New York. Mr. Cosden is very mysterious about it,
and my curiosity is aroused."

"There isn't any mystery," Marian assured her. "There were some papers
he had forgotten to take."

"Why didn't he telephone me to bring them to him?" Philip demanded. "Why
is it he won't let me go to the office, when he promised me I could help
him as soon as college was over?"

Mrs. Thatcher looked at Cosden questioningly. "Is there anything more
than Harry told me?" she asked him.

Cosden knew that Thatcher was still trying to keep his family in
ignorance of the strain under which he was laboring. It was for him to
give such details as he chose rather than for his guest.

"I don't know how much you already know, Mrs. Thatcher," he replied with
apparent candor. "These are strenuous days in Wall Street, and no one
can tell what is going to happen next. As for you, Philip, don't be
impatient. This is no time to initiate a youngster into any business.
War is breaking loose in Europe, and if Germany and England lock horns
there will be something doing."

"War!" Philip cried. "Do you really think there will be a war?"

"The idea!" Edith sniffed. "Those little savage tribes in the Balkans
may call each other names and throw things around, but Germany and
England are civilized nations. How perfectly absurd!"

"If there is a war, I want to get in it," Philip insisted. "I've always
wanted to go to war, and never supposed I would have a chance."

"I'll go with you," announced Billy with sudden enthusiasm, looking
significantly at Merry as he saw the solution of his troubles. "I don't
care what side I'm on or against whom I fight. Let's enlist together,
Phil."

"You couldn't fight except for your own country, you silly," Merry
laughed.

"Of course I could," he insisted stoutly. "You never think I can do what
I say I can, but I'll show you. I can be a soldier of fortune like
Robert Clay, or I can be a Canadian and get shot up as much as I like."

"But this isn't in a story, Billy, and Robert Clay was. More than that,
you're no Canadian."

"Anyhow I was in Canada once."

"Don't mind Billy," Phil interrupted. "I'm really serious. There must be
some way I could get into it. You know, Mother, how much I've always
wanted to."

"Yes, my boy; I do know," Mrs. Thatcher answered. "Ever since you were
old enough to play with toys it has always been soldiers and wars. I
have thanked God that war was a horror of the past, for I know how hard
it would be to hold you back if the opportunity offered."

"If he goes, then I go with him," Billy said with decision.

"You both had better wait until war is declared by somebody against
somebody else," Cosden suggested.

"You don't think they'll patch it up, do you?" Philip inquired
anxiously.

"Let us hope so," Mrs. Thatcher answered; "but this is a pleasure
expedition. Let us banish thoughts of war."

As the launch rounded a rocky promontory a roaring fire was disclosed
burning on the beach, around which several of the house servants were
already busied in preparing supper. Back from the beach, beneath great
spreading oaks, a cloth was laid on the ground, to which the contents of
the hampers were being transferred. The usual limitations of camp life
were conspicuous by their absence, the fascinations were emphasized by
the marvelous smoothness with which everything was conducted.

"I don't call this picnicking," Edith declared, after her first taste of
chowder. "Plant a forest of trees in Sherry's ball-room, paint an ocean
on the wall, fake a moon rising over the orchestra stage, everybody sit
cross-legged on the floor,--and there you have it. Sherry certainly
couldn't improve on the service or the food."

"I can't find even an ant on mine," Billy complained, corroborating
Edith's praise.

"Champagne like this is far too good for the common people," added
Cosden turning to Mrs. Thatcher. "How did you do it? It is the
apotheosis of gipsy life, and makes me reluctant to return to
civilization."

Billy edged around until he gained a seat next to Merry. "This feast
might have been in honor of our marriage," he whispered. "It's all your
fault that I'm going to war, and if I'm shot up I'll come back and haunt
you."

"Don't, Billy!" Merry sputtered, laughing and choking,--"you'll make me
swallow this the wrong way. There--" she continued as she recovered;
"that's better. Now don't be silly or you'll spoil our fun. We are going
to be good friends always, and that's all there is to it."

"You wait. You've been lots happier since I told you that you loved me,
now haven't you? I know. You think it's a joke because you think I'm a
joke, but when once I've gone to war you'll understand. I'll bet you
even that you'll chase after me as a Red Cross nurse, and that I'll die
with my head in your lap. Do you take me?"

Phil approached near enough to put an end to the proposition without
Merry's reply.

"Do you suppose there's anything in this war talk?" he queried, sitting
down beside them.

"Not a thing," his sister replied. "That would be too absurd."

"If there is, I could at least go as a correspondent,--that is, if Dad
could spare me. I'm terribly keen about this."

"How could you work me in?" Billy demanded. "I couldn't do any newspaper
stunt."

"How about taking pictures to illustrate my articles?"

"Great! I can shoot a Kodak like anything. Then it's all settled that we
go together?"

"Suppose there isn't any war?" Merry persisted in throwing cold water
upon their plans.

Both boys looked gloomily at each other. Then Billy had an inspiration.

"If there isn't," he declared with decision, "then Phil and I will dash
over there and stir one up. We could make faces at them or do something
and get one started. That's the idea, isn't it, Phil?"

"You make me tired!" Philip retorted. "This is too serious a matter to
joke about."

As the older boy moved away disgustedly Billy again whispered to Merry.
"Phil is just as bad as you," he said disconsolately. "He doesn't know
seriousness when he sees it. Come on! Take a chance and be a sport!"

The boy's persistency was the only jarring note in the whole experience,
and the extent of that was too limited to produce lasting effect. The
picnickers watched the sun set and the moon rise, then, filled with the
calm delights which Nature so generously shared with them, and
over-satiated with the creature comforts supplied by their hostess, they
re-embarked in the launch and returned to Sagamore Hall. To their
surprise, as they walked across the great lawn to the house, they saw
some one coming down to meet them.

"Mr. Huntington has returned!" Marian cried, and she hastened toward him
in advance of the others.

"Why, Harry!" she exclaimed surprised to discover that it was her
husband. "How did you manage to get back to-night? I'm so glad to see
you!"

Cosden hurried forward, sensing important revelations in Thatcher's
return. The new-comer grasped his hand cordially, and his face even in
the moonlight showed a relief from the long strain.

"With your help, old man, I've pulled through," he whispered later. "The
stock-markets of the world are closed indefinitely. Germany and England
are straining to jump at each other's throats. The history of the world
starts revision from to-day, and now I'm going to stay down here for a
while and let other people worry!"



       *       *       *       *       *

XXXVII

       *       *       *       *       *


Knowing that his telephone message would allay Mrs. Thatcher's greatest
anxiety, Huntington made no effort to return to the shore that night,
and when morning came it was a question whether he could go at all. He
knew that Hamlen would keep his promise so long as he remained master of
himself, but the roving eyes and the twitching nerves warned Huntington
that he must not place too great reliance upon this expectation. All
through the hours of darkness, without his friend's knowledge, he
watched over him, sharing in sympathetic silence the suffering which the
tossing body endured in expressing the tortures of the mind. When
morning came at last Hamlen was quieter, but this condition was due to
the exhaustion of high fever rather than to even temporary relief.
Hastily summoning a physician, Huntington watched the examination,
becoming more and more apprehensive as the expression of concern
deepened on the doctor's face. Together they stepped into the hall,
where the doctor shook his head gravely.

"Tell me something of what led up to this," he demanded.

Huntington briefly sketched Hamlen's history, and the climax.

"It will be nip and tuck," the doctor said crisply. "His resistance is
low, but he'll probably pull through. What I'm afraid of is his reason.
We'll break this fever now, and then you must find something to interest
him outside of himself. That is his only salvation."

"I wish I thought I could," Huntington replied doubtfully. "There will
be no help from him, for the last thing he desires is to live."

"But if to live is to--"

"I know,--I shall do my best."

A week later Hamlen's life was out of danger, but at times his mental
wanderings confirmed the doctor's worst apprehensions. Yet Huntington
came to dread the depression of the saner moments more than the vagrant
hallucinations. The dramatic details of the unleashing of the war-dogs
of one nation after another should have been enough to arouse his
interest, but his only comment was, "It is a fitting end to a hollow
world, with its thin veneer of sham civilization; would to God it had
come sooner!"

Finally it seemed safe to leave the patient in the care of the trained
nurse, and Huntington made his deferred return to Sagamore Hall. Marian
had kept in touch with Hamlen's progress as well as she could over the
telephone, but there was much which her heart craved to learn more
intimately. The illness afforded a simple explanation to the other
guests of the peculiar disappearance of both men, so Huntington's
confidences needed to be told to Mrs. Thatcher alone. Still, there was
a single exception. One of the first questions Huntington asked of
Marian was whether Merry knew the whole truth, and when he learned from
both how much each had gained from their mutual confidences he insisted
that the girl hear from him the details of what had happened since.

He told his story simply, trying to spare Marian and making as light as
possible of the part which he himself had played, yet the whole-souled
devotion he had given his friend could be concealed no more than the
serious results of Mrs. Thatcher's persistency. Huntington had claimed
from him the life which would have been forfeited, promising to make
good use of it; now that it was at his disposal, what was he to do with
it? He admitted freely to Mrs. Thatcher and Merry that as yet he had
found no solution.

"This necessity of doing your splendid work over again is but one of the
results of my culpable stupidity," Marian said penitently. "When I think
of it, it seems as if I should go mad!"

Huntington rejoiced in the change which he found in Mrs. Thatcher. The
sudden view she had gained of herself was all she needed to understand
that one lack which no one could have made her see or comprehend.
Huntington felt the closer relationship between her and Merry, and he
believed the girl had found the answer to her question.

"We must forget our mistakes," he said, anxious to relieve Marian,
"except when remembering them will prevent a repetition. We all have
tried to do our full duty by this abnormal personality, and our
shortcomings should not cause us to question the sincerity of our acts."

"You are too generous," Mrs. Thatcher replied; "I shall never cease to
hold myself accountable, never!"

"Don't, Momsie!" Merry begged. "Perhaps even now we can suggest
something which will undo the harm."

"We must," Huntington said soberly. "Now, if I may finish out my visit
with you it will be a real relief after these depressing days, and we
will await the inspiration."

"We are counting on your doing so," Marian replied promptly. "It
comforts me to have you share this time with me. I can't tell Harry the
whole story yet. And Billy is waiting for you. He and Philip are crazed
by this talk of war, and are trying to find some way to get into it. Of
course it is ridiculous, but boys are irrepressible creatures. I don't
need to tell you that!"

"I'm not so sure that it is ridiculous," Huntington surprised them both
by saying. "I don't quite see where they could break into this war, but
as for Billy I believe a first-hand knowledge of these terrible
experiences would go far toward making a man of him."

"You surely wouldn't have them get into the fighting!" Mrs. Thatcher
exclaimed.

"No, not that; but there are other ways. I heard some talk of forming
ambulance squads to send to France. If they do that, I might urge
Billy's father to let him go."

"Still, there would be danger, wouldn't there?" Merry asked.

"Some, perhaps; but there is danger in the life which surrounds these
boys now. I am much concerned about Billy. Unless something happens to
shake him up he will never know what life really is. The nobility of
heroism, an every-day occurrence on the firing-line, is something which
could not fail to leave its impress on these youngsters. It is worth
thinking over."

"I couldn't let Philip go," Marian said with the old-time finality in
her voice.

"Perhaps not," Huntington replied with a significant look. "It may be
most unwise; but if Nature should seem to point strongly in that
direction we must be careful not to thwart it."

Marian flushed. "You are right, Mr. Huntington," she said with frank
understanding; "I shall be careful, you may be sure."

"Where are the boys now?" Huntington asked. "I would prefer to postpone
the discussion with them until I am rested. I'm not used to problems,
you know, and lately they seem to have concentrated themselves on me.
Help me to escape them for another hour!"

"Take Mr. Huntington down to the water-garden," Marian suggested
smiling; "no one will think of looking for you there."

"Would you like to go?" Merry asked him.

"Nothing would rest me more."

"Won't you come, Momsie?"

"No, dear; you must do the honors in my stead."

They wandered through the formal garden in silence, down the shaded
_bosquet_, and across a bit of lawn to the fresh-water garden which was
built only a little back from the shore itself. A miniature torii, from
whose crossbeam hung a replica in straw of the mystic _shimenawa_,
marked the entrance, sounding the motivation for the Oriental note
within. They passed through this and walked between the rows of Japanese
maples which formed an avenue ending in a vista of the sea. In the
moment they had transported themselves, for within the limitations
marked by the avenue of trees there was nothing to suggest anything save
the East: there were the little shrines surrounded by Oriental
flower-pots; there was a tiny lake, crossed by an arched stone bridge,
through which could be seen the luxuriant bloom of the lotus and other
rare aquatic plants, brilliant in their coloring and foliage, growing in
and out of the water and over the rocks with well-planned irregularity;
there was the lilliputian grove of dwarfed trees impudently challenging
comparison with their taller neighbors.

"I'm glad you brought me here," Huntington said as they seated
themselves upon a curiously-carved stone. "Other parts of the estate are
far more impressive, but you have no spot which appeals to me more by
virtue of its beauty."

"I love it too," the girl acknowledged. "Almost every one looks at it
once or twice and admires it, but no one seems to care to linger here as
I do. I am sure to be alone, so I come almost every day to read Lafcadio
Hearn and to dream of Nippon."

"I understand," Huntington said quietly; "and I'll warrant you find
yourself spending much of your time gazing at the surface of that little
lake."

"Yes," she exclaimed surprised; "but how do you know that, and why
should I do it?"

"It is not so mysterious, after all," he answered smiling. "I have no
psychic powers, but I know a little of the Oriental teachings: the
surface of the lake is a mirror, symbolic of illusion and reflecting our
souls, in which alone we must seek the Buddha.--But to-day it is of a
modern divinity I would prefer to speak. These have been hard weeks for
you, Merry, and I have sympathized with you."

"Why,--yes; in a way," she admitted. "But like everything else I do,
they haven't amounted to anything, have they?"

"Haven't they?" he asked pointedly. "Isn't some of that unrest gone now
that you and the dear mother understand each other?"

"Of course. That means everything to me, but again it is I who benefit.
Oh! Mr. Huntington, I want so much to do something for somebody else,
and no matter how hard I try it always turns out that I am the gainer. I
believed I had the opportunity at last, and again I was mistaken. But
this time it wasn't my fault, was it? At least I was ready to do my
part."

"Don't you know that you can't try to do something for some one else
without having it come back to you?"

"Do you expect that what you are doing for Mr. Hamlen will bring you a
reward?"

"It has already given me your friendship. Isn't that enough?"

The color came to Merry's face, and she turned her glance away. "What
can that mean to you who have so many friendships?" she asked.

"It is the friendship I value most among them all."

She looked up at him quickly, startled by the intensity of his tone.
"You can't mean that," she said. "To me it is different. You brought
into my life something which it never had and never would have had
except for you. To me your friendship is the grandest thing I know, but
what can mine mean to you? Something fine and splendid must come in
return for the months you have given Mr. Hamlen. I wish--" she hesitated
a moment but then continued bravely--"yes, I wish it might even bring
you back the girl you loved--and found too late!"

"Merry! child! what are you saying!" he cried.

"Have I hurt you again?"

"Not hurt me; but you make it hard for me to be fair to our friendship."

"Can't we be friends--because of her?"

Huntington turned to her gently, taking her hand in his. His face showed
the force of the emotion which fought for supremacy, but the calmness
with which he spoke evidenced his control.

"I have tried to be fair to our friendship," he repeated, "but you must
not misunderstand. I wonder if it would be more kind to tell you the
truth, even though it cost me what I value so."

"Don't,--please don't!" she begged.

"I fear I must," he said with decision, "no matter what it costs.
Whether this strain with Hamlen has weakened my resolve, or because the
romance of the Japanese Benten hovers over this spot and bids me speak,
I must tell you, little girl, that my friendship has only been a blind
to cover something far deeper, which I have no right to offer you. The
time has come for you to know that, for it will tell you what you are to
me. I would relinquish all I possess to turn back the years until they
gave me the right to ask you to be my wife."

She started to her feet and tried to speak, but he stopped her.

"You don't need to answer," he insisted. "I understand only too well."

"But the girl you met too late--"

"Was you, dear child! I am a generation ahead of my time; otherwise I
believe it might have been."

He smiled as he always did when deeply moved, but this time the sadness
showed through the mask. As the full comprehension of his words came to
her, Merry's color faded but she looked into his face with a woman's
candor.

"Is the difference in our ages the only reason?" she asked.

"Alas! that is enough!"

"No, no!" she cried impulsively. "You wouldn't let that stand between
us!"

"Do you realize what you are saying, Merry? It can't be that you
understand!"

"I do! I do!" she cried. "Please don't stop. Say it to me!"

He placed his arm around her and drew her to him. "Can it possibly be?"
he demanded incredulously. "Can this really have come to me?"

Merry hid her face on his shoulder. "Say it!" she insisted,
"please,--please say it!"

"Merry--child--I love you!"

Her arm crept about his neck, and then her radiant face came out from
its hiding place, and held itself ready for the consecration.



       *       *       *       *       *

XXXVIII

       *       *       *       *       *


They lingered in happy disregard of passing time, each seeming to fear
disillusionment if they deserted their magic garden. Huntington no
longer felt the oppression of the years, Merry no longer drifted from
her anchorage.

"Monty," she whispered slyly,--"dare I call you Monty?"

"If you don't, I shall call you incorrigible!"

"Monty,--who is Benten?"

She asked the question so hesitatingly, as if ashamed to admit her
ignorance, that he laughed.

"Benten?" he repeated after her. "Surely you know Benten! She is none
other than an adorable Japanese lady of antiquity who is known as the
deity of Beauty, the divinity of Love and the Goddess of Eloquence. I
have no doubt she has other attributes, but those are enough for us,
aren't they, little sweetheart?"

"Oh, Monty,--you know so much!" she sighed. "It is going to be a
terrible strain!"

She seemed very winsome in her present mood, and he smiled happily.

"The strain will be on me, dear heart," he protested. "I have assumed
wisdom all these years with no danger of being unmasked; now you will
find me out.

"I'm glad it happened here in this garden," she said contentedly. "I
seem to feel more at home in this atmosphere. Benten shall be my patron
saint from this day."

"Shall we spend our honeymoon in Japan?" he asked. "Why not keep this
setting to the end?"

She clapped her hands. "Splendid!" she cried. "That will be
Paradise;--and you'll teach me all you know about everything?"

"Why not let your Hearn teach you of Japan? He knows it all. He would
tell you, too, that Benten is also Goddess of the Sea," he pointed to
the brilliant spot of color at the end of the avenue, now made
spectacular by the radiance of the setting sun. "He would understand
why, under this influence, I could not keep from telling you my secret;
for 'is not the sea most ancient and most excellent of speakers,--the
eternal poet, chanter of that mystic hymn whose rhythm shakes the world,
whose mighty syllables no man may learn?'"

"Oh, Monty," she murmured, nestling closer to him in blissful happiness,
"please go on. To hear you talk is just like listening to a beautiful
symphony. And to think you're going to share it all with me! Let us stay
right here forever!"

"Mer-ry!" came Philip's call across the lawn.

"Uncle Mon-ty!" Billy halloed.

"There come those horrid boys," she pouted, sitting up straight. "Why
are boys, anyway?"

"You told me once that it was only when they became serious that you
worried about them," he teased her.

"They are serious now,--they've found out you're here, and they're going
to talk war with you.--I don't want to give you up even for a moment!"

"Nor I you," he whispered, as the boys were close at hand; "but we must
keep our secret a little longer."

They rose and walked up the avenue to meet them.

"Mother said to wait because you were tired, but Billy couldn't, so I
came with him," Philip explained lamely.

"I am never too tired to receive a welcome like this--"

"We want your advice," Billy interrupted.

"Won't it wait until we get to the house?"

"No," Billy insisted; "it's urgent. Phil and I want to go to the war,
and if we don't hurry they may call it off and then we'll be rooked."

"I wish there was a chance they might," Huntington said feelingly.
"There's no fear of that, boy. They are in for a long and terrible
struggle."

"Great!" cried Philip. "I've always wanted to go to war, and I never
believed there would be another."

"I'm going because I want to get shot up just to spite Merry," added
Billy, remembering his grievance and looking at the girl gloomily.

"The fact that you realize so little what you are saying is the greatest
argument you could advance in favor of your going," Huntington said,
looking at them gravely.

"I didn't mean to speak as I did," Philip replied apologetically. "It
is a terrible thing, of course, but since it has come I am crazy to be a
part of it. I believe I'll run away if Mother and Dad don't let me go!"

"I meant just what I said," Billy insisted stoutly. "Merry is very
unhappy,--haven't you noticed it?"

"Do I look so now?" she laughed at him.

"You shouldn't interrupt," he reproved her; "it isn't polite.--She
doesn't know what is the matter with her, but I do."

"What is the matter, Billy?" Huntington inquired seriously. "If I knew,
perhaps I could help her."

"Of course you could; that's why I'm telling you. She's in love with me
and she doesn't know it."

"By Jove!" Huntington exclaimed, looking at Merry's beaming face as she
walked beside him, and then at the serious features of the boy on the
other side. "I'm afraid I can't help, after all."

"Yes, you can," Billy insisted confidently. "Merry will believe anything
you tell her. Now if I go to war and get shot up she will realize her
destiny, and will come to the hospital over there somewhere and be a Red
Cross nurse, and fix me all up. Then we'll be married,--unless my wound
is fatal and I die," he added, gulping down the pathos which this
painful picture stirred within himself.

"I can't stay with you, Billy, if you harrow up my feelings like this,"
Huntington declared. "It isn't fair to take advantage of your
sympathetic old uncle."

"He's just talking in bunches, Mr. Huntington," Philip said disgustedly.
"You mustn't mind what he says. His mouth is full of mush all the time
now. I'm sick of it!"

"How about my feelings, Billy?" Merry demanded. "Have you no pity for
me?"

"Why should I?" he retorted. "It's all your fault.--Uncle Monty,
wouldn't you like to have Merry in the family?"

"I certainly would," was the frank response spoken with a sincerity
which gave the boy unbounded encouragement.

"Now you've said something!" Billy exclaimed and he turned to Merry with
a gesture of finality! "I want you in the family, Uncle Monty wants you,
Phil wants me for a brother-in-law--"

"I'm not so sure," Philip interrupted.

"Oh, yes, he does," Billy continued unabashed.--"So it's up to you. Will
you make us all happy, or will you send me to meet my fate amid the
horrors of war?"

"That'll be about all of that," Philip said, scowling. "We came out here
to talk war and not nonsense. I won't stand for it!"

"We mustn't get these two great questions confused, Billy," Huntington
said soothingly. "I have something to tell you later which may solve one
of them, and we should approach the other with a calm and judicial mind.
I haven't any right to advise you, Philip, for your mother and father
probably have definite ideas which must be respected; but if a way could
be found for Billy to have some of the experiences over there without
running too much danger, I should be inclined to throw my influence in
favor of his going."

"Hurrah!" Billy cried.

"That is all I could possibly expect, Mr. Huntington," Philip
acknowledged. "If Billy is allowed to go, I'm sure Mother and Dad will
consent."

"Very good. I promise you to look into it carefully, and Billy will keep
you posted as to the result."

"What's the other solution?" Billy asked suspiciously.

"I'll tell you later.--Now let me speak with the others. There is
nothing more for us to talk about, is there?"

"I'm sorry I spoke so lightly about the war," Philip said, grasping
Huntington's hand as they separated. "I have fighting in my blood
somewhere, and I'm so excited over it all that I forget myself
sometimes."

"War means to forget one's self at all times, my boy," Huntington
answered kindly. "With all its savagery, with all its brutal return to
primeval instincts, the sacrifices and the heroism it calls for ennoble
those who are drawn into its hideous vortex. No man can once feel this
and ever again look upon life in a small way. That is why, under certain
circumstances, I might favor Billy's desire."

"That is my second desire," Billy carefully explained; "my first is that
Merry become a member of our family."

"To that," his uncle replied, "I have already given my unqualified
approval."

The boys left them and they continued to the house. Mr. and Mrs.
Thatcher met them at the steps.

"I had begun to fear that you and Merry were lost," Marian said, after
Huntington greeted his host.

"We have been lost a long time," Huntington replied, with a meaning they
did not comprehend; "now we have indeed found ourselves."

He took Merry's hand in his and stood for a moment looking at them both.

"Would this time be inopportune," he continued, "to ask if you can spare
this little girl to some one who loves her very dearly?"

"So Billy has persuaded you to become his champion?" Mrs. Thatcher said
with some annoyance. "I didn't think Merry cared for him. He is so
irresponsible, Mr. Huntington. It is difficult to refuse anything you
ask, but couldn't the matter wait?"

"The boy isn't grown up enough to think of such things yet," Thatcher
added.

Huntington smiled quietly at the natural mistake. "It is for one who is
perhaps too far grown up I stand as champion, but I am hoping you will
not look upon that as an obstacle. I did for many months, but Merry has
a way of making one forget his years."

"You!" Marian cried.

"You don't mean it, my dear fellow!" Thatcher held out his hand
cordially.

"We children ask the parental blessing."

Merry slipped by, into her mother's arms.

"Oh! Momsie! I am happy at last!"

"You have certainly kept us in the dark!" Marian exclaimed, recovering
from her surprise.

Then the pleasure in her face changed to one of concern. "You have
loved Merry, yet stood aside these weeks?"

"I could not believe that she could care for me."

"Almost a triple tragedy!" Marian said soberly, so low that only
Huntington heard her. "Can any one ever forgive me!"

"Come, we must tell Edith and Cosden," Thatcher urged. "They are
consumed with impatience to see you."

"Let us wait until dinner," Huntington suggested. "Billy must be
considered, for the dear boy believes himself madly in love with
Merry,--even as I did once with her mother."

"Nonsense!" laughed Marian.

"It didn't seem like nonsense then, but I forgive you since you give me
this sweet child, which I know you consider a greater gift than the one
I would have asked."

"I never heard of this," Thatcher exclaimed.

"No man can marry a woman like Mrs. Thatcher without finding wrecks
along the shore."

"A very pretty remark from a son-in-law," she retorted. "I shall hold
you strictly to your loyalty!"

"Let me find Billy while you are dressing for dinner," Huntington said.
"I'll overtake you after breaking the news gently to him."

"Don't be late," Merry whispered to him in parting. "When I leave you I
shall think it all a dream."

"So it is, dear heart, but one which is sure to come true!"

Billy joined his uncle in his room, and the older man sat down beside
him on the window-seat.

"Boy," he said, "you and I have been great pals, and I want you to be
the first to know of a wonderful thing which has happened to me."

"You've beaten Mr. Cosden at golf," Billy guessed.

"It is something which will hurt you for a minute but I want you to show
how good a sport you are."

"You're not going to make me live within my allowance?"

"Merry is going to marry me."

"She isn't!" the boy cried, almost bursting into tears. "She
isn't,--she's going to marry me!"

"Steady, Billy, steady! Remember what pals we are! You wouldn't want her
to marry you if she loved some one else, would you?"

Billy quieted down, swallowing hard but saying nothing.

"Think how many years I have waited for this wonderful thing to happen.
Think how many years you have ahead of you in which to have it happen.
For it will happen to you, boy,--it must."

"But you are a woman-hater."

"No, boy,--a Merry lover! Won't you forget your infatuation and wish me
joy?"

"I shall never marry," Billy said disconsolately.

"That is what I said, twenty years ago!"

"You can't depend on girls, anyhow."

"That is what I said, twenty years ago! Won't you wish me joy? It's the
first time I've ever asked you to do anything for me."

"It's asking a whole lot."

"It is,--and the greater the gift if you give it to me."

"So Merry is really going to marry you?"

Huntington nodded his head.

"Oh, well, I suppose I shall get over it."

"Good for you, boy! And you wish me joy?"

"I can't; I'm a woman-hater now myself."

"Wish me as much joy as possible under the circumstances."

"I'll do that; but don't expect me to throw a fit in doing it."

"All right," Huntington patted him affectionately on the shoulder. "Now
run and get ready for dinner, and don't forget that I'm keeping Merry in
the family!"

"Oh! come. Don't rub it in!"

"I won't, but I'm so happy that I'm kiddish!"

"Many a married man seems contented when he's only resigned," quoted
Billy maliciously.

"Get out!" Huntington shouted, throwing a chair-pillow at the retreating
figure.

It was at dinner that the party reassembled, this time in its full
strength of numbers. The table was set in the Italian dining-porch,
which occupied the east gable, and by reason of its uniqueness formed a
charming background for the ceremony. Three of its sides were open, the
over-story being supported on columns; the plaster wall was covered with
masses of flowering and decorative plants, clinging to a lattice, and
broken in the center by a niche enclosing an old marble fountain. Edith
and Cosden greeted Huntington cordially when he came down, plying him
with questions until he begged for mercy.

"You don't show any ill effects from acting as trained nurse," Cosden
remarked; "in fact I never saw you look so well. Glad you came in time
for this farewell dinner; I'm back into the harness again to-morrow."

"I wish you could stay longer, Mr. Cosden," Marian urged.

"I'm ashamed of the length of time I have already imposed upon your
hospitality," Cosden replied; "but you must hold Edith responsible. It
takes her an eternity to get a little word of three letters out of her
mouth."

"That isn't a commodity which requires advertising," she remarked,
tossing her head.

"I'll get you yet, you little devil!" whispered Cosden.

"This dinner is epoch-making," Thatcher said seriously after they were
seated, "and the epochs divide themselves into two parts. The first one
I'm going to explain; then, as it is proper that my wife should have the
last word, Marian will tell you the second. We have with us this
evening--that's the way the toastmaster usually starts in, isn't it?--a
man whom I have known for several years, whose integrity is
unquestioned, but who has been considered by his business associates as
one who exacted his last pound of flesh."

Cosden looked quickly at Thatcher, and reddened at the pointed glance
which Edith gave him.

"A few days ago," Thatcher continued, "owing to extraordinary business
conditions, that man found the one house which he would like best to
control in a position where he could legitimately force it to accept his
own terms. I know, because that house was mine."

"Cut it out, Thatcher," Cosden growled; "this isn't an experience
meeting."

Thatcher paid no attention to him. "At this crisis, I went down on my
knees, and begged him a favor to accept a little trifle of four and a
half millions profit in exchange for saving my house and reputation."

"Harry!" Marian cried. "I've been blind to your troubles too!"

"This was his chance. He remarked coolly that he had been making plans
to take advantage of his opportunity when it came, handed me drafts
which enabled me to weather the storm, and refused to accept one penny
of the blood-money which I was only too ready to give him. That is the
way our friend Cosden collects his pound of flesh."

"Connie did that?" Huntington demanded, gratified beyond measure but
speaking lightly to cover Cosden's embarrassment. "Why, Connie,--I
thought you were a business man!"

Edith made no comment but her gaze never left Cosden's face. His
confusion was genuine, for to be made a hero in the midst of one's
friends is more than any man can stand. Marian hastened to his rescue.

"I shall tell Mr. Cosden what I think of him when we are alone," she
said gratefully. "Now let us turn from the worship of Midas to that of a
coy little divinity who may yet teach Edith to speak in words of one
syllable. Harry says that I am to have the last word. It shall be brief:
Mr. and Mrs. Henry Thatcher announce the engagement of their only
daughter to--Mr. William Montgomery Huntington."

The effect of this announcement was even more dramatic than the first.

"You sly old dog!" Cosden cried, reaching over and pummeling Huntington
on the back.

"Great work!" was Philip's congratulation, but he subsided when he saw
the expression on Billy's face.

It was epoch-making, as Thatcher had promised. The relief over the happy
solution of the business crisis, and the surprise and joy of the
announced engagement made the dinner pass from an episode into an event.
Billy's lack of enthusiasm might be easily understood and as easily
forgiven, but Edith's subdued attitude was less comprehensible. It was
only as they left the table to go out upon the piazza that she broke her
silence. She held back after Marian and Merry passed through the door
and turned to Cosden.

"Did you really do that?" she demanded.

He nodded his head sheepishly. "You see, as Monty says, I'm no kind of
business man after all."

"I think you're the greatest business genius in the world!"

"You do!" he cried. "Then why don't you follow Merry's example?"

"I might," she said smiling.



       *       *       *       *       *

XXXIX

       *       *       *       *       *


Huntington dared not extend his visit beyond a few blissful days, but
into these he crowded the full expression of his long-delayed romance.
The wonder of it never left him, the joy of it filled him with quiet
content.

The lovers watched Cosden's departure next morning, and by virtue of the
priority of their engagement, considered themselves entitled to tease
Edith who was not to leave until the following day.

"Well," Huntington remarked, as they turned back into the hallway, "as
Connie says, he usually gets what he goes after."

"Don't you think he's earned me?" Edith retaliated.

"And you him," Huntington retorted. "Everything is as it should be. You
are just the girl for him, and he will make you a husband in a thousand.
I need not tell you how cordially I have congratulated him."

"I don't think our Society proved very effective," she remarked dryly.

"On the contrary, it demonstrated its efficiency by the present most
satisfactory exceptions.--But you are giving me a great many mysteries
to explain to Merry!"

The evening before Huntington felt it necessary to return to his patient
he touched upon a subject which had been avoided.

"Mamma," he said to Mrs. Thatcher, "I think--"

"Don't you dare to call me that, Monty Huntington!" Marian exclaimed
vehemently. "If I am to go through life with a son-in-law older than I
am, at least I won't be called 'mamma'!"

"I'm trying to be respectful," Huntington explained mischievously.

"Never you mind that,--call me 'Marian.' That at least will give me the
benefit of the doubt."

"I'm sorry to mark my entrance into the family by causing
mortification," Huntington continued in mock-seriousness. "It never
occurred to me, if my prospective wife made no objections, that my age
would be offensive to her parents. But the case isn't so serious as Ned
Fordham's, is it?"

"He married Mrs. Eustis, didn't he?"

"Yes; and you remember that she has a married daughter and a small
grandchild. Ned said the idea of a ready-made family was fine, but he
thought it immoral for him to become a grandfather before he became a
father."

"Rather late for him to come to that conclusion, wasn't it?" Thatcher
laughed.

"Yes; but he found two other men in the same predicament, so the three
of them have formed a 'Society of Illegitimate Grandparents,' and now
they're looking for more members."

"Ned would joke at his own funeral!" chuckled Thatcher.

"It isn't your age I'm objecting to," Marian explained; "it's my own.
Merry's engagement makes me realize it."

"She and I are going to make you forget that you have any age at all,"
Huntington declared.--"But when you interrupted me I was going to speak
of a really important matter.--We mustn't be unmindful of poor Hamlen."

"No, indeed," Marian replied seriously. "Happiness is selfish, isn't it,
in making us temporarily forgetful? Poor Philip!"

"We are doing him no injustice," he reassured her; "in fact I think the
news I can take will please him. But I want you and Merry to go back to
Boston with me."

"Whatever you think is wise shall be done," she acquiesced, "but
wouldn't it be better for you to go ahead to prepare him for our
coming?"

"That is by far the wiser plan," Huntington assented promptly.

"Take me with you, Monty," Merry whispered; "I wish we never need be
separated again."

"Stay here, sweetheart, and plan out with the dear mother how soon that
day may be. I have been waiting too long already!"

       *       *       *       *       *

The nurse met Huntington as he entered the door, and replied to the
question his face asked sooner than his lips.

"There is a remarkable improvement," she announced cheerfully. "The
doctor was here this morning, and left word for you that the progress is
beyond his understanding."

"Splendid!" he cried. "Where shall I find Hamlen?

"In the library, Mr. Huntington; it is all I can do to persuade him to
go anywhere else."

Huntington mounted the stairs two steps at time. "Hamlen!" he cried,
"where are you?"

"Here!" a well-contained voice replied as he entered the room, "in your
library, sitting in your favorite chair, eating your food, drinking your
rum--in short, exercising every prerogative a man can assume who has
unfettered himself from worldly responsibilities, and awaits the command
of his master."

"You certainly are better," Huntington exclaimed, looking at him
critically, astonished by the tone of his remark.

"Except for my weakness," Hamlen answered, holding out his hand, "better
than I've been in all my life."

"You amaze me!" Huntington exclaimed. "I hoped for an improvement, but
this return to more than your best self--"

"I've fought the fight, my friend, and this is the result."

"It is a positive triumph!" Huntington drew a chair beside the patient,
and regarded him with an expression of mystified gratification. "What in
the world has happened?"

"You went away and gave me a chance to think," Hamlen replied seriously.
"Do you know, Huntington, I'm convinced that there ought to be a law
condemning every human being to solitary confinement for a certain
period each year, to make him think. Deprive him of his companions, his
books, his writing materials--everything, and just force him to think.
We take things so much for granted, we accept so many half-truths, we so
easily lose our sense of proportion."

"That is a capital idea, but you've done your share of it already."

"My thoughts were misdirected. You not only gave me the opportunity but
something basic on which to build. I wonder if you realize how
pitilessly you laid me bare!"

"I had no intention, my dear fellow--"

"Oh, it was right; that was the very thing which saved me. I was sincere
in feeling myself sunk in degradation, in wanting to end it all, and I
hated you for standing in my way. But when you laid claim to my life,
which I valued so slightly, I began to analyze it to discover why you
cared to have it. You have done more for me, Huntington, than any human
being ever did for a fellow-creature, and why you did it was past my
comprehension."

"We are bound by ties of a great brotherhood," Huntington explained.

"No man I ever saw before has considered them so sacred. You are an
idealist, Huntington. Your devotion to college and to college
responsibilities amounts to a fetish. But I thank God for your idealism:
it is not what college relations really are but what they ought to be!"

"I never will admit that, Hamlen."

"Of course you won't; if you did you would lose your idealism. I saw all
this, and it gave me my explanation: what you have done for me,
Huntington, you would have done for any other college man under the
same circumstances. It was not because of any claim the individual had
upon you, but rather the acknowledgment of the greater appeal made by
that brotherhood you venerate."

"No, Hamlen; you must not depreciate the appeal which your own
personality made from the first."

"I don't depreciate it,--I'm proud of it; but to understand your
idolatrous worship of the brotherhood makes it possible for me to accept
the heavy obligations under which you place me. When you left me I felt
that you must hate the sight of my haggard face, the sound of my
complaining voice, the burden of silly weakness which I foisted upon
your generous shoulders."

"I understood what lay beneath."

"You did, and to a wonderful extent; but it took me hours of bitter
fighting to understand. Then the bigness of the great central thing at
last came to me, and I recognized it. Sitting here in this chair I cried
out in my excitement. The littleness of my own previous viewpoint
overwhelmed me, and what had seemed tragedies assumed at last their
smaller proportions. The greatness of your own ideals, the claim which
the Alma Mater ought to have upon her sons, the right which the larger
world outside has to demand big things of those to whom it gives
advantages, made the petty failures of my life so insignificant that I
was ashamed to have paraded them in public. I have been lying down on my
weaknesses, Huntington, as no man ever has a right to do; but you have
seen the last of that. I'll stand up now and take my medicine, I'll pay
whatever penalty my latest indiscretion may demand, I'll practise some
of that idealism which makes you what you are, and lay the ghost which
for years has tortured me with pin-pricks."

"You give me too much credit, Hamlen," Huntington insisted firmly; "but
since you find relief in what I've said or done I rejoice in your
exaggeration."

"You claimed my life, my friend," Hamlen returned again to his earlier
statement, "and it belongs to you. In all honor, I must make it reflect
attributes which will give it value. With that accomplished, I stand
ready to make delivery; but with it you must also accept its
obligations. How will you have me pay them?"

"Your obligations are not so serious as you imagine," Huntington replied
with decision; "the only one as yet unpaid is to yourself. Had I not
seen this surprising evidence of your latent strength I should not have
believed you capable of meeting it; now I do."

"But Marian--the insult my actions gave her--"

"Forgotten, and forgiven,--if forgiveness be required."

"If I could see her once more, and she would listen to me--"

"She is coming here to see you as soon as I tell her you are strong
enough."

"Coming here?" he echoed; "I can't believe it! And the girl--can she
ever understand?"

"On that point I can reassure you with even greater certainty, for I am
to be the substitute bridegroom!"

Hamlen looked at him steadily to make sure he was in earnest.

"You are to marry Miss Thatcher?" he asked deliberately.

"The Gods have been good to me, Hamlen; they have given me the one gift
I craved."

"Then you have loved her all these weeks?"

"Since first I saw her."

"My friend!" Hamlen raised himself unsteadily in his weakness, refusing
assistance, until he stood upon his feet. Then supporting himself with
one hand, he raised the other to his forehead in salute.

"You, sir, are a great man!" he said with dramatic fervor. "You not only
possess ideals, but actually live up to them! A world that can produce
one such as you is entitled to my respect, and is a place worth living
in!"

"Cease!" Huntington cried, genuinely embarrassed by Hamlen's tribute.
"Leave me out of this, for this is your day. To rise superior to the
habit of twenty years, to let the world knock you down time after time,
and finally come up smiling with an acknowledgment that it was your
fault after all, to stand ready to pool issues with that world which you
have always considered your enemy, is an exhibition of character which
puts you so far beyond the rest of us that you couldn't see us if we
saluted you.--I thought my happiest moment came when I discovered
unexpectedly that Merry loved me; now you have taken me to heights
beyond.

"I believe you," Hamlen answered him, his voice weak from the strain of
the interview, but his eyes bright with excitement and his face
radiant,--"I believe every word you say. For one of your great
brotherhood to find himself at last means more to you than any personal
happiness,--such is the strength of the fetish! I wonder if the girl is
big enough to share you with your other idol!"

"Have no fears," Huntington laughed contentedly. "She will worship at
the shrine with devotion equal to my own, and my fellow-worshipers shall
bow the knee to her."

The nurse gave Huntington a reproving glance when she came for her
patient, but Hamlen would not permit even a suggestion that his friend
had been unmindful of his weakness.

"It's all right," he reassured her. "I know I'm excited, I know that
I've pulled too hard on my strength, but something has come to
me--inside here--which no doctor could ever give me. You'll see. Take me
away now and I'll be as docile as a child.--But, Huntington, please
telephone Marian that instead of coming to see me, I'd rather go to her.
I would prefer to tell her what I have to say down there where the trees
are cousins to my trees, and the language of the flowers can fill in the
words when I find my own speech inadequate.--She'll understand."



       *       *       *       *       *

XL

       *       *       *       *       *


It was another fortnight before the fugitive was able to return to
Sagamore Hall. Huntington telephoned, as he had promised, but he also
found it necessary to run down there himself, to explain in detail the
miracle which had happened. Mrs. Thatcher appreciated his thoughtfulness
of her, Merry expressed her full approval, and incidentally he found the
experience agreeable, so the necessity of his appearance in person was
unanimously conceded. Still, the satisfaction of this visit was
completely overshadowed by his feeling of triumph when Hamlen actually
accompanied him.

The drone of the motor-car brought Mr. and Mrs. Thatcher and Merry to
the door to greet them, for Marian wished their welcome to express to
the fullest the fact that whatever had occurred was forgotten. Hamlen
read it so, and it helped him.

"I have to move a bit slowly yet," he explained as he rose cautiously in
the tonneau. "Another month and I'll be as good as new."

They assisted him up the steps and through the hallway to a great easy
chair on the piazza beyond. Then, after a few moments of general
conversation, they left him alone with Marian.

"Isn't it wonderful?" he exclaimed with frank delight. "I'm as pleased
with myself as a kitten with two tails."

"You well may be!" she laughed at his expression, which in its nature
was eloquent of the changed mental attitude. "And our rejoicing is not
far behind yours."

"I know it; that is the most wonderful part of the whole thing. No
matter how idiotic my actions, you and Huntington have stuck right by
me, and have proved me wrong by the bigness of your hearts."

"Forget the past," Marian urged, "and start things from to-day."

"No; I wouldn't want to do that, even if I could."

He paused for a moment, and played with a tassel which fell across his
lap from the cushion she had placed in the chair.

"Of course," he said without looking up, "much of it will always seem
like a delirious dream, but after all it is the past which has given me
the present. And except for the past I should not have Huntington."

There was a wealth of feeling in his words which showed Mrs. Thatcher
how strong a hold his friend had gained upon him.

"Does he know how much he means to you, I wonder?"

Hamlen looked up quickly. "He hasn't the slightest conception," he
answered. "I have never seen a man so oblivious to the power he
exercises over others, or to the results which he obtains. He really
thinks I've come through this crisis because of some latent strength of
character, when in reality it has been the reflection of his own. He
would tell you that when I was dying of shame and mortification I took
myself by the boot-straps and pulled myself out of the abyss, and he
would never believe it was the result of the philosophy he demonstrated
by every word and act. He positively made me ashamed to do anything but
respond. And now that I am out, he has fired me with a desire to use the
years which remain in doing something for some one else. Can you wonder
that I love him?"

Marian's face reflected the pleasure his words gave her. "This is the
real Philip Hamlen I have seen behind his mask," she exclaimed; "this is
the Philip I tried in my mistaken way to rescue from the chaos of
confused ideals. I failed but Mr. Huntington succeeded; my gratitude to
him passes all bounds."

"You must take some of the credit whether you wish to or not," Hamlen
insisted. "When you invaded my Garden of Eden last winter and made those
disturbing statements, you weakened the barrier of false beliefs with
which I had surrounded myself. You could have restored the structure had
I permitted it, but I wasn't ready for it then. You were entirely right
when you said that I had forgotten the teachings of the masters I
venerated, that I was blind to the difference between the means and the
end. But, Marian--" for the first time his voice quavered--"that was
before I had a friend! Think of living all those years without a friend!
It was through your invasion that my horrible tranquillity was
disturbed; it was through you that I met the one man in all the world
who could take advantage of that condition to build a human structure
upon such ruins."

"Give me all the credit you can, Philip. I need it to help me to
forget."

"Tut! tut!" he chided her. "I may touch upon the past, but to you it is
forbidden! Through you"--he went on--"I gained my friend, and, as if to
demonstrate the philosophy he lives, in giving him to me you gained him
too; for to your daughter is assured the most wonderful of
companionships. Now, by the same token, in giving him to her, I shall
expect the reward of being admitted to full friendship in this family
whose members mean the world to me."

"We already count you one of us, Philip, and we shall accept nothing
less."

"Then am I rich in friendship!" he exclaimed. "The law of compensation
gives a greater joy of realization to one who has drifted than to him
who has lived a normal existence: such a man is spared the depths, but
he can never reach the heights."

Two duster-clad, begoggled figures burst unceremoniously through the
hallway onto the piazza where Marian and Hamlen had been scrupulously
left alone by a comprehending family.

"Well, I'm glad to find some signs of life!" cried a familiar voice.

"Edith!" Marian exclaimed. "Where on earth did you come from? And Mr.
Cosden!"

"Connie and I crept up on the house to surprise you," she explained, as
greetings were exchanged all around, "but we began to think the joke was
on us and we'd struck the morgue by mistake. Where are the people
anyhow? We can't stay but a minute."

"Here we are!" Merry answered her, and as if by magic the entire family
appeared from various directions.

"Where did you come from, where are you going, and why can't you stay
but a minute?" Huntington demanded of Cosden as he grasped his hand.

Cosden grinned and looked at Edith.

"Oh, go ahead and tell them if you want to," she remarked indifferently.
"They're sure to find it out some time, and it might as well be now."

"What in the world--" Mrs. Thatcher began.

"We're married!" Cosden announced, his face beaming with happiness and
satisfaction.

"Yes,--that's right," Edith corroborated, seeing doubt in the eager
faces peering at them, speechless with surprise. "I told you that if
once I gave Connie half a chance he'd have me packed up and shipped
before I knew it, and that's just what has happened!"

"Don't apologize," Marian laughed, kissing her. "I think you've done a
very smart thing to elope like this."

"Good heavens, Connie, I never thought of that! An elopement for me
would just be the last thing in the world! How can you call it that when
there is no one to elope from but Ricky!"

"Whatever you call it, I've got you!" Cosden declared, tapping his
pocket. "The parson gave me a perfectly good bill of sale, and it will
take some trying to break this contract. Now don't you try!"

Thatcher was the only one who rose fully to the occasion, and as a
result of his presence of mind the butler appeared with a bottle of
Pommery from which he filled the accompanying glasses. After Thatcher
proposed the toast to the happy couple, Huntington again raised his
glass to Cosden.

"Here's to Edith, God bless her!" he exclaimed.

Cosden understood, and the spirit of mischief seized him.

"How about that other toast we drank that night, Monty?"

Huntington put his arm around Merry's waist and drew her closer to him.

"It stands!" he replied with smiling defiance. "To Marian--little
Marian--God bless her!"

"You rascal! You slipped it over on me!"

"Well, good-bye, people!" Edith interrupted.

"Stay for supper," Mrs. Thatcher urged.

"No; here it is five o'clock and the wedding breakfast hasn't been
served yet. We're off!"

"It is pitiful to see you kidnapped like this," Marian teased her.

"Oh, well!" she looked slyly up into her husband's face. "Connie's not a
bad sort as men go, and I'm game to take a chance."

"Isn't she the best ever?" Cosden cried proudly. "I'm strong for the
Benedicts and the Benedictines! Hurry up, Monty,--go and do likewise!"

They were off like a whirlwind, then all returned to Hamlen on the
piazza. The two boys had stayed with him while the farewells were spoken
at the door. Billy felt a bond of sympathy at last, for he too had
suffered from the perfidy of woman! Philip was genuinely fond of
Hamlen, and the older man clung to his friendship with even greater
tenacity since this return to his normal condition.

"We are talking war," Hamlen explained to Marian as they returned to
him. "These boys are eager to see what is going on over there."

"So we've heard," she replied, smiling indulgently. "They have presented
the case to us from as many angles as a certain manufacturer has
varieties of pickles."

"It would be a wonderful object lesson," Hamlen said meditatively. "Even
to read about it makes our own troubles insignificant; what an
opportunity, if on the spot, to give out from one's own personality, and
thus demonstrate the teachings of the humanists in practical fashion!"

The idea seemed to take possession of him, and his rigid figure and set
features so clearly betrayed the workings of a strong emotion that no
one interrupted him. At length he turned abruptly.

"Huntington!" he cried.

His friend stepped quickly to his side.

"I believe this war was started especially for me!" he declared.

"For you?" Huntington echoed, surprised.

"Why isn't this my opportunity? Here I am, longing for the chance to
express myself in doing something for some one else. I haven't a tie in
the world to keep me from going over there. I have money which couldn't
be devoted to a better cause, and I speak the languages like a native."

"By Jove!" Huntington replied; "you've solved the problem! Be the first
to endow a college unit, Hamlen, and let it be for the glory of
Harvard. You can equip the outfit, select your professional corps, and
go over with it to superintend the business end. It's a capital notion!"

"I'll do it!" Hamlen said decisively. "With a definite purpose like this
ahead of me, I'll shake this weakness in no time.--How about the boys?
I'll need some chauffeurs."

"Not Philip!" Mrs. Thatcher cried.

"Let me have him, Marian?" Hamlen begged. "The personal danger will be
slight, and I don't need tell you that I'll watch over him as if he were
my own son."

She looked appealingly to her husband.

"I'd let him go," Thatcher said. "There's no chance for him to get
started in business for several months yet, and I'm grateful to Hamlen
for offering him this opportunity under such wonderful conditions."

Philip pleaded. "You won't hold out now, will you, Mother?"

"I can't," she answered soberly. "With your father's approval, and with
Mr. Hamlen's assurances, I should surely be opposing Nature, shouldn't
I?"

Her question was put to Huntington, who understood it. He smiled
approvingly.

"Good for you, little woman," he whispered. "There are times when we
must bow to something stronger than ourselves; this is one of them."

"How about me?" Billy demanded.

"I think I may promise to secure consent," Huntington assured him.

"Come on, Phil," Billy seized his chum's arm. "Let's go out in the
garage and practise on those cars."

Marian disappeared within doors to quiet the apprehensions of her
mother-heart; Thatcher drew a chair beside Hamlen's to discuss the war,
which now assumed a personal interest; Huntington and Merry quietly
slipped down the steps, and wandered through the formal garden to their
favorite retreat.

"Why not watch the sunset from the water-garden?" Merry asked.

The sun set in proper and glorious fashion into the sea at the foot of
the avenue of maple trees, but the successful completion of its task did
not suggest to the lovers a return to the house. Still they sat on the
curiously-cut stone seat, and told each other that story which is older
than the stone, and which was first told long before Benten became the
Goddess of Love. Twilight deepened into dusk, and stirred within
Huntington's mind a quotation from a kindred soul who felt as he felt,
but who couched his thought in more fitting words than he himself could
choose:

"I wonder if you love to listen to the music of the night as I do, dear
heart,--with its space, its mystery, its uplift of spirit? It is written
in the key of the ideal and in the cadence of the divine."

"Oh, Monty!" she murmured contentedly, "I do; for it is written in the
key of happiness, and in the cadence of my beloved's voice!"

"You forgive me for being too old?"

"Not too old, my darling,--just born too soon!"





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ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



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