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Title: Seven Miles to Arden
Author: Sawyer, Ruth, 1880-1970
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Seven Miles to Arden" ***

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SEVEN MILES TO ARDEN

by

RUTH SAWYER

Author of
_The Primrose Ring_

Illustrated



Harper & Brothers Publishers
New York & London

SEVEN MILES TO ARDEN

Copyright, 1915, 1916, by The Curtis Publishing Company
Copyright, 1915, 1916, by Harper & Brothers
Printed in the United States of America
Published April, 1916


       *       *       *       *       *


BOOKS BY
RUTH SAWYER

   SEVEN MILES TO ARDEN. Illustrated. Post 8vo
   THE PRIMROSE RING. Illustrated. Post 8vo

   HARPER & BROTHERS, NEW YORK

       *       *       *       *       *



 [Illustration: (See page 220)
 "Where twin oaks rustle in the wind
 There waits a lad for Rosalind"]



 _TO
 HIMSELF_

 _It leads away, at the ring o' day,
   On to the beckoning hills;
 And the throstles sing by the holy spring
   Which the Blessed Virgin fills.

 White is the road and light is the load,
   For the burden we bear together.
 Our feet beat time on the upward climb
   That ends in the purpling heather.

 There is spring in the air and everywhere
   The throb of a life new-born,
 In mating thrush and blossoming brush,
   In the hush o' the glowing morn.

 Our hearts bound free as the open sea;
   Where now is our dole o' sorrow?
 The winds have swept the tears we've wept--
   And promise a braver morrow.

 But this I pray as we go our way:
   To find the Hills o' Heather,
 And, at hush o' night, in peace to light
   Our roadside fire together._



CONTENTS


   CHAP.                                             PAGE

    I.    THE WAY OF IT                                1

    II.   A SIGN-POST POINTS TO AN ADVENTURE          12

    III.  PATSY PLAYS A PART                          25

    IV.   THE OCCUPANT OF A BALMACAAN COAT            39

    V.    A TINKER POINTS THE ROAD                    48

    VI.   AT DAY'S END                                64

    VII.  THE TINKER PLAYS A PART                     85

    VIII. WHEN TWO WERE NOT COMPANY                  106

    IX.   PATSY ACQUIRES SOME INFORMATION            121

    X.    JOSEPH JOURNEYS TO A FAR COUNTRY           139

    XI.   AND CHANCE STAGES MELODRAMA INSTEAD OF
          COMEDY                                     153

    XII.  A CHANGE OF NATIONALITY                    165

    XIII. A MESSAGE AND A MAP                        191

    XIV.  ENTER KING MIDAS                           202

    XV.   ARDEN                                      216

    XVI. THE ROAD BEGINS ALL OVER AGAIN              231



SEVEN MILES TO ARDEN



I

THE WAY OF IT


Patsy O'Connell sat on the edge of her cot in the women's free ward
of the City Hospital. She was pulling on a vagabond pair of gloves
while she mentally gathered up a somewhat doubtful, ragged lot of
prospects and stood them in a row before her for contemplation,
comparison, and a final choice. They strongly resembled the contents
of her steamer trunk, held at a respectable boarding-house in
University Square by a certain Miss Gibb for unpaid board, for these
were made up of a jumble of priceless and worthless belongings,
unmarketable because of their extremes.

She had time a-plenty for contemplation; the staff wished to see her
before she left, and the staff at that moment was consulting at the
other end of the hospital.

Properly speaking, Patsy was Patricia O'Connell, but no one had ever
been known to refer to her in that cold-blooded manner, save on the
programs of the Irish National Plays--and in the City Hospital's
register. What the City Hospital knew of Patsy was precisely what the
American public and press knew, what the National Players knew, what
the world at large knew--precisely what Patricia O'Connell had chosen
to tell--nothing more, nothing less. They had accepted her on her own
scanty terms and believed in her implicitly. There was one thing
undeniably true about her--her reality. Having established this fact
beyond a doubt, it was a simple matter to like her and trust her.

No one had ever thought it necessary to question Patsy about her
nationality; it was too obvious. Concerning her past and her family
she answered every one alike: "Sure, I was born without either. I was
found by accident, just, one morning hanging on to the thorn of a
Killarney rose-bush that happened to be growing by the Brittany
coast. They say I was found by the Physician to the King, who was
traveling past, and that's how it comes I can speak French and King's
English equally pure; although I'm not denying I prefer them both
with a bit of brogue." She always thought in Irish--straight, Donegal
Irish--with a dropping of final g's, a bur to the r's, and a "ye"
for a "you." Invariably this was her manner of speech with those she
loved, or toward whom she felt the kinship of sympathetic
understanding.

To those who pushed their inquisitiveness about ancestry to the
breaking-point Patsy blinked a pair of steely-blue eyes while she
wrinkled her forehead into a speculative frown: "Faith! I can hearken
back to Adam the same as yourselves; but if it's some one more modern
you're asking for--there's that rascal, Dan O'Connell. He's too long
dead to deny any claim I might put on him, so devil a word will I be
saying. Only--if ye should find by chance, any time, that I'd rather
fight with my wits than my fists, ye can lay that to Dan's door;
along with the stubbornness of a tinker's ass."

People had been known to pry into her religion; and on these Patsy
smiled indulgently as one does sometimes on overcurious children.
"Sure, I believe in every one--and as for a church, there's not a
place that goes by the name--synagogue, meeting-house, or
cathedral--that I can't be finding a wee bit of God waiting inside
for me. But I'll own to it, honestly, that when I'm out seeking Him,
I find Him easiest on some hilltop, with the wind blowing hard from
the sea and never a human soul in sight."

This was approximately all the world and the press knew of Patsy
O'Connell, barring the fact that she was neighboring in the twenties,
was fresh, unspoiled, and charming, and that she had played the
ingénue parts with the National Players, revealing an art that
promised a good future, should luck bring the chance. Unfortunately
this chance was not numbered among the prospects Patsy reviewed from
the edge of her hospital cot that day.

The interest of the press and the public approval of the National
Irish Players had not proved sufficient to propitiate that
iron-hearted monster, Financial Success. The company went into
bankruptcy before they had played half their bookings. Their final
curtain went down on a bit of serio-comic drama staged, impromptu, on
a North River dock, with barely enough cash in hand to pay the
company's home passage. On this occasion Patsy had missed her cue for
the first time. She had been left in the wings, so to speak; and that
night she filled the only vacant bed in the women's free ward of the
City Hospital.

It was pneumonia. Patsy had tossed about and moaned with the racking
pain of it, raving deliriously through her score or more of rôles.
She had gone dancing off with the Faery Child to the Land of Heart's
Desire; she had sat beside the bier in "The Riders to the Sea"; she
had laughed through "The Full o' Moon," and played the Fool while the
Wise Man died. The nurses and doctors had listened with open-eyed
wonder and secret enjoyment; she had allowed them to peep into a new
world too full of charm and lure to be denied; and then of a sudden
she had settled down to a silent, grim tussle with the "Gray
Brother."

This was all weeks past. It was early June now; the theatrical season
was closed for two months, with no prospects in the booking agencies
until August. In the mean time she had eight dollars, seventy-six
cents, and a crooked sixpence as available collateral; and an unpaid
board bill.

Patsy felt sorry for Miss Gibb, but she felt no shame. Boarding-house
keepers, dressmakers, bootmakers, and the like must take the risk
along with the players themselves in the matter of getting paid for
their services. If the public--who paid two dollars a seat for a
performance--failed to appear, and box-office receipts failed to
margin their salaries, it was their misfortune, not their fault; and
others had to suffer along with them. But these debts of circumstance
never troubled Patsy. She paid them when she could, and when she
could not--there was always her trunk.

The City Hospital happened to know the extent of Patsy's property; it
is their business to find out these little private matters
concerning their free patients. They had also drawn certain
conclusions from the facts that no one had come to see Patsy and that
no communications had reached her from anywhere. It looked to them as
if Patsy were down and out, to state it baldly. Now the Patsys that
come to free wards of city hospitals are very rare; and the
superintendent and staff and nurses were interested beyond the usual
limits set by their time and work and the professional hardening of
their cardiac region.

"She's not to leave here until we find out just who she's got to look
after her until she gets on her feet again, understand"--and the old
doctor tapped the palm of his left hand with his right forefinger, a
sign of important emphasis.

Therefore the day nurse had gone to summon the staff while Patsy
still sat obediently on the edge of her cot, pulling on her vagabond
gloves, reviewing her prospects, and waiting.

"My! but we'll miss you!" came the voice from the woman in the next
bed, who had been watching her regretfully for some time.

"It's my noise ye'll be missing." And Patsy smiled back at her a
winning, comrade sort of smile.

"You kind o' got us all acquainted with one another and thinkin'
about somethin' else but pains and troubles. It'll seem awful
lonesome with you gone," and the woman beyond heaved a prodigious
sigh.

"Don't ye believe it," said Patsy, with conviction. "They'll be
fetching in some one a good bit better to fill my place--ye see,
just."

"No, they won't; 'twill be another dago, likely--"

"Whist!" Patsy raised a silencing finger and looked fearsomely over
her shoulder to the bed back of her.

Its inmate lay covered to the cheek, but one could catch a glimpse of
tangled black hair and a swarthy skin. Patsy rose and went softly
over to the bed; her movement disturbed the woman, who opened dumb,
reproachful eyes.

"I'll be gone in a minute, dear; I want just to tell you how sorry I
am. But--sure--Mother Mary has it safe--and she's keeping it for ye."
She stooped and brushed the forehead with her lips, as the staff and
two of the nurses appeared.

"Faith! is it a delegation or a constabulary?" And Patsy laughed the
laugh that had made her famous from Dublin to Duluth, where the
bankruptcy had occurred.

"It's a self-appointed committee to find out just where you're going
after you leave here," said the young doctor.

Patsy eyed him quizzically. "That's not manners to ask personal
questions. But I don't mind telling ye all, confidentially, that I
haven't my mind made yet between--a reception at the Vincent
Wanderlusts'--or a musicale at the Ritz-Carlton."

"Look here, lassie"--the old doctor ruffled his beard and threw out
his chest like a mammoth pouter pigeon--"you'll have to give us a
sensible answer before we let you go one step. You know you can't
expect to get very far with that--in this city," and he tapped the
bag on her wrist significantly.

Patsy flushed crimson. For the first time in her life, to her
knowledge, the world had discovered more about her than she had
intended. Those humiliating eight dollars, seventy-six cents, and the
crooked sixpence seemed to be scorching their way through the leather
that held them. But she met the eyes looking into hers with a flinty
resistance.

"Sure, 'twould carry me a long way, I'm thinking, if I spent it by
the ha'penny bit." Then she laughed in spite of herself. "If ye don't
look for all the world like a parcel of old mother hens that have
just hatched out a brood o' wild turkeys!" She suddenly checked her
Irish--it was apt to lead her into compromising situations with
Anglo-Saxon folk, if she did not leash her tongue--and slid into
English. "You see, I really know quite a number of people
here--rather well--too."

"Why haven't they come to see you, then?" asked the day nurse,
bluntly.

Patsy eyed her with admiration. "You'd never make a press agent--or a
doctor, I'm afraid; you're too truthful."

"You see," explained the old doctor, "these friends of yours are what
we professional people term hypothetical cases. We'd like to be sure
of something real."

One of Patsy's vagabond gloves closed over the doctor's hand. "Bless
you all for your goodness! but the people are more real than you
think. Everybody believes I went back with the company and I never
bothered them with the truth, you see. I've more than one good friend
among the theatrical crowd right here; but--well, you know how it is;
if you are a bit down on your luck you keep away from your own world,
if you can. There is a girl--just about my own age--in society here.
We did a lot for her in the way of giving her a good time when she
was in Dublin, and I've seen her quite a bit over here. I'm going to
her to get something to do before the season begins. She may need a
secretary or a governess--or a--cook. Holy Saint Martin! but I can
cook!" And Patsy clasped her hands in an ecstatic appreciation of her
culinary art; it was the only one of which she was boastful.

"I'll tell you what," said the old doctor, gruffly, "we will let you
go if you will promise to come back if--if no one's at home. It's
against rules, but I'll see the superintendent keeps your bed for you
to-night."

"Thank you," said Patsy. She waved a farewell to the staff and the
ward as she went through the door. "I don't know where I'm going or
what I shall be finding, but if it's anything worth sharing I'll send
some back to you all."

The staff watched her down the corridor to the elevator.

"Gee!" exclaimed the youngest doctor, his admiration working out to
the surface. "When she's made her name I'm going to marry her."

"Oh, are you?" The voice of the old doctor took on its habitual
tartness. "Acute touch of philanthropy, what--eh?"

Patricia O'Connell swung the hospital door behind her and stepped out
into a blaze of June sunshine. "Holy Saint Patrick! but it feels
good. Now if I could be an alley cat for two months I could get along
fine."

She cast a backward look toward the granite front of the City
Hospital and her eyes grew as blue and soft as the waters of
Killarney. "Sure, cat or human, the world's a grand place to be alive
in."



II

A SIGN-POST POINTS TO AN ADVENTURE


Marjorie Schuyler sat in her own snug little den, her toy ruby
spaniel on a cushion at her feet, her lap full of samples of white,
shimmering crêpes and satins. She fingered them absent-mindedly, her
mind caught in a maze of wedding intricacies and dates, and whirled
between an ultimate choice between October and June of the following
year.

The world knew all there was to know about Marjorie Schuyler. It
could tell to a nicety who her paternal and maternal grandparents
were, back to old Peter Schuyler's time and the settling of the
Virginian Berkeleys. It could figure her income down to a paltry
hundred of the actual amount. It knew her age to the month and day.
In fact, it had kept her calendar faithfully, from her coming-out
party, through the periods of mourning for her parents and her
subsequent returns to society, through the rumors of her engagements
to half a dozen young leaders at home and abroad, down to her latest
conquest.

The last date on her calendar was the authorized announcement of her
engagement to young Burgeman. Hence the shimmering samples and the
relative values of October and June for a wedding journey.

And the world knew more than these things concerning Marjorie
Schuyler. It knew that she was beautiful, of regal bearing and
distinguished manner. An aunt lived with her, to lend dignity and
chaperonage to her position; but she managed her own affairs, social
and financial, for herself. If the world had been asked to choose a
modern prototype for the young, independent American girl of the
leisure class, it is reasonably safe to assume it would have named
Marjorie Schuyler.

As for young Burgeman, the world knew him as the Rich Man's Son. That
was the best and worst it could say of him.

"I think, Toto," said Marjorie Schuyler to her toy ruby spaniel, "it
will be June. There is only one thing you can do with October--a
church wedding, chrysanthemums, and oak leaves. But June offers so
many possible variations. Besides, that gives us both one last,
untrammeled season in town. Yes, June it is; and we'll not have to
think about these yet awhile." Whereupon she dropped the shimmering
samples into the waste-basket.

A maid pushed aside the hangings that curtained her den from the
great Schuyler library. "There's a young person giving the name of
O'Connell, asking to see you. Shall I say you are out?"

"O'Connell?" Marjorie Schuyler raised a pair of interrogatory
eyebrows. "Why--it can't be. The entire company went back weeks ago.
What is she like--small and brown, with very pink cheeks and very
blue eyes?"

The maid nodded ambiguously.

"Bring her up. I know it can't be, but--"

But it was. The next moment Marjorie Schuyler was taking a firm grip
of Patsy's shoulders while she looked down with mock disapproval at
the girl who reached barely to her shoulder.

"Patsy O'Connell! Why didn't you go home with the others--and what
have you done to your cheeks?"

Patsy attacked them with two merciless fists. "Sure, they're after
needing a pinch of north-of-Ireland wind, that's all. How's
yourself?"

Marjorie Schuyler pushed her gently into a great chair, while she
herself took a carved baronial seat opposite. The nearness of
anything so exquisitely perfect as Marjorie Schuyler, and the
comparison it was bound to suggest, would have been a conscious
ordeal for almost any other girl. But Patsy was oblivious of the
comparison--oblivious of the fact that she looked like a wood-thrush
neighboring with a bird of paradise. Her brown Norfolk suit was a
shabby affair--positively clamoring for a successor; the boyish brown
beaver--lacking feather or flower--was pulled down rakishly over her
mass of brown curls, and the vagabond gloves gave a consistent finish
to the picture. And yet there was that about Patsy which defied
comparison even with Marjorie Schuyler; moreover--a thrush sings.

"Now tell me," said Marjorie Schuyler, "where have you been all these
weeks?"

Patsy considered. "Well--I've been taking up hospital training."

"Oh, how splendid! Are you going over with the new Red Cross supply?"

Patsy shook her head. "You see, they only kept me until they had
demonstrated all they knew about lung disorders--and fresh-air
treatment, and then they dismissed me. I'm fearsome they were after
finding out I hadn't the making of a nurse."

"That's too bad! What are you going to do now?"

An amused little smile twitched at the corners of Patsy's mouth; it
acted as if it wanted to run loose all over her face. "Sure, I
haven't my mind made--quite. And yourself?"

"Oh--I?" Marjorie Schuyler leaned forward a trifle. "Did you know I
was engaged?"

"Betrothed? Holy Saint Bridget bless ye!" And the vagabond gloves
clasped the slender hands of the American prototype and gave them a
hard little squeeze. "Who's himself?"

"It's Billy Burgeman, son of _the_ Burgeman."

"Old King Midas?"

"That's a new name for him."

"It has fitted him years enough." Patsy's face sobered. "Oh, why does
money always have to mate with money? Why couldn't you have married a
poor great man--a poet, a painter, a thinker, a dreamer--some one who
ought not to be bound down by his heels to the earth for
bread-gathering or shelter-building? You could have cut the thongs
and sent him soaring--given the world another 'Prometheus Unbound.'
As for Billy Burgeman--he could have married--me," and Patsy spread
her hands in mock petition.

Marjorie Schuyler laughed. "You! That is too beautifully delicious!
Why, Patsy O'Connell, William Burgeman is the most conventional young
gentleman I have ever met in my life. You would shock him into a
semi-comatose condition in an afternoon--and, pray, what would you
do with him?"

"Sure, I'd make a man of him, that's what. His father's son might
need it, I'm thinking."

Marjorie Schuyler's face became perfectly blank for a second, then
she leaned against the baronial arms on the back of her seat, tilted
her head, and mused aloud: "I wonder just what Billy Burgeman does
lack? Sometimes I've wondered if it was not having a mother, or
growing up without brothers or sisters, or living all alone with his
father in that great, gloomy, walled-in, half-closed house. It is not
a lack of manhood--I'm sure of that; and it's not lack of caring, for
he can care a lot about some things. But what is it? I would give a
great deal to know."

"If the tales about old King Midas have a thruppence worth of truth
in them, it might be his father's meanness that's ailing him."

Marjorie Schuyler shook her head. "No; Billy's almost a prodigal. His
father says he hasn't the slightest idea of the value of money; it's
just so much beans or shells or knives or trading pelf with him;
something to exchange for what he calls the real things of life. Why,
when he was a boy--in fact, until he was almost grown--his father
couldn't trust Billy with a cent."

"Who said that--Billy or the king?"

"His father, of course. That's why he has never taken Billy into
business with him. He is making Billy win his spurs--on his own
merits; and he's not going to let him into the firm until he's worth
at least five thousand a year to some other firm. Oh, Mr. Burgeman
has excellent ideas about bringing up a son! Billy ought to amount to
a great deal."

"Meaning money or character?" inquired Patsy.

Marjorie Schuyler looked at her sharply. "Are you laughing?"

"Faith, I'm closer to weeping; 'twould be a lonesome, hard rearing
that would come to a son of King Midas, I'm thinking. I'd far rather
be the son of his gooseherd, if I had the choosing."

She leaned forward impulsively and gathered up the hands of the girl
opposite in the warm, friendly compass of those vagabond gloves. "Do
ye really love him, _cailin a'sthore_?" And this time it was her look
that was sharp.

"Why, of course I love him! What a foolish question! Why should I be
marrying him if I didn't love him? Why do you ask?"

"Because--the son of King Midas with no mother, with no one at all
but the king, growing up all alone in a gloomy old castle, with no
one trusting him, would need a great deal of love--a great, great
deal--"

"That's all right, Ellen. I'll find her for myself." It was a man's
voice, pitched overhigh; it came from somewhere beyond and below the
inclosing curtains and cut off the last of Patsy's speech.

"That's funny," said Marjorie Schuyler, rising. "There's Billy now.
I'll bring him in and let you see for yourself that he's not at all
an object of sympathy--or pity."

She disappeared into the library, leaving Patsy speculating
recklessly. They must have met just the other side of the closed
hangings, for to Patsy their voices sounded very near and close
together.

"Hello, Billy!"

"Listen, Marjorie; if a girl loves a man she ought to be willing to
trust him over a dreadful bungle until he could straighten things out
and make good again--that's true, isn't it?"

"Billy Burgeman! What do you mean?"

"Just answer my question. If a girl loves a man she'll trust him,
won't she?"

"I suppose so."

"You know she would, dear. What would the man do if she didn't?"

The voice sounded strained and unnatural in its intensity and appeal.
Patsy rose, troubled in mind, and tiptoed to the only other door in
the den.

"'Tis a grand situation for a play," she remarked, dryly, "but 'tis
a mortial poor one in real life, and I'm best out of it." She turned
the knob with eager fingers and pulled the door toward her. It opened
on a dumbwaiter shaft, empty and impressive. Patsy's expression would
have scored a hit in farce comedy. Unfortunately there was no
audience present to appreciate it here, and the prompter forgot to
ring down the curtain just then, so that Patsy stood helpless, forced
to go on hearing all that Marjorie and her leading man wished to
improvise in the way of lines.

"... I told you, _forged_--"

Patsy was tempted to put her fingers in her ears to shut out the
sound of his voice and what he was saying, but she knew even then she
would go on hearing; his voice was too vibrant, too insistent, to be
shut out.

"... my father's name for ten thousand. I took the check to the bank
myself, and cashed it; father's vice-president.... Of course the
cashier knew me.... I tell you I can't explain--not now. I've got to
get away and stay away until I've squared the thing and paid father
back."

"Billy Burgeman, did you forge that check yourself?"

"What does that matter--whether I forged it or had it forged or saw
it forged? I tell you I cashed it, knowing it was forged. Don't you
understand?"

"Yes; but if you didn't forge it, you could easily prove it; people
wouldn't have to know the rest--they are hushing up things of that
kind every day."

A silence dropped on the three like a choking, blinding fog. The two
outside the hangings must have been staring at each other, too
bewildered or shocked to speak. The one inside clutched her throat,
muttering, "If my heart keeps up this thumping, faith, he'll think
it's the police and run."

At last the voice of the man came, hushed but strained almost to
breaking. To Patsy it sounded as if he were staking his very soul in
the words, uncertain of the balance. "Marjorie, you don't understand!
I cashed that check because--because I want to take the
responsibility of it and whatever penalty comes along with it. I
don't believe father will ever tell. He's too proud; it would strike
back at him too hard. But you would have to know; he'd tell you; and
I wanted to tell you first myself. I want to go away knowing you
believe and trust me, no matter what father says about me, no matter
what every one thinks about me. I want to hear you say it--that you
will be waiting--just like this--for me to come back to when I've
squared it all off and can explain.... Why, Marjorie--Marjorie!"

Patsy waited in an agony of dread, hope, prayer--waited for the
answer she, the girl he loved, would make. It came at last, slowly,
deliberately, as if spoken, impersonally, by the foreman of a jury:

"I don't believe in you, Billy. I'm sorry, but I don't believe I
could ever trust you again. Your father has always said you couldn't
take care of money; this simply means you have got yourself into some
wretched hole, and forging your father's name was the only way out of
it. I suppose you think the circumstances, whatever they may be, have
warranted the act; but that act puts a stigma on your name which
makes it unfit for any woman to bear; and if you have any spark of
manhood left, you'll unwish the wish--you will unthink the
thought--that I would wait--or even want you--ever--to come back."

A cry--a startled, frightened cry--rang through the rooms. It did not
come from either Marjorie or her leading man. Patsy stood with a
vagabond glove pressed hard over her mouth--quite unconscious that
the cry had escaped and that there was no longer need of
muzzling--then plunged headlong through the hangings into the
library. Marjorie Schuyler was standing alone.

"Where is he--your man?"

"He's gone--and please don't call him--that!"

"Go after him--hurry--don't let him go! Don't ye understand? He
mustn't go away with no one believing in him. Tell him it's a
mistake; tell him anything--only go!"

While Patsy's tongue burred out its Irish brogue she pushed at the
tall figure in front of her--pushed with all her might. "Are ye
nailed to the floor? What's happened to your feet? For Heaven's sake,
lift them and let them take ye after him. Don't ye hear? There's the
front door slamming behind him. He'll be gone past your calling in
another minute. Dear heart alive, ye can't be meaning to let him
go--this way!"

But Marjorie Schuyler stood immovable and deaf to her pleading.
Incredulity, bewilderment, pity, and despair swept over Patsy's face
like clouds scudding over the surface of a clear lake. Then scorn
settled in her eyes.

"I'm sorry for ye, sorry for any woman that fails the man who loves
her. I don't know this son of old King Midas; I never saw him in my
life, and all I know about him is what ye told me this day and scraps
of what he had to say for himself; but I believe in him. I know he
never forged that check--or used the money for any mean use of his
own. I'd wager he's shielding some one, some one weaker than he, too
afeared to step up and say so. Why, I'd trust him across the world
and back again; and, holy Saint Patrick! I'm going after him to tell
him so."

For the second time within a few seconds Marjorie Schuyler listened
and heard the front door slam; then the goddess came to life. She
walked slowly, regally, across the library and passed between the
hangings which curtained her den. Her eyes, probably by pure chance,
glanced over the shimmering contents of the waste-basket. A little
cold smile crept to the corners of her mouth, while her chin
stiffened.

"I think, Toto," she said, addressing the toy ruby spaniel, "that it
will not be even a June wedding," and she laughed a crisp, dry little
laugh.



III

PATSY PLAYS A PART


Patsy ran down the steps of the Schuyler house, jumping the last
four. As her feet struck the pavement she looked up and down the
street for what she sought. There it was--the back of a
fast-retreating man in a Balmacaan coat of Scotch tweed and a round,
plush hat, turning the corner to Madison Avenue. Patsy groaned
inwardly when she saw the outlines of the figure; they were so
conventional, so disappointing; they lacked simplicity and
directness--two salient life principles with Patsy.

"Pshaw! What's in a back?" muttered Patsy. "He may be a man, for all
his clothes;" and she took to her heels after him.

As she reached the corner he jumped on a passing car going south.
"Tracking for the railroad station," was her mental comment, and she
looked north for the next car following; there was none. As far as
eye could see there was an unbroken stretch of track--fate seemed
strangely averse to aiding and abetting her deed.

"When in doubt, take a taxi," suggested Patsy's inner consciousness,
and she accepted the advice without argument.

She raced down two blocks and found one. "Grand Central--and
drive--like the devil!"

As the door clicked behind her her eye caught the jumping indicator,
and she smiled a grim smile. "Faith, in two-shilling jumps like that
I'll be bankrupt afore I've my hand on the tails of that coat." And
with a tired little sigh she leaned back in the corner, closed her
eyes, and relaxed her grip on mind and will and body.

A series of jerks and a final stop shook her into a thinking, acting
consciousness again; she was out of the taxi in a twinkling--with the
man paid and her eyes on the back of a Balmacaan coat and plush hat
disappearing through a doorway. She could not follow it as fast as
she had reckoned. She balanced corners with a stout, indeterminate
old gentleman who blocked her way and insisted on wavering in her
direction each time she tried to dodge him. In her haste to make up
for those precious lost seconds she upset a pair of twins belonging
to an already overburdened mother. These she righted and went dashing
on her way. Groups waylaid her; people with time to kill sauntered
in front of her; wandering, indecisive people tried to stop her for
information; and she reached the gate just as it was closing. Through
it she could see--down a discouraging length of platform--a
Balmacaaned figure disappearing into a car.

"Too late, lady; train's leaving."

It was well for Patsy that she was ignorant of the law governing
closing gates and departing trains, for the foolish and the ignorant
can sometimes achieve the impossible. She confronted the guard with a
look of unconquerable determination. "No, 'tisn't; the train guard is
still on the platform. You've got to let me through."

She emphasized the importance of it with two tight fists placed not
overgently in the center of the guard's rotundity, and accompanied by
a shove. In some miraculous fashion this accomplished it. The gate
clanged at Patsy's back instead of in her face, as she had expected.
A bell rang, a whistle tooted, and Patsy's feet clattered like mad
down the platform.

A good-natured brakeman picked her up and lifted her to the rear
platform of the last car as it drew out. That saved the day for
Patsy, for her strength and breath had gone past summoning.

"Thank you," she said, feebly, with a vagabond glove held out in
proffered fellowship. "That's the kindest thing any one has done for
me since I came over."

"Are ye--"

"Irish--same as yourself."

"How did ye know?"

"Sure, who but an Irishman would have had his wits and his heart
working at the same time?" And with a laugh Patsy left him and went
inside.

Her eye ran systematically down the rows of seats. Billy Burgeman was
not there. She passed through to the next car, and a second, and a
third. Still there was no back she could identify as belonging to the
man she was pursuing.

She was crossing a fourth platform when she ran into the conductor,
who barred her way. "Smoking-car ahead, lady; this is the last of the
passenger-coaches."

Patsy had it on the end of her tongue to say she preferred
smoking-cars, intending to duck simultaneously under the conductor's
arm and enter, willy-nilly. But the words rolled no farther than the
tongue's edge. She turned obediently back, re-entering the car and
taking the first seat by the door. For this her memory was
responsible. It had spun the day's events before her like a roulette
wheel, stopping precisely at the remark of Marjorie Schuyler's
concerning William Burgeman: "He's the most conventional young
gentleman I ever saw in my life. Why, you would shock--"

A strange young woman doling out consolation to him in a smoking-car
would be anything but a dramatic success; Patsy felt this all too
keenly. He was decidedly not of her world or the men and women she
knew, who gave help when the need came regardless of time, place,
acquaintanceship, or sex.

"Faith, he's the kind that will expect an introduction first, and a
month or two of tangoing, tea-drinking, and tennis-playing; after
which, if I ask his permission, he might consider it proper--" Patsy
groaned. "Oh, I hate the man already!"

"Ticket!"

"Ticket? What for?"

"What for? Do you think this is a joy ride?" The conductor radiated
sarcasm.

Patsy crimsoned. "I haven't mine. I--I was to--meet my--aunt--who had
the ticket--and--she must have missed the train."

"Where are you going?"

"I--I--Why, I was telling--My aunt had the tickets. How would I know
where I was going without the tickets?"

The conductor snorted.

Patsy looked hard at him and knew the time had come for wits--good,
sharp O'Connell wits. She smiled coaxingly. "It sounds so stupid,
but, you see, I haven't an idea where I am going. I was to meet my
aunt and go down with her to her summer place. I--I can't remember
the name." Her mouth drooped for the fraction of a second, then she
brightened all over. "I know what I can do--very probably she missed
the train because she expects to be at the station to meet me--I can
look out each time the train stops, and when I see her I can get off.
That makes it all right, doesn't it?" And she smiled in open
confidence as a sacrificial maiden might have propitiated the dragon.

But it was not reciprocated. He eyed her scornfully. "And who pays
for the ticket?"

"Oh!" Patsy caught her breath; then she sent it bubbling forth in a
contagious laugh. "I do--of course. I'll take a ticket to--just name
over the stations, please?"

The conductor growled them forth: "Hampden, Forestview, Hainsville,
Dartmouth, Hudson, Arden, Brambleside, Mayberry, Greyfriars--"

"What's that last--Greyfriars? I'll take a ticket to Greyfriars." She
said it after the same fashion she might have used in ordering a
mutton chop at a restaurant, and handed the conductor a bill.

When he had given her the change and passed on, still disgruntled,
Patsy allowed herself what she called a "temporary attack of private
prostration."

"Idiot!" she groaned in self-address. "Ye are the biggest fool in two
continents; and the Lord knows what Dan would be thinking of ye if he
were topside o' green earth to hear." Whereupon she gripped one
vagabond glove with the other--in fellow misery; and for the second
time that afternoon her eyes closed with sheer exhaustion.

       *       *       *       *       *

The train rumbled on. Each time it stopped Patsy watched the doorway
and the window beside her for sight of her quarry; each time it
started again she sighed inwardly with relief, glad of another
furlough from a mission which was fast growing appalling. She had
long since ceased to be interested in Billy Burgeman as an
individual. He had shrunk into an abstract sense of duty, and as such
failed to appeal or convince. But as her interest waned, her
determination waxed; she would get him and tell him what she had come
for, if it took a year and a day and shocked him into complete
oblivion.

She was saying this to herself for the hundredth time, adding for
spice--and artistic finish--"After that--the devil take him!" when
the train pulled away from another station. She had already satisfied
herself that he was not among the leaving passengers. But suddenly
something familiar in a solitary figure standing at the far end of
the gravel embankment caught her eye; it was back toward her, and in
the quick passing and the gathering dusk she could make out dim
outlines only. But those outlines were unmistakable, unforgetable.

"A million curses on the house of Burgeman!" quoth Patsy. "Well,
there's naught for it but to get off at the next station and go
back."

The conductor watched her get off with a distinct feeling of relief.
He had very much feared she was not a responsible person and in no
mental position to be traveling alone. Her departure cleared him of
all uneasiness and obligation and he settled down to his business
with an unburdened mind. Not so Patsy. She blinked at the vanishing
train and then at her empty hands, with the nearest she had ever come
in her life to utter, abject despair. She had left her bag in the
car!

When articulate thinking was possible she remarked, acridly, "Ye need
a baby nurse to mind ye, Patricia O'Connell; and I'm not sure but ye
need a perambulator as well." She gave a tired little stretch to her
body and rubbed her eyes. "I feel as if this was all a silly play and
I was cast for the part of an Irish simpleton; a low-comedy
burlesque--that ye'd swear never happened in real life outside of
the county asylums."

A headlight raced down the track toward her and the city, and she
gathered up what was left of her scattered wits. As the train slowed
up she stepped into the shadows, and her eye fell on the open
baggage-car. She smiled grimly. "Faith! I have a notion I like
brakemen and baggagemen better than conductors."

And so it came to pass as the train started that the baggageman, who
happened to be standing in the doorway, was somewhat startled to see
a small figure come racing toward it out of the dusk and land
sprawling on the floor beside him.

"A girl tramp!" he ejaculated in amazement and disgust, and then, as
he helped her to her feet, "Don't you know you're breaking the law?"

She laughed. "From the feelings, I thought it was something else."
She sobered and turned on him fiercely. "I want ye to understand I've
paid my fare on the train out, which entitled me to one continuous
passage--_with my trunk_. Well, I'm returning--_as my trunk_, I'll
take up no more room and I'll ask no more privileges."

"That may sound sensible, but it's not law," and the man grinned
broadly. "I'm sorry, miss, but off you go at the next station."

"All right," agreed Patsy; "only please don't argue. Sure, I'm sick
entirely of arguing."

She dropped down on a trunk and buried her face in her hands. The
baggageman watched her, hypnotized with curiosity and wonder. At the
next station he helped her to drop through the opening she had
entered, and called a shamefaced "good-by" after her in the dusk.

She hunted up the station-agent and received scanty encouragement:
Very likely he had seen such a man; there were many of that
description getting off every day. They generally went to the
Inn--Brambleside Inn. The season was just open and society people
were beginning to come. No, there was no conveyance. The Inn's 'buses
did not meet any train after the six-thirty from town, unless ordered
especially by guests. Was she expected?

Patsy was about to shake her head when a roadster swung around the
corner of the station and came to a dead stop in front of where she
and the station-master were standing.

The driver peered at her through his goggles in a questioning,
hesitating manner. "Is this--are you Miss St. Regis?" he finally
asked.

"Miriam St. Regis?" Patsy intended it for a question, realizing even
as she spoke the absurdity of inquiring the name of an English
actress at such a place.

But the driver took it for a statement of identity. "Yes, of course,
Miss Miriam St. Regis. Mr. Blake made a mistake and thought because
your box came from town you'd be coming that way. It wasn't until
your manager, Mr. Travis, telephoned half an hour ago that he
realized you'd be on that southbound train. Awfully sorry to have
kept you waiting. Step right in, please."

Whereupon the driver removed himself from the roadster, assisted her
to a seat, covered her with a rug--for early June evenings can be
rather sharp--and the next moment Patsy found herself tearing down a
stretch of country road with the purr of a motor as music to her
ears.

"Sure, I don't know who wrote the play and starred me in it," she
mused, dreamily, "but he certainly knows how to handle situations."

For the space of a few breaths she gave herself over completely to
the luxury of bodily comfort and mental inertia. It seemed as if she
would have been content to keep on whirling into an eternity of
darkness--with a destination so remote, and a mission so obscure, as
not to be of the slightest disturbance to her immediate
consciousness. All she asked of fate that moment was the blessedness
of nothing; and for answer--her mind was jerked back ruthlessly to
the curse of more complexities.

The lights of a large building in the distance reminded her there was
more work for her wits before her and no time to lose. "I must
think--think--think, and it grows harder every minute. If Miriam St.
Regis is coming here, it means, like as not, she's filling in between
seasons, entertaining. Well, until she comes, they're all hearty
welcome to the mistake they've made. And afterward--troth! there'll
be a corner in her room for me the night, or Saint Michael's a
sinner; either way, 'tis all right."

The driver unbundled her and helped her out as courteously as he had
helped her in. He led the way across a broad veranda to the main
entrance, and there she fell behind him as he pushed open the great
swinging door.

"Oh, that you, Masters? Did Miss St. Regis come?"

"Sure thing, sir; she's right here."

The next moment Patsy stood in a blaze of lights between a personally
conducting chauffeur and a pompous hotel manager, who looked down
upon her with distrustful scrutiny. She was wholly aware of every
inch of her appearance--the shabbiness of her brown Norfolk suit,
the rakishness of her boyish brown beaver hat, and the vagabond
gloves. But of what value is the precedent of having been found
hanging on the thorn of a Killarney rose-bush by the Physician to
the King, of what value is the knowledge of past kinship with a
certain Dan O'Connell, if one allows a little matter of clothes to
spoil one's entrance and murder one's lines?

The blood came flushing back into Patsy's cheeks, turning them the
color of thorn bloom, and her eyes deepened to the blue of Killarney,
sparkling as when the sun goes a-dancing. She smiled--a fresh,
radiant, witching smile upon that clay lump of commercialism--until
she saw his appraisement of her treble its original figure.

Then she said, sweetly: "I have had rather a hard time getting here,
Mr. Blake; making connections in your country is not always as simple
as one might expect. My room, please." And with an air of a grand
duchess Patsy O'Connell, late of the Irish National Players, Dublin,
and later of the women's free ward of the City Hospital, led the way
across one of the most brilliant summer hotel foyers in America.

As she entered the elevator a young man stepped out--a young man with
a small, blond, persevering mustache, a rather thin, esthetic,
melancholy face, and a myopic squint. He wore a Balmacaan of Scotch
tweed and carried a round, plush hat.

Patsy turned to the bell-boy. "Did that man arrive to-night?"

"Yes, miss; I took him up."

"What is his name--do you know?"

"Can't say, miss. I'll find out, if you like."

"There is no need. I rather think I know it myself." And under her
breath she ejaculated, "Saint Peter deliver us!"



IV

THE OCCUPANT OF A BALMACAAN COAT


Safe in her room, with the door closed and locked, Patsy stood
transfixed before a trunk--likewise closed and locked.

"Thank Heaven for many blessings!" she said, fervently. "Thank Heaven
Miriam St. Regis has worn wigs of every conceivable color and style
on the stage, so there is small chance of any one here knowing the
real color of her hair. Thank Heaven she's given to missing her
engagements and not wiring about it until the next day. Thank Heaven
I've played with her long enough to imitate her mannerisms, and know
her well enough to explain away the night, if the need ever comes.
Thank Heaven that George Travis is an old friend and can help out, if
I fail. Thank Heaven for all of these! But, holy Saint Patrick! how
will I ever be getting inside that box?"

On the heels of her fervor came an inspiration. Off came her gloves
and hat, off came coat and skirt, blouse and shoes, and into the
closet they all went. For, whereas Patsy could carry off her
shabbiness before masculine eyes, she had neither the desire nor the
fortitude to brave the keener, more critical gaze of her own sex. It
was always for the women that Patsy dressed, and above all else did
she stand in awe of the opinion of the hotel chambermaid, going down
in tottering submission before it. Unlocking her door, she rang the
bell; then crept in between the covers of her bed, drawing them up
about her.

The chambermaid came and Patsy ordered the housekeeper. The
housekeeper came and Patsy explained to her the loss of her bag--the
loss of the keys was only implied; it was a part of Patsy's creed of
life never to lie unless cornered. She further implied that she was
entertaining no worry, as a well-appointed hotel always carried a
bunch of skeleton trunk keys for the convenience of their guests.

Patsy's inspiration worked to perfection. In a few minutes the Inn
had proved itself a well-appointed hostelry, and the trunk stood open
before her. Alone again, she slipped out of bed--to lock the door and
investigate. A wistaria lounging-robe was on in a twinkling, with
quilted slippers to match. Then Patsy's eager fingers drew forth a
dark emerald velvet, with bodice and panniers of gold lace, and she
clasped it ecstatically in her arms.

"Miriam always had divine taste, but the faeries must have guided her
hand for the choosing of this. Sure, I'd be feeling like a king's
daughter if I wasn't so weak and heartsick. I feel more like a young
gosling that some one has coaxed out of its shell a day too soon. Is
it the effect of Billy Burgeman, I wonder, or the left-overs from the
City Hospital, or an overdose of foolishness--or hunger, just?"

"Miss St. Regis" dined in her own room, and she dined like a king's
daughter, with an appetite whetted by weeks of convalescing, charity
fare. Even the possible appearance at any minute of her original self
offered no terrors for her in the presence of such a soul-satisfying,
hunger-appeasing feast.

       *       *       *       *       *

At nine-thirty that evening, when the manager sent the hall-boy to
call her, she looked every inch the king's daughter she had dined.
The hall-boy, accustomed to "creations," gave her a frank stare of
admiration, which Patsy noted out of the tail of her eye.

She was ravishing. The green and gold brought out the tawny red glint
of her hair, which was bound with two gold bands about the head,
ending in tiny emerald clasps over the barely discoverable tips of
her ears; little gold shoes twinkled in and out of the clinging green
as she walked.

"Faith! I feel like a whiff of Old Ireland herself," was Patsy
O'Connell's subconscious comment as "Miss St. Regis" crossed the
stage; and something of the feeling must have been wafted across the
footlights to the audience, for it drew in its breath with a little
gasp of genuine appreciation.

She heard it and was grateful for the few seconds it gave her to look
at the program the manager had handed her as she was entering. It had
never occurred to her that Miss St. Regis might arrange her program
beforehand, that the audience might be expecting something definite
and desired in the form of entertainment. It took all the control of
a well-ordered Irish head to keep her from bolting for the little
stage door after one glance at the paper. Her eye had caught the
impersonation of two American actresses she had never seen, the
reading of a Hawaiian love poem she had never heard of, and scenes
from two plays she had never read. It was all too deliciously,
absurdly horrible for words; and then Patsy O'Connell geared up her
wits, as any true kinswoman of Dan's should.

In a flash there came back to her what the company had done once
when they were playing one-night stands and the wrong scenery had
come for the play advertised. It was worth trying here.

"Dear people," said Patsy O'Connell-St. Regis, smiling at the
audience as one friend to another, "I have had so many requests from
among you--since I made out my program--to give instead an evening of
old Irish tales, that I have--capitulated; you shall have your wish."

The almost unbelievable applause that greeted her tempted her to
further wickedness. "Very few people seem ever to remember that I had
an Irish grandfather, Denis St. Regis, and that I like once in a
while to be getting back to the sod."

There was something so hypnotic in her intimacy--this taking of every
one into her confidence--that one budding youth forgot himself
entirely and naïvely remarked, "It's a long way to Tipperary."

That clinched her success. She might have chanted "Old King Cole" and
reaped a houseful of applause. As it was, she turned faery child and
led them all forth to the Land of Faery--a world that neighbored so
close to the real with her that long ago she had acquired the habit
of carrying a good bit of it about with her wherever she went. It was
small wonder, therefore, that, at the end of the evening, when she
fixed upon a certain young man in the audience--a man with a
persevering mustache, an esthetic face, and a melancholy, myopic
squint--and told the last tale to him direct, that he felt called
upon to go to her as she came down the steps into the ball-room and
express his abject, worshipful admiration.

"That's all right," Patsy cut him short, "but--but--it would sound so
much nicer outside, somewhere in the moonlight--away from everybody.
Wouldn't it, now?"

This sudden amending of matter-of-factness with arch coquetry would
have sounded highly amusing to ears less self-atuned than the
erstwhile wearer of the Balmacaan. But he heard in it only the
flattering tribute to a man chosen of men; and the hand that reached
for Patsy's was almost masterful.

"Oh, would you really?" he asked, and he almost broke his melancholy
with a smile.

"It must be my clothes," was her mental comment as he led her away;
"they've gone to my own head; it's not altogether strange they've
touched his a bit. But for a man who's forged his father's name and
lost the girl he loved and then plunged into mortal despair, he's
convalescing terribly fast."

They had reached a quiet corner of the veranda. Patsy dropped into a
chair, while her companion leaned against a near-by railing and
looked down at her with something very like a soulful expression.

"I might have known all along," Patsy was thinking, "that a back like
that would have a front like this. Sure, ye couldn't get a real man
to dress in knee-length petticoats." And then, to settle all doubts,
she faced him with grim determination. "I let you bring me here
because I had something to say to you. But first of all, did you come
down here to-night on that five-something train from New York?"

The man nodded.

"Did you get to the train by a Madison Avenue car, taken from the
corner of Seventy-seventh Street, maybe?"

"Why, how did you know?" The melancholy was giving place to rather
pleased curiosity.

"How do I know!" Patsy glared at him. "I know because I've followed
you every inch of the way--followed you to tell you I believed in
you--you--you!" and her voice broke with a groan.

"Oh, I say, that was awfully good of you." This time the smile had
right of way, and such a flattered, self-conscious smile as it was!
"You know everybody takes me rather as a joke."

"Joke!" Patsy's eyes blazed. "Well, you're the most serious,
impossible joke I ever met this side of London. Why, a person would
have to dynamite his sense of humor to appreciate you."

"I don't think I understand." He felt about in his waistcoat pocket
and drew forth a monocle, which he adjusted carefully. "Would you
mind saying that again?"

Patsy's hands dropped helplessly to her lap. "I couldn't--only, after
a woman has trailed a man she doesn't know across a country she
doesn't know to a place she doesn't know--and without a wardrobe
trunk, a letter of credit, or a maid, just to tell him she believes
in him, he becomes the most tragically serious thing that ever
happened to her in all her life."

"Oh, I say, I always thought they were pretty good; but I never
thought any one would appreciate my poetry like that."

"Poetry! Do you--do that, too?"

"That's all I do. I am devoting my life to it; that's why my family
take me a little--flippantly."

A faint streak of hope shot through Patsy's mind. "Would you mind
telling me your name?"

"Why, I thought you knew. I thought you said that was why you
wanted to--to--Hang it all! my name's Peterson-Jones--Wilfred
Peterson-Jones."

Patsy was on her feet, clasping her hands in a shameless burst of
emotion while she dropped into her own tongue. "Oh, that's a
beautiful name--a grand name! Don't ye ever be changing it! And don't
ye ever give up writing poetry; it's a beautiful pastime for any man
by that name. But what--what, in the name of Saint Columkill, ever
happened to Billy Burgeman!"

"Billy Burgeman? Why, he came down on the train with me and went back
to Arden."

Patsy threw back her head and laughed--laughed until she almost
feared she could not stop laughing. And then she suddenly became
conscious of the pompous manager standing beside her, a yellow sheet
of paper in his hand.

"Will you kindly explain what this means?" and he slapped the paper
viciously.

"I'll try to," said Patsy; "but will you tell me just one thing
first? How far is it to Arden?"

"Arden? It's seven miles to Arden. But what's that got to do with
this? This is a wire from Miss St. Regis, saying she is ill and will
be unable to fill her engagement here to-night! Now, who are you?"

"I? Why, I'm her understudy, of course--and--I'm--so happy--"
Whereupon Patricia O'Connell, late of the Irish National Players and
later of the women's free ward of the City Hospital, crumpled up on
the veranda floor in a dead faint.



V

A TINKER POINTS THE ROAD


The Brambleside Inn lost one of its guests at an inconceivably early
hour the morning after Patsy O'Connell unexpectedly filled Miss St.
Regis's engagement there. The guest departed by way of the
second-floor piazza and a fire-escape, and not even the night
watchman saw her go. But it was not until she had put a mile or more
of open country between herself and the Inn that Patsy indulged in
the freedom of a long breath.

"After this I'll keep away from inns and such like; 'tis too
wit-racking to make it anyways comfortable. I feel now as if I'd been
caught lifting the crown jewels, instead of giving a hundred-guinea
performance for the price of a night's bed and board and coming away
as poor as a tinker's ass."

A smile caught at the corners of her mouth--a twitching, memory
smile. She was thinking of the note she had left folded in with the
green-and-gold gown in Miriam St. Regis's trunk. In it she had
stated her payment of one Irish grandfather by the name of Denis--in
return for the loan of the dress--and had hoped that Miriam would
find him handy on future public occasions. Patsy could not forbear
chuckling outright--the picture of anything so unmitigatedly British
as Miriam St. Regis with an Irish ancestor trailing after her for the
rest of her career was too entrancing.

An early morning wind was blowing fresh from the clover-fields,
rose-gardens, and new-leafed black birch and sassafras. Such a
well-kept, clean world of open country it looked to Patsy as her eye
followed the road before her, on to the greening meadows and wooded
slopes, that her heart joined the chorus of song-sparrow and
meadow-lark, who sang from the sheer gladness of being a live part of
it all.

She sighed, not knowing it. "Faith! I'm wishing 'twas more nor seven
miles to Arden. I'd like to be following the road for days and days,
and keeping the length of it between Billy Burgeman and myself."

Starting before the country was astir, she had met no one of whom she
could inquire the way. A less adventuresome soul than Patsy might
have sat herself down and waited for direction; but that would have
meant wasting minutes--precious minutes before the dawn should break
and she should be no longer sole possessor of the road and the world
that bounded it. So Patsy chose the way for herself--content that it
would lead her to her destination in the end. The joy of true
vagabondage was rampant within her: there was the road, urging her
like an impatient comrade to be gone; there was her errand of
good-will giving purpose to her journey; and the facts that she was
homeless, penniless, breakfastless, a stranger in a strange country,
mattered not a whit. So thoroughly had she always believed in good
fortune that somehow she always managed to find it; and out of this
she had evolved her philosophy of life.

"Ye see, 'tis this way," she would say; "the world is much like a
great cat--with claws to hide or use, as the notion takes it. If ye
kick and slap at it, 'twill hump its back and scratch at ye--sure as
fate; but if ye are wise and a bit patient ye can have it coaxed and
smoothed down till it's purring to make room for ye at any
hearthside. And there's another thing it's well to remember--that
folks are folks the world over, whether they are wearing your dress
and speaking your tongue or another's."

And as Patsy was blessed in the matter of philosophy--so was she
blessed in the matter of possessions. She did not have to own things
to possess them.

There was no doubt but that Patsy had a larger share of the world
than many who could reckon their estates in acreage or who owned so
many miles of fenced-off property. She held a mortgage on every inch
of free roadway, rugged hilltop, or virgin forest her feet crossed.
She claimed squatters' rights on every bit of shaded pasture, or
sunlit glade, or singing brook her heart rejoiced in. In other words,
everything outside of walls and fences belonged to her by virtue of
her vagabondage; and she had often found herself pitying the narrow
folk who possessed only what their deeds or titles allotted to them.

And yet never in Patsy's life had she felt quite so sure about it as
she did this morning, probably because she had never before set forth
on a self-appointed adventure so heedless of means and consequences.

"Sure, there are enough wise people in the world," she mused as she
tramped along; "it needs a few foolish ones to keep things happening.
And could a foolish adventuring body be bound for a better place than
Arden!"

She rounded a bend in the road and came upon a stretch of old stump
fencing. From one of the stumps appeared to be hanging a grotesque
figure of some remarkable cut; it looked both ancient and romantic,
sharply silhouetted against the iridescence of the dawn.

Patsy eyed it curiously. "It comes natural for me to be partial to
anything hanging to a thorn, or a stump; but--barring that--it still
looks interesting."

As she came abreast it she saw it was not hanging, however. It was
perched on a lower prong of a root and it was a man, clothed in the
most absolute garment of rags Patsy had ever seen off the legitimate
stage.

"From an artistic standpoint they are perfect," was Patsy's mental
tribute. "Wouldn't Willie Fay give his Sunday dinner if he could
gather him in as he is, just--to play the tinker! Faith! those rags
are so real I wager he keeps them together only by the grace of God."

As she stopped in front of the figure he turned his head slowly and
gazed at her with an expression as far away and bewildered as a lost
baby's.

In the half-light of the coming day he looked supernatural--a strange
spirit from under the earth or above the earth, but not of the earth.
This was borne in upon Patsy's consciousness, and it set her Celtic
blood tingling and her eyes a-sparkling.

"He looks as half-witted as those back in the Old Country who have
the second sight and see the faeries. Aye, and he's as young and
handsome as a king's son. Poor lad!" And then she called aloud, "'Tis
a brave day, this."

"Hmm!" was the response, rendered impartially.

Patsy's alert eyes spied a nondescript kit flung down in the grass at
the man's feet and they set a-dancing. "Then ye _are_ a tinker?"

"Hmm!" was again the answer. It conveyed an impression of hesitant
doubt, as if the speaker would have avoided, if he could, the
responsibility of being anything at all, even a tinker.

"That's grand," encouraged Patsy. "I like tinkers, and, what's more,
I'm a bit of a vagabond myself. I'll grant ye that of late years the
tinkers are treated none too hearty about Ireland; but there was a
time--" Patsy's mind trailed off into the far past, into a maze of
legend and folk-tale wherein tinkers were figures of romance and
mystery. It was good luck then to fall in with such company; and
Patsy, being more a product of past romance than present
civilization, was pleased to read into this meeting the promise of a
fair road and success to her quest.

Moreover, there was another appeal--the apparent helpless
bewilderment of the man himself and his unreality. He was certainly
not in possession of all his senses, from whatever world he might
have dropped; and helplessness in man or beast was a blood bond with
Patsy, making instant claim on her own abundant sympathies and wits.

She held the tinker with a smile of open comradeship while her voice
took on an alluring hint of suggestion. "Ye can't be thinking of
hanging onto that stump all day--now what road might ye be
taking--the one to Arden?"

For some minutes the tinker considered her and her question with an
exaggerated gravity; then he nodded his head in a final agreement.

"Grand! I'm bound that way myself; maybe ye know Arden?"

"Maybe."

"And how far might it be?"

"Seven miles."

Patsy wrinkled her forehead. "That's strange; 'twas seven miles last
night, and I've tramped half the distance already, I'm thinking.
Never mind! What's behind won't trouble me, and the rest of the way
will soon pass in good company. Come on," and she beckoned her head
in indisputable command.

Once again he considered her slowly. Then, as if satisfied, he swung
himself down from his perch on the stump fence, gathered up his kit,
and in another minute had fallen into step with her; and the two
were contentedly tramping along the road.

"The man who's writing this play," mused Patsy, "is trying to match
wits with Willie Shakespeare. If any one finds him out they'll have
him up for plagiarizing."

She chuckled aloud, which caused the tinker to cast an uneasy glance
in her direction.

"Poor lad! The half-wits are always suspicious of others' wits. He
thinks I'm fey." And then aloud: "Maybe ye are not knowing it, but
anything at all is likely to happen to ye to-day--on the road to
Arden. According to Willie Shakespeare--whom ye are not likely to be
acquainted with--it's a place where philosophers and banished dukes
and peasants and love-sick youths and lions and serpents all live
happily together under the 'Greenwood Tree.' Now, I'm the banished
duke's own daughter--only no one knows it; and ye--sure, ye can take
your choice between playing the younger brother--or the fool."

"The fool," said the tinker, solemnly; and then of a sudden he threw
back his head and laughed.

Patsy stopped still on the road and considered him narrowly.
"Couldn't ye laugh again?" she suggested when the laugh was ended.
"It improves ye wonderfully." An afterthought flashed in her mind.
"After all's said and done, the fool is the best part in the whole
play."

After this they tramped along in silence. The tinker kept a little in
advance, his head erect, his hands swinging loosely at his sides, his
eyes on nothing at all. He seemed oblivious of what lay back of him
or before him--and only half conscious of the companion at his side.
But Patsy's fancy was busy with a hundred things, while her eyes went
afield for every scrap of prettiness the country held. There were
meadows of brilliant daisies, broken by clumps of silver poplars,
white birches, and a solitary sentinel pine; and there was the
roadside tangle with its constant surprises of meadowsweet and
columbine, white violets--in the swampy places--and once in a while
an early wild rose.

"In Ireland," she mused, "the gorse would be out, fringing the
pastures, and on the roadside would be heartsease and faery thimbles,
and perhaps a few late primroses; and the meadow would be green with
corn." A faint wisp of a sigh escaped her at the thought, and the
tinker looked across at her questioningly. "Sure, it's my heart
hungering a bit for the bogland and a whiff of the turf smoke. This
exile idea is a grand one for a play, but it gets lonesome at times
in real life. Maybe ye are Irish yourself?"

"Maybe."

It was Patsy's turn to glance across at the tinker, but all she saw
was the far-away, wondering look that she had seen first in his face.
"Poor lad! Like as not he finds it hard remembering where he's from;
they all do. I'll not pester him again."

He looked up and caught her eyes upon him and smiled foolishly.

Patsy smiled back. "Do ye know, lad, I've not had a morsel of
breakfast this day. Have ye any money with ye, by chance?"

The tinker stopped, put down his kit, and hunted about in his rags
where the pocket places might be; but all he drew forth were his two
empty hands. He looked down the stretch of road they had come with an
odd twist to his mouth, then he burst forth into another laugh.

"Have ye been playing the pigeon, and some one plucked ye?" she
asked, and went on without waiting for his answer. "Never mind! We'll
sharpen up our wits afresh and earn a breakfast. Are ye handy at
tinkering, now?"

"You bet I am!" said the tinker. It was the longest speech he had
made.

       *       *       *       *       *

At the next farm Patsy turned in, with a warning to the tinker to do
as he was told and to hold his tongue. It was a thoroughly
well-kept-looking farm, and she picked out what she decided must be
the side door, and knocked. A kindly-faced, middle-aged woman opened
it, and Patsy smiled with the good promise of her looks.

"We are two--down on our luck, and strangers hereabouts. Have ye got
any tinkering jobs for my man there? He's a bit odd and says little;
but he can solder a broken pot or mend a machine with the best. And
we'll take out our pay in a good, hearty meal."

"There be a pile of dishes in the pantry I've put by till we was
goin' to town--handles off and holes in the bottom. He can mend them
out on the stoop, if he likes. I've got to help with berry-pickin';
we're short-handed this season."

"Are ye, just? Then I'm thinking I'll come in handy." Patsy smiled
her smile of winning comradeship as she stooped and picked up a tray
of empty berry-boxes that stood by the door; while the woman's smile
deepened with honest appreciation.

"My! but you are willing folks; they're sometimes scarce 'round
here."

"Faith, we're hungry folks--so ye best set us quickly to work."

They left the tinker on the stoop, surrounded by a heterogeneous
collection of household goods. Patsy cast an anxious backward glance
at him, but saw that he was rolling up the rags that served for
sleeves, thereby baring a pair of brawny, capable-looking arms, while
he spread his tools before him after the manner of a man who knows
his business.

"Fine!" commented Patsy, with an inner satisfaction. "He may be
foolish, but I bet he can tinker."

They picked berries for an hour or more, and then Patsy turned too
and helped the woman get dinner. They bustled about in silence to the
accompanying pounding and scraping of the tinker, who worked
unceasingly. When they sat down to dinner at last there was a
tableful--the woman and her husband, Patsy, the tinker, and the
"hands," and before them was spread the very best the farm could
give. It was as if the woman wished to pay their free-will gift of
service with her unstinted bounty.

"We always ask a blessin'," said the farmer, simply, folding his
hands on the table, about to begin. Then he looked at Patsy, and,
with that natural courtesy that is common to the true man of the
soil, he added, "We'd be pleased if you'd ask it."

Patsy bowed her head. A little whimsical smile crept to her lips, but
her voice rang deep with feeling: "For food and fellowship, good
Lord, we thank Thee. Amen!" And she added under her breath, "And
take a good grip of the Rich Man's son till we get him."

       *       *       *       *       *

The late afternoon found them back on the road once more. They parted
from the farmer and his wife as friend parts with friend. The woman
slipped a bundle of food--bread, cheese, and meat left from the
dinner, with a box of berries--into Patsy's hand, while the man gave
the tinker a half-dollar and wished him luck.

Patsy thanked them for both; but it was not until they were well out
of earshot that she spoke to the tinker: "They are good folk, but
they'd never understand in a thousand years how we came to be
traveling along together. What folks don't know can't hurt them, and
'tis often easier holding your tongue than trying to explain what
will never get through another's brain. Now put that lunch into your
kit; it may come in handy--who knows? And God's blessing on all kind
hearts!"

Whereupon the tinker nodded solemnly.

They had tramped for a mile or more when they came to a cross-roads
marked by a little white church. From the moment they sighted it
Patsy's feet began to lag; and by the time they reached the crossing
of the ways she had stopped altogether and was gazing up at the
little gold cross with an odd expression of whimsical earnestness.

"Do ye know," she said, slowly, clasping the hands long shorn of the
vagabond gloves--"do ye know I've told so many lies these last two
days I think I'll bide yonder for a bit, and see can Saint Anthony
lift the sins from me. 'Twould make the rest o' the road less
burdensome--don't ye think?"

The tinker looked uncomfortably confused, as though this sudden
question of ethics or religion was too much for his scattered wits.
He dug the toe of his boot in the gravel of the church path and
removed his cap to aid the labor of his thinking. "Maybe--" he agreed
at last. "An' will I be waitin' for you--or keepin' on?"

"Ye'll wait, of course," commanded Patsy.

She had barely disappeared through the little white door, and the
tinker thrown himself down with his back to the sign-post which
marked the roads, when a sorrel mare and a runabout came racing down
the road over which they had just come. There were two men in the
runabout, both of them tense and alert, their heads craned far in
advance of the rest of them, their eyes scanning the diverging roads.

"I cal'ate she's gone that way." The driver swung the whip,
indicating the road that ran south.

"Wall--I cal'ate so, too," agreed the other. "But then again--she
mightn't."

They reined in and discovered the tinker. "Some one passed this way
sence you been settin' there?" they inquired almost in unison.

"I don't know"--the tinker's fingers passed hurriedly across his eyes
and forehead, by way of seeking misplaced wits--"some one might be
almost any one," he smiled, cheerfully.

"Look here, young feller, if you're tryin' to be smart--" the driver
began, angrily; but his companion silenced him with a nudge and a
finger tapped significantly on the crown of his hat. He moderated his
tone:

"We're after a girl in a brown suit and hat--undersized girl. She was
asking the way to Arden. Seen any one of that description?"

"What do you want with her?"

"Never mind," growled the first man.

But the second volunteered meager information, "She's a suspect.
Stayed last night in the Inn and this morning a couple of thousand
dollars' worth of diamonds is missin'; that's what we want her for."

The tinker brightened perceptibly. "Guess she went by in a wagon half
an hour ago--that way. I think I saw her," and as the men turned
southward down the road marked Arden he called after them, "Better
hurry, if you want to catch her; the wagon was going at a right smart
pace."

He waited for their backs to be turned and for the crack of the whip
that lifted the heels of the sorrel above the dashboard before she
plunged, then, with amazing speed, of mind as well as of body, he
wrenched every sign from the post and pitched them out of sight
behind a neighboring stone wall.

The dust from departing wheels still filled the air when Patsy
stepped out of the cross-roads church, peacefully radiant, and found
the tinker sitting quietly with his back against the post.

"So ye are still here. I thought ye might have grown tired of my
company, after all, and gone on." Patsy laughed happily. "Now do ye
know which road goes to Arden?"

"Sure," and the tinker joined in her laugh, while he pointed to the
straight road ahead, the road that ran west, at right angles to the
one the runabout had taken.

"Come on, then," said Patsy; "we ought to be there by sundown." She
stopped and looked him over for the space of a second. "Ye are
improving wonderfully. Mind! ye mustn't be getting too keen-witted or
we'll have to be parting company."

"Why?"

"That's the why!" And with this satisfactory explanation she led the
way down the road the tinker had pointed.



VI

AT DAY'S END


Their road went the way of the setting sun, and Patsy and the tinker
traveled it leisurely--after the fashion of those born to the road,
who find their joy in the wandering, not in the making of a distance
or the reaching of a destination. Since they had left the cross-roads
church behind Patsy had marked the tinker casting furtive glances
along the way they had come; and each time she marked, as well, the
flash of a smile that lightened his face for an instant when he saw
that the road still remained empty of aught but themselves.

"It's odd," she mused; "he hasn't the look of a knave who might fear
a trailing of constables at his heels; and yet--and yet his wits have
him pestered about something that lies back of him."

Once it was otherwise. There was a rising of dust showing on one of
the hills they had climbed a good half-hour before. When the tinker
saw it he reached of a sudden for Patsy's hand while he pointed
excitedly beyond pasture bars ahead to a brownish field that lay some
distance from the road.

"See, lass, that's sorrel. If you'll break the road along with me
I'll show you where wild strawberries grow, lots of 'em!"

Her answer was to take the pasture bars at a run as easily as any
country-bred urchin. The tinker swung himself after her, an odd wisp
of a smile twisting the corners of his mouth, just such a smile as
the fool might wear on the road to Arden. The two raced for the
sorrel-tops--the tinker winning.

When Patsy caught up he was on his knees, his head bare, his eyes
sparkling riotously, running his fingers exultantly through the green
leaves that carpeted the ground. "See," he chuckled, "the tinker
knows somethin' more 'n solder and pots."

Patsy's eyes danced. There they were--millions of the tiny red
berries, as thick and luscious as if they had been planted in Elysian
fields for Arcadian folk to gather. "The wee, bonnie things!" she
laughed. "Now, how were ye afther knowing they were here?"

The tinker cocked his head wisely. "I know more 'n that; I know where
to find yellow lady's-slippers 'n' the yewberries 'n' hummin'-bird
nests."

She looked at him joyfully; he was turning out more and more to her
liking. "Could ye be showing them to me, lad?" she asked.

The tinker eyed her bashfully. "Would you--care, then?"

"Sure, and I would;" and with that she was flat on the ground beside
him, her fingers flying in search of strawberries.

So close they lay to the earth, so hidden by the waving sorrel and
neighboring timothy, that had a whole county full of constables been
abroad they could have passed within earshot and never seen them
there.

With silence between them they ate until their lips were red and the
cloud of dust on the hill back of them had whirled past, attendant on
a sorrel mare and runabout. They ate until the road was quite empty
once more; and then the tinker pulled Patsy to her feet by way of
reminding her that Arden still lay beyond them.

"Do ye know," said Patsy, after another silence and they were once
more afoot, "I'm a bit doubtful if the banished duke's daughter ever
tasted anything half as sweet as those berries on her road to Arden;
or, for that matter, if she found her fool half as wise. I'm mortial
glad ye didn't fall off that stump this morning afore I came by to
fetch ye off."

The tinker doffed his battered cap unexpectedly and swept her an
astounding bow.

"Holy Saint Christopher!" ejaculated Patsy. "Ye'll be telling me ye
know Willie Shakespeare next."

But the tinker answered with a blank stare, while the far-away,
bewildered look of fear came back to his eyes. "Who's he? Does he
live 'round here?" he asked, dully.

Patsy wrinkled a perplexed forehead. "Lad, lad, ye have me bursting
with wonderment! Ye are a rare combination, even for an Irish tinker;
but if ye are a fair sample of what they are over here, sure the
States have the Old Country beaten entirely."

And the tinker laughed as he had laughed once before that day--the
free, untrammeled laugh of youth, while he saucily mimicked her Irish
brogue. "Sure, 'tis the road to Arden, ye were sayin', and anythin'
at all can happen on the way."

The girl laughed with him. "And ye'll be telling me next that this is
three hundred years ago, and romance and Willie Shakespeare are still
alive." Her mind went racing back to the "once-upon-a-time days," the
days when chivalry walked abroad--before it took up its permanent
residence between the covers of story-books--when poets and saints,
kings' sons and--tinkers journeyed afar to prove their manhood in
deeds instead of inheritances; when it was no shame to live by one's
wits or ask hospitality at any strange door. Ah--those were the days!
And yet--and yet--could not those days be given back to the world
again? And would not the world be made a merrier, sweeter place
because of them? If Patsy could have had her way she would have gone
forth at the ring of each new day like the angel in the folk tale,
and with her shears cut the nets that bound humanity down to petty
differences in creed or birth or tongue.

"Faith, it makes one sick," she thought. "We tell our children the
tales of the Red Branch Knights--of King Arthur and the Knights of
the Grail--and rejoice afresh over the beauty and wonder of them; we
stand by the hour worshiping at the pictures of the saints--simple
men and women who just went about doing kindness; and we read the
Holy Book--the tales of Christ with his fishermen, wandering about,
looking for some good deed to do, some helpfulness to give, some word
of good cheer to speak; and we pray, 'Father, make us good--even as
Thou wert.' And what does it all mean? We hurry through the streets
afeared to stop on the corner and succor a stranger, or ashamed to
speak a friendly word to a troubled soul in a tram-car; and we go
home at night and lock our doors so that the beggar who asked for a
bit of bread at noon can't come round after dark and steal the
silver." Patsy sighed regretfully--if only this were olden times she
would not be dreading to find Arden now and the man she was seeking
there.

The tinker caught the sigh and looked over at her with a puzzled
frown. "Tired?" he asked, laconically.

"Aye, a bit heart-tired," she agreed, "and I'm wishing Arden was
still a good seven miles away."

Whereupon the tinker turned his head and grinned sheepishly toward
the south.

       *       *       *       *       *

The far-away hills had gathered in the last of the sun unto
themselves when the two turned down the main street of a village. It
was unquestionably a self-respecting village. The well-tarred
sidewalks, the freshly painted meeting-house neighboring the
engine-house "No. 1," the homes with their well-mowed lawns in front
and the tidily kept yards behind--all spoke of a decency and
lawfulness that might easily have set the hearts of the most
righteous of vagabonds a-quaking.

Patsy looked it carefully over. "Sure, Arden's no name for it at all.
They'd better have called it Gospel Center--or New Canaan. 'Twould be
a grand place, though, to shut in all the Wilfred Peterson-Joneses,
to keep them off the county's nerves--and the rich men's sons, to
keep them off the public sympathy. But 'tis no place for us, lad."

The tinker shifted his kit from one shoulder to the other and held
his tongue.

Their entrance was what Patsy might have termed "fit." The dogs of
the village were on hand; that self-appointed escort of all doubtful
characters barked them down the street with a lusty chorus of growls
and snarls and sharp, staccato yaps. There were the children, too, of
course; the older ones followed hot-foot after the dogs; the smaller
ones came, a stumbling vanguard, sucking speculative thumbs or
forefingers, as the choice might be. The hurly-burly brought the
grown-ups to windows and doors.

"'Hark! hark! the dogs do bark, the beggars are coming to town,'"
quoted Patsy, with a grim little smile, and glanced across at the
tinker. He was blushing fiercely. "Never mind, lad. 'Tis better being
barked into a town than bitten out of it."

For answer the tinker stopped and folded his arms sullenly. "I'm not
such a fool I can't feel somethin'. Don't you reckon I know the shame
it is to be keepin' a decent woman company with these rags--and no
wits?"

"If I've not misplaced my memory, 'twas myself that chose the
company, and 'twas largely on account of those very things, I'm
thinking. Do ye guess for a minute that if ye had been a rich man's
son in grand clothes--and manners to match--I'd ever have tramped a
millimeter with ye?" She smiled coaxingly. "Faith! there's naught the
matter with those rags; a king's son might be proud o' them. As for
foolishness, I've known worse faults in a man."

The tinker winced imperceptibly, and all unconsciously Patsy went on:
"'Tis the heart of a man that measures him, after all, and not the
wits that crowd his brain or the gold that lines his pockets. Oh,
what do the folks who sit snug by their warm hearthsides, knitting
their lives into comfortables to wrap around their real feelings and
human impulses, ever know about their neighbors who come in to drink
tea with them? And what do the neighbors in turn know about them? If
I had my way, I'd tumble the whole sit-by-the-fire-and-gossip world
out of doors and set them tramping the road to somewhere; 'tis the
surest way of getting them acquainted with themselves and the
neighbors. For that matter, all of us need it--just once in so often.
And so--to the road, say I, with a fair greeting to all alike, be
they king's son or beggar, for the road may prove the one's the other
afore the journey's done."

"Amen!" said the tinker, devoutly, and Patsy laughed.

They had stopped in the middle of the street, midway between the
church and the engine-house, Patsy so absorbed in her theories, the
tinker so absorbed in Patsy, that neither was aware of the changed
disposition of their circling escort until a cold, inquisitive nose
and a warm, friendly tongue brought them to themselves. Greetings
were returned in kind; heads were patted, backs stroked, ears
scratched--only the children stood aloof and unconvinced. That is
ever the way of it; it is the dogs who can better tell glorious
vagabondage from inglorious rascality.

"Sure, ye can't fool dogs; I'd be taking the word of a dog before a
man's anywhere when it comes to judging human beings." Patsy looked
over her shoulder at the children. "Ye have the creatures won over
entirely; 'tis myself might try what I could do with the wee ones. If
we had the dogs and the childther to say a good word for us--faith!
the grown-ups might forget how terribly respectable they were and
make us welcome for one night." A sudden thought caught her memory.
"I was almost forgetting why I had come. Hunt up a shop for me, lad,
will ye? There must be one down the street a bit; and if ye'll loan
me some of that half-crown the good man paid for your tinkering, I'd
like to be having a New York News--if they have one--along with the
fixings for a letter I have to be writing. While ye are gone I'll
bewitch the childther."

And she did.

When the tinker returned she was sitting on the church steps, the
children huddled so close about her that she was barely
distinguishable in the encircling mass of shingled heads, bobby
curls, pigtails and hair-ribbons. Deaf little ears were being turned
to parental calls for supper--a state of affairs unprecedented and
unbelievable; while Patsy was bringing to an end the tale of Jack,
the Irish hero of a thousand and one adventures.

"And he married the king's daughter--and they lived happier than ye
can tell me--and twice as happy as I can tell ye--in a castle that
had a window for every day in the year."

"That would make a fine endin' for any lad's story," said the tinker,
soberly. "'A window for every day in the year' would mean a whole lot
of cheerfulness and sunshine, wouldn't it?"

Patsy nodded. "But don't those who take to the road fetch that castle
along with them? Sure, there it is"--and her hand swept toward the
skyline an encompassing circle about them--"with the sun flooding it
from dawn to day's end." She turned to the eager faces about her,
waiting for more. "Are ye still there? Faith! what have I been
hearing this half-hour but hungry childther being called for tea.
'Twas 'Joseph' from the house across the way, and 'Rebecca' from off
yonder, and 'Susie May' from somewhere else. Away with yez all to
your mothers!" And Patsy scattered them as if they had been a flock
of young sheep, scampering helter-skelter in all directions.

But one there was who lagged behind, a little boy with an old, old
face, who watched the others go and then crept closer, held by the
spell of the tale. He pulled at Patsy's sleeve to gain attention.
"I'm--I'm Joseph. Was it true--most of it?"

She nodded a reply as solemn as his question, "Aye, as true as youth
and the world itself."

"And would it come true for another boy--any boy--who went a-tramping
off like that? Would he find--whatever he was wishin' for?" And even
as he spoke his eyes left hers and went searching for the far-away
hills--and what might lie beyond.

"Come here, little lad." Patsy drew him to her and put two steadying
hands on his shoulders. She knew that he, too, had heard the call of
the road and the longing to be gone--to be one with it, journeying to
meet the mysterious unknown--was upon him. "Hearken to me: 'Tis only
safe for a little lad to be going when he has three things to fetch
with him--the wish to find something worth the bringing home, the
knowledge of what makes good company along the way, and trust in
himself. When ye are sure of these, go; but ye'll no longer be a
little lad, I'm thinking. And remember first to get the mother's
blessing and 'God-speed,' same as Jack; a lad's journey ends nowhere
that begins without that."

He went without a word, but content; and his eyes brimmed with
visions.

Patsy watched him tenderly. "Who knows--he may find greatness on his
road. Who knows?"

The tinker dropped the bundle he had brought back from the store into
her lap, but she scarcely heeded him. Her eyes were looking out into
the gathering dusk while her voice sank almost to a whisper.

"_Ochone!_ but I've always envied that piper fellow from Hamelin
town. Think of being able to gather up all the childther hereabouts,
eager, hungry-hearted childther with mothers too busy or deaf to heed
them, and leading them away to find their fortunes! Wouldn't that be
wonderful, just?"

"What kind of fortunes?" asked the tinker.

"What but the best kind!" Patsy thought for a moment, and smiled
whimsically while her eyes grew strangely starry in that early
twilight. "Wouldn't I like to be choosing those fortunes, and
wouldn't they be an odd lot, entirely! There'd be singing hearts that
had learned to sing above trouble; there'd be true fellowship--the
kind that finds brotherhood in beggars as well as--as prime
ministers; there'd be peace of soul--not the kind that naps by the
fire, content that the wind doesn't be blowing down his chimney, but
the kind that fights above fighting and keeps neighbor from harrying
neighbor. Troth, the world is in mortial need of fortunes like the
last."

"And wouldn't you be choosin' gold for a fortune?" asked the tinker.

Patsy shook her head vehemently.

"Why not?"

"That's the why!" Suddenly Patsy clenched her hands and shook two
menacing fists against the gathering dark. "I hate gold, along with
the meanness and the lying and the thieving and the false judgment it
brings into the world."

"But the world can't get along without it," reminded the tinker,
shrewdly.

"Aye, but it can. It can get along without the hoarded gold, the
inherited gold, the cheating, bribing, starving gold--that's the kind
I mean, the kind that gets into a man's heart and veins until his
fingers itch to gild everything he touches, like the rich man in the
city yonder."

"What rich man? I thought the--I thought the city was full o' rich
men."

"Maybe; but there's just one I'm thinking of now; and God pity
him--and his son."

The tinker eyed her stupidly. "How d'you know he has a son?"

Patsy laughed. "I guessed--maybe." Then she looked down in her lap.
"And here's the news--with no light left to read it by; and I'm as
hungry as an alley cat--and as tired as two. Ye'd never dream, to
hear me talking, that I'd never had much more than a crooked sixpence
to my name since I was born; and here I am, with that gone and not a
slither to buy me bed or board for the night."

The tinker looked down at her with an altogether strange expression,
very different from anything Patsy had seen on his face all day. Had
she chanced to catch it before it flickered out, it might have
puzzled even her O'Connell wits to fathom the meaning of it. For it
was as if the two had unexpectedly changed places, and the tender
pity and protectiveness that had belonged to her had suddenly become
his.

"Never mind, lass; there's board in the kit for to-night--what the
farm wife put up; and there's this left, and I'll--I'll--" He did not
finish; instead he dropped a few coins in her hand, the change from
the half-dollar. Then he set about sweeping the dust from the step
with his battered cap and spreading their meager meal before her.

They ate in silence, so deep in the business of dulling their
appetites that they never noticed a small figure crossing the street
with two goblets and a pitcher hugged tight in his arms. They never
looked up until the things were set down beside them and a voice
announced at their elbow, "Mother said I could bring it; it's better
'n eatin' dry."

It was Joseph; and the pitcher held milk, still foamy from a late
milking. He looked at Patsy a moment longingly, as if there was more
he wanted to ask; but, overcome with a sudden bashful confusion, he
took to his heels and disappeared around the corner of the
meeting-house before they had time even to give thanks.

The tinker poured the goblets full, handed Patsy's to her with
another grave bow, and, touching his to hers, said, soberly, "Here's
to a friendly lass--the first I ever knew, I reckon."

For an instant she watched him, puzzled and amused; then she raised
her glass slowly in reply. "And here's to tinkers--the world over!"

When everything but the crumbs were eaten she left him to scatter
these and return Joseph's pitcher while she went to get "the loan of
a light from the shopkeeper, and hunt up the news."

       *       *       *       *       *

The store was store, post-office, and general news center combined.
The news was at that very moment in process of circulation among the
"boys"--a shirt-sleeved quorum from the patriarchs of the town
circling the molasses-keg--the storekeeper himself topped it. They
looked up as Patsy entered and acknowledged her "Good evening" with
that perfect indifference, the provincial cloak in habitual use for
concealing the most absolute curiosity. The storekeeper graciously
laid the hospitality of his stool and counter and kerosene-lamp at
her feet; in other words, he "cal'ated she was welcome to make
herself t' home." All of which Patsy accepted. She spread out the
newspaper on the counter in front of her; she unwrapped a series of
small bundles--ink, pen, stamped envelope, letter-pad, and
pen-holder, and eyed them with approval.

"The tinker's a wonder entirely," she said to herself; "but I would
like to be knowing, did he or did the shopkeeper do the choosing?"
Then she remembered the thing above all others that she needed to
know, and swung about on the stool to address the quorum. "I say--can
you tell me where I'd be likely to find a--person by the name of
Bil--William Burgeman?"

"That rich feller's boy?"

Patsy nodded. "Have you seen him?"

The quorum thumbed the armholes of their vests and shook an emphatic
negative. "Nope," volunteered the storekeeper; "too early for him or
his sort to be diggin' out o' winter quarters."

"Are you sure? Do you know him?"

"Wall, can't say exactly ef I know him; but I'd know ef he'd been
hangin' round, sartin. Hain't been nothin' like him loose in these
parts. Has there, boys?"

The quorum confirmed the statement.

Patsy wrinkled up a perplexed forehead. "That's odd. You see, he
should have been here last night, to-day at the latest. I had it from
somebody who knew, that he was coming to Arden."

"Mebby he was," drawled the storekeeper, while the quorum cackled in
appreciation; "but this here is a good seven miles from Arden."

Patsy's arms fell limp across the counter, her head followed, and she
sat there a crumpled-up, dejected little heap.

"By Jack-a-diamonds!" swore the storekeeper. "She 'ain't swoomed, has
she, boys?"

The quorum were on the verge of investigating when she denied the
fact--in person. "Where am I? In the name of Saint Peter, what place
is this?"

"This? Why, this is Lebanon."

She smiled weakly. "Lebanon! Sounds more like it, anyhow. Thank you."

She turned about and settled down to the paper while the "boys"
reverted to their original topic of discussion. There were two items
of news that interested her: Burgeman, senior, was critically ill; he
had been ill for some time, but there had been no cause for
apprehension until the last twenty-four hours; and Marjorie Schuyler
had left for San Francisco--on the way to China. She was to be gone
indefinitely.

"The heathen idols and the laundrymen are welcome to her," growled
Patsy, maliciously. "If they'd only fix her with the evil eye, or
wish such a homesickness and lovesickness on her that 'twould last
for a year and a day, I'd forgive her for what she's made me wish on
myself."

Having relieved her mind somewhat, she was able to attend to the
business of the letter with less inward discomfort. The letter was
written to George Travis, already known as the manager of Miss St.
Regis. He was the head of a well-known theatrical managerial firm in
New York, and an old friend and well-wisher of Patsy's. In it she
explained, partly, her continued sojourn in America, and frankly
confessed to her financial needs. If he had anything anywhere that
she could do until the fall bookings with her own company, she would
be most humbly grateful. He might address her at Arden; she had great
hopes of reaching there--some day. There was a postscript added in
good, pure Donegal:

     And don't ye be afeared of hurting my pride by offering
     anything too small. Just at present I'm like old Granny
     Donoghue's lean pig--hungry for scrapings.

As she sealed the envelope a shadow fell athwart the counter. Patsy
looked up to find the tinker peering at her sharply.

"You look clean tuckered out," he announced, baldly; then he laid a
coaxing hand on her arm. "I want you to come along with me. Will you,
lass? I've found a place for you--a nice place. I've been talkin' to
Joseph's mother, an' she's goin' to look after you for the night."

Patsy's face crinkled up all over; the tinker could not have
told--even if he had been in possession of all his senses--whether
she was going to laugh or cry. As it turned out, she did neither; she
just sighed, a tired, contented little sigh, slipping off the stool
and dropping the letter into the post-box.

When she faced the tinker again her eyes were misty, and for all her
courage she could not keep the quivering from her lips. She reached
up impulsive, trusting hands to his shoulders: "Lad--lad--how were ye
ever guessing that I'd reached the end o' my wits and was needing
some one to think for me? Holy Saint Michael! but won't I be mortial
glad to be feeling a respectable, Lebanon feather-bed under me!"

       *       *       *       *       *

As the tinker led her out of the store the quorum eyed her silently
for a moment. For a brief space there was a scraping of chairs and
clearing of throats, indicative of some important comment.

"What sort of a lookin' gal did that Green County sheriff say he was
after?" inquired the storekeeper at last.

"Small, warn't it?" suggested one of the quorum.

"Yep, guess it was. And what sort o' clothes did he say she wore?"

"Brown!" chorused the quorum.

"Wall, boys"--the storekeeper wagged an accusing thumb in the
direction of the recently vacated stool--"she was small, warn't she?
An' she's got brown clothes, hain't she? An' she acts queer, doan't
she?"

The quorum nodded in solemn agreement.

"But she doan't look like no thief," interceded the youngest of the
"boys." He couldn't have been a day over seventy, and it was more
than likely that he was still susceptible to youth and beauty!

The rest glowered at him with plain disapproval, while the
storekeeper shifted the course of his thumb and wagged it at him
instead. "Si Perkins, that's not for you to say--nor me, neither.
That's up to Green County; an' I cal'ate I'll 'phone over to
the sheriff, come mornin', an' tell him our suspicions. By
Jack-a-diamonds! I've got to square my conscience."

The quorum invested their thumbs again and cleared their throats.



VII

THE TINKER PLAYS A PART


There is little of the day's happenings that escapes the ears of a
country boy. Every small item of local interest is so much grist for
his mill; and there is no more reliable method for a stranger to
collect news than a sociable game of "peg" interspersed with a few
casual but diplomatic questions. The tinker played "peg" the night
after he and Patsy reached Lebanon--on the barn floor by the light of
a bleary-eyed lantern with Joseph and his brethren, and thereby
learned of the visit of the sheriff.

Afterward he sawed and split the apportioned wood which was to pay
for Patsy's lodging, and went to sleep on the hay in a state of
complete exhaustion. But, for all that, Patsy was wakened an hour
before sun-up by a shower of pebbles on the tin roof of the porch,
just under her window. Looking out, she spied him below, a silencing
finger against his lips, while he waved a beckoning arm toward the
road. Patsy dressed and slipped out without a sound.

"What has happened ye?" she whispered, anxiously, looking him well
over for some symptoms of sickness or trouble.

His only reply was a mysterious shake of the head as he led the way
down the village street, his rags flapping grotesquely in the dawn
wind.

There was nothing for Patsy to do except to follow as fast as she
could after his long, swinging strides. Lebanon still slept,
close-wrapped in its peaceful respectability; even the dogs failed to
give them a speeding bark. They stole away as silently as shadows,
and as shadows went forth upon the open road to meet the coming day.

A mile beyond the township stone the tinker stopped to let Patsy
catch up with him; it was a very breathless, disgruntled Patsy.

"Now, by Saint Brendan, what ails ye, lad, to be waking a body up at
this time of day? Do ye think it's good morals or good manners to be
trailing us off on a bare stomach like this--as if a county full of
constables was at our heels? What's the meaning of it? And what will
the good folk who cared for us the night think to find us gone with
never a word of thanks or explanation?"

The tinker scratched his chin meditatively; it was marked by a day's
more growth than on the previous morning, which did not enhance his
comeliness or lessen his state of vagabondage. There was something
about his appearance that made him out less a fool and more an
uncouth rascal; one might easily have trusted him as well as pitied
him yesterday--but to-day--Patsy's gaze was critical and not
over-flattering.

He saw her look and met it, eye for eye, only he still fumbled his
chin ineffectually. "Have you forgot?" he asked, a bit sheepishly.
"There were the lady's-slippers; you said as how you cared about
findin' 'em; and they're not near so pretty an' bright if they're
left standin' too long after the dew dries."

Patsy pulled a wry little smile. "Is that so? And ye've been after
making me trade a feather-bed and a good breakfast for--for the best
color of lady's-slippers. Well, if I was Dan instead of myself,
standing here, I'd be likely to tell ye to go to the devil--aye, an'
help ye there with my two fists." Her cheeks were flushed and all the
comradeship faded quickly from her eyes.

The tinker said never a word, only his lips parted in a coaxing smile
which seemed to say, "Please go on believing in me," and his eyes
still held hers unwaveringly.

And the tinker's smile won. Bit by bit Patsy's rigid attitude of
condemnation relaxed; the comradeship crept back in her eyes, the
smile to her lips. "Heigho! 'Tis a bad bargain ye can't make the best
of. But mind one thing, Master Touchstone! Ye'll find the right road
to Arden this time or ye and the duke's daughter will part
company--for all Willie Shakespeare wrote it otherwise."

He nodded. "We can ask the way 's we go. But first we'll be gettin'
the lady's-slippers and some breakfast. You'll see--I'll find them
both for you, lass"; and he set off with his swinging stride straight
across country, wagging his head wisely. Patsy fell in behind him,
and the road was soon out of sight and earshot.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was just about this time that the storekeeper at Lebanon got the
Green County sheriff on the 'phone, and squared his conscience. "I
cal'ate she's the guilty party," were his closing remarks. "She'd
never ha' lighted out o' this 'ere town afore Christian folks were
out o' bed ef she hadn't had somethin' takin' her. And what's more,
she's keepin' bad company."

And so it came about that all the time the sorrel mare was being
harnessed into the runabout the tinker was leading Patsy farther
afield. And so it came to pass that when the mare's heels were
raising the dust on the road between Lebanon and Arden, they were
following a forest brook, deeper and deeper, into the woods.

They found it the most cheery, neighborly, and comfortable kind of a
brook, the quiet and well-contained sort that one could step at will
from bank to bank, and see with half an eye what a prime favorite it
was among its neighbors. Patsy and the tinker marked how close things
huddled to it, even creeping on to cover stones and gravel stretches;
there were moss and ferns and little, clinging things, like
baby's-breath and linnea. The major part of the bird population was
bathing in the sunnier pools, soberly or with wild hilarity,
according to disposition.

The tinker knew them all, calling to them in friendly fashion, at
which they always answered back. Patsy listened silently, wrapped in
the delight and beauty of it. On went the brook--dancing here in a
broken patch of sunshine--quieting there between the banks of
rock-fern and columbine, to better paint their prettiness; and all
the while singing one farther and farther into the woods. She was
just wondering if there could be anything lovelier than this when the
tinker stopped, still and tense as a pointer. She craned her head and
looked beyond him--looked to where the woods broke, leaving for a few
feet a thinly shaded growth of beech and maple. The sunlight sifted
through in great, unbroken patches of gold, falling on the beds
of fern and moss and--yes, there they were, the promised
lady's-slippers.

A little, indrawn sigh of ecstasy from Patsy caused the tinker to
turn about. "Then you're not hatin' gold when you find it growin'
green that-a-way?" he chuckled.

Patsy shook her head with vehemence. "Never! And wouldn't it be grand
if nature could be gathering it all up from everywhere and spinning
it over again into the likes of those! In the name o' Saint Francis,
do ye suppose if the English poets had laid their two eyes to
anything so beautiful as what's yonder they'd ever have gone so daffy
over daffodils?"

"They never would," agreed the tinker.

Patsy studied him with a sharp little look. "And what do ye know
about English poets, pray?"

His lower jaw dropped in a dull, foolish fashion. "Nothin'; but I
know daff'dils," he explained at last.

And at that moment the call of a thrush came to them from just across
the glade. Patsy listened spellbound while he sang his bubbling song
of gladness through half a score of times.

"Is it the flowers singing?" she asked at last, her eyes dancing
mischievously.

"It might be the souls o' the dead ones." The tinker considered
thoughtfully a moment. "Maybe the souls o' flowers become birds, same
as ours becomes angels--wouldn't be such a deal o' difference--both
takin' to wings and singin'." He chuckled again. "Anyhow, that's the
bellbird; and I sent him word yesterday by one o' them tattlin'
finches to be on hand just about this time."

"Ye didn't order a breakfast the same way, did ye?"

The tinker threw back his head and laughed. "I did, then," and,
before Patsy could strip her tongue of its next teasing remark, he
had vanished as quickly and completely as if magic had had a hand in
it.

A crescendo of snapping twigs and rustling leaves marked his going,
however; and Patsy leaped the brook and settled herself, tailor
fashion, in the midst of the sunshine and the lady's-slippers. She
unpinned the rakish beaver and tossed it from her; off came the
Norfolk jacket, and followed the beaver. She eyed the rest of her
costume askance; she would have sorely liked to part with that, too,
had she but the Lord's assurance that He would do as well by her as
he had by the lilies of the field or the lady's-slippers.

"'Tis surprising how wearisome the same clothes can grow when on the
back of a human being--yet a flower can wear them for a thousand
years or more and ye never go tired of them. I'm not knowing why,
but--somehow--I'd like to be looking gladsome--to-day."

She stretched her arms wide for a minute, in a gesture of intense
longing; then the glory of the woods claimed her again and she gave
herself over completely to the wonder and enjoyment of them. Her eyes
roamed about her unceasingly for every bit of prettiness, her ears
caught the symphony of bird and brook and soughing wind. So still did
she sit that the tinker, returning, thought for a moment that she had
gone, and stood, knee-deep in the brakes, laden to the chin and
covered with the misery of poignant disappointment. For him all the
music of the place had turned to laughing discord--until he spied
her.

"I thought"--his tongue stumbled--"I was thinkin' you had
gone--sudden-like--same as you came--down the road yesterday." He
paused a moment. "You wouldn't go off by yourself and leave a lad
without you said somethin' about it first, would you?"

"I'll not leave ye till we get to Arden."

"An'--an' what then?"

"The road must end for me there, lad. What I came to do will be done,
and there'll be no excuse for lingering. But I'll not forget to wish
ye 'God-speed' along your way before I go."

A sly look came into the tinker's eyes. Patsy never saw it, for he
was bending close over the huge basket he had brought; she only
caught a tinge of exultation in his voice as he said, "Then that's
a'right, if you'll promise your comp'ny till we fetch up in Arden."

With that he went busily about preparations for breakfast, Patsy
watching him, plainly astonished. He gathered bark and brush and
kindled a fire on a large flat rock which he had moved against a
near-by boulder. About it he fastened a tripod of green saplings,
from which he hung a coffee-pot, filled from the brook.

"I'm praying there's more nor water in it," murmured Patsy. And a
moment later, as the tinker shook out a small white table-cloth from
the basket and spread it at her feet, she clasped her hands and
repeated with perfect faith, "'Little goat bleat, table get set'; I
smell the coffee."

Out of the basket came little green dishes, a pat of butter, a jug of
cream, a bowl of berries, a plate of biscuits. "Riz," was the
tinker's comment as he put down the last named; and then followed
what appeared to Patsy to be round, brown, sugared buns with holes in
them. These he passed twice under her nose with a triumphant
flourish.

"And what might they be?" Her curiosity was reaching the
breaking-point. "If ye bring out another thing from that basket I'll
believe ye're in league with Bodh Dearg himself, or ye've stolen the
faeries' trencher of plenty."

For reply the tinker dived once more beneath the cover and brought
out a frying-pan full of bacon, and four white eggs. "Think whatever
you're mind to, I'm going to fry these." But after he had raked over
the embers to his complete satisfaction and placed the pan on them,
he came back and, picking up one of the "brown buns," slipped it over
Patsy's forefinger. "This is a wishin'-ring," he announced, soberly,
"though most folks calls 'em somethin' different. Now if you wish a
wish--and eat it--all but the hole, you'll have what you've been
wishin' for all your life."

"How soon will ye be having it?"

"In as many days as there are bites."

So Patsy bit while the tinker checked them off on his fingers. "One,
two, three, four, five, six. You'll get your wish by the seventh day,
sure, or I'm no tinker."

[Illustration: "If you wish a wish and eat it--all but the hole,
you'll have what you've been wishin' for all your life."]

"But are ye?" Patsy shook the de-ringed finger at him accusingly.
"I'm beginning to have my doubts as to whether ye're a tinker at all.
Ye are foolish one minute, and ye've more wits than I have the
next; I've caught ye looking too lonesome and helpless to be allowed
beyond reach of our mother's kerchief-end, and yet last night and the
day ye've taken care of me as if ye'd been hired out to tend babies
since ye were one yourself. As for your language, ye never speak
twice the same."

The tinker grinned. "That bacon's burnin'; I--cal'ate I'd better turn
it, hadn't I?"

"I--cal'ate you had," and Patsy grinned back at him derisively.

The tinker was master of ceremonies, and he served her as any
courtier might have served his liege lady. He shook out the
diminutive serviette he had brought for her and spread it across her
lap; he poured her coffee and sweetened it according to direction; he
even buttered her "riz" biscuits and poured the cream on her berries.

"Are ye laboring under the delusion that the duke's daughter was
helpless, entirely?" she asked, at length.

The tinker shook an emphatic negative. "I was just thinkin' she might
like things a mite decent--onct in a while."

"Lad--lad--who in the wide world are ye!" Patsy checked her outburst
with a warning hand: "No--don't ye be telling me. Ye couldn't turn
out anything better nor a tinker--and I'd rather keep ye as I found
ye. So if ye have a secret--mind it well; and don't ye be letting it
loose to scare the two of us into over-wise, conventional folk. We'll
play Willie Shakespeare comedy to the end of the road--please God!"

"Amen!" agreed the tinker, devoutly, as he threw her portion of fried
eggs neatly out of the pan into her plate.

It was not until she was served that he looked after his own wants;
then they ate in silence, both too hungry and too full of their own
thoughts to loosen their tongues.

Once the tinker broke the silence. "Your wish--what was it?" he
asked.

"That's telling," said Patsy. "But if ye'll confess to where ye came
by this heavenly meal, I might confess to the wish."

He rubbed his chin solemnly for an instant; then he beamed. "I'll
tell ye. I picked it off o' the fern-tops and brambles as I came
along."

"Of course ye did," agreed Patsy, with fine sarcasm, "and for my
wish--I was after thinking I'd marry the king's son."

They looked at each other with the teasing, saucy stare of two
children; then they laughed as care-free and as merrily.

"Maybe you'll get your wish," he suggested, soberly.

"Maybe I will," agreed Patsy, with mock solemnity.

A look of shrewdness sprang into the tinker's face. "But you said you
hated gold. You couldn't marry a king's son 'thout havin' gold--lots
of it."

"Aye--but I could! Couldn't I be making him throw it away before ever
I'd marry him?" And Patsy clapped her hands triumphantly.

"An' you'd marry him--poor?" The tinker's eyes kindled suddenly, as
he asked it--for all the world as if her answer might have a meaning
for him.

Patsy never noticed. She was looking past him--into the
indistinguishable wood-tangle beyond. "Sure, we wouldn't be poor.
We'd be blessed with nothing--that's all!"

For those golden moments of romancing Patsy's quest was forgotten;
they might have reached Arden and despatched her errand, for all the
worriment their loitering caused her. As for the tinker, if he had
either a mission or a destination he gave no sign for her to reckon
by.

They dallied over the breakfast; they dallied over the aftermath of
picking up and putting away and stamping out the charred twigs and
embers; and then they dallied over the memory of it all. Patsy spun a
hundred threads of fancy into tales about the forest, while the
tinker called the thickets about them full of birds, and whistled
their songs antiphonally with them.

"Do ye know," said Patsy, with a deep sigh, "I'm happier than ye can
tell me, and twice as happy as I can tell ye."

"An' this, hereabouts, wouldn't make a bad castle," suggested the
tinker, irrelevantly.

What Patsy might have answered is not recorded, for they both
happened to look up for the first time in a long space and saw that
the sky above their heads had grown a dull, leaden color. They were
no longer sitting in the midst of sunlight; the lady's-slippers had
lost their golden radiance; the brook sounded plaintive and
melancholy, and from the woods fringing the open came the call of the
bob-white.

"He's singin' for rain. Won't hurt a mite if we make toward some
shelter." The tinker pulled Patsy to her feet and gathered up the
basket and left-overs.

"Hurry," said Patsy, with a strange, little, twisted smile on her
lips. "Of course I was knowing, like all faery tales, it had to have
an ending; but I want to remember it, just as we found it
first--sprinkled with sunshine and not turning dull and gray like
this."

She started plunging through the woods, and the tinker was obliged to
turn her about and set her going right, with the final instruction
to follow her nose and he would catch up with her before she had
caught up with it. She had reached the road, however, and thunder was
grumbling uncomfortably near when the tinker joined her.

"It's goin' to be a soaker," he announced, cheerfully.

"Then we'd better tramp fast as we can and ask the first person we
pass, are we on the right road to Arden."

They tramped, but they passed no one. The road was surprisingly
barren of shelters, and, strangely enough, of the two houses they saw
one was temporarily deserted and the other unoccupied. The wind came
with the breaking of the storm--that cold, piercing wind that often
comes in June as a reminder that winter has not passed by so very
long before. It whipped the rain across their faces and cut down
their headway until it seemed to Patsy as if they barely crawled.
They came to a tumble-down barn, but she was too cold and wet to stop
where there was no fire.

"Any place that's warm," she shouted across to the tinker; and he
shouted back, as they rounded the bend of the road.

"See, there it is at last!"

The sight of a house ahead, whose active chimney gave good evidence
of a fire within, spurred Patsy's lagging steps. But in response to
their knocking, the door was opened just wide enough to frame the
narrow face of a timid-eyed, nervous woman who bade them be gone even
before they had gathered breath enough to ask for shelter.

"Faith, 'tis a reminder that we are no longer living three hundred
years ago," Patsy murmured between tightening lips. "How long in, do
ye think, the fashion has been--to shut doors on poor wanderers?"

At the next house, a half-mile beyond, they fared no better. The
woman's voice was curter, and the uninviting muzzle of a bull-terrier
was thrust out between the door and the woman's skirts. As they
turned away Patsy's teeth were chattering; the chill and wet had
crept into her bones and blood, turning her lips blue and her cheeks
ashen; even the cutting wind failed to color them.

"Curse them!" muttered the tinker, fiercely. "If I only had a coat to
put around you--anything to break the wind. Curse them warm and dry
inside there!" and he shook his fist at the forbidden door.

Patsy tried to smile, but failed. "Faith! I haven't the breath to
curse them; but God pity them, that's all."

Before she had finished the tinker had a firm grip of her arm. "Hang
it! If no one will take us in, we'll break in. Cheer up, lass; I'll
have you by a crackling good fire if I have to steal the wood."

He hurried her along--somewhere. Weariness and bodily depression
closed her eyes; and she let him lead her--whither she neither
wondered nor cared. Time and distance ceased to exist for her; she
stumbled along, conscious of but two things--a fear that she would be
ill again with no one to tend her, and a gigantic craving for
heat--heat!

When she opened her eyes again they had stopped and were standing
under a shuttered window at what appeared to be the back of a summer
cottage; the tinker was prying a rock out of the mud at their feet.
In a most business-like manner he used it to smash the fastening of
the shutters, and, when these were removed, to break the small,
leaded pane of glass nearest the window-fastening. It was only a
matter of seconds then before the window was opened and Patsy boosted
over the sill into the kitchen beyond.

"Ye'd best stand me in the sink and wring me out, or I'll flood the
house," Patsy managed to gasp. "I'd do it myself, but I know, if I
once let go of my hands, I'll shake to death."

The tinker followed her advice, working the water out of her dripping
garments in much the same fashion that he would have employed had she
been a half-drowned cat. In spite of her numbness Patsy saw the grim
humor of it all and came perilously near to a hysterical laugh. The
tinker unconsciously forestalled it by shouldering her, as if she had
been a whole bag of water-soaked cats, and carrying her up the
stairs. After looking into three rooms he deposited her on the
threshold of a fourth.

"It has the look of women folks; you're sure to find some left-behind
clothes o' theirs hanging up somewhere. Come down when you're dry an'
I'll have that fire waiting for you."

What followed was all a dream to Patsy's benumbed senses: the search
in drawers and closets for things to put on, and the finding of them;
the insistent aching of fingers and arms in trying to adjust them,
and the persistent refusal of brain to direct them with any degree of
intelligence. She came down the stairs a few minutes later, dragging
a bundle of wet clothes after her, and found the tinker kneeling by
the hearth, still in his dripping rags, and heaping more logs on the
already blazing fire.

He rose as she came toward him, took the clothes from her and dropped
them on the hearth. He seemed decidedly hazy and remote as he
brought a steamer rug from somewhere and wrapped it about her; his
voice, as he coaxed her over to the couch, apparently came from miles
away. As Patsy sank down, too weary to speak, the figure above her
took upon itself once more that suggestion of unearthliness that it
had worn when she had discovered it at dawn--hanging to the stump
fencing. For an instant the glow of the fire threw the profile into
the same shadowy outlines that the rising sun had first marked for
her; and the image lingered even after her eyes had closed.

"Sure, he's fading away like Oisiu, Gearoidh Iarla, and all of them
in the old tales," she thought, drowsily. "Like as not, when I open
my eyes again he'll be clear gone." This was where the dream ended
and complete oblivion began.

       *       *       *       *       *

How long it lasted she could not have told; she only knew she was
awake at last and acutely conscious of everything about her; and that
she was warm--warm--warm! The room was dark except for the firelight;
but whether it was evening or night or midnight, she could not have
guessed. She found herself speculating in a hazy fashion where she
was, whose house they had broken into, and what the tinker had done
with himself. She had a vague, far-away feeling that she ought to be
disturbed over something--her complete isolation with a strange
companion on a night like this; but the physical contentment, the
reaction from bodily torture, drugged her sensibilities. She closed
her eyes lazily again and listened to the wind howling outside with
the never-ceasing accompaniment of beating rain. She was content to
revel in that feeling of luxury that only the snugly housed can know.

A sound in the room roused her. She opened her eyes as lazily as she
had closed them, expecting to find the tinker there replenishing the
fire; instead--She sat up with a jerk, speechless, rubbing her eyes
with two excited fists, intent on proving the unreality of what she
had seen; but when she looked again there it was--the clean-cut
figure of a man immaculate in white summer flannels.

The blood rushed to Patsy's face; mortification, dread, sank into her
very soul; the drug of physical contentment had lost its power. For
the first time in her life she was dominated by the dictates of
convention. She cursed her irresponsible love of vagabondage along
with her freedom of speech and manner and her lack of conservative
judgment. These had played her false and shamed her womanhood.

The Patsys of this world are not given to trading on their charm or
powers of attraction to win men to them--it is against their creed of
true womanhood. Moreover, a man counts no more than a woman in their
sum total of daily pleasure, and when they choose a comrade it is for
human qualities, not sexualities. And because of this, this
particular Patsy felt the more intensely the humiliation and
challenge of the moment. She hated herself; she hated the man,
whoever he might be; she hated the tinker for his share in it all.

Anger loosened her tongue at last. "Who, in the name of Saint
Bridget, are ye?" she demanded.

And the man in white flannels threw back his head and laughed.



VIII

WHEN TWO WERE NOT COMPANY


The laughter would have proved contagious to any except one in
Patsy's humor; and, as laughing alone is sorry business, the man soon
sobered and looked over at Patsy with the merriment lingering only in
his eyes.

"By Willie Shakespeare, it's the duke's daughter in truth!"

The words made little impression on her; it was the laugh and voice
that puzzled her; they were unmistakably the tinker's. But there was
nothing familiar about face, figure, or expression, although Patsy
studied them hard to find some trace of the man she had been
journeying with.

With a final bewildered shake of the head her eyes met his coldly,
mockingly. "My name is Patricia O'Connell"--her voice was crisp and
tart; "it's the Irish for a short temper and a hot one. Now maybe you
will have the grace to favor me with yours."

"Just the tinker," he complied, amiably, "and very much at your
service." This was accompanied by a sweeping bow.

Patsy had marked that bow on two previous occasions, and it testified
undeniably to the man's identity. Yet Patsy's mind balked at
accepting it; it was too galling to her pride, too slanderous of her
past judgment and perceptibilities. A sudden rush of anger brought
her to her feet, and, coming over to the opposite side of the hearth,
she faced him, flushed, determined, and very dignified. It is to be
doubted if Patsy could have sustained the latter with any degree of
conviction if she could have seen herself. Straying strands of still
damp hair curled bewitchingly about her face, bringing out the
roundness of cheek and chin and the curious, guileless expression of
her eyes. Moreover, the coquettish gown she wore was entrancing; it
was a light blue, tunic affair with wide baby collar and cuffs, and a
Roman girdle; and she had found stockings to match, with white
buckskin pumps. It had been blind chance on her part--this making of
a toilet, but the effect was none the less adorable--and condemning
to dignity.

This was evidently appreciated by the tinker, for his face was an odd
mixture of grotesque solemnity and keen enjoyment. Patsy was
altogether too flustered to diagnose his expression, but it added
considerably to the temperature of the O'Connell temper. In view of
the civilized surroundings and her state of dignity Patsy had taken
to King's English with barely a hint of her native brogue.

"If you are the tinker--and I presume you are--I should very much
appreciate an explanation. Would you mind telling me how you happened
to be hanging onto that stump, in rags, and looking half-witted when
I--when I came by?"

"Why--just because I was a tinker," he laughed.

"Then what are you now?"

"Once a tinker, always a tinker. I'm just a good-for-nothing; good to
mend other people's broken pots, and little else; knowing more about
birds than human beings, and poor company for any one saving the very
generous-hearted."

Patsy stamped her foot. "Why can't you play fair? Isn't it only
decent to tell who you are and what you were doing on the road when I
found you?"

"You know as well as I what I was doing--hanging onto the stump and
trying to gather my wits. And don't you think it would be nicer if
you talked Irish? It doesn't make a lad feel half as comfortable or
as much at home when he is addressed in such perfect English."

Patsy snorted. "In a minute I'll not be addressing you at all. Do you
think, if I had known you were what you are, I would ever have been
so--so brazen as to ask for your company and tramp along with you
for--_two_ days--or be here, now? Oh!" she finished, with a groan and
a fierce clenching of her fists.

"No, I don't think so. That's why I didn't hurry about gathering up
the wits; it seemed more sociable without them. I wouldn't have
bothered with them now, only I couldn't stay in those rags any
longer; it wouldn't have been kind to the furniture or the people who
own it. These togs were the only things that came anywhere near to
fitting me; and, somehow, a three-days' beard didn't match them.
Lucky for me, Heaven blessed the house with a good razor, and,
presto! when the beard and the rags were gone the wits came back. I'm
awfully sorry if you don't like them--the wits, I mean."

"Sure, ye must be!" Unconsciously Patsy had stepped back onto her
native sod and her tongue fairly dripped with irony. "So ye thought
ye'd have a morsel o' fun at the expense of a strange lass, while ye
laughed up your sleeve at how clever ye were."

"See here! don't be too hard, please! That foolishness was real
enough; I had just been knocked over the head by the kind gentleman
from whom I borrowed the rags. I paid him a tidy sum for the use of
them, and evidently he thought it was a shame to leave me burdened
with the balance of my money. Arguing wouldn't have done any good, so
he took the simplest way--just sandbagged me and--"

"Was it much money?"

"Mercy, no! Just a few dollars, hardly worth the anæsthesia."

"And ye were--half-witted, then?"

"Half? A bare sixteenth! It wasn't until afternoon--until we reached
the church at the cross-roads--that I really came into full
possession--" The sentence trailed off into an inexplicable grin.

"And after that, 'twas I played the fool." Patsy's eyes kindled.

The tinker grew serious; he dug his hands deep into his capacious
white flannels as if he were very much in earnest. "Can't you
understand? If I hadn't played foolish you would never have let me
wander with you--you just said so. I knew that, and I was selfish,
lonely--and I didn't want to give you up. You can't blame me. When a
man meets with genuine comradeship for the first time in his
life--the kind he has always wanted, but has grown to believe doesn't
exist--he's bound to win a crumb of it for himself, it costs no
more than a trick of foolishness. Surely you understand?"

"Oh, I understand! I'm understanding more and more every minute--'tis
the gift of your tongue, I'm thinking--and I'm wondering which of us
will be finding it the pleasantest." She flashed a look of
unutterable scorn upon him. "If ye were not half-witted, would ye
mind telling me how we came to be taking the wrong road at the
church?"

The tinker choked.

"Aye, I thought so. Ye lied to me."

"No, not exactly; you see--" he floundered helplessly.

"Faith! don't send a lie to mend a lie; 'tis poor business, I can
promise ye."

"Well,"--the tinker's tone grew dogged--"was it such a heinous sin,
after all, to want to keep you with me a little longer?"

The fire in Patsy's eyes leaped forth at last. "Sin, did ye
say? Faith! 'tis the wrong name ye've given it entirely. 'Twas
amusement, ye meant; the fun of trading on a girl's ignorance
and simple-heartedness; the trick of getting the good makings of
a tale to tell afterward to other fine gentlemen like yourself."

"So you think--"

"Aye, I think 'twas a joke with ye--from first to last. Maybe ye
made a wager with some one--or ye were dared to take to the road in
rags--or ye did it for copy; ye're not the first man who has done the
like for the sake of a new idea for a story. 'Twas a pity, though, ye
couldn't have got what ye wanted without making a girl pay with her
self-respect."

The tinker winced, reaching out a deprecatory hand. "You are wrong;
no one has paid such a price. There are some natures so clear and
fine that chance and extremity can put them anywhere--in any
company--without taking one whit from their fineness or leaving one
atom of smirch. Do you think I would have brought you here and risked
your trust and censorship of my honor if you had not been--what you
are? A decent man has as much self-respect as a decent woman, and the
same wish to keep it."

But Patsy's comprehension was strangely deaf.

"'Tis easy enough trimming up poor actions with grand words. There'd
have been no need of risking anything if ye had set me on the right
road this morning; I would have been in Arden now, where I belong.
But that wasn't your way. 'Twas a grand scheme ye had--whatever it
might be; and ye fetch me away afore the town is up and I can ask the
road of any one; and ye coax me across pastures and woods, a far cry
from passing folk and reliable information; and ye hold me,
loitering the day through, till ye have me forgetting entirely why I
came, along with the promise laid on me, and the other poor
lad--Heaven help him!"

"Oho!" The tinker whistled unconsciously.

"Oho!" mimicked Patsy; "and is there anything so wonderfully strange
in a lass looking after a lad? Sure, I'm hating myself for not
minding his need better; and, Holy Saint Michael, how I'm hating ye!"
She ran out of the room and up the stairway.

The tinker was after her in a twinkling. He reached the foot of the
stairs before she was at the top. "Please--please wait a minute," he
pleaded. "If there's another--lad, a lad you--love, that I have kept
you from--then I hate myself as much as you do. All I can say is that
I didn't think--didn't guess; and I'm no end sorry."

Patsy leaned over the banisters and looked down at him through eyes
unmistakably wet. "What does it matter to ye if he's the lad I love
or not? And can't a body do a kindness for a lad without loving him?"

"Thank Heaven! she can. You have taught me that miracle--and I don't
believe the other lad will grudge me these few hours, even if you do.
Who knows? My need may have been as great as his."

Patsy frowned. "All ye needed was something soft to dull your wits
on; what he's needing is a father--and mother--and sweetheart--and
some good 1915 bonds of human trust."

The tinker folded his arms over the newel-post and smiled. "And do
you expect to be able to supply them all?"

"God forbid!" Patsy laughed in spite of herself.

And the tinker, scoring a point, took courage and went on: "Don't you
suppose I realize that you have given me the finest gift a stranger
can have--the gift of honest, unconditional friendship, asking no
questions, demanding no returns? It is a rare gift for any man--and I
want to keep it as rare and beautiful as when it was given. So please
don't mar it for me--now. Please--!" His hands went out in earnest
appeal.

The anger was leaving Patsy's face; already the look of comradeship
was coming back in her eyes; her lips were beginning to curve in the
old, whimsical smile. And the tinker, seeing, doubled his courage.
"Now, won't you please forgive me and come down and get some supper?"

She hesitated and, seeing that her decision was hanging in the
balance, he recklessly tried his hand at tipping the scales in his
favor. "I'm no end of a good forager, and I've rooted out lots of
things in tins and jars. You must be awfully hungry; remember, it's
hours since our magical breakfast with the lady's-slippers."

Patsy's fist banged the railing with a startling thud. "I'll never
break fast with ye again--never--never--never! Ye've blighted the
greenest memory I ever had!" And with that she was gone, slamming the
door after her by way of dramatic emphasis.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was a forlorn and dejected tinker that returned alone to the empty
hearthside. The bright cheer of the fire had gone; the room had
become a place of shadows and haunting memories. For a long time he
stood, brutally kicking one of the fire-dogs and snapping his fingers
at his feelings; and then, being a man and requiring food, he went
out into the pantry where he had been busily preparing to set forth
the hospitality of the house when Patsy had wakened.

But before he ate he found a tray and covered it with the best the
pantry afforded. He mounted the stairs with it in rather a lagging
fashion, being wholly at sea concerning the temperature of his
reception. His conscience finally compromised with his courage, and
he put the tray down outside Patsy's door.

It was not until he was half-way down the stairs again that he called
out, bravely, "Oh--I say--Miss--O'Connell; you'd better change your
mind and eat something."

He waited a good many minutes for an answer, but it came at last; the
voice sounded broken and wistful as a crying child's. "Thank--you!"
and then, "Could ye be after telling me how far it is from here to
Arden?"

"Let me see--about--seven miles;" and the tinker laughed; he could
not help it.

The next instant Patsy's door opened with a jerk and the tray was
precipitated down the stairs upon him. It was the conclusive evidence
of the O'Connell temper.

But the tinker never knew that Patsy wept herself remorsefully to
sleep; and Patsy never knew that the last thing the tinker did that
night was to cut a bedraggled brown coat and skirt and hat into
strips and burn them, bit by bit. It was not altogether a pleasant
ceremony--the smell of burning wool is not incense to one's nostrils;
and the tinker heaved a deep sigh of relief as the last flare died
down into a heap of black, smudgy embers.

"That Green County sheriff will have a long way to go now if he's
still looking for a girl in a brown suit," he chuckled.

Sleep laid the O'Connell temper. When Patsy awoke her eyes were as
serene as the patches of June sky framed by her windows, and she felt
at peace with the world and all the tinkers in it.

"'Twould be flattering the lad too much entirely to make up with him
before breakfast; but I'll be letting him tramp the road to Arden
with me, and we'll part there good friends. Troth, maybe he was a bit
lonesome," she added by way of concession.

She sprang out of bed with a glad little laugh; the day had a grand
beginning, spilling sunshine and bird-song into every corner of her
room, and to Patsy's optimistic soul a good beginning insured a
better ending. As she dressed she planned that ending to her own
liking and according to the most approved rules of dramatic
construction: The tinker should turn out a wandering genius, for in
her heart she could not believe the accusations she had hurled
against him the night past; when they reached Arden they would come
upon the younger Burgeman, contemplating immediate suicide; this
would give her her cue, and she would administer trust and a general
bracer with one hand as she removed the revolver with the other; in
gratitude he would divulge the truth about the forgery--he did it to
save the honor of some lady--after which the tinker would sponsor
him, tramping him off on the road to take the taste of gold out of
his mouth and teach him the real meaning of life.

Patsy had no difficulty with her construction until she came to the
final curtain; here she hesitated. She might trail off to find King
Midas and square Billy with him, or--the curtain might drop leaving
her right center, wishing both lads "God-speed." Neither ending was
entirely satisfactory, however; the mental effect of the tinker going
off with some one else--albeit it was another lad--was anything but
satisfying.

The house was strangely quiet. Patsy stopped frequently in her
playmaking to listen for some sounds of human occupancy other than
her own, but there was none.

"Poor lad! Maybe I killed him last night when I kicked the tea-things
down the stairs after him; or, most likely, the O'Connell temper has
him stiffened out with fear so he daren't move hand or foot."

A moment later she came down the stairs humming, "Blow, blow, thou
winter wind," her eyes dancing riotously.

Now, by all rights, dramatic or otherwise, the tinker should have
been on hand, waiting her entrance. But tinker there was none;
nothing but emptiness--and a breakfast-tray, spread and ready for
her in the pantry.

Curiosity, uneasiness mastered her pride and she
called--once--twice--several times. But there came no answering sound
save the quickening of her own heart-beats under the pressure of her
held breath.

She was alone in the house.

A feeling of unutterable loneliness swept over Patsy. She came back
to the stairs and stood with her hands clasping the newel-post--for
all the world like a shipwrecked maiden clinging to the last spar of
the ship. No, she did not believe a shipwrecked person could feel
more deserted--more left behind than she did; moreover, it was an
easier task to face the inevitable when it took the form of blind,
impersonal disaster. When it was a matter of deliberate, intentional
human motives--it became well-nigh unbearable. Had the tinker gone to
be rid of her company and her temper? Had he decided that the road
was a better place without her? Maybe he had taken the matter of the
other lad too seriously--and, thinking them sweethearts, had counted
himself an undesired third, and betaken himself out of their ways.
Or--maybe--he was fearsome of constables--and had hurried away to
cover his trail and leave her safe.

"Maybe a hundred things," moaned Patsy, disconsolately; "maybe 'tis
all a dream and there's no road and no quest and no Rich Man's son
and no tinker, and no anything. Maybe--I'll be waking up in another
minute and finding myself back in the hospital with the delirium
still on me."

She closed her eyes, rubbed them hard with two mandatory fists, then
opened them to test the truth of her last remark; and it happened
that the first object they fell on was a photograph in a carved
wooden frame on the mantel-shelf in the room across the hall. It was
plainly visible from where Patsy stood by the stairs--it was also
plainly familiar. With a run Patsy was over there in an instant, the
photograph in her hands.

"Holy Saint Patrick, 'tis witchcraft!" she cried under her breath.
"How in the name of devils--or saints--did he ever get this taken,
developed, printed, and framed--between the middle of last night and
the beginning of this morning!"

For Patsy was looking down at a picture of the tinker, in white
flannels, with head thrown back and laughing.



IX

PATSY ACQUIRES SOME INFORMATION


With the realization that the tinker was gone, the empty house
suddenly became oppressive. Patsy put down the photograph with a
quick little sigh, and hunted up the breakfast-tray he had left
spread and ready for her, carrying it out to the back porch. There in
the open and the sunshine she ate, according to her own tabulation,
three meals--a left-over supper, a breakfast, and the lunch which she
was more than likely to miss later, She was in the midst of the lunch
when an idea scuttled out of her inner consciousness and pulled at
her immediate attention. She rose hurriedly and went inside. Room
after room she searched, closet after closet.

In one she came upon a suit of familiar white flannels; and she
passed them slowly--so slowly that her hands brushed them with a
friendly little greeting. But the search was a barren one, and she
returned to the porch as empty-handed and as mystified as she had
left it; the heap of ashes on the hearth held no meaning for her, and
consequently told no tales.

"'Tis plain enough what's happened," she said, soberly, to the
sparrows who were skirmishing for crumbs. "Just as I said, he was
fearsome of those constables, after all, and he's escaped in my
clothes!"

The picture of the tinker's bulk trying to disguise itself behind
anything so scanty as her shrunken garments proved too irresistible
for her sense of humor; she burst into peal after peal of laughter
which left her weak and wet-eyed and dispelled her loneliness like
fog before a clearing wind.

"Anyhow, if he hasn't worn them he's fetched them away as a wee
souvenir of an O'Connell; and if I'm to reach Arden in any degree of
decency 'twill have to be in stolen clothes."

But she did not go in the blue frock; the realization came to her
promptly that that was no attire for the road and an unprotected
state; she must go with dull plumage and no beguiling feathers. So
she searched again, and came upon a blue-and-white "middy" suit and a
dark-blue "Norfolk." The exchange brought forth the veriest wisp of a
sigh, for a woman's a woman, on the road or off it; and what one has
not a marked preference for the more becoming frock?

Patsy proved herself a most lawful housebreaker. She tidied up and
put away everything; and the shutter having already been replaced
over the broken window by the runaway tinker, she turned the knob of
the Yale lock on the front door and put one foot over the threshold.
It was back again in an instant, however; and this time it was no
lawful Patsy that flew back through the hall to the mantel-shelf.
With the deftness and celerity of a true housebreaker she de-framed
the tinker and stuffed the photograph in the pocket of her stolen
Norfolk.

"Sure, he promised his company to Arden," she said, by way of
stilling her conscience. Then she crossed the threshold again; and
this time she closed the door behind her.

The sun was inconsiderately overhead. There was nothing to indicate
where it had risen or whither it intended to set; therefore there was
no way of Patsy's telling from what direction she had come or where
Arden was most likely to be found. She shook her fist at the sun
wrathfully. "I'll be bound you're in league with the tinker; 'tis all
a conspiracy to keep me from ever making Arden, or else to keep me
just seven miles from it. That's a grand number--seven."

A glint of white on the grass caught her eye; she stooped and found
it to be a diminutive quill feather dropped by some passing pigeon.
It lay across her palm for a second, and then--the whim taking
her--she shot it exultantly into the air. Where it fell she marked
the way it pointed, and that was the road she took.

It was beginning to seem years ago since she had sat in Marjorie
Schuyler's den listening to Billy Burgeman's confession of a crime
for which he had not sounded in the least responsible. That was on
Tuesday. It was now Friday--three days--seventy-two hours later. She
preferred to think of it in terms of hours--it measured the time
proportionally nearer to the actual feeling of it. Strangely enough,
it seemed half a lifetime instead of half a week, and Patsy could not
fathom the why of it. But what puzzled her more was the present
condition of Billy Burgeman, himself. As far as she was concerned he
had suddenly ceased to exist, and she was pursuing a Balmacaan coat
and plush hat that were quite tenantless; or--at most--they were
supported by the very haziest suggestion of a personality. The harder
she struggled to make a flesh-and-blood man therefrom the more
persistently did it elude her--slipping through her mental grasp like
so much quicksilver. She tried her best to picture him doing
something, feeling something--the simplest human emotion--and the
result was an absolute blank.

And all the while the shadow of a very real man followed her down the
road--a shadow in grotesquely flapping rags, with head flung back. A
dozen times she caught herself listening for the tramp of his feet
beside hers, and flushed hotly at the nagging consciousness that
pointed out each time only the mocking echo of her own tread. Like
the left-behind cottage, the road became unexpectedly lonely and
discouraging.

"The devil take them both!" she sputtered at last. "When one man
refuses to be real at all, and the other pesters ye with being too
real--'tis time to quit their company and let them fetch up where and
how they like."

But an O'Connell is never a quitter; and deep down in Patsy's heart
was the determination to see the end of the road for all three of
them--if fate only granted the chance.

She came to a cross-roads at length. She had spied it from afar and
hailed it as the end of her troubles; now she would learn the right
way to Arden. But Patsy reckoned without chance--or some one else.
The sign-boards had all been ripped from their respective places on a
central post and lay propped up against its base. There was little
information in them for Patsy as she read: "Petersham, five miles;
Lebanon, twelve miles; Arden, seven miles--"

The last sign went spinning across the road, and Patsy dropped on a
near-by stone with the anguish of a great tragedian. "Seven
miles--seven miles! I'm as near to it and I know as much about it as
when I started three days ago. Sure, I feel like a mule, just, on a
treadmill, with Billy Burgeman in the hopper."

A feeling of utter helplessness took possession of her; it was as if
her experiences, her actions, her very words and emotions, were
controlled by an unseen power. Impulse might have precipitated her
into the adventure, but since her feet had trod the first stretch of
the road to Arden chance had sat somewhere, chuckling at his own
comedy--making, while he pulled her hither and yon, like a marionette
on a wire. Verily chance was still chuckling at the incongruity of
his stage setting: A girl pursuing a strange man, and a strange
sheriff pursuing the girl, and neither having an inkling of the
pursuit or the reason for it.

On one thing her mind clinched fast, however: she would at least sit
where she was until some one came by who could put her right, once
and for all; rich man, poor man, beggar-man, thief--she would stop
whoever came first.

The arpeggio of an automobile horn brought her to her feet; the next
moment the machine careened into sight and Patsy flagged it from the
middle of the road, the lines of her face set in grim determination.

"Would you kindly tell me--" she was beginning when a girl in the
tonneau cut her short:

"Why, it's Patsy O'Connell! How in the name of your blessed Saint
Patrick did you ever get so far from home?"

The car was full of young people, but the girl who had spoken was the
only one who looked at all familiar. Patsy's mind groped out of the
present into the past; it was all a blind alley, however, and led
nowhere.

The girl, seeing her bewilderment, helped her out. "Don't you
remember, I was with Marjorie Schuyler in Dublin when you were all so
jolly kind to us? I'm Janet Payne--those awful 'Spitsburger
Paynes'"--and the girl's laugh rang out contagiously.

The laugh swept Patsy's mind out into the open. She reached out and
gripped the girl's hand. "Sure, I remember. But it's a long way from
Dublin, and my memory is slower at hearkening back than my heart. A
brave day to all of you." And her smile greeted the carful
indiscriminately.

"Oh!"--the girl was apologetic--"how beastly rude I am! I'm
forgetting that you don't know everybody as well as everybody knows
you. Jean Lewis, Mrs. Dempsy Carter, Dempsy Carter, Gregory Jessup,
and Jay Clinton--Miss Patricia O'Connell, of the Irish National
Players. We are all very much at your service--including the car,
which is not mine, but the Dempsy Carters'."

"Shall we kidnap Miss O'Connell?" suggested the owner. "She appears
an easy victim."

Janet Payne clapped her hands, but Patsy shook a decided negative.
"That's the genius of the Irish," she laughed; "they look easy till
you hold them up. I'm bound for Arden, and must make it by the
quickest road if you'll point it out to me."

"Why, of course--Arden; that accounts for you perfectly. Stupid that
I didn't think of it at once. What part are you playing?" Janet Payne
accompanied the question with unmistakable eagerness.

Patsy shot a shrewd glance at the girl. Was she indulging in
good-natured banter, or had she learned through Marjorie Schuyler of
Patsy's self-imposed quest, and was seeking information in figurative
speech? Patsy decided in favor of the former and answered it in kind:
"Faith! I'm not sure whether I've been cast for the duke's
daughter--or the fool. I can tell ye better after I reach Arden." And
she turned abruptly as if she would be gone.

But the girl held her back. "No, you don't. We are not going to lose
you like that. We'll kidnap you, as Dempsy suggested, till after
lunch; then we'll motor you back to Arden. You'll get there just
about as soon."

Patsy had not the slightest intention of yielding; her mind and her
feet were braced against any divergence from the straight road now;
but the man Janet Payne had called Gregory Jessup said something that
scattered her resolutions like so much chaff.

"You've simply got to come, Miss O'Connell." And he leaned over the
side of the car in boyish enthusiasm. "Last summer Billy Burgeman
used to read to me the parts of Marjorie's letters that told about
you, and they were great! We were making up our minds to go to
Ireland and see if you were real when your company came to America.
After that Marjorie would never introduce us after the plays, just to
be contrary. You wouldn't have the heart to grudge us a little
acquaintanceship now, would you?"

"Billy Burgeman," repeated Patsy. "Do you know him?"

Dempsy Carter interposed. "They're chums, Miss O'Connell. I'll wager
there isn't a soul on earth that knows Billy as well as Greg does."

"That's hard on Marjorie, isn't it?" asked Janet Payne.

"Oh, hang Marjorie!" The sincerity of Gregory Jessup's emotion
somewhat excused his outburst.

"Why, I thought they were betrothed!" Patsy looked innocent.

"They were. What they are now--Heaven only knows! Marjorie Schuyler
has gone to China, and Billy has dropped off the face of the earth."

A sudden silence fell on the cross-roads. It was Patsy who broke it
at last. "Well?" A composite, interrogative stare came from the
carful. Patsy laughed bewitchingly. "For a crowd of rascally
kidnappers, you are the slowest I ever saw. Troth, in Ireland they'd
have it done in half the time."

The next instant Patsy was lifted bodily inside, and, amid a general
burst of merriment, the car swung down the road.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was a picnic lunch--an elaborate affair put up in a hamper, a
fireless cooker, and a thermos basket; and it was spread on a tiny,
fir-covered peninsula jutting out into a diminutive lake. It was an
enchanting spot and a delicious lunch, with good company to boot;
but, to her annoyance, Patsy found herself continually comparing it
unfavorably with a certain vagabond breakfast garnished with yellow
lady's-slippers, musicianed by throstles, and served by a tinker.

"Something is on your mind, or do you find our American manners and
food too hard to digest comfortably?" Gregory Jessup had curled up
unceremoniously at her feet, balancing a caviar sandwich, a Camembert
cheese, and a bottle of ale with extraordinary dexterity.

"I was thinking about--Billy Burgeman."

He cast a furtive look toward the others beyond them. They seemed
engrossed for the moment in some hectic discussion over fashions, and
he dropped his voice to a confidential pitch: "I can't talk Billy
with the others; I'm too much cut up over the whole thing to stand
hearing them hold an autopsy over Billy's character and motives." He
stopped abruptly and scanned Patsy's face. "I believe a chap could
turn his mind inside out with you, though, and you'd keep the
contents as faithfully as a safe-deposit vault."

Patsy smiled appreciatively. "Faith! you make me feel like Saint
Martin's chest that Satan himself couldn't be opening."

"What did he have in it?"

"Some good Christian souls."

"Contents don't tally--mine are some very un-Christian thoughts." He
abandoned the sandwich and cheese, and settled himself to the more
serious business of balancing his remarks. "Billy and I work for the
same engineering firm; he walked out for lunch Tuesday and no one has
seen him since--unless it's Marjorie Schuyler. Couldn't get anything
out of the old man when I first went to see him, and now he's too ill
to see any one. Marjorie said she really didn't know where he was,
and quit town the next day. Now maybe they don't either of them know
what's happened any more than I do; but I think it's infernally queer
for a man to disappear and say nothing to his father, the girl he's
engaged to, or his best friend. Don't you?"

Patsy's past training stood stanchly by her. She played the part of
the politely interested listener--nothing more--and merely nodded her
head.

"You see," the man went on, "Billy has a confoundedly queer sense of
honor; he can stretch it at times to cover nearly everybody's
calamities and the fool shortcomings of all his acquaintances. Why,
it wasn't a month ago a crowd of us from the works were lunching
together, and the talk came around to speculating. Billy's hard
against it on principle, but he happened to say that if he was going
in for it at all he'd take cotton. What was in Billy's mind was not
the money in it, but the chance to give the South a boost. Well, one
of the fellows took it as a straight tip to get rich from the old
man's son and put in all he had saved up to be married on; lost it
and squealed. And Billy--the big chump--claimed he was responsible
for it--that, being the son of his father, he ought to know enough to
hold his tongue on some subjects. He made it good to the fellow. I
happen to know, for it took every cent of his own money and his next
month's salary into the bargain--and that he borrowed from me."

"Wouldn't his father have helped him out?"

Gregory Jessup gave a bitter little laugh. "You don't know the old
man or you wouldn't ask. He is just about as soft-hearted and human
as a Labrador winter. I've known Billy since we were both little
shavers--and, talk about the curse of poverty! It's a saintly
benediction compared to a fortune like that and life with the man who
made it."

"And--himself, Billy--what does he think of money?"

"I'll tell you what he said once. He had dropped in late after a big
dinner where he had been introduced to some one as the fellow who was
going to inherit sixty millions some day. Phew! but he was sore! He
walked miles--in ten-foot laps--about my den, while he cursed his
father's money from Baffin Bay to Cape Horn. 'I tell you, Greg,' he
finished up with, 'I want enough to keep the cramps out of life,
that's all; enough to help the next fellow who's down on his luck;
enough to give the woman I marry a home and not a residence to live
in, and to provide the father of my kiddies with enough leisure for
them to know what real fatherhood means. I bet you I can make enough
myself to cover every one of those necessities; as for the millions,
I'd like to chuck them for quoits off the Battery.'"

For a moment Patsy's eyes danced; but the next, something tumbled out
of her memory and quieted them. "Then why in the name of Saint
Anthony did he choose to marry Marjorie Schuyler?"

"That does seem funny, I know, but that's a totally different side of
Billy. You see, all his life he's been falling in with people who
made up to him just for his money, and his father had a confounded
way of reminding him that he was bound to be plucked unless he kept
his wits sharp and distrusted every one. It made Billy sick, and yet
it had its effect. He's always been mighty shy with girls--reckon his
father brought him up on tales of rich chaps and modern Circes.
Anyway, when he met Marjorie Schuyler it was different--she had too
much money of her own to make his any particular attraction, and he
finally gave in that she liked him just for himself. That was a proud
day for him, poor old Bill!"

"And did she--could she really love him?" Patsy asked the question of
herself rather than the man beside her.

But he answered it promptly: "I don't believe Marjorie Schuyler has
anything to love with; it was overlooked when she was made. That's
what's worrying me. If he's got into a scrape he'd tell Marjorie the
first thing; and she's not the understanding, forgiving kind. He
hasn't any money; he wouldn't go to his father; and because he's
borrowed from me once, he's that idiotic he wouldn't do it again. If
Marjorie has given him his papers he's in a jolly blue funk and
perfectly capable of going off where he'll never be heard of again.
Hang it all! I don't see why he couldn't have come to me?"

Patsy said nothing while he replenished her plate and helped himself
to another sandwich. At last she asked, casually, "Did the two of you
ever have a disagreement over Marjorie Schuyler?"

"He asked me once just what I thought of her, and I told him. We
never discussed her again."

"No?" Inwardly Patsy was tabulating why Billy Burgeman had not gone
to his friend when Marjorie Schuyler failed him. He would hardly have
cared to criticize the shortcomings of the girl he loved with the man
who had already discovered them.

"What are you two jabbering about?" Janet Payne had left her group
and the hectic argument over fashions.

"Sure, we're threshing out whether it's the Irish or the suffragettes
will rule England when the war is over."

"Well, which is it?"

"Faith! the answer's so simple I'm ashamed to give it. The women will
rule England--that's an easy matter; but the Irish will rule the
women."

"Then you are one of the old-fashioned kind who approves of a lord
and master?" Gregory Jessup looked up at her quizzically.

"'Tis the new fashion you're meaning; having gone out so long since,
'tis barely coming in yet. I'd not give a farthing for the man who
couldn't lead me; only, God help him! if he ever leaves his hands off
the halter."

The laugh that followed gave Patsy time to think. There was one more
question she must be asking before the others joined them and the
conversation became general. She turned to Janet Payne with a little
air of anxious inquiry.

"Maybe you'd ask the rascally villain who kidnapped me, when he has
it in his mind to keep his promise and fetch me to Arden?"

As the girl left them Patsy turned toward Gregory Jessup again and
asked, softly: "Supposing Billy Burgeman has fallen among strangers?
If they saw he was in need of friendliness, would it be so hard to do
him a kindness?"

The man shook his head. "The hardest thing in the world. Billy
Burgeman has been proud and lonely all his life, and it's an infernal
combination. You may know he's out and out aching for a bit of
sympathy, but you never offer it; you don't dare. We could never get
him to own up as a little shaver how neglected and lonely he was and
how he hated to stay in that horrible, gloomy Fifth Avenue house. It
wasn't until he had grown up that he told me he used to come and play
as often as they would let him--just because mother used to kiss him
good-by as she did her own boys."

Gregory Jessup looked beyond the firs to the little lake, and there
was that in his face which showed that he was wrestling with a
treasured memory. When he spoke again his voice sounded as if he had
had to grip it hard against a sign of possible emotion.

"You know Billy's father never gave him an allowance; he didn't
believe in it--wouldn't trust Billy with a cent. Poor little
shaver--never had anything to treat with at school, the way the rest
of the boys did; and never even had car-fare--always walked, rain or
shine, unless his father took him along with him in the machine.
Billy used to say even in those days he liked walking better. Mother
died in the winter--snowy time--when Billy was about twelve; and he
borrowed a shovel from a corner grocer and cleared stoops all
afternoon until he'd made enough to buy two white roses. Father
hadn't broken down all day--wouldn't let us children show a tear; but
when Billy came in with those roses--well, it was the children who
finally had to cheer father up."

Patsy sprang to her feet with a little cry. "I must be going." She
turned to the others, a ring of appeal in her voice. "Can't we hurry
a bit? There's a deal of work at Arden to be done, and no one but
myself to be doing it."

"Rehearsals?" asked Janet Payne.

And Patsy, unheeding, nodded her head.

There was a babel of nonsense in the returning car. Patsy contributed
her share the while her mind was busy building over again into a
Balmacaan coat and plush hat the semblance of a man.

"Sure, I'm not saying I can make out his looks or the color of his
eyes and hair, but he's real, for all that. Holy Saint Patrick, but
he's a real man at last, and I'm liking him!" She smiled with deep
contentment.



X

JOSEPH JOURNEYS TO A FAR COUNTRY


Having established the permanent reality of Billy Burgeman to her own
satisfaction, Patsy's mind went racing off to conjure up all the
possible things Billy and the tinker might think of each other as
soon as chance should bring them together. Whereas it was perfectly
consistent that Billy should shun the consolation and companionship
of his own world, he might follow after vagabond company as a thirsty
dog trails water; and who could slake that thirst better than the
tinker? For a second time that day she pictured the two swinging down
the open road together; and for the second time she pulled a wry
little smile.

The car was nearing the cross-roads from which Patsy had been
originally kidnapped. She looked up to identify it, and saw a second
car speeding toward them from the opposite direction, while between
the two plodded a solitary little figure, coming toward them,
supported by a mammoth pilgrim staff. It was a boy, apparently
conscious of but the one car--theirs; and he swerved to their
left--straight into the path of the car behind--to let them pass.
They sounded their horns, waved their hands, and shouted warnings. It
seemed wholly unbelievable that he should not understand or that the
other car would not stop. But the unbelievable happened; it does
sometimes.

Before Gregory Jessup could jump from their machine the other car had
struck and the boy was tossed like a bundle of empty clothing to the
roadside beyond. The nightmarish suddenness of it all held them
speechless while they gaped at the car's driver, who gave one
backward glance and redoubled his speed. Patsy was the first out of
the tonneau, and she reached the boy almost as soon as Gregory
Jessup.

"Damn them! That's the second time in my life I've seen a machine run
some one down and sneak--"

He broke off at Patsy's sharp cry: "Holy Mary keep him! 'Tis the wee
lad from Lebanon!"

By this time the rest of the carful had gathered about them; and
Dempsy Carter--being a good Catholic--bared his head and crossed
himself.

"'Tis wee Joseph of Lebanon," Patsy repeated, dully; and then to
Dempsy Carter, "Aye, make a prayer for him; but ye'd best do it
driving like the devil for the doctor."

They left at once with her instructions to get the nearest doctor
first, and then to go after the boy's parents. Gregory Jessup stayed
behind with her, and together they tried to lift the still, little
figure onto some rugs and pillows. Then Patsy crept closer and wound
her arms about him, chafing his cheeks and hands and watching for
some sign of returning life.

The man stood silently beside them, holding the pilgrim staff, while
his eyes wandered from Patsy to the child and back to Patsy again,
her face full of harboring tenderness and a great suffering as she
gathered the little boy into her arms and pressed her warm cheek
against the cold one.

Only once during their long wait was the silence broken. "'Tis almost
as if he'd slipped over the border," Patsy whispered. "Maybe he's
there in the gray dusk--a wee shadow soul waiting for death to loosen
its wings and send it lilting into the blue of the Far Country."

"How did you happen to know him?"

"Chance, just. I stopped to tell him a tale of a wandering hero and
he--" She broke off with a little moan. "_Ochone!_ poor wee Joseph!
did I send ye forth on a brave adventure only to bring ye to this?"
Her fingers brushed the damp curls from his forehead. "Laddy, laddy,
why didn't ye mind the promise I laid on ye?"

The doctor was kindly and efficient, but professionally
non-committal. The boy was badly injured, and he must be moved at
once to the nearest house. Somehow they lifted Joseph and held him so
as to break the jar of stone and rut as the doctor drove his car as
carefully as he could down the road leading to the nearest
farm-house.

There they were met with a generous warmth of sympathy and
hospitality; the spare chamber was opened, and the farm wife bustled
about, turning down the bed and bringing what comforts the house
possessed. The doctor stayed as long as he could; but the stork was
flying at the other end of the township, and he was forced to leave
Patsy in charge, with abundant instructions.

Soon after his leaving the Dempsy Carters returned without Joseph's
parents; they had gone to town and were not expected home until
"chore time."

"All right," Patsy sighed. "Now ye had best all go your ways and I'll
bide till morning."

"But can you?" Janet Payne asked it, wonderingly. "I thought you said
you had to be in Arden to-day?"

A smile, whimsical and baffling, crept to the corners of Patsy's
mouth. "Sure, life is crammed with things ye think have to be done
to-day till they're matched against a sudden greater need. Chance and
I started the wee lad on his journey, and 'twas meant I should see
him safe to the end, I'm thinking. Good-by."

Gregory Jessup lingered a moment behind the others; his eyes were
suspiciously red, and the hands that gripped Patsy's shook the least
bit. "I wanted to say something: If--if you should ever happen to run
up against Billy Burgeman--anywhere--don't be afraid to do him a
kindness. He--he wouldn't mind it from you."

Patsy leaned against the door and watched him go. "There's another
good lad. I'd like to be finding him again, too, some day." She
pressed her hands over her eyes with a fierce little groan, as if she
would blot out the enveloping tragedy along with her surroundings.
"Faith! what is the meaning of life, anyway? Until to-day it has
seemed such a simple, straight road; I could have drawn a fair map of
it myself, marking well the starting-point and tracing it reasonably
true to the finish. But to-night--to-night--'tis all a tangle of
lanes and byways. There's no sign-post ahead--and God alone knows
where it's leading."

She went back to the spare chamber and took up her watching by the
bedside; and for the rest of that waning day she sat as motionless
as everything else in the room. The farm wife came and went softly,
in between her preparations for supper. When it was ready she tried
her best to urge Patsy down-stairs for a mouthful.

But the girl refused to stir. "I couldn't. The wee lad might come
back while I was gone and find no one to reach him a hand or smile
him a welcome."

A little later, as the dark gathered, she begged two candles and
stood them on the stand beside the bed. Something in her movements or
the flickering light must have pierced his stupor, for Joseph moaned
slightly and in a moment opened his eyes.

Patsy leaned over him tenderly; could she only keep him content until
the mother came and guard the mysterious borderland against all fear
or pain, "Laddy, laddy," she coaxed, "do ye mind me--now?"

The veriest wisp of a smile answered her.

"And were ye for playing Jack yourself, tramping off to find the
castle with a window in it for every day in the year?" Her voice was
full of gentle, teasing laughter, the voice of a mother playing with
a very little child. "I'm hoping ye didn't forget the promise--ye
didn't forget to ask for the blessing before ye went, now?"

No sound came; but the boy's lips framed a silent "No." In another
moment his eyes were drooping sleepily.

       *       *       *       *       *

Night had come, and with it the insistent chorus of tree-toad and
katydid, interspersed with the song of the vesper sparrow. From the
kitchen came the occasional rattle of dish or pan and the far-away
murmur of voices. Patsy strained her ears for some sound of car or
team upon the road; but there was none.

Again the lids fluttered and opened; this time Joseph smiled
triumphantly. "I thought--p'r'aps--I hadn't found you--after
all--there was--so many ways--you might ha' went." He moistened his
lips. "At the cross-roads--I wasn't quite--sure which to be takin',
but I took--the right one, I did--didn't I?"

There was a ring of pride in the words, and Patsy moistened her lips.
Something clutched at her throat that seemed to force the words back.
"Aye," she managed to say at last.

"An' I've--found you now--you'll have to--promise me not to go
back--not where they can get you. Si Perkins said--as how they'd soon
forget--if you just stayed away long enough." The boy looked at her
happily. "Let's--let's keep on--an' see what lies over the next
hill."

To Patsy this was all an unintelligible wandering of mind; she must
humor it. "All right, laddy, let's keep on. Maybe we'll be finding a
wood full of wild creatures, or an ocean full of ships."

"P'r'aps. But I'd rather--have it a big--big city. I never--saw a
city."

"Aye, 'tis a city then"--Patsy's tone carried conviction--"the
grandest city ever built; and the towers will be touching the clouds,
and the streets will be white as sea-foam; and there will be a great
stretch of green meadow for fairs--"

"An' circuses?"

"What else but circuses! And at the entrance there will be a gate
with tall white columns--"

The sound Patsy had been listening for came at last through the open
windows: the pad-pad-pad of horses' hoofs coming fast.

Joseph looked past Patsy and saw for the first time the candles by
his bed. His eyes sparkled. "They _are_--woppin' big columns--an' at
night--they have lighted lamps on top--all shinin'. Don't they?"

"Aye, to point the way in the dark."

"It's dark--now." The boy's voice lagged in a tired fashion.

"Maybe we'd best hurry--then."

A door slammed below, and there was a rustle of tongues.

"Who'll be 'tendin' the city gates?" asked Joseph.

"Who but the gatekeeper?"

Muffled feet crept up the stairs.

"Will he let us in?"

"He'll let ye in, laddy; I might be too much of a stranger."

"But I could speak for you. I--I wouldn't like--goin' in alone in the
dark."

"Bless ye! ye'd not be alone." Patsy's voice rang vibrant with
gladness. "Now, who do you think will be watching for ye, close to
the gate? Look yonder!"

Joseph's eyes went back to the candles, splendid, tall columns they
were, with beacon lamps capping each. "Who?"

Dim faces looked at him through the flickering light; but there was
only one he saw, and it brought the merriest smile to his lips.

"Why--'course it's mother--sure's shootin'!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Early the next morning Patsy waited on the braided rug outside the
spare chamber for Joseph's mother to come out.

"I've been praying ye'd not hate me for the tale I told the little
lad that day, the tale that brought him--yonder. And if it isn't
overlate, I'd like to be thanking ye for taking me in that night."

The woman looked at her searchingly through swollen lids. "I cal'ate
there's no thanks due; your man paid for your keep; he sawed and
split nigh a cord o' wood that night--must ha' taken him 'most till
mornin'." She paused an instant. "Didn't--he"--she nodded her head
toward the closed door behind her--"never tell you what brought him?"

"Naught but that he wanted to find me."

"He believed in you," the woman said, simply, adding in a toneless
voice: "I cal'ate I couldn't hate you. I never saw any one make death
so--sweet like--as you done for--him."

Patsy spread her hands deprecatingly. "Why shouldn't it be sweet
like? Faith! is it anything but a bit of the very road we've been
traveling since we were born, the bit that lies over the hill and out
of sight?" She took the woman's work-worn hands in hers. "'Tis
terrible, losing a little lad; but 'tis more terrible never having
one. God and Mary be with ye!"

When Patsy left the house a few minutes later Joseph's pilgrim staff
was in her hands, and she stopped on the threshold an instant to ask
the way of Joseph's father.

The good man was dazed with his grief and he directed Patsy in terms
of his own home-going: "Keep on, and take the first turn to your
right."

So Patsy kept on instead of returning to the cross-roads; and chance
scored another point in his comedy and continued chuckling.

       *       *       *       *       *

Meanwhile Joseph's father went back to the spare chamber.

"'S she gone?" inquired Joseph's mother.

"Yep."

"You know, the boy believed in her."

"Yep, I know."

"Well, I cal'ate we've got to, too."

"Sure thing!"

"Ye'll never say a word, then--about seein' her; nuthin' to give the
sheriff a hint where she might be?"

"Why, mother!" The man laid a hand on her shoulder, looking down at
her with accusing eyes. "Hain't you known me long enough to know I
couldn't tell on any one who'd been good to--" He broke off with a
cough. "And what's more, do you think any one who could take our
little boy's hand and lead him, as you might say, straight to
heaven--would be a thief? No, siree!"

       *       *       *       *       *

It was a sober, thoughtful Patsy that followed the road, the pilgrim
staff gripped tightly in her hand. She clung to it as the one
tangible thing left to her out of all the happenings and memories of
her quest. The tinker had disappeared as completely as if the earth
had swallowed him, leaving behind no reason for his going, no hope of
his coming again; Billy Burgeman was still but a flimsy promise; and
Joseph had outstripped them both, passing beyond her farthest vision.
Small wonder, then, that the road was lonely and haunted for Patsy,
and that she plodded along shorn of all buoyancy.

Her imagination began playing tricks with her. Twice it seemed as if
she could feel a little lad's hand, warm and eager, curled under hers
about the staff; another time she found herself gazing through
half-shut eyes at a strange lad--a lad of twelve--who walked ahead
for a space, carrying two great white roses; and once she glanced up
quickly and saw the tinker coming toward her, head thrown back and
laughing. Her wits had barely time to check her answering laugh and
hands outstretching, when he faded into empty winding road.

The morning was uneventful. Patsy stopped but once--to trundle a
perambulator laden with washing and twins for its small conductor, a
mite of a girl who looked almost too frail to breast the weight of a
doll's carriage.

Even Patsy puffed under the strain of the burden. "How do you do it?"
she gasped.

"Well, I started when them babies was tiny and the washin' was small;
an' they both growed so gradual I didn't notice--much. An' ma don't
make me hurry none."

"How many children are there?"

"Nine. Last's just come. Pa says he didn't look on him as no
blessin', but ma says the Lord must provide--an' if it's babies, then
it's babies." She stopped and clasped her hands after the fashion of
an ancient grandmother tottering in the nineties: "Land o' goodness,
I do think an empty cradle's an awful dismal thing to have round.
Don't you?"

Patsy agreed, and a moment later unloaded the twins and the washing
for the child at her doorstep.

Soon after this she caught her first glimpse of the town she was
making. "If luck will only turn stage-manager," she thought, "and put
Billy Burgeman in the center of the scene--handy, why, I'll promise
not to murder my lines or play under."

It was not luck, however, but chance, still pulling the wires; and
accordingly he managed Patsy's entrance as he wished.

The town had one main street, like Lebanon, and in front of the
post-office in a two-seated car sat a familiar figure. There was the
Balmacaan coat and the round plush hat; and to Patsy, impulsive and
heart-strong, it sufficed. She ran nearly the length of the street in
her eagerness to reach him.



XI

AND CHANCE STAGES MELODRAMA INSTEAD OF COMEDY


"A brave day to ye!" A little bit of everything that made Patsy was
wrapped in the smile she gave the man in the Balmacaan coat standing
by the wheel-guard of the car before the town post-office, a hand on
the front seat. "Maybe ye're not knowing it, but it's a rare good day
for us both. If you'll only take me for a spin in your car I'll tell
you what brings me--and who I am--if you haven't that guessed
already."

Plainly the occupant of the coat and the car was too much taken by
surprise to guess. He simply stared; and by that stare conveyed a
heart-sinking impression to Patsy. She looked at the puffed eyes and
the grim, unyielding line of the mouth, and she wanted to run. It
took all the O'Connell stubbornness, coupled with the things Gregory
Jessup had told her about his friend, to keep her feet firm to the
sidewalk and her resolution.

"Maybe," she thought, "he's just taken on the look of a rascal
because he thinks the world has written him down one. That's often
the way with a man; and often it takes but a bit of kindness to
change it. If I could make him smile--now--"

Her next remark accomplished this, but it did not mend matters a
whit. Patsy's heart turned over disconsolately; and she was
safety-locking her wits to keep them from scattering when she made
her final plea.

"I'm not staying long, and I want to know you; there's something I
have to be saying before I go on my way. 'Twould be easiest if you'd
take me for a ride in your car; we could talk quieter there."

She tried to finish with a reasonably cheerful look, but it was a
tragic failure. The man was looking past her to the post-office
beyond, and the things Patsy had seemed to feel in his face suddenly
rose to the surface and revealed themselves with an instant's
intensity. Patsy followed the look over her shoulder and shrank away
perceptibly.

In the doorway of the office stood another man, younger and
more--pronounced. It could mean but one thing: Billy Burgeman had
lost his self-respect along with Marjorie Schuyler and had fallen in
with foul company.

There were natures that crumbled and went to pieces under distrust
and failure--natures that allowed themselves to be blown by passion
and self-pity until they burned down into charred heaps of humanity.
She had met a few of them in her life; but--thank God!--there were
only a few.

She found herself praying that she might not have come too late. Just
what she would do or say she could not tell; but she must make him
understand that he was not the arbiter of his own life, that in spite
of what he had found, there were love and trust and disinterested
kindness in the world, lots of it. Money might be a curse, but it was
a curse that a man could raise for himself; and a little lad who
could shovel snow for half a day to earn two white roses for a dead
friend was too fine to be lost out of life's credit-sheet.

She did not wait for any invitation; silently, with a white face, she
climbed into the car and sat with hands folded about the pilgrim
staff. It was as if she had taken him for granted and was waiting for
his compliance to her will. And he understood. He moved the starter,
and, as the motor began its chugging, he called out to the man in the
doorway:

"Better not wait for me. I seem to have a date with--a lady." There
was an unpleasant intonation on the last word.

"Please take a quiet road--where there will not be much passing,"
commanded Patsy.

She did not speak again until the town lay far behind and they were
well on that quiet road. Then she turned partly toward him, her hands
still clasped, and when she spoke it was still in the best of the
king's English--she had neither feeling nor desire for the intimacy
of her own tongue.

"I know it must seem a bit odd to have me, a stranger, come to you
this way. But when a man's family and betrothed fail him--why, some
one must--make it up--"

He turned fiercely. "How did you know that?"

"I--she--Never mind; I know, that's all. And I came, thinking maybe
you'd be glad--"

"Of another?" he laughed coarsely, looking her over with an
appraising scrutiny. "Well, a fellow might have a worse--substitute."

Patsy crimsoned. It seemed incredible that the man she had listened
to that day in Marjorie Schuyler's den, who had then gripped her
sympathies and thereby pulled her after him in spite of past illness
and all common sense, should be the man speaking now. And yet--what
was it Gregory Jessup had said about him? Had he not implied that old
King Midas had long ago warped his son's trust in women until he had
come to look upon them all as modern Circes? And gradually shame for
herself changed into pity for him. What a shabby performance life
must seem to such as he!

She had an irresistible desire to take him with her behind the scenes
and show him what it really was; to point out how with a change of
line here, a new cue there, and a different drop behind; with a
choice of fellow-players, and better lights, and the right spirit
back of it all--what a good thing he could make of his particular
part. But would he see--could she make him understand? It was worth
trying.

"You are every bit wrong," she said, evenly. "Look at me. Do I look
like an adventuress? And haven't you ever had anybody kind to you
simply because they had a preference for kindness?"

The two looked at each other steadily while the machine crawled at
minimum speed down the deserted road. Her eyes never flinched under
the blighting weight of his, although her heart seemed to stop a
hundred times and the soul of her shrivel into nothing.

"Well," she heard herself saying at last, "don't you think you can
believe in me?"

The man laughed again, coarsely. "Believe in you? That's precisely
what I'm doing this minute--believing in your cleverness and a deuced
pretty way with you. Now don't get mad, my dear. You are all
daughters of Eve, and your intentions are very innocent--of course."

Pity and sympathy left Patsy like starved pensioners. The eyes
looking into his blazed with righteous anger and a hating distrust;
they carried to him a stronger, more direct message than words could
have done. His answer was to double the speed of the car.

"Stop the car!" she demanded.

"Oh, ho! we're getting scared, are we? Repenting of our haste?" The
grim line of his mouth became more sinister. "No man relishes a
woman's contempt, and he generally makes her pay when he can. Now I
came for pleasure, and I'm going to get it." An arm shot around Patsy
and held her tight; the man was strong enough to keep her where he
wished her and steer the car down a straight, empty road. "Remember,
I can prove you asked me to take you--and it was your choice--this
nice, quiet spin!"

She sat so still, so relaxed under his grip that unconsciously he
relaxed too; she could feel the gradual loosening of joint and
muscle.

"Why didn't you scream?" he sneered at length.

"I'm keeping my breath--till there's need of it."

Silence followed. The car raced on down the persistently empty road;
the few houses they passed might have been tenantless for any signs
of human life about them. In the far distance Patsy could see a
suspension-bridge, and she wished and wished it might be closed for
repairs--something, anything to bring to an end this hideous,
nightmarish ride. She groaned inwardly at the thought of it all.
She--Patricia O'Connell--who would have starved rather than play
cheap, sordid melodrama--had been tricked by chance into becoming an
actual, living part of one. She wondered a little why she felt no
fear--she certainly had nothing but distrust and loathing for the man
beside her--and these are breeders of fear. Perhaps her anger had
crowded out all other possible emotion; perhaps--back of
everything--she still hoped for the ultimate spark of decency and
good in him.

Her silence and apparent apathy puzzled the man. "Well, what's in
your mind?" he snapped.

"Two things: I was thinking what a pity it was you let your father
throw so much filth in your eyes, that you grew up to see everything
about you smirched and ugly; and I was wondering how you ever came to
have a friend like Gregory Jessup and a fancy for white roses."

"What in thunder are you talking--"

But he never finished. The scream he had looked for came when he had
given up expecting it. Patsy had wrenched herself free from his hold
and was leaning over the wind-shield, beckoning frantically to a
figure mounted on one of the girders of the bridge. It was a
grotesque, vagabond figure in rags, a battered cap on the back of its
head.

"Good God!" muttered the man in the car, stiffening.

Luckily for the tinker the car was running again at a moderate speed;
the man had slowed up when he saw the rough planking over the bridge,
and his hand had not time enough to reach the lever when the tinker
was upon him. The car came to an abrupt stop.

Patsy sank back on the seat, white and trembling, as she watched the
instant's grappling of the two, followed by a lurching tumble over
the side of the car to the planking. The fall knocked them apart, and
for the space of a few quick breaths they half rose and faced each
other--the one almost crazed with fury, the other steady, calm, but
terrifyingly determined.

Before Patsy could move they were upon each other again--rolling
about in the dust, clutching at each other's throat--now half under
the car, now almost through the girders of the bridge, with Patsy's
voice crying a warning. Again they were on their feet, grappling and
hitting blindly; then down in the dust, rolling and clutching.

It was plain melodrama of the most banal form; and the most
convincing part of it all was the evident personal enmity that
directed each blow. Somehow it was borne in upon Patsy that her share
in the quarrel was an infinitesimal part; it was the old, old scene
in the fourth act: the hero paying up the villain for all past
scores.

Like the scene in the fourth act, it came to an end at last. The time
came when no answering blow met the tinker's, when the hand that
gripped his throat relaxed and the body back of it went down under
him--breathless and inert. Patsy climbed out of the car to make room
for the stowing away of its owner. He was conscious, but past
articulate speech and thoroughly beaten; and the tinker kindly turned
the car about for him and started him slowly off, so as to rid the
road of him, as Patsy said. It looked possible, with a careful
harboring of strength and persistence, for him to reach eventually
the starting-point and his friend of the post-office. As his trail of
dust lengthened between them Patsy gave a sigh of relieved content
and turned to the tinker.

"Faith, ye are a sight for a sore heart." Her hand slid into his
outstretched one. "I'll make a bargain with ye: if ye'll forgive and
forget the unfair things I said to ye that night I'll not stay hurt
over your leaving without notice the next morning."

"It's a bargain," but he winced as he said it. "It seems as if our
meetings were dependent on a certain amount of--of physical
disablement." He smiled reassuringly. "I don't really mind in the
least. I'd stand for knockout blows down miles of road, if they would
bring you back--every time."

"Don't joke!" Patsy covered her face. "If--if ye only knew--what it
means to have ye standing there this minute!" She drew in her breath
quickly; it sounded dangerously like a sob. "If ye only knew what ye
have saved me from--and what I am owing ye--" Her hands fell, and she
looked at him with a sudden shy concern. "Poor lad! Here ye are--a
fit subject for a hospital, and I'm wasting time talking instead of
trying to mend ye up. Do ye think there might be water hereabouts
where we could wash off some of that--grease paint?"

But the tinker was contemplating his right foot; he was standing on
the other. "Don't bother about those scratches; they go rather well
with the clothes, don't you think? It's this ankle that's bothering
me; I must have turned it when I jumped."

"Can't ye walk on it? Ye can lean on this"--she passed him the
pilgrim staff--"and we can go slowly. Bad luck to the man! If I had
known ye were hurt I'd have made ye leave him in the road and we'd
have driven his machine back to Arden for him." She looked longingly
after the trail of dust.

"Your ethics are questionable, but your geography is worse. Arden
isn't back there."

"What do ye mean? Why, I saw Arden, back yonder, with my own
eyes--not an hour ago."

"No, you didn't. You saw Dansville; Arden is over there," and the
tinker's hand pointed over his shoulder at right angles to the road.

"Holy Saint Branden!" gasped Patsy. "Maybe ye'll have the boldness,
then, to tell me I'm still seven miles from it?"

"You are." But this time he did not laugh--a smile was the utmost he
could manage with the pain in his ankle.

Patsy looked as if she might have laughed or cried with equal ease.
"Seven miles--seven miles! Tramp the road for four days and be just
as near the end as I was at the start--" An expression of
enlightenment shot into her face. "Faith, I must have been going in a
circle, then."

The tinker nodded an affirmative.

"And who in the name of reason was the man in the car?"

"That's what I'd like to know; the unmitigated nerve of him!" he
finished to himself. His chin set itself squarely; his face had grown
as white as Patsy's had been and his eyes became doggedly determined.
"If it isn't a piece of impertinence, I'd like to ask how you
happened to be with him, that way?"

Patsy flushed. "I'm thinking ye've earned the right to an answer. I
took him for the lad I was looking for. I thought the place was
Arden, and--and the clothes were the same."

"The clothes!" the tinker repeated it in the same bewildered way that
had been his when Patsy first found him; then he turned and grasped
Patsy's shoulders with a sudden, inexplicable intensity. "What's the
name of the lad--the lad you're after?"

"I'll tell you," said Patsy, slowly, "if you'll tell me what you did
with my brown clothes that morning before you left."

And the answer to both questions was a blank, baffling stare.



XII

A CHANGE OF NATIONALITY


The railroad ran under the suspension-bridge. Patsy could see the
station not an eighth of a mile down the track, and she made for it
as being the nearest possible point where water might be procured.
The station-master gave her a tin can and filled it for her; and ten
minutes later she set about scrubbing the tinker free of all the
telltale make-up of melodrama. It was accomplished--after a fashion,
and with persistent rebelling on the tinker's part and scolding on
Patsy's. And, finally, to prove his own supreme indifference to
physical disablement, he tore the can from her administering hands,
threw it over the bridge, and started down the road at his old,
swinging stride.

"Is it after more lady's-slippers ye're dandering?" called Patsy.

"More likely it's after a pair of those wingèd shoes of Perseus; I'll
need them." But his stride soon broke to a walk and then to a
lagging limp. "It's no use," he said at last; "I might keep on for
another half-mile, a mile at the most; but that's about all I'd be
good for. You'll have to go on to Arden alone, and you can't miss it
this time."

Patsy stopped abruptly. "Why don't ye curse me for the trouble I have
brought?" She considered both hands carefully for a minute, as if she
expected to find in them the solution to the difficulty, then she
looked up and away toward the rising woodland that marked Arden.

"Do ye know," she said, wistfully, "I took the road, thinking I could
mend trouble for that other lad; and instead it's trouble I've been
making for every one--ye, Joseph, and I don't know how many more. And
instead of doling kindness--why, I'm begging it. Now what's the
meaning of it all? What keeps me failing?"

"'There's a divinity that shapes'--" began the tinker.

But Patsy cut him short. "Ye do know Willie Shakespeare!"

He smiled, guiltily. "I'm afraid I do--known him a good many years."

"He's grand company; best I know, barring tinkers." She turned
impulsively and, standing on tiptoe, her fingers reached to the top
of his shoulders. "See here, lad, ye can just give over thinking
I'll go on alone. If I'm cast for melodrama, sure I'll play it
according to the best rules; the villain has fled, the hero is hurt,
and if I went now I'd be hissed by the gallery. I've got ye into
trouble and I'll not leave ye till I see ye out of it--someway. Oh,
there's lots of ways; I'm thinking them fast. Like as not a passing
team or car would carry ye to Arden; or we might beg the loan of a
horse for a bit from some kind-hearted farmer, and I could drive ye
over and bring the horse back; or we'll ask a corner for ye at a
farm-house till ye are fit to walk--"

"We are in the wrong part of the country for any of those things to
happen. Look about! Don't you see what a very different road it is
from the one we took in the beginning?"

Patsy looked and saw. So engrossed had she been in the incidents of
the last hour or more that she had not observed the changing country.
Here were no longer pastures, tilled fields, houses with neighboring
barn-yards, and unclaimed woodland; no longer was the road fringed
with stone walls or stump fencing. Well-rolled golf-links stretched
away on either hand as far as they could see; and, beyond, through
the trees, showed roofs of red tile and stained shingle; and trimmed
hedges skirted everything.

"'Tis the rich man's country," commented Patsy.

"It is, and I'd crawl into a hole and starve before I'd take charity
from one of them."

"Sure and ye would. When a body's poor 'tis only the poor like
himself he'd be asking help of. Don't I know! What's yonder house?"
She broke off with a jerk and pointed ahead to a small building,
sitting well back from the road, partly hidden in the surrounding
clumps of trees.

"It's a stable; house burned down last year and it hasn't been used
by any one since."

"And I'll wager it's as snug as a pocket inside--with fresh hay or
straw, plenty to make a lad comfortable. Isn't that grand good luck
for ye?"

The tinker found it hard to echo Patsy's enthusiasm, but he did his
best. "Of course; and it's just the place to leave a lad behind in
when a lass has seven miles to tramp before she gets to the end of
her journey."

"Is that so?" Patsy's tone sounded suspiciously sarcastic. "Well,
talking's not walking; supposing ye take the staff in one hand and
lean your other on me, and we'll see can we make it before this time
to-morrow."

They made it in another hour, unobserved by the few straggling
players on the links.

The stable proved all Patsy had anticipated. She watched the tinker
sink, exhausted, on the bedded hay, while she pulled down a forgotten
horse-blanket from a near-by peg to throw over him; then she turned
in a business-like manner back to the door.

"Are you going to Arden?" came the faint voice of the tinker after
her.

"I might--and then again--I mightn't. Was there any word ye might
want me to fetch ahead for ye?"

"No; only--perhaps--would you think a chap too everlastingly
impertinent to ask you to wait there for him--until he caught up with
you?"

"I might--and then again--I mightn't." At the door she stopped, and
for the second time considered her hands speculatively. "It wouldn't
inconvenience your feelings any to take charity from me, would it,
seeing I'm as poor as yourself and have dragged ye into this common,
tuppenny brawl by my own foolishness?"

"You didn't drag me in; I had one foot in already."

"I thought so," Patsy nodded, approvingly; her conviction had been
correct, then. "And the charity?"

"Yes, I'd take it from you." The tinker rolled over with a little
moan composed of physical pain and mental discomfort. But in another
moment he was sitting upright, shaking a mandatory fist at Patsy as
she disappeared through the door. "Remember--no help from the
quality! I hate them as much as you do, and I won't have them coming
around with their inquisitive, patronizing, supercilious offers of
assistance to a--beggar. I tell you I want to be left alone! If you
bring any one back with you I'll burn the stable down about me.
Remember!"

"Aye," she called back; "I'll be remembering."

       *       *       *       *       *

She reached the road again; and for the manyeth time since she left
the women's free ward of the City Hospital she marshaled all the
O'Connell wits. But even the best of wits require opportunity, and to
Patsy the immediate outlook seemed barren of such.

"There's naught to do but keep going till something turns up," she
said to herself; and she followed this Micawber advice to the letter.
She came to the end of the grounds which had belonged to the burned
house and the deserted stable; she passed on, between a stretch of
thin woodland and a grove of giant pines; and there she came upon a
cross-road. She looked to the right--it was empty. She looked to the
left--and behold there was "Opportunity," large, florid, and
agitated, coming directly toward her from one of the tile-roofed
houses, and puffing audibly under the combined weight of herself and
her bag.

"Ze depôt--how long ees eet?" she demanded, when she caught sight of
Patsy.

The accent was unmistakably French, and Patsy obligingly answered her
in her mother-tongue. "I cannot say exactly; about three--four
kilometers."

"Opportunity" dropped her bag and embraced her. "Oh!" she burst out,
volubly. "Think of Zoë Marat finding a countrywoman in this wild
land. _Moi_--I can no longer stand it; and when madame's temper goes
_pouffe_--I say, it is enough; let madame fast or cook for her
guests, as she prefer. I go!"

"_Eh, bien!_" agreed the outer Patsy, while her subjective
consciousness addressed her objective self in plain Donegal: "Faith!
this is the maddest luck--the maddest, merriest luck! If yonder
Quality House has lost one cook, 'twill be needing another; and 'tis
a poor cook entirely that doesn't hold the keys of her own pantry.
Food from Quality House needn't be choking the maddest tinker, if
it's paid for in honest work."

Having been embraced by "Opportunity," Patsy saw no reason for
wasting time in futile sympathy that might better be spent in prompt
execution. She despatched the woman to the station with the briefest
of directions and herself made straight for Quality House.

She was smiling over her appearance and the incongruities of the
situation as she rang the bell at the front door and asked for
"Madame" in her best parisien.

The maid, properly impressed, carried the message at once; and
curiosity brought madame in surprising haste to the hall, where she
looked Patsy over with frank amazement.

"Madame speak French? Ah, I thought so. Madame desires a
cook--_voilà!_"

The abruptness of this announcement turned madame giddy. "How did you
know? Mine did not leave half an hour ago; there isn't another French
cook within five miles; it is unbelievable."

"It is Providence." Patsy cast her eyes devoutly heavenward.

"You have references--"

"References!" Patsy shrugged her shoulders contemptuously. "What
would madame do with references? She cannot eat them; she cannot feed
them to her guests. I can cook. Is that not sufficient?"

"But--you do not think--It is impossible that I ever employ a servant
without references. And you--you look like anything in the world but
a French cook."

"Madame is not so foolish as to find fault with the ways of
Providence, or judge one by one's clothes? Who knows--at this moment
it may be _à la mode_ in Paris for cooks to wear sailor blouses.
Besides, madame is mistaken; I am not a servant. I am an artist--a
culinary artist."

"You can cook, truly?"

"But yes, madame!"

"Excellent sauces?"

"_Mon Dieu_--Béchamel--Hollandaise--chaud-froid--maître
d'hôtel--Espagnole--Béarnaise--" Patsy completed the list with an
ecstatic kiss blown into the air.

Madame sighed and spoke in English: "It is unbelievable--absurd. I
shouldn't trust my own eyes or palate if I sat down to-night to the
most remarkable dinner in the world; but one must feed one's guests."
She looked Patsy over again. "Your trunk?"

"Trunk? Is it toilettes or sauces madame wishes me to make for her
guests? _Ma foi!_ Trunks--references--one is as unimportant as the
other. Is it not enough for the present if I cook for madame?
Afterward--" She ended with the all-expressive shrug.

Evidently madame conceded the point, for without further comment she
led the way to the kitchen and presented the bill of fare for dinner.

"'For twelve,'" read Patsy. "And to-morrow is Sunday. Ah, Providence
is good to madame, _mais-oui?_"

But madame's thoughts were on more practical matters. "Your wages?"

"One hundred francs a week, and the kitchen to myself. I, too, have a
temper, madame." Patsy gave a quick toss to her head, while her eyes
snapped.

       *       *       *       *       *

That night the week-end guests at Quality House sat over their
coffee, volubly commenting on the rare excellence of their dinner and
the good fortune of their hostess in her possession of such a cook.
Madame kept her own counsel and blessed Providence; but she did not
allow that good fortune to escape with her better judgment--or
anything else. She ordered the butler, before retiring, to count the
silver and lock it in her dressing-room; this was to be done every
night--as long as the new cook remained.

And the new cook? Her work despatched, and her kitchen to herself,
she was free to get dinner for one more of madame's guests.

"Faith! he'd die of a black fit if he ever knew he was a guest of
Quality House--and she'd die of another if she found out whom she
was entertaining. But, glory be to Peter! what neither of them knows
won't hurt them." And Patsy, unobserved, opened the back door and
retraced the road to the deserted stable with a full basket and a
glad heart.

She found the tinker under some trees at the back, smoking a
disreputable cuddy pipe with a worse accompaniment of tobacco. When
he saw her he removed it apologetically.

"It smells horrible, I know. I found it, forgotten, on a ledge of the
stable, but it keeps a chap from remembering that he is hungry."

"Poor lad!" Patsy knelt on the ground beside him and opened her
basket. "Put your nose into that, just. 'Tis a nine-course dinner and
every bit of the best. Faith! 'tis lucky I was found on a Brittany
rose-bush instead of one in Heidelberg, Birmingham, or Philadelphia;
and if ye can't be born with gold in your mouth the next best thing
is a mixing-spoon."

"Meaning?" queried the tinker.

"Meaning--that there's many a poor soul who goes hungry through life
because she is wanting the knowledge of how to mix what's already
under her nose."

The tinker looked suspiciously from the contents of the basket to
Patsy, kneeling beside it, and he dropped into a shameless mimicry of
her brogue. "Aye, but how did she come by--what's under her nose?
Here's a dinner for a king's son."

"Well, I'll be letting ye play the king's son instead of the fool
to-night, just, if ye'll give over asking any more questions and
eat."

"But"--he sniffed the plate she had handed him with added
suspicion--"roast duck and sherry sauce! Honest, now--have ye been
begging?"

"No--nor stealing--nor, by the same token, have I murdered any one to
get the dinner from him." There was fine sarcasm in her voice as she
returned the tinker's searching look.

"Then where did it come from? I'll not eat a mouthful until I get an
honest answer." The tinker put the plate down beside him and folded
his arms.

Patsy snorted with exasperation. "Was I ever saying ye could play the
king's son? Faith! ye'll never play anything but the fool--first and
last." Her voice suddenly took on a more coaxing tone; she was
thinking of that good dinner growing cold--spoiled by the man's
ridiculous curiosity. "I'll tell ye what--if ye'll agree to begin
eating, I'll agree to begin telling ye about it--and we'll both agree
not to stop till we get to the end. But Holy Saint Martin! who ever
heard of a man before letting his conscience in ahead of his hunger!"

The bargain was made; and while the tinker devoured one plateful
after another with a ravenous haste that almost discredited his
previous restraint, Patsy spun a fanciful tale of having found a
cluricaun under a quicken-tree. With great elaboration and seeming
regard for the truth, she explained his magical qualities, and
how--if you were clever enough to possess yourself of his cap--you
could get almost anything from him.

"I held his cap firmly with the one hand and him by the scruff of the
neck with the other; and says I to him, 'Little man, ye'll not be
getting this back till ye've fetched me a dinner fit for a tinker.'
'Well, and good,' says he, 'but ye can't find that this side of the
King's Hotel, Dublin; and that will take time.' 'Take the time,' says
I, 'but get the dinner.' And from that minute till the present I've
been waiting under that quicken-tree for him to make the trip there
and back."

Patsy finished, and the two of them smiled at each other with rare
good humor out under the June stars. Only the tinker's smile was
skeptical.

"So--ye are not believing me--" Patsy shammed a solemn, grieved look.
"Well--I'll forgive ye this time if ye'll agree that the dinner was
good, for I'd hate like the devil to be giving the wee man back his
cap for anything but the best."

With laggard grace the tinker stretched his hands over the now empty
basket and gripped Patsy's. "Lass, lass--what are you thinking of me?
Faith! my manners are more ragged than my clothes--and I'm not fit to
be a--tinker. The dinner was the best I ever ate, and--bless ye and
the cluricaun!"

Patsy cooked for three days at Quality House, that the tinker might
feast night and morning to his heart's content while his ankle slowly
mended. But he still persisted questioning concerning his food--where
and how Patsy had come by it; she still maintained as persistent a
silence.

"I've come by it honestly, and 'tis no charity fare," was the most
she would say, adding by way of flavor: "For a sorry tinker ye are
the proudest I ever saw. Did ye ever know another, now, who wanted a
written certificate of moral character along with every morsel he
ate?"

According to wage agreement she had the kitchen to herself; no one
entered except on matters of necessity; no one lingered after her
work was despatched. Madame came twice daily to confer with Patsy on
intricacies of gestation, while she beamed upon her as a probationed
soul might look upon the keeper of the keys of Paradise. But the days
held more for Patsy than sauces and entrées and pastries; they held
gossip as well. Soupçons were served up on loosened tongues, borne in
through open window and swinging door--straight from the dining-room
and my lady's chamber. Most of it passed her ears, unheeded; it was
but a droning accompaniment to her measuring, mixing, rolling, and
baking--until news came at last that concerned herself--gossip of the
Burgemans, father and son.

The butler and the parlor maid were cleaning the silver in the
pantry--and the slide was raised. As transmitters of gossip they were
more than usually concerned, for had not the butler at one time
served in the house of Burgeman, and the maid dusted next door?
Therefore every item of news was well ripened before it dropped from
either tongue, and Patsy gathered them in with eager ears.

The master of Quality House happened to be a director of that bank on
which the Burgeman check of ten thousand had been drawn. It had been
the largest check drawn to cash presented at the bank; and the teller
had confessed to the directors that he would never have paid over the
money to any one except the old man's son. In fact, he had been so
much concerned over it afterward that he had called up the Burgeman
office, and had been much relieved to have the assurance of the
secretary that the check was certified and perfectly correct. Not a
second thought would have been given to the matter had not the
secretary's resignation been made public the next day--the day Billy
Burgeman disappeared.

Patsy's ears fairly bristled with interest. "That's news, if it is
gossip. Where is the secretary now? And which of them has the ten
thousand?"

The director had touched on the subject of the check the next day
when business had demanded his presence at the Burgeman home. The
result had been distinctly baffling. Not that the director could put
his finger on any one suspicious point in the behavior of Burgeman,
senior; but it left him with the distinct impression that the father
was shielding the son.

"Aye, that's what Billy said his father would do--shield him out of
pride." Patsy dusted the flour from her arms and stood motionless,
thinking.

Burgeman, senior, had offered only one remark to the director, given
cynically with a nervous jerking of the shoulders and twitching of
the hands: "He was needing pocket-money, a small sum to keep him in
shoe-laces and collar-buttons, I dare say. That's the way rich men's
sons keep their fathers' incomes from getting too cumbersome."

Burgeman, senior, had been ill then--confined to his room; but the
next day his condition had become alarming. He was now dying at his
home in Arden and his son could not be found. These last two
statements were not merely gossip, but facts.

Patsy listened impatiently to the parlor maid arguing the matter of
Billy's guilt with the butler. Their work was finished, and they were
passing through the kitchen on their way to the servants' hall.

"Of course he took it"--the maid's tone was positive--"those rich
men's sons always are a bad lot."

"'E didn't take it, then. 'Is father's playin' some mean game on
'im--that's what. Hi worked five months hin that 'ouse an' Hi'd as
lief work for the devil!" And the butler pounded his fist for
emphasis.

It took all Patsy's self-control to refrain from launching into the
argument herself, and that in the Irish tongue. She saved herself,
however, by resorting to that temper of which she had boasted, and
hurled at the two a torrent of words which sounded to them like the
most horrible pagan blasphemy, and from which they fled in genuine
horror. In reality it was the names of all the places in France that
Patsy could recall with rapidity.

When the kitchen was empty once more Patsy systematically gathered
together all that she knew and all that she had heard of Billy
Burgeman, and weighed it against the bare possible chance she might
have of helping him should she continue her quest. And in the end she
made her decision unwaveringly.

"Troth! a conscience is a poor bit of property entirely," she sighed,
as she stood the pâté-shells on the ledge of the range to dry. "It
drives ye after a man ye don't care a ha'penny about, and it drives
ye from the one that ye do. Bad luck to it!"

       *       *       *       *       *

That night Patsy sat under the trees with the tinker while he ate his
supper. A half-grown moon lighted the feast for them, for Patsy took
an occasional mouthful at the tinker's insistence that dining alone
was a miserably unsociable affair.

"To watch ye eat that pâté de fois gras a body would think ye had
been reared on them. Honest, now, have ye ever tasted one before in
your life?"

"I have."

"Then--ye have sat at rich men's tables?"

"Or perhaps I have begged at rich men's doors. Maybe that is how I
came to have a distaste for their--charity."

"Who are ye? Ye know I'd give the full of my empty pockets to know
who ye are, and what started ye tramping the road--in rags."

The tinker considered a moment. "Perhaps I took the road because I
believed it led to the only place I cared to find. Perhaps I lost the
way to it, as you lost yours to Arden, and in the losing I
found--something else. Perhaps--perhaps--oh, perhaps a hundred
things; but I'll make another bargain with you. I'll tell you all
about it when we reach Arden, if you'll tell me the name of the lad
you came to find."

"I'll do more than that--I'll bring ye together and let ye help mend
him," and she stretched forth her hand to clinch the bargain.

They sat in silence under the spattering of moonlight that sifted
down through the branches; for the moment the tinker had forgotten
his hunger.

"Well?" queried Patsy at last. "A ha'penny for them."

"I'm thinking the same old thoughts I've thought a hundred times
already--since that first day: What makes you so different from
everybody else? What ever sent you out into the world with your
gospel of kindness--on your lips and in your hands?"

"Would ye really like to know?" Patsy's fingers stole through the
grass about them. "Faith! the world's not so soft and green as this
under every one's feet. Ye see 'twas by a thorn I was found hanging
to that Killarney rose-bush in Brittany, and I've always remembered
the feeling of it."

"I always suspected that the people who fell heir to stinging
memories generally went through life hugging their own troubles, and
letting the rest of the world hug theirs."

"I don't believe it!" Patsy shook her head fiercely. "What's the use
of all the pain and sorrow and trouble scattered about everywhere if
it can't put a cure for others into the hands of those who have first
tasted it? And what better cure can ye find than kindness; isn't it
the best thing in the world?"

"Is it? Can it cure--gold?"

"And why not? If every man had more kindness than he had gold, would
neighbor ever have to fear neighbor or childther go hungry for love?"
The tinker did not answer, and Patsy went on with a deepening
intensity: "I'll tell ye a tale--a foolish tale that keeps repeating
itself over and over in my memory like the tick-tick-tick of a clock.
Ye know that the Jesuit Fathers say--give them the care of a child
till he's ten and nothing afterward matters. Well, it's true; a child
can feel all the sweetness or bitterness, hunger or plenty, that life
holds before he is that age even."

Patsy stopped. A veery was singing in the woods close by, and she
listened for a moment. "Hearken to that bird, now. A good-for-naught
lad may have stolen his nest, or a cat filched his young, or his sons
and daughters flown away and left him; but he'll sing, for all that.
'Tis a pity the rest of us can't do as well."

"Yes," agreed the tinker, "but the story--"

"Aye, the story. It begins with a wee white cottage in Brittany,
fronted by roses and backed by great cliffs and the open sea." Patsy
clasped her hands about her knees, while her eyes left the shadow of
the trees and traveled to the open where the moonlight spread silvery
clear and unbroken. And the tinker, watching, knew that her eyes were
seeing the things of which she was telling. "A wee white cottage--the
roses and the cliffs," repeated Patsy, "and a great, grim, silent
figure of a man sitting there idle all day, watching a little lass at
her play. Just the man and the child. And the trouble in his mind
that had kept the man silent and idle was an old, old trouble--old as
the peopled world itself.

"Long before, he had married a woman who cared for two things--love
and gold; and he had but the one to give her. She had been a great
actress, a favorite at the Comédie Française; but she left her work
and all the applause and adulation for him, an expatriated Irishman
with naught but a great love, because she thought she cared for love
more. They had been wonderfully happy at first; he wrote beautiful
verses about her--and his beloved motherland, and she said them for
him in that wonderful singing voice of hers that had made her the
idol of half of France. And she had made a game of their poverty in
the wee white cottage with the roses--until her child was born and
poverty could no longer be played at. Then work became drudgery, and
love naught. The woman went back to her theater--and another man, a
man who had gold a-plenty. And the child grew up playing alone beside
the silent, grim Irishman.

"Then one day the child played with no one by to watch her; the man
had walked over the cliff and forgot ever to come back. Aye, and the
child played on till dark came and she fell asleep--there on the
door-sill, under the roses. 'Twas a neighbor, passing, that found
her, and carried her home to put to bed with her own children. After
that the child was taken away to a convent, and the rich children
called her '_la pauvre petite_,' shared their saints'-days' gifts
with her, and bought her candles that she might make a _novena_ to
bring her father back again. But 'twas her mother it brought
instead."

Patsy stopped again to listen to the veery; he was not singing alone
now, and she smiled wistfully. "See! he's found a friend, a comrade
to sing with him. That's grand!" Then she went back to the story:

"The child was taken from the convent in the night and by somber-clad
servants who seemed in a great hurry. She was brought a long way to a
château, one of the oldest and most beautiful in the south of France;
and a small, shrivel-faced man in royal clothes met her at the door
and carried her up great marble stairs to a chamber lighted by two
tall candles, just. They stopped on the threshold for a breath, and
the child saw that a woman was lying in the canopied bed--a very,
very beautiful woman. To the child she seemed some goddess--or saint.

"'Here is the child,' said the man; and the woman answered: 'Alone,
Réné. Remember you promised--alone.'

"After that the man left them together--the dying woman and her
child. Ah!--how can I be telling you the way she fondled and caressed
her! How starved were the lips that touched the child's hair, cheeks,
and eyelids! And when her strength failed she drew the child into her
tired arms and whispered fragments of prayers, haunting memories,
pitiful regrets. Of all the things she said the child remembered but
one: 'Gold buys plenty for the body, but nothing for the
heart--nothing--nothing!'

"And that kept repeating itself over and over in the child's mind.
She remembered it all through the night after they had taken her away
from those lifeless arms and she lay awake alone in a terrifying,
dark room; she remembered it all through the long day when she sat
beside the gorgeous catafalque that held her mother, and watched the
tall candles in the dim chapel burn lower and lower and lower. And
that was why she refused to stay afterward--and be taken care of by
the shrivel-faced man in that oldest and most beautiful château.
Instead she slipped out early one morning, before any one was awake
to see and mark the way she went. It is unbelievable, sometimes, how
children who have the will to do it can lose themselves. And so this
child--alone--went out into the world, empty-handed, seeking life."

"But did she go empty-handed?" asked the tinker.

"Aye, but not empty-hearted, thank God!"

"And wherever the child went, she carried with her that hatred of
gold," mused the tinker.

"Aye; why not? She had learned how pitifully little it was worth,
when all's said and done. 'Twas her father's name she heard last on
her mother's lips, and it was their child she prayed for with her
dying breath." Patsy sprang to her feet. "Do ye see--the moon will be
beating me to bed, and 'twas a poor tale, after all. How is your
foot?"

"Better--much better."

"Would ye be able to travel on it to-morrow?"

The tinker shook his head. "The day after, perhaps."

"Well, keep on coaxing it. Good night." And she had picked up her
basket and was gone before the tinker could stumble to his feet.

       *       *       *       *       *

When the tinker woke the next morning the basket stood just inside
the stable door, linked through the pilgrim's staff. On investigation
it proved to contain his breakfast and an envelope, and the envelope
contained a ten-dollar bill and a letter, which read:

     DEAR LAD,--I'll be well on the road when you get this; and
     with a tongue in my head and luck at my heels, please God,
     I'll reach Arden this time. You need not be afraid to use
     the money--or too proud, either. It was honestly earned and
     the charity of no one; you can take it as a loan or a
     gift--whichever you choose. Anyhow, it will bring you after
     me faster--which was your own promise.

                    Yours in advance,

                         P. O'CONNELL

Surprise, disappointment, indignation, amusement, all battled for the
upper hand; but it was a very different emotion from any of these
which finally mastered the tinker. He smoothed the bill very tenderly
between his hands before he returned it to the envelope; but he did
something more than smooth the envelope.

And meanwhile Patsy tramped the road to Arden.



XIII

A MESSAGE AND A MAP


This time there was no mistaking the right road; it ran straight past
Quality House to Arden--unbroken but for graveled driveways leading
into private estates. Patsy traveled it at a snail's pace. Now that
Arden had become a definitely unavoidable goal, she was more loath to
reach it than she had been on any of the seven days since the
beginning of her quest. However the quest ended--whether she found
Billy Burgeman or not, or whether there was any need now of finding
him--this much she knew: for her the road ended at Arden. What lay
beyond she neither tried nor cared to prophesy. Was it not enough
that her days of vagabondage would be over--along with the company of
tinkers and such like? There might be an answer awaiting her to the
letter sent from Lebanon to George Travis; in that case she could in
all probability count on some dependable income for the rest of the
summer. Otherwise--there were her wits. The very thought of them
wrung a pitiful little groan from Patsy.

"Faith! I've been overworking Dan's legacy long enough, I'm thinking.
Poor wee things! They're needing rest and nourishment for a while,"
and she patted her forehead sympathetically.

Of one thing she was certain--if her wits must still serve her, they
should do so within the confines of some respectable community; in
other words, she would settle down and work at something that would
provide her with bed and board until the fall bookings began. And,
the road and the tinker would become as a dream, fading with the
summer into a sweet, illusive memory--and a photograph. Patsy felt in
the pocket of her Norfolk for the latter with a sudden eagerness. It
had been forgotten since she had found the tinker himself; but, now
that the road was lengthening between them again, it brought her a
surprising amount of comfort.

"There are three things I shall have to be asking him--if he ever
fetches up in Arden, himself," mused Patsy as she loitered along.
"And, what's more, this time I'll be getting an answer to every one
of them or I'm no relation of Dan's. First, I'll know the fate of the
brown dress; he hadn't a rag of it about him--that's certain. Next,
there's that breakfast with the lady's-slippers. How did he come by
it? And, last of all, how ever did this picture come on the
mantel-shelf of a closed cottage where he knew the way of breaking in
and what clothes would be hanging in the chamber closets? 'Tis all
too great a mystery--"

"Why, Miss O'Connell--what luck!"

Patsy had been so deep in her musing that a horse and rider had come
upon her unnoticed. She turned quickly to see the rider dismounting
just back of her; it was Gregory Jessup.

"The top o' the morning to ye!" She broke into a glad laugh, blessing
that luck, herself, which had broken into her disquieting thoughts
and provided at least fair company and some news--perhaps. She held
out her hand in hearty welcome. "Are ye 'up so early or down so
late'?"

"I might ask that, myself. Is it the habit of celebrated Irish
actresses to tramp miles between sun-up and breakfast?"

"'Tis a habit more likely to fasten itself on French cooks, I'm
thinking," and Patsy smiled.

"Then how is a man to account for you?"

"He'd best not try; I'm a mortial poor person to account for. Maybe
I'm up early--getting my lines for the next act."

"Of course. What a stupid duffer I am! You must find us plain,
plodding Americans horribly short-witted sometimes. Don't you?"

Patsy shook a contradiction. "It's your turn, now. What fetched ye
abroad at this hour?"

Gregory Jessup slipped his arm through the horse's bridle and fell
into step with her. "Principally because I like the early morning
better than any other part of the day; it's fresh and sweet and
unspoiled--like some Irish actresses. There--please don't mind my
crude attempt at poetic--simile," for Patsy's eyes had snapped
dangerously. "If you only knew how rarely poetry or compliments ever
came to roost on this dry tongue, you really wouldn't want to
discourage them when it does happen. Besides, there was another
reason for my being up--a downright foolish reason."

Gregory Jessup accompanied the remark with a downright foolish smile,
and then lapsed into silence. In this fashion they walked to the bend
of the road where another graveled driveway branched forth; and here
the horse stopped of his own accord and whinnied.

"This is the Dempsy Carters' place--where I'm stopping," Gregory
explained.

"Aye, but the other reason?" Patsy reminded him, her eyes friendly
once more.

"Oh--the other reason; I told you it was a foolish one." He stood
rubbing his horse's nose and looking over the road they had come for
some seconds before he finally confessed to it. "It's Billy, you see.
Somehow it occurred to me that if he should be in trouble and at the
same time knowing his father was sick--dying--he might be hanging
around somewhere near here--uncertain just what to do--and not
wanting any one to see him. In that case, the best time to run across
him would be early morning before the rest of the people were awake
and up. Don't you think so?"

"It sounds more sensible than foolish; but I don't think ye'll ever
find him that way. If he was clever enough to let the earth swallow
him up, he's clever enough to keep swallowed. There's but one way to
reach him--and it's been in my mind since yester-eve."

A look of surprise came into Gregory Jessup's face. "Why, Miss
O'Connell! I had no idea what I said that day would fasten Billy on
your mind like this. It's awfully good of you; and he's a perfect
stranger--"

Patsy broke in with a whimsical chuckle. "Aye, I've grown overpartial
to strangers of late; but ye hearken to me. Ye'll have to leave a
sign by the roadside for him--if ye want to reach him. Otherwise
he'll see ye first and be gone before ever ye know he's about."

"What kind of a sign?"

"Faith! I'm not sure of that yet--myself. It must be something that
will put trust back in a lad and tell him to come home."

"And where would you put it?"

"Where? On the roadside, just, anywhere along the road he's used to
tramping."

Gregory Jessup's face lost its puzzled frown and became suddenly
illumined with an inspiration. "I know! By Hec! I've got it! There's
that path that runs down from the Burgeman estate to our old cottage.
It was a short cut for us kids, and we were almost the only ones to
use it. Billy would be far more likely to take that than the
highroad--and it leads to the Burgeman farm, too, run by an old
couple that simply adore Billy. He might go there when he wouldn't go
anywhere else. That's the place for a message. But what message?"

"I know!" Patsy clapped her hands. "Have ye a scrap of paper
anywheres about ye--and a pencil?"

Hunting through the pockets of his riding-clothes, Gregory Jessup
discovered a business letter, the back of which provided ample
writing space, and the stub of a red-ink pencil. "We use 'em in the
drafting-room," he explained. "If these will do--here's a desk," and
he raised the end of his saddle, supporting it with a large expanse
of palm.

Patsy accepted them all with a gracious little nod, and, spreading
the paper on the improvised desk, she wrote quickly:

     "If it do come to pass
     That any man turn ass,"
     Thinking the world is blind
     And trust forsworn mankind,
       "Ducdame, ducdame, ducdame":
     Here shall he find
     Both trust and peace of mind,
     An he but leave all foolishness behind.

"With apologies to Willie Shakespeare," Patsy chuckled again as she
returned paper and pencil to their owner. "Ye put it somewhere he'd
be likely to look--furninst something that would naturally take his
notice."

"I know just the spot--and they're in blossom now, too. I'll fasten
it to a rock, there, wedge it in the cracks. Billy won't miss it if
he comes within yards of the place." He grasped Patsy's hand with
growing fervor that gave promise of developing suddenly into almost
anything. "You're a brick, Miss O'Connell--a solid gold brick of a
girl, and I wish--"

"Take care!" warned Patsy. "Ye're not improving as fast in your
compliments as ye might--and there's no poetry in gold--for me."

Gregory Jessup looked puzzled, but his fervor did not abate one whit.
"I want you to promise me if you ever need a friend--if there is
anything I can ever do--"

"Ye can," interrupted Patsy, "and ye can do it now. Take that
riding-crop of yours and draw me a map in the dust there of the
country hereabouts--ye can make a cross for Arden.... That's grand.
Now where would ye put Brambleside Inn? And is it seven miles from
there to Arden?"

Gregory nodded an affirmative while he considered Patsy with grave
perplexity. Patsy saw it, and smiled reassuringly. "'Tis all right.
I've always had a great interest entirely to know the geography of
every new country--and I haven't the wits to discover it for myself.
Now where would ye put the cross-roads and the Catholic church? And
where would Lebanon be? Aye--Did ye ever see an old tabby chasing her
tail? Faith! 'tis a very intelligent spectacle, I'm thinking. Now
where might ye put the cross-roads where ye picked me up with the
Dempsy Carters?... And Dansville?... and the railroad bridge? ... and
the golf links, back yonder?"

She stood for many minutes, studying the rough chart in the dust at
her feet. The connecting lines of roads between the places named made
fully a hundred and twenty degrees of a circle about the cross
marking Arden. And as chance would have it, every one of the
encircling towns measured approximately seven miles from the central
cross. Patsy smiled, and the smile grew to a chuckle--and the chuckle
to a long, rippling laugh. Patsy was forced to hold her sides with
the ache of it.

"I know ye think I'm crazy--but 'tis the rarest bit of humor this
side of Ireland. Willie Shakespeare himself would steal it if he
could to put in one of his comedies. There is just one thing I'd like
to be knowing--how much of it was chance, and how much was the tricks
of a tinker?"

"I don't think I understand," mumbled Gregory Jessup.

"Of course ye don't," agreed Patsy. "I don't, myself. But there's one
thing more I'll be telling ye--if ye'll swear never to let it pass
your lips?"

Patsy paused for dramatic effect while Gregory Jessup bound himself
twice over to secrecy. "Well," she said, at length, "'tis this: If I
had the road to travel again I'd pray to Saint Brendan to keep my
feet fast to the wrong turn. That's what!"

Patsy left him, still looking after her in a puzzled fashion; and
with quickening steps she passed out of sight.

But once again did she stop; and again it was by a graveled driveway.
She was deep in green memories when a figure in nurse's uniform
coming down the drive caught her attention. She was immediately
reminded of two facts: that the Burgeman estate was in Arden, and
that Burgeman senior was dying. Impulsively she turned toward the
nurse.

"Is Mr. Burgeman any better this morning?"

"We hardly expect that." The nurse's tone was cordial but
professionally cautious.

"I know"--Patsy nodded wisely, as if she had been following the case
professionally herself--"but there is often a last rallying of
strength. Isn't there?"

"Sometimes. I hardly think there will be anything very lasting in Mr.
Burgeman's case. There are moments, now, when his strength and will
are remarkably vigorous--any other man would be in his bed."

"Oh! Then he is--up?"

"He's taken about on a wheeled chair or cot. He is too restless to
stay in any place very long. He seems more contented outdoors, where
he can watch--" She broke off abruptly. "Lovely morning--isn't it?
Good-by."

She turned about and went up the drive again. Patsy watched her go, a
strange, brooding look in her eyes. "So--he likes to be out of doors
best--where he can be watching. And if a body chanced to trespass
that way--she might come upon him, sudden like, and stay long enough
to set him a-thinking. Would it be too late, now, I wonder?"

She resumed her way--and her memories. She passed a half-dozen more
driveways and she climbed a hill; and when she came to the top she
found herself looking down on a thickly wooded hamlet. Spires and
gabled roofs broke the foliage here and there, and on the rising
slope beyond towered a veritable forest. Patsy stood on the brink of
the hill and gazed down long and thoughtfully; at last she flung out
her arms in an impetuous gesture of confirmation, while the old,
whimsical smile crept into her lips.

"'Aye, now am I in Arden, the more fool I; when I was at home, I was
in a better place--but travelers must be content.'" And taking a firm
grip of her memories, her wits, and her courage, she went down the
hill.



XIV

ENTER KING MIDAS


When Patsy at last reached Arden she went direct to the post-office
and was there confronted by a huge poster occupying an entire wall:

               THE SYLVAN PLAYERS

     Under the Management of Geo. Travis

     Presenting Wm. Shakespeare's Comedy

               "AS YOU LIKE IT"

 In the Forest of Arden, on the Estate of Peterson-Jones, Esq.

The date given was Wednesday, the day following; and the cast
registered her name opposite Rosalind.

"So that's the answer to the letter I wrote, and a grand answer it
is. And that's the meaning of Janet Payne's remarks, and I never
guessed it." She heaved the faintest wisp of a sigh--it might have
been pleasure; it might have been a twinge of pain. "And I'm to be
playing the Duke's daughter, after all, at the end of the road."

She went to the general delivery and asked for mail. The clerk
responded with three letters; Patsy almost whistled under her breath.
Retiring to a corner, she looked them over and opened first the one
from George Travis:

     DEAR IRISH PATSY,--You are a lucky beggar, and so am I. Here
     comes the news of Miriam St. Regis's illness and the
     canceling of all of her summer engagements in the same mail
     as your letter.

     Just think of it! Here you are actually in Arden all ready
     for me to pick up and put in Miriam's place without having
     to budge from my desk. The Sylvan Players open with "As You
     Like It." If the critics like it--and you--as well as I
     think they will, I'll book you straight through the summer.
     Felton's managing for me, so please report to him on Monday
     when he gets there. I may run down myself for a glimpse of
     your work.

                    Yours,
                         G. TRAVIS.

     P. S. More good luck. We are just in time to get your name
     on the posters; and unless my memory greatly deceives me,
     you will be able to walk right into all of Miriam's
     costumes.

"Aye, they'll fit," agreed Patsy, with a chuckle. The second letter
was from Felton--dated Monday. He was worried over her continued
absence. He had not found her registered at either of the two
hotels, and the postal clerk reported her mail uncalled for. Would
she come to the Hillcrest Hotel at once. The third was from Janet
Payne, expressing her grief over Joseph's death, and their
disappointment at finding her gone the next morning when they motored
over to take her to Arden. They were all looking forward to seeing
her play on Wednesday.

Patsy returned the letters to their envelopes and marveled that her
new-found prosperity should affect her so drearily. Why was she not
elated, transported with the surprise and the sudden promise of
success? She was free to go now to a good hotel and sign for a room
and three regular meals a day. She could wire at once to Miss Gibbs,
of the select boarding-house, and have her trunk down in twenty-four
hours. In very truth, her days of vagabondage were over, yet the fact
brought her no happiness.

She hunted Felton up at the hotel and explained her absence: "Just a
week-end at one of the fashionable places. No, not exactly
professional. No, not social either. You might call it--providential,
like this."

The morning was spent meeting her fellow-players--going over the
text, trying on the St. Regis costumes, adjourning at last to the
estate of Peterson-Jones.

Until the middle of the afternoon they were busy with rehearsals: the
mental tabulating of new stage business, the adapting of strange
stage property, the accustoming of one's feet to tread gracefully
over roots and tangling vines and slippery patches of pine needles
instead of a good stage flooring. And through all this maze Patsy's
mind played truant. A score of times it raced off back to the road
again, to wait between a stretch of woodland and a grove of giant
pines for the coming of a grotesque, vagabond figure in rags.

"Come, come, Miss O'Connell; what's the matter?" Felton's usual
patience snapped under the strain of her persistent wit-wandering.
"I've had to tell you to change that entrance three times."

"Aye--and what is the matter?" Patsy repeated the question
remorsefully. "Maybe I've acquired the habit of taking the wrong
entrance. What can you expect from any one taking seven days to go
seven miles. I'm dreadfully sorry. If you'll only let me off this
time I promise to remember to-morrow; I promise!"

       *       *       *       *       *

The day had been growing steadily hotter and more sultry. By five
o'clock every one who was doing anything, and could stop doing it,
went slothfully about looking for cool spots and cooler drinks.
Burgeman senior, alone with his servants on the largest estate in
Arden, ordered one of the nurses to wheel him to the border of his
own private lake--a place where breezes blew if there were any
about--and leave him there alone until Fitzpatrick, his lawyer, came
from town. And there he was sitting, his eyes on nothing at all, when
Patsy scrambled up the bank of the lake and dropped breathless under
a tree--not three feet from him.

"Merciful Saint Patrick! I never saw you! Maybe I'm trespassing,
now?"

"You are," agreed Burgeman senior in a colorless voice. "But I hardly
think any one will put you off the grounds--at least until you have
caught your breath."

"Thank you. Maybe the grounds are yours, now?" she questioned again.

The sick man signified they were by a slight nod.

"Well, 'tis the prettiest place hereabouts." Patsy offered the
information as if she had made the discovery herself and was
generously sharing it with him. "I'm a stranger; and when I saw yon
bit of cool, gray water, and the pines clustering round, and the wee
green faery isle in the midst--with the bridge holding onto it to
keep it from disappearing entirely--and the sand so white, and the
lawns so green--why, it looked like a Japanese garden set in a great
sedge bowl. Do you wonder I had to come closer and see it better?"

Burgeman said nothing; but the ghost of a feeling showed, the greed
of possession.

"And it all belongs to you. You bought it all--the lake and the woods
and the lawns." It was not a question, but a statement.

"I own three miles in every direction."

"Except that one." Patsy smiled as she pointed a finger upward. "Did
you ever think how generous the blessed Lord is to lend a bit of His
sky to put over the land men buy and fence in and call 'private
property'? It's odd how a body can think he owns something because he
has paid money for it; and yet the things that make it worth the
owning he hasn't paid for at all."

"What do you mean?"

"Would you think much of this place if you couldn't be looking yonder
and watching the clouds scud by, all turning to pink and flame color
and purple as the sun gathers them in? What would you do if no wild
flowers grew for you, or the birds forgot you in the spring and built
their nests and sang for your neighbor instead? And can you hire the
sun to shine by the day, or order the rain by the hogshead?"

Burgeman senior was contemplating her with genuine amazement. "I do
not believe I have ever heard any one put forth such extraordinary
theories before. May I ask if you are a socialist?"

"Bless you, no! I am a very ordinary human being, just; principally
human."

"Do you know who I am?"

For an instant Patsy looked at him without speaking; then she
answered, slowly: "You have told me, haven't you? You are the master
of the place, and you look a mortal lonely one."

"I--am." The words seemed to slip from his lips without his being at
all conscious of having spoken.

"And the money couldn't keep it from you." There was no mockery in
her tone. "'Tis pitifully few comforts you can buy in life, when
all's said and done."

"Comforts!" The sick man's eyes grew sharp, attacking, with a force
that had not been his for days. "You are talking now like a fool.
Money is the only thing that can buy comforts. What comforts have the
poor?"

"Are you meaning butlers and limousines, electric vibrators and
mud-baths? Those are only cures for the bodily necessities and ills
that money brings on a man: the over-feeding and the over-drinking
and the--under-living. But what comforts would they bring to a
troubled mind and a pinched heart? Tell me that!"

"So! You would prefer to be poor--more pastorally poetic?" Burgeman
sneered.

"More comfortable," corrected Patsy. "Mind you, I'm not meaning
starved, ground-under-the-heel poverty, the kind that breeds
anarchists and criminals. God pity them, too! I mean the man who is
still too poor to reckon his worth to a community in mere money, who,
instead, doles kindness and service to his neighbors. Did you ever
see a man richer than the one who comes home at day's end, after
eight hours of good, clean work, and finds the wife and children
watching for him, happy-eyed and laughing?"

The sick man stirred uneasily. "Well--can't a rich man find the same
happiness?"

"Aye, he can; but does he? Does he even want it? Count up the rich
men you know, and how many are there--like that?" No answer being
given, Patsy continued: "Take the richest man--the very richest man
in all this country--do you suppose in all his life he ever saw his
own lad watching for him to come home?"

"What do you know about the richest man--and his son?" The sick man
had for a moment become again a fiercely bitter, fighting force, a
power given to sweeping what it willed before it. He sat with hands
clenched, his eyes burning into the girl's on the ground beside him.
"I know what the world says."

"The world lies; it has always lied."

"You are wrong. It is a tongue here and a tongue there that bears
false witness; but the world passes on the truth; it has to."

"You forget"--Burgeman senior spoke with difficulty--"it is the rich
who bear the burdens of the world's cares and troubles, and what do
they get for it? The hatred of every one else, even their sons! Every
one hates and envies the man richer and more powerful than himself;
the more he has the more he is feared. He lives friendless; he
dies--lonely."

Patsy rose to her knees and knelt there, shaking her fist--a
composite picture of supplicating Justice and accusing Truth. She had
forgotten that the man before her was sick--dying; that he must have
suffered terribly in spirit as well as body; and that her words were
so many barbed shafts striking at his soul. She remembered nothing
save the thing against which she was fighting: the hard, merciless
possession of money and the arrogant boast of it.

"And you forget that the burden of trouble which the brave rich bear
so nobly are troubles they've put into the world themselves. They
hoard their money to buy power; and then they use that power to get
more money. And so the chain grows--money and power, money and power!
I heard of a rich man once who turned a terrible fever loose all over
the land because he bribed the health inspectors not to close down
his factories. And after death had swept his books clean he gave
large sums of money to stamp out the epidemic in the near-by towns.
Faith! that was grand--the bearing of that trouble! And why are the
rich hated? Why do they live friendless and die lonely? Not because
they hold money, not because they give it away or help others with
it. No! But because they use it to crush others, to rob those who
have less than they have, to turn their power into a curse. That's
the why!"

Patsy, the fanatic, turned suddenly into Patsy, the human, again. The
fist that had been beating the air under his nose dropped and spread
itself tenderly on the sick man's knee. "But I'm sorry you're lonely.
If there was anything you wanted--that you couldn't buy and I could
earn for you--I would get it gladly."

"I believe you would," and the confession surprised the man himself
more than it did Patsy. "Who are you?" he asked at last.

"No one at all, just; a laggard by the roadside--a lass with no home,
no kin, and that for a fortune," and she flung out her two empty
hands, palm uppermost, and laughed.

"And you are audacious enough to think you are richer than I." This
time there was no sneer in his voice, only an amused toleration.

"I am," said Patsy, simply.

"You have youth and health," he conceded, grudgingly.

"Aye, and trust in other folks; that's a fearfully rich possession."

"It is. I might exchange with you--all this," and his hand swept
encompassingly over his great estate, "for that last--trust in other
folks--in one's own folks!"

"Maybe I'd give it to you for nothing--a little of it at any rate.
See, you trust me; and here's--trust in your son." Patsy's voice
dropped to a whisper; she leaned forward and opened one of the sick
man's hands, then folded the fingers tightly over something that
appeared to be invisible--and precious. "Now, you believe in him, no
matter what he's done; you believe he wouldn't wrong you or himself
by doing anything base; you believe that he is coming back to you--to
break the loneliness, and that he'll find a poor, plain man for a
father, waiting him. Don't you remember the prodigal lad--how his
father saw him a long way off and went to meet him? Well, you can
meet him with a long-distance trust--understanding. And there's one
thing more; don't you be so blind or so foolish as to crush him with
the weight of 'all this.' Mind, he has the right to the making of his
own life--for a bit at least; and it's your privilege to give him
that right--somehow. You've still a chance to keep him from wanting
to pitch your money for quoits off the Battery."

Patsy sprang to her feet; but Burgeman senior had reached forward
quickly and caught her skirt, holding it in a marvelously firm grip.
"Then you do know who I am; you've known it all along."

"I know you're the master of all this, and your lad is the Rich Man's
Son; that's all."

"And you think--you think I have no right to leave my son the
inheritance I have worked and saved for him."

"I think you have no right to leave him your--greed. 'Tis a mortal
poor inheritance for any lad."

"Your vocabulary is rather blunt." Burgeman smiled faintly. "But it
is very refreshing. It is a long time since naked truth and I met
face to face."

"But will it do you any good--or is it too late?" Patsy eyed him
contemplatively.

"Too late for what?"

"Too late for the inheritance--too late to give it away somewhere
else--or loan it for a few years till the lad had a chance to find
out if he could make some decent use of it himself. There's many ways
of doing it; I have thought of a few this last half-hour. You might
loan it to the President to buy up some of the railroads for the
government--or to purchase the coal or oil supply; or you might offer
it as a prize to the country that will stop fighting first; or it
might buy clean politics into some of the cities--or endow a
university." She laughed. "It's odd, isn't it, how a body without a
cent to her name can dispose of a few score millions--in less
minutes?"

"If you please, sir." A motionless, impersonal figure in livery stood
at a respectful distance behind the wheel-chair. Neither of them had
been conscious of his presence.

"Well, Parsons?"

"Mr. Billy, sir, has come back, sir. He and Mr. Fitzpatrick came
together. Shall I bring them out here or wheel you inside, sir?"

"Inside!" Burgeman senior almost shouted it. Then he turned to Patsy
and there was more than mere curiosity in his voice: "Who are you?"

"No one at all, just; a laggard by the roadside," she repeated,
wistfully. And then she added in her own Donegal: "But don't ye let
the lagging count for naught. Promise me that!"

The sick man turned his head for a last look at her. "Such a simple
promise--to throw away the fruits of a lifetime!" Bitterness was in
his voice again, but Patsy caught the muttering under his breath. "I
might think about the boy, though, if the Lord granted me time."

"Amen!" whispered Patsy.

She scrambled down the bank the way she had come. For a moment she
stopped by the lake and skimmed a handful of white pebbles across its
mirrored surface. She watched the ripples she had made spread and
spread until they lost themselves in the lake itself, leaving behind
no mark where they had been.

"Yonder's the way with the going and coming of most of us, a little
ripple and naught else--unless it is one more stone at the bottom."
She heaved a sigh. "Well, the quest is over, and I've never laid eyes
on the lad once. But it's ended well, I'm thinking; aye, it's ended
right for him."



XV

ARDEN


Summer must have made one day in June purposely as a setting
for a pastoral comedy; and chance stole it, like a kindly knave,
and gave it to the Sylvan Players. Never did a gathering of people
look down from the rise of a natural amphitheater upon a fairer scene;
a Forest of Arden, built by the greatest scenic artist since the
world began. Birds flew about the trees and sang--whenever the
orchestra permitted; a rabbit or two scuttled out from under
rhododendron-bushes and skipped in shy ingénue fashion across the
stage; while overhead a blue, windless sky spread radiance about
players and audience alike.

Shorn of so much of the theatricalism of ordinary stage performances,
there was reality and charm about this that warmed the spectators
into frequent bursts of spontaneous enthusiasm which were as draughts
of elixir to the players. Those who were playing creditably played
well; those who were playing well excelled themselves, and Patsy
outplayed them all.

She lived every minute of the three hours that spanned the throwing
of Charles, the wrestler, and her promise "to make all this matter
even." There was no touch of coarseness in her rollicking laughter,
no hoydenish swagger in her masquerading; it was all subtly,
irresistibly feminine. And George Travis, watching from the obscurity
of a back seat, pounded his knee with triumph and swore he would make
her the greatest Shakespearean actress of the day.

As Hymen sang her parting song, Patsy scanned the sea of faces beyond
the bank of juniper which served instead of footlights. Already she
had picked out Travis, Janet Payne and her party, the people from
Quality House, who still gaped at her, unbelieving, and young
Peterson-Jones, looking more melancholy, myopic, and poetical than
before. But the one face she hoped to find was missing, even among
the stragglers at the back; and it took all her self-control to keep
disappointment and an odd, hurt feeling out of her voice as she gave
the epilogue.

On the way to her tent--a half-score of them were used as
dressing-rooms behind the stage--George Travis overtook her. "It's
all right, girl. You've made a bigger hit than even I expected. I'm
going to try you out in--"

Patsy cut him short. "You sat at the back. Did you see a vagabond lad
hanging around anywhere--with a limp to him?"

The manager looked at her with amused toleration. "Does a mere man
happen to be of more consequence this minute than your success? Oh, I
say, that's not like you, Irish Patsy!"

She crimsoned, and the manager teased no more. "We play Greyfriars
to-morrow and back to Brambleside the day after; and I've made up my
mind to try you out there in Juliet. If you can handle tragedy as you
can comedy, I'll star you next winter on Broadway. Oh, your future's
very nearly made, you lucky girl!"

But Patsy, slipping into her tent, hardly heard the last. If they
played Greyfriars the next day, that meant they would leave Arden on
the first train after they were packed; and that meant she was
passing once and for all beyond tramping reach of the tinker. There
was a dull ache at her heart which she attempted neither to explain
nor to analyze; it was there--that was enough. With impatient fingers
she tore off Rosalind's wedding finery and attacked her make-up. Then
she lingered over her dressing, hoping to avoid the rest of the
company and any congratulatory friends who might happen to be
browsing around. She wanted to be alone with her memories--to have
and to hold them a little longer before they should grow too dim and
far away.

A hand scratched at the flap of her tent and Janet Payne's voice
broke into her reverie: "Can't we see you, please, for just a moment?
We'll solemnly promise not to stay long."

Patsy hooked back the flap and forced the semblance of a welcome into
her greeting.

"It was simply ripping!" chorused the Dempsy Carters, each gripping a
hand.

Janet Payne looked down upon her with adoring eyes. "It was the best,
the very best I've ever seen you or any one else play it. For the
first time Rosalind seemed a real girl."

But it was the voice of Gregory Jessup that carried above the others:
"Have you heard, Miss O'Connell? Burgeman died last night, and Billy
was with him. He's come home."

"Faith! then there's some virtue in signs, after all."

A hush fell on the group. Patsy suddenly put out her hand. "I'm glad
for you--I'm glad for him; and I hope it ended right. Did you see
him?"

"For a few minutes. There wasn't time to say much; but he looked like
a man who had won out. He said he and the old man had had a good
talk together for the first time in their lives--said it had given
him a father whose memory could never shame him or make him bitter. I
wanted to tell you, so you wouldn't have him on your mind any
longer."

She smiled retrospectively. "Thank you; but I heaved him off nearly
twenty-four hours ago."

Left to herself again, she finished her packing; then tying under her
chin a silly little poke-bonnet of white chiffon and corn-flowers,
still somewhat crushed from its long imprisonment in a trunk, she
went back for a last glimpse of the Forest and her Greenwood tree.

The place was deserted except for the teamsters who had come for the
tents and the property trunks. A flash of white against the green of
the tree caught her eye; for an instant she thought it one of
Orlando's poetic effusions, overlooked in the play and since
forgotten. Idly curious, she pulled it down and read it--once, twice,
three times:

     Where twin oaks rustle in the wind,
     There waits a lad for Rosalind.
     If still she be so wond'rous kind,
     Perchance she'll ease the fretted mind
     That naught can cure--but Rosalind.

With a glad little cry she crumpled the paper in her hand and fled,
straight as a throstle to its mate, to the giant twin oaks which
were landmarks in the forest. Her eyes were a-search for a vagabond
figure in rags; it was small wonder, therefore, that they refused to
acknowledge the man in his well-cut suit of gray who was leaning
partly against the hole of a tree and partly on a pilgrim staff. She
stood and stared and gave no sign of greeting.

"Well, so the Duke's daughter found her rhyme?"

"I'm not knowing whether I'll own ye or not. Sure, ye've no longer
the look of an honest tinker; and maybe we'd best part company
now--before we meet at all."

But the tinker had her firmly by both hands. "That's too late now. I
would have come in rags if there'd been anything left of them, but
they are the only things I intend to part company with. And do you
know"--he gripped her hands tighter--"I met an acquaintance as I came
this way who told me, with eyes nearly popping out of his head, that
the wonderful little person who had played herself straight into
hundreds of hearts had actually been his cook for three days. Oh,
lass! lass! how could you do it!"

"Troth! God made me a better cook than actress. Ye wouldn't want me
to be slighting His handiwork entirely, would ye?"

The tinker shook his head at her. "Do you know what I wanted to say
to every one of those people who had been watching you? I wanted to
say: 'You think she is a wonderful actress; she is more than that.
She is a rare, sweet, true woman, better and finer than any play she
may act in or any part she may play in it. I, the tinker, have
discovered this; and I know her better than does any one else in the
whole world.'"

"Is that so?" A teasing touch of irony crept into Patsy's voice.
"'Tis a pity, now, the manager couldn't be hearing ye; he might give
ye a chance to understudy Orlando."

"And you think I'd be content to understudy any one! Why, I'm going
to pitch Orlando straight out of the Forest of Arden; I'm going to
pull Willie Shakespeare out of his grave and make him rewrite the
whole play--putting a tinker in the leading role."

"And is it a tragedy ye would have him make it?"

"Would it be a tragedy to take a tinker 'for better--for worse'?"

"Faith! that would depend on the tinker."

"Oh-ho, so it's up to the tinker, is it? Well, the tinker will prove
it otherwise; he will guarantee to keep the play running pure comedy
to the end. So that settles it, Miss Patricia O'Connell--alias
Rosalind, alias the cook--alias Patsy--the best little comrade a
lonely man ever found. I am going to marry you the day after
to-morrow, right here in Arden."

Patsy looked at him long and thoughtfully from under the beguiling
shadow of the white chiffon, corn-flower sunbonnet. "'Tis a shame,
just, to discourage anything so brave as a self-made--tinker. But
I'll not be here the day after to-morrow. And what's more, a man is a
fool to marry any woman because he's lonely and she can cook."

The tinker's eyes twinkled. "I don't know. A man might marry for
worse reasons." Then he grew suddenly sober and his eyes looked deep
into hers. "But you know and I know that that is not my reason for
wanting you, or yours for taking me."

"I didn't say I would take ye." This time it was Patsy's eyes that
twinkled. "Do ye think it would be so easy to give up my career--the
big success I've hoped and worked and waited for--just--just for a
tinker? I'd be a fool to think of it." She was smiling inwardly at
her own power of speech, which made what she held as naught sound of
such immeasurable consequence.

But the tinker smiled outwardly. "Where did you say you were going to
be the day after to-morrow?"

"That's another thing I did not say. If ye are going to marry me 'tis
your business to find me." She freed her hands and started off
without a backward glance at him.

"Patsy, Patsy!" he called after her, "wouldn't you like to know the
name of the man you're going to marry?"

She turned and faced him. Framed in the soft, green fringe of the
trees, she seemed to him the very embodiment of young summer--the
free, untrammeled spirit of Arden. Ever since the first he had been
growing more and more conscious of what she was: a nature vital,
beautiful, tender, untouched by the searing things of life--trusting
and worthy of trust; but it was not until this moment that he
realized the future promise of her. And the realization swept all his
smoldering love aflame into his eyes and lips. His arms went out to
her in a sudden, passionate appeal.

"Patsy--Patsy! Would the name make any difference?"

"Why should it?" she cried, with saucy coquetry. "I'm marrying the
man and not his name. If I can stand the one, I can put up with the
other, I'm thinking. Anyhow, 'twill be on the marriage license the
day after to-morrow, and that's time enough."

"Do you really mean you would marry a man, not knowing his name or
anything about his family--or his income--or--"

"That's the civilized way, isn't it?--to find out about those things
first; and afterward it's time enough when you're married to get
acquainted with your man. But that's not the way that leads off the
road to Arden--and it's not my way. I know my man now--God bless
him." And away she ran through the trees and out of sight.

The tinker watched the trees and underbrush swing into place,
covering her exit. So tense and motionless he stood, one might have
suspected him of trying to conjure her back again by the simple magic
of heart and will. It turned out a disappointing piece of conjuring,
however; the green parted again, but not to redisclose Patsy. A man,
instead, walked into the open, toward the giant oaks, and one glimpse
of him swept the tinker's memory back to a certain afternoon and a
cross-roads. He could see himself sitting propped up by the
sign-post, watching the door of a little white church, while down the
road clattered a sorrel mare and a runabout. And the man that
drove--the man who was trailing Patsy--was the man that came toward
him now, looking for--some one.

"You haven't seen--" he began, but the tinker interrupted him:

"Guess not. I've been watching the company break up. Rather
interesting to any one not used to that sort of thing--don't you
think?"

The man eyed him narrowly; then cautiously he dropped into an
attitude of exaggerated indifference. "It sure is--young feller. Now
you hain't been watchin' that there leadin' lady more particularly,
have you? I sort o' cal'ate she might have a takin' way with the
fellers," and he prodded the tinker with a jocular thumb.

The tinker responded promptly with a foolish grin. "Maybe I
have; but the luck was dead against me. Guess she had a lot of
friends with her. I saw them carry her off in triumph in a big
touring-car--probably they'll dine her at the country club."

The man did not wait for further exchange of pleasantries. He took
the direction the tinker indicated, and the tinker watched him go
with a suppressed chuckle.

"History positively stutters sometimes. Now if that property-man knew
what he was talking about the company will be safe out of Arden
before a runabout could make the country club and back." But the
tinker's mirth was of short duration. With a shout of derision, he
slapped the pocket of his trousers viciously.

"What a confounded fool I am! Why in the name of reason didn't I
give them to him and stop this sleuth business before it really gets
her into trouble? Of all the idiotic--senseless--" and, leaning on
the pilgrim staff, he slowly hobbled in the same direction he had
given the man.

       *       *       *       *       *

One last piece of news concerning Billy Burgeman came to Patsy before
she left Arden that afternoon. Gregory Jessup was at the station to
see her off, and he took her aside for the few minutes before the
train arrived.

"I tried to get Billy to join me--knew it would do him good to meet
you; but he wouldn't budge. I rather think he's still a trifle sore
on girls. Nothing personal, you understand?"

Patsy certainly did--far better than his friend knew. In her heart
she was trying her best to be interested and grateful to the Rich
Man's Son for his unconscious part in her happiness. Had it not been
for him there would have been no quest, no road; and without the road
there would have been no tinker; and without the tinker, no
happiness. It was none the less hard to be interested, however, now
that her mind had given over the lonely occupation of contemplating
memories for that most magical of all mental crafts--future-building.
She jerked up her attention sharply as Gregory Jessup began speaking
again.

"Billy told me just before I came down why he had gone away; and I
wanted to tell you. I don't know how much you know about the old
man's reputation, but he was credited with being the hardest master
with his men that you could find either side of the water. In the
beginning he made his money by screwing down the wages and unscrewing
the labor--and no sentiment. That was his slogan. Whether he kept it
up from habit or pure cussedness I can't tell, but that's the real
reason Billy would never go into his father's business--he couldn't
stand his meanness. The old man's secretary forged a check for ten
thousand; Billy caught him and cashed it himself--to save the man. He
shouldered the guilt so his father wouldn't suspect the man and hound
him."

"I know," said Patsy, forgetting that she was supposed to know
nothing. "But why in the name of all the saints did the secretary
want to forge a check?"

"Why does any one forge? He needs money. When Billy caught him the
old fellow went all to pieces and told a pretty tough story. You see,
he'd been Burgeman's secretary for almost twenty years, given him the
best years of his life--slaved for him--lied for him--made money for
him. Billy said his father regarded him as an excellent piece of
office machinery, and treated him as if he were nothing more. The
poor chap had always had hard luck; a delicate wife, three or four
children who were eternally having or needing something, and poor
relations demanding help he couldn't refuse. Between doctors' bills
and clothing--and the relatives--he had no chance to save. At last he
broke down, and the doctor told him it was an outdoor life, with
absolute freedom from the strain of serving a man like Burgeman--or
the undertaker for him. So he went to Burgeman, asked him to loan him
the money to invest in a fruit-farm, and let him pay it off as fast
as he could."

"Well?" Patsy was interested at last.

"Well, the old man turned him down--shouted his 'no sentiment' slogan
at him, and shrugged his shoulders at what the doctor said. He told
him, flat, that a man who hadn't saved a cent in twenty years
couldn't in twenty years more; and he only put money into investments
that paid. The poor chap went away, frantic, worked himself into
thinking he was entitled to that last chance; and when Billy heard
the story he thought so, too. In the end, Billy cashed the check,
gave the secretary the money, and they both cleared out. He knew, if
his father ever suspected the truth, he would have the poor chap
followed and dragged back to pay the full penalty of the law--he and
all his family with him."

Patsy smiled whimsically. "It sounds so simple and believable when
you have it explained; but it would have been rather nice, now, if
Billy Burgeman could have known that one person believed in him from
the beginning without an explanation."

"Who did?"

"Faith! how should I know? I was supposing, just."

But as Patsy climbed onto the train she muttered under her breath:
"We come out even, I'm thinking. If he's missed knowing that, I've
missed knowing a fine lad."



XVI

THE ROAD BEGINS ALL OVER AGAIN


On the second day following Patsy played Juliet at Brambleside, and
more than satisfied George Travis. While his mind was racing ahead,
planning her particular stardom on Broadway, and her mind was
pestering her with its fears and uncertainties into a state of
"private prostration," the manager of the Brambleside Inn was
telephoning the Green County sheriff to come at once--he had found
the girl.

So it came about at the final dropping of the curtain, as Patsy was
climbing down from her bier, that four eagerly determined men
confronted her, each plainly wishful to be the first to gain her
attention.

"Well," said the tinker, pointedly, "are you ready?"

"It's all settled." Travis was jubilant. "You'll play Broadway for
six months next winter--or I'm no manager."

It was the manager of the Brambleside Inn and the Green County
sheriff, however, who gave the greatest dramatic effect. They placed
themselves adroitly on either side of Patsy and announced together:
"You're under arrest!"

"Holy Saint Patrick!" Patsy hardly knew whether to be amused or
angry. With the actual coming of the tinker, and the laying of her
fears, her mind seemed strangely limp and inadequate. Her lips
quivered even as they smiled. "Maybe I had best go back to my bier;
you couldn't arrest a dead Capulet."

But George Travis swept her aside; he saw nothing amusing in the
situation. "What do you mean by insulting Miss O'Connell and myself
by such a performance? Why should she be under arrest--for being one
of the best Shakespearean actresses we've had in this country for
many a long, barren year?"

"No! For stealing two thousand dollars' worth of diamonds from a
guest in this hotel the night she palmed herself off as Miss St.
Regis!" The manager of the Inn bit off his words as if he thoroughly
enjoyed their flavor.

"But she never was here," shouted Travis.

"Yes, I was," contradicted Patsy.

"And she sneaked off in the morning with the jewels," growled the
manager.

"And I trailed over the country for four days, trying to find the
girl in a brown suit that he'd described--said she was on her way to
Arden. I'd give a doggoned big cigar to know where you was all that
time." And there was something akin to admiration in the sheriff's
expression.

But Patsy did not see. She was looking hard at the tinker, with an
odd little smile pulling at the corners of her mouth.

The tinker smiled back, while he reached deep into his trousers
pocket and brought out a small package which he presented to the
sheriff. "Are those what you are looking for?"

They were five unset diamonds.

"Well, I'll be hanged! Did she give them to you?" The manager of the
Inn looked suspiciously from the tinker to Patsy.

"No; she didn't know I had them--didn't even know they existed and
that she was being trailed as a suspected thief. Why, what's the
matter?" For Patsy had suddenly grown white and her lips were
trembling past control.

"Naught--naught they could understand. But I'm finding out there was
more than one quest on the road to Arden, more than one soul who
fared forth to help another in trouble. And my heart is breaking,
just, with the memory of it." And Patsy sank back on the bier and
covered her face.

"What is it, dear?" whispered a distressed tinker.

"Don't ask--now--here. Sometime I'll be telling ye."

"Well"--the sheriff thumbed the armholes of his vest in a
business-like manner--"I cal'ate we've waited about long enough,
young man; supposin' you explain how you come to have those stones in
your possession; and why you lied to me about her and sent me hiking
off to that country club--when you knew durned well where she was."

The tinker laughed in spite of himself. "Certainly; it's very simple.
I found these, in a suit of rags which I saw on a tramp the morning
you lost the diamonds--and Miss O'Connell. I liked the rags so well
that I paid the tramp to change clothes with me; he took mine and
gave me his, along with a knockout blow for good measure."

The manager of the Inn interrupted with an exclamation of surprise:
"So! You were the young fellow they picked up senseless by the
stables that morning. When the grooms saw the other man running, they
made out it was you who had struck him first."

"Wish I had. But I squared it off with him a few days later," the
tinker chuckled. "At the time I couldn't make out why he struck me
except to get the rest of the money I had; but of course he wanted
to get the stones he'd sewed up in these rags and forgotten. I began
to suspect something when I found you trailing Miss O'Connell."

"See here, young man, and wasn't you the feller that put me on the
wrong road twice?" The sheriff laid a hand of the law suggestively
against his chest.

The tinker chuckled again. "I certainly was. It would have been
pretty discouraging for Miss O'Connell if you'd found her before we
had the defense ready; and it would have been awkward for you--to
have to take a lady in custody."

"I cal'ate that's about right." And the sheriff relaxed into a grin.
Suddenly he turned to the manager of the Inn and pounded his palm
with his fist. "By Jupiter! I betcher that there tramp is the feller
that's been cleanin' up these parts for the past two years. Hangs
round as a tramp at back doors and stables, and picks up what
information he needs to break into the house easy. Never hitched him
up in my mind to the thefts afore--but I cal'ate it's the one
man--and he's it."

"Guess you're right," the tinker agreed. "Last Saturday, when I came
upon him again--in an automobile--still in my clothes, we had a final
fight for the possession of the rags, which I still wore, and the--"
But he never finished.

Patsy had sprung to her feet and was looking at him, bewilderment,
accusation, almost fright, showing through her tears. "Your
clothes--your clothes! You wore a--Then you are--"

"Hush!" said the tinker. He turned to the others. "I think that is
all, gentlemen. I searched the rags after I had finished my score
with the thief and found the stones. I brought them over this
afternoon to return to their rightful owner. I might have returned
them that day after the play--but I forgot until the sheriff had
gone. You are entirely welcome. Good afternoon!" He dismissed them
promptly, but courteously, as if the stage had been his own
drawing-room and the two had suddenly expressed a desire to take
their leave.

At the wings he left them and came back direct to George Travis.
"There is more thieving to be done this afternoon, and I am going to
do it. I am going to steal your future star, right from under your
nose; and I shall never return her."

"What do you mean?" Travis stared at him blankly.

"Just what I say; Miss O'Connell and I are to be married this
afternoon in Arden."

"That's simply out of the--"

Patsy, who had found her tongue at last, laid a coaxing hand on
Travis's arm. "No, it isn't. I wired Miriam yesterday--to see if she
was really as sick as you thought. She was sick; but she's ever so
much better and her nerves are not going to be nearly as troublesome
as she feared. She's quite willing to come back and take her old
place, and she'll be well enough next week." Patsy's voice had become
vibrant with feeling. "Now don't ye be hard-hearted and think I'm
ungrateful. We've all been playing in a bigger comedy than Willie
Shakespeare ever wrote; and, sure, we've got to be playing it out to
the end as it was meant to be."

"And you mean to give up your career, your big chance of success?"
Travis still looked incredulous. "Don't you realize you'll be
famous--famous and rich!" he emphasized the last word unduly.

It set Patsy's eyes to blazing. "Aye, I'd no longer be like Granny
Donoghue's lean pig, hungry for scrapings. Well, I'd rather be hungry
for scrapings than starving for love. I knew one woman who threw away
love to be famous and rich, and I watched her die. Thank God she's
kept my feet from that road! Sure, I wouldn't be rich--" She choked
suddenly and looked helplessly at the tinker.

"Neither would I." And he spoke with a solemn conviction.

In the end Travis gave in. He took his disappointment and his loss
like the true gentleman he was, and sent them away with his blessing,
mixed with an honest twinge of self-pity. It was not, however, until
Patsy turned to wave him a last farewell and smile a last grateful
smile from under the white chiffon, corn-flower sunbonnet that he
remembered that convention had been slighted.

"Wait a minute," he said, running after them. "If I am not mistaken I
have not had the pleasure of meeting your--future husband; perhaps
you'll introduce us--"

For once in her life Patsy looked fairly aghast, and Travis repeated,
patiently, "His name, Irish Patsy--I want to know his name."

The tinker might have helped her out, but he chose otherwise. He kept
silent, his eyes on Patsy's as if he would read her answer there
before she spoke it to Travis.

"Well," she said at last, slowly, "maybe I'm not sure of it
myself--except--I'm knowing it must be a good tinker name." And then
laughter danced all over her face. "I'll tell ye; ye can be reading
it to-morrow--in the papers." Whereupon she slipped her arm through
the tinker's, and he led her away.

And so it came to pass that once more Patsy and the tinker found
themselves tramping the road to Arden; only this time it was down the
straight road marked, "Seven Miles," and it was early evening instead
of morning.

"Do ye think we'll reach it now?" inquired Patsy.

"We have reached it already; we're just going back."

"And what happened to the brown dress?"

"I burned it that night in the cottage--to fool the sheriff."

"And I thought that night it was me ye had tricked--just for the whim
of it. Did ye know who I was--by chance?"

"Of course I knew. I had seen you with the Irish Players many, many
times, and I knew you the very moment your voice came over the road
to me--wishing me 'a brave day.'" The tinker's eyes deepened with
tenderness. "Do you think for a moment if I hadn't known something
about you--and wasn't hungering to know more--that I would have
schemed and cheated to keep your comradeship?"

"Ye might tell me, then, how ye came to know about the cottage--and
how your picture ever climbed to the mantel-shelf?"

"You know--I meant to burn that along with the dress--and I forgot.
What did you think when you discovered it?"

"Faith! I thought it was the picture of the truest gentleman God had
ever made--and I fetched it along with me--for company."

The tinker threw back his head and laughed as of old. "What will poor
old Greg say when he finds it gone? Oh, I know how you almost stole
his faithful old heart by being so pitying of his friend--and how you
made the sign for him to follow--"

"Aye," agreed Patsy, "but what of the cottage?"

"That belongs to Greg's father; he and the girls are West this
summer, so the cottage was closed."

"And the breakfast with the throstles and the lady's-slippers?"

The tinker laid his finger over her lips. "Please, sweetheart--don't
try to steal away all the magic and the poetry from our road. You
will leave it very barren if you do--'I'm thinking.'"

Silence held their tongues until curiosity again loosened Patsy's.
"And what started ye on the road in rags? Ye have never really
answered that."

"I have never honestly wanted to; it is not a pleasant answer." He
drew Patsy closer, and his hands closed over hers. "Promise you will
never think of it again, that you and I will forget that part of the
road--after to-day?"

Patsy nodded.

"I borrowed the rags so that it would take a pretty smart coroner to
identify the person in it after the train had passed under the
suspension-bridge from which he fell--by accident. Don't shudder,
dear. Was it so terrible--that wish to get away from a world that
held nothing, not even some one to grieve? Remember, when I started
there wasn't a soul who believed in me, who would care much one way
or another--unless, perhaps, poor old Greg."

"Would ye mind letting me look at the marriage license? I'd like to
be seeing it written down."

The tinker produced it, and she read "William Burgeman." Then she
added, with a stubborn shake of the head, "Mind, though, I'll not be
rich."

"You will not have to be. Father has left me absolutely nothing for
ten years; after that I can inherit his money or not, as we choose.
It's a glorious arrangement. The money is all disposed of to good
civic purpose, if we refuse. I am very glad it's settled that way;
for I'm afraid I would never have had the heart to come to you, dear,
dragging all those millions after me."

"Then it is a free, open road for the both of us; and, please Heaven!
we'll never misuse it." She laughed joyously; some day she would tell
him of her meeting with his father; life was too full now for that.

The tinker fell into his old swinging stride that Patsy had found so
hard to keep pace with; and silence again held their tongues.

"Do you think we shall find the castle with a window for every day in
the year?" the tinker asked at last.

"Aye. Why not? And we'll be as happy as I can tell ye, and twice as
happy as ye can tell me. Doesn't every lad and lass find it anew for
themselves when they take to the long road with naught but love and
trust in their hearts--and their hands together? They may find it
when they're young--they may not find it till they're old--but it
will be there, ever beckoning them on--with the purple hills rising
toward it. And there's a miracle in the castle that I've never told
ye: no matter how old and how worn and how stooped the lad and his
lass may have grown, there he sees her only fresh and fair and she
sees him only brave and straight and strong."

She stopped and faced him, her hands slipping out of his and creeping
up to his shoulders and about his neck. "Dear lad--promise me one
thing!--promise me we shall never forget the road! No matter how
snugly we may be housed, or how close comfort and happiness sit at
our hearthside--we'll be faring forth just once in so often--to touch
earth again. And we'll help to keep faith in human nature--aye, and
simple-hearted kindness alive in the world; and we'll make our
friends by reason of that and not because of the gold we may or may
not be having."

"And do you still think kindness is the greatest thing in the world?"

"No. There is one thing better; but kindness tramps mortal close at
its heels." Patsy's hands slipped from his shoulders; she clasped
them together in sudden intensity. "Haven't ye any curiosity at all
to know what fetched me after ye?"

"Yes. But there is to-morrow--and all the days after--to tell me."

"No, there is just to-day. The telling of it is the only wedding-gift
I have for ye, dear lad. I was with Marjorie Schuyler in the den that
day you came to her and told her."

"You heard everything?"

"Aye."

"And you came, believing in me, after all?"

"I came to show you there was one person in the world who trusted
you, who would trust you across the world and back again. That's all
the wedding-gift I have for ye, dear, barring love."

And then and there--in the open road, still a good three miles from
the Arden church--the tinker gathered her close in the embrace he had
kept for her so long.



       *       *       *       *       *



Transcriber's note:

Minor changes have been made to correct typesetters' errors; otherwise,
every effort has been made to remain true to the author's words and
intent.





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