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Title: Rose O'Paradise
Author: White, Grace Miller, 1868-1957
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 "Rose O'Paradise" ***

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



[Illustration: VIRGINA LEFT THE FARMHOUSE, CARRYING HER FIDDLE AND THE
PAIL OF CATS, AND THE BLIZZARD SWALLOWED HER UP.]



ROSE O' PARADISE

BY

GRACE MILLER WHITE

AUTHOR OF

TESS OF THE STORM COUNTRY, ETC.

ILLUSTRATIONS BY

W. J. SHETTSLINE

[Illustration]

NEW YORK

GROSSET & DUNLAP

PUBLISHERS



COPYRIGHT, 1915, BY

THE H. K. FLY COMPANY



I lovingly dedicate this book

to

Rose and Will Scott



CONTENTS

  CHAPTER                                                         PAGE
       I. Father and Daughter                                        9
      II. A White Presence                                          28
     III. Jinnie's Farewell to Molly the Merry                      35
      IV. Jinnie Travels                                            42
       V. Like Unto Like Attracted                                  49
      VI. Peg's Bark                                                57
     VII. Just a Jew                                                62
    VIII. "Every Hand Shall Do Its Share," Quoth Peg.               70
      IX. By the Sweat of Her Brow                                  79
       X. On the Broad Bosom of the "Happy in Spite"                83
      XI. What Happened to Jinnie                                   89
     XII. Watching                                                  95
    XIII. What Jinnie Found on the Hill                             98
     XIV. "He's Come to Live With Us, Peggy"                       105
      XV. "Who Says the Kid Can't Stay?"                           110
     XVI. Jinnie's Ear Gets a Tweak                                116
    XVII. Jinnie Discovers Her King's Throne                       122
   XVIII. Red Roses and Yellow                                     129
     XIX. The Little Fiddler                                       136
      XX. The Cobbler's Secret                                     145
     XXI. The Coming of the Angels                                 152
    XXII. Molly's Discovery                                        163
   XXIII. Nobody's Cat                                             171
    XXIV. "He Might Even Marry Her"                                179
     XXV. When Theodore Forgot                                     185
    XXVI. Molly Asks to Be Forgiven                                192
   XXVII. "Haven't You Any Soul?"                                  196
  XXVIII. Jinnie Decides Against Theodore                          201
    XXIX. Peg's Visit                                              207
     XXX. What the Fiddle Told Theodore                            214
    XXXI. What Theodore Told His Friend                            221
   XXXII. Jordan Morse's Plan                                      227
  XXXIII. The Murder                                               233
   XXXIV. The Cobbler's Arrest                                     240
    XXXV. Alone in the Shop                                        248
   XXXVI. Jinnie Explains the Death Chair to Bobbie                253
  XXXVII. What the Thunder Storm Brought                           262
 XXXVIII. The Story of a Bird                                      268
   XXXIX. Jinnie's Visit to Theodore                               274
      XL. An Appeal to Jinnie's Heart                              281
     XLI. Jinnie's Plea                                            285
    XLII. Bobbie Takes a Trip                                      294
   XLIII. Theodore Sends for Molly                                 299
    XLIV. Molly Gives an Order to Jinnie                           304
     XLV. Writing a Letter to Theodore                             309
    XLVI. "Bust 'Em Out"                                           316
   XLVII. Bobbie's Stars Renew Their Shining                       327
  XLVIII. For Bobbie's Sake                                        334
    XLIX. Back Home                                                341
       L. "God Made You Mine"                                      346



ILLUSTRATIONS

 Virgina left the farmhouse, carrying her fiddle and
 the pail of cats, and the blizzard swallowed her up.   _Frontispiece_

 "I guess they won't eat much, because Milly Ann
 catches all kind of live things. I don't like her to
 do that, but I heard she was born that way and can't
 help it."                                                          56

 "You needn't feel so glad nor look as if you was
 goin' to tumble over. It ain't no credit to anyone
 them curtains was on the shelf waitin' to be cut up
 in a dress for you to fiddle in."                                 136

 "Play for me," Theodore said. "Stand by that big tree
 so I can look at you."                                            216



ROSE O' PARADISE

CHAPTER I

FATHER AND DAUGHTER


On a hill, reared back from a northern lake, stood a weather-beaten
farmhouse, creaking in a heavy winter blizzard. It was an
old-fashioned, many-pillared structure. The earmarks of hard winters
and the fierce suns of summer were upon it. From the main road it was
scarcely discernible, settled, as it was, behind a row of pine trees,
which in the night wind beat and tossed mournfully.

In the front room, which faced the porch, sat a man,--a tall, thin
man, with straight, long jaws, and heavy overhanging brows. With moody
eyes he was staring into the grate fire, a fearful expression upon his
face.

He straightened his shoulders, got up, and paced the floor back and
forth, stopping now and then to listen expectantly. Then again he
seated himself to wait. Several times, passionately insistent, he
shook his head, and it was as if the refusal were being made to an
invisible presence. Suddenly he lifted his face as the sound of a
weird, wild wail was borne to him, mingling with the elf-like moaning
of the wind. He leaned forward slightly, listening intently. From
somewhere above him pleading notes from a violin were making the night
even more mournful. A change came over the thin face.

"My God!" he exclaimed aloud. "Who's playing like that?"

He crossed the room and jerked the bell-rope roughly. In a few moments
the head of a middle-aged colored woman appeared at the door.

"Did you tell my daughter I wanted to see her?" questioned the man.

"No, sah, I didn't. When you got here she wasn't in. Then she slid to
the garret afore I saw 'er. Now she's got to finish her fiddlin' afore
I tell 'er you're here. I never bother Miss Jinnie when she's
fiddlin', sah." The old woman bowed obsequiously, as if pleading
pardon.

The man made a threatening gesture.

"Go immediately and send her to me," said he.

For perhaps twenty minutes he sat there, his ears straining to catch,
through the whistling wind, the sounds of that wild, unearthly
tune,--a tune different from any he had ever heard. Then at length it
stopped, and he sank back into his chair.

He turned expectantly toward the door. Footsteps, bounding with life,
with strength, were bearing down upon him. Suddenly a girl's face,--a
rosy, lovely face,--with rapturous eyes, was turned up to his. At the
sight of her stern father, the girl stopped, bringing her feet
together at the heels, and bowed. Then they two,--Thomas Singleton the
second and Virginia, his daughter,--looked at each other squarely.

"Ah, come in!" said the man. "I want to talk with you. I believe
you're called Virginia."

"Yes, sir; Jinnie, for short, sir," answered the girl, with a slight
inclination of her head.

Awkwardly, and with almost an embarrassed manner, she walked in front
of the grate to the chair pointed out to her. The man glanced sharply
at the strongly-knit young figure, vibrant with that vital thing
called "life." He sighed and dropped back limply. There followed a
lengthy silence, until at last Thomas Singleton shifted his feet and
spoke slowly, with a grim setting of his teeth.

"I have much to say to you. Sit back farther in your chair and don't
stare at me so."

His tones were fretful, like those of a man sick of living, yet trying
to live. He dropped his chin into the palm of his hand and lapsed into
a meditative gloom.

Virginia leaned back, but only in this did she obey, for her eyes were
still centered on the man in silent attention. She had little awe of
him within her buoyant young soul, but much curiosity lay under the
level, penetrating glance she bent upon her father. Here was a man
who, according to all the human laws of which Virginia had ever heard,
belonged to her, and to her alone. There were no other children and no
mother. Yet so little did she know of him that she wouldn't have
recognized him had she met him in the road. Singleton's uneasy glance,
seeking the yellow, licking flames in the grate, crossed hers.

"I told you not to stare at me so, child!" he repeated.

This time the violet eyes wavered just for an instant, then fastened
their gaze once more upon the speaker.

"I don't remember how you look," she stammered, "and I'd like to know.
I can't tell if I don't look, can I?"

Her grave words, and possibly the steady, piercing gaze, brought a
twitch to the father's lips. Surely his child had spoken the truth. He
himself had almost forgotten he had a girl; that she was the only
living creature who had a call upon the slender thread of his life.
Had he lived differently, the girl in front of him would have been
watching him for some other reason than curiosity.

"That's why I'm looking at you, sir," she explained. "If any one on
the hills'd say, 'How's your father looking, Jinnie?' if I hadn't
looked at you sharp, sir, how'd I know?"

She sighed as her eyes roved the length of the man once more. The
ashes in the grate were no grayer than his face.

"You're awful thin and white," she observed.

"I'm sick," replied Singleton in excuse.

"Oh, I'm sorry!" answered Virginia.

"You're quite grown up now," remarked the man presently, with a
meditative air.

"Oh, yes, sir!" she agreed. "I'm a woman now. I'm fifteen years old."

"I see! Well, well, you _are_ quite grown up! I heard you playing just
now. Where did you ever learn such music?"

Jinnie placed her hand on her heart. "I got it out of here, sir," she
replied simply.

Involuntarily Singleton straightened his rounded shoulders, and a
smile touched the corners of his mouth. Even his own desperate
condition for the moment was erased from his mind in the pride he felt
in his daughter. Then over him swept a great regret. He had missed
more than he had gained in his travels abroad, in not living with and
for the little creature before him.

Her eyes were filled with contemplation; then the lovely face, in its
exquisite purity, saddened for a moment.

"Matty isn't going to take me across her knee never any more," she
vouchsafed, a smile breaking like a ray of sunshine.

The blouse slipped away from her slender throat, and she made a
picture, vivid and beautiful. The fatherhood within Thomas Singleton
bounded in appreciation as he contemplated his daughter for a short
space, measuring accurately the worth within her. He caught the
wonderful appeal in the violet eyes, and wished to live. God, how he
wanted to live! He would! He would! It meant gathering his supremest
strength, to be put forth in efforts of mere existing. Something out
of an unknown somewhere, brought to him through the stormy, wonderful
music he had heard, made the longing to live so vehement that it hurt.
Then the horror of Virginia's words drifted through his tortured
brain.

"What?" he ejaculated.

"Now I'm fifteen," explained the girl, "I get a woman's beating with a
strap, you see. A while ago I got one that near killed me, but I never
cried a tear. Matty was almost scared to death; she thought I was
dead. Matty can lick hard, Matty can."

Virginia sighed in recollection.

"You don't mean to say the nigger whipped you?"

The girl shook her curly head.

"Whipped me! No! Matty don't whip; she just licks with all her
muscle.... Matty's muscle's as strong as a tree limb."

Mr. Singleton bowed his head. It had never occurred to him in all
those absent years that the child was being abused. How simply she had
told her tale of suffering!

"But I'm fifteen now," she repeated gladly, "so I stand up, spread my
feet like this"--she rose and suited the action to the words--"and
Matty lays her on damn hard, too."

He covered his mouth with one thin hand, choked down a cough, and
endeavored to change the subject.

"And school? Have you been to school?"

"Oh, yes!" assured the girl, sitting down again. "I went to school
back in the hills. There were only five boys and me. There wasn't any
girls. I wish there had been."

"You like girls, I imagine, then," said her father.

"Oh, yes, sir! Yes, indeed, sir! I often walk five miles to play a
while with one. None of the mothers around Mottville Corners'll let
their girls be with me. You see, this house has a bad name."

A deep crimson dyed the man's ashen skin. He made as if to speak, but
Jinnie went on.

"Over in the Willow Creek settlement the kids are awful bad, but I get
along with 'em fine, because I love 'em right out of being hellish."

She was gazing straight into her father's face in all sincerity, with
no trace of embarrassment.

"You know Mrs. Barker, the housekeeper you left me with?" she demanded
a little later. "Well, she died when I was ten. Matty stayed, thinking
every day you'd come home. I suppose mebbe I did grow up sort of
cussed, and I suppose everybody thinks I'm bad because I've only a
nigger to live with, and no mother, not--not even _you_."

Singleton partly smothered an oath which lengthened itself into a
groan, looked long at the slim young figure, then at the piquant
face.

"Just lately I've been wanting some one of my own to love," she
pursued. "I only had Milly and her cats. Then the letter come saying
you'd be here--and I'm very glad."

The smile lighting her face and playing with the dimples in her cheeks
made Thomas Singleton feel as if Heaven's breath had touched him.

"Do you care at all for me?" he asked gloomily.

There had come over him a desire that this winsome girl,--winsome in
spite of her crudity,--would say she did. Wonder, love, sympathy, were
alive in her eyes. Jinnie nodded her head.

"Oh, yes, sir!" she murmured. "Of course I love you! I couldn't tell
you how much.... I love--why, I even love Mose. Mose's Matty's man.
He stole and et up all our chickens--but I love him just the same. I
felt sorry about his killing the hens, because I loved them too."

"I see," sighed the father.

"Now there's Molly--I call her Molly the Merry----"

"Who's Molly the Merry?" interrupted Singleton.

"Old Merriweather's daughter. She's prettier than the summer roses,
and they're pretty, believe me. Her smiles're warmer'n the sun."

"Ah, yes! I remember the Merriweathers. Is the old man still alive?"

"Well, yes, but he's as good as dead, though. Ain't walked in three
years. And Matty's man, Mose, told Matty, and Matty told me, he's
meaner'n forty damn devils."

"So you swear, too?" asked the father, breathing deeply.

Virginia opened wide and wider two sparkling blue eyes.

"Swear, sir?" she protested. "I didn't swear."

"Pardon me," replied Singleton, laconically. "I thought I heard you
say 'damn' several times."

Virginia's smile showed two rows of white teeth.

"Oh, so you did!" she laughed, rising. "But 'damn' isn't swearing. You
ought to hear me really swear sometimes. Shall I show you how I--I can
swear?"

Singleton shook his head.

"I'd rather you wouldn't!... Sit down again, please."

The man at intervals turned a pair of burning bright eyes upon her.
They weren't unlike her own eyes, only their expression puzzled
Virginia.

She could not understand the rapid changes in her father. He wasn't
the man she had mentally known all these years. But then, all she had
had by which to visualize him was an old torn picture, turned face to
the wall in the garret. He didn't look at all like the painting--he
was thinner, older, and instead of the tender expression on the
handsome, boyish face, time had placed one of bitterness, anxiety, and
dread. He sat, crouched forward, stirring the grate fire, seemingly
lost in thought. Virginia remained quiet until he was ready to speak.

"I'm going to die soon,--very soon."

It was only natural that Virginia should show how his statement
shocked her. She grew deathly white, and an expression of misery knit
the lovely young face.

"How soon?" she shivered, drawing back.

"Perhaps to-night--perhaps not for weeks, but I must tell you
something before then."

"All right," agreed Virginia, "all right.... I'm here."

"I haven't been a good father to you," the man began after a pause,
"and I'm not sure I could do better if I should stay on here with you.
So I might as well go now as any time! Your mother would've done
differently if she'd lived. You look some like her."

"I'm sorry I don't remember her," remarked Virginia apologetically.

"She went away when you were too little even to know her. Then I left
you, too, though I don't suppose any one but her could have made you
happy."

"Oh, I've been happy!" Jinnie asserted. "Old Aunt Matty and the
cats're all I need around, and I always have my fiddle. I found it in
the garret."

It was easy to believe that she was telling the truth, for to all
appearances she looked happy and healthy. However, Mr. Singleton's
eyes darkened and saddened under the words. Nothing, perhaps, had ever
touched him so deeply.

"It's no life for a girl of fifteen years to live with cats and
niggers," he muttered.

One less firmly faithful to conscience would have acquiesced in this
truthful statement; not so Virginia.

"Matty's a good nigger!" she insisted, passionately. "She'd do
anything she could for me!"

Seemingly the man was not impressed by this, for his strong jaws were
set and unyielding upon the unlighted cigar clenched between his
teeth.

"I might as well tell you to-night as to-morrow," he concluded,
dropping the cigar on the table. "Your mother left you her money and
property when she died."

"I know it, sir, and it's a lot, too! Matty told me about it one night
along with 'er ghost stories, sir.... Ever heard Matty's ghost
stories, sir?"

"No, but I didn't bring you here to talk about Matty. And tell me,
what makes you say 'sir' to me all the time?"

His impatient tone, his sharp, rasping voice, didn't change Virginia's
respectful attitude. She only bent her head a trifle and replied:

"Anybody must always say 'sir' to another body when she's kind of half
afraid of him, sir."

She was composed for a moment, then went on:

"It isn't every day your father comes home, sir, and I've waited a
long, long time. I'd be a hell of a kid if I couldn't muster up a
'sir' for you."

Singleton glanced sidewise at his young daughter, bending his brows
together in a frown.

"You're a queer sort of a girl, but I suppose it's to be expected when
you've only lived with niggers.... Now will you remember something if
I tell it to you?"

"Yes, sir," breathed Virginia, drawing back a little from his strong
emotion.

"Well, this! Don't ever say 'sir' to any human being living! Don't
ever! Do you understand me? What I mean is, when you say 'sir,' it's
as if you were--as if you were a servant or afraid--you make yourself
menial. Can you remember, child?"

"Yes, sir,--yes, I'll remember.... I _think_ I'll remember."

"If you're going to accomplish anything in the world, don't be afraid
of any one."

A dozen explanations, like so many birds, fluttered through Virginia's
mind. Before her rose her world of yesterday, and a sudden apology
leapt to her lips. She turned on her father a wondering, sober
glance.

"I've never said 'sir' or 'ma'am' before in all my life--never!" she
remarked.

"So you're afraid of me?"

"A little," she sighed.

"Ah, don't be, child! I'm your father. Will you keep that in mind?"

"I'll try to; I will, sure."

Mr. Singleton shifted uneasily, as if in pain.

"This money is coming to you when you're eighteen years old,"
explained Mr. Singleton. "My dying will throw you into an ocean of
difficulties. I guess the only service I've ever done you has been to
keep your Uncle Jordan from you."

"Matty told me about him, too," she offered. "He's a damn bad duffer,
isn't he, mister?"

"Yes, and I'm going to ask you not to call me 'mister,' either. Look
here!... I'm your father! Can't anything get that into your head?"

"I keep forgetting it," answered the girl sadly. "And you're so big
and thin and different from any man I know. You look as weak as a--as
a cat."

She stretched forth her two strong legs, but sank back.

"Yes, your Uncle Jordan is bad," proceeded Singleton, presently, "bad
enough to want to get us both out of the way, and he wouldn't find
much of an obstacle in you."

A clammy chill clutched at Virginia's heart like tightening fingers.
The import of his words burned deep within her. She got to her
feet--but reseated herself at once at a wave of her father's hand. The
thought of death always had a sobering effect upon her--it filled her
with longing, yet dread. The beautiful young mother, whose picture
hung in the best room, and whose eyes followed her in every direction,
was dead. Matty had told her many times just how her mother had gone,
and how often the gentle spirit had returned to hover over the beloved
young daughter. Now the memory of it was enhanced by the roar of the
wind and the dismal moaning of the tall pines. Virginia firmly
believed that her mother, among other unearthly visitants, walked in
the night when the blizzard kept up its incessant beating. She also
believed that the sound through the pines--that roaring,
ever-changing, unhuman sound--was not of the wind's making. It was
voices,--spirit voices,--voices of the dead, of those who had gone
down into the small cemetery beyond the road.

Only the day before Matty had told her how, one night, a tall,
wandering white thing had walked in silence across the fields to
Jonathan Woggles' house. In the story, Jonathan's grandpa was about to
pass away. The glittering spirit stalked around and around the house,
waiting for the old man's soul. She was about to relate the tale when
her father repeated:

"Your uncle is bad enough to want us out of the way."

The shuddering chill again possessed her. She was torn between horror
and eagerness--horror of what might be and eagerness to escape it.

"But he can't get us out, can he?" she questioned.

"Yes, I'm afraid he can and will! Your Uncle Jordan is your mother's
stepbrother, no direct relation to you, but the only one left to look
after you in the world but me. If you've any desire to live, you must
leave here after I've gone, and that's all there is to it!"

Virginia then understood, for the first time, something of the danger
menacing her. Her heart beat and pounded like an engine ploughing up
hill. From sheer human desire of self-preservation, she partly rose
from the chair, with the idea of immediate departure.

"I could go with Matty, couldn't I?" she suggested.

Mr. Singleton made a negative gesture with his head, flinging himself
down again.

"Matty? Matty, the nigger? No, of course not. Matty is nothing to any
one who hasn't money, and you'll have none to pay her, or any one
else, after I'm gone. You must eat and live for three long years. Do
you understand that?... Sit back in your chair and don't fidget," he
concluded.

The girl obeyed, and a silence fell between them. The thought of the
wonderful white presence of which Matty had told her faded from her
mind. Her heart lay stone-like below her tightening throat, for her
former world and all the dear familiar things it held were to be
dashed from her, as a rose jar is broken on a marble floor, by a
single decision of the thin, tall father whom yesterday she had not
known. She understood that if her uncle succeeded in his wicked plans,
she, too, would join that small number of people, dead and buried,
under the pines. Her father's words brought the cemetery, with its
broken cross and headstones, its low toolhouse, and the restless night
spirits, closer than Matty, with her vivid, ghastly tales, had ever
done. In the past, Matty had stood between her and her fears; in the
future, there would be only a stranger, her uncle, the man her father
had just warned her against. At length Mr. Singleton coughed
painfully, and spoke with evident effort.

"The doctor told me not long ago I might die at any moment. That's
what made me escape--I mean, what drove me home."

He rose and walked nervously up and down the room.

"The doctor made me think of you. I can't live long."

"It's awful bad," answered the girl, sighing. "I wouldn't know where
to go if there wasn't any Matty--or--you."

Her voice lowered on the last word, and she continued: "I wish I had
my mother. Matty says mothers kiss their girls and make over 'em like
Milly Ann does with her kittens--do they? Some of 'em?"

The father glanced curiously into the small, earnest, uplifted face.

"I couldn't help being your girl," pursued Virginia. "I'd have had
another father if I could, one who'd 've loved me. Matty says even
fathers like their kids sometimes--a little." She paused a minute, a
wan, sweet smile passing over her lips. "But I've got Milly Ann and
her kittens, and they're soft and warm and wriggley."

What a strange child was this daughter of his! She spoke of cats as if
they were babies; of loving as if it were universal. Each moment, in
her presence, he realized more and more what he had missed in thus
neglecting her. But he had hurried to Mottville from foreign lands to
perform one duty, at least,--to save her, if possible. So he returned
to his vital subject.

"Your Uncle Jordan's coming, perhaps this week. He's found out I'm
here! That's why you must go away."

"Shall I--just go?" queried Virginia. "I don't know of any special
place--do you?" and she shivered again as the wind, in a fierce gust,
blew out from the slumbering fire a wreath of smoke that encircled the
room and hung grey-blue about the ceiling.

"I only know one man," reflected Mr. Singleton, presently, "and you'll
have to find him yourself--after I've gone, of course; but if Jordan
Morse should come, you'd have to go quickly."

"I'd go faster'n anything," decided the girl, throwing up her head.

"Your mother's father used to have a family in his tenement house on
this place, and they were all very fond of her when she was a girl.
One of the sons moved to Bellaire. He's the only one left, and would
help you, I know."

"Mebbe if you'd talk to my uncle----" Virginia cut in.

An emphatic negative gesture frightened her.

"You don't know him," said Singleton, biting his lips. "He's nearer
being a devil than any other human being." It was a feeling of
bitterness, of the deadly wrong done him, that forced him to sarcasm.
"The great--the good Jordan Morse--bah!" he sneered. "If he's 'good,'
so are fiends from perdition."

He sent the last words out between his teeth as if he loathed the idea
expressed in them. If they brought a sombre red to the girl's cheeks,
it was not because she did not have sympathy with him.

Sudden leaping flames of passion yellowed the man's eyes, and he
staggered up.

"May God damn the best in him! May all he loves wither and blight! May
black Heaven break his heart----"

Jinnie sprang forward and clutched him fiercely by the arm. "Don't!
Don't!" she implored. "That's awful, awful!"

Singleton sank back, brushing his foaming lips with the back of his
hand.

"Well," he muttered, "he followed me abroad and did for me over
there!"

"Did for you?" Virginia repeated after him, parrot-like, gazing at him
in a puzzled way as she sat down again.

"Yes, me! If I'd had any sense, I might have known his game. In the
state of his finances he'd no business to come over at all. But I
didn't know until he got there how evil he was. Oh, God! I wish I
had--but I didn't, and now my only work left is to send you
somewhere----Oh, why didn't I know?"

The deep sadness, the longing in his voice brought Virginia to her
feet once more. She wanted to do something for the thin, sick man
because she loved him--just that! Years of neglect had failed to kill
in the young heart the cherished affection for her absent parent, and
in some subtle way he now appealed to the mother within her, as all
sick men do to all heart-women.

"I'd like to help you if I could, father," she said.

The man, with a quick, spasmodic action, drew her to him. Never had he
seen such a pair of eyes! They reminded him of Italian skies under
which he had dreamed brave dreams--dreamed dreams which would ever be
dreams. The end of them now was the grave.

"Little girl! My little girl!" he murmured, caressing her shoulders.
Then he caught himself sharply, crushing the sentiment from his
voice.

"Hide yourself; change your name; do anything to keep from your uncle.
When you're old enough to handle your own affairs, you can come out of
your hiding-place--do you understand me?"

"I think I do," she said, tears gathering under her lids.

"I don't know of any one I could trust in this county. Jordan Morse
would get 'em all under his spell. That would be the last of you. For
your mother's sake----" His lips quivered, but he went on with a
masterful effort to choke down a sob,--"I may honestly say, for your
own sake, I want you to live and do well."

There was some strain in his passionate voice that stirred terrific
emotion in the girl, awakening new, tumultuous impulses. It gave her a
mad desire to do something, something for her father, something for
herself. At that moment she loved him very much indeed and was ready
to go to any length to help him. He had told her she must leave.
Perhaps----

Virginia glanced through the window into the darkness. Through the
falling snow she could see a giant pine throw out appealing arms. They
were like beckoning, sentient beings to the girl, who loved nature
with all the passionate strength of her young being. Yet to-night they
filled her with new wonder,--an awe she had never felt before. Despite
her onrushing thoughts, she tried to calm her mind, to say with eager
emphasis:

"Shall I run to-night--now?"

"No, not to-night; don't leave me yet. Sit down in the chair again;
stay until I tell you."

"All right," murmured Virginia, walking away.

The father watched the fire a few minutes.

"I'll give you a letter to Grandoken, Lafe Grandoken," he said
presently, looking up. "For your mother's sake he'll take you, and
some day you can repay him. You see it's this way: Your mother trusted
your uncle more than she did me, or she'd never have given you into
his care in case of my death. Well, he's got me, and he'll get you."

With no thought of disobedience, Virginia slipped from the chair to
her feet.

"He won't get me if I run now, will he?" she questioned breathlessly;
"not if I go to--what'd you say his name was?"

She was all excitement, ready to do whatever she was bidden. Slowly,
as she stood there, the tremendous suspense left her.

"Why couldn't we both go, you and me?" she entreated eagerly. "Let's
both go to-night. I'll take care of you. I'll see you don't get wet."

Her glance met and held his for a few seconds. The vibrant voice
thrilled and stirred the father as if he had been dead and suddenly
slipped back to life again. A brave smile, tenderly sweet, broke over
Virginia's lips.

"Come," she said, holding out her hands. "Come, I'll get my fiddle and
we'll go."

He was struck by the vehemence of her appeal. He allowed himself to
listen for a moment--to overbalance all his preconceived plans, but
just then his past life, Jordan Morse, his own near approaching end,
sank into his mind, and the fire in his eyes went out. There was
finality in the shake of his shoulders.

"No, no," he murmured, sinking back. "It's too late for me. I couldn't
earn money enough to feed a pup. I'm all to pieces--no more good to
any one. No, you'll have to go alone."

"I'm sorry." The girl caught her breath in disappointment. She was
crying softly and made no effort to wipe away her tears.

The silent restraint was broken only by the ticking of the shadowy
clock on the mantel and Virginia's broken sobs. She stifled them back
as her father spoke comfortingly.

"Well, well, there, don't cry! If your mother'd lived, we'd all 've
been better."

"I wish she had," gasped the girl, making a dash at her eyes. "I wish
she'd stayed so I'd 've had her to love. Perhaps I'd 've had you, too,
then."

"There's no telling," answered Singleton, drawing up to his desk and
beginning to write.

Virginia watched the pen move over the white page for a space, her
mind filled with mixed emotions. Then she turned her eyes from her
father to the grate as a whirl of ashes and smoke came out.

Matty's story came back to her mind, and she glanced toward the
window, but back to the fire quickly. The blizzard seemed to rage in
sympathy with her own riotous thoughts. As another gust of wind
rattled the casements and shook down showers of soot from the chimney,
Virginia turned back to the writer.

"It's the ghosts of my mother's folks that make that noise," she
confided gently.

"Keep quiet!" ordered Singleton, frowning.

After the letters were finished and sealed, Mr. Singleton spoke.
"There! I've done the best I can for you under the circumstances. Now
on this,"--he held up a piece of paper--"I've written just how you're
to reach Grandoken's in Bellaire. These letters you're to give to him.
This one let him open and read." Mr. Singleton tapped a letter he held
up. "In this one, I've written what your uncle did to me. Give it to
Grandoken, telling him I said to let it remain sealed unless Jordan
Morse claims you. If you reach eighteen safely, burn the letter."

He paused and took out a pocketbook.

"Money is scarce these days, but take this and it'll get you to
Grandoken's. It's all I have, anyway. Now go along to bed."

He handed the envelopes to her, and his hand came in contact with
hers. The very touch of it, the warmth and life surging through her,
gave a keener edge to his misery.

Virginia took the letters and money. She walked slowly to the door. At
the threshold she halted, turning to her father.

"May I take the cats with me?" she called back to him.

She started to explain, but he cut her words off with a fierce
ejaculation.

"Hell, yes!" he snapped. "Damn the cats! Get out!"

Once in the hall, Virginia stood and looked back upon the closed
door.

"I guess he don't need me to teach him swear words," she told herself
in a whisper.

Then she went down to the kitchen, where Matty sat dreaming over a
wood fire.



CHAPTER II

A WHITE PRESENCE


"Does yer pa want me?" grunted Matty, lifting a tousled black head.

Virginia made a gesture of negation.

"No, he told me to get the hell out," she answered. "So I got! He's
awful sick! I guess mebbe he'll die!"

Matty nodded meaningly.

"Some folks might better 'a' stayed to hum for the past ten years than
be runnin' wild over the country like mad," she observed.

Virginia reached behind the stove and drew Milly Ann from her bed.

"Father"--Jinnie enjoyed using the word and spoke it lingeringly--"says he
wishes he'd stayed here now. You know, my Uncle Jordan, Matty----" She
hesitated to confide in the negro woman what her father had told her. So
she contented herself with:

"He's coming here soon."

Matty rolled her eyes toward the girl.

"I'se sorry for that, honey bunch." Then, without explaining her
words, asked: "Want me to finish about Jonathan Woggles' grandpa
dyin'?"

But Virginia's mind was traveling in another channel.

"Where's Bellaire, Matty?" she demanded.

"Off south," replied the woman, "right bearin' south."

"By train?"

"Yes, the same's walkin' or flying'," confirmed Matty. "Jest the
same."

"Then you can finish the story now, Matty," said Virginia presently.

Matty settled back in her chair, closed her eyes, and began to hum.

"How far'd I tell last night?" she queried, blinking.

"Just to where the white thing was waiting for Grandpa Woggles'
spirit," explained Virginia.

"Oh, yas. Well, round and round that house the white shadder swep',
keepin' time to the howlin' of other spirits in the pine trees----"

"But there aren't any pine trees at Woggles'," objected Virginia.

"Well, they'd be pines if they wasn't oaks," assured Matty. "Oaks or
pines, the spirits live in 'em jest the same."

"I 'spose so," agreed Virginia. "Go on!"

"An' round and round he went, meltin' the snow with his hot feet,"
mused Matty, sniffing the air. "And in the house Betty Woggles set
beside the old man, holdin' his hand, askin' him to promise he
wouldn't die.... Hum! As if a human bein' could keep from the stalkin'
whiteness beckonin' from the graveyard. 'Tain't in human power."

"Can't anybody keep death away, Matty?" inquired Virginia, an
expression of awe clouding her eyes.

She was thinking of the man upstairs whom she but twice had called
"father."

"Nope, not after the warnin' comes to him. Now Grandad Woggles had
that warnin' as much as three days afore the angel clim' the fence and
flopped about his house. But don't keep breakin' in on me, little
missy, 'cause I cain't finish if ye do, and I'se jest reachin' the
thrillin' part."

"Oh, then hurry," urged Jinnie.

"Well, as I was sayin', Betty set by the ole man, starin' into his
yeller face; 'twas as yeller as Milly Ann's back, his face was."

"Some yeller," murmured Virginia, fondling Milly Ann.

"Sure! Everybody dyin' gets yeller," informed Matty.

Virginia thought again of the sick man upstairs. His face was white,
not yellow, and her heart bounded with great hope. He might live yet a
little while. Yes, he surely would! Matty was an authority when she
told of the dead and dying, of the spirits which filled the pine
trees, and it seldom occurred to Virginia to doubt the black woman's
knowledge. She wanted her father to live! Life seemed so dizzily upset
with no Matty, with no Milly Ann, and no--father, somewhere in the
world. Matty's next words, spoken in a sepulchral whisper, bore down
on her with emphasis.

"Then what do ye think, honey bunch?"

"I don't know!" Virginia leaned forward expectantly.

"Jest as Betty was hangin' fast onto her grandpa's spirit, another
ghost, some spots of black on him, come right longside the white one,
wavin' his hands's if he was goin' to fly."

Virginia sat up very straight. Two spirits on the scene of Grandpa
Woggles' passing made the story more interesting, more thrilling. Her
sparkling eyes gave a new impetus to the colored woman's wagging
tongue.

"The white spirit, he sez, 'What _you_ hangin' round here fer?'"

Matty rolled her eyes upward. "This he sez to the black one, mind
you!"

Virginia nodded comprehendingly, keeping her eyes glued on the shining
dark face in front of her. She always dreaded, during the exciting
parts of Matty's nightly stories, to see, by chance, the garden, with
its trees and the white, silent graveyard beyond. And, although she
had no fear of tangible things, she seldom looked out of doors when
Matty crooned over her ghost stories.

Just then a bell pealed through the house.

Matty rose heavily.

"It's yer pa," she grumbled. "I'll finish when I git back."

Through the door the woman hobbled, while Virginia bent over Milly
Ann, stroking her softly with a new expression of gravity on the young
face. Many a day, in fancy, she had dreamed of her father's
homecoming. He was very different than her dreams. Still she hoped the
doctor might have made a mistake about his dying. A smile came to the
corners of her mouth, touched the dimples in her cheek, but did not
wipe the tragedy from her eyes. She was planning how tenderly she
would care for him, how cheerful he'd be when she played her fiddle
for him.

She heard Matty groping up the stairs--heard her pass down the hall
and open the door. Then suddenly she caught the sound of hurried steps
and the woman coming down again. Matty had crawled up, but was almost
falling down in her frantic haste to reach the kitchen. Something
unusual had happened. Virginia shoved Milly Ann to the floor and stood
up. Matty's appearance, with chattering teeth and bulging eyes,
brought Jinnie forward a few steps.

"He's daid! Yer pa's daid!" shivered Matty. "And the house is full of
spirits. They're standin' grinnin' in the corners. I'm goin' hum now,
little missy. I'm goin' to my ole man. You'd better come along fer
to-night."

Jinnie heard the moaning call of the pine trees as the winter's voice
swept through them,--the familiar sound she loved, yet at which she
trembled. Confused thoughts rolled through her mind; her father's fear
for her; his desire that she should seek another home. She could not
stay in Mottville Corners; she could not go with Matty. No, of course
not! Yet her throat filled with longing sobs, for the old colored
woman had been with her many years.

By this time Matty had tied on her scarf, opened the door, and as
Virginia saw her disappear, she sank limply to the floor. Milly Ann
rubbed her yellow back against her young mistress's dress. Virginia
caught her in her arms and drew her close.

"Kitty, kitty," she sobbed, "I've got to go! He said I could take you
and your babies, and I will, I will! I won't leave you here with the
spirits."

She rose unsteadily to her feet and went to the cupboard, where she
found a large pail. Into this she folded a roller towel. She then
lifted the kittens from the box behind the stove and placed them in
the pail, first pressing her lips lovingly to each warm, wriggley
little body. Milly Ann cuddled contentedly with her offspring as the
girl covered them up.

Jinnie had suddenly grown older, for a responsibility rested upon her
which no one else could assume.

To go forth into the blizzard meant she must wrap up warmly. This she
did. Then she wrapped a small brown fiddle in her jacket, took the
pail and went to the door. There she stood, considering a moment, with
her hand on the knob. With no further hesitancy she placed the kittens
and fiddle gently on the floor, and went to the stairs. The thought of
the spirits made her shiver. She saw long shadows making lines here
and there, and had no doubt but that these were the ghosts Matty had
seen. She closed her eyes tightly and began to ascend the stairs,
feeling her way along the wall. At the top she opened reluctant lids.
The library door stood ajar as Matty had left it, and the room
appeared quite the same as it had a few moments before, save for the
long figure of a man lying full length before the grate. That eternal
period, that awful stop which puts a check on human lives, had settled
once and for all the earthly concerns of her father. The space between
her and the body seemed peopled with spectral beings, which moved to
and fro in the dimly lit room. Her father lay on his back, the flames
from the fire making weird red and yellow twisting streaks on his
white, upturned face.

The taut muscles grew limp in the girl's body as she staggered forward
and stood contemplating the wide-open, staring eyes. Then with a long
sigh breathed between quivering lips, she dropped beside the lifeless
man. The deadly forces eddying around her were not of her own making.
With the going of this person, who was her father by nature,
everything else had gone too. All her life's hopes had been dissolved
in the crucible of death. She lay, with her hands to her mouth,
pressing back the great sobs that came from the depths of her heart.
She reached out and tentatively touched her father's cheek; without
fear she moved his head a little to what she hoped would be a more
comfortable position.

"You told me to go," she whispered brokenly, "and I'm going now. You
never liked me much, but I guess one of my kisses won't hurt you."

Saying this, Jinnie pressed her lips twice to those of her dead
father, and got to her feet quickly. She dared not leave the lamp
burning, so within a short distance of the table she drew a long
breath and blew toward the smoking light. The flame flared thrice like
a torch, then spat out, leaving the shivering girl to feel her way
around the room. To the sensitive young soul the dark was almost
maddening. She only wanted to get back to Milly Ann, and she closed
the door with no thought for what might become of the man inside. He
was dead! A greater danger menaced her. He had warned her and she
would heed. As she stumbled down the stairs, her memories came too
swiftly to be precise and in order, and the weird moans of the night
wind drifted intermittently through the wild maze of her thoughts. She
would say good-bye to Molly the Merry, for Molly was the only person
in all the country round who had ever spoken a kindly word to her.
Their acquaintance had been slight, because Molly lived quite a
distance away and the woman had never been to see her, but then of
course no one in the neighborhood approved of the house of Singleton.

Later by five minutes, Virginia left the dark farmhouse, carrying her
fiddle and the pail of cats, and the blizzard swallowed her up.



CHAPTER III

JINNIE'S FAREWELL TO MOLLY THE MERRY


Virginia turned into the Merriweather gate, went up the small path to
the kitchen, and rapped on the door. There was no response, so she
turned the handle and stepped into the room. It was warm and
comfortable. A teakettle, singing on the back of the stove, threw out
little jets of steam. Jinnie placed the pail on the floor and seated
herself in a low chair with her fiddle on her lap. Molly would be back
in a minute, she was sure. Just as she was wondering where the woman
could be, she heard the sound of voices from the inner room. A swift
sensation of coming evil swept over her, and without taking thought of
consequences, she slipped under the kitchen table, drawing the pail
after her. The long fringe from the red cloth hung down about her in
small, even tassels. The dining room door opened and she tried to
stifle her swiftly coming breaths. Virginia could see a pair of legs,
man's legs, and they weren't country legs either. Following them were
the light frillings of a woman's skirts.

"It's warmer here," said Miss Merriweather's voice.

Molly and the man took chairs. From her position Virginia could not
see his face.

"Your father's ill," he said in a voice rich and deep.

"Yes," replied Molly. "He's been near death for a long time. We've had
to give him the greatest care. That's why I haven't told him
anything."

The man bent over until Jinnie could see the point of his chin.

"I see," said he.... "Well, Molly, are you glad to have me back?"

Molly's face came plainly within Jinnie's view. At his question the
woman went paler. Then the man leaned over and tried to take one of
her hands. But she drew it away again and locked her fingers together
in her lap.

"Aren't you glad to see me back again?" he repeated.

Molly's startled eyes came upward to his face.

"I don't know--I can't tell--I'm so surprised and----"

"And glad," laughed the stranger in a deep, mesmeric voice. "Glad to
have your husband back once more, eh?"

Virginia's start was followed quickly by an imploration from Molly.

"Hush, hush, please don't speak of it!"

"I certainly shall speak of it; I certainly shall. I came here for no
other reason than that. And who would speak of it if I didn't?"

Molly shivered. There was something about the man's low, modulated
tones that repelled Virginia. She tried in vain to see his face. She
was sure that nowhere in the hills was there such a man.

"You've been gone so long I thought you'd forgotten or--or were dead,"
breathed Molly, covering her face with her hands.

"Not forgotten, but I wasn't able to get back."

"You could have written me."

The man shrugged himself impatiently.

"But I didn't. Don't rake up old things; please don't. Molly, look at
me."

Molly uncovered a pair of unwilling eyes and centered them upon his
face.

"What makes you act so? Are you afraid?"

"I did not expect you back, that's all."

"That's not it! Tell me what's on your mind.... Tell me."

Molly's white lids fell, her fingers clenched and unclenched.

"I didn't--I couldn't write," she whispered, "about the baby."

"Baby!" The word burst out like a bomb. The man stood up. "Baby!" he
repeated. "You mean my--our baby?"

Molly swallowed and nodded.

"A little boy," she said, in a low voice.

"Where is he?" demanded the man.

"Please, please don't ask me, I beg of you. I want to forget----"

"But you can't forget you're married, that you've been the mother of a
child and--and--that I'm its father."

Molly's tears began to flow. Virginia had never seen a woman cry
before in all her young life. It was a most distressing sight.
Something within her leaped up and thundered at her brain. It ordered
her to venture out and aid the pretty woman if she could. Jinnie was
not an eavesdropper! She did not wish to hear any more. But fear kept
her crouched in her awkward position.

"I just want to forget if I can," Molly sobbed. "I don't know where
the baby is. That's why I want to forget. I can't find him."

"Can't find him? What do you mean by 'can't find him'?"

Molly faced about squarely, suddenly.

"I've asked you not to talk about it. I've been terribly unhappy and
so miserable.... It's only lately I've begun to be at all
reconciled."

"Nevertheless, I _will_ hear," snapped the man angrily. "I _will_
hear! Begin back from the letter you wrote me."

"Asking you to help me?" questioned the girl.

"Yes, asking me to help you, if you want to be blunt. Molly, it won't
make you any happier to hatch up old scores. I tell you I've come to
make amends--to take you--if you will----"

"And I repeat, I can't go with you!"

"We'll leave that discussion until later. Begin back where I told you
to."

Molly's face was very white, and her lids drooped wearily. Virginia
wanted so much to help her! She made a little uneasy movement under
the table, but Molly's tragic voice was speaking again.

"My father'd kill me if he knew about it, so I never told him or any
one."

"Including me," cut in the man sarcastically.

"You didn't care," said Molly with asperity.

"How do you know I didn't care? Did you tell me? Did you? Did I
know?"

Molly shook her head.

"Then I insist upon knowing now, this moment!"

"My father would have killed me----"

"Well!" His voice rushed in upon her hesitancy.

"When I couldn't stay home any longer, I went away to visit a cousin
of my mother's. At least, my father thought I'd gone there. I only
stayed with Bertha a little while and father never knew the truth of
it."

"And then after that?"

"I didn't know what to do with my baby. I was afraid people'd say I
wasn't married, and then father----"

"Go on from the time you left your cousin's."

Molly thought a minute and proceeded.

"I looked in all the papers to find some one who wanted a baby----"

"So you gave him away? Well, that's easy to overcome. You couldn't
give my baby away, you know."

"No, no, indeed! I didn't give him away.... I boarded him out and
saved money to pay for him. I even took summer boarders. The woman who
had him----"

Molly's long wait prompted the man once more.

"Well?" he said again. "The woman what?"

"The woman began to love the baby very much, and she wasn't very poor,
and didn't need the money. Lots of times I went with it to her, and
she wouldn't take it."

A thought connected with her story made Molly bury her face in her
hands. The man touched her.

"Go on," he said slowly. "Go on. And then?"

"Then once when I went to her she said she was going to take the baby
on a little visit to some relatives and would write me as soon as she
got back."

"Yes," encouraged the low voice.

"She never wrote or came back. I couldn't find where she'd gone, and
father was terribly ill, and I've hoped and hoped----"

"How long since you last saw him?"

Molly considered a moment.

"A long time," she sighed.

"How many years?"

"One!"

"Then he was almost seven years with the woman?"

"Yes," breathed Molly, and they lapsed into silence.

The man meditated a space and Jinnie heard a low, nervous cough come
from his lips.

"Molly," he said presently, "I'm going to have a lot of money soon. It
won't be long, and then we'll find him and begin life all over."

"Oh, I'd love to find him," moaned Molly, "but I couldn't begin over
with you. It's all hateful and horrible now."

The man leaned over and touched her, not too tenderly. When Molly's
face was turned to him, he tilted her chin up.

"You care for some one else?" he said abruptly.

The droop of the girl's head was his answer. He stood up suddenly.

"That's it! That's it! What's his name?"

A shake of her head was all the answer Molly gave him.

"I asked you his name. Get up! Stand up!"

As if to force her to do his will, he took hold of her shoulders
sharply and drew her upward.

"What's his name?"

"It doesn't matter."

"What's his name?"

Virginia did not catch Molly's whisper.

A disbelieving grunt fell from the stranger's lips.

"I remember him as a boy. Weren't they one summer at the Mottville
Hotel? He's years younger than you."

Molly gathered courage.

"He doesn't know how old I am," she responded, "and his mother loves
me, too. They were with me three summers." Then, remembering the man's
statement, she added, "Ages don't count nowadays. And I _will_ be
happy."

"You'll get happiness with _me_, not with _him_," said an angry voice.
"Has he ever told you he loved you?"

"No, no, indeed not. But he was here to-day! His mother's ill and
wanted me to come as her companion, but I couldn't leave father right
now."

"Does he know you love him?"

An emphatic negative ejaculation from Molly brought a sigh of relief
from the man.

"Forget him!" said he. "Now I'm going. I shall come back to-night, and
_remember_ this. I'll leave no stone unturned to find that boy. I've
always longed for one, and I'll move Heaven and earth to find him."

Virginia saw him whirl about, open the door, and stride out.

Molly Merriweather stood for a few minutes in silence, trembling.

"I didn't dare to tell him the baby was blind," she whispered, too low
for Jinnie to hear.

Then she slowly glided away, leaving the girl under the table, with
her pail full of cats, and the fiddle. Presently Virginia crawled out
cautiously, the pail on her arm, and hugging her fiddle, she opened
the door swiftly, and disappeared down the road, running under the
tall trees.



CHAPTER IV

JINNIE TRAVELS


Virginia took the direction leading to the station. Many a time she
had watched the trains rush by on their way to New York, but never in
those multitudinous yesterdays had it entered her mind that some day
she would go over that same way, to be gone possibly forever. The wind
was blowing at such a terrific rate that Jinnie could scarcely walk.
There was no fear in her heart, only deep solemnity and a sense of awe
at the magnificence of a storm. She had left the farmhouse so suddenly
that the loneliness of parting had not then been forced upon her as it
was now; the realization was settling slowly upon the clouded young
mind.

She was a mere puppet in the hands of an inexorable fate, which had
shown her little mercy or benevolence.

Out of sight of the Merriweather homestead, she kept to the path along
the highway, now and then shifting the pail from one hand to the
other, and clasping the beloved fiddle to her breast. Once she looked
down to find Milly Ann peeping above the rim of the pail. Jinnie could
see the glint of her greenish eyes. She stopped and, with a tenderly
spoken admonition, covered her more closely with the roller towel.
When the lighted station-house glimmered through the falling snow,
Jinnie sighed with relief.

"I couldn't 've carried you and the fiddle much farther, Milly Ann,"
she murmured.

At that moment a tall figure, herculean in size, loomed out of the
night and advanced hastily. The man's head was bent forward against
the storm. Virginia caught a glimpse of his face as he passed in the
streak of light thrown out from the station.

He sprang to the platform and disappeared in the doorway. Jinnie saw
him plainly when she, too, entered, and her eyes followed him as he
went out.

She had never seen him before. Like the man in the Merriweather
kitchen, he bore the stamp of the city upon him.

Virginia bought her ticket as her father had directed, and while the
pail was still on the floor, she bent to examine Milly Ann and the
kittens. The latter were asleep, but the mother-cat lazily opened her
eyes to greet, with a purr, the soft touch of Jinnie's fingers. The
girl waited inside the room until the shriek of the engine's whistle
told her of its approach; then, with the fiddle and the pail, she
walked to the platform.

The long, snakelike train was edging the hill, its headlight bearing
down the track in one straight, glittering line.

For the first time in her life, Jinnie felt really afraid. In other
days, with beating heart, she had hugged close to the roadside as the
monster slipped either into the station and stopped, or rushed around
the curve. Tonight she was going aboard, over into a strange land
among strange people.

She tilted the pail lovingly and hugged a little more tightly the
fiddle in her arm. Whatever happened, she had Milly, her little
family, and the comforting music. Jinnie could never be quite alone
with these. As the train slowed up, the conductor jumped down.

It seemed to Virginia like a dream as she walked toward the steps at
the end of the car. As she was about to lift her foot to climb up, she
heard a voice say:

"Let me help you, child. Here, I'll take the pail."

Virginia looked upward into the face of a man,--the same face she had
seen in the station a few moments before,--and around the handsome
mouth was a smile of reassuring kindliness.

She surrendered the pail with a burning blush, and felt, with a
strange new thrill, a firm hand upon her arm. The next thing she knew
she was in a seat, with the pail on the floor and the fiddle lying
beside her.

She gazed around wonderingly. There was no one in sight but the tall
man who, across the aisle, was arranging his overcoat on the back of
the seat. Jinnie looked at him with interest--he had been so kind to
her--and noted his thick, blond hair, which had been cropped close to
a massive head. She admired him, too. Suddenly he looked up, and the
girl felt a clutch at her heart. Just why that happened she could not
tell. Again came the charming smile, the parted lips showing a set of
dazzling white teeth.

Jinnie smiled back, responsively. The man came over.

"May I sit beside you?" he asked.

Jinnie moved the fiddle invitingly and huddled herself into the
corner. When the man started to move the pail, Jinnie stayed him.

"Oh, don't, please," she protested. "It's only Milly and----"

"Milly and what?" quizzically came the question.

"Her kitties--see?"

She drew aside the towel and exposed the sleeping family.

A broad smile lit up the man's face.

"Oh, cats! I see! Where're you taking them?"

"To Bellaire."

"Ah, Bellaire; that's where I'm going. We'll have a nice ride
together, almost two hours."

"I'm glad." Jinnie leaned back, sighing contentedly.

In those few minutes she had grown to have great faith in this
stranger, the third of the puzzling trio that had come into her life
that night. First her father, then the man with Molly the Merry, and
now this brilliant new friend, who quite took away her breath as she
peeped up at him. His smile seemed to be ever ready. It warmed her and
made her glow with friendliness. She liked, too, the deep tones in his
voice and the sight of his strong hands as they gestured during his
speeches.

"Where are you going in Bellaire?" he questioned.

Virginia cogitated for a moment. She couldn't tell the story her
father had told her, yet she must answer his kindly question.

At length, "The cats and I are going to live with my uncle," said
she.

"He lives in Bellaire?"

"Yes, but I've never seen him. I'll find him, though, when I get
there."

It didn't occur to the man to ask the name of her relatives, and
Jinnie was glad he did not.

"Perhaps I shall see you some time in the city," he responded to her
statement. Jinnie hoped so; oh, how she hoped she might see him
again!

"Mebbe," was all she said.

"You see I live there with my mother," continued the man. "Our home is
called Kinglaire. My name is King."

Virginia lifted her head with a queer little start.

"I've read about your people," she said. "I've got a book in our
garret that tells all about Kings."

"That's very nice," answered Mr. King. "I won't have to explain
anything about us, then."

"No, I know," said Jinnie in satisfaction.

At least she thought she knew. Hadn't she read over and over, when
seated in the garret, the story of the old and new kings, how they sat
on their thrones, and ruled their people sometimes with a rod of iron?
Jinnie brought to mind some of the vivid pictures, and shyly lifted a
pair of violet eyes to scan the face above her. Surely this King was
handsomer than any in the book. She tried to imagine him on his
throne, and wondered if he were always smiling as now.

"You're quite different from your relations," she observed presently.

Theodore King laughed aloud. The sound startled the girl into a
straighter posture. It rang out so merrily that she laughed too after
making up her mind that he was not ridiculing her.

"Really you are!" she exclaimed. "I mean it. You know the picture of
the King with a red suit on,--he doesn't look like you. His nose went
sort of down over his mouth--I mean, well, yours don't."

She stumbled through the last few words, intuitively realizing that
she had been too personal.

"You like to read, I gather," stated Mr. King.

"Yes, but I like to fiddle better," said Jinnie.

"Oh, you play, do you?"

Jinnie's eyes fell upon the instrument standing in the corner of the
opposite seat, wrapped in an old jacket. She nodded.

"I play some. I love my fiddle almost as much as I do Milly Ann and
her kitties."

"Won't you play for me?" asked Mr. King, gravely putting forth his
hand.

Jinnie paused a moment. Then without further hesitancy she took up the
violin and unfastened it.

"I'll be glad to fiddle for a king," she said naïvely.

She did not speak as she turned and twisted the small white keys.

Outside the storm was still roaring over the hills, sweeping the lake
into monstrous waves. The shriek of the wind mingled with the snap of
the taut strings under the agile fingers of the hill girl. Then Jinnie
began to play. Never in all his life had Theodore King seen a picture
such as the girl before him made. The wondrous beauty of her, the
marvelous fingers traveling over the strings, together with the
moaning of the night wind, made an impression upon him he would never
forget. Sometimes as her fingers sped on, her eyes were penetrating;
sometimes they darkened almost to melancholy. When the last wailing
note had finally died away, Jinnie dropped the instrument to her
side.

"It's lonely on nights like this when the ghosts howl about," she
observed. "They love the fiddle, ghosts do."

Theodore King came back to himself at the girl's words. He drew a long
breath.

"Child," he ejaculated, "whoever taught you to play like that?"

"Why, I taught myself," answered Jinnie.

"Please play again," entreated Mr. King, and once more he sat
enthralled with the wonder of the girl's melodies. The last few
soulful notes Mr. King likened to a sudden prayer, sent out with a
sobbing breath.

"It's wonderful," he murmured slowly. "What is the piece you've just
played?"

"It hasn't any name yet," replied the girl. "You see I only know
pieces that're in my head."

Then all the misery of the past few hours swept over her, and Jinnie
began to cry. A burden of doubt had clouded the usually clear young
mind. What if the man to whom she was going would not let her and the
cats live with him? He might turn them away.

Mr. King spoke softly to her.

"Don't cry," said he. "You won't be lonely when you get to your
uncle's."

But she met his smiling glance with a feeling of constraint. He did
not know the cause of her tears; she could not tell him. If she only
knew,--if she only had one little inkling of the reception she would
receive at the painter's home. However, she did cheer up a little when
Mr. King, in evident desire to be of some service, began to tell her
of the city to which she was going.

In a short time he saw the dark head nodding, and he drew Jinnie down
against his arm, whispering:

"Sleep a while, child; I'll wake you up at Bellaire."



CHAPTER V

LIKE UNTO LIKE ATTRACTED


Jinnie Singleton watched Theodore King leave the train at the little
private station situated on his own estate. As she drew nearer the
city depot, her heart beat with uncertainty, for that day would decide
her fate, her future; she would know by night whether or not she
possessed a friend in the world.

For some hours she sat in the station on one of the hard benches,
waiting for daylight, at which time she and Milly Ann would steal
forth into the city to find Lafe Grandoken, her mother's friend.

A reluctant, stormy dawn was pushing its way from the horizon as she
picked up the pail and fiddle and stepped out into the falling snow.

Stopping a moment, she asked the station master about the Grandokens,
but as he had only that week arrived in Bellaire, he politely, with
admiration in his eyes, told her he could not give her any
information. But on the railroad tracks Virginia saw a man standing
with his hands thrust deep into his pockets.

"What'd you want of Lafe Grandoken?" asked the fellow in reply to her
question.

"I've come to see him," answered Jinnie evasively.

"He's a cobbler and lives down with the shortwood gatherers there on
Paradise Road. Littlest shack of the bunch! He ain't far from my
folks. My name's Maudlin Bates."

He went very near her.

"Now I've told you, you c'n gimme a kiss," said he.

"I'll give you a bat," flung back Jinnie, walking away.

Some distance off she stood looking down the tracks, her blue eyes
noting the row of huts strung along the road and extending toward the
hills. At the back of them was a marshland, dense with trees and
underbrush.

"My father told me Mr. Grandoken was a painter of houses!" Jinnie
ruminated: "But that damn duffer back there says he's changed his work
to cobbling. I'll go and see! I hope it won't be long before I'm as
warm as can be. Wonder if he'll be glad to see me!"

"It's the smallest house among 'em," she cogitated further, walking
very fast. "Well! There ain't any of 'em very big."

She traveled on through heavy snow, glancing at every hut until,
coming to a standstill, she read aloud:

"Lafe Grandoken, Cobbler of Folks' and Children's Shoes and Boots."

Jinnie turned and, going down a short flight of steps, hesitated a
moment before she knocked timidly on the front door. During the moment
of waiting she glanced over what she hoped was to be her future home.
It was so small in comparison with the huge, lonely farmhouse she had
left the night before that her heart grew warm in anticipation. Then
in answer to a man's voice, calling "Come in!" she lifted the latch
and opened the door.

The room was small and cheerless, although a fire was struggling for
life in a miniature stove. In one corner was a table strewn with
papers. Back from the window which faced the tracks was a man, a kit
of cobbler's tools, in the disarray of daily use, on the bench beside
him. He halted, with his hammer in the air, at the sight of the
newcomer.

"Come in and shut the door," said he, and the girl did as she was
bidden. "Cold, ain't it?"

"Yes," replied Jinnie, placing the pail and fiddle on the floor.

The girl looked the man over with her steady blue eyes. Then her heart
gave one great bound. The grey face had lighted with a sweet, sad
smile; the faded eyes, under the bushy brows, twinkled welcome. A
sense of wonderful security and friendship rushed over her.

"Well, what's your business? Got some shoes to mend?" asked the man.
"Better sit down."

Jinnie took a chair in silence, a passionate wish suffusing her being
that this small home might be hers. She was so lonely, so homesick.
The little room seemed radiant with the smile of the cobbler. She only
felt the wonderful content that flowed from the man on the bench to
herself; she wanted to stay with him; never before had she been face
to face with a desire so great.

"I've come to live with you," she gulped, at length.

The cobbler gave a quick whack at the little shoe he held in the
vise.

"I'm Jinnie Singleton, kid of Thomas Singleton, the second," the girl
explained, almost mechanically, "and I haven't any home, so I've come
to you."

During this statement the cobbler's hammer rattled to the floor, and
he sat eyeing the speaker speechlessly. Then he slowly lifted his arms
and held them forth.

"Come here! Lass, come here!" he said huskily. "I'd come to you, but I
can't."

In her mental state it took Jinnie a few seconds to gather the import
of the cobbler's words. Then she sprang up and went forward with
parted, smiling lips, tears trembling thick on her dark lashes. When
Jinnie felt a pair of warm, welcoming arms about her strong young
shoulders, she shivered in sudden joy. The sensation was delightful,
and while a thin hand patted her back, she choked down a hard sob.
However, she pressed backward and looked down into Lafe Grandoken's
eyes.

"I thought I'd never cry again as long as I lived," she whispered,
"but--but I guess it's your loving me that's done it."

It came like a small confession--as a relief to the overburdened
little soul.

"I guess I've rode a hundred miles to get here," she went on, half
sobbing, "and you're awful glad to see me, ain't you?"

It didn't need Lafe's, "You bet your boots," to satisfy Jinnie. The
warmth of his arms, the shining, misty eyes, set her to shivering
convulsively and shaking with happiness.

"Set here on the bench," invited the cobbler, softly, "an' tell me
about your pa an' ma."

"They're both dead," said Jinnie, sitting down, but she still kept her
hand on the cobbler's arm as if she were afraid he would vanish from
her sight.

The man made a dash at his eyes with his free hand.

"Both dead!" he repeated with effort, "an' you're their girl!"

"Yes, and I've come to live with you, if you'll let me."

She drew forth the letters written the night before.

"Here's two letters," she ended, handing them over, and sinking down
again into the chair.

She sat very quietly as the cobbler stumbled through the finely
written sheets.

                  *       *       *       *       *

                                             "Mottville Corners, N. Y.

"Dear Mr. Grandoken," whispered Lafe.

"My girl will bring you this, and, in excuse for sending her, I will
briefly state: I'm very near the grave, and she's in great danger. I
want to tell you that her Uncle Jordan Morse has conquered me and will
her, if she's not looked after. For her mother's sake, I ask you to
take her if you can. She will repay you when she's of age, but until
then, after I'm gone, she can't get any money unless through her
uncle, and that would be too dangerous. When I say that my child's
life isn't worth this paper if she is given over to Morse, you'll see
the necessity of helping her. I don't know another soul I could trust
as I am trusting you. The other letter Virginia will explain. Keep it
to use against Morse if you need to.

"I can't tell you whether my girl is good or not, but I hope so. I've
woefully neglected her, but now I wish I had a chance to live the past
few years over. She'll tell you all she knows, which isn't much. What
you do for her will be greatly appreciated by me, and would be by her
mother, too, if she could understand her daughter's danger.
"Gratefully yours,

                                                "THOMAS G. SINGLETON."

                  *       *       *       *       *

The cobbler put down the paper, and the rattling of it made Jinnie
raise her head.

"Come over here again," said the shoemaker, kindly. "Now tell me all
about it."

"Didn't the letter tell you?"

"Some of it, yes. But tell me about yourself."

Lafe Grandoken listened as the girl recounted her past life with
Matty, and when at the finish she remarked,

"I had to bring Milly Ann----"

Grandoken by a look interrupted her explanation.

"Milly Ann?" he repeated.

Then came the story of the mother-cat and her babies. Jinnie lifted
the towel, and the almost smothered kittens scrambled over the top of
the pail. Milly Ann stretched her cramped legs, then proceeded
vigorously to wash the faces of her numerous children.

"She wouldn't 've had a place to live if I hadn't brought her,"
explained Jinnie, looking at the kittens. "I guess they won't eat
much, because Milly Ann catches all kinds of live things. I don't like
'er to do that, but I heard she was born that way and can't help it."

"I guess she'll find enough to eat around here," he said softly.

"I brought my fiddle, too," Jinnie went on lovingly. "I couldn't live
without it any more'n I could without Milly Ann."

The cobbler nodded.

"You play?" he questioned.

"A little," replied the girl.

Mr. Grandoken eyed the instrument on the floor beside the pail.

"You oughter have a box to put it in," he suggested. "It might get
wet."

Virginia acquiesced by bowing her head.

"I know it," she assented, "but I carried it in that old wrap.... Did
Father tell you about my uncle?"

"Yes," replied the cobbler.

"And that he was made to die for something my uncle did?"

"Yes, an' that he might harm you.... I knew your mother well, lass,
when she was young like you."

An expression of sadness pursed Jinnie's pretty mouth.

"I don't remember her, you see," she murmured sadly. "I wish I had her
now."

And she heard the cobbler murmur, "What must your uncle be to want to
hurt a little, sweet girl like you?"

They did not speak again for a few moments.

"Go call Peg," the cobbler then said.

At a loss, Virginia glanced about.

"Peg's my woman--my wife," explained Lafe. "Go through that door
there. Just call Peg an' she'll come."

In answer to the summons a woman appeared, with hands on hips and arms
akimbo. Her almost colorless hair, streaked a little with grey, was
drawn back from a sallow, thin face out of which gleamed a pair of
light blue eyes. Jinnie in one quick glance noted how tall and angular
she was. The cobbler looked from his wife to her.

"You've heard me speak about Singleton, who married Miss Virginia
Burton in Mottville, Peggy, ain't you?" he asked.

"Yes," answered the woman.

"His kid's come to live with us. She calls herself Jinnie." He threw
his eyes with a kindly smile to the girl, standing hesitant, longing
for recognition from the tall, gaunt woman. "I guess she'd better go
to the other room and warm her hands, eh?"

Mrs. Grandoken, dark-faced, with drooping lips, ordered the girl into
the kitchen.

Alone with his wife, Lafe read Singleton's letter aloud.

"I've heard as much of her yarn as I can get," he said, glancing up.
"I just wanted to tell you she was here."

"We ain't got a cent to bless ourselves with," grumbled Mrs.
Grandoken, "an' times is so hard I can't get more work than what I'm
doin'."

A patient, resigned look crossed the cobbler's pain-worn face.

"That's so, Peg, that's so," he agreed heartily. "But there's always
to-morrow, an' after that another to-morrow. With every new day
there's always a chance. We've got a chance, an' so's the girl."

The woman dropped into a chair, noticing the cobbler's smile, which
was born to give her hope.

"There ain't much chance for a bit of a brat like her," she snarled
crossly, and the man answered this statement with eagerness, because
the rising inflection in his wife's voice made it a question.

"Yes, there is, Peg," he insisted; "yes, there is! Didn't you say
there was hope for me when my legs went bad--that I had a chance for a
livin'? Now didn't you, Peggy? An' ain't I got the nattiest little
shop this side of way up town?"

Peg paused a moment. Then, "That you have, Lafe; you sure have," came
slowly.

"An' didn't I make full sixty cents yesterday?"

"You did, Lafe; you sure did."

"An' sixty cents is better'n nothin', ain't it, Peg?"

Mrs. Grandoken arose hastily.

"Course 'tis, Lafe! But don't brag 'cause you made sixty cents. You
might a lost your hands same's your feet. 'Tain't no credit to you you
didn't. Here, let me wrap you up better! You'll freeze all that's left
of your legs, if you don't."

"Them legs ain't much good," sighed the cobbler. "They might as well
be off; mightn't they, Peg?"

Peggy wrapped a worn blanket tightly about her husband.

"You oughter be ashamed," she growled darkly. "Ain't you every day
sayin' there's always to-morrow?"

This time her voice was toned with finality, and she turned and went
out.

[Illustration: "I GUESS THEY WON'T EAT MUCH, BECAUSE MILLY ANN CATCHES
ALL KIND OF LIVE THINGS. I DON'T LIKE HER TO DO THAT, BUT
I HEARD SHE WAS BORN THAT WAY AND CAN'T HELP IT."]



CHAPTER VI

PEG'S BARK


Virginia and Lafe Grandoken sat for some time with nothing but the
tick-tack of the hammer to break the silence.

"It bein' the first time you've visited us, kid," broke in the man,
pausing, "you can't be knowin' just what's made us live this way."

Virginia made a negative gesture and smiled, settling herself
hopefully for a story, but Lafe brought a frightened expression
quickly to her face by his low, even voice, and the ominous meaning of
his words.

"Me an' Peg's awful poor," said he.

"Then mebbe I'd better not stay, Mr. Lafe," faltered Jinnie.

The cobbler threaded his fingers through his hair.

"The shanty's awful small," he interjected, thoughtfully.

"I think it's awful nice, though," offered the girl. Some thought
closed her blue eyes, but they flashed open instantly.

"Cobbler," she faltered, "is Mrs. Peggy mad when she grits her teeth
and wags her head?"

As if by its own volition the cobbler's hammer stayed itself in the
air.

"No," he smiled, "just when she acts the worst is when she's likely to
do her best ... I've knowed Peggy this many a year."

"She was a wee little bit cross to me," commented the girl.

"Was she? I didn't hear anything she said."

"I'll tell you, then, Mr. Lafe," said Virginia. "When I was standing
by the fire warming my hands, she come bustling out and looked awful
mad. She said something about folks keeping their girls to home."

"Well, what after that?" asked the cobbler, as Jinnie hesitated.

"She said she could see me eating my head off, and as long as I had to
hide from my uncle, I wouldn't be able to earn my salt."

"Well, that's right," affirmed the cobbler, wagging his head. "You got
to keep low for a while. Your Uncle Morse knows a lot of folks in this
town."

"But they don't know me," said Virginia.

"That's good," remarked Lafe.

As he said this, Peg opened the door roughly and ordered them in to
breakfast.

Virginia sat beside the cobbler at the meager meal. On the table were
three bowls of hot mush. As the fragrant odor rose to her nostrils,
waves of joy crept slowly through the young body.

"Peggy 'lowed you'd be hungry, kid," said the cobbler, pushing a bowl
in front of her.

Mrs. Grandoken interrupted her husband with a growl.

"If I've any mem'ry, you 'lowed it yourself, Lafe Grandoken," she
muttered.

A smile deepened on the cobbler's face and a slight flush rose to his
forehead.

"I 'lowed it, too, Peggy dear," he said.

"Eat your mush," snapped the woman, "an', Lafe, don't 'Peggy dear' me.
I hate it; see?"

Virginia refused to believe the startling words. She would have
adored being called "dear." In Lafe's voice, great love rang out; in
the woman's, she scarcely knew what. She glanced from one to the other
as the cobbler lifted his head. He was always thanking some one in
some unknown place for the priceless gift of his woman.

"I'll 'Peggy dear' you whenever I feel like it, wife," he said
gravely, "for God knows you're awful dear to me, Peg."

Mrs. Grandoken ignored his speech, but when she returned from the
stove, her voice was a little more gentle.

"You can both stuff your innards with hot mush. You can't starve on
that.... Here, kid, sit a little nearer!"

So Virginia Singleton, the lame cobbler, and Peggy began their first
meal, facing a new day, which to Lafe was yesterday's to-morrow.

A little later Virginia followed the wheel chair into the cobbler's
shop. Peggy grumblingly left them to return to her duties in the
kitchen.

"Terrible cold day this," Lafe observed, picking up a shoe. "The
wind's blowin' forty miles the hour."

Virginia's next remark was quite irrelevant to the wind.

"I'm hoping Mrs. Peggy'll get the money she was talking about."

"Did she tell you she needed some?"

Virginia nodded, and when she spoke again, her tongue was parched and
dry.

"She said she had to have money to-night. I hope she gets it; if she
doesn't I can't stay and live with you."

"I hope she gets it, too," sighed the cobbler.

Of a sudden a thought seemed to strike him. The girl noticed it and
looked a question.

"Peggy's bark's worser'n her bite," Lafe explained in answer. "She's
like a lot of them little pups that do a lot of barkin' but wouldn't
set their teeth in a biscuit."

"Does that mean," Jinnie asked eagerly, "if she don't get the two
dollars to-night, Mrs. Peggy might let me stay?"

"That's just what it means," replied Lafe, making loud whacks on the
sole of a shoe. "You'll stay, all right."

The depth of Virginia's gratitude just then could only be estimated by
one who had passed through the same fires of deep uncertainty, and in
the ardor of it she flung her arms around the cobbler's neck and
kissed him.

                  *       *       *       *       *

When Lafe, with useless legs, had been brought home to his wife, she
had stoically taken up the burden that had been his. At her husband's
suggestion that he should cobble, Mrs. Grandoken had fitted up the
little shop, telling him grimly that every hand in the world should do
its share. And that was how Lafe Grandoken, laborer and optimist,
began his life's great work--of cobbling a ray of comfort to every
soul entering the shack. Sometimes he would insist that the sun shone
brighter than the day before; then again that the clouds had a cooling
effect. But if in the world outside Lafe found no comfort, he always
spoke of to-morrow with a ring of hope in his voice.

Hope for another day was all Lafe had save Peggy, and to him these
two--hope and the woman--were Heaven's choicest gifts. Now Peggy
didn't realize all these things, because the world, with its trials
and vicissitudes, gave her a different aspect of life, and she was not
in even her ordinary good humor this day as she prepared the midday
meal. Her mind was busy with thoughts of the new burden which the
morning had brought.

Generally Lafe consulted her about any problem that presented itself
before him, but, that day, he had taken a young stranger into their
home, and Mrs. Grandoken had used all kinds of arguments to persuade
him to send the girl away. Peggy didn't want another mouth to feed.
She didn't care for any one in the world but Lafe anyway.

When the dinner was on the table, she grimly brought her husband's
wheel chair to the kitchen. Virginia, by the cobbler's invitation,
followed.

"Any money paid in to-day?" asked Peggy gruffly, drawing the cobbler
to his place at the table.

"No," he said, smiling up at her, "but there'll be a lot to-morrow....
Is there some bread for----for Jinnie, too?"

Peggy replied by sticking her fork into a biscuit and pushing it off
on Virginia's plate with her finger.

Virginia acknowledged it with a shy upward glance. Peg's stolid face
and quick, insistent movements filled her with vague discomfort. If
the woman had tempered her harsh, "Take it, kid," with a smile, the
little girl's heart might have ached less.

Lafe nodded to her when his wife left the room for a moment.

"That biscuit's Peg's bite," said he, "so she'll bark a lot the rest
of the day, but don't you mind."



CHAPTER VII

JUST A JEW


When the cobbler was at work again, Virginia, after picking up a few
nails and tacks scattered on the floor, sat down.

"Would you like to hear something about me and Peggy, lassie?" he
inquired, "an' will you take my word for things?"

Jinnie nodded trustfully. She had already grown to love the cobbler,
and her affection grew stronger as she stated:

"There isn't anything you'd tell me, cobbler, I wouldn't believe!"

With slow importance Lafe put down his hammer.

"I'm a Israelite," he announced.

"What's that?" asked the girl, immediately interested.

The cobbler looked over his spectacles and smiled.

"A Jew, just a plain Jew."

"I don't know what a Jew is either," confessed Jinnie.

Lafe groped for words to explain his meaning.

"A Jew," he ventured presently, "is one of God's----chosen----folks. I
mean one of them chose by Him to believe."

"Believe what?"

"All that God said would be," explained Lafe, reverently.

"And you believe it, cobbler?"

"Sure, kid; sure."

The shoemaker saw a question mirrored in the depths of the violet
eyes.

"And thinking that way makes you happy, eh, Mr. Lafe? Does it make you
smile the way you do at girls without homes?"

As she put this question sincerely to him, Jinnie reminded the cobbler
of a beautiful flower lifting its proud head to the sun. In his
experience with young people, he had never seen a girl like this one.

"It makes me happier'n anything!" he replied, cheerfully. "The
wonderful part is I wouldn't know about it if I hadn't lost my legs.
I'll tell you about it, lass."

Jinnie settled back contentedly.

"A long time ago," began Mr. Grandoken, "God led a bunch of Jews out
of a town where a king was torturin' 'em----"

The listener's eyes darkened in sympathy.

"They was made to do a lot of things that hurt 'em; their babies and
women, too."

Jinnie leaned forward and covered the horny hand with her slender
fingers.

"Have you ever had any babies, Lafe?" she ventured.

A perceptible shadow crossed the man's face.

"Yes," said he hesitatingly. "Me and Peggy had a boy--a little fellow
with curly hair--a Jew baby. Peggy always let me call him a Jew baby,
though he was part Irish."

"Oh!" gasped Jinnie, radiantly.

"I was a big fellow then, kid, with fine, strong legs, an' nights,
when I'd come home, I'd carry the little chap about."

The cobbler's eyes glistened with the memory, but shadowed almost
instantly.

"But one day----" he hesitated.

The pause brought an exclamation from the girl.

"And one day--what?" she demanded.

"He died; that's all," and Lafe gazed unseeingly at the snow-covered
tracks.

"And you buried him?" asked Virginia, softly.

"Yes, an' the fault was mostly mine, Jinnie. I ain't had no way to
make it up to Peggy, but there's lots of to-morrows."

"You'll make her happy then?" ejaculated the girl.

"Yes," said Lafe, "an' I might a done it then, but I wouldn't listen
to the voices."

A look of bewildered surprise crossed the girl's face. Were they
spirit voices, the voices in the pines, of which Lafe was speaking?
She'd ask him.

"God's voices out of Heaven," said he, in answer to her query. "They
come every night, but I wouldn't listen, till one day my boy was took.
Then I heard another voice, demandin' me to tell folks what was what
about God. But I was afraid an' a--coward."

The cobbler lapsed into serious thought, while Virginia moved a small
nail back and forth on the floor with the toe of her shoe. She
wouldn't cry again, but something in the low, sad voice made her
throat ache. After the man had been quiet for a long time, she pressed
him with:

"After that, Lafe, what then?"

"After that," repeated the cobbler, straightening his shoulders,
"after that my legs went bad an' then--an' then----"

Virginia, very pale, went to the cobbler, and laid her head against
his shoulder.

"An' then, child," he breathed huskily, "I believed, an' I know, as
well as I'm livin', God sent his Christ for everybody; that in the
lovin' father"--Lafe raised his eyes--"there's no line drawed 'tween
Jews an' Gentiles. They're all alike to Him. Only some're goin' one
road an' some another to get to Him, that's all."

These were quite new ideas to Virginia. In all her young life no one
had ever conversed with her of such things. True, from her hill home
on clear Sunday mornings she could hear the church bells ding-dong
their hoarse welcome to the farmers, but she had never been inside the
church doors. Now she regretted the lost opportunity. She wished to
grasp the cobbler's meaning. Noting her tense expression, Grandoken
continued:

"It was only a misunderstandin' 'tween a few Jews when they nailed the
Christ to the cross. Why, a lot of Israelites back there believed in
'im. I'm one of them believin' Jews, Jinnie."

"I wish I was a Jew, cobbler," sighed Jinnie. "I'd think the same as
you then, wouldn't I?"

"Oh, you don't have to be a Jew to believe," returned Lafe. "It's as
easy to do as 'tis to roll off'n a log."

This lame man filled her young heart with a deep longing to help him
and to have him help her.

"You're going to teach me all about it, ain't you, Lafe?" she
entreated presently.

"Sure! Sure! You see, it's this way: Common, everyday folks--them with
narrer minds--ain't much use for my kind of Jews. I'm livin' here in a
mess of 'em. Most of 'em's shortwood gatherers. When I found out about
the man on the cross, I told it right out loud to 'em all. ... You're
one of 'em. You're a Gentile, Jinnie."

"I'm sorry," said the girl sadly.

"Oh, you needn't be. Peg's one, too, but she's got God's mark on her
soul as big as any of them women belongin' to Abraham, Isaac and
Jacob----I ain't sure but it's a mite bigger."

The speaker worked a while, bringing the nails from his lips in rapid,
even succession. Peg was the one bright spot that shone out of his
wonderful yesterdays. She was the one link that fastened him securely
to a useful to-morrow.

Virginia counted the nails mechanically as they were driven into the
leather, and as the last one disappeared, she said:

"Are you always happy, Lafe, when you're smiling? Why, you
smile--when--even when--" she stammered, caught her breath, and
finished, "even when Mrs. Peggy barks."

An amused laugh came from the cobbler's lips.

"That's 'cause I know her, lass," said he. "Why, when I first found
out about the good God takin' charge of Jews an' Gentiles alike, I
told it to Peg, an', my, how she did hop up an' down, right in the
middle of the floor. She said I was meddlin' into things that had took
men of brains a million years to fix up.

"But I knew it as well as anything," he continued. "God's love is
right in your heart, right there----" He bent over and gently touched
the girl.

She looked up surprised.

"I heard He was setting on a great high throne up in Heaven," she
whispered, glancing up, "and he scowled dead mad when folks were
wicked."

Lafe smiled, shook his head, and picked up his hammer.

"No," said he. "No, no! He's right around me, an' He's right around
you, an' everything a feller does or has comes from Him."

Virginia's thoughts went back to an episode of the country.

"Does He help a kid knock hell out of another kid when that kid is
beating a littler kid?"

Her eyes were so earnest, so deep in question, that the cobbler
lowered his head. Not for the world would he have smiled at Virginia's
original question. He scarcely knew how to answer, but presently
said:

"Well, I guess it's all right to help them who ain't as big as
yourself, but it ain't the best thing in the world to gad any one."

"Oh, I never licked any of 'em," Jinnie assured him. "I just wanted to
find out, that's all."

"What'd you do when other kids beat the littler ones?" demanded the
cobbler.

"Just shoved 'em down on the ground and set on 'em, damn 'em!"
answered Jinnie.

Lafe raised his eyes slowly.

"I was wonderin' if I dared give you a lesson, lass," he began in a
low voice.

"I wish you would," replied Virginia, eagerly. "I'd love anything
you'd tell me."

"Well, I was wonderin' if you knew it was wicked to swear?"

Like a shot came a pang through her breast. She had offended her
friend.

"Wicked? Wicked?" she gasped. "You say it's wicked to swear,
cobbler?"

Lafe nodded. "Sure, awful wicked," he affirmed.

Virginia took a long breath.

"I didn't know it," she murmured. "Father said it wasn't polite, but
that's nothing. How is it wicked, cobbler?"

Lafe put two nails into position in the leather sole and drove them
deep; then he laid down the hammer again.

"You remember my tellin' you this morning of the man with angels,
white angels, hoverin' about the earth helpin' folks?"

"Yes," answered Virginia.

"Well, He said it was wicked."

An awe-stricken glance fell upon the speaker.

"Did He tell you so, Lafe?"

"Yes," said Lafe. "It ain't a question of politeness at all, but just
bein' downright wicked. See, kid?"

"Yes, cobbler, I do now," Jinnie answered, hanging her head. "Nobody
but Matty ever told me nothing before. I guess she didn't know much
about angels, though."

"Well," continued Lafe, going back to his story, "God give his little
boy Jesus to a mighty good man an' a fine woman--as fine as Peg--to
bring up. An' Joseph trundled the little feller about just as I did my
little Lafe, an' bye-an'-bye when the boy grew, He worked as his
Father in Heaven wanted him to. The good God helped Joseph an' Mary to
bring the Christ down face to face with us--Jews an' Gentiles alike."

"With you and me?" breathed Virginia, solemnly.

"With you an' me, child," repeated the cobbler in subdued tones.

Virginia walked to the window and drummed on the pane. Through mere
force of habit the cobbler bent his head and caught the tacks between
his teeth. He did it mechanically; he was thinking of the future. In
the plan of events which Lafe had worked out for himself and Peg,
there was but one helper, and each day some new demonstration came to
make his faith the brighter. In the midst of his meditation, Jinnie
returned to her seat.

"Cobbler, will you do something I ask you?"

"Sure," assented Lafe.

"Get busy trusting Peg'll get the two dollars to-night."

"I have long ago, child, an' she's goin' to get it, too. That's one
blessin' about believin'. No one nor nobody can keep you from gettin'
what's your own."

"Mrs. Peggy doesn't think that way," remarked Virginia, with keen
memories of Mrs. Grandoken's snapping teeth.

"No, not yet, but I'm trustin' she will. You see how 'tis in this
shop. Folks is poor around here. I trust 'em all, Jews and Gentiles
alike, but Peg thinks I ought to have the money the minute the work's
done. But I know no man can keep my money from me, so I soothe her
down till she don't whine any more. That's how I know her bark's
worser'n her bite. Didn't I tell you about the biscuit?"

"Yes," replied Virginia, "and I hope it'll only be bark about the
money; what if she didn't get it?"

"She'll get it," assured Lafe, positively.

Just before bed time Lafe whispered in Jinnie's ear, "Peggy got the
two! I told you she would. God's good, child, and we've all got Him in
us alike."

And that night, as the air waxed colder and colder, Virginia
Singleton, daughter of the rich, slept her tired sleep amid the
fighters of the world.



CHAPTER VIII

"EVERY HAND SHALL DO ITS SHARE," QUOTH PEG.


The fifth day of Jinnie's stay in the cobbler's home crept out of the
cold night accompanied by the worst blizzard ever known along the
lake. Many times, if it had not been for the protecting overhanging
hills, the wood gatherers' huts would have been swept quite away. As
it was, Jinnie felt the shack tremble and sway, and doubted its
ability to withstand the onslaught.

After breakfast found Lafe and Jinnie conversing interestedly in the
shop. The cobbler allowed several bright nails to fall into his palm
before he answered the question which was worrying the girl.

"There ain't no use troublin' about it, child," commented he. "We
can't starve."

"If I could only work," said Jinnie gloomily, "I bet Peg'd soon like
me, because she wouldn't have to go out in the cold at all. But you
think it'd be bad for me, eh, Lafe?"

"Well, you couldn't go around to the factories or stores very well,"
replied Lafe. "You see your uncle's tryin' to trace you. I showed you
that this mornin' in the paper, didn't I, where he mourned over you as
lost after findin' your father dead?"

Jinnie nodded.

"Yes, I read it," she said.

"An' he can't get your money for seven years. That makes him madder'n
a hatter, of course."

"If he'd let me alone, I'd just as soon give him the money," Jinnie
said mournfully.

Lafe shook his head.

"The law wouldn't let you, till you was of age. No, sir, you'd either
have to die a natural death or--another kind, an' you're a pretty
husky young kid to die natural."

"I don't want to die at all," shivered Jinnie.

Lafe encouraged her with a smile.

"If he finds you," pursued Lafe, "I'd have to give you up. I couldn't
do anything else. We might pray 'bout it."

A wistful expression came over Jinnie's face.

"Is praying anything like wishing, cobbler?"

"Somethin' the same," replied Mr. Grandoken, "with this
difference--wishin' is askin' somethin' out of somewhere of some one
you don't know; prayin' is just talkin' to some one you're acquainted
with! See?"

"Yes, I think I do," responded the girl. "Your way is mostly praying,
isn't it, Lafe?"

"Prayin's more powerful than wishin', lass," said Lafe. "When I was
first paralyzed, I done a lot of wishin'. I hadn't any acquaintance
with anybody but Peggy. After that I took up with God, an' He's been
awful good to me."

"He's been good to me, too, Lafe, bringing me here."

This seemed to be a discovery to Virginia, and for a few minutes her
brain was alive with new hopes. Suddenly she drew her chair in front
of Grandoken.

"Will to-morrow ever be to-day, cobbler?"

Lafe looked at the solemn-faced girl with smiling, kindly eyes.

"Sure, kid, sure," he asserted. "When you get done wishin' an' there
ain't nothin' left in the world to want, then to-morrow's to-day."

Jinnie smiled dismally. "There'd never be a day, cobbler, that I
couldn't think of something I'd like for you--and Peg."

Lafe meditated an instant before replying. Then:

"I've found out that we're always happier, kid, when we've got a
to-morrow to look to," said he, "'cause when you're just satisfied,
somethin's very apt to go smash. I was that way once."

He paused for some seconds.

"Jinnie," he murmured, "I haven't told you how I lost the use of my
legs, have I?"

"No, Lafe."

"Well, as I was sayin', there didn't used to be any to-morrow for me.
I always lived just for that one day. I had Peg an' the boy. I could
work for 'm, an' that was enough. It's more'n lots of men get in this
world."

His voice trailed into a whisper and ceased. He was living for the
moment in the glory of his past usefulness. The rapt, wrinkled face
shone as if it had been touched by angel fingers. Virginia watched him
reverently.

"It's more'n two years ago, now," proceeded the cobbler presently,
"an' I was workin' on one of them tall uptown buildin's. Jimmy
Malligan worked right alongside of me. We was great chums, Jimmy an'
me. One day the ropes broke on one of the scaffoldin's--at least,
that's what folks said. When we was picked up, my legs wasn't worth
the powder to blow 'em up--an' Jimmy was dead. ... But Peg says I'm
just as good as ever."

Here Mr. Grandoken took out his pipe and struck a match. "But I ain't.
'Cause them times Peg didn't have to work. We always had fires enough,
an' didn't live like this. But, as I was sayin', me an' Peg just
kinder lived in to-day. Now, when I hope that mebbe I'll walk again,
I'm always measurin' up to-morrow----Peg's the best woman in the
world."

Jinnie shivered as a gust of wind rattled the window pane.

"She makes awful good hot mush," she commented.

"Anyhow," went on Lafe, "I was better off'n Jimmy, because he was
stone dead. There wasn't any to-day or to-morrow for him, an' I've
still got Peggy."

"And this shop," supplemented the girl, glancing around admiringly.

"Sure, this shop," assented Lafe. "I had clean plumb forgot this
shop--I mean, for the minute--but I wouldn't a forgot it long."

He knocked the ashes out of his pipe and set to work.

Neither girl nor man spoke for a while, and it wasn't until Lafe heard
Peg's voice growling at one of Milly's kittens that he ceased his
tick-tack.

"You wouldn't like to join my club, lass, would you?" he ventured.

Jinnie looked up quickly.

"Of course I would," she said eagerly. "What kind of a club is it?"

The girl's faith in the cobbler was so great that if Lafe had
commanded her to go into danger, she wouldn't have hesitated.

"Tell me what the club is, Lafe," she repeated.

"Sure," responded Lafe. "Come here an' shake hands! All you have to do
to be a member of my club is to be 'Happy in Spite' an' believe
everythin' happenin' is for the best."

A mystified expression filled the girl's earnest blue eyes.

"I'm awful happy," she sighed, "and I'm awful glad to come in your
club, but I just don't understand what it means."

The cobbler paid no attention for some moments. He was looking out of
the window, in a far-away mood, dreaming of an active past, when
Jinnie accidentally knocked a hammer from the bench. Lafe Grandoken
glanced in the girl's direction.

"I'm happy in spite--" he murmured. Then he stopped abruptly, and his
hesitation made the girl repeat:

"Happy in spite?" with a rising inflection. "What does that mean,
Lafe?"

Lafe began to work desperately.

"It means just this, kid. I've got a little club all my own, an' I've
named it 'Happy in Spite.'" His eyes gathered a mist as he whispered,
"Happy in spite of everything that ain't just what I want it to be.
Happy in spite of not walkin'--happy in spite of Peg's workin'."

Virginia raised unsmiling, serious eyes to the speaker.

"I want to come in your club, too, Lafe," she said slowly. "I need to
be happy in spite of lots of things, just like you, cobbler."

A long train steamed by. Jinnie went to the window, and looked out
upon it. When the noise of the engine and the roar of the cars had
ceased, she whirled around.

"Cobbler," she said in a low voice, "I've been thinking a lot since
yesterday."

"Come on an' tell me about it, lassie," said Lafe.

She sat down, hitching her chair a bit nearer him, leaned her elbow on
her knee, and buried a dimpled chin in the palm of her hand.

"Do you suppose, Lafe, if a girl believed in the angels, anybody could
hurt her?"

"I know they couldn't, kid, an' it's as true's Heaven."

"Well, then, why can't I go out and work?"

Lafe paused and looked over his spectacles.

"Peggy says, 'Every hand should do its share'," he quoted.

Jinnie winced miserably. She picked up several nails from the floor.
It was a pretext for an activity to cover her embarrassment.

The cobbler allowed her to busy herself a while in this way. Then he
said:

"Sit in the chair an' wrap up in the blankets, Jinnie. I want to talk
with you."

She did as she was bidden, sitting quietly until the man chose to
speak.

"I guess you're beginnin' to believe," said he, at length, "an' if you
do, a world full of uncles couldn't hurt you. Peg says as how you got
to work if you stay, an' if you have the faith----"

Jinnie rose tremblingly.

"I know I'll be all right," she cried. "I just know you and me
believing would keep me safe."

Her eagerness caused Lafe to draw the girl to him.

"Can you holler good an' loud?" he asked.

The girl shot him a curious glance.

"Sure I can."

"Can you walk on icy walks----"

"Oh, I'm as strong as anything," Jinnie cut in, glancing downward at
herself.

"I know a lot of kids who earn money," said Lafe meditatively.

"What do they do?"

"Get wood out of the marsh behind the huts there. Some of 'em keeps
families on it."

"Sell wood! And there's lots of it, Lafe?"

"Lots," replied Lafe.

Sell wood! The very words, new, wonderful, and full of action, rang
through Jinnie's soul like sweet sounding bells. Waves of unknown
sensations beat delightfully upon her girlish heart. If she brought in
a little money every day, Peggy would be kinder. She could; she was
sure she could. She was drawn from her whirling thoughts by the
cobbler's voice.

"Could you do it, kid? People could think your name was Jinnie
Grandoken."

Jinnie choked out a reply.

"And mebbe I could make ten cents a day."

"I think you could, Jinnie, an' here's Lafe right ready to help you."

Virginia Singleton felt quite faint. She sat down, her heart beating
under her knit jacket twice as fast as a girl's heart ought to beat.
Lafe had suddenly opened up a path to usefulness and glory which even
in her youthful dreams had never appeared to her.

"Call Peggy," said Lafe.

Soon Peg stood before them, with a questioning face.

"The kid's goin' to work," announced Lafe, "We've got a way of keepin'
her uncle off'n her trail."

Mrs. Grandoken looked from her husband to Virginia.

"I want to work like other folks," the girl burst forth, looking
pleadingly at the shoemaker's wife.

Peggy wiped her arms violently upon her apron, and there flashed
across her face an inscrutable expression that Lafe had learned to
read, but which frightened the newcomer.

Oh, how Jinnie wanted to do something to help them both! Now, at this
moment, when there seemed a likelihood of being industriously useful,
Jinnie loved them the more. She was going to work, and into her active
little brain came the sound of pennies, and the glint of silver.

"I want to work, Peggy," she beseeched, "and I'll make a lot of money
for you."

"Every hand ought to do its share," observed Peg, stolidly, glancing
at the girl's slender fingers. They looked so small, so unused to hard
work, that she turned away. An annoying, gripping sensation attacked
her suddenly, but in another minute she faced the girl again.

"If you do it, miss, don't flounce round's if you owned the hull of
Paradise Road, 'cause it'll be nothin' to your credit, whatever you
do. You didn't make yourself."

At the door she turned and remarked, "You've got t'have a shoulder
strap to hold the wood, an' you musn't carry too much to onct. It
might hurt your back."

"I'll be careful," gulped Jinnie, "and mebbe I could help make the
strap, eh, Lafe?"

An hour later Jinnie was running a long needle through a tough piece
of leather. She was making the strap to peddle shortwood, and a
happier girl never breathed.

Peg watched her without comment as Lafe fitted the strap about her
shoulders. In fact, there was nothing for the woman to say, when the
violet eyes were fixed questioningly upon her. Peggy thought of the
hunger which would be bound to come if any hands were idle, so she
muttered in excuse, "There's nothin' like gettin' used to a thing."

"It's a fine strap, isn't it, Lafe?" asked the girl, "It's almost as
good as a cart."

"You can't use a cart in the underbrush," explained Lafe. "That's why
the twig gatherers use straps."

"I see," murmured Jinnie.

When the cobbler and girl were once more alone together, they had a
serious confab. They decided that every penny Jinnie brought in should
go to enriching the house, and the girl's eyes glistened as she heard
the shoemaker list over the things that would make them comfortable.

Most delightful thoughts came to endow the girl's mental world, which
now reached from the cobbler's shop to the marsh, over a portion of
the city, and back again. It was rosy-hued, bright, sparkling with
the pennies and nickels she intended to earn. All her glory would come
with the aid of that twig gatherer's leather strap. She looked down
upon it with a proud toss of her head. Jinnie was recovering the
independent spirit which had dominated her when she had wandered alone
on the hills away to the north.

"I wouldn't wonder if I'd make fifteen cents some days," she remarked
later at the supper table.

"If you make ten, you'll be doin' well, an' you and Lafe'll probably
bust open with joy if you do," snapped Peg. "Oh, Lord, I'm gettin'
sick to my stomick hearin' you folks brag. Go to bed now, kid, if
you're to work to-morrow."

Jinnie fell asleep to dream that her hand was full of pennies, and her
pockets running over with nickels. She was just stooping to pick up
some money from the sidewalk when Peg's voice pierced her ear,

"Kid," said she, "it's mornin', an' your first workin' day. Now hurry
your lazy bones an' get dressed."



CHAPTER IX

BY THE SWEAT OF HER BROW


Over the bridge into Paradise Road went the lithe, buoyant figure of a
girl, a loose strap hanging from one straight shoulder. Jinnie was
radiantly happy, for her first day had netted the family twenty cents,
and if Paradise Road had been covered with eggs, she would not have
broken many in her flight homeward. If she had been more used to Mrs.
Grandoken, she would have understood the peculiar tightening at the
corners of the woman's thin lips when she delivered the precious
pittance. Virginia searched the other's face for the least sign of
approbation. She wished Peg would kiss her, but, of course, she dared
not suggest it. To have a little show of affection seemed to Jinnie
just then the most desirable thing in the world, but the cobbler's
wife merely muttered as she went away to the kitchen, and Virginia,
sighing, sat down.

"Now suppose you tell me all about it, Jinnie," Lafe suggested
smilingly; "just where you went an' how you earned all the money."

Fatigued almost beyond the point of rehearsing her experiences, Jinnie
took Milly Ann on her lap and curled up in the chair.

"I guess I've walked fifteen miles," she began. "You know most folks
don't want wood."

Lafe took one sidewise glance at the beautiful face. He remembered a
picture he had once seen of an angel. Jinnie's face was like that
picture.

"Well, first, Lafe," she recounted, "I gathered the wood in the marsh,
then I went straight across the back field through the swamp. It's
froze over harder'n hell----"

Lafe uttered a little, "Sh!" and Jinnie, with scarlet face,
supplemented,

"I mean harder'n _anything_."

"Sure," replied Lafe, nodding.

"Mr. Bates and his kids were there, but he c'n carry a pile three
times bigger'n I can!"

"Well, you're only a child. Sometimes Bates can't sell all he gets,
though."

"I sold all mine," asserted Jinnie, brightening.

The cobbler recalled the history of Jinnie's lonely little life--of
how during those first fifteen years no kindly soul had given her
counsel, and now his heart glowed with thanksgiving as he realized
that she was growing in faith and womanliness. He wanted Jinnie to
give credit where credit was due, so he said,

"You sold your wood because you had a helpin' hand."

Jinnie was about to protest.

"I mean----" breathed Lafe.

"Oh, angels! Eh?" interrupted the girl. "Yes, I sold my last two
cents' worth by saying what you told me--'He gives His angels charge
over thee'--and, zip! a woman bought the last bundle and gave me a
cent more'n I charged her."

"Good!" Lafe was highly pleased. "It'll work every time, an' to make a
long story short, it works on boots an' shoes, too."

"Wood's awful heavy," Jinnie decided, irrelevantly.

"Sure," soothed Lafe again. He hesitated a minute, drew his hand
across his eyes, and continued, "An', by the way, Jinnie----"

Jinnie's receptive face caused the cobbler to proceed:

"I wouldn't have nothin' to do with Bates' son Maudlin, if I was
you.... He's a bad lot."

Jinnie's head drooped. She flushed to her hair.

"I saw him to-day," she replied. "He's got wicked eyes. I hate boys
who wink!"

A look of desperation clouded the fair young face, and the cobbler,
looking at the slender girlish figure, and thinking the while of
Maudlin Bates, suddenly put out his hand.

"Come here, lassie," he said.

Another flame of color mounted to Jinnie's tousled hair. With hanging
head, she pushed Milly Ann from her lap and walked to the cobbler's
side.

"What did Maudlin say to you?" he demanded.

"He said he'd--he'd crack my twigs for me if--if I'd kiss him, and he
pinched me when I wouldn't."

Anger and deep resentment displayed themselves on Lafe's pale face.

"Jinnie, lass," he breathed. "I c'n trust you, child. Can't I trust
you? You wouldn't----"

Jinnie drew away from Lafe's embrace.

"I guess I'd rather be killed'n have Maudlin kiss me," she cried
passionately.

Just then Peg came to the door.

"Run to the butcher's for a bit of chopped steak, Jinnie," she
ordered, "an' make your head save your heels by bringin' in some
bread."

Jinnie jumped up quickly.

"Please use some of my money to buy 'em, Peggy," she begged. "Oh,
please do."

Peggy eyed her sternly.

"Kid," she warned. "I want to tell you something before you go any
farther in life. You may be smart, but 'tain't no credit to you,
'cause you didn't make yourself. I'm tellin' you this for fear makin'
so much money'll turn your head.... Here's your ten cents.... Now go
along."

After Jinnie had gone, Mrs. Grandoken sat down opposite her husband.

"The girl looks awful tired," she offered, after a moment's silence.

"She's been earnin' her livin' by the sweat of her brow," replied
Lafe, with a wan smile.

"Mebbe she'll get used to it," growled Peg. "Of course I don't like
her, but I don't want her hurt. 'Twon't make her sick, will it?"

"No, she's as strong as a little ox. She's got enough strength in her
body to work ten times harder, but Peg----" Here Lafe stopped and
looked out to the hill beyond the tracks, "but, Peggy, perhaps we c'n
find her somethin' else after a while, when there ain't so much fear
of her uncle. To make a long story short, Peg, danger of him's the
only thing that'll keep the kid luggin' wood."

"I was wonderin'," returned Peg, "if we couldn't get some one
interested in 'er--the Kings, mebbe. They're a good sort, with lots of
money, an' are more'n smart."

Lafe's eyes brightened visibly, but saddened again. He shook his
head.

"We can't get the Kings 'cause I read in the paper last night they're
gone away West, to be gone for a year or more.... It's a good idea,
though. Some one'll turn up, sure."

"When they do, my man," Peg said quickly, "don't be takin' any credit
to yourself, 'cause you hadn't ought to take credit for the plannin'
your sharp brains do."

As he shook his head, smiling, she left him quickly and shut the
door.



CHAPTER X

ON THE BROAD BOSOM OF THE "HAPPY IN SPITE"


Thus for one year Jinnie went forth in the morning to gather her
shortwood, and to sell it in the afternoon.

Peg always gave her a biscuit to eat during her forenoon's work, and
Jinnie, going from house to house later, was often presented with a
"hunk of pie," as she afterwards told Lafe. If a housewife gave her an
apple, she would take it home to the cobbler and his wife.

Late one afternoon, at the close of a bitter day, Jinnie had finished
her work and was resting on the door sill of an empty house on an
uptown corner.

She drew forth her money in girlish pride. Twenty-seven cents was what
she'd earned,--two cents more than any day since she began working.
This money meant much to Jinnie. She hadn't yet received a kiss from
Mrs. Grandoken, but was expecting it daily. Perhaps when two cents
more were dropped into her hand, Peggy might, just for the moment,
forget herself and unwittingly express some little affection for her.

With this joyous anticipation the girl recounted her money, retained
sufficient change for the dinner meat, and slipped the rest into her
jacket pocket. She rose and had started in the direction of the market
when a clamor near the bridge made her pause. A crowd of men and boys
were running directly toward her. Above their wild shouts could be
heard the orders of a policeman, and now and then the frightened cry
of a small child.

At first Jinnie noticed only the people. Then her eyes lowered and she
saw, racing toward her, a small, black, woolly dog. The animal, making
a wild dash for his life, had in his anguish lost his mental balance,
for he took no heed as to where he ran nor what he struck. A louder
cry of derision rose up from many throats as the small beast scuttled
between the legs of a farmer's horse, which gave him a moment's
respite from his tormentors.

An instant later they were clamoring again for his unhappy little
life. Suddenly he ran headlong into a tree, striking his shaggy head
with terrific force. Then he curled up in a limp little heap, just as
Jinnie reached him.

Before Maudlin Bates, the leader of the crowd, arrived, the girl had
picked up the insensible dog and thrust him under her jacket.

"He's dead, I guess," she said, looking up into the boy's face, "I'll
take him to the cobbler's shop and bury him.... He isn't any good when
he's dead."

Maudlin Bates grinned from ear to ear, put his hands behind his back,
and allowed his eyes to rove over the girl's straight young figure.

"Billy Maybee was tryin' to tie a tin can to his tail," he explained,
stuttering, "and the cur snapped at him. We was goin' to hit his head
against the wall."

"He's dead now," assured Jinnie once more. "It isn't any use to smash
dead dogs."

This reasoning being unanswerable, Maudlin turned grumblingly away.

Jinnie's heart beat loudly with living hope. Perhaps the little dog
wasn't dead. Oh, how she hoped he'd live! She stopped half way home,
and pushed aside her jacket and peeped down at him. He was still quite
limp, and the girl hurried on. She did not even wait to buy the meat
nor the bread Peg had asked her to bring in.

As she hurried across the tracks, she saw Grandoken sitting in the
window.

He saluted her with one hand, but as she was using both of hers to
hold the dog, she only smiled in return, with a bright nod of her
head.

Once in the shop, she looked about cautiously.

"I've got something, Lafe," she whispered, "something you'll like."

When she displayed the hurt dog, Lafe put out his hand.

"Is the little critter dead?" he asked solemnly.

"Oh, I hope not!" replied Jinnie, and excitedly explained the
episode.

"Lafe took the foundling in his hands, turning the limp body over and
over.

"Jinnie, go ask Peg to bring some hot water in a pan," he said. "We'll
give the little feller a chanct to live."

Peg came in with a basin of water, stared at the wide-eyed girl and
her smiling husband, then down upon the dog.

"Well, for Lord's sake, where'd you get that little beast?" she
demanded. "'Tain't livin', is it? Might as well throw it in the
garbage pail."

Nevertheless, she put down the basin as she spoke, and took the puppy
from her husband. At variance with her statement that the dog might as
well be thrown out, she laid him in the hot water, rubbing the bruised
body from the top of its head to the small stubby tail. During this
process Lafe had unfastened Jinnie's shortwood strap, and the girl,
free, dropped upon the floor beside Peg.

Suddenly the submerged body of the pup began to move.

"He's alive, Peg!" cried Jinnie. "Look at his legs a kicking!... Oh,
Lafe, he's trying to get out of the water!"

Peg turned sharply.

"If he ain't dead already," she grunted, "you'll kill him hollerin'
like that. Anyway, 'tain't no credit to hisself if he lives. He didn't
have nothin' to do with his bein' born, an' he won't have nothin' to
do with his goin' on livin'. Shut up, now!... There, massy me, he's
coming to."

Jinnie squatted upon her feet, while Lafe wheeled his chair a bit
nearer. For some moments the trio watched the small dog, struggling to
regain consciousness. Then Peggy took him from the water and wrapped
him carefully in her apron.

"Lordy, he's openin' his eyes," she grinned, "an' you, girl, you go in
there by the fire an' just hold him in your arms. Mebbe he'll come
round all right. You can't put him out in the street till he's
better."

For the larger part of an hour, Jinnie held the newcomer close to her
thumping heart, and when a spasm of pain attacked the shaggy head
resting on her arm, she wept in sympathetic agony. Could Peg be
persuaded to allow the dog to stay? She would promise to earn an extra
penny to buy food for this new friend. At this opportune moment Mrs.
Grandoken arrived from the market.

"How's he comin' on?" she asked, standing over them.

"Fine!" replied Jinnie. "And, Peg, he wants to stay."

"Did he tell y' that?" demanded Peg, grimly.

"Well, he didn't say just those words," said the girl, "but, Peggy, if
he could talk, he'd tell you how much he loved you----"

"Look a here, kid," broke in Mrs. Grandoken, "that dog ain't goin' to
stay around this house, an' you might as well understand it from the
beginnin'. I've enough to do with you an' Lafe an' those cats, without
fillin' my house with sick pups. So get that notion right out of your
noddle!... See?"

Jinnie bowed her head over the sick dog and made a respectful reply.

"I'll try to get the notion out," said she, "but, Peggy, oh, Peggy
dear, I love the poor little thing so _awful_ much that it'll be hard
for me to throw him away. Will you send him off when he's better, and
not ask me to do it?"

Jinnie cocked her pretty head inquiringly on one side, closed one eye,
and looked at Peg from the other.

Peggy sniffed a ruse. She came forward, spread her feet a bit, rolling
her hands nervously in her apron. She hated an everlasting show of
feelings, but sometimes it was difficult for her to crush the emotions
which had so often stirred in her breast since the girl came to live
with them.

"I might as well tell you one thing right now, Jinnie Grandoken," she
said. "You brought that pup into this house an' you'll take him out,
or he won't get took; see?"

There was a certain tone in Peg's voice the girl had heard before.

"Then he won't get kicked out 't all, Peg," she said, with a petulant,
youthful smile. "I just won't do it! Lafe can't, and if you
don't----"

Mrs. Grandoken made a deep noise in her throat.

"You're a sassy brat," said she, "that's what you are! An' if Lafe
don't just about beat the life out of you when I tell him about this,
I will, with my own hand, right before his eyes. That's what----"

Jinnie interrupted her eagerly. "Lafe won't beat me," she answered,
"but I'll let you make me black and blue, Peg, if I can keep the
puppy. Matty used to beat me fine, and she was a good bit stronger'n
you."

Peggy's eyes drew down at the corners, and her lip quivered.

"Keep him if you want to, imp of Satan, but some day----here, see if
the beast'll eat this bit of meat."

Jinnie placed the shivering dog on the floor, and Peg put a piece of
meat under his nose. In her excitement, Jinnie rushed away to Lafe.
Peg's mumble followed her even through the closed door.

"Cobbler, oh, dear good Lafe," cried the girl, "the dog's living! Peg
says I can keep 'im, and I'm goin' to fiddle for him to-night. Do you
think he'll forget all about his hurt if I do that, Lafe?"

At that moment, shamed that she had given in to the importunate
Jinnie, Mrs. Grandoken opened the shop door, shoving the half wet dog
inside.

"Here's your pup, kid," she growled, "an' y'd best keep him from under
my feet if you don't want him stepped on."

The cobbler smiled his slow, sweet smile.

"Peg's heart's bigger'n this house," he murmured. "Bring him here,
lassie."

The girl, dog in arms, stood at the cobbler's side.

"What're you goin' to name him?" asked Lafe, tenderly.

"I dunno, but he's awful happy, now he's going to stay with us."

"Call 'im 'Happy Pete'," said the cobbler, smiling, "an' we'll take
'im into our club; shall we, kid?"

So Happy Pete was gathered that day into the bosom of the "Happy in
Spite."



CHAPTER XI

WHAT HAPPENED TO JINNIE


With a sigh Jinnie allowed Lafe to buckle the shortwood strap to her
shoulder. Oh, how many days she had gone through a similar operation
with a similar little sigh!

It was a trying ordeal, that of collecting and selling kindling wood,
for the men of Paradise Road took the best of the shortwood to be
found in the nearer swamp and marsh lands, and oftentimes it was
nearly noon before the girl would begin her sale.

But the one real happiness of her days lay in dropping the pennies she
earned into Peg's hand.

Now Peggy didn't believe in spoiling men or children, but one morning,
as she tied a scarf about Jinnie's neck, she arranged the black curls
with more than usual tenderness.

Pausing at the door and looking back at the woman, Jinnie suddenly
threw up her head in determination.

"I love you, Peggy," she said, drawing in a long breath. "Give me a
little kiss, will you?"

There! The cat was out of the bag. In another instant Jinnie would
know her fate. How she dared to ask such a thing the girl could never
afterwards tell.

If Peg kissed her, work would be easy. If she denied her----Peggy
glanced at her, then away again, her eyes shifting uneasily.

But after once taking a stand, Jinnie held her ground. Her mouth was
pursed up as if she was going to whistle. Would Peg refuse such a
little request? Evidently Peggy would, for she scoffingly ordered.

"Go along with you, kid--go long, you flip little brat!"

"I'd like a kiss awful much," repeated Jinnie, still standing. Her
voice was low-toned and pleading, her blue eyes questioningly on Peg's
face.

Peg shook her head.

"I won't kiss you 'cause I hate you," she sniffed. "I've always hated
you."

Jinnie's eyes filled with tears.

"I know it," she replied sadly, "I know it, but I'd like a kiss just
the same because--because I _do_ love _you_, Peg."

A bit of the same sentiment that had worried her for over a year now
attacked Mrs. Grandoken. Her common sense told her to dash away to the
kitchen, but a tugging in her breast kept her anchored to the spot.
Suddenly, without a word, she snatched the girl close to her broad
breast and pressed her lips on Jinnie's with resounding smacks.

"There! There! And _there_!" she cried, between the kisses. "An' if y'
ever tell a soul I done it, I'll scrape every inch of skin off'n your
flesh, an' mebbe I'll do something worse, I hate y' that bad."

In less seconds than it takes to tell it, Peg let Jinnie go, and the
girl went out of the door with a smiling sigh.

"Kisses 're sweeter'n roses," she murmured, walking to the track. "I
wish I'd get more of 'em."

She turned back as she heard Peg's voice calling her.

"You might toddle in an' bring home a bit of sausage," said the woman,
indifferently, "an' five cents' worth of chopped steak."

Mrs. Grandoken watched Jinnie until she turned the corner. She felt a
strangling sensation in her throat.

A little later she flung the kitchen utensils from place to place, and
otherwise acted so ugly and out of temper that, had Lafe known the
whole incident, he would have smiled knowingly at the far-off hill and
held his peace.

Late in the afternoon Jinnie counted seventeen pennies, one dime and a
nickel. It was a fortune for any girl to make, and what was better
yet, buckled to her young shoulders in the shortwood strap was almost
her next day's supply. As she replaced the money in her pocket and
walked toward the market, she murmured gravely,

"Mebbe Peg's kisses helped me to get it, but--but I musn't forget
Lafe's prayers."

Her smile was radiant and self-possessed. She was one of the world's
workers and loved Lafe and Peg and the world with her whole honest
young heart.

"Thirty-two cents," she whispered. "That's a pile of money. I wish I
could buy Lafe a posy. He does love 'em so, and he can't get out like
Peg and me to see beautiful things."

She stopped before a window where brilliant blossoms were exhibited.
Ever since she began to work, one of the desires of Jinnie's soul had
been to purchase a flower. As she scrutinized the scarlet and white
carnations, the deep red roses, and the twining green vines, she
murmured.

"Peg loves Lafe even if she does bark at him. She won't mind if I buy
him one. I'll make more money to-morrow."

She opened the door of the shop and drew her unwieldy burden carefully
inside. A girl stood back of the counter.

"How much're your roses?" asked Jinnie, nodding toward the window and
jingling the pennies in her pocket.

"The white ones're five cents a piece," said the clerk, "and the red
ones're ten.... Do y' want one?"

"I'll take a white one," replied the purchaser.

"Shall I wrap it in paper?" asked the other.

"No, I'll carry it this way. I'd like to look at it going home."

The girl passed the rose to Jinnie.

"It smells nice, too," she commented.

"Yes," assented Jinnie, delightedly, taking a whiff.

Then she went on to the meat market to buy the small amount of meat
required for the three of them.

One of the men grinned at her from the back of the store, calling,
"Hello, kid!" and Maudlin Bates, swinging idly on a stool, shouted,
"What's wanted now, Jinnie?" and still another man came forward with
the question, "Where'd you get the flower, lass?"

"Bought it," replied Jinnie, leaning against the counter. "I got it
next door for the cobbler. He's lame and can't get out."

The market man turned to wait upon her.

"Five cents' worth of chopped meat," ordered Jinnie, "and four
sausages."

"Ain't you afraid you'll overload your stomachs over there at the
cobbler's shop?" laughed one of the men. "I'll tell you what I'll do,
Jinnie ... Do you see that ring of sausage hangin' on that hook?"

The girl nodded wonderingly, looking sidewise at Maudlin.

"Well, if you'll give us a dance, a good one, mind you, still keepin'
the wood on your back, I'll buy you the hull string. It'll last a week
the way you folks eat meat."

Jinnie's face reddened painfully, but the words appealed to her
money-earning spirit, and with a curious sensation she glanced around.
Could she dance, with the wondering, laughing, admiring gaze of the
men upon her? And Maudlin, too! How she detested his lustful, doltish
eyes!

She straightened her shoulders, considering. The wood was heavy, and
the strap, bound tightly about her chest and arms, made her terribly
tired. But a whole string of sausage was a temptation she could not
withstand. In her fertile imagination she could see Lafe nod his
approbation, and Peggy joyously frying her earnings in the pan. She
might even get three more kisses when no one was looking.

"I don't know what to dance," she said presently, studying the rose in
her confusion.

"Oh, just anything," encouraged the man on the stool. "I'll whistle a
tune."

"Hand her the sausage, butcher;" sniggered Maudlin, "then she'll be
sure of it. The feel of it'll make her dance better."

The speaker grinned as the butcher took the string from the hook.
Jinnie slipped the stem of the cobbler's rose between her white teeth,
grasped the sausage in one hand and gripped the shortwood strap with
the other. Then the man started a rollicking whistle, and Jinnie took
a step or two.

Every one in the place drew nearer. Here was a sight they never had
seen--a lovely, shy-eyed, rosy, embarrassed girl, with a load of
kindling wood on the strong young shoulders, turning and turning in
the center of the market. In one hand she held a ring of sausage, and
between her lips a white rose.

"If you'll give us a grand fine dance, lass," encouraged the butcher,
"you c'n have the chopped meat, too."

The man's offer sifted through Jinnie's tired brain and stimulated her
to quicker action. She turned again, shifting the weight more squarely
on her shoulders, her feet keeping perfect time with the shrill,
whistling tune.

"Faster! Faster!" taunted Maudlin. "Earn your meat, girl! Don't be a
piker!"

Faster and faster whirled Jinnie, the heft of the shortwood carrying
her about in great circles. Her cap had fallen from her head, loosing
the glorious curls, and her breath whistled past the stem of Lafe's
white flower like night wind past a taut wire.

Jinnie forgot everything but the delight of earning something for her
loved ones--something that would bring a caress from Lafe. She was
sure of Lafe, very sure!

As voices called "Faster!" and still "Faster!" Jinnie let go the
shortwood strap to fling aside her curls. Just at that moment she
whirled nearer Maudlin Bates, who thrust forth his great foot and
tripped her. As she staggered, not one of those watching had sense
enough to catch her as she fell. At that moment the door swung open
and Peg Grandoken's face appeared. She looked questioningly at the
market man.

"I thought I saw Jinnie come in," she hesitated----

Then realizing something was wrong, her eyes fell upon the stricken
girl.

"She was just earnin' a little sausage by dancin'," the butcher
excused.

Peggy stared and stared, stunned for the moment. The hangdog
expression on Maudlin's face expressed his crime better than words
would have done. Jinnie's little form was huddled against the counter,
the shortwood scattered around her, and from her forehead blood was
oozing. On the slender arm was the ring of sausage and between her set
teeth was Lafe's pale rose. With her outraged soul shining in her
eyes, Peggy gathered the unconscious girl in her two strong arms.

"I bet _you_ done it, you damn Maudlin!" she gritted, and without
another word, left the market.

Within a few minutes she had laid Jinnie on her bed, and was telling
Lafe the pathetic story.



CHAPTER XII

WATCHING


There was absolute quiet in the home of the cobbler for over a week.
The house hung heavy with gloom. Jinnie Grandoken was fighting a
ghastlier monster than even old Matty had created for her amusement.

Of course Jinnie didn't realize this, but two patient watchers knew,
and so did a little black dog. To say that Lafe suffered, as Peggy
repeated over and over to him the story of Jinnie's loving act, would
be words of small import, and through the night hours, when the
cobbler relieved his wife at the sick girl's bed, shapes black and
forbidding rose before him, menacing the child he'd vowed to protect.

Could it be that Maudlin Bates had anything to do with Jinnie's fall?
Even so, he was powerless to shield her from the young wood gatherer.
A more perplexing problem had never faced his paternal soul. After his
little son had gone away, there had been no child to love until--and
now as he looked at Jinnie, agony surged through him with the memory
of that other agony--for she might go to little Lafe.

There came again the stabbing pain born with Peg's tale of the dance.
The white rose lay withered in the cobbler's bosom where it had been
since his girl had been carried to what the doctor said would in all
probability be her deathbed. It was on nights like this that dead
memories, with solemn mien, raced from their graves, haunting the
lame man. Even Lafe's wonderful portion of faith had diminished during
the past few days. He found himself praying mighty prayers that Jinnie
would be spared, yet in mental bitterness visualizing her death. Oh,
to keep yet a while within the confines of his life the child he
loved!

"Let 'er stay, Lord dear, let my Rose o' Paradise stay," Lafe cried
out into the shadowy night, time and time again.

Peggy came, as she often did, to wheel him away and order him to bed,
but this evening Lafe told Peg he'd rather stay with Jinnie.

"She looks like death," he whispered unnerved.

"She is almost dead," replied the woman grimly.

The doctor entered with silent tread. Stealing to the bed, he put his
hand on the girl's brow.

"She's better," he whispered, smilingly. "Look! Damp! Nothing could be
a surer sign!"

"May the good God be praised!" moaned Lafe.

Jinnie stirred, lifted her heavy lids, and surveyed the room vacantly.
Her glance passed over the medical man as if he were not within the
range of her vision. She gazed at Lafe only, with but a faint glimmer
of recognition, then on to Peg wavered the sunken blue eyes.

"Drink of water, Peggy dear," she whispered.

Mrs. Grandoken dropped the fluid into the open, parched mouth from a
spoon; then she bent low to catch the stammering words:

"Did Lafe like the rose, Peggy, and did you get the ring of sausage?"

Peg glanced at the doctor, a question struggling to her lips, but she
could not frame the words.

"Tell her 'yes'," said the man under his breath.

"Lafe just doted on the flower, honey," acknowledged Peggy, bending
over the bed, "and I cooked all the sausage, an' we two et 'em. They
was finer'n silk.... Now go to sleep; will you?"

"Sure," trembled Jinnie. "Put Happy Pete in my arms, dear."

Mrs. Grandoken looked once more at the doctor. He nodded his head
slightly.

So with the dog clasped in her arms, Jinnie straightway fell asleep.

Then Peggy wheeled Lafe away to bed, and as she helped him from the
chair, she said:

"I lied to her just now with my own mouth, Lafe. I told her we et them
sausages. We couldn't eat 'em 'cause they was all mashed up an'
covered with blood."

The cobbler's eyes searched the mottled face of the speaker.

"That kind of lies 're blessed by God in his Heaven, Peg," he breathed
tenderly. "A lie lendin' a helpin' hand to a sick lass is better'n
most truths."

Before going to bed Peg peeped in at Jinnie. The girl still lay with
her arm over the sleeping Pete, her eyes roving round the room. She
caught sight of the silent woman, and a troubled line formed between
her brows.

"How're you going to get money to live, Peggy?" she wailed. "I'm just
beginning to remember about the dance and getting hurt."

Peggy stood a moment at the foot of the bed.

"Lafe's got a whole pocket full o' money," she returned glibly.

"That's nice," sighed the girl in relief.

"Shut up now an' go to sleep! Lafe's got enough cash to last a
month."

And as the white lids drooped over the violet eyes, Peg Grandoken's
guardian angel registered another lie to her credit in the life-book
of her Heavenly Father.



CHAPTER XIII

WHAT JINNIE FOUND ON THE HILL


The days rolled on and on, and the first warm impulses of spring
brought Jinnie, pale and thin, back to Lafe's side.

She was growing so strong that days when the weather permitted, Peg
put a wrap on her, telling her to breathe some color into her cheeks.

For a long time Jinnie was willing to remain quietly on the hut steps
where she could see the cobbler whacking away on the torn footwear.
She knew that if she looked long enough, he would glance up and smile
the smile which always warmed the cockles of her loving heart.

As she grew better, and therefore restless, she walked with Happy Pete
along the cinder path beside the tracks. Each day she went a little
further than the day before, the spirit of adventure beginning to live
again within her. The confines of her narrow world were no longer kept
taut by the necessity of selling wood, and to-day it seemed to broaden
to the far-away hill from whence the numberless fingers of shadow and
sunshine beckoned to the sentimental girl.

She wandered through Paradise Road with the little dog as a companion,
and finding her way to the board walk, strolled slowly along.

Wandering up above the city, she discovered a lonely spot snuggled in
the hills, and gathering Happy Pete into her arms, she lay down. Over
her head countless birds sang in the sunshine, and just below, in the
hollow, were squirrels, chattering out their happy existence.
Dreamily, through the leaves of the trees, Jinnie watched the white
clouds float across the sky like flocks of sheep, and soon the peace
of the surrounding world lulled her to rest.

When Happy Pete touched her with his slender tongue, Jinnie sat up,
staring sleepily around. At a sound, she turned her head and caught
sight of a little boy, whose tangled hair lay in yellow curls on his
head.

The sight of tears and boyish distress made Jinnie start quickly
toward him, but he seemed so timid and afraid she did not speak.

Suddenly, two slight, twig-scratched arms fluttered toward her, and
still without a word Jinnie took the trembling hands into hers. Happy
Pete crawled cautiously to the girl's side; then, realizing something
unusual, he threw up his black-tipped nose and whined. At the faint
howl, the boy's hands quivered violently in Jinnie's. He caught his
breath painfully.

"Oh, who're you? Are you a boy or a girl?"

His eyes were touched with an indefinable expression. Jinnie flushed
as she scanned for a moment her calico skirt and overhanging blouse.
Then with a tragic expression she released her hands, and ran her
fingers through her hair. With such long curls did she look like a
boy?

"I'm a girl," she said. "Can't you see I'm a girl?"

"I'm blind," said the boy, "so--so I had to ask you."

Jinnie leaned forward and scrutinized him intently.

"You mean," she demanded brokenly, "that you can't see me, nor Happy
Pete, nor the trees, nor the birds, nor the squirrels, skipping
around?"

The boy bowed his head in assent, but brightened almost instantly.

"No, I can't see those things, but I've got lots of stars inside my
head. They're as bright as anything, only sometimes my tears put 'em
out."

Then, as if he feared he would lose his new friend, he felt for her
hand once more.

Jinnie returned the clinging pressure. For the second time in her life
her heart beat with that strange emotion--the protective instinct she
had felt for her father. She knew at that moment she loved this little
lad, with his wide-staring, unseeing eyes.

"I'm lost," said the boy, sighing deeply, "and I cried ever so long,
but nobody would come, and my stars all went out."

"Tell me about your stars," she said eagerly. "Are they sky stars?"

"I dunno what sky stars are. My stars shine in my head lovely and I
get warm. I'm cold all over and my heart hurts when they go out."

"Oh!" murmured Jinnie. "I wish they'd always shine."

"So do I." Then lifting an eager, sparkling face, he continued,
"They're shinin' now, 'cause I found you."

"Where're your folks?" asked Jinnie, swallowing hard.

"I dunno. I lost 'em a long time ago, and went to live with Mag. She
licked me every day, so--I just runned away--I've been here a awful
long time."

Jinnie considered a moment before explaining an idea that had slipped
into her mind as if it belonged there. She would take him home with
her.

"You're going to Lafe's house," she announced presently. "Happy Pete
and me and Peg live at Lafe Grandoken's home. Peggy makes bully
soup."

"And I'm so hungry," sighed the boy. "Where's the dog I heard
barking?"

He withdrew his hands, moving them outward, searching for something.
The girl tried to push Pete forward, but the dog only snuggled closer
to her.

"Petey, dear, I'm ashamed of you!" she chided lovingly. "Can't you see
the little fellow's trying to feel you?"

Then Happy Pete, as if he also were ashamed, came within reach of the
wavering hands, and crouched low, to be looked over with ten slender
finger tips.

"He's awful beautiful!" exclaimed the boy. "His hair's softer'n silk,
and his body's as warm as warm can be."

Jinnie contemplated Happy Pete's points of beauty. Never before had
she thought him anything more than a homely, lovable dog, with squat
little legs, and a pointed nose. In lightninglike comparison she
brought to her mind the things she always considered beautiful--the
spring violets, the summer roses, that belt of wonderful color
skirting the afternoon horizon, and all the wonders of nature of which
her romantic world consisted. The contrast between these and the
shaking black dog, with his smudge of tangled hair hanging over his
eyes, shocked Jinnie's artistic sense.

"If----if you say he's beautiful, then he is," she stammered almost
inaudibly.

"Of course he is! What's your name?"

"Jinnie. Jinnie Grandoken... What's yours?"

"Blind Bobbie, or sometimes just Bobbie."

"Well, I'll call you Bobbie, if you want me to.... I like you awful
well. I feel it right in here."

She pressed the boy's fingers to her side.

"Oh, that's your heart!" he exclaimed. "I got one too! Feel it jump!"

Jinnie's fingers pressed the spot indicated by the little boy.

"My goodness," she exclaimed, "it'll jump out of your mouth, won't
it?"

"Nope! It always beats like that!"

"Where's your mother?" asked Jinnie after a space.

"I suppose she's dead, or Mag wouldn't a had me. I don't know very
much, but I 'member how my mother's hands feel. They were soft and
warm. She used to come to see me at the woman's house who died--the
one who give me to Mag."

"She must have been a lovely mother," commented Jinnie.

"She were! Mag tried to find her 'cause she said she was rich, and
when she couldn't, she beat me. I thought mebbe I'd find mother out in
the street. That's why I run away."

Jinnie thought of her own dead father, and the child's halting tale
brought back that one night of agony when Thomas Singleton died, alone
and unloved, save for herself. She wanted to cry, but instead she
murmured, "Happy in Spite," as Lafe had bidden her, and the melting
mood vanished. The cobbler and his club were always wonderfully
helpful to Jinnie.

"My mother told me onct," Bobbie went on, "she didn't have nothin' to
live for. I was blind, you see, and wasn't any good--was I?"

The question, pathetically put, prompted Virginia to fling back a
ready answer.

"You're good 'nough for me and Happy Pete," she asserted, "and Lafe'll
let you be his little boy too."

The blind child gasped, and the girl continued assuringly, "Peg'll
love you, too. She couldn't help it."

"Peg?" queried Bobbie.

"Oh, she's Lafe's wife. Happy Pete and me stay in her house."

The blind eyes flashed with sudden hope.

"Mebbe she'll love me a little! Will she?"

"I hope so. Anyway, Lafe will. He loves everybody, even dogs. He'll
love you; _sure_ he will!"

The boy shook his head doubtfully.

"Nobody but mothers are nice to blind kids. Well--well--'cept you. I'd
like to go to Lafe's house, though, but mebbe the woman wouldn't want
me."

Jinnie had her own ideas about this, but because the child's tears
fell hot upon her hands, the mother within her grew to greater
proportions. Three times she repeated softly, "Happy in Spite."

"Happy in Spite," she whispered again. Then she sat up with a
brilliant smile.

"Of course I'm going to take you to Lafe's. Here at Lafe's my heart's
awful busy loving everybody. Now I've got you I'm going to take care
of you, 'cause I love you just like the rest. Stand up and let me wipe
your nose."

"Let me see how you look, first," faltered the boy. "Where's your
face?... I want to touch it!"

His little hands reached and found Jinnie's shoulders. Then slowly the
fingers moved upwards, pressing here and there upon the girl's skin,
as they traveled in rhythmic motion over her cheeks.

"Your hair's awful curly and long," said he. "What color is it?"

"Color? Well, it's black with purple running through it, I guess.
People say so anyway!"

"Oh, yes, I know what black is. And your eyes're blue, ain't they?"

"Yes, blue," assented Jinnie. "I see 'em when I slick my hair in the
kitchen glass ... I don't think they're much like yours."

Bobbie paid no heed to the allusion to himself.

"Your forehead's smooth, too," he mused. "Your eyes are big, and the
lashes round 'em 're long. You're much prettier'n your dog, but then
girls 're always pretty."

A flush of pleased vanity reddened Jinnie's skin to the tips of her
ears, and she scrambled to her feet. Then she paused, a solemn
expression shadowing her eyes.

"Bobbie," she spoke soberly, "now I found you, you belong to me, don't
you?"

Bobbie thrust forth his hands.

"Yes, yes," he breathed.

"Then from now on, from this minute, I'm going to work for you."

Jinnie's thoughts were on the shortwood strap, but she didn't mention
it. Oh, how she would work for money to give Peg with which to buy
food! How happy she would be in the absolute ownership of the boy she
had discovered in the hills! Tenderly she drew him to her. He seemed
so pitifully helpless.

"How old 're you?" she demanded.

"Nine years old."

"You don't look over five," said Jinnie, surprised.

"That's because I'm always sick," explained the boy.

Jinnie threw up her head.

"Well, a girl sixteen ought to be able to help an awful little boy,
oughtn't she?... Here, I'll put my arm round you, right like this."

But the boy made a backward step, so that Jinnie, thinking he was
about to fall, caught him sharply by the arm.

"I'll walk if you'll _lead_ me," Bobbie explained proudly.

Thus rebuffed, Jinnie turned the blind face toward the east, and
together they made their way slowly to the plank walk.



CHAPTER XIV

"HE'S COME TO LIVE WITH US, PEGGY"


They trailed along in silence, the girl watching the birds as flock
after flock disappeared in the north woods. Now and then, when Jinnie
looked at the boy, she felt the pride which comes only with
possession. She was going to work for him, to intercede with Peg, to
allow the foundling to join that precious home circle where the
cobbler and his wife reigned supreme.

As they reached the plank walk, the boy lagged back.

"I'm tired, girl," he panted. "I've walked till I'm just near dead."

He cried quietly as Jinnie led him into the shadow of a tree.

"Sit here with me," she invited. "Lay your head on my arm."

And this time he snuggled to her till the blind eyes and the pursed
delicate mouth were hidden against her arm.

"I told you, Bobbie," Jinnie resumed presently, "I'd let you be Lafe's
little boy, didn't I?"

"Yes, girl," replied the boy, sleepily.

"Now wasn't that awful good of me?"

"Awful good," was the dreamy answer. "My stars're glory bright now."

"And most likely Lafe'll help you see with your eyes, just like Happy
Pete and me!" Jinnie went on eagerly. "All the trees and hundreds of
birds, some of 'em yellow and some of 'em red, an' some of 'em so
little and cunning they could jump through the knothole in Peg's
kitchen.... Don't you wish to see all that?"

The small face brightened and the unseeing eyes flashed upward.

"I'd find my mother, then," breathed Bobbie.

"And you'd see a big high tree, with a robin making his nest in it!...
Have y' ever seen that?"

Jinnie was becoming almost aggressive, for, womanlike, with a point to
make, each argument was driven home with more power.

"No," Bobbie admitted, and his voice held a certain tragic little
note.

"And you've never seen the red running along the edge of the sky, just
when the sun's going down?"

Again his answer was a simple negative.

"And hasn't anybody tried to show you a cow and her calf in the
country, nipping the grass all day, in the yellow sunshine?"

Jinnie was waxing eloquent, and her words held high-sounding hope. The
interest in the child's face invited her to go on.

"Now I've said I'd let my folks be yours, and didn't I find you, and
have you got any one else? If you don't let me help you to Lafe's, how
you going to see any of 'em?" She paused before delivering her best
point, which was addressed quite indifferently to the sky. "And just
think of that hot soup!"

This was enough. Bobbie struggled up, flushed and agitated.

"Put your arm around me, girl," which invitation Jinnie quickly
accepted.

Then they two, so unlike, went slowly down the walk toward the tracks
to Lafe Grandoken's home.

Jinnie's heart vied with a trip-hammer as they turned into Paradise
Road. She did not fear the cobbler, but the thought of Peggy's harsh
voice, her ruthless catechizing, worried her not a little.
Nevertheless, she kept her arm about the boy, steadily drawing him on.
When they came to the side door of the house, the girl turned the
handle and walked in, leading her weary companion.

Resolutely she passed on to the kitchen, for she wanted the
disagreeable part over first. She fumbled in hesitation with the knob
of the door, and Peg, hearing her, opened it. At first, the woman saw
only Jinnie, with Happy Pete by her side. Then her gaze fell upon the
other child, whose blind, entreating eyes were turned upward in
supplication.

"This is Bobbie," announced Jinnie, "and he's come to live with us,
Peggy."

Poor Peggy stared, surprised to silence. She could find no words to
fit the occasion.

"He hasn't any home!" Jinnie gasped for breath in her excitement.
"Mag, a woman somewhere, beat him and he ran away and I found 'im. So
he belongs to us now."

She was gaining assurance every moment. She hoped that Peggy was
silently acquiescing, for the woman hadn't uttered a word; she was
merely looking from one to the other with her characteristically blank
expression.

"I'm going to give him half of Lafe, too," confided Jinnie, nodding
her head toward the waiting child.

Then Peggy burst forth in righteous indignation. She demanded to know
how another mouth was to be fed, and clothes washed and mended; where
the brat was to sleep, and what good he was anyway.

"Do you think, kid," she stormed at Jinnie, "you're so good yourself
we're wantin' to take another one worser off'n you are? Don't believe
it! He can't stay here!"

Jinnie held her ground bravely.

"Oh, I'll start right out and sell wood all day long, if you'll let
him stay, Peg."

A tousled lock of yellow hair hung over Bobbie's eyes.

"Oh, Peggy, dear, Mrs. Good Peggy, let me stay!" he moaned, swaying.
"I'm so tired, s'awful tired. I can't find my mother, nor no place,
and my stars're all out!"

Sobbing plaintively, he sank to the floor, and there the childish
heart laid bare its misery. Then Jinnie, too, became quite limp, and
forgetting all about "Happy in Spite," she knelt alongside of her
newly acquired friend, and the two despairing young voices rose to the
woman standing over them. Jinnie thrust her arms around the little
boy.

"Don't cry, my Bobbie," she sobbed. "I'll go back to the hills with
you, because you need me. We'll live with the birds and squirrels, and
I'll sell wood so we c'n eat."

When she raised her reproachful eyes to Peg, and finished with a swipe
at her offending nose with her sleeve, she had never looked more
beautiful, and Peggy glanced away, fearing she might weaken.

"Tell Lafe I love him, and I love you, too, Peggy. I'll come every day
and see you both, and bring you some money."

If she had been ten years older or had spent months framing a speech
to fit the need of this occasion, Jinnie could not have been more
effective, for Peg's rage entirely ebbed at these words.

"Get up, you brats," she ordered grimly. "An' you listen to me, Jinnie
Grandoken. Your Bobbie c'n stay, but if you ever, so long as you live,
bring another maimed, lame or blind creature to this house, I'll kick
it out in the street. Now both of you climb up to that table an' eat
some hot soup."

Jinnie drew a long breath of happiness. She had cried a little, she
was sorry for that. She had broken her resolve always to smile--to be
"Happy in Spite."

"I'll _never_ bring any one else in, Peg," she averred gratefully.

Then she remembered how sweeping was her promise and changed it a
trifle.

"Of course if a kid was awful sick in the street and didn't have a
home, I'd have to fetch it in, wouldn't I?"

Peggy flounced over to the table, speechless, followed by the two
children.



CHAPTER XV

"WHO SAYS THE KID CAN'T STAY?"


Twenty minutes later Mrs. Grandoken entered the shop and sat down
opposite her husband.

"Lafe," she began, clearing her throat.

The cobbler questioned her with a glance.

"That girl'll be the death of this hull shanty," she announced
huskily. "I hate 'er more'n anything in the world."

Lafe placed a half-mended shoe beside him on the bench.

"What's ailin' 'er now, Peggy?"

"Oh, she ain't sick," interrupted Peg, with curling lip. "She never
looked better'n she does this minute, settin' in there huddlin' that
pup, but she's brought home another kid, as bad off as a kid can be."

"A what? What'd you say, Peg? You don't mean a youngster!"

Mrs. Grandoken bobbed her head, her face stoically expressionless.
"An' bad off," she repeated querulously. "The young 'un's blind."

Before Lafe's mental vision rose Jinnie's lovely face, her parted lips
and self-assured smile.

"But where'd she get it? It must belong to some 'un."

Mrs. Grandoken shook her head.

"I dunno. It's a boy. He was with a woman--a bad 'un, I gather. She
beat 'im until the little feller ran away to find his own folks, he
says--and--Jinnie brought 'im home here. She says she's goin' to keep
'im."

The speaker drew her brown skin into a network of wrinkles.

"Where'd she find 'im?" Lafe burst forth, "Of course he can't
stay----"

Mrs. Grandoken checked the cobbler's words with a rough gesture.

"Hush a minute! She got 'im over near the plank walk on the hill--he
was cryin' for 'is ma."

Lafe was plainly agitated. He felt a spasmodic clutch at his heart
when he imagined the sorrow of a homeless, blind child, but thinking
of Peg's struggle to make a little go a long way, he dashed his
sympathy resolutely aside.

"Of course he can't stay--he can't!" he murmured. "It ain't possible
for you to keep 'im here."

In his excitement Lafe bent forward and closed his hands over Peg's
massive shoulder bones. Peggy coughed hoarsely and looked away.

"Who says the kid can't stay?" she muttered roughly. "Who said he
can't?"

The words jumped off the woman's tongue in sullen defiance.

"But you got too much to do now, Peg. We've made you a lot of trouble,
woman dear, an' you sure don't want to take another----"

Like a flash, Peg's features changed. She squinted sidewise as if a
strong light suddenly hurt her sight.

"Who said I didn't?" she drawled. "Some husbands do make me mad, when
they're tellin' me what I want, an' what I don't want. I hate the
blind brat like I do the girl, but he's goin' to stay just the same."

A deep flush dyed Lafe's gray face. The intensity of his emotion was
almost a pain. Life had ever vouchsafed Lafe Grandoken encouragement
when the dawn was darkest. Now Peg's personal insult lined his clouds
of fear with silver, and they sailed away in rapid succession as
quickly as they had come; he saw them going like shadows under
advancing sun rays.

"Peggy," he said, touching her gently, "you've the biggest heart in
all the world, and you're the very best woman; you be, sure! If you
let the poor little kid stay, I'll make more money, if God gives me
strength."

Peggy pushed Lafe's hand from her arm.

"I 'spose if you do happen to get five cents more, you'll puff out
with pride till you most bust.... Anyway, it won't take much more to
buy grub for a kid with an appetite like a bird.... Come on! I'll
wheel you to the kitchen so you can have a look at 'im."

Jinnie glanced around as the husband and wife entered the room. She
pushed Happy Pete from her lap and got up.

"Lafe," she exclaimed, "this is Bobbie--he's come to live with us."

She drew the blind boy from his chair and went forward.

"Bobbie," she explained, "this is the cobbler. I told you about him in
the park. See 'im with your fingers once, and you'll know he's the
best man ever."

The small boy lifted two frail arms, his lips quivering in fright and
homesickness. Some feeling created by God rose insistent within Lafe.
It was a response from the heart of the Good Shepherd, who had always
gathered into his fold the bruised ones of the world. Lafe drew the
child to his lap.

"Poor little thing!" he murmured sadly.

With curling lips, his wife stood watching the pair.

"You're a bigger fool'n I thought you was, Lafe Grandoken," she said,
turning away sharply. "I wouldn't make such a fuss over no one livin'.
That's just what I wouldn't."

She threw the last remark over her shoulder as if it were something
she spurned and wanted to be rid of.

Bobbie slipped from Lafe's arms and described a zigzag course across
the kitchen floor toward the place where Mrs. Grandoken stood. His
hands fluttered over Peg's dress, as high as they could reach.

"I like you awful well, Mrs. Peggy," he told her, "and I just love
your kisses, too, Mrs. Peggy dear. They made my stars shine all over
my head."

The cobbler's wife started guiltily, casting her eyes upon Lafe. He
was silent, his patient face expressing melancholy sweetness. As far
as the woman could determine, he had not heard the boy's words.
Relieved, she allowed her eyes to rest upon Jinnie. The girl was
looking directly at her. Then Jinnie slowly dropped one white lid over
a bright, gleeful blue eye in a wicked little wink. This was more than
Peggy could endure. She _had_ kissed the little boy several times
during the process of washing the tear-stained face and combing the
tangled hair, but that any one should know it! Just then, Peggy
secretly said to herself, "If uther one of them kids get any more
kisses from me, it'll be when water runs uphill. I 'spose now I'll
never hear the last of them smacks."

"Let go my skirt! Get away, kid," she ordered Bobbie.

The boy dropped his hands reluctantly. He had hoped for another kiss.

"Peggy," said Lafe, "can I hold him? He seems so sad."

Mrs. Grandoken, consciously grim, placed the boy in her husband's
lap.

"You see," philosophized Jinnie, when she and the blind child were
with the cobbler, "if a blind kid hasn't any place to live, the girl
who finds 'im has to bring him home! Huh, Lafe?"

Then she whispered in his ear, "Couldn't Bobbie join the 'Happy in
Spite'?"

"Sure he can, lass; sure he can," assented Lafe.

Jinnie whirled back to the little boy.

"Bobbie, would you like to come in a club that'll make you happy as
long's you live?"

The bright blind eyes of the boy flashed from Jinnie to the man, and
he got to his feet tremulously. In his little mind, out of which
daylight was shut, Jinnie's words presaged great joy. The girl took
his hand and led him to the cobbler.

"You'll have to explain the club to 'im, Lafe," she said.

"Yes, 'splain it to me, Lafe dearie," purred Bobbie.

"It's just a club," began Lafe, "only good to keep a body happy. Now,
me--well, I'm happy in spite a-havin' no legs; Jinnie there, she's
happy in spite a-havin' no folks. Her and me's happy in spite a
everything."

Bobbie stood alongside Lafe's bench, one busy set of fingers picking
rhythmically at the cobbler's coat, the other having sought and found
his hand.

"I want to be in the club, cobbler," he whispered.

Mr. Grandoken stooped and kissed the quivering face.

"An' you'll be happy in spite a havin' no eyes?" he questioned.

The little boy, pressing his cheek against the man's arm, cooed in
delight.

"And happy in spite of not finding your mother right yet?" interjected
Jinnie.

"Yes, yes, 'cause I _am_ happy. I got my beautiful Peggy, ain't I? And
don't she make me a hull lot of fine soup, and ain't I got Lafe, Happy
Pete----"

"You got me, too, Bobbie," Jinnie reminded him gently.

Bobbie acquiesced by a quick bend of his head, and Lafe grasped his
hand.

"Now you're a member of the 'Happy in Spite', Bob," said he smiling.
"This club is what I call a growin' affair. Four members----"

"Everybody's in," burst forth Jinnie.

"Except Peggy," sighed Lafe. "Some day something'll bring her in,
too."



CHAPTER XVI

JINNIE'S EAR GETS A TWEAK


Bobbie had been at the Grandoken home scarcely a week before Jinnie
again got into difficulty. One morning, wide-awake, beside the blind
boy, she happened to glance toward the door. There stood Peg, her face
distorted by rage, staring at her with terrible eyes. Jinnie sat up in
a twinkling.

"What is it, Peggy, dear?" she faltered. "What have I done now?"

Without reply, Peggy marched to the bed and took the girl by the ear.
In this way she pulled her to the floor, walking her ahead of her to
the kitchen.

"I don't know what I've done, Peggy," repeated Jinnie, meekly.

"I'll show you. You'll know, all right, miss! Now if you've eyes,
squint down there!"

She was pointing to the floor, and as the room was rather dark, Jinnie
at first could discern nothing. Then as her eyes became accustomed to
the shadows, she saw----

"Oh, what is it, Peggy? Oh, my! Oh, my!"

Peggy gave her a rough little shake.

"I'll tell you what, Jinnie Grandoken, without any more ado. Well,
they're cats, just plain everyday cats! Another batch of Miss Milly
Ann's kits, if y' want to know. They can't stay in this house, miss,
an' when I say a thing, I mean it! My word's law in this shanty!"

She was still holding the girl's ear, and suddenly gave it another
tweak. Jinnie pulled this tender member from Peggy's fingers with a
delighted little chuckle.

"Peggy darling, aren't they sweet? Oh, Peggy----"

"Ain't they sweet?" mimicked Peggy. "They're just sweet 'nough to get
chucked out. Now, you get dressed, an' take 'em somewhere. D' you
hear?"

Jinnie wheeled about for another tug of war. It was dreadful how she
had to fight with Peggy to get her own way about things like this.
First with Happy Pete, then with Bobbie, and now--to-day--with five
small kittens, not one of them larger than the blind child's hand. She
looked into Mrs. Grandoken's face, which was still grim, but Jinnie
decided not quite so grim as when the woman appeared at her bedroom
door.

"I suppose you'll go in an' honey round Lafe in a minute, thinkin'
he'll help you keep 'em," said Mrs. Grandoken. "But this time it won't
do no good."

"Peggy!" blurted Jinnie.

"Shut your mouth! An' don't be Peggyin' me, or I'll swat you," vowed
Peg.

The woman glared witheringly into a pair of beseeching blue eyes.

"Get into your clothes, kid," she ordered immediately, "then you----"

"Then I'll come back, dear," gurgled Jinnie, "and do just what you
want me to." Then with subtle modification, she continued, "I mean,
Peg, I'll do just what you want me to after I've talked about it a
bit... Oh, please, let me give 'em one little kiss apiece."

Peggy flounced to the stove.

"Be a fool an' kiss 'em if you want to... I hate 'em."

In the coarse nightdress Peggy had made for her, Jinnie sat down
beside Milly Ann. The yellow mother purred in delight. She'd brought
them five new babies, and no idea entered her mother heart that she
would have to part with even one.

Out came the kittens into the girl's lap, and one by one they were
tenderly lifted to be kissed. Both Peggy and the kisser were silent
while this loving operation was in process. Then Jinnie, still
sitting, looked from Milly Ann to Peggy.

"I guess she's awful fond of her children, don't you, Peg?"

Peggy didn't answer.

"You see it's like this, Peg----"

"Didn't I tell you not to Peggy me?"

"Then it's like this, darling," drawled Jinnie, trying to be
obedient.

"An' you needn't darlin' me nuther," snapped Peggy.

Jinnie thought a minute.

"Then it's like this, honey bunch," she smiled again.

Peg whirled around on her.

"Say, you kid----"

"Wait, dearie!" implored Jinnie. "Don't you know mother cats always
love their kitties just like live mothers do their babies?"

Peggy rattled the stove lids outrageously. Hearing these words, she
stopped abruptly. Who knows where her thoughts flew? Jinnie didn't,
for sure, but she thought, by the sudden change of Mrs. Grandoken's
expression, she could guess.

The woman looked from Milly Ann to the wriggling kittens in Jinnie's
lap, then she stooped down and again brought to view Jinnie's little
ear tucked away under the black curls.

"Get up out o' here an' dress; will you? I've said them cats've got to
go, and go they will!"

Jinnie returned the kittens to their mother, and when she got back to
her room, Bobbie was sitting up in bed rubbing his eyes.

"I couldn't find you, girl," he whimpered. "I felt the bed over and
you was gone."

Jinnie bent over him.

"Peg took me out in the kitchen, dear... What do you think, Bobbie?"

Bobbie began to tremble.

"I got to go away from here ... eh?"

"Mercy, no!" laughed Jinnie. "Milly Ann's got a lot of new babies."

Bobbie gave a delighted squeal.

"Now I'll have something else to love, won't I?" he gurgled.

Jinnie hoped so! But she hadn't yet received Peg's consent to keep the
family, so when the little boy was dressed and she had combed her hair
and dressed herself, they went into the shop, where the cobbler met
them with a smile.

"Peg's mad," Jinnie observed with a comprehensive glance at Mr.
Grandoken.

"Quite so," replied Lafe, grinning over the bowl of his pipe. "She had
frost on her face a inch thick when she discovered them cats. I
thought she'd hop right out of the window."

"She says I must throw 'em away," ventured Jinnie.

"Cluck! Cluck!" struck Lafe's tongue against the roof of his mouth,
and he smiled. Jinnie loved that cluck. It put her in mind of the
Mottville mother hens scratching for their chickens.

"Hain't she ever said anything like that to you before, lass?" the
cobbler suggested presently.

"She said it about me," piped in Bobbie.

"An' about Happy Pete, too," added Lafe.

"I bet I keep 'em," giggled Jinnie.

"I'll bet with you, kid," said the cobbler gravely.

"I want to see 'em!" Bobbie clamored with a squeak.

But he'd no more than made the statement before the door burst
violently open and Peg stood before them. Her apron was gathered
together in front, held by one gripping hand; something moved against
her knees as if it were alive. In the other hand was Milly Ann,
carried by the nape of her neck, hanging straight down at the woman's
side, her long yellow tail dragging on the floor. The woman looked
like an avenging angel.

"I've come to tell you folks something," she imparted in a very loud
voice. "Here's this blasted ragtail, that's went an' had this batch of
five cats. Now I'm goin' to warn y' all----"

Bobbie interrupted her with a little yelp.

"Let me love one, Peggy, dear," he begged.

"I'm goin' to warn you folks," went on Peg, without heeding the
child's interjection, "that--if--you don't want their necks wrung,
you'd better keep 'em out of my way."

Saying this, she dropped the mother cat with a soft thud, and without
looking up, dumped the kittens on top of her, and stalked out of the
room.

When Jinnie appeared five minutes later in the kitchen with a small
kitten in her hand, Peg was stirring the mush for breakfast.

"You hate the kitties, eh, Peg?" asked Jinnie.

The two tense wrinkles at the corners of Mrs. Grandoken's mouth didn't
relax by so much as a hair's line.

"Hate 'em!" she snapped, "I should say I do! I hate every one of them
cats, and I hate you, too! An' if y' don't like it, y' can lump it. If
the lumps is too big, smash 'em."

"I know you hate us, darling," Jinnie admitted, "but, Peg, I want to
tell you this: it's ever so much easier to love folks than to hate
'em, and as long as the kitties're going to stay, I thought mebbe if
you kissed 'em once--" Then she extended the kitten. "I brought you
one to try on."

"Well, Lord-a-massy, the girl's crazy!" expostulated Peg. "Keep the
cats if you're bound to, you kid, but get out of this kitchen or I'll
kiss you both with the broom."

Jinnie disappeared, and Peggy heard a gleeful laugh as the girl
scurried back to the shop.



CHAPTER XVII

JINNIE DISCOVERS HER KING'S THRONE


Two years and almost half of another had passed since Jinnie first
came to live with Lafe and Peggy Grandoken. These two years had meant
more to her than all the other fifteen in her life. Lafe, in his
kindly, fatherly way, daily impressed upon her the need of her
studying and no day passed without planting some knowledge in the
eager young mind.

Her mornings were spent gathering shortwood, her afternoons in selling
it, but the hours outside these money-earning duties were passed
between her fiddle and her books. The cobbler often remarked that her
mumbling over those difficult lessons at his side taught him more than
he'd ever learned in school. Sometimes when they were having
heart-to-heart talks, Jinnie confided to him her ambitions.

"I'd like to fiddle all my life, Lafe," she told him once. "I wonder
if people ever made money fiddling; do they, Lafe?"

"I'm afraid not, honey," he answered, sadly.

"But you like it, eh, Lafe?"

"Sure!... Better'n anything."

One day in the early summer, when there was a touch of blue mist in
the clear, warm air, Jinnie wandered into the wealthy section of the
town, hoping thereby to establish a new customer or two.

Maudlin Bates had warned her not to enter his territory or to trespass
upon his part of the marshland, and for that reason she had in the
past but turned longing eyes to the hillside besprinkled with handsome
homes.

But Lafe replied, when she told him this, "No section belongs to
Maudlin alone, honey.... Just go where you like."

She now entered a large open gate into which an automobile had just
disappeared, and walked toward the house.

She paused to admire the exterior of the mansion. On the front, the
porches were furnished with rocking chairs and hammocks, but no person
was in sight. She walked around to the back, but as she was about to
knock, a voice arrested her action.

"Do you want to see somebody?"

She turned hastily. There before her was her King, the man she had met
on that memorable night more than two years before. He doffed his cap
smiling, recognizing her immediately, and Jinnie flushed to the roots
of her hair, while the shortwood strap slipped slowly from her
shoulders.

"Ah, you have something to sell?" he interrogated.

Jinnie's tongue clove to the roof of her mouth. She had never
completely forgotten him, and his smile was a delightful memory. Now
as he watched her quizzically, all her former admiration returned.

"Well, well," laughed the man, "if this isn't my little violin girl.
It's a long time since I saw you last.... Do you love your music as
much as ever?"

Her first glance at him brought the flushing consciousness that she
was but a shortwood gatherer; the strap and its burden placed a great
barrier between them. But his question about the fiddle, her fiddle,
placed her again on equal footing with him. She permitted herself to
smile.

"I play every day. My uncle loves it, but my aunt doesn't," she
answered naïvely.

"And you're selling wood?"

"Yes, I must help a little."

She made the assertion proudly, offering no excuse for her chosen
trade.

"And this is all for sale?" indicating the wood.

"Yes," said Jinnie, looking down upon it.

"I'll take it all," Theodore offered, putting his hand into his
pocket. "How much do you want for it?"

The girl gave him a puzzled glance. "I don't just know, but I
wish----I wish I could give it to you without any pay."

She moved a little closer and questioned eagerly:

"Won't you please take it?"

An amused expression crossed the man's handsome face.

"Of course not, my child," he exclaimed. "That wouldn't be business. I
want to buy it.... How about a dollar?"

Jinnie gasped. A dollar, a whole dollar! She made but little more
during an entire week; she had made less. A dollar would buy----Then a
thought flashed across her mind.

"I couldn't take a dollar," she refused, "it's too much. It's only
worth about twenty cents."

"But if I choose to give you a dollar?" pursued the man.

Again the purple black curls shook decidedly.

"I couldn't take more'n it's worth. My uncle wouldn't like me to. He
says all we can expect in this world's our own and no more. Twenty
cents is all."

Mr. King studied her face, thoughtfully.

"I've an idea, a good one. Now what do you say to furnishing me wood
every morning, say at fifty cents a day. We use such a lot! You could
bring a little more if you like or--or come twice."

Jinnie could scarcely believe she'd heard aright. Unshed tears dimmed
her eyes.

"I wouldn't have to peddle to any one else, then, would I?" she
stammered.

"No! That's just what I meant."

Then the tears welled over the drooping lids and a feeling of
gratitude surged through the girl's whole being. Fifty cents a day! It
was such a lot of money--as much as Lafe made five days out of six.

Jinnie sent the man a fleeting glance, meeting his smiling eyes with
pulsing blood.

"I'd love to do it," she whispered gratefully. "Then I'd have a lot of
time to--to--fiddle."

Mr. King's hand slipped into his pocket.

"I'll pay you fifty cents for to-day's wood," he decided, "and fifty
for what you're going to bring to-morrow. Is that satisfactory?"

As if in a dream, Jinnie tumbled out the contents of the shortwood
strap. As she took the money from Mr. King's hand, his fingers touched
hers; she thrilled to the tips of her curls. Then she ran hastily down
the long road, only turning to glance back when she reached the gate.
Mr. King stood just where she had left him, and was looking after her.
He raised his cap, and Jinnie, with burning face, fled on again.

She wondered what Lafe would say about her unexpected good fortune.
She would tell _him_ first, before she saw Peggy. She imagined how the
sweet smile would cross his lips, and how he would put his arm gently
around her.

Lafe heard her open the side door and called,

"Come in, honey!... Come on in."

She entered after one hasty glance proved the cobbler was alone.

"You sold quick to-day, lass," said he, holding out his hand.

Jinnie had planned on the way home to make great rehearsing of
Theodore King's kindness, but in another instant she broke forth:

"Lafe, Lafe! I've got something to tell you! Oh, a lovely something! I
sold all the wood to one man, and I'm going to take him a load every
day, and get fifty cents for it. Regular customer, Lafe!... Here's a
dollar for Peg."

Lafe did just what Jinnie expected he would, slipped an arm about her
waist.

"The good God be praised!" he ejaculated. "Stand here an' tell me all
about it."

"It was Mr. King----"

"Theodore King?" asked Lafe. "Why, he's the richest man in town. He
owns the iron works."

Jinnie nodded. "Yes! He's the one I played for in the train when I
first came here. You remember my telling you, Lafe? And he wants wood
every day from me. Isn't it fine?"

"'Tis so!" affirmed Lafe. "Jinnie, lass, them angels come in shapes of
human bein's--mostly so. Now go tell Peggy. It'll take a load off'n
her heart."

As Jinnie told her story to Mrs. Grandoken and handed her the money,
the woman's lips twitched at the corners, but she only said,
warningly:

"Don't get a swelled head over your doin's, lass, for a brat ain't
responsible for her own smartness."

One morning, about a week afterward, Jinnie rapped at the back door of
the King mansion.

"Is Mr. King in?" she asked timidly of the servant.

The girl stared hard at the flushed, pretty face.

"He's in, but you can leave the wood if you want to."

"No," refused Jinnie. "I want to see him."

The maid turned away, grumbling, and Jinnie backed from the door with
bated breath.

Mr. King appeared immediately, seemingly embarrassed. He took both her
hands.

"Why, my dear child!" he exclaimed. "I'd completely forgotten to leave
the money for the wood, and you've been bringing it every day."

"Peggy made the dollar go a long ways--that and Lafe's money. We
didn't need any till to-day.... So--so I asked for you."

"I'm glad you did," responded King, counting and giving her the
money.

Then his glance fell upon the bulging shortwood strap.

"I'm afraid you carry too much at a time," he admonished, gravely.
"You mustn't do that."

Jinnie dropped her eyes.

"I was talking to my uncle about it," she explained embarrassedly,
"and he thought same's I, that you were paying too much for that
little wood. I'm goin' to bring more after this."

"I'm satisfied, though, and I can't have you hurting yourself by being
too strenuously honest.... I might--yes, I will! I'll send for you
every day or every other----"

Jinnie's eyes lighted up with happiness.

"Oh, sir,----" she began entreatingly.

"Wait----" said Mr. King. "It's this way! If you brought it up here in
one of my cars, it would save a lot of your time, and you wouldn't
have to come every day."

"I could fiddle more," Jinnie blurted radiantly. She remembered how
sympathetically he had listened to her through the blizzard. He liked
the fiddle! She went a little nearer him. "I'm trying to make a tune
different from any I've ever done, and I can't always play well after
lugging shortwood all day.... I'd love to deliver it the way you
said."

King stood gazing at her. How strangely beautiful she was! Something
in the wind-browned face stirred his heart to its depths.

"Then that's settled," he said kindly. "You tell me where to have my
man and what time, and to-morrow he'll meet you."

Jinnie thought a moment.

"I wonder if he knows where Paradise Road ends near the edge of the
marsh."

"He could find it, of course."

"There's a path going into the marsh right at the end of the road.
I'll meet him there to-morrow at twelve o'clock, and--and I'm so much
obliged to you."

When Jinnie told Lafe of the new arrangement, she gurgled with joy.

"Lafe, now I'll make that tune."

"Yes, honey," murmured Lafe contentedly. "Now get your fiddle and
practice; after that you c'n study a while out of that there grammar
book."



CHAPTER XVIII

RED ROSES AND YELLOW


The days went on peacefully after the new arrangements for the
shortwood. Every other day, at twelve o'clock, one of Theodore King's
cars waited for Jinnie at the head of the path leading into the
marsh.

When the weather was stormy, Bennett, the chauffeur, took the wood,
telling Jinnie to run along home.

All this made it possible for Jinnie to study profitably during the
warm months, and by the last of August she had mastered many difficult
subjects. Lafe helped her when he could, but often shook his head
despondently as she sat down beside him on the bench, asking his
advice.

"The fact is, honey, I ain't got much brains," he said to her one
afternoon. "If I hung by my neck till I could see through them
figures, I'd be as dead as Moses."

One Thursday morning, as she climbed into the big car with her load,
Bennett said,

"I ain't goin' to pay you this mornin'! The boss'll do it. Mr. King
wants to see you."

Jinnie nodded, her heart pounding.

It was delightful to contemplate seeing him once more. She wondered
where he had been all these days and if he had thought of her.
Jinnie's pulses were galloping along like a race horse. She stood
quietly until the master was called, and he came quickly without
making her wait.

"I'm going to ask you to do me a favor," he said, coming forward,
holding out his hand.

Now when Jinnie first heard that he wished to see her, she thought her
heart could beat no faster, but his words made that small organ tattoo
against her sides like the flutter of a bird's wing in fright. She
could do something for him! Oh, what joy! What unutterable joy!

"We're going to have some friends here Sunday evening----"

The sudden upfling of Jinnie's head cut off his words.

What difference would his having friends make to her? Oh, yes, they
wanted more wood. How gladly she would get it for him; search all day
for the driest pieces if he needed them!

"I was wondering," proceeded Mr. King, "if you would come here with
your violin and play for--for--us?"

Jinnie's knees relaxed and she staggered back against the wall.

"You musn't feel embarrassed about it," he hurried on. "I'd be very
much indebted to you if you thought you could."

Tears were so perilously near Jinnie's lids that some of them rolled
into her throat. To regain her self-possession enough to speak, she
swallowed several times in rapid succession. Such a compliment she'd
never been paid before. She brought her hands together appealingly,
and Mr. King noticed that his request had heightened her color.

"I'd love to do it," she breathed.

"Of course I'll pay you for it," he said, not able to think of
anything else,

"I couldn't take any money for fiddling," replied Jinnie. "But I'll
come. Lafe says money can't be made that way."

She turned to go, but Mr. King detained her.

"Wait a minute," he insisted. "I want to tell you something! You've a
great gift--a wonderful genius--and out of such genius much money
_is_ made.... I couldn't think of letting you come here unless you
allowed me to remunerate you."

Jinnie listened attentively to all he said, but refusal was still in
her steady gaze. Mr. King, seeing this, continued quickly:

"I want you very much, but on that one point I must have my way. I
shall give you twenty-five dollars for playing three pieces."

Then Jinnie thought she was going to faint. Twenty-five dollars! It
was a fortune--a huge fortune! But she couldn't take money for playing
tunes that came from her heart--tunes that were a part of herself the
same as her hands or feet. But before she could offer another
argument, the man finished hurriedly:

"It's settled now. You're to come here Sunday night at eight. I'll
send for you."

Lafe was sitting at the window as she ran through the shortcut along
the tracks. Her curls were flying in the wind, her cheeks glowing with
flaming color. Every day the cobbler loved her more, for in spite of
the dark soil in which Jinnie thrived, she grew lovelier in spirit and
face.

He waved his hand to her, and both of her arms answered his salute.
When the door burst open, Lafe put down his hammer expectantly. Before
he could speak, she was down upon her knees at his side, her curly
head buried in his loving arms, and tears were raining down her face.

Lafe allowed her to cry a few moments. Then he said:

"Something's hurt my lassie's heart.... Somebody!... Was it Maudlin?"

Through the tears shone a radiant smile.

"I'm crying for joy, Lafe," she sobbed. "I'm going to play my fiddle
at Mr. King's house and make twenty-five dollars for three tunes."

Lafe's jaws dropped apart incredulously.

"Twenty-five dollars for playin' your fiddle, child?"

Jinnie told all that had happened since leaving home.

Then Peggy had to be told, and when the amount of money was mentioned
and Jinnie said:

"It'll all be yours, Peggy, when I get it,"

Mrs. Grandoken grunted:

"You didn't make your insides, lassie. It ain't to your credit you can
fiddle, so don't get stuck up."

Jinnie laughed gaily and went to the kitchen, where for two hours,
with Bobbie curled up in the chair holding Happy Pete, she brought
from the strings of the instrument she loved, mournful tunes mingled
with laughing songs, such as no one in Bellaire had ever heard.

Over and over, as Lafe listened, he wondered where and how such music
could be born in the child--for Jinnie, to the lame cobbler, would
always be a little, little girl.

Later Jinnie went to the store, and when Peggy had watched her cross
the street, she sat down in front of her husband.

"Lafe," she said, "what's the kid goin' to wear to King's?... She
can't go in them clothes she's got on."

Lafe looked up, startled.

"Sure 'nough; I never thought of that," he answered. "An' I don't
believe she has uther."

It was the cobbler who spoke to Jinnie about it.

"I suppose you hain't thought what you're going to wear Sunday
night?"

Jinnie whirled around upon him.

"Oh, Lafe!" she faltered, sitting down quickly.

"Peggy 'lowed you'd forgotten that part of it."

"I did, Lafe; I did! Oh, I don't know what to do!"

"I wisht I had somethin' for you, Jinnie dear," breathed Bobbie,
touching her hand.

Jinnie's only response was to put her fingers on the child's head--her
eyes still on the cobbler.

"What did Peggy say, Lafe?"

"Nothin', only you couldn't go in the clothes you got."

Jinnie changed her position that she might see to better advantage the
plain little dress she was wearing.

"But I've got to go, Lafe; oh, I've got to!" she insisted. "Mr. King
wants me.... Please, Lafe, please!"

"Call Peggy, Bobbie," said Lafe, in answer to Jinnie's impetuous
speech.

Bobbie felt his way to the door, and Peggy came in answer to the
child's call.

"I only thought of the twenty-five dollars and the fiddling, Peggy,"
said Jinnie as Mrs. Grandoken rolled her hands in her apron and sat
down. "Did you say I couldn't go in these clothes?"

"I did; I sure did. You can't go in them clothes, an' what you're
goin' to wear is more'n I can make out. I'll have to think.... Just
let me alone for a little while."

It was after Jinnie had gone to bed with Bobbie that Peg spoke about
it again to Lafe.

"I've only got one thing I could rig her a dress out of," she said. "I
don't want to do it because I hate her so! If I hated her any worse,
I'd bust!"

The cobbler raised his hand, making a gesture of denial.

"Peggy, dear, you don't hate the poor little lass."

"Yes, I do," said Peg. "I hate everybody in the world but you....
Everybody but you, Lafe."

"What'd you think might make a dress for 'er?" asked Grandoken
presently.

Before answering, Peg brought her feet together and looked down at her
toes. "There's them lace curtains ma give me when she died," she said.
"Them that's wrapped up in paper on the shelf."

Lafe uttered a surprised ejaculation.

"I couldn't let you do that, Peg," he said, shaking his head. "Them's
the last left over from your mother's stuff. Everything else's
gone.... I couldn't let you, Peggy."

Mrs. Grandoken gave a shake of defiance.

"Whose curtains be they, Lafe?" she asked. "Be they mine or yourn?"

"Yourn, Peggy dear, and may God bless you!"

All through the night Jinnie had dreadful dreams. The thought of
either not going to Mr. King's or that she might not have anything fit
to wear filled the hours with nightmares and worryings. In the
morning, after she crawled out of bed and was wearily dressing Bobbie,
the little blind boy felt intuitively something was wrong with his
friend.

"Is Jinnie sick?" he whispered, feeling her face. "My stars ain't
shinin' much."

The girl kissed him.

"No, honey," she said, "Jinnie's only sad, not sick."

Together they went into the shop, where Peggy stood with the most
gorgeous lacy stuff draped over her arms. Strewn here and there over
the yards and yards of it were bright yellow and red roses. Nothing
could have been more beautiful to the girl, as with widening eyes she
gazed at it. Lafe's face was shining with happiness. Peggy didn't seem
to notice the two as they entered, but she lifted the lace, displaying
its length stolidly.

Jinnie bounded forward.

"What is it, Peg? What is it?"

Lafe beamed through his spectacles.

"A dress for you, girl dear. Peggy's givin' you the things she loves
best. She's the only woman in the world, Jinnie."

Reverently Jinnie went to Mrs. Grandoken's side. She felt abjectly
humble in the presence of this great sacrifice. She looked up into the
glum face of the cobbler's wife and waited in breathless hesitation.
Peg permitted her eyes to fall upon the girl.

"You needn't feel so glad nor look's if you was goin' to tumble over,"
she said. "It ain't no credit to any one them curtains was on the
shelf waitin' to be cut up in a dress for you to fiddle in. Go put the
mush on that there stove!"



CHAPTER XIX

THE LITTLE FIDDLER


Jinnie's heart was skipping about like a silly little kitten as she
sat watching Peg's stiff fingers making large stitches in the lace.

"Oh, Peg, isn't it lovely? Perfectly beautiful! Nobody ever had a
dress like that!... My, Peggy! How your fingers fly!"

Peg's face was noncommittal to the point of blankness.

"Tain't no credit to me what my hands do, Miss Jinnie," she said
querulously. "I didn't make 'em."

The girl's happiness was absolutely complete. The dress would be
finished and Sunday evening----oh, Sunday evening! Then she walked
restlessly to the window and studied the sky.

"I hope it doesn't rain to-morrow!... Oh, Peggy, don't you hope so
too?" Mrs. Grandoken glowered at her.

"Kid," she said, "come away from that window. You been doin' nothin'
but wishin' 'twon't rain all day. You'll wear out the patience of the
Almighty; then he'll make it rain an' soak you through a-purpose."

"I don't know which I like best, Lafe," the girl remarked presently,
turning to the cobbler, "the red roses or the yellow."

Bobbie came to Jinnie's side and fingered the lace.

"Tell me how the dress looks, dear," he whispered, tugging at her
sleeve.

[Illustration: "YOU NEEDN'T FEEL SO GLAD NOR LOOK AS IF YOU WAS GOIN' TO
TUMBLE OVER. IT AIN'T NO CREDIT TO ANYONE THEM CURTAINS
WAS ON THE SHELF WAITIN' TO BE CUT UP IN A DRESS FOR YOU
TO FIDDLE IN."]

"Sure," agreed Jinnie. "Feel right here! Well, that's a beautiful red
rose and here's a yellow one." She took his small finger and traced it
over a yard of lace. "Feel that?"

"Yes," murmured Bobbie.

"Well, that's a green vine running up and down, and all around among
the roses."

"Oh, my!" gasped Bobbie. "Red and yellow. That's how the sun looks
when it's goin' down, ain't it? And green's like the grass, eh?"

"Just the same," replied Jinnie, laughing.

"It's a beauty," supplemented Lafe, glowing with tenderness. "There
won't be a dress at that party that'll beat it."

Mrs. Grandoken shook out the voluminous folds of lace.

"Anybody'd think to hear you folks talk that you'd made these rag tags
with your toe nails," she observed dryly. "The smacking of some folks'
lips over sugar they don't earn makes me tired! Laws me!... Now I'll
try it on you, Jinnie," she ended.

Jinnie turned around and around with slow precision as Mrs. Grandoken
ascertained the correct hanging of the skirt. When the last stitches
had been put in, and the dress lay in all its gorgeous splendor across
the chair, Peg coughed awkwardly and spoke of shoes.

"You can't wear them cowhides with lace," said she.

"I might make a pair if I had a day and the stuff," suggested Lafe,
looking around helplessly.

"Ain't time," replied Peg. And of course it was she who gave Jinnie
some money taken from a small bag around her neck and ordered her to
the shop for shoes.

"She ought to have a fiddle box," Lafe suggested.

"There ain't 'nough money in the house for that," replied Peg--"but
I'll give her a piece of the curtains to wrap it up in."

"That'll look better'n a box," smiled Lafe. "I'm a happy cobbler, I
am."

When Jinnie returned with a pair of low black slippers, no one noticed
that they weren't quite what should have been worn with a lace frock.
Contentment reigned supreme in the Grandoken home that day.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Sunday evening at seven Jinnie displayed herself to Lafe. The cobbler
gave a contented nod.

"You and the dress're beautiful," he ruminated. "Wonderful!... Kiss
me, Jinnie!"

She not only kissed Lafe, but Bobbie, Happy Pete, and Milly Ann, too,
came in for their share. Peg looked so sour, so forbidding, that
Jinnie only faltered,

"Much obliged, Peggy darling.... Oh, I'm so happy!" She stood directly
in front of Mrs. Grandoken. "Aren't you, dear?" she besought.

"We're all glad, lass," put in the cobbler.

Jinnie's blue, blue eyes were seeking approbation from the gaunt,
frowning woman.

"None of you've got the sense of my bedpost," snapped Peg, sniffing
the air. "Get along. They're waitin' for you."

Jinnie arrived in great excitement at Theodore King's door. She
stumbled up the stone steps of the mansion with the fiddle carefully
wrapped under her arm.

"Is Mr. King here?" she asked of the maid, hesitatingly.

She stood very still, scarcely breathing, until they called the master
of the house, and as Theodore's eyes fell upon the lace dress, with
its red and yellow roses and green vines running the length of the
slim young figure, he smoothed away a smile that forced itself to his
lips.

Out of gratitude to Peggy, Jinnie felt she ought to speak of the
frock, so with an admiring glance downward, she confided:

"Peggy made my dress out of her dead mother's curtains, and gave me
this piece for my fiddle.... Wasn't it lovely of her?"

The pleading, soulful, violet eyes stirred Theodore King with a new
sensation. He had passed unscathed through the fires of imploring,
inviting glances and sweet, tempting lips, nor yet realized that some
day this black-haired girl would call him to a reckoning.

"It's very pretty, very pretty," he affirmed hurriedly. "I'm glad
you're here.... Just wait for a moment. I'll come back for you."

There was a fixed line between his handsome eyes as he faced his
guests. Theodore couldn't analyze his feelings toward Jinnie, but he
was determined none should make sport of her.

"I've prepared a great treat for you," he stated, smiling, "but I want
to ask you to overlook anything that may seem incongruous, for the
musician is very sensitive."

Then he went back for Jinnie, and she followed him into the large
room. The gorgeous red and yellow roses in the limply hanging blouse
lent a color to her sunburned skin.

"You may play anything you like," Theodore whispered.

"All right," nodded Jinnie.

She unwrapped the fiddle and tuned it with nimble fingers. Not until
she placed the instrument under her chin did she raise her head. Her
eyes went searchingly from face to face of the attentive assembly. It
so happened that they fell upon a crown of golden hair above a pair of
dark eyes she vividly remembered. The glance took her back to that
night more than two years before--to the night when her father died.

Molly Merriweather was seated in queenly fashion in one of the large
chairs, a questioning look stealing over her countenance. Jinnie
smiled at her and began to play. It might have been the beautiful
woman opposite that brought forth the wild hill story, told in
marvelous harmonies. The rapt young face gave no sign of
embarrassment, for Jinnie was completely lost in her melodious task.
Above the dimpled chin that hugged the brown fiddle, Theodore King
could see the brooding genius of the girl, and longed to bring a
passionate lovelight for himself into the glorious eyes. The intensity
of the music established in him an unconquerable hope--a hope that
could not die as long as life was in him, as long as life was in the
little fiddler.

As Jinnie finished with dramatic brilliancy, great applause and
showers of congratulations fell upon her ears. Theodore went to her
quickly.

"Wonderful! Splendid, child!" he declared joyously. "You're a
genius!"

His words increased her joy--his compelling dark eyes added to her
desire to do her best.

She meditated one moment. Then thoroughly unconscious of herself,
turned and spoke to the audience.

"I'll play about fairies ... the ones who live in the woods and hide
away in the flowers and under the leaves."

Once more she began to play. She believed in fairies with all her
heart and had no doubt but that every one else did. Under the spell of
her music and her loveliness, imaginary elves stole from the solitude
of the summer night, to join their tiny hands and dance to the rhythm
of her song.

As she lowered her violin and looked around, she saw astonishment on
the faces of the strangers about her. A deathlike hush prevailed and
Jinnie could hear the feverish blood as it struck at her temples.
Into her eyes came an unfathomable expression, and Theodore King,
attracted by their latent passion, went rapidly to her.

"It's exquisite!" he said vehemently. "Can't you see how much every
one likes it?"

"Do you?" queried Jinnie, looking up at him.

"I love it, child; I love it.... Will you play again, please?"

A flame of joy suffused her as again she turned to the open-eyed
crowd.

"Once," she informed them, "a big lion was hurt in the forest by
lightning.... This--is--how he died."

She slowly raised the instrument, and sounded a vibrant, resonant,
minor tone, measured, full and magnificent. Each listener sank back
with a sigh.

Jinnie knew the mysteries of the forest as well as a singer knows his
song, and she had not presented ten notes to the imagination of
Theodore's friends before they were carried away from the dainty room
in which they sat--away into a dense woodland where, for a few
minutes, she demonstrated the witching wonders of it. Then she slipped
the bow between her teeth and struck the violin strings with the backs
of her fingers. The vibrations of impetuous harmony swept softly
through the lighted room. Louder and louder was heard the awful fury
of approaching thunder, while twinkling string-touches flashed forth
the lightning between the sonorous peals.

Jinnie never knew how the fiddle was capable of expressing the
cautious tread of the terrified king of beasts in his isolated
kingdom, but her listeners beheld him steal cautiously from the
underbrush. They saw him crouch in abject terror at the foot of a
wide-spreading, gigantic tree, lashing his tail in elemental rage.
Then another scintillating flash of lightning, and the beast caught
it full in the face. The slender hand of the little player was poised
above the strings for a single vibrating moment, during which she
stood in a listening attitude. Then, with the sweep of three slender
fingers, the lion's scream cut the air like a two-edged sword.

Death came on rapidly in deep, resounding roars, and the misery of the
cringing, suffering brute was unfolded--told in heart-rending
intonations, until at last he gave up his breath in one
terror-stricken cry.

Jinnie dropped her hands suddenly. "He's dead," she said tremulously.
"Poor, poor lion!"

She turned tear-wet eyes to Theodore King.

"Shall I play any more?" she asked, shyly.

The man shook his head, not permitting himself to speak.

"Miss Grandoken has given us a wonderful entertainment," said he to
his friends; then turning to her, he held out his hand, "I want to
thank you, Miss Grandoken."

Many people crowded around her, asking where and how she had learned
such music.

Molly the Merry, the mystified expression still on her face, drew
near.

Again Jinnie smiled at her, hoping the lovely lips would acknowledge
their former acquaintanceship. But as another person, a man, stepped
between her and the woman, Jinnie glanced up at him. He was very
handsome, but involuntarily the girl shuddered. There was something in
the curling of his lips that was cruel, and the whiteness of his teeth
accentuated the impression. His eyes filled her with dread.

"Where did you learn that wonderful music?" he smiled.... "I mean the
music itself."

"Out of my heart," she said simply. "I couldn't get it anywhere
else."

"She's very delightful!" said the stranger, turning to Theodore. "I've
forgotten her name?"

He was so near her that Jinnie shrank back, and the master of the
house noted her embarrassment.

"Her name is Grandoken, Miss Grandoken.... Come," he said, holding out
his hand to Jinnie, and as she placed her fingers in his, he led her
away.

A large car was waiting at the front door, and he held her hand in his
for a few seconds. The touch of her fingers thrilled him through and
through. He noticed her head just reached his shoulder and a conscious
desire to draw her to him for one blessed moment surged insistent
within him. He dropped her hand suddenly.

"I wish now," he said, smiling, "I had sent for you to come here
before. It was such a treat!"

Jinnie shrank away as he offered her a roll of bills. An unutterable
shyness crept over her.

"I don't want it," she said, gulping hard. "I'd love to fiddle for you
all day long."

"But you must take it," insisted King. "Now then, I want to know where
you live. I'm coming to see your uncle very, very soon."

Lafe and his wife were waiting for the girl, and the cobbler noticed
Peggy's eyes were misty as Jinnie gave her the money. Over and over
she told them all about it.

"And he's coming to see you, Lafe," she cried with a tremulous laugh.
"Mr. King says some day I'll be a great player. Will I, Lafe? Will I,
Peggy?"

"You may," admitted Peggy, "but don't get a swelled head, 'cause you
couldn't stop fiddlin' any more'n a bird could stop singin'.... Go to
bed now, this minute."

And as Jinnie slept her happy sleep in Paradise Road, another woman
was walking to and fro with a tall man under the trees at Theodore
King's home.

"I thought I'd scream with laughter when she came in," said Molly the
Merry. "If it hadn't been for Theo's warning, I'm sure most of us
would.... Did you ever see such a ridiculous dress, Jordan?"

The man was quiet for a meditative moment. "I forgot about the dress
when she began to play," he mused. "The sight of her face would drive
all thoughts of incongruity out of a man's mind."

"Yes, she's very pretty," admitted Molly, reluctantly. "And Jordan, do
you know there's something strangely familiar about her face?... I
can't tell where I've seen her."

"Never mind. The important thing to me is I must have money. Can't
keep up appearances on air."

"You know I'll always help you when I can, Jordan."

"Yes, I know it, and I'll not let you forget it either."

The woman gave him a puzzled look and the man caught her meaning.

"You're wondering why I don't open offices here, aren't you? Well, a
person can't do two things at once, and I've been pretty busy tracing
Virginia Singleton. And when I find her, you know very well I will
return every penny I've borrowed."

And later, when Molly went to her room, she walked up and down
thoughtfully, trying to bring to her mind the familiar violet eyes and
the mass of purple black curls which were the crowning glory of Jinnie
Grandoken.



CHAPTER XX

THE COBBLER'S SECRET


One Sunday morning, Jinnie sat with Lafe in the shop. In hours like
these they thoroughly enjoyed themselves. The quietude of these
precious Sabbath moments made the week, with its arduous tasks,
bearable to the sensitive girl.

For several days past Jinnie had noticed Lafe had something on his
mind, but she always allowed him to tell her everything in his own
good time. Now she felt the time had come. His gray face, worn with
suffering, was shining with a heavenly light as he read aloud from a
little Bible in his hand. To-day he had chosen the story of Abraham
and Sarah. When he came to the part where Abraham said:

"Lord, if now I have found favor in Thy sight, pass not away, I pray
Thee, from Thy servant," he pronounced the last word with sobbing
breath. One quick glance was enough for Jinnie's comprehension.

She leaned forward breathlessly.

"What is it, Lafe?... Something great?"

"Yes, something great, lassie, and in God's name most wonderful."

Before Jinnie's world of imagery passed all the good she had desired
for Lafe. His softly spoken, "In God's name most wonderful," thrilled
her from head to foot.

"And you've been keeping it from me, Lafe," she chided gently.
"Please, please, tell me."

Lafe sat back in the wheel chair and closed his eyes. "Wait, child,"
he breathed hesitatingly. "Wait a minute!"

As Jinnie watched him, she tried to stifle the emotion tugging at her
heart--to keep back the tears that welled into her eyes. Perhaps what
he had to tell her _would_ make her cry. Jinnie hoped not, for she
disliked to do that. It was so childlike, so like Blind Bobbie, who
always had either a beatific smile on his pale lips, or a mist shining
in his rock-gray eyes.

At length Lafe sighed a long, deep-drawn sigh, and smiled.

"Jinnie," he began----

"Yes, Lafe."

"I've been wonderin' if you remember the story of the little feller
God sent to Peg an' me--the one I told you would a been six years
old."

"Yes, I remember, Lafe."

"An' how good Peggy was----"

"Oh, how good Peggy always is!" interjected Jinnie.

"Yes," breathed Lafe, dreamily. "May God bless my woman in all her
trials!"

Jinnie hitched her chair nearer his and slipped her arm about his neck
soothingly.

"She doesn't have trials you don't share, Lafe," she declared.

Lafe straightened up.

"Yes, Peg has many, lassie, I can't help 'er with, an' she'll have a
many more. To get to tell you something, Jinnie, I asked Peg to take
Bobbie out with 'er. We can't turn the little feller from the club
room when he ain't out with Peg; can we, Jinnie?"

"Of course not," agreed Jinnie, nodding.

"So when Peg said she was goin' out," proceeded Lafe, gravely, "I
says, thinkin' of the things I wanted to say to you, I said to Peggy,
'Take the little blind chap along with you, Peggy dear,' an' without a
word she put the youngster into his clothes an' away they went."

Jinnie's curiosity was growing by the minute.

"And you're going to tell me now, Lafe?"

"An' now I'm goin' to tell you, Jinnie."

But he didn't tell her just then. Instead he sat looking at her with
luminous eyes, and the expression in them--that heavenly
expression--compelled Jinnie to kneel beside him, and for a little
while they sat in silence.

"Dear child," Lafe murmured, dropping a tender hand on her shining
head, "dear, dear girl!"

"It must be a joyful thing, Lafe, for your face shines as bright as
Bobbie's stars."

"I'm blessed happy to-day!" he sighed, with twitching lips.

Jinnie took his hand in hers and smoothed it fondly.

"What is it, Lafe, dear?" she asked.

"Do you want to kneel while I tell you?" queried the cobbler.

"Yes, right here."

"Then look right at me, Jinnie lass!"

Jinnie _was_ looking at him with her whole soul in her eyes.

"I'm looking at you, Lafe," she said.

"An' don't take your eyes from me; will you?"

"Sure not!"

It must be a great surprise for Lafe to act like this, thought the
girl.

"Lassie," commenced Lafe, "I want you to be awful good to Peggy....
It's about her I'm goin' to speak."

Jinnie sank back on the tips of her toes.

"What about Peg? There isn't----"

"Dear Peggy," interrupted Lafe softly, his voice quick with tears,
"dear, precious Peggy!" Then as he bent over Jinnie and Jinnie bent
nearer him, Lafe placed his lips to her ear and whispered something.

She struggled to her feet, strange and unknown emotions rising in her
eyes.

"Lafe!" she cried. "Lafe dear!"

"Yes," nodded the cobbler. "Yes, if you want to know the truth, the
good God's goin' to send me an' Peg another little Jew baby."

Jinnie sat down in her chair quite dazed. Lafe's secret was much
greater than she had expected! Much!

"Tell me about it," she pleaded.

Keen anxiety erased the cobbler's smiling expression.

"Poor Peggy!" he groaned again. "She can't see where the bread's
comin' from to feed another mouth, but as I says, 'Peggy, you said the
same thing when Jinnie came, an' the blind child, an' this little
one's straight from God's own tender breast.'"

"That's so, Lafe," accorded Jinnie, "and, Oh, dearie, I'll work so
hard, so awful hard to get in more wood, and tell me, tell me when,
Lafe; when is he coming to us, the Jew baby?"

Lafe smiled at her eagerness.

"You feel the same way as I do, honey," he observed. "The very same
way!... Why, girlie, when Peg first told me I thought I'd get up and
fly!"

"I should think so, but--but--I want to know how soon, Lafe, dear."

"Oh, it's a long time, a whole lot of weeks!"

"I wish it was to-morrow," lamented Jinnie, disappointedly. "I wonder
if Peg'll let me hug and kiss him."

"Sure," promised Lafe, and they lapsed into silence.

At length, Jinnie stole to the kitchen. She returned with her violin
box and Milly Ann in her arms.

"Hold the kitty, darling," she said softly, placing the cat on his
lap. "She'll be happy, too. Milly Ann loves us all, Milly Ann does."

Then she took out the fiddle and thrummed the strings.

"I'm going to play for you," she resumed, "while you think about Peggy
and the--and--the baby."

The cobbler nodded his head, and wheeled himself a bit nearer the
window, from where he could see the hill rise upward to the blue,
making a skyline of exquisite beauty.

Jinnie began to play. What tones she drew from that small brown
fiddle! The rapture depicted in her face was but a reflection of the
cobbler's. And as he meditated and listened, Lafe felt that each tone
of Jinnie's fiddle had a soul of its own--that the instrument was
peopled with angel voices--voices that soothed him when he suffered
beyond description--voices that now expressed in rhythmical harmony
the peace within him. Jinnie was able to put an estimate on his moods,
and knew just what comfort he needed most. Until that moment the
cobbler's wife had seemed outside the charm of the beloved home
circle. But to-day, ah, to-day!--Jinnie's bow raced over the strings
like a mad thing. To-day Peggy Grandoken became in the girl's eyes a
glorified woman, a woman set apart by God Himself to bring to the home
a new baby.

Jinnie played and played and played, and Theodore in spirit-fancy
stood beside her. Lafe thought and thought and thought, while Peggy
walked through his day dreams like some radiant being.

"A baby----my baby, in the house," sang the cobbler's heart.

"A baby, our baby, in the house," poured from Jinnie's soul, and
"Baby, little baby," sprang from the fiddle over and over, as golden
flashes of the sun warms the earth. Truly was Lafe being revivified;
truly was Jinnie! Theodore King! How infinitely close he seemed to
her! How the memory of his smile cheered and strengthened her!

From the tip of the fiddle tucked under a rounded chin to the line of
purple-black hair, the blood rushed in riotous confusion over the
fiddler's lovely face. What was it in Lafe's story that had brought
Theodore King so near?

Jinnie couldn't have told, but she was sure the fiddle knew. It was
intoning to Lafe--to her--the language of the birds and the mystery of
the flower blossoms, the invisible riddles of Heaven and earth, of all
the concealed secrets beyond the blue of the sky; all the panorama of
Nature strung out in a wild, sweet forest song. Jinnie had backed
against the wall as she played, and when out of her soul came the
twitter of the morning birds, the babbling of the brook on its way to
the sea, the scream of the owl in a high woodland tree, Lafe turned to
watch her, and from that moment until she dropped exhausted into a
chair, he did not take his eyes from her.

"Jinnie!" he gasped, as he thrust forth his hand and took hers.
"You've made me happier to-day'n I've been in many a week. Peg'll be
all right.... Everybody'll be all right.... God bless us!"

Jinnie sat up with bright, inquiring eyes.

"Did you tell Peg I was to know about----"

"About our baby?" intervened Lafe tenderly.

He dwelt lovingly on those precious words.

"Yes, about your baby," repeated Jinnie.

"Yes, I told 'er, dear. I said you'd want to be happy too."

"I'm so glad," sighed Jinnie, reverently. "Look!... Peg's coming
now!"

They both watched Mrs. Grandoken as she stolidly crossed the tracks,
leading Bobbie by the hand.

And later Jinnie hovered over Peggy in the kitchen. The woman had
taken on such a new dignity. She must be treated with the greatest and
most extra care. If Jinnie had done what she craved, she'd have
bounded to Peg and kissed her heartily. Of course that wouldn't do,
but talk to her she must,

"Peggy," she said softly, tears lurking in her eyes.

Peg looked at her without moving an eyelash. Jinnie wished she would
say something; her task would be so much easier.

"Peggy," she begged again.

"Huh?"

"Lafe told me, dear," and then she did something she hadn't done with
Lafe; she began to cry, just why, Jinnie didn't know; Peg looked so
sad, so distant, and so ill.

It was probably Jinnie's tears that softened Peg, for she put her hand
on the girl's shoulders and stood silent. After the first flood of
tears Jinnie ventured:

"I'm awful happy, Peggy dear, and I want you to know I'm going to work
harder'n I even did for Blind Bobbie.... I will, Peg, I promise I
will.... Kiss me, Oh, kiss me, dear!"

Peggy bent over and kissed the upturned, tearful face solemnly. Then
she turned her back, beginning to work vigorously, and Jinnie returned
to the shop with the kiss warm on her cheek.



CHAPTER XXI

THE COMING OF THE ANGELS


"You'd better make it a special prayer, Lafe," said Jinnie, a little
pucker between her eyes. "Every day I'm more'n more afraid of
Maudlin."

"I will, honey, an' just pop into Bates' cottage an' tell Maudlin's pa
to run in the shop.... Go long, lass, nobody'll hurt you."

After leaving Lafe's message at the Bates' cottage, Jinnie stepped
from the tracks to the marshes with a joyful heart. Of course nothing
could harm her! Lafe's faith, mingled with her own, would save her
from every evil in the world.

When Bates opened the shop door, the cobbler looked up gravely. He
nodded his head to Jasper's, "Howdy do, Grandoken?"

"Sit down," said Lafe.

"Jinnie says you wanted me."

"Yes, a few minutes' chat; that's all!"

"Spit it out," said Bates.

Lafe put down his hammer with slow importance.

"It's this way, Jasper. Maudlin's----"

"What's Maudie done now?" demanded Bates, lighting his pipe.

"He's been botherin' my girl, that's what," responded Lafe.

"Jinnie?"

"Sure. She's all the girl I got.... Maudlin's got to stop it, Bates."

A cruel expression flitted over Jasper's face.

"I ain't nothin' to do with Maudlin's love affairs," said he. "Jinnie
could do worse'n get him, I'm a guessin'! Maudie adds up pretty good,
Maudie does!"

Lafe shook his head with a grim serenity that became the strained
white face.

"His addin' up ain't nothin' to his credit, Jasper," he protested.
"He's as crooked as a ram's horn an' you know it. If you don't, take
my word for it! There ain't nothin' doin' for him far's Jinnie's
concerned!... I sent for you to bargain with you." Jasper pricked up
his ears. The word "bargain" always attracted him.

"Well?" he questioned.

"You keep your boy from my girl and I'll do all your family cobblin'
for nothin' till Jinnie's a woman."

Bates leaned back in his chair and crossed his legs.

"It's a bargain, all right. Them kids of mine do wear out the soles of
their shoes some. But, Lafe, I can't tag Maudlin around all day."

Lafe took up his hammer.

"Lick him if he won't mind you, Bates. He's got to let my girl be, and
that's all there is to it."

Saying this, he started to work, giving the shortwood gatherer his
dismissal. Bates left his chair thoughtfully.

"I'll talk to Maudie," said he, "but he's an onery kid; has been ever
since his mother died. He don't git along with his stepma very well,
and she's got such a lot of little kids of 'er own she ain't time to
train no hulk of a boy like Maudlin."

Pausing a moment, he went on, "Maudlin's been madder'n hell because
that duffer King's been haulin' Jinnie's wood. He says----"

"It ain't any of Maudlin's business who helps Jinnie," interrupted
Lafe. "If you got any shoes needin' fixin', tote 'em over, Jasper."

Bates left the shop and Lafe fell to work vigorously.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Maudlin Bates stood at the path leading to the marshes. He was waiting
for Jinnie to appear with her load of shortwood. To the young wood
gatherer, a woman was created for man's special benefit, and a long
time ago he had made up his mind that Jinnie should be his woman.

He was leaning against a tree when the girl came in sight, with her
wood-strap on her shoulders. She paid no attention to him, and was
about to turn into Paradise Road when the man stepped in front of
her.

"Wait a minute, Jinnie," he wheedled.

Jinnie threw him a disdainful glance.

"I can't wait. I'm in a hurry," she replied, and she hoped the fellow
would go on before the car arrived.

Young Bates' face was crossed by an obstinate expression.

"I'm goin' to find out," he said, gruffly, "why you're ridin' in rich
folks' motor cars."

"Isn't anything to you," snapped Jinnie.

The wood gatherer came so close that he forced her back a step on the
marsh path. Her disdainful eyes had drawn him to her, for, like all
men, he could be drawn by the woman who scorned him, and mesmerized by
the sheer repulse. By great effort, Jinnie had escaped from Maudlin's
insults for many months, but he had never been quite so aggressive as
this! Now she could see the dark blood in his passionate face mount
even to the whites of his eyes, those eyes which coveted the youngness
of her body, the vitality of her girl life, and all the good within
her.

"Get out of my way!" she said sharply. "You let me alone. I've got a
right to get my wood hauled if I can."

"Well, you don't do it any more," said Maudlin. "If you're too lazy to
carry your own wood, I'll help you myself.... You can't go no more to
King's in _his_ car."

Jinnie turned a pair of glinting blue eyes upon him.

"Who said I couldn't?" she demanded. "Uncle Lafe lets me."

"Your Uncle Lafe said you could marry me," said Maudlin in slow,
drawling tones.

Jinnie's blood boiled up behind her ears. She was eyeing him in
bewilderment. Maudlin's words made her more angry than she'd ever been
in her life.

"You lie, you damn fool!" she cried, and then caught her breath in
consternation. It was the first oath that had escaped her lips in many
a long day, and she felt truly sorry for it. She would tell Lafe of
the provocation that caused it and beg to be forgiven. She moved back
a step as Maudlin pinched her.

"I don't lie," he growled. "You think because you can scrape on a
fiddle you're better'n other folks. Pa an' me'll show you you ain't."

"You and your pa don't know everything," answered Jinnie, wrathfully.

"We know 'nough to see what King's doin' all right."

He made a dive at the girl and laid a rough hand on the shortwood
strap.

"Here! Gimme that wood if you're too lazy to carry it."

Jinnie turned her eyes up the road. It was time Bennett came. The
sound of his motor would be like sweet music in her ears. She jerked
the strap away from the man and turned furiously upon him.

"Don't touch me again, Maudlin Bates.... I don't interfere with you.
I'll--I'll----"

But Maudlin paid no heed to her insistence. He was dragging the strap
from her shoulders.

Jinnie's face grew waxen white, but she held her own for a few
minutes. Maudlin was big in proportion to her slenderness, and in
another instant her shortwood lay on the ground, and she was standing
panting before him.

"Now, then, just to show what kind of a feller I be," said he, "I'm
goin' to kiss you."

Jinnie felt cold chills running up and down her back.

"It's time you was kissed," went on Maudlin, "and after to-day I'm
goin' to be your man.... You can bet on that."

He was slowly forcing her backward along the narrow path that led into
the marshes. Jinnie knew intuitively he wanted her to turn and run
into the underbrush that he might have her alone in the great waste
place.

Like a mad creature, she fought every step of the way, Maudlin's anger
rising at each cry the girl emitted.

"I'll tell my uncle," she screamed, with sobbing breath.

"You won't want to tell 'im when I get done with you," muttered the
man. "Why don't you run? You c'n run, can't you?"

Oh, if Bennett would only come! She was still near enough to Paradise
Road for him to hear her calling.

Maudlin reached out his hand and caught the long curls between his
dirty fingers.

"If you won't run," he said, "then, that for you!" and he gave a cruel
twist to the shining hair, pulling Jinnie almost off her feet.

Then the ruffian turned, slowly dragging her foot by foot into the
marshland. She opened her lips, and gave one long scream; then another
and another before Maudlin pulled her to him and closed her mouth with
a large hand, and Jinnie grew faint with fright and terror.

They were out of sight now of Paradise Road, still Jinnie struggled
and struggled, gripping with both hands at Bates' fingers jerking at
her curls.

Suddenly Lafe's solemn words surged through her mind. "He has given
His angels charge over thee." Oh God! Dear God! What glorious, blessed
words! Lafe's angels, her angels--Jinnie's heart throbbed with faith.
Once Lafe had told her no one, no, not even Maudlin Bates, could keep
her own from her! Her honor and her very life were in the tender hands
of the cobbler's angels. Suddenly in fancy Jinnie saw the whole world
about teeming with bright ecstatic beings, and multitudes of them were
hurrying through the warm summer air to the Bellaire marshes. They
were coming--coming to help her, to save her from a fate worse than
death! Her mind reeled under the terrible pain Maudlin was inflicting
upon her, and she closed her eyes in agony. With one mighty effort,
she dragged her face from the brown, hard hand and screamed at the top
of her lungs.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Theodore King swung his car around into Paradise Road with busy
thoughts. He had decided to go himself that morning to bring the
little fiddler back to his home with the shortwood. He had a plan for
Jinnie.

Past the cobbler's shop sped the big motor, and as it drew up to the
marshes, he heard a blood-curdling cry from the depths of the
underbrush. In another instant he was out on the ground, dashing along
the path. He saw Jinnie and Maudlin before either one of them knew he
was near. He saw the fellow pulling the black curls, and saw a hand
almost covering the fair young face.

Then Jinnie saw him, and sent him one swift, terrified, appealing
glance.

In the smallest fraction of a second Maudlin was sprawling on the
ground, and Theodore was soundly kicking him. Jinnie sank down on the
damp moss and began to cry weakly. Her face was scratched from the
man's fingers, her head aching from the strenuous pulling of her hair.
Then she covered her eyes with her hands. God _had_ sent an angel--she
was saved! When Mr. King touched her gently, she sat up, wiping away
little streams of blood running down her face and neck.

"Oh, you came," she sobbed, raising her head, "and oh, I needed you
so!"

Theodore lifted her to her feet.

"I should say you did, you poor child! I should certainly think you
did."

Then he turned to Maudlin Bates.

"What, in God's name, were you trying to do?"

Maudlin, raging with anger, scrambled from the ground.

"Get out o' here," he hissed, "an' mind your own business."

"When I keep a bully away from a nice little girl, I'm minding my
business all right.... What was he trying to do, Jinnie?"

Maudlin walked backward until he was almost in the brush.

"I'm goin' to marry her," he said, surlily.

"He isn't," cried Jinnie. "Oh, don't believe him, Mr. King! He says
Uncle Lafe said he can marry me, but he can't."

Once more Theodore turned on Maudlin, threateningly, his anger riding
down his gentleness to Jinnie.

"Now get out of here," he exclaimed, "and don't ever let me hear of
your even speaking to this child again."

The shortwood gatherer stood his ground until Theodore, with raised
fist, was almost upon him.

"I said to get out!" thundered Mr. King.

With a baffled cry, Bates turned, rushed back into the marsh, and for
several seconds they heard him beating down the brushwood as he ran.

Theodore tenderly drew the girl into Paradise Road.

"I wanted to see your uncle to-day," he explained, without waiting for
the question which he read in Jinnie's eyes, "so I came over myself
instead of sending Bennett.... There, child! Don't tremble so! Never
mind the wood."

Jinnie hung back.

"I've got to sell it to you this afternoon," she murmured brokenly.
"Peg's got to have the money."

"We've enough at home until to-morrow.... Wait until to-morrow."

Jinnie looked longingly at the wood.

"Somebody'll take it," she objected, "and it's awful hard to gather."

A grip of pain stabbed Theodore's heart. This slender, beautiful girl,
rosy with health and genius, should gather wood no more for any one in
the world.... To soothe her, he said:

"I'll come by and pick it up on my way back.... Come along."

He lifted her into the car, and they moved slowly through Paradise
Road, and drew up before the cobbler's shop.

Lafe put down his hammer as they entered, and bade King take a chair.
Jinnie sat weakly on the bench beside Mr. Grandoken. He took her hand,
and the loving pressure brought forth a storm of outraged tears.

"'Twas Maudlin, Lafe," she wept.

Then her arms stole around the cobbler. "The angels sent Mr. King!...
Lafe, Lafe, save me from Maudlin! He--he----"

Theodore King rose to his feet, his face paling. Lafe, smoothing
Jinnie's head now buried in his breast, lifted misty eyes to the young
man.

"My poor baby! My poor little girl!" he stammered. "She has much to
stand, sir."

The other man took several nervous turns around the shop. Presently he
paused near the cobbler and coughed in embarrassment.

"I'm interested in doing something for your niece, Mr. Grandoken,"
said he lamely.

On hearing this, Jinnie lifted her head, and Lafe bowed.

"Thank you, sir," said he.

"I don't approve of her going into the marshes alone to gather wood,"
continued Mr. King. "She's too young, too----"

"I don't uther, sir," interrupted Lafe sadly, "but we've got to
live."

Not heeding the cobbler's explanation, Theodore proceeded
deliberately.

"She plays too well on the violin not to have all the training that
can be given her. Now let me be of some service until she is
self-supporting."

Again Lafe repeated, "Thank you, sir, but I don't think Jinnie could
accept money from any one."

"I don't see why not! It's quite customary when a young person is
ambitious to receive----"

"Is it, sir?" ejaculated Lafe.

"Indeed yes, and I've been making inquiries, and I find there's a very
good teacher on the hill who'll give her the rudiments.... After that,
we'll see."

Jinnie was breathing very fast.

"Lessons cost lots of money," objected Lafe feebly, drawing the girl
closer.

"I know that," interposed Mr. King, "but I want to pay for them. She
ought to take one every day, the teacher says, commencing to-morrow."

Jinnie stood up. "I couldn't let you pay for 'em," she said quickly.
"I----"

She sat down again at a motion from Theodore.

"Please don't object until I have finished," he smiled at her. "It's
like this: If you study, you'll be able to earn a lot of money. Then
you can return every dollar to me."

Suddenly it came to her mind to tell him she would have all the money
she needed when she should be eighteen.

"I'll have----" she began, but Lafe, feeling what she was going to
say, stopped her. It wasn't time to confide in any one about the
danger hanging over her. He took the matter in his own hands with his
usual melancholy dignity.

"Jinnie'll be glad to let you help her, sir, providin' you keep track
of the money you spend," he agreed.

The girl could scarcely believe her ears. Suddenly her indignant sense
of Maudlin's abuse faded away, leaving her encouraged and warm with
ambition.

Theodore took one more stride around the little room.

"Now that's sensible, Mr. Grandoken," he said contentedly. "And before
I go, I want you to promise me your niece won't go into the marshes
even once more. I must have your word before I can be satisfied. As it
is now, she earns three dollars a week bringing me wood. That I must
add to the lesson money----"

Lafe's dissenting gesture broke off Mr. King's statement, but he
resumed immediately.

"If you're sensitive on that point, I'll add it in with the other
money. I think it wise to keep our arrangements to ourselves, though."
He stopped, his face changing. "And I--I would like to make you more
comfortable here."

Lafe shook his head.

"I couldn't take anything for me and Peggy," he announced decidedly,
"but Jinnie'll give back all you let her have some day."

Then Theodore King went away reluctantly.



CHAPTER XXII

MOLLY'S DISCOVERY


Peggy had given Jinnie a violin box, and as the girlwalked rapidly
homeward, she gazed at it with pride, and began to plan how the
woman's burdens could be lightened a little--how she could bring a
smile now and then to the sullen face. This had been discussed between
Lafe and herself many times, and they had rejoiced that in a few
months, when Jinnie was eighteen, Mrs. Grandoken's worries would be
lessened.

She reached the bottom of the hill just as a car dashed around the
lower corner, a woman at the wheel. One glance at the occupant, and
Jinnie recognized Molly Merriweather. The woman smiled sweetly and
drove to the edge of the pavement.

"Good afternoon," she greeted Jinnie. "Won't you take a little ride
with me? I'll drive you home afterwards."

Jinnie's heart bounded. As yet Molly had not discovered her identity,
and the girl, in spite of Lafe's caution, wanted to know all that had
passed in Mottville after she left. She wanted to hear about her dead
father, of Matty, and the old home. She gave ready assent to Molly's
invitation by climbing into the door opened for her.

"You don't have to go home right away, do you?" asked Miss
Merriweather pleasantly.

"No, I suppose not," acceded Jinnie shyly.

She connected Molly the Merry with all that was good. She remembered
the woman's kindly smiles so long ago in Mottville, and--that she was
a friend of Theodore King. She was startled, however, after they had
ridden in silence a while, when the woman pronounced his name.

"Have you seen Mr. King lately?"

Jinnie shook her head.

"I guess it's three days," she answered, low-voiced.

Three days! Molly racked her brain during the few seconds before she
spoke again to bring to mind when Theodore had been absent from home
out of business hours.

"He's a very nice man," she remarked disinterestedly.

Jinnie's gratitude burst forth in youthful impetuosity.

"He's more'n nice,--he's the best man in the world."

"Yes, he is," murmured Molly.

"Theo--I mean Mr. King," stammered Jinnie.

Molly turned so quickly to look at the girl's reddening face that the
car almost described a circle.

"You call him by his first name, then?" she asked, with a sharp
backward turn of the wheel.

"No," denied Jinnie, extremely confused. "Oh, no! Only--only----"

"Only what?"

"When I think of him, then I do. Theodore's such a pretty name, isn't
it?"

Molly bit her lip. Here was the niece of a cobbler who dared to think
familiarly of a man in high social position. She had tried to make
herself believe Theo was simply philanthropic, but now the more
closely she examined the beautiful face of the girl, the more she
argued with herself, the greater grew her fear.

"What does he call you?" Molly spoke amiably, as if discussing these
unimportant little matters for mere politeness' sake.

"Mostly Jinnie," was the prompt reply. "I'm just Jinnie to every one
who loves me."

She said this without thought of its import. Angrily Molly sent the
motor spinning along at a higher rate. She was growing to hate the
little person at her side.

"Where are your own people?" she demanded, when they were on the road
leading to the country.

Jinnie glanced up. "Dead!" she answered.

"And the cobbler, Mr. Grandoken, is he your father's or mother's
brother?"

Jinnie pondered a moment, undecided how to answer.

"Why, you see it's like this----"

Molly lessened the speed. Turning squarely around, she looked keenly
at the scarlet, lovely face.

"Why are you blushing?" she queried.

Then like a flash she remembered. What a silly fool she had been!
Jordan Morse would give his eyes almost to locate this girl.

"I remember now who you are," she said, taking a long breath. "You're
Virginia Singleton."

Jinnie touched her arm appealingly.

"You won't tell anybody, will you, please? Please don't.... There's a
reason why."

"Tell me the reason."

"I couldn't now, not now. But I have to live with Lafe Grandoken quite
a long time yet."

"You ran away from your home?"

"Yes."

"Your father died the same night you came away."

"Yes, and--please, what happened after I left?"

"Oh, he was buried, and the house is empty."

Molly forebore to mention Jordan Morse, and Jinnie's tongue refused to
utter the terrifying name.

Presently the girl, with tears in her eyes, said softly:

"And Matty, old Matty?"

"Who's Matty?" interjected Molly.

"The black woman who took care of me. She lived with me for ever so
long."

Molly didn't reply for some time. Then:

"I think she died; at least I heard she did."

A cold shudder ran over Jinnie's body. Matty then had gone to join
those who, when they were called, had no choice but to answer. She
leaned against the soft cushions moodily. She was harking back to
other days, and Molly permitted her to remain silent for some time.

"You must have people of your own you could live with," she resumed
presently. "It's wrong for a girl with your money----"

Jinnie's lovely mouth set at the corners.

"I wouldn't leave Lafe and Peggy for anybody in the world, not if I
had relations, but I haven't."

"I thought--I thought," began Molly, pretending to bring to mind
something she'd forgotten. "You have an uncle," she burst forth.

Jinnie grew cold from head to foot. Her father's words, "He won't find
in you much of an obstacle," came to her distinctly.

"Does your uncle know where you are?"

This question brought the girl to the present.

"No. I don't want him to know, either. Not till--not till I'm
eighteen."

"Why?"

Molly's tone was so cold and unsympathetic Jinnie regretted she had
accepted her invitation to ride. But she need not be afraid; Lafe
would keep her safe from all harm. Had she not tried out his faith and
the angels' care with Maudlin Bates? However, she felt she owed some
explanation to the woman at her side.

"My uncle doesn't like me," she stammered, calming her fear. "And Lafe
loves me, Lafe does."

"How do you know your uncle doesn't love you?"

Thinking of Lafe's often repeated caution not to divulge her father's
disclosure of Morse's perfidy, Jinnie remained quiet.

The birds above their heads kept up a shrill chatter. On ordinary
occasions Jinnie would have listened to mark down in her memory a few
notes to draw from her fiddle, but at this moment she was too busy
looking for a proper explanation. Glancing sidelong at the woman's
face and noting the expression upon it, she grew cold and drew into
the corner. She would not dare----

"I almost think it's my duty to write your uncle," said Molly
deliberately.

Jinnie gasped. She straightened and put forth an impetuous hand.

"Please don't! I beg you not to. Some day, mebbe, some day----"

"In the meantime you're living with people who can't take care of
you."

"Oh, but they do, and Mr. King's helping me," faltered Jinnie. "Why,
he'd do anything for me he could. He loves my fiddle----"

"Does he love you?" asked Molly, her heart beating swiftly.

"I don't know, but he's very good to me."

Molly with one hand carefully brushed a dead leaf from her skirt.

"Do you love him?" she asked, forcing casuality into her tone.

Did she love Theodore King? The question was flung at Jinnie so
suddenly that the truth burst from her lips.

"Oh, yes, I love him very, very much----"

The machine started forward with a tremendous jerk. Jinnie gave a
frightened little cry, but the woman did not heed her. The motor sped
along at a terrific rate, and there just ahead Jinnie spied a lean
barn-cat, crossing the road. She screamed again in terror. Still Molly
sped on, driving the car straight over the thin, gaunt animal.
Jinnie's heart leapt into her mouth. All her great love for living
things rose in stout appeal against this ruthless deed. She lifted her
slight body and sprang up and out, striking the hard ground with a
sickening thud. She sat up, shaking from head to foot. A short
distance ahead Molly Merriweather was turning her machine. Jinnie
crawled to the middle of the road, still dizzy from her fall. There,
struggling before her, was the object for which she had jumped. The
cat was writhing in distracted misery, and Jinnie picked him up in her
arms. She was sitting on the ground when Molly, very pale, rolled
back.

"You little fool! You silly little fool!" she exclaimed, leaping out.
"You might have been killed doing such a thing."

"You ran over the kitty," wept Jinnie, bowing her head.

"And what if I did? It's only a cat. Throw it down and come with me
immediately."

Jinnie wasn't used to such sentiments. She got to her feet, a queer,
rebellious feeling buzzing through her brain.

"I'm going to walk home," she said brokenly, "and take the kitty with
me."

Saying this, she took off her jacket and wrapped it about the cat.
Molly glared at her furiously.

"You're the strangest little dunce I ever saw," she cried. "If you're
determined to take the little beast, get in."

Molly was sorry afterward she had not let Jinnie have her way, for
they had driven homeward but a little distance when she saw
Theodore's car coming toward them. He himself was at the wheel, and
waved good-naturedly. Molly reluctantly stopped her machine. The man
looked in astonishment from the girl to the woman. He noticed Jinnie's
white face and the long blue mark running from her forehead to her
chin. Molly, too, wore an expression which changed her materially. He
stepped to the ground and leaned over the edge of their car.

"Something happened?" he questioned, eyeing first one, then the
other.

Molly looked down upon the girl, who was staring at Mr. King.

"I--I----" began Jinnie.

Molly made a short explanation.

"She jumped out of the car," she said. "I was just telling her she
might have been killed."

"Jumped out of the car?" repeated Theodore, aghast.

"And we were going at a terrible rate," Molly went on.

Her voice was toned with accusation, and Jinnie saw a reprimanding
expression spread over the man's face. She didn't want him to think
ill of her, yet she was not sorry she had jumped. He was kind and
good; he would pity the hurt thing throbbing against her breast.

"We--we--ran over a cat----" she said wretchedly.

"A barn-cat," cut in Molly.

"And he was awfully hurt," interpolated Jinnie. "I couldn't leave him
in the road. I had to get him, didn't I?"

Theodore King made a movement of surprise.

"Did you notice it in the road?" he asked Miss Merriweather.

The woman was thoroughly angry, so angry she could not guard her
tongue.

"Of course I saw him," she replied haughtily, "but I wouldn't stop for
an old cat; I can tell you that much."

"Miss Grandoken looks ill," Theodore answered slowly, "and as I am
going her way, I think she'd better come with me."

Molly was about to protest when two strong arms were thrust forth, and
Jinnie with the cat was lifted out. Before the girl fully realized
what had happened, she was sitting beside her friend, driving
homeward. She could hear through her aching brain the chug-chug of
Molly's motor following. It was not until they turned into Paradise
Road that Mr. King spoke to her. Then he said gently:

"It was a dreadful risk you took, child."

"I didn't think about that," murmured Jinnie, closing her eyes.

"No, I suppose not. Your heart's too tender to let anything be
abused.... Is the cat dead?"

Jinnie pulled aside her jacket.

"No, but he's breathing awful hard. It hurts him to try to live. I
want to get home quick so Peggy can do something for him."

"I'll hurry, then," replied Mr. King, and when he saw Lafe's face in
the window, he again addressed her:

"You'd better try to smile a little, Miss Jinnie, or your uncle'll be
frightened."

Jinnie roused herself, but she was so weak when she tried to walk that
Theodore picked her up in his arms and carried her into the shop.



CHAPTER XXIII

NOBODY'S CAT


Lafe uttered a quick little prayer as the door opened. His glance
through the window had shown him Jinnie's pale face and her dark head
drooping against Mr. King's shoulder. Theodore smiled as he entered,
which instantly eased the fear in the cobbler's heart and he waited
for the other man to speak.

"Jinnie had a fall," explained Mr. King, "so I drove her home."

He placed the girl in a chair. She was still holding the mangled cat
in her arms.

"Is she much hurt?" questioned Lafe anxiously.

"No, Lafe, I'm not hurt a bit. Miss Merriweather took me for a little
ride. I jumped out to get this kitty because she ran over 'im."

She displayed the quivering grey tiger cat.

"Jumped out of a fast-goin' car, honey!" chided Lafe. "That was some
dangerous."

Jinnie's eyes were veiled with wonder.

"But I couldn't let him stay and get run over again, could I, Lafe?"

"No, darlin', of course you couldn't.... Are you pretty well broke
up?"

Mr. King explained the accident as best he could, and after he
departed Mrs. Grandoken came in with Bobbie clinging to her skirts.
Then the story was repeated.

"Can't we do something for him, Peg?" pleaded Jinnie.

Peg knelt down and examined the animal as it lay on the floor. She
would not have admitted for anything that she was disturbed because of
Jinnie's fall. She only said:

"'Twasn't your fault, miss, that you ain't almost dead yourself....
I'll get a dish with some water.... You need it as much as the cat."

It was Bobbie who brought from Peggy a fierce ejaculation. He was
standing in the middle of the floor with fluttering hands, a woebegone
expression on his upturned face.

"My stars're goin' out," he whimpered. "I want to touch my Jinnie."

"She ain't hurt much, kid," said Peg, hoarsely. "Don't be shakin' like
a leaf, Bobbie! You'd think the girl was dead."

Jinnie called the boy to her.

"I'm here, honey," she soothed him, "and I'm all right. I got a little
whack on the ground, that's all.... There, don't cry, dearie."

Peg looked down on them frowningly.

"You're both of you little fools," she muttered. "Get out of my way
till I go to the kitchen, or I'll kick you out."

When Mrs. Grandoken brought the water, they worked over the cat for a
long time, and at length Peg carried the poor little mangled body to
the kitchen, Bobbie following her.

Jinnie sat down beside the cobbler on the bench.

"There's something I don't know, Jinnie," he said.

Fully and freely she told him all--all that had happened that day. She
explained Molly's recognition of her and the terrors of the
afternoon's ride.

"She hates barn-cats," went on the girl, "and, Lafe, when the wheels
gritted over him, I flew right out on the ground."

Lafe's arms tightened about her.

"You just couldn't help it," he murmured. "God bless my little girl!"

"Then Mr. King took me with him," concluded Jinnie.

Lafe had his own view of Molly the Merry, but he didn't tell the
faint, white girl at his side that he thought the woman was jealous of
her.

As Jinnie again recounted nervously the conversation about her Uncle
Jordan, the cobbler said softly:

"It's all in the hands of the angels, pet! No harm'll come to you
ever."

                  *       *       *       *       *

Jordan Morse answered Miss Merriweather's telephone call.

"I want to talk with you," said she peremptorily.

"I'll come right up," replied Morse.

She stood on the porch with her hands tightly locked together when
Jordan dashed up the roadway. She walked slowly down the steps.

"What's up?" demanded Morse.

Molly glanced backward at the quiet home. Theodore's mother was taking
her afternoon siesta, and no one else was about. She slipped her hand
into Morse's arm and led him under the trees.

"Let's go to the summer house," she urged.

Once seated, Morse looked at her curiously.

"You're ill," he said, noting her distorted face.

"No, only furious.... I've made a discovery."

"Anything of value?"

"Yes, to you--and to me."

Morse bent a keen glance upon her.

"Well?" was all he said.

"I know where your niece, Virginia Singleton, is."

She said this deliberately, realizing the while the worth of her
words.

Morse got to his feet unsteadily.

"I don't believe it," he returned.

"I knew you wouldn't, but I do just the same."

"Where?"

"In this town."

"No!"

"Yes."

Morse dropped back on the seat once more.

"For God's sake, don't play with me. Why don't you----"

"I'm going to! Keep still, can't you?"

"You're torturing me," muttered the man, mopping his brow.

"She's--she's Jinnie Grandoken--the girl who played at Theo's party."

"Good God!" and then through the silence came another muttered, "Great
merciful God!"

Molly allowed him to regain his self-control.

"I told you that night, Jordan, I thought I remembered her," she then
said. "To-day I found out it was she."

"Tell me all you know," ordered Morse, with darkening brow.

Molly openly admitted her jealousy of Jinnie. She had no shame
because, long before, she had told her husband of her absorbing
passion for Theodore King.

"I discovered it purely by accident," she went on, relating the
story.

Morse chewed the end of his cigar.

"Now what're you going to do?" demanded Molly presently.

Jordan threw away his cigar and thrust his hands deep into his
pockets, stretching out a pair of long legs. There he sat considering
the tips of his boots in silence.

"I've got to think, and think quick," he broke out suddenly. "My God!
I might have known she didn't belong in that cobbler's shop.... I'll
go now.... Don't mention this to Theo."

As he was leaving, he said with curling lip:

"I guess now you know my prospects you won't be so stingy. I'll have
to have money to carry this through."

"All right," said Molly.

When she was alone, Molly's anger decreased. She had an ally now worth
having. She smiled delicately as she passed up the stairs to her room,
and the smile was brought to her lips because she remembered having
begged Jordan to help her in this matter several times before. Then he
had had no incentive, but to-day----Ah, now he would give her a
divorce quietly! The social world in which she hoped to move would
know nothing of her youthful indiscretion.

                  *       *       *       *       *

That night Jinnie and Peg were bending anxiously over a basket near
the kitchen stove. All that human hands and hearts could do had been
done for the suffering barn-cat. He had given no sign of
consciousness, his breath coming and going in long, deep gasps.

"He'll die, won't he, Peg?" asked Jinnie, sorrowfully.

"Yes, sure. An' it'll be better for the beast, too." Peg said this
tempestuously.

"I'd like to have him live," replied Jinnie. "Milly Ann mightn't love
him, but she got used to Happy Pete, didn't she?"

"This feller," assured Peggy, wagging her head, "won't get used to
anything more on this earth."

"Poor kitty," mourned Jinnie.

She was thinking of the beautiful world, the trees and the flowers,
and the wonderful songs of nature amidst which the dying animal had
existed.

"I hope he'll go to some nice place," she observed sadly, walking away
from Mrs. Grandoken.

Later, after cogitating deeply, Jinnie expressed herself to the
cobbler.

"Lafe, Lafe dear," she said, "it's all true you told me, ain't it?...
All about the angels and God?... The poor kitty's suffering awful.
He's got the Christ too, hasn't he, Lafe?"

The man looked into the agonized young face.

"Yes, child," he replied reverently, "he's got the Christ too, same's
you an' me. God's in everything. He loves 'em all."

That night the girl sat unusually long with paper and pencil. Just
before going to bed she placed a paper on the cobbler's knee.

"I wrote that hurt kitty some poetry," she said shyly.

Lafe settled his spectacles on his nose, picked up the sheet, and
read:

        "I'm nobody's cat and I've been here so long,
          In this world of sorrow and pain,
        I've no father nor mother nor home in this place,
          And must always stay out in the rain.

        "Hot dish water, stones at me have been thrown,
          And one of my hind legs is lame;
        No wonder I run when I know the boys
          Come to see if I'm tame.

        "I've a friend in the country, and he's nobody's dog,
          And his burdens're heavy as mine,
        He told me one day the boys had once tied
          A tin can to his tail with a line.

        "Now they talk in the churches of God and his Son,
          Of Paradise, Heaven and Hell;
        Of a Savior who came on earth for mankind,
          And for His children all should be well.

        "Now I'd like to know if God didn't make me,
          And cause me to live and all that?
        I believe there's a place for nobody's child,
          And also for nobody's cat."

Mr. Grandoken lifted misty eyes.

"It's fine," he said, "an' every word true!... Every single word."

The next morning Jinnie went to the basket behind the stove. The cat
was dead,--dead, in the same position in which she had left him the
night before, and close to his nose was the meat Peggy had tried to
entice him to eat. She lifted the basket and carried it into the
shop.

"Poor little feller," said Lafe. "I 'spose you'll have to bury him,
lass."

Bobbie edged forward, and felt for Jinnie's fingers.

"Bury him on the hill, dearie, where you found me," he whispered.
"It's lovely there, and he can see my stars."

"All right," replied Jinnie, dropping her hand on the boy's golden
head.

That afternoon, just before the funeral, Jinnie stood quietly in front
of the cobbler.

"Lafe," she said, looking at him appealingly, "the kitty's happy even
if he is dead, isn't he?"

"Sure," replied Lafe. "His angels've got charge of him, all right."

"I was wondering something," ventured the girl, thoughtfully.
"Couldn't we take him in the 'Happy in Spite'?... Eh, Lafe?"

Lake looked at her in surprise.

"I never thought of takin' anything dead in the club," said he
dubiously.

"But he's happy, you said, Lafe?"

"He's happy enough, yes, sure!"

"Then let's take him in," repeated Jinnie eagerly.

"Let's take 'im in, cobbler," breathed Bobbie, pressing forward. "He
wants to come in."

They lifted the cover of the basket, and there in quietude the
barn-cat was sleeping his long last sleep.

Jinnie lifted one of the stiff little paws, and placed it in Lafe's
fingers. The cobbler shook it tenderly.

"You're in the club, sir," said he in a thick, choked voice. Then
Jinnie and Bobbie, carrying their precious dead comrade, started for
the hill.



CHAPTER XXIV

"HE MIGHT EVEN MARRY HER"


"I don't see why you must have her out of the way entirely," hesitated
Molly Merriweather, looking up into Jordan Morse's face. "Couldn't you
send her to some girls' place?"

"Now you don't know anything about it, Molly," answered the man
impatiently. "If she doesn't disappear absolutely, the cobbler and
Theodore'll find her."

"That's so," said Molly, meditatively, "but it seems horrible----"

Morse interrupted her with a sarcastic laugh.

"That's what Theodore would think, and more, too, if he thought any
one was going to harm a hair of the child's head."

Molly flamed red.

"To save her, he might even marry her," Morse went on relentlessly.

Molly gestured negatively.

"He wouldn't. He couldn't!" she cried stormily. She had never
permitted herself to face such a catastrophe save when she was angry.

Jordan Morse contemplated his wife a short space of time.

"I can't understand your falling in love with a man who hasn't
breathed a word of affection for you," he said tentatively.

Molly showed him an angry face.

"You're not a woman, so you can't judge," she replied.

"Thank God for that!" retorted Morse.

"We wouldn't have had any of this trouble," he continued, at length,
"if you'd let me know about the boy. There's no excuse for you,
absolutely none. You know very well I would have come back."

All the softness in the woman turned to hardness.

"How many times," she flamed, "must I tell you I was too angry to
write or beg you to come, Jordan?... I've told you over and over."

"And with all you say, I can't understand it. Are you going to impart
your precious past to Theodore?"

"No," replied Molly, setting her lips.

Presently Morse laughed provokingly.

"How you women do count your chickens before they're hatched! Where
did you get the idea Theodore was going to ask you to marry him?"

"I'll make him," breathed Molly, with confidence.

"Well, go ahead," bantered Morse. "All I ask for releasing you is that
you'll help me rid myself of my beautiful niece, Virginia, at the same
time ridding yourself, my lady, and give me my boy when we find him."

His tones in the first part of the speech were mocking, but Molly
noted when he said "boy" his voice softened. She looked at him
wonderingly. What a strange mixture of good and evil he was! When he
got up to leave, she was not sorry. She watched him stride away with a
deep sigh of relief.

She was still sitting in the summer house when Theodore King swung his
motor through the gate and drew up before the porch. He jumped out,
wiped his face, saw Molly, and smiled.

"Well, it's cool here," he said, walking toward her.

"Yes," said Molly. "Come and sit down a minute."

Theodore looked doubtfully at the house.

"I really ought to do some writing, but I'll sit a while if you like.
I passed Jordan on the way home."

Molly nodded, and Theodore quizzed her with laughing eyes.

"Isn't he coming pretty often?" he asked. "Jordan's got prospects,
Molly! If his niece isn't found, you know, he'll have a fortune....
Better set your cap for him."

Molly blushed under his words, trying not to show her resentment. Was
Theodore a perfect fool? Couldn't he see she desired no one but
himself, and him alone?

"Jordan doesn't care for me that way," she observed with dignity, "and
I don't care for him."

Theodore flicked an ash from his cigar.

"I think you're mistaken, Molly--I mean as far as he is concerned."

"I'm not! Of course, I'm not! Oh, Theodore, I've been wanting to ask
you something for a long time. I do want to go back home for a day....
Would you take me?"

Theodore eyed her through wreaths of blue smoke.

"Well, I might," he hesitated, "but hadn't you better ask Jordan? I'm
afraid he wouldn't like me----"

Molly got up so quickly that Theodore, surprised, got up too.

"I don't want Jordan, and I do want you," she said emphatically. "Of
course if you don't care to go----"

"On the contrary," interrupted Theodore, good-naturedly, "I would
really like it.... Yes, I'll go all right.... I have a reason for
going."

Molly's whole demeanor changed. She gave a musical laugh. He could
have but one reason, and she felt she knew that reason! What a
handsome dear he was, and how she loved the whole bigness of him!

As she turned to walk away, Theodore fell in at her side, suiting his
steps to hers.

"Mind you, Molly, any day you say but Saturday."

"Why not Saturday?" asked Molly, pouting. "I might want you then!"

Unsuspecting, Mr. King explained.

"The fact is, Saturday I've planned to go on the hill. You remember
Grandoken's niece? I want to find out how she's progressing in her
music."

If Theodore had been watching Molly's face, he would have noted how
its expression changed darkly. But, humming a tune, he went into the
house unconcernedly, and Molly recognized the rhythm as one Jinnie had
played that night long ago with Peg Grandoken's lace curtains draped
about her.

Jinnie's youth, her bright blue eyes, her wonderful talent, Molly
hated, and hated cordially. Then she decided Theodore should go with
her Saturday.

That evening when Jordan Morse came in, Molly told him she would help
him in any scheme to get Jinnie away from Bellaire.

"You're beginning to understand he likes her pretty much, eh?" asked
the man rudely.

Molly wouldn't admit this, but she replied simply:

"I don't want her around. That's all! As long as she's in Bellaire,
the Kings'll always have her here with her fiddle."

"Some fiddle," monotoned Jordan.

"It's the violin that attracts Theodore," hesitated Molly.

"And her blue eyes," interrupted Jordan, smiling widely.

"Her talent, you mean," corrected Molly.

"And her curls," laughed Morse. "I swear if she wasn't a relation of
mine I'd marry the kid myself. She's a beauty!... She's got you
skinned to death."

"You needn't be insulting, Jordan," admonished Molly, flushing.

"It's the truth, though. That's where the rub comes. You can't wool
me, Molly. If she were hideous, you wouldn't worry at all.... Why, I
know seven or eight girls right here in Bellaire who'd give their eye
teeth and wear store ones to get Theodore to look at 'em crosseyed....
Lord, what fools women are!"

Molly left him angrily, and Morse, shrugging his shoulders, strolled
on through the trees. Not far from the house he met Theodore, and they
wandered on together, smoking in silence. Morse suddenly developed an
idea. Why shouldn't he sound King about Jinnie? Accordingly, he began
with:

"That's a wonderful girl, Grandoken's niece."

This topic was one Theodore loved to speak of, to dream so, so he said
impetuously:

"She is indeed. I only wish I could get her away from Paradise Road."

Morse turned curious eyes on his friend.

"Why?"

"Well, I don't think it's any place for an impressionable young girl
like her."

"She's living with Jews, too, isn't she?"

"Yes, but good people," Theodore replied. "I want her to go away to
school. I'd be willing to pay her expenses----"

Morse flung around upon him.

"Send her away to school? You?"

"Yes. Why not? Wouldn't it be a good piece of charity work? She's the
most talented girl I ever saw."

"And the prettiest," Jordan cut in.

"By far the prettiest," answered King without hesitation.

His voice was full of feeling, and Jordan Morse needed no more to tell
him plainly that Theodore loved Jinnie Grandoken. A sudden chill
clutched at his heart. If King ever took Jinnie under his protection,
his own plans would count for nothing. He went home that night
disgusted with himself for having stayed away from his home country so
long, angry that Molly had not told him about the baby, and more than
angry with Theodore King.



CHAPTER XXV

WHEN THEODORE FORGOT


For the next few days Jordan Morse turned over in his mind numerous
plans to remove Jinnie from Grandoken's home, but none seemed
feasible. As long as Lafe knew his past and stood like a rock beside
the girl, as long as Theodore King was interested in her, he himself
was powerless to do anything. How to get both the cobbler and his
niece out of the way was a problem which continually worried him.

He mentioned his anxiety to Molly, asking her if by any means she
could help him.

"I did tell her I'd write to you," said Molly.

Morse's face fell.

"She's a stubborn little piece," he declared presently. "Theo's in
love with her all right."

"You don't really mean that!" stammered Molly, her heart thumping.

"Perhaps not very seriously, but such deep interest as his must come
from something more than just the girl's talent. He spoke about
sending her away to school."

"He shan't," cried Molly, infuriated.

Morse's rehearsal of Theodore's suggestion was like goads in her
soul.

"If she'd go," went on the man, "nothing you or I could do would stop
him. The only way----"

Molly whirled upon him abruptly.

"I'll help you, Jordan, I will.... Anything, any way to keep him from
her."

They were both startled and confused when Theodore came upon them
suddenly with his swinging stride, but before Morse went home, he
whispered to Molly:

"I've thought of something--tell you to-morrow."

That night Molly scarcely slept. The vision of a black-haired girl in
the arms of Theodore King haunted her through her restless dreams, and
the agony was so intense that before the dawn broke over the hill she
made up her mind to help her husband, even to the point of putting
Jinnie out of existence.

That morning Morse approached her with this command:

"You try to get Jinnie to go with you to Mottville. You wouldn't have
to stay but a day or so. There your responsibilities would end....
I'll be there at the same time.... Will you do it, Molly?"

"Yes," said Molly, and her heart began to sing and her eyes to shine.
Her manner to Jordan as he left was more cordial than since his return
from Europe.

At noon time, when Theodore King saw her walking, sweetly cool, under
the trees, he joined her. Molly had donned the dress he had
complimented most, and as he approached her, she lifted a shy gaze to
his.

"You couldn't take me to-morrow, you're sure?" she begged, her voice
low, deep and appealingly resonant.

Theodore hesitated. Being naturally chivalrous and kindly, he disliked
to refuse, but he had already sent a note to Jinnie to meet him at the
master's Saturday, and it went against his inclination to break that
appointment.

"I don't see how I can," he replied thoughtfully, "but choose any day
next week, and we'll make a real picnic of it."

"I'm so disappointed," Molly murmured sadly. "I wanted to go Saturday.
But of course----"

"I'll see if I can arrange it," he assured her. "Possibly I might go
up to hear her play to-day.... I'll see.... Later I'll 'phone you."

Leaving the house, he headed his car toward the lower end of the town.
He was glad of an excuse to go to Paradise Road. Lafe smiled through
the window at him, and he entered the shop at the cobbler's cordial,
"Come in!"

"I suppose you want Jinnie, eh?" asked Lafe.

"Yes. I'll detain her only a moment."

Bobbie got up from the floor where he was playing soldiers with tacks
and nails.

"Boy'll call Jinnie," said he, moving forward.

The two men watched the slender blind child feel his way to the door.

"Bobbie loves to take a part in things," explained Lafe. "Poor little
fellow!"

"Is he hopelessly blind?" asked Theodore.

"Yes, yes," and Lafe sighed. "I sent him once by Peg to ask a big eye
specialist. He's a good little shaver, but his heart's awful weak. You
wouldn't think he's almost eleven, would you?"

Theodore shook his head, shocked.

"It isn't possible!" he exclaimed.

"He ain't growed much since he come here over two years ago. Jinnie
can carry him in one arm."

"Poor child!" said Theodore sympathetically.

Just then Jinnie came into the room shyly. Bobbie had excitedly
whispered to her that "the beautiful big man with the nice hands"
wanted her. She hesitated at the sight of Mr. King, but advanced as
Lafe held out his hand to her.

Before Theodore could explain, she had told him:

"The master isn't giving me a lesson to-day, but he will to-morrow
because you're coming."

With pride in her voice, she said it radiantly, the color mantling
high in her cheeks. Molly's importunate insistence escaped Theodore's
mind. When with Jinnie, ordinary matters generally did fade away.

"I'm very glad," he replied. "I hope you've progressed a lot."

"She has, sir, she sure has," Lafe put in. "You'll be surprised! How
long since you've heard her play?"

"A long time," answered Theodore, and still forgetting Molly, he went
on, "I wonder if you'd like to come to the house to-morrow to dinner
and play for us. My mother was speaking about how much she'd enjoy it
only a short time ago."

Jinnie's eyes sparkled.

"I should love to come," she answered gladly.

He rose to go, taking her hand.

"Then I'll send the car for you," he promised her.

He was sitting at his office desk when Molly the Merry once more came
into his mind. An ejaculation escaped his lips, and he made a wry
face. Then, in comparison, Jinnie, with all her sparkling youth, rose
triumphant before him. He loved the child, for a child she still
seemed to him. To tell her now of his affection might harm her work.
He would wait! She was so young, so very young.

For a long time he sat thinking and dreaming of the future, and into
the quiet of his office he brought, in brilliant vision, a radiant,
raven-haired woman--his ideal--his Jinnie. Suddenly again he
remembered his promise to Molly and slowly took down the telephone.
Then deliberately he replaced it. It would be easier to explain the
circumstances face to face with her, and no doubt entered his mind but
that the woman would be satisfied and very glad that Jinnie was
coming with her violin to play for them. Molly wouldn't mind
postponing her trip for a few days.

Molly was reclining as usual in the hammock with a book in her hand
when he ran up the steps.

"Molly," he began, going to her quickly, "I want to confess."

"Confess?" she repeated, sitting up.

"Yes, it's this way: When I went out this morning I felt sure I could
arrange about to-morrow.... But what do you think?"

Miss Merriweather put down the book, stood up, her hand over her
heart.

"I can't guess," she breathed.

"Well, I went to Grandoken's----"

"You could have sent a note," Molly cut in.

Theodore looked at her curiously.

"I could, but I didn't. I wanted Jinnie to understand----"

His voice vibrated deeply when he spoke that name, and the listener's
love-laden ears caught the change immediately.

"Well?" she murmured in question.

"When I got there and saw her, I forgot about Saturday. Before I had a
chance, she told me she wasn't going to the master's to-day. Then
without another thought----"

"Well?" interviewed Molly with widening eyes.

"Pardon me, Molly," Theodore said tactlessly, "for forgetting you--you
will, won't you? I asked her to play here to-morrow night."

Molly felt the structure of her whole world tumbling down about her
ears. He had forgotten her for that girl, that jade in Paradise Road,
the girl who stood between her and all her hopes. She took one step
forward and forgot, her dignity, forgot everything but his stinging
insult.

"How dared you?" she uttered hoarsely. Her voice grew thin as it
raised to the point of a question.

"Dare!" echoed Theodore, his expression changing.

Molly went nearer him with angry, sparkling eyes.

"Yes, how dared you ask that girl to come here when I dislike her? You
know how I hate her----"

Mr. King tossed his cigar into the grass, gravity settling on his
countenance.

"I hadn't the slightest idea you disliked her," he said.

Molly eagerly advanced into the space between them.

"She is trying to gain some sort of influence over you, Theo, just the
same as she got over that Jewish cobbler."

Theodore King gazed in amazement at the reddening, beautiful face.
Surely he had not heard aright. Had she really made vile charges
against the girl? To implicate Jinnie with a thought of conspiracy
brought hot blood about his temples. He wouldn't stand that even from
an old-time friend. Of course he liked Molly very much, yes, very much
indeed, but this new antagonistic spirit in her----

"What's the matter with you, Molly?" he demanded abruptly. "You
haven't any reason to speak of the child that way."

"The child!" sneered Molly. "Why, she's a little river rat--a bold,
nasty----"

Theodore King raised his great shoulders, throwing back his closely
cropped head. Then he sprang to refute the terrible aspersion against
the girl he loved.

"Stop!" he commanded in a harsh voice, leaning over the panting woman.
"And now I'll ask you how _you_ dare?" he finished.

Molly answered him bravely, catching her breath in a sob.

"I dare because I'm a woman.... I dare because I know what she's
doing. If she hadn't played her cards well, you'd never've paid any
attention to her at all.... No one can make me believe you would have
been interested in a--in a----"

The man literally whirled from the porch, bounded into the motor,
turned the wheel, and shot rapidly away.



CHAPTER XXVI

MOLLY ASKS TO BE FORGIVEN


All the evening Molly waited in despair. She dared not appear at
dinner and arose the next morning after a sleepless night. For two or
three hours she hovered about the telephone, hoping for word from
Theodore. He would certainly 'phone her. He would tell her he was
sorry for the way he had left her, for the way he had spoken to her.
Even his mother noticed her pale face and extreme nervousness.

"What is it, dear?" asked Mrs. King, solicitously.

"Nothing, nothing--much," answered Molly evasively.

Mrs. King hesitated before she ventured, "I thought I heard you and
Theo talking excitedly last night. Molly, you musn't quarrel with
him.... You know the wish of my heart.... I need you, child, and so
does he."

Miss Merriweather knelt beside the gentle woman.

"He doesn't care for me, dear!" she whispered.

For an instant she was impelled to speak of Jinnie, but realizing what
a tremendous influence Theodore had over his mother, she dared not.
Like her handsome son, Mrs. King worshipped genius, and Molly
reluctantly admitted to herself that the girl possessed it.

"He's young yet," sighed the mother, "and he's always so sweet to you,
Molly. Some day he'll wake up.... There, there, dearie, don't cry!"

"I'm so unhappy," sobbed Molly.

Mrs. King smoothed the golden head tenderly.

"Why, child, he can't help but love you," she insisted. "He knows how
much I depend on you.... I'd have had you with me long before if your
father hadn't needed you.... Shall I speak to Theodore?"

"No, no----" gasped Molly, and she ran from the room.

Under the tall trees she paced for many minutes. How could she wait
until dinner--until he came home? She felt her pride ebbing away as
she watched the sun cross the sky. The minutes seemed hours long.
Molly went swiftly into the house. First assuring herself no one was
within hearing distance, she paused before the telephone, longing, yet
scarcely daring to use it. Then she took off the receiver and called
Theodore's number. His voice, deep, low and thrilling, answered her.

"It's I, Theo," she said faintly.... "Molly."

"Yes," he answered, but that was all.

He gave her no encouragement, no opening, but in desperation she
uttered,

"Theodore, I'm sorry!... Oh, I'm so sorry!... Won't you forgive me?"

There was silence on the wire for an appreciable length of time.

"Theodore?" murmured Molly once more.

"Yes."

"I want you to forgive me.... I couldn't wait until you came home."

She heard a slight cough, then came the reply.

"I can't control your thoughts, Molly, but I dislike to have my
friends illy spoken of."

"I know! I know it, Theodore! But please forgive me, won't you?"

"Very well," answered Theodore, and he clicked off the 'phone.

Molly dropped her face into her hands.

"He hung the receiver up in my ear," she muttered. "How cruel, how
terrible of him!"

It was a wan, beautiful face that turned up to Theodore King when he
came home to dinner. Too kindly by nature to hurt any one, he smiled
at Molly. Then he stopped and held out his hand. The woman took it,
saying earnestly:

"I'm sorry, Theo.... I'm very sorry. I think I'm a little cat, don't
you?" and she laughed, the tension lifted from her by his cordiality.

There was a wholesomeness in her manner that made Theodore's heart
glad.

"Of course not, Molly!... You couldn't be that!... And next week we
will have a lovely day in the country."

Molly turned away sadly. She had hoped he would do as she wanted him
to in spite of his appointment with Jinnie Grandoken.

That evening Jinnie wore a beautiful new dress when she started for
the Kings. Of course she didn't know that Theodore had arranged with
Peggy to purchase it, and when Mrs. Grandoken had told her to come
along and buy the gown, Jinnie's eyes sparkled, but she shook her
head.

"I'd rather you'd spend the money on Lafe and Bobbie," she said.

But Peggy replied, "No," and that's how it came that Jinnie stepped
quite proudly from the motor car at the stone steps.

Molly Merriweather met her with a forced smile, and Jinnie felt
strained until Theodore King's genial greeting dissipated the affront.
After the dinner, through which she sat very much embarrassed, she
played until, to the man watching her, it seemed as if the very roof
would lift from the house and sail off into the Heavens.

When Jinnie was ready to go home, standing blushing under the bright
light, she had never looked more lovely. Molly hoped Theo would send
the girl alone in the car with Bennett, but as she saw him put on his
hat, she said, with hesitancy:

"Mayn't I go along?"

She asked the question of Theodore, and realized instantly that he did
not want her.

Jinnie came forward impetuously.

"Oh, do come, Miss Merriweather! It'll be so nice."

And Molly hated the girl more cordially than ever.

On arriving home Jinnie beamed out her happiness to the cobbler and
his wife.

"And the fiddle, Peggy, they loved the fiddle," she told the woman.

"Did you make it, Jinnie?" asked Peggy gruffly.

"What, the fiddle?" demanded Jinnie.

Peggy nodded.

"No," faltered Jinnie in surprise.

"Then don't brag about it," warned Peggy. "If you'd a glued them
boards together, it'd a been something, but as long as you didn't, it
ain't no credit to you."

Lafe laughed, and Jinnie, too, uttered a low, rueful sound. How funny
Peg was! And when Mrs. Grandoken had gone to prepare for the night,
Lafe insisted that Jinnie tell him over and over all the happenings of
the evening. For a long time afterwards she sat dreaming, reminiscing
in sweet fancy every word and smile Theodore had given her.



CHAPTER XXVII

"HAVEN'T YOU ANY SOUL?"


Whenever Molly Merriweather was mentioned to Theodore King, that young
man felt a twinge in his conscience. His mother had taken him gently
to task. Out of respect for Molly's wishes she refrained from speaking
of the girl's affection for him, but cautioned him to be careful not
to offend her companion.

"She's very sensitive, you know, Theodore dear, and very good to me. I
really don't know what I'd do without her."

"I was thoughtless!... I'll do better, mother mine," he smiled. "I'll
go to her now and tell her so."

Theodore found Molly writing a letter in the library. He sank into an
easy chair and yawned good-naturedly. The woman was still furious with
him, so merely lifted her eyes at his entrance, and went on writing.
Theodore was quiet for a few moments, then with a laugh went to the
desk and took the pen forcibly from Molly's hand.

"Come and make up," he said.

"Have we anything to make up?" she asked languidly, keeping her eyes
on the paper.

"Of course we have. You know very well, Molly, you're angry with
me.... Now mother says----"

She caught his bantering tone, and resenting it, drew her fingers away
haughtily.

"You learn good manners from your mother, it seems."

Her tone was insolent and angered him. Theodore returned quickly to
his chair.

"No, I don't," he denied. "You know I don't! But before you asked me
to go with you Saturday, I told you I had an appointment----"

"Yes, and you told me who it was with, too," Molly thrust back in his
teeth.

"Exactly, because there's no reason why I shouldn't. I've taken an
extreme interest in the little girl.... You offended me by talking
against her."

Molly's temper was rising by the minute. She had armored herself with
a statement, the truth of which she would force upon him.

"I'm not sure I said anything that wasn't true," she returned
discourteously.

Theodore leaned back in his chair.

"Then you didn't mean it when you said you were sorry?" he demanded
shortly.

"I wanted you to go with me, that's all."

"And you took that way to make me. Was that it?"

Molly picked up her pen and made a few marks with it.

"I'm not interested in Miss Grandoken," she replied.

"So I notice," retorted Theodore, provokingly.

She turned around upon him with angry, sparkling eyes.

"I think you've a lot of nerve to bring her into your home."

She hazarded this without thought of consequences.

"What do you mean?" he asked presently, searching her face with an
analytical gaze.

Molly was wrought up to the point of invention, perhaps because she
was madly jealous.

"Men generally keep that sort of a woman to themselves," she
explained. "A home is usually sacred to the ordinary man."

Theodore was stung to silence. It was a bitter fling, and his thoughts
worked rapidly. It took a long moment for his tall figure to get up
from the chair.

"Just what _do_ you mean?" he demanded, thrusting his hands into his
pockets.

"I don't believe I need tell you any more," she answered.

Theodore stood in the middle of the room as if turned to stone.

"I'm dense, I guess," he admitted huskily.

Angered beyond reason or self-control, Molly pushed the letter away
impatiently and stood up.

"Well, if you're so terribly dense, then listen. No man is ever
interested in a girl like that unless she is something more to him
than a mere----" She broke off, because a dark red flush was spreading
in hot waves over the man's face. But bravely she proceeded, "Of
course you wouldn't insult your family and your friends by marrying
her. Then what conclusion do you want them to draw?"

Theodore looked at her as if she'd suddenly lost her senses. She had
cast an aspersion upon the best little soul in God's created world.

"Well, of all the villainous insinuations I ever heard!" he thundered
harshly. "My God, woman! Haven't you any soul ... any decency about
you?"

The question leaped out of a throat tense with uncontrollable rage. It
was couched in language never used to her before, and caused the woman
to stagger back. She was about to demand an apology, when Theodore
flung out of the room and banged the door behind him.

Molly sat down quickly. Humiliating, angry tears flowed down her
cheeks and she made no effort to restrain them. What cared she that
Theodore had repudiated her accusation? She felt she had discovered
the truth, and nothing more need be said about it.

After growing a little calmer, she saw that she'd made another mistake
by enraging Theodore. He had not taken her insults against the girl as
she had expected.

Half an hour later she called his office and was informed he was out.

Theodore left Molly more angry than he'd ever been in his life.
Instead of making him think less of Jinnie, Molly's aspersions drew
him more tenderly toward the girl. As he strode through the road under
the trees, his heart burned to see her. He looked at his watch--it was
four o'clock. Jinnie had had her lesson in the morning, so he could
not call for her at the master's. Just then he saw her walking quickly
along the street, and she lifted shy, glad eyes as he spoke her name.
By this time his temper had cooled, yet there lingered in his heart
the stabbing hurt brought there by Molly's slurs. He felt as if in
some way he owed an apology to Jinnie; as if he must make up for harm
done her by a vile, gossiping tongue.

He fell into step beside her and gently took the violin box from her
hand.

"And how is my little friend to-day?" he asked.

His voice, unusually musical, made Jinnie spontaneously draw a little
nearer him.

"I'm very well," she returned, demurely, "and I've learned some very
lovely things. I went up twice to-day--sometimes the master makes me
come back in the afternoon."

It eased his offended dignity to see her so happy, so vividly lovely.
He had gone to Molly with the intention of asking her to go with him
some day soon to Mottville. He thought of this now with a grim setting
of his teeth; but looking at Jinnie, an idea more to his liking came
in its place. He would take _her_ somewhere for a day. She needed just
such a day to make her color a little brighter, although as he
glanced at her again, he had to admit she was rosy enough.
Nevertheless a great desire came over him to ask her; so when they had
almost reached the cobbler's shop, he said:

"How would a nice holiday suit you?"

Jinnie looked up into his face, startled.

"What do you mean by a holiday? Not to take lessons?"

Theodore caught her thought, and laughed.

"Oh, no, not that! But I was thinking if you would go with me into the
country----"

"For a whole day?" gasped Jinnie, stopping point blank.

"Yes, for a whole day," replied Theodore, smiling.

"Oh, I couldn't go. I couldn't."

"Why?... Don't you want to?"

Of course she wanted to go. Jinnie felt that if she knew she was going
with him, she'd fly to the sky and back again.

"Yes," she murmured. "I'd like to go, but I couldn't--for lots of
reasons!... Lafe wouldn't let me for one, and then Bobbie needs me
awfully."

They started on, and Jinnie could see Lafe's window, but not the
cobbler himself.

"But I'd bring you back at dusk," Theodore assured her, "and you'd be
happy----"

"Happy! Happy!" she breathed, with melting eyes. "I'd be more'n happy,
but I can't go."

Theodore raised his hat quickly and left her without another word.



CHAPTER XXVIII

JINNIE DECIDES AGAINST THEODORE


Now for a few days Theodore King had had in mind a plan which, as he
contemplated it, gave him great delight. He had decided to send Jinnie
Grandoken away to school, to a school where she would learn the many
things he considered necessary.

So one morning at Jinnie's lesson hour he appeared at the cobbler's
shop and was received by Lafe with his usual grave smile.

"Jinnie's at the master's," said Mr. Grandoken, excusing the girl's
absence.

"Yes, I know. The fact is, I wanted to talk with you and Mrs.
Grandoken."

Lafe looked at him critically.

"Bobsie," said he to the blind boy, "call Peggy, will you?"

When the woman and child came in hand in hand, Peggy bowed awkwardly
to Mr. King. Somehow, when this young man appeared with his
aristocratic manner and his genial, friendly advances, she was always
embarrassed.

Theodore cleared his throat.

"For some time," he began, "I've had in mind a little plan for Miss
Jinnie, and I do hope you'll concur with me in it."

He glanced from the cobbler to his wife, and Lafe replied,

"You've been too kind already, Mr. King----"

"It isn't a question of kindness, my dear Mr. Grandoken. As I've told
you before, I'm very much interested in your niece."

Bobbie slipped from Mrs. Grandoken and went close to the speaker.

"She's my Jinnie," breathed the boy with a saintly smile.

Theodore laughed.

"Yes, I know that, my lad, but you want her to be happy, don't you?"

"She is happy," interjected Lafe, trembling.

"You might tell us your plan," broke in Peg sourly, who always desired
to get the worst over quickly.

"Well, it is to send her away to school for a few years."

Bobbie gave a little cry and staggered to Peg, holding out his hands.
She picked him up, with bitterness depicted in her face. But when she
looked at her husband she was shocked, for he was leaning against the
wall, breathing deeply.

"I knew the thought of letting her go would affect you, Mr.
Grandoken," soothed Theodore. "That's why I came alone. Jinnie's so
tender-hearted I feared the sight of your first grief might cause her
to refuse."

"Does she know you was goin' to ask us this?" demanded Peg
suspiciously.

Mr. King shook his head.

"Of course not! If she had, she and I would have asked it together."

"God bless 'er!" murmured Lafe. "You see it's like this, sir: Peg and
me don't want to stand in her light."

"I won't let my Jinnie go," sighed Bobbie. "I haven't any stars when
she's gone."

"The poor child's devoted to her," excused Lafe. "That's what makes
him act so about it."

Theodore's sympathy forced him to his feet.

"So I see," said he. "Come here, young man! I want to talk to you a
minute."

Reluctantly Bobbie left Mrs. Grandoken, and Theodore, sitting again,
took him on his knee.

"Now, Bobbie, look at me."

Bobbie turned up a wry, tearful face.

"I've got my eyes on you, sir," he wriggled.

"That's right! Don't you want your Jinnie to learn a lot of things and
be a fine young lady?"

"She is a fine young lady now," mumbled Bobbie stubbornly, "and she's
awful pretty."

"True," acquiesced Theodore, much amused, "but she must study a lot
more."

"Lafe could learn her things," argued Bobbie, sitting up very
straight. "Lafe knows everything."

Mr. King smiled and glanced at the cobbler, but Lafe's face was so
drawn and white that Theodore looked away again. He couldn't make it
seem right that he should bring about such sorrow as this, yet the
thought of Jinnie and what he wanted her to be proved a greater
argument with him than the grief of her family.

"I've told you, sir," Lafe repeated, "and I say again, my wife and me
don't want to stand in our girl's light. She'll decide when she comes
home."

Theodore got up, placing Bobbie on his feet beside him.

"I hope she'll think favorably of my idea, then," said he, "and
to-morrow I'll see her and make some final arrangements."

After he had gone, Peggy and Lafe sat for a long time without a word.

"Go to the kitchen, Bobbie," said Mrs. Grandoken presently, "and give
Happy Pete a bit of meat."

The boy paused in his stumbling way to the kitchen.

"I don't want my Jinnie to go away," he mumbled.

When the door closed on the blind child, Peggy shook her shoulders
disdainfully.

"She'll go, of course," she sneered.

"An' we can't blame 'er if she does, Peg," answered Lafe sadly. "She's
young yet, an' such a chance ain't comin' every day."

The woman got heavily to her feet.

"I hate 'er, but the house's dead when she ain't in it," and she went
rapidly into the other room.

Jinnie came into the shop wearily, but one look at the cobbler brought
her to a standstill. She didn't wait to take off her hat before going
directly to him.

"Lafe--Lafe dear, you're sick. Why, honey dear----"

"I ain't very well, Jinnie darlin'. Would you mind askin' Peggy to
come in a minute?"

Mrs. Grandoken looked up as the girl came in.

"Lafe wants you, Peg. He's sick, isn't he? What happened to him,
Peggy?"

Bobbie uttered a whining cry.

"Jinnie," he called, "Jinnie, come here!"

Peg pushed the girl back into the little hall.

"You shut up, Bobbie," she ordered, "and sit there! Jinnie'll come
back in a minute."

Then the speaker shoved the girl ahead of her into the shop and stood
with her arms folded, austerely silent.

"I want to know what's the matter," insisted Jinnie.

"You tell 'er, Peg. I just couldn't," whispered Lafe.

Mrs. Grandoken drew a deep breath and ground her teeth.

"You've got to go away, kid," she began tersely, dropping into a
chair.

Jinnie blanched in fright.

"My uncle!" she exclaimed, growing weak-kneed.

"No such thing," snapped Peg. "You're goin' to a fine school an' learn
how to be a elegant young lady."

"Who said so?" flashed Jinnie.

"Mr. King," cut in Lafe.

Then Jinnie understood, and she laughed hysterically. For one blessed
single moment her woman's heart told her that Theodore would not be so
eager for her welfare if he didn't love her.

"Was that what made your tears, Lafe?"

Her eyes glistened as she uttered the question.

Lafe nodded.

"And what made Bobbie cry so loud?"

"Yes."

"Was Mr. King here?"

"Sure," said Peg.

"And he said I was to go away to school, eh?"

"Yes," repeated Peg, "an' of course you'll go."

Jinnie went forward and placed a slender hand on Lafe's shoulder. Then
she faced Mrs. Grandoken.

"Didn't you both know me well enough to tell him I wouldn't go for
anything in the world?"

If a bomb had been placed under Mrs. Grandoken's chair, she wouldn't
have jumped up any more quickly, and she flung out of the door before
Jinnie could stop her. Then the girl wound her arms about the
cobbler's neck.

"I wouldn't leave you, dear, not for any school on earth," she
whispered. "Now I'm going to tell Mr. King so."

Jinnie sped along Paradise Road and into the nearest drug store. It
took her a few minutes to find Theodore's number, and when she took
off the receiver, she had not the remotest idea how to word her
refusal. She only remembered Lafe's sad face and Bobbie's sharp,
agonizing calling of her name.

"I want to speak to Mr. King," she said in answer to a strange voice
at the other end of the wire.

Her voice was so low that a sharp reply came back.

"Who'd you want?"

"Theodore King."

She waited a minute and then another voice, a voice she knew and
loved, said,

"This is Mr. King!"

"I'm Jinnie Grandoken," Theodore heard. "I wanted to tell you I
wouldn't go away from home ever; no, never! I wouldn't; I couldn't!"

"Don't you want to study?" Mr. King asked eagerly.

Jinnie shook her head as if she were face to face with him.

"I'm studying all the time," she said brokenly, "and I can't go away
now. If they couldn't spare me one day, they couldn't all the time."

"Then I suppose that settles it," was the reluctant reply. "I hoped
you'd be pleased, but never mind! I'll see you very soon."

"I told him!" said Jinnie, facing the cobbler. "Now, Lafe, don't ever
think I'm going away, because I'm not. I've got some plans of my own
for us all when I'm eighteen. Till then I stay right here."

At dinner Peg cut off a very large piece of meat and flung it on
Jinnie's plate.

"I suppose you're plumin' yourself because you didn't go to school;
but you needn't, 'cause nothin' could drag you from this shop, an'
there's my word for it." Then she glanced at Lafe, and ended, "If 'er
leg was nailed to your bench, she wouldn't be any tighter here. Now
eat, all of you, an' keep your mouths shut."



CHAPTER XXIX

PEG'S VISIT


One morning Bobbie sat down gravely some distance from Lafe, took up
one of Milly Ann's kittens, and fell into troubled thought. After
permitting him to be silent a few moments, the cobbler remarked,

"Anything on your mind, comrade?"

"Yes," said Bobbie, sighing.

"Can't you tell a feller what it is?"

Bobbie pushed the kitten from his lap. He crept to the cobbler's side
slowly. Then, as he leaned his golden head against his friend, Lafe's
arm fell about him.

"Tell me, laddie," insisted Mr. Grandoken.

"My stars're all gone out," faltered the boy sadly.

"What made 'em go out, Bob?... Can you tell?"

"Yes," blubbered Bobbie. "I guess Jinnie's sick, that's what's the
matter."

"Sick?" asked Lafe, in a startled voice. "Who said so?... Did she?"

Bobbie shook his head.

"No, but I know!... She cried last night, and other nights too."

Lafe considered a moment.

"I'm glad you told me, Bob," he said, knocking the ashes from his
pipe.

Jinnie left the master's home with lagging footsteps. The idea of
going away to school had not appealed to her, but never in all her
life had she been so tempted to do anything as to go with Theodore for
one blessed day in the country--but a whole day from home could not be
thought of.

The cobbler saw her crossing the tracks, and after the daily salute,
she came on with bent head. He watched her closely during the evening
meal and gave Bobbie credit for discovering the truth. After Peg had
wheeled him back to the shop and he was alone with Jinnie, Lafe called
her to him.

"Bring the stool," said he, "an' sit here."

Languidly she sank down, resting against him. She was very tired
besides being very unhappy. Lafe placed two fingers under her chin,
lifting her face to his. Her eyes were full of tears, and she no
longer tried to conceal her suffering. The cobbler remained quiet
while she cried softly. At last:

"It's Maudlin Bates, ain't it, darlin'?" he asked.

"No, Lafe."

"Can't you tell your friend what 'tis?"

"I guess I'm crying because I'm foolish, dear," she replied.

"No, that's not true, Jinnie. I feel as bad seeing you cry's if 'twas
Peggy."

This was a compliment, and Jinnie tried to sit up bravely, but a
friendly hand held her close.

"Just begin, an' the rest'll come easy," Lafe insisted.

Jinnie's tongue refused to talk, and of a sudden she grew ashamed and
dropped her scarlet face.

"I don't believe I can tell it, Lafe dear," she got out.

"Something about a man?"

Jinnie nodded.

"Then I got to know! Tell me!" he directed.

His insistence drew forth a tearful confession.

"Before Mr. King spoke about the school, he asked me to go a day in
the country with my fiddle, and I couldn't."

After the telling, she caught her breath and hid her face.

"Why?" Lafe demanded. "Why couldn't you?"

Jinnie raised startled eyes to the cobbler's for the better part of a
minute. What did he mean? Was it possible----

"I thought you wouldn't let me----"

"You didn't ask me, did you, Jinnie?"

"No, because--because----"

"Because why?" Lafe intended to get at the root of the matter.

"Too long from the shop! Bobbie needs me," replied Jinnie.

"I don't think so, child.... The kid'd be all right with me and Peg."

"Lafe?" cried Jinnie, standing up and throwing her arms around him.

"You ought to a told me when he spoke of it, Jinnie. I could a fixed
it."

The cobbler smiled, and then laughed.

Once more on the stool in front of him, Jinnie said:

"I'm afraid Mr. King was a little offended."

"It would a done you a lot of good to get out in the fields----"
chided Lafe.

"And the woods, Lafe. I'd taken my fiddle. He asked me to."

"Sure," replied Lafe.... "Call Peggy."

Mrs. Grandoken, looking from one to the other, noticed Lafe's gravity
and signs of Jinnie's tears.

"What's the matter?" she inquired.

Lafe told her quietly, and finished with his hand on Jinnie's head.

"Our little helper ought to have some fun, Peggy."

Jinnie glanced up. What would Peggy think? But for a few minutes Peg
didn't tell them. Then she said:

"She ought a went, I think, Lafe."

Jinnie got up so quickly that Happy Pete and Milly Ann stirred in
their sleep.

"Oh, Peg, I do want to--but how can I, now I've said I wouldn't?...
How can I?"

"You can't," decided Peg gruffly, and Jinnie dropped down once more at
Lafe's feet.

"I guess you'll have to forget about it, child, an' be 'Happy in
Spite'," said Lafe, with a sigh.

The next day Peggy took Lafe into her confidence.

"I think it could be did," she ended, looking at her husband.

"Mebbe," said Mr. Grandoken thoughtfully.

"I'll do it," snapped Peg, "but I hate 'er, an' you can bang me if
that ain't a fact, but--but I'll go, I said."

About ten o'clock Peggy dressed and went out.

Theodore King was in his office, trying to keep his mind on a line of
figures. Of late work palled on him. He sighed and leaned back
thoughtfully, striking and touching a match to his cigar. Memories of
blue-eyed Jinnie enveloped him in a mental maze. She stood radiant and
beckoning, her exquisite face smiling into his at every turn.

He realized now how much he desired Jinnie Grandoken--and were she
with him at that moment, life could offer him nothing half so sweet.

"I want her always," he said grimly, aloud to himself.

A boy's head appeared at the door.

"Woman to see you, sir," said he.

"Who?"

"Mrs. Grandoken."

"Show her in," and Theodore stood up.

Peggy came in embarrassedly. She had a mission to perform which she
very much disliked.

"Good morning, Mrs. Grandoken," said Theodore, holding out his hand.

"Good morning, sir," said Peg, flushing darkly.

Her tongue clove to the roof of her mouth. How could she state her
errand to this dignified, handsome young man? He was looking at her
questioningly; but that wasn't all--he was smiling encouragingly
also.

"Won't you sit down?" said he.

Peggy coughed, smoothed her mouth with her hand, pulled the thin shawl
more closely about her shoulders, and took the indicated seat. Taking
no time to reflect on the best way to present her case, she blurted
out,

"Lafe didn't know till last night about your askin' Jinnie to go for a
holiday?"

"Oh!"

The man was at a loss to say more than that one word in question.

"No," replied Peggy, "and she's been cryin'----"

"Crying?" ejaculated Theodore. "Crying, you say?"

"Yes," nodded Peggy.

"What'd she cry for?" asked Theodore. "She positively refused to go
with me."

"I know it, but she thought me an' Lafe wouldn't let 'er."

Theodore moved uneasily about the office.

"And would you?" he asked presently.

"Sure," responded Peggy, nodding vigorously. "Sure! Jinnie's been
workin' awful hard for years, an' Lafe'd like you to take 'er. But you
musn't tell 'er I come here."

Saying this, Peggy rose to her feet. She had finished what she had
come to say and was ready to go. Theodore King laughingly thanked her
and shook her heartily by the hand. Then he escorted her to the door,
and she returned to Lafe a little less grim.

It was nearly noon when Jinnie left the master's music room, carrying
her fiddle box. Her teacher noticed she played with less spirit than
usual, but had refrained from mentioning it.

She was coming down the steps when King's car dashed up to the door.
Her meetings with him were always unexpected and found her quite
unprepared for the shock to her emotions.

"I've come to take you home, Jinnie," said Theodore, jumping out.

Jinnie's throat filled, and silently she allowed him to help her to
the seat. They were in the flat of the town before he turned to her.

"I haven't given up my plan to take you away for a day," he said
gently.

Jinnie gulped with joy. He was going to ask her again! Lafe and Peg
had said she could go. She waited for him to proceed, which he did
more gravely.

"When I make up my mind to do a thing, I generally do it. Now which
day shall it be, Jinnie?"

"I guess I'll have to let you tell," whispered Jinnie, which whisper
Theo caught despite the noise of the chugging motor.

"Then, to-morrow," he decided, driving up to the cobbler's shop. "I'll
come for you at nine o'clock.... Look at me, Jinnie."

Slowly she dragged a pair of unfathomable blue eyes to his.

"We're going to be happy for one whole beautiful day, Jinnie," said he
hoarsely.

He helped her out, and neither one spoke again. The motor started
away, and the girl rushed into the shop.

Lafe had just said to Peggy, "There they be! He's been after 'er!"

"Lafe, Lafe dear," Jinnie gurgled. "I'm going with 'im to-morrow. All
day with the birds and flowers! Oh, Peggy dear, I'm so happy!"

Mrs. Grandoken glared at her.

"Ugh! 'S if it matters to me whether you're happy or not!"

Jinnie stooped and smothered Bobbie with caresses. With his arms
tightly about her neck, he purred contentedly,

"My stars're all shinin' bright, Jinnie."

"Kiss me, both of you kids!" was all Lafe said.



CHAPTER XXX

WHAT THE FIDDLE TOLD THEODORE


Jinnie looked very sweet when she bade farewell to Peg and Lafe the
next morning. Mr. King's car was at the door, and the cobbler watched
him as he stepped from it with a monosyllabic greeting to the girl and
helped her to the seat next to his. Peggy, too, was craning her neck
for a better view.

"They're thick as thieves," she said, with a dubious shake of her
head.

"I guess he likes 'er," chuckled Lafe. "To make a long story short,
wife, a sight like that does my eyes good!"

Mrs. Grandoken shrugged her shoulders, growled deep in her throat, and
opined they were all fools.

"An' quit doin' yourself proud, Lafe!" she grumbled. "You're grinnin'
like a Cheshire cat. 'Tain't nothin' to your credit she's goin' to
have the time of her life."

"No, 'tain't to my credit, Peggy," retorted the cobbler, "but 'tis to
yours, wife."

By the time Lafe finished this statement, Mr. King and Jinnie
Grandoken were bowling along a white road toward a hill bounding the
west side of the lake.

"See that basket down here?" said the man after a long silence.

"Yes."

"That's our picnic dinner! I brought everything I thought a little
girl with a sweet tooth might like."

Jinnie had forgotten about food. Her mind had dwelt only upon the fact
she was going to be with him all day, one of those long, beautiful
days taken from Heaven's cycle for dear friends. The country, too,
stretched in majestic splendor miles ahead of them, trees rimming the
road on each side and making a thick woodland as far as one could
see.

"I'm glad I brought my fiddle," Jinnie remarked presently.

"I am, too," said Theodore.

The place he chose for their outing was far back from the highway, and
leaving the car at one side of the road, they threaded their way
together to it. The sky above was very blue, the lake quietly
reflecting its sapphire shades. Off in the distance the high hills
gazed down upon the smaller ones, guarding them in quietude.

Theodore spread one of the auto robes on the ground, and shyly Jinnie
accepted his invitation to be seated.

"Oh, it's lovely," she said in soft monotone, glancing at the lake.

"Yes," replied Theodore dreamily.

His eyes were upon the placid water, his thoughts upon the girl at his
side. Jinnie was thinking of him, too, and there they both sat, with
passionate longing in their young hearts, watching nature's great life
go silently by.

"Play for me," Theodore said at length, without taking his eyes from
the water. "Stand by that big tree so I can look at you."

Flushed, palpitating, and beautiful, Jinnie took the position he
directed. She had come to play for him, to mimic the natural world for
his pleasure.

"Shall I play about the fairies?" she asked bashfully.

"Yes," assented King.

As on that night in his home when first she came into his life in
full sway, the man now imagined he saw creeping from under the flower
petals and from behind the tall trees, the tiny inhabitants of
Jinnie's fairyland. Then he turned his eyes toward her, and as he
watched the lithe young figure, the pensive face lost and rapt in the
lullaby, Theodore came to the greatest decision of his life. He
couldn't live without Jinnie Grandoken! No matter if she was the niece
of a cobbler, no matter who her antecedents were--she was born into
the world for him, and all that was delicate and womanly in her called
out to the manhood in him; and all that was strong, masterful, and
aggressive in him clamored to protect and shield her, and in that
fleeting moment the brilliant young bachelor suddenly lost his hold on
bachelordom, as a boy loses his hold on a kite. There are times in
every human life when such a decision as Theodore then made seemed the
beginning of everything. It was as if the past had wrapped him around
like the grey shell of a cocoon.

A loose lock of hair fell coquettishly from the girl's dark head low
upon the fiddle, and Theodore loved and wanted to kiss it, and when
the instrument dropped from under the dimpled chin, he held out his
hand.

"Come here, Jinnie," he said softly. "Come sit beside me."

She came directly, as she always did when he asked anything of her. He
drew her down close to his side, and for a long time they remained
quiet. Jinnie was facing the acme of joy. The day had only begun, and
she was with the object of her dreams. Just as when she had lived in
the hills the fiddle had held the center of her soul, so now Theodore
King occupied that sacred place. The morning light rose in her eyes,
the blue fire transforming her face.

[Illustration: "PLAY FOR ME," THEODORE SAID. "STAND BY THAT BIG TREE SO I
CAN LOOK AT YOU."]

Theodore turned, saw, and realized at that moment. He discovered in
her what he had long desired. She loved him! All the old longing, all
the strength and passion within him broke loose at the nearness of
her. Suddenly he stretched out his arms and drew her still nearer.
Jinnie felt every muscle of his strongly fibered body grow tense at
her touch. She tried to draw away from his encircling arms, but the
rise and fall of her bosom, girlishly curved--the small-girl shyness
that caused her to endeavor to unloose his strong hands, only goaded
him to press her closer.

"Don't leave me, my dearest, my sweet," he breathed, kissing her lids
and hair. "I love you! I love you!"

She gasped once, twice, and her head fell upon his breast, and for a
moment she lay wrapped in her youthful modesty as in a mantle.

"Kiss me, Jinnie," Theodore murmured entreatingly.

She buried her head closer against him.

"Kiss me," he insisted, drawing her face upward. His lips fell upon
hers, and Jinnie's eyes closed under the magic of her first kiss.

The master-passion of the man brought to sudden life corresponding
emotions in the girl--emotions that hurt and frightened her. She put
her hand to his face, and touched it. He drew back, looking into her
eyes.

"Don't," she breathed. "Don't kiss me any more like--like that."

"But you love me, my girlie, sweet?" he murmured, his lips roving over
her face in dear freedom. "You do!... You do!"

Jinnie's arms went about him, but her tongue refused to speak.

"Kiss me again!" Theodore insisted.

Oh, how she wanted to kiss him once more! How she gloried in the
strong arms, and the handsome face strung tense with his love for her!
Then their lips met in the wonders of a second kiss. Jinnie had
thought the first one could never be equaled, but as she lay limply in
his arms, his lips upon hers, she lost count of everything.

It might have been the weird effect of the shadows, or the deep,
sudden silence about them that drew the girl slowly from his arms.

"I want my fiddle," she whispered. "Let me go!"

Faint were the inflections of the words; insistent the drawing back of
the dear warm body.

Theodore permitted her to get up, and with staggering step she took
her position at the tree trunk.

Then he sank down, hot blood coursing through his veins. Long ago he
had realized in Jinnie and the fiddle essentials--essentials to his
future and his happiness, and to-day her kisses and divine, womanly
yielding had only strengthened that realization. Nothing now was of
any importance to him save this vibrant, temperamental girl. There was
something so delightfully young--so pricelessly dear in the way she
had surrendered herself to him. The outside world faded from his
memory as Jinnie closed her eyes, and with a very white face began to
play. For that day she had finished with the song of the fairies, the
babbling of the brook, and the nodding rhythm of the flowers in the
summer's breeze. All that she considered now was Theodore and his
kisses. The bow came down over a string with one long, vibrating,
passionate call. It expressed the awakening of the girl's
soul--awakened by the touch of a man's turbulent lips--Jinnie's
God-given man. Her fiddle knew it--felt it--expressed it!

With that first seductive kiss the soul-stirring melody was full born
within her, as a world is called into the firmament by one spoken word
of God. And as she played, Theodore moved silently toward her, for the
fiddle was flashing out the fervor of the kisses she had given him.

He was close at her feet before he spoke, and simultaneously the white
lids opened in one blue, blue glance.

"Jinnie!" breathed Theodore, getting up and holding out his arms.
"Come to me! Come to me, my love! I can't live another moment without
you."

The bow and fiddle remained unnoticed for the next half hour, while
the two, the new woman and the new man, were but conscious of one
another, nothing else.

At length Theodore spoke.

"Jinnie, look up and say, 'Theodore, I love you'."

It was hard at first, because her mind had never reached the point of
speaking aloud her passionate love for him, but Theodore heard the
halting words, and droned them over to himself, as a music lover
delights in his favorite strains.

"And you love me well enough to marry me some day?" he murmured.

Marry him! This, too, was a new thought. Jinnie's heart fluttered like
a bird in her breast. To be with him always? To have him for her own?
Of course, he was hers, and she was his! Then into her mind came the
thought of Lafe, Peggy, and Bobbie, and the arms around him relaxed.

"I love you better'n anybody in the world," she told him,
pathetically, "but I can't ever leave the cobbler.... They need me
there."

"They can't keep you," he cried passionately. "I want you myself."

His vehemence subdued her utterly. She glanced into his face. In his
flashing eyes, Jinnie read a power inimitable and unsurpassed.

"I couldn't ever leave 'em," she repeated, quivering, "but couldn't
they live----"

"We'd take the little blind boy," promised Theodore.

Jinnie remained pensive. To bring the shine in her eyes once more, he
said:

"Wouldn't you like Bobbie to live with us?"

"Yes, of course; but I couldn't leave Lafe and Peg in Paradise Road."

Theodore surrounded the entreating, uplifted face with two strong
hands.

"I know that. We'll take care of them all----"

Still Jinnie held back her full surrender.

"Can I take Happy Pete, too? And the cats? There's an awful lot of
'em.... Milly Ann does have so many kitties," she ended naïvely.

Theodore laughed delightedly.

"Dearest little heart! Of course we'll take them all, every one you
love!"

"Will you tell Lafe about--about us?" Jinnie asked shyly, "I--I----"
but she had no more time to finish.

"I'll tell him to-morrow, Jinnie!" exclaimed Theodore. "Are you happy,
dearest?"

"So happy," she sighed, with loving assurance.

The rest of the day they were like two frolicking children, eating
their luncheon under the tall trees. When the shadows fell, they left
their trysting place, and with their arms about each other, went
slowly back to the automobile.



CHAPTER XXXI

WHAT THEODORE TOLD HIS FRIEND


"He's been gone all day," mourned Molly miserably to Jordan Morse.
They had finished dinner; Molly had put Mrs. King to bed, and the two
were seated in chairs on the lawn. Every minute that passed and found
Theodore still away was like an eternity to the woman. She had always
hated the office hours which took him from the house, hated the
business friends who dropped in now and then and changed the
conversation from the delicate personal things she always managed to
dwell upon.

During the years she had been companion to Mrs. King, Theo's dinner
and luncheon hours were ones of joy to her. Now this day had passed
without him.

"He'll show up before long," Morse said presently. "What a lot of
worry you have over that man!... Now if you had a problem on your
hands like mine----"

The soft chug of a motor cut off his ejaculation.

"He's coming, now," he said, getting up.

Molly responded coldly to Theodore's friendly salute from the car.

As Mr. King walked quickly toward them, Morse called laughingly,

"We had just decided you'd been kidnapped."

"Nothing like that," answered Theodore, "I've been in the country....
Sit down, Jordan; no use standing up!" And Theodore seated himself on
the grass.

"It's been a fine day," he went on boyishly, scarcely knowing what to
say.

"Lovely," agreed Molly, and Jordan supplemented this by asking:

"Have a--pleasant ride?"

"Yes, delightful! One doesn't realize how murky the city is until he
goes in the country for a day."

After a time, during which he looked up through the enfolding green of
the trees, he proceeded calmly,

"I took Miss Grandoken on a picnic."

Morse's sudden glance at Molly warned her to control herself.

"She's an odd child," continued Theodore, "but, then, all geniuses
are. I don't know when I've so thoroughly enjoyed myself."

Morse's "That's good," was closely followed by Molly's curt question,
"Where'd you go?"

"Just up the lake a ways. We took some picnic stuff----"

"And her fiddle, I suppose?" cut in Molly sarcastically.

"Of course. Jinnie's not Jinnie without her fiddle."

"She does play well," admitted Jordan.

"More than well," interpolated Theodore. "She plays divinely."

Then again they fell into an oppressive silence.

Molly was so curious to know the events of the day she could scarcely
control her impatience.

Suddenly Mr. King announced:

"I'm going to marry Jinnie Grandoken."

Molly and Morse slowly got to their feet. They stood looking down upon
the young millionaire with jaws apart and startled eyes.

"Well, you needn't look as if I were about to commit some crime," he
said, quizzing them with laughing eyes. "I suppose a chap can get
married if he wants to; can't he?"

"It's ridiculous," blurted Miss Merriweather.

A drawn, helpless expression had crept into her eyes, making her
appear like an old woman.

Theodore got to his feet.

"What's ridiculous?" he demanded, immediately on the defensive. "My
wanting to be happy?"

"Not that quite," replied the woman, "but surely you can't----"

"I can and I will!" exclaimed Theodore decidedly. "I couldn't be happy
without her, and mother----"

"It'll kill 'er," warned Molly significantly.

"Not at all," denied Theodore. "My mother's a woman of sense! When she
knows her big boy's madly in love with the sweetest girl in the world,
she'll take it as a matter of course."

Miss Merriweather turned toward the house.

"I think I'll go," she said in strained tones.

She had almost reached the veranda when Theodore called her.

"Molly!" he shouted.

"Yes?"

"Don't tell mother. I want to surprise her."

"Very well," and the woman went on again, trembling from the blow
which had struck her in the face.

The two men, lolling under the trees, said but little more, and with
burning heart and unsettled mind, Jordan Morse went back to his
apartment.

He had scarcely settled himself before his telephone tinkled. Taking
down the receiver, he said,

"Well?"

A faint voice answered him.

"It's Molly, Jordan!... Listen! I'm down at the foot of the hill. Do
come here! I'm nearly frantic.... Yes, I'll wait."

Very soon Molly saw Jordan crossing the street, and she went to meet
him.

"Let's walk," she said fretfully. "I can't breathe."

"If you feel like I do," replied Morse moodily, "I pity you."

He led her to a small park where they sat down upon one of the wooden
benches.

"I'm shocked beyond expression," said Molly wearily.

"So am I," replied Morse. Then picking up the thread of thought which
had troubled him all the evening, he went on, "I need my boy! Every
night I'm haunted by dreams. I'd give up my plans about Jinnie if I
had him...."

"Well, I never!" ejaculated Molly.

"The trouble with you is you haven't any heart," went on Jordan. "How
you put your mind on anything but finding that child I don't know. But
I notice you manage to keep close on Theo's heels every minute."

"I love him," admitted Molly.

"Don't you love your son, your poor little lost son?"

"Of course, Jordan! Don't be stupid!... Of course I do, but I don't
know where he is."

"And you're making very little effort to find him, that's evident.
You've seen him, and I haven't, yet I'd give half my life to get my
hands on him." He paused, drew a long breath, and proceeded, "I'll
warn you of this much, Molly. When I do find him--and find him I
will--you won't get a chance to even see him."

"Oh, Jordan!" gasped Molly.

"That's right," he insisted, with an ugly shrug. "I tell you, Molly,
I've always been impressed with the idea mothers cared more for their
children than fathers, but I'm over that now since knowing you."

"Oh, Jordan!" repeated Molly faintly once more.

Not heeding her appealing voice, he rushed on, "I'd be willing to
strangle half the world for money to hire detectives to search for
him. But as I've said before, I'd let Jinnie alone if I had him--and
work for him with my two hands--if I had to dig graves."

Molly turned her startled eyes upon the excited man. She had never
known the depths of his nature.

"You make me tired," he proceeded with sarcasm. "What in hell do you
think Theodore could see in you when a girl like Jinnie cares for
him?"

"Why, Jordan Morse!" stammered the woman. "How dare you talk to me
like that?"

"Because it's true," replied Jordan hotly. "You're like a lot of
women--if a man looks sidewise at you, you think he's bowled over with
your charms. Good Heavens! It's sickening!"

"I didn't ask you here to talk like this," said Molly.

"What if you didn't?" snapped Jordan. "_You_ can talk now if you want
to! I'm going home in five minutes, and I want some money before I go,
too."

"I'll give you some to-morrow. Now what're you going to do about
Theodore?"

"Well, he won't marry Jinnie," replied Morse slowly.

"How can you help it?"

"That's what I'm going to figure out. If I can get her away from
Grandoken's, she won't get back, I can tell you that. But that damn
cobbler and Theo'll make such a devilish row----"

"You needn't be profane," chided Molly.

"A woman like you's enough to make any man swear.... Now listen to me.
The very fact that Jinnie ran away from home shows me that Tom
Singleton told her I put 'im in a mad house! Jinnie, of course, told
Grandoken. I've got to get that cobbler--and--you've got to help me
get Jinnie----"

"Haven't I done all I could?" gasped Molly. "I can't go down there and
take her by the nape of the neck, can I?"

"No, but I will! Now let's go! I want to do some pretty tall thinking
before morning. Once let those two people be married and I'm lost."

"So am I," muttered Molly, swaying at his vehement words.

They threaded their way back to the hill, and Morse left Molly at her
gate. As she walked slowly up the road, she could see the light in
Theodore's window, and his shadow thrown on the curtain.



CHAPTER XXXII

JORDAN MORSE'S PLAN


The next morning Jordan Morse rose after a sleepless night, his face
drawn in long, deep-set lines. The hours had been spent in futile
planning. To save himself from the dire consequences of his misdeeds,
to procure the money which would come to Jinnie when she was eighteen
years old, was the one idea that dinned constantly at his brain. She
and the cobbler would have to be put out of the way, and this must be
done before Theodore announced publicly his intention of marrying the
girl. Jordan had no wish to break his friendship with Theodore, so he
could do nothing openly. If it were a mere case of filching what
little he could from Jinnie's estate before she became of age, it
would be an easy matter, but the girl must disappear. How? Where?
There was finality in one of his decisions that moment. He must get
possession of her that very day. Theodore would let no grass grow
under his feet. He would marry her offhand, and educate her
afterwards.

Jordan wondered vaguely if the Jewish cobbler had an enemy among the
shortwood gatherers. If so, and the man could be found, it would bring
his own salvation.

With this desire uppermost in his mind, Jordan wended his way to the
lower part of the town, passed into Paradise Road, and paused a second
in front of Lafe Grandoken's shop to read the sign:

"Lafe Grandoken: Cobbler of Folks' and Children's Shoes and Boots."

His lips curled at the crude printing, and he went on past the
remaining shanties to the entrance to the marsh. At the path where
Jinnie had so many times brought forth her load of wood, he paused
again and glanced about. As far north as he could see, the marsh
stretched out in misty greenness. The place seemed to be without a
human being, until Jordan suddenly heard the crackling of branches,
and there appeared before him a young man with deep-set, evil eyes,
and large, pouting mouth. Upon his shoulders was a shortwood strap.

At the sight of Mr. Morse, the wood gatherer hesitated, made a sort of
obeisance, and proceeded to move on. Jordan stopped him with a motion
of his hand.

"In a hurry?" he asked good-naturedly.

"Got to sell my wood," growled the man.

Morse appraised him with an analytical glance.

"What's your name?" he demanded.

"Maudlin Bates. What's yours?"

"Jordan Morse.... Just wait a minute. I want to talk to you."

Down came the shortwood strap on the ground. Maudlin scented something
interesting.

"I got to sell my wood," he repeated, surly-toned. However, he nodded
his head when Jordan explained that it might be to his advantage to
tarry a while.

"I'll pay you for your time," agreed Morse eagerly.

Side by side they seated themselves on a fallen tree. The young wood
gatherer looked wicked enough to do anything that might be requested
of him.

"Are you married?" asked Morse.

Maudlin's face darkened.

"No," he grunted moodily.

"Ha! In love? I see!" laughed the other.

Maudlin turned sheepish eyes on his interrogator; then looked down,
flushed, and finished:

"I'd a been married all right if it hadn't been for a damn bloke along
Paradise Road," he explained.

"Yes? Tell me about it."

"Oh, what's the use! Everybody's stickin' their noses in my business,
and it ain't nothin' to do with 'em uther."

"I might help you," suggested Jordan, seemingly interested.

"Ain't anybody c'n help me," sulked Maudlin. "Got the richest man in
town 'gainst me, and money's what makes the mare go."

The words "richest man" startled Morse, but he only said, "That's so!
But tell me just the same."

"Aw, it's only a wench I wanted! A mutt by the name of King butted in
on me."

Jordan Morse mentally congratulated himself that he had struck the
right nail on the head the very first whack.

To gain possession of Jinnie's money meant finding his boy, and that
was the dearest wish of his heart.

"You might tell me about it," he reiterated slowly. "I ought to be
able to help you."

"Naw, you can't!" scoffed Maudlin. "My pa and me's tried for a long
time, but there ain't nothin' doin' with Jinnie. She's a sure devil,
Jinnie is."

Jordan's blood tingled in anticipation.

"Is that the girl's name?" he queried.

"Yes, she's a niece of a cobbler up the track yonder, and as pretty a
little minx as walks Paradise Road. If I had 'er I'd fix her. I'd beat
her till she minded me, I c'n tell y' that!"

"I believe beating's the way to subdue most women," said Morse,
lighting a cigarette. But as he said this, a slight smile passed over
his face. He thought of Molly Merriweather in connection with the
man's logic.

"It's the way pa done to my stepmother," observed Maudlin presently.
"She was a onery woman as ever you see, but pa one day just licked
her, and then licked 'er every day till now she don't dast but mind
'im.... I'd do that with Jinnie if I had 'er."

Morse watched rings of smoke curl upward in the summer air, breaking
among the branches of the trees.

"Why don't you steal 'er?" he demanded at length.

Bates' lower jaw fell down, showing discolored teeth. He stared at his
inquisitor in consternation. Then he dropped back into his former
slovenly attitude.

"I never thought o' that," said he.

"I'll help you," offered Morse, carelessly, brushing ashes from his
coat lapel.

Maudlin turned his eyes slowly from their straight ahead position
until they came directly upon the handsome face of the other man. Then
the two looked long and steadily at each other.

"What're you drivin' at?" blurted Bates.

"Only that I'm also interested in getting Jinnie away from Grandoken.
The fact is I hate King, and I think it's a good way to get even with
him."

He refrained, however, from mentioning he was Jinnie's relative.

"D'you have me in mind when you come here?" questioned Bates.

"No! But I felt sure there'd be some young buck round here who'd
fallen in love with the girl before this. And I found you without
asking----"

"I'd make her beg me to marry her after I'd had 'er a week or two,"
interrupted Maudlin, with dilating pupils. "How could we steal 'er?"

"Just steal 'er, I said," replied Morse.

"And I said, 'How?'"

Morse waited a minute until Bates repeated once more, "How, mister?"
then he asked:

"Can you run a motor car?"

"No, but my pa can."

"My God! You musn't mention this to any one, not even your father.
I'll run the car myself. You go to the cobbler and by some excuse get
the girl in the car--after that I'll see to her."

Bates narrowed his eyes.

"No, you won't see to nothin'," he growled surlily. "I don't take a
step till I know I get 'er. I'll marry 'er all right, but she's got to
want to marry me first."

"I don't care what you do with 'er," replied Morse morosely. "Marry
'er or not, just get her, that's all!"

"The cobbler's got a vixen of a wife," complained Maudlin at length.

"Persuade her to go somewhere, can't you?" snapped Morse.

"Yes, that's easy," drawled Maudlin, wobbling his head.

For a long time they sat talking and planning, until at length Morse
put his hand in his pocket and handed the other man some money.
Maudlin tucked it away with a grin.

"Easy cash, eh? What'd you say the dame's name was?"

"Merriweather--Molly Merriweather. She's companion to Mr. King's
mother."

"Jinnie fiddles all the afternoon.... Mebbe she won't go."

"Yes, she will. Tell her Miss Merriweather wants her to arrange a
surprise for Theodore King. Tell 'er Miss Merriweather wants her to
play."

Bates laughed evilly.

"That'll fix the huzzy. Anything about that damn fiddle'll fetch 'er
every time! When I get 'er I'll bust it up for kindlin' wood."

"Then it's settled," said Morse, rising. "You go this afternoon at
three o'clock to Grandoken's, tell Jinnie what I told you to, get the
cobbler into an argument, and I'll do the rest."

"You'll be sure to be there?"

"Of course! What'd you think I am? Keep your mouth shut! Be sure of
that."

"Three o'clock, then," said Maudlin, getting up. "So long!" and
lifting his wood, he went on his way rejoicing.



CHAPTER XXXIII

THE MURDER


At half past one that afternoon a messenger appeared at Grandoken's
with a letter for Jinnie.

Peggy called the girl to the shop.

"Boy's got something for you," she declared. "It's a letter, I
guess."

Jinnie held out her hand with thumping pulses, took the extended
pencil, and signed her name to a blank page. Then the boy held out the
missive. Of course it was from Theodore, thought Jinnie. She had
scarcely slept the night before, fitfully dreaming of him. Throwing a
shy smile at Peg, she went into her bedroom and shut the door. With a
long, ecstatic breath, she set herself to the delightful task of
slowly perusing the beloved epistle.

"My darling," Jinnie read, and she kissed those two words, each one
separately. Then she whispered them again, "My darling," and read on:

"I'm coming this afternoon at three to see your uncle, and I thought
you might like me to talk with him alone. It will be a simple matter
for you to take the little blind boy and go away for an hour or so,
but be sure and return at four. By that time I'll have our
arrangements all made, but I won't go until I see you.

"I send all my love to you, my sweetheart.

"Your own,

"THEODORE."

Jinnie kissed the words "my sweetheart" too, and then joyfully slipped
the letter inside her dress. She daren't speak of his coming, for how
could she conceal her happiness from Lafe?

At two o'clock, she said to Peggy:

"May I take Bobbie for a little walk, dear?"

The blind child heard the request and scrambled up.

"Can I go, Peggy?" he pleaded.

Peg glared at the girl.

"I thought you always fiddled in the afternoon," she queried.

"I do generally," acquiesced Jinnie, "but--to-day----"

"Well, go 'long," said Peg, not very graciously. "I'm goin' over to
Miss Bates' a while. Maudlin come by just now, an' said would I come
over.... Get back early!"

Jinnie dressed Bobbie with trembling fingers. The boy noticed she
could scarcely button his jacket.

"What's the matter, Jinnie dear?" he whispered.

Jinnie was just slipping on his cap as he spoke. She bent and kissed
him passionately.

"Nothing, honey, only Jinnie's happy, very happy."

"I'm so glad," sighed Bobbie, with a smiling wag. "I'm happy too.
Let's go on the hill, and take Petey."

"It'd be lovely, dear," replied the girl.

A few minutes later, with the little dog at their heels, they were
wending their way up the board walk to the hill.

Mr. Grandoken, alone in his shop, worked with contented vigor. The
days, those beautiful summer days, were bringing untold joy to him.
Peggy seemed in brighter spirits, and Jinnie's radiant face made Lafe
rejoice. Little Bobbie's stars were always shining nowadays, so what
more could the dear man want? As he sat tip-tapping, he took himself
in fancy to that day ahead when Heaven would unfold another blessing
for Peg--for him. He put down his hammer and glanced out of the
window, and suddenly Maudlin Bates loomed up, with all his hulking
swagger obliterating the shoemaker's mental bliss.

Lafe nodded as Maudlin stepped into the shop. There was an unusually
aggressive expression upon the young wood gatherer's face, and Mr.
Grandoken refrained from asking him to sit down. Instead he
questioned:

"Brought some cobblin'?"

"No," said Bates. "Wanted to talk to you; that's all."

"Hurry up, then, 'cause I'm busy."

"Where's Jinnie?" queried Maudlin.

Swift anger changed the cobbler's face.

"What's that to you?" he demanded. "And you needn't be drippin'
tobacco juice around my shop."

"Won't hurt it, I guess," answered Maudlin insolently, sitting down
heavily.

With every passing minute, Lafe was growing more and more enraged.

"Yap me your business and get out," he ordered, picking up his
hammer.

He settled his eyes on the sodden face before him, and for a minute or
two each plumbed the strength of the other.

"I'm goin' to marry Jinnie," announced Maudlin, drawing his large feet
together and clasping his fingers over his knees.

The cobbler deliberately placed the hammer beside him once more and
leaned back against the wall.

"Who said so?" he asked.

"I do," defied Maudlin, swaggering.

"Is that what you come to say to me?"

"Yep."

"Well, now you're done with your braggin', get out, an' get out
quick."

But Maudlin didn't move.

"I said to scoot," said Lafe presently, in suppressed tones. He was
magnificent in his ferocity.

"I heard you!" observed Maudlin, still sitting, though a little cowed
in his former egotistical spirit.

Lafe picked up the hammer and pounded frantically on the sole of a
shoe.

"I'm goin' to have money," muttered Maudlin when the cobbler paused
for a few nails.

As Lafe proceeded with his work silently, Maudlin said:

"I'll marry Jinnie and take the empty shack next to pa's. I got money,
I said."

Lafe's lips were moving rapidly, but the other could not hear what he
was saying. The fact was, the cobbler was asking for strength and
self-control.

"Where's Jinnie?" demanded Maudlin again.

"She ain't here," said Lafe, "an' I want you to get out before she
comes."

He said this more gently, because his muttered prayers had somewhat
assuaged his rage.

Just then a motor car dashed into the little lane at the side of the
house, and Maudlin knew that Morse had arrived.

"I'll go when I see Jinnie," he insisted, sinking deeper into his
chair, "I want to tell 'er somethin' about a party."

"Ain't no show o' your seein' 'er to-day," replied Lafe. "I bargained
with your pa about you lettin' my girl alone, and that's all there is
to it."

"Pa's cobblin' ain't nothin' to do with me," observed Maudlin darkly.
"I'll wait for 'er!"

At that minute Theodore King's car drew up in front of the shop, and
he stepped out. Maudlin caught a glimpse of him and set his teeth
sharply. He'd have it out with this man, too. They might as well all
understand what his intentions were. He wondered if Morse, from his
point of vantage, had seen Mr. King arrive.

When Theodore swung into the shop, he paused at the sight of Bates and
frowned. He brought to mind the chastening he had given the fellow,
and how Jinnie had suffered through his brutality.

Lafe smiled cordially at the young man and asked him to be seated.

"Jinnie's out," stated the cobbler.

"I know it!" responded Theodore, taking a chair. "I've come to have a
talk with you." Then looking from Mr. Grandoken to Maudlin, he
queried, "Will you soon be disengaged?"

Lafe nodded.

"I hope so," he said disinterestedly.

Lafe always disciplined himself after a siege with his temper.

"He won't be alone till I get through with 'im," grunted Maudlin, with
an ugly expression. "I been tellin' 'im I'm goin' to marry Jinnie."

Lafe straightened with a throat sound that boded no good for the
speaker, and Theodore got swiftly to his feet.

"Don't repeat what you've just said," the latter gritted between his
teeth, whirling on Maudlin.

Bates shot out of his chair at this command.

"My tongue's my own," he roared, "and Jinnie'll be glad to marry me
before----"

Theodore's big fist swept out, striking the man full in the face, and
Maudlin dropped like an ox hit with an axe, but he was on his feet in
another minute. His rapidly swelling face was blanched with rage.

"Damn you, twicet and three times damn you----"

Lafe made an ejaculation, and neither one of the three men noticed
that the door to the little hall at the back had opened a trifle.

Jordan Morse was peering in upon the enraged trio. He saw the man he'd
hired to help him take the first knock down and get up swiftly. He saw
Theodore King make another dive at the wood gatherer. The cobbler was
in direct range of Jordan's vision, and he slipped his hand into his
pocket, from which he took a revolver. Two quick, short cracks, and
the pistol came flying through the room and landed near the cobbler's
bench. Then the kitchen door slammed suddenly. Theodore staggered
forward and sank slowly to the floor, while Maudlin fell headlong
without a cry.

As in a maze Lafe heard a motor leap away like a mad thing. Through
the window he could see Theodore's car where the young man had left
it. He made a desperate effort to rise, but sank back with a
shuddering groan. He forced his eyes to Bates, who was close to the
shop door, then dragged them backward to Mr. King, whose head was
almost under his bench. Each had received a bullet, and both lay
breathing unconsciously. The cobbler stooped over and placed his hand
under Theodore's head to straighten it a little. For a full minute
nothing was heard but the loud rattling in Maudlin's throat and the
steady, laborious breath of the man at his feet.

Sudden tears diffused the cobbler's eyes, and he leaned over and
tenderly touched the damp forehead of Jinnie's friend.

"He's given His angels charge over thee, boy," he murmured, just as
Jinnie, leading Bobbie by the hand, walked in.

The girl took one impetuous step forward and noted Lafe's white,
agonized face. Then she caught a glimpse of the stricken men on the
floor. Her tongue refused its office, and dropping the blind child's
fingers, she came quickly forward.

"Call help! Hurry! Get a doctor!" gasped Lafe, and Jinnie, without
saying a word, rushed out.

Afterward she could not measure with accuracy the events of that
afternoon. Peggy came home and put the terrified Bobbie in bed,
telling him curtly to stay there until she allowed him to get up.
Several doctors rushed in and examined both Theodore and Maudlin. Not
one word had escaped Jinnie's pale lips until the wounded men were
removed from the shop. Then she sank at the cobbler's feet.

"Will he die?" she whispered, in awe-stricken tones.

"Maudlin's dyin'," replied the cobbler, with bowed head, "an' Mr.
King's awful bad off, the doctor says."

Jinnie went to Lafe's side and put her arm about his neck, and as if
it had never been, their joy was blotted out by the hand of a bloody
tragedy.



CHAPTER XXXIV

THE COBBLER'S ARREST


Tearing away from Paradise Road, Jordan Morse drove madly up the hill.
No one had seen him come; no one had seen him go. He must get in touch
with Molly immediately. In his nervous state he had to confide in some
one.

Molly had settled Mrs. King in an easy chair and was on the lawn,
pacing restlessly to and fro, when Jordan swiftly drove his machine
through the gate and up to the veranda. Catching one hasty glimpse of
his haggard face, the woman knew something extraordinary had
happened.

"I've put my foot in it, all right," he ejaculated, jumping to the
soft grass. "My God! I don't know what I have done!"

Molly's face blanched.

"Tell me quickly," she implored.

Jordan repeated his conversation with Maudlin Bates, stating how his
plans had suddenly matured on hearing the wood gatherer denounce King
and Grandoken.

Then he proceeded a little more calmly.

"It seems I hadn't been at the side door of Grandoken's shack a minute
before Theodore drove up."

Molly's hands came together.

"Theodore?" she repeated breathlessly.

"Yes, and the Bates man was with Grandoken. I heard loud talking,
stole into the little hall, and found the back part of the house
empty. Jinnie wasn't there; at least I didn't see her. Bates had
already inveigled Mrs. Grandoken away. I opened the door into the
cobbler's shop just as Theo was striking Bates in the face. I waited a
minute, and as Theo struck out again, I fired----"

"Fired!" gasped Molly.

"Yes, at Grandoken. I wanted to kill him----"

"But Theo--you might have hit Theodore, Jordan."

"But I didn't, I tell you! I'm sure I didn't. If I hit any one, 'twas
Bates or the cobbler.... Get back near the veranda for fear Theodore
'phones."

No sooner had the words left his lips than a bell sounded from the
house. Molly ran up the steps. As she took down the receiver, she
dropped it, but picked it up again.

"Halloa," she called faintly.

"Is this Theodore King's home?" shouted a voice.

"Yes."

"Mr. King's had an accident. He's in the hospital. Break the news
carefully to his mother, please."

Dazedly, Molly slipped the receiver back to its hook. She stumbled to
the porch and down the steps, her face ashen with anguish.

"You shot Theo, Jordan," she cried hysterically.

"Shut your head," growled Morse, glancing furtively about. "Don't talk
so loud.... Now then, listen! There'll be hell to pay for this. But
Bates won't peach, and I'm sure I clipped the cobbler's wings. Keep
quiet till you hear from me."

He sprang again into the machine and was gone before the woman could
gather her wits together.

She turned and went slowly up the steps. It was her duty to break the
news to Theodore's mother--she who knew so much, but dared to tell so
little! How to open the conversation with the gentle sufferer she knew
not.

Mrs. King smiled a greeting as she entered, but at the sight of
Molly's face, her book dropped to the floor.

"What is it?" she stammered.

Molly knelt down beside her.

"Probably very little," she said hastily. "Don't get
excited--please--but--but----"

"It's Theodore!" gasped the mother, intuitively.

"He's hurt a little, just a little, and they've taken him to the
hospital."

Mrs. King tried to rise, but dropped back weakly.

"He's badly hurt or he'd come home."

"I'll find out," offered Molly eagerly. Then as an afterthought, "I'll
go if you'll promise me to stay very quiet until I get back."

"I promise," said Mrs. King, sobbing, "but go quickly! I simply can't
be still when I'm uncertain."

In another house of lesser proportions, a girl was huddled in a chair,
gazing at Lafe Grandoken.

"An' they told you over the telephone he was dyin'?" he demanded,
looking at Jinnie.

"Yes," gulped Jinnie, "and Maudlin's dead. The hospital people say Mr.
King can't live." The last words were stammered and scarcely audible.
"Lafe, who shot him?"

"I dunno," said Lafe.

"Didn't you see who had the gun?" persisted the girl, wiping her
eyes.

"Mr. King didn't have it; nuther did Maudlin. It came from over there,
an' I heard a car drive away right after."

Jinnie shook her head hopelessly. It was all so mysterious that her
heart was gripped with fright. A short time before, an officer had
been there cross-questioning Lafe suspiciously. Then he had gone away
with the pistol in his pocket. She stared out of the window,
fear-shadowed. In a twinkling her whole love world had tumbled about
her ears, and she listened as the cobbler told her once more the story
of the hour she'd been away with Bobbie.

"There're two men coming here right now," she said suddenly, getting
up. "Lafe, there's Burns, the cop on this beat."

"They're wantin' to find out more, I presume," replied Lafe wearily.

As the men entered the shop, Jinnie backed away and stood with rigid
muscles. She was dizzily frightened at the sight of the gruff
officers, who had not even saluted Lafe.

The foremost man was a stranger to them both.

"Are you Lafe Grandoken?" he demanded, looking at the cobbler.

"Yes," affirmed Lafe.

The man flourished a paper with staid importance.

"I'm the sheriff of this county, an' I've a warrant for your arrest
for murderin' Maudlin Bates," he sing-songed.

Jinnie sprang forward.

"Lafe didn't shoot 'im," she cried desperately.

The man eyed her critically.

"Did you do it, kid?" he asked, smiling.

"No, I wasn't here!" answered Jinnie, short-breathed.

"Then how'd you know he didn't do it?"

For a moment Jinnie was nonplussed. Then she came valiantly to her
friend's aid.

"I know he didn't. Of course he didn't, you wicked, wicked men! Don't
you dare touch 'im, don't you dare!"

"Well, he's got to go with me," affirmed the man in ugly, sneering
tones. "Whistle for the patrol, Burns, and we'll wheel the Jew in!"

Jinnie heard, as in a hideous dream, the shrill, trilling whistle;
heard the galloping of horses and saw a long black wagon draw up to
the steps.

When the two sullen men laid violent hold of the wheelchair, Jinnie's
terrified fingers reached toward the cobbler, and the sheriff gave her
hand a sharp blow. Lafe uttered an inarticulate cry, and at that
moment Jinnie forgot "Happy in Spite," forgot Lafe's angels and the
glory of them, and sprang like a tiger at the man who had struck her.
She flung one arm about his neck and fought him with tooth and nails.
So surprised was Policeman Burns that he stood with staring eyes,
making no move to rescue his mate from the tigerish girl.

"Damn you! Damn you!" screamed Jinnie. "I'll kill you before you take
'im."

Lafe cried out again, calling her name gently, imploringly, and
tenderly. When his senses returned, Burns grasped Jinnie in his arms
and held her firmly. There she stood panting, trying to break away
from the policeman's detaining fingers. She looked half crazed in the
dimming late afternoon light.

"Merciful God, but you're a tartar, miss!" said the sheriff ruefully.
"Well, if she ain't clawed the blood clean through my skin!"

"She comes of bad stock," exclaimed Burns. "You can't expect any more
of Jews. Go on; I'll hold 'er till you and Mike get the chair out."

Hearing this, Jinnie began to sob hysterically and make more desperate
efforts to free herself. The viselike fingers pressed deeper into her
tender flesh.

"Here, huzzy, you needn't be tryin' none of your muck on me," said
Burns. "Keep still or I'll break your arm."

Jinnie sickened with pain, and her eyes sought Lafe's. If he'd been in
his coffin, he couldn't have been whiter.

"Jinnie," he chided brokenly, "you've forgot what I told you, ain't
you, lass?"

Through the suffering, tender mind flashed the words he'd taught her.

"There aren't any angels, Lafe," she sobbed. "There aren't any."

Then, as another man entered the shop, she cried: "Don't take 'im, oh,
please don't take 'im, not now, not just yet, not till Peggy gets
back."

Turning around in his chair, Lafe looked up at the men.

"Could--I--say--good-bye--to my--wife?" he asked brokenly.

"Where is she?" demanded the officer.

"Gone to the store," answered Lafe. "She'll be here in a minute."

"Let 'er come to the jail," snapped the angry sheriff. "She'll have
plenty of time to say good-bye there."

At that they tugged the chair through the narrow door. Then two boards
were found upon which to roll it into the patrol.

Inside the shop Jinnie was quiet now, save for the convulsions that
rent her body. She looked up at the man holding her.

"Let me go," she implored. "I'll be good, awful good."

Perhaps it was the pleading blue eyes that made the officer release
her arms. Jinnie sprang to the door, and as Lafe saw her, he smiled,
oh such a smile! The girl ran madly to him.

"Lafe! Lafe!" she screamed. "Lafe dear!"

Lafe bent, touched the shining black curls, and a glorified expression
spread over his face.

"He's given His angels charge over you, lass," he murmured, "an' it's
a fact you're not to forget."

Then they rolled him up the planks and into the wagon. With clouded
eyes Jinnie watched the black patrol bowl along toward the bridge, and
as it halted a moment on Paradise Road to allow an engine to pass, the
cobbler leaned far out of his wheel chair and waved a thin white hand
at her. Then like a deer she ran ahead until she came within speaking
distance of him. The engine passed with a shrieking whistle, and the
horses received a sharp crack and galloped off. Jinnie flung out her
arms.

"Lafe!" she screamed. "I'll stay with Peg till you come."

He heard the words, waved once more, and the wagon disappeared over
the bridge.

For full ten minutes after Lafe was taken away, Jinnie sat in the shop
like one turned to stone. The thing that roused her was the side door
opening and shutting. She got up quickly and went into the little
hall, closing the shop door behind her. Mrs. Grandoken, with bundles
in her hands, was entering the kitchen. Jinnie staggered after her.

"Peggy," murmured Jinnie, throwing her arms about the stooped
shoulders. "You'll be good----"

It was as if she had said it to Bobbie, tenderly, low-pitched, and
imploring. Peg seemed so miserable and thin.

"What's the matter with you, kid?" growled Mrs. Grandoken.

"The town folks," groaned Jinnie, "the town folks've made a mistake,
an awful mistake."

Mrs. Grandoken turned sunken eyes upon the speaker.

"What mistake've they made?"

Jinnie's throat hurt so she couldn't say any more.

"What mistake?" asked Peg again.

"They think Lafe shot----"

Peggy wheeled on the hesitating speaker. Shoving her to one side, she
stalked through the door. Jinnie flew after her.

"Peggy, Peg, he'll come back!"

Mrs. Grandoken opened the shop door and the empty room with overturned
chairs and scattered tools told its silent, eloquent tale.

"Honey," whispered Jinnie. "Honey dear----"

"God's Jesus," muttered Peg, with roving eyes, "God's Jesus, save my
man!"

Then she slid to the floor, and when she once more opened her eyes,
Jinnie was throwing water in her face.



CHAPTER XXXV

ALONE IN THE SHOP


Later in the day Jordan Morse and Molly Merriweather met at the
hospital. They looked into each other's eyes, not daring to mention
the terrible consternation that possessed them.

"Have you heard anything?" murmured Molly, glancing about before
speaking.

Jordan nodded his head.

"It's awful," he said. "Bates is dead--if you say a word, I'm lost."

"Depend on me," Molly assured him. "Oh, how dreadful it all is!
Theodore must get well," she continued in agitation.

"Well, he won't!" snarled Morse. Then he went on passionately. "Molly,
I swear I didn't intend to shoot _him_. I was mad clear through and
aimed at the cobbler."

"Hush!" warned Molly. "Some one's coming."

A young doctor approached them with gravity.

"Mr. King?" murmured Molly.

"Is slowly failing. The bullet found a vital spot----"

"And the other man--Bates? Is it true he's dead?" interjected Morse
eagerly.

"Yes, he died shortly after the tragedy. It's all a mystery, but I
think they've arrested the guilty man."

Both listeners stared at the speaker as if he'd told them the world
had come to an end. It was Morse who managed to mutter:

"What man?"

"Haven't you heard? They've arrested Lafe Grandoken. The shooting
occurred in his cobbling shop, and the gun was found as proof of his
crime. Of course, like all Jews, he's trying to invent a story in his
own favor.... He's undoubtedly the criminal."

Not until they were in the street did Jordan express himself to
Molly.

"What heavenly luck! So they've arrested Grandoken. If Theodore
lives----"

Molly clutched his arm.

"Oh, he must! He must! Jordan! I shall die myself if he doesn't."

Jordan Morse turned sharply upon her.

"Don't throw a fit right here. You're not the only one suffering. My
atmosphere is cleared a little with Grandoken's arrest, though."

"But you've still to reckon with Jinnie," ventured Molly.

"Easy now," returned the man. "I'll get her before Theodore is well."

"Take me home," pleaded Molly wearily. "Such a day as this is enough
to ruin all the good looks a woman ever had."

Disgustedly, Jordan flung open the motor door.

"Well, my God, you've got about as much brains and heart as a
chipmunk. Climb in!"

Later, as the two separated, Morse said, with low-pitched voice:

"Now, then, I'm going to plan to get Jinnie. Might's well be hung for
a sheep's a lamb----I'm just as well satisfied that Bates is dead.
After I secure Jinnie--then for my boy. God! I can scarcely wait until
I have him."

Miss Merriweather went into the house in utter exhaustion, nor did
she pause to take off her hat before telling Theodore's mother the
little she could to encourage her.

If Molly was suffering over the crime which had sent the man she loved
to the hospital, Jinnie was going through thrice that agony for the
same man. He had almost met his death in coming to tell Lafe of their
love, and had been struck down in his mission by an unknown hand.
Jinnie knew it was an unknown hand, because just as sure as she lived,
so sure was she that Lafe had not committed the crime. The cobbler had
explained it all to her, and she believed him. Peggy was dreadfully
ill! After her fainting spell, the girl put Mrs. Grandoken to bed, and
then went to comfort Bobbie. She found him huddled on his pillow,
clasping Happy Pete in his arms. The small face was streaked with
tears and half buried from sight.

"Bobbie," called Jinnie softly.

The yellow head came up with a jerk, the flashing grey eyes begging in
mute helplessness an explanation for these unusual happenings.

"I'm here, Jinnie. What's the matter with everybody?"

Jinnie lay down beside him.

"Peggy's sick," she said, not daring to say more.

"Where's Lafe?"

An impulsive arm went across the child's body.

"He's gone away for a little while, dear, just for a few days!"

Something in her tones made Bobbie writhe. With the acuteness of one
with his affliction, his ears had caught the commotion in the shop.

"But he can't walk, Jinnie. Did he walk?" he demanded.

"No."

"How'd he go, in a motor car?"

"No," repeated the girl.

"Some one took him, then?" demanded Bobbie.

"Yes."

"In a wagon?"

By this time she could feel the tip-tap of his anguished heart against
hers.

"Yes," she admitted, but that was all. She felt that to tell the truth
then would be fatal to the throbbing young life in her arms.

"Bobbie," she whispered, cuddling him. "Lafe's coming home soon. Be a
good boy and lie still and rest. Jinnie'll come back in a few
minutes."

She crawled off the bed, and went to the shop door. By main force she
had to drag her unwilling feet over the threshold. She stood for two
tense minutes scanning the room with pathetic keenness. Then she
walked forward and stood beside the bench. It seemed to be sentiently
alive with the magnetism of the man who had lately occupied it. Jinnie
sat on it, a cry bursting from her white lips. She wanted to be with
him, but she had promised to take care of Peggy, and she would rather
die than betray that trust. Her eyes fell upon two dark spots upon the
floor, one near the door and one almost under her feet. She shuddered
as she realized it was blood. Then she went to the kitchen for water
and washed it away. This done, she gathered up Lafe's tools,
reverently kissing each one as she laid it in the box under the bench.
How lonely the shop looked in the gathering gloom! To dissipate the
lengthening shadows in the corners, she lighted the lamp. The
flickering flame brought back keenly the hours she had spent with
Lafe--hours in which she had learned so much. The whole horror that
had fallen on the household rushed over her being like a tidal wave
over a city. Misery of the most exquisite kind was tearing her heart
in pieces, stabbing her throat with long, forklike pains. Tense throat
muscles caught and clung together, choking back her breath until she
lay down, full length, upon the cobbler's bench.

In poignant grief she thought of the expression of Lafe's face when he
had been wheeled from the room. His voice came back through the faint
light.

"He has given His angels charge over thee, lassie."

But how could she believe in the angels, with Lafe in prison and
Theodore dying? She got up, spent and worn with weeping, and went in
to Peggy, sitting for a few minutes beside the agonized woman, but she
could not say one word to make that agony less. In losing the two
strong friends, she had lost her faith too. Peg's face was turned to
the wall, and as she didn't answer when the girl laid her hand on her
shoulder, Jinnie tiptoed out. In her own room she lay for seemingly
century-long hours with Bobbie pressed tightly to her breast.



CHAPTER XXXVI

JINNIE EXPLAINS THE DEATH CHAIR TO BOBBIE


Seven days had dragged their seemingly slow length from seconds to
minutes, from minutes to hours, from hours to days. In the cobbler's
shop Jinnie and Bobbie waited in breathless anxiety for Peg's return.
She had gone to the district attorney for permission to visit her
husband in his cell. Nearly three hours had passed since her
departure, and few other thoughts were in the mind of the girl save
the passionate wish for news of her two beloved friends. She was
standing by the window looking out upon the tracks, and as a heavy
train steamed past she counted the cars with melancholy rhythm. There
came to her mind the day she had found Bobbie on the hill, and all the
sweet moments since when the cobbler had been with them. She choked
back a sob that made a little noise in her tightened throat.

Bobbie stumbled his unseeing way to her and shoved a small, cold hand
into hers.

"Jinnie's sad," he murmured. "Bobbie's stars're blinkin' out."

Mrs. Grandoken and Jinnie had come to an understanding that Bobbie
should not know of the cobbler's trouble, so the strong fingers closed
over the little ones, but the girl did not speak. At length she caught
a glimpse of Peg, who, with bent head, was stumbling across the
tracks. Peggy had failed in her mission! Jinnie knew it because the
woman did not look up as she came within sight of the house.

As Mrs. Grandoken entered slowly, Jinnie turned to her.

"You didn't see him?" she said in a tone half exclamation, half
question.

"No," responded Peg, wearily, sitting down. "I waited 'most two hours
for the lawyer, an' when he come, I begged harder'n anything, but it
didn't do no good. He says I can't see my man for a long time. I guess
they're tryin' to make him confess he killed Maudlin."

Jinnie's hand clutched frantically at the other's arm. Both women had
forgotten the presence of the blind child.

"He wouldn't do that," cried Jinnie, panic-stricken. "A man can't own
up to doing a thing he didn't do."

"Course not," whispered Bobbie, in an awed whisper, and the girl sat
down, drawing him to her lap. She could no longer guard her tongue nor
hide her feelings. She took the afternoon paper from Mrs. Grandoken's
hand.

"Read about it aloud," implored the woman.

"It says," began Jinnie, "Mr. King's dying."

The paper fluttered from her hand, and she sat like a small graven
image. To see those words so cruelly set in black and white, staring
at her with frightful truth, harrowed the very soul of her. A sobbing
outburst from Bobbie mingled with the soft chug, chug of the engine
outside on the track. Happy Pete, too, felt the tragedy in the air. He
wriggled nearer his young mistress and rested his pointed nose on one
of her knees, while his twinkling yellow eyes demanded, in their
eloquent way, to know the cause of his loved ones' sorrow.

Peggy broke a painful pause.

"Everybody in town says Lafe done it," she groaned, "an'----" she
caught her breath. "Oh, God! it seems I can't stand it much longer!"

Jinnie got up, putting the limp boy in her chair. She was making a
masterful effort to be brave, to restrain the rush of emotion
demanding utterance. Some beating thing in her side ached as if it
were about to burst. But she stood still until Peg spoke again.

"It's all bad business, Jinnie! an' I can't see no help comin' from
anywhere."

If Peg's head hadn't fallen suddenly into her hands, perhaps Jinnie
wouldn't have collapsed just then. As it was, her knees gave way, and
she fell forward beside the cobbler's wife. Bobbie, in his helpless
way, knelt too.

Since Lafe's arrest the girl had not prayed, nor could she recall the
promises Lafe had taught her were made for the troubled in spirit.
Could she now say anything to make Peg's suffering less, even if she
did not believe it all herself?

"Peg," she pleaded, "don't shiver so!... Hold up your head.... I want
to tell you something."

Peggy made a negative gesture.

"It ain't to be bore, Jinnie," she moaned hoarsely.

"Lafe ain't no chance. They'll put him in the chair."

Such awful words! The import was pressed deeper into two young hearts
by Peg's wild weeping.

Jinnie staggered to her feet. Blind Bobbie broke into a prolonged
wail.

"Lafe ain't never done nothin' bad in all his life," went on the
woman, from the shelter of her hands. "He's the best man in the world.
He's worked an' worked for everybody, an' most times never got no pay.
An' now----"

"Don't say it again, Peggy!" Jinnie's voice rang out. "Don't think
such things. They couldn't put Lafe in a wicked death chair--they
_couldn't_."

Bobbie's upraised eyes were trying to pierce through their veil of
darkness to seek the speaker's meaning.

"What chair, Jinnie?" he quivered. "What kind of a chair're they goin'
to put my beautiful Lafe in?"

Jinnie's mind went back to the teachings of the cobbler, and the slow,
sweet, painful smile intermingled with her agony. Again and again the
memory of the words, "He hath given his angels charge over thee,"
swelled her heart to the breaking point. She wanted to believe, to
feel again that ecstatic faith which had suffused her as Maudlin Bates
pulled her curls in the marsh, when she had called unto the Infinite
and Theodore had answered.

Peg needed Lafe's angels at that moment. They all needed the comfort
of the cobbler's faith.

"Peg," she began, "your man'd tell you something sweet if he could see
you now."

Peg ceased writhing, but didn't lift her face. Jinnie knew she was
listening, and continued:

"Haven't you heard him many a time, when there wasn't any wood in the
house or any bread to eat, tell you about--about----"

Down dropped the woman's hands, and she lifted a woebegone face to her
young questioner.

"Yes, I've heard him, Jinnie," she quavered, "but I ain't never
believed it!"

"But you can, Peggy! You can, sure! Lots of times Lafe'd say, 'Now,
Jinnie, watch God and me!' And I watched, and sure right on the minute
came the money." She paused a moment, ruminating. "That money we got
the day he went away came because he prayed for it."

The girl was reverently earnest.

"Lafe's got a chance, all right," she pursued, keeping Peg's eye.
"More'n a chance, if--if--if----Oh, Peggy, we've got to pray!"

"I don't know how," said Peg, in stifled tones.

Jinnie's face lighted with a mental argument Lafe had thrown at her
in her moments of distrust. She was deep in despondency, but something
had to be done.

"Peg, you don't need to know anything about it. I didn't when I came
here. Lafe says----"

"What'd Lafe say?" cut in Peggy.

"That you must just tell God about it----" Jinnie lifted a white,
lovely face. "He's everywhere--not away off," she proceeded. "Talk to
Him just like you would to Lafe or me."

Mrs. Grandoken sunk lower in her chair.

"I wisht I'd learnt when Lafe was here. Now I dunno how."

"But will you try?" Jinnie pleaded after a little.

"You know 'em better'n I do, Jinnie," Peg muttered, dejectedly. "You
ask if it'll do any good."

Jinnie cleared her throat, coughed, and murmured:

"Close your eyes, Bobbie."

Bobbie shut his lids with a gulping sob, and so did Peg.

Then Jinnie began in a low, constrained voice:

"God and your angels hovering about Lafe, please send him back to the
shop. Get him out of jail, and don't let anybody hurt him. Amen."

"Don't let any chair hurt my beautiful cobbler," wailed Bobbie, in a
new paroxysm of grief. "Gimme Lafe an' my stars."

In another instant Peggy staggered out of the room, leaving the blind
boy and Jinnie alone.

As the door closed, Bobbie's voice rose in louder appeal. Happy Pete
touched him tenderly with a cold, wet nose, crawling into his arms
with a little whine.

Jinnie looked at her two charges hopelessly. She knew not how to
comfort them, nor could she frame words that would still the agony of
the child. Yet she lifted Bobbie and Happy Pete and sat down with them
on her lap.

"Don't cry, honey," she stammered. "There! There! Jinnie'll rock
you."

Her face was ashen with anxiety, and perspiration stood in large drops
upon her brow. Mechanically she drew her sleeve across her face.

"I'm going to ask you to be awful good, Bobbie," she pleaded
presently. "Lafe's being arrested is hard on Peg--and she's sick."

Bobbie burst in on her words.

"But they'll sit my cobbler in a wicked chair, and kill him, Jinnie.
Peggy said they would."

"You remember, Bobbie," soothed the girl, "what Lafe said about God's
angels, don't you?"

The yellow head bent forward in assent.

"And how they're stronger'n a whole bunch of men?"

"Yes," breathed Bobbie; "but the chair--the men've got that, an' mebbe
the angels'll be busy when they're puttin' the cobbler in it."

This idea made him shriek out louder than before: "They'll kill Lafe!
Oh, Jinnie, they will!"

"They can't!" denied Jinnie, rigidly. "They can't! Listen, Bobbie."

The wan, unsmiling blind face brought the girl's lips hard upon it.

"I want to know all about the death chair," he whimpered stubbornly.

"Bobbie," she breathed, "will you believe me if I tell you about it?"

"Yes," promised Bobbie, snuggling nearer.

"Hang on to Pete, and I will tell you," said Jinnie.

"I'm hangin' to 'im," sighed Bobbie, touching Pete's shaggy forelock.
"Tell me about the chair."

Jinnie was searching her brain for an argument to satisfy him. She
wouldn't have lied for her own welfare--but for Bobbie--she could
feel the weak, small heart palpitating against her arm.

"Well, in the first place," she began deliberately, "Peg doesn't know
everything about murders. Why, Bobbie, they don't do anything at all
to men like Lafe. Why, a cobbler, dear, a cobbler could kill everybody
in the whole world if he liked."

Bobbie's breath was sent out in one long exclamation of wonder.

"A cobbler," went on Jinnie impressively, "could steal loaves of bread
right under a great judge's nose and he couldn't do anything to him."

Jinnie had made a daring speech, such a splendid one; she wanted to
believe it herself.

"Tell me more," chirped Bobbie. "What about the death chair, Jinnie?"

She had nursed the hope that the boy would be satisfied with what she
had already told him, but she proceeded in triumphant tones:

"Oh, you mean the chair Peg was speaking about, huh? Sure I know all
about that.... There isn't anything I don't know about it.... I know
more'n all the judges and preachers put together."

A small, trustful smile appeared at the corners of Bobbie's mouth.

"I know you do, Jinnie," he agreed. "Tell it to me."

Jinnie pressed her lips on his hair.

"And if I tell you, kiddie, you'll not cry any more or worry Peggy?"

"I'll be awful good, and not cry once," promised the boy, settling
himself expectantly.

"Now, then, listen hard!"

Accordingly, after a dramatic pause, to give stress to her next
statement, she continued:

"There isn't a death chair in the whole world can kill a cobbler."

Bobbie braced himself against her and sat up. His blind eyes were
roving over her with an expression of disbelief. Jinnie knew he was
doubting her veracity, so she hurried on.

"Of course they got an electric chair that'll kill other kinds of
men," she explained volubly, "but if you'll believe me, Bobbie, no
cobbler could ever sit in it."

Bobbie dropped back again. There was a ring of truth in Jinnie's
words, and he began to believe her.

"And another thing, Bobbie, there's something in the Bible better'n
what I've told you. You believe the Bible, don't you?"

"Lafe's Bible?" asked Bobbie, scarcely audible.

"Sure! There isn't but one."

"Yes, Jinnie, I believe that," said the boy.

"Well," and Jinnie glanced up at the ceiling, "there's just about a
hundred pages in that book tells how once some men tried to put a
cobbler in one of those chairs, and the lightning jumped out and set
'em all on fire----"

Bobbie straightened up so quickly that Happy Pete fell to the floor.

"Yes, yes, Jinnie dear," he breathed. "Go on!"

Jinnie hesitated. She didn't want to fabricate further.

"It's just so awful I hate to tell you," she objected.

"I'd be happier if you would," whispered Bobbie.

"Then I will! The fire, jumping out, didn't hurt the cobbler one wee
bit, but it burned the wicked men----" Jinnie paused, gathered a deep
breath, and brought to mind Lafe's droning voice when he had used the
same words, "Burned 'em root and branch," declared she.

Bobbie's face shone with happiness.

"Is that all?" he begged.

"Isn't it enough?" asked Jinnie, with tender chiding.

"Aren't there nothin' in it about Lafe?"

"Oh, sure!" Again she was at loss for ideas, but somehow words of
their own volition seemed to spring from her lips. "Sure there is!
There's another hundred pages in that blessed book that says good men
like Lafe won't ever go into one of those chairs, never, never.... The
Lord God Almighty ordered all those death chairs to be chopped up for
kindling wood," she ended triumphantly.

"Shortwood?" broke out Bobbie.

Unheeding the interruption, Jinnie pursued: "They just left a chair
for wicked men, that's all."

Bobbie slipped to the floor and raised his hands.

"Jinnie, pretty Jinnie. I'm goin' to believe every word you've said,
every word, and my stars're all shinin' so bright they're just like
them in the sky."

Jinnie kissed the eager little face and left the child sitting on the
floor, crooning contentedly to Happy Pete.

"Lafe told me once," Jinnie whispered to herself on the way to the
kitchen, "when a lie does a lot of good, it's better than the truth if
telling facts hurts some one."

She joined Peggy, sighing, "I'm an awful liar, all right, but Bobbie's
happy."



CHAPTER XXXVII

WHAT THE THUNDER STORM BROUGHT


In the past few weeks Jinnie Grandoken had been driven blindly into
unknown places, forced to face conditions which but a short time
before would have seemed unbearable. However, there was much with
which Jinnie could occupy her time. Blind Bobbie was not well. He was
mourning for the cobbler with all his boyish young soul, and every day
Peggy grew more taciturn and ill. The funds left by Theodore were
nearly gone, and Jinnie had given up her lessons. She was using the
remaining money for their meagre necessities.

So slowly did the days drag by that the girl had grown to believe that
the authorities would never bring Lafe to trial, exonerate him, and
send him home. Then, too, Theodore was still in the hospital, and she
thought of him ever with a sense of terrific loss. But the daily
papers brought her news of him, and now printed that his splendid
constitution might pull him through. It never occurred to her that her
loved one would believe Lafe had shot him and Maudlin Bates. Theodore
was too wise, too kindly, for such suspicions.

For a while after receiving permission from the county attorney, she
visited Lafe every day. Peggy had seen him only once, being too
miserable to stand the strain of going to the jail. But Mrs. Grandoken
never neglected sending by the girl some little remembrance to her
husband. Perhaps it was only a written message, but mostly a favorite
dish of food or an article of his wearing apparel.

One afternoon Bobbie sat by the window with his small, pale face
pressed close to the pane. Outside a great storm was raging, and from
one end of Paradise Road to the other, rivulets of water rushed down
to the lake. Several times that day, when the boy had addressed Mrs.
Grandoken, she had answered him even more gruffly than of yore. He
knew by her voice she was ill, and his palpitating heart was wrung so
agonizingly that he was constantly in tears. Now he was waiting for
Jinnie, and the sound of the buffeting rain and the booming roar of
heavy thunder thrilled him dismally. To hear Jinnie's footsteps at
that moment would be the panacea for all his grief.

Peg came into the shop, and Bobbie turned slightly.

"Jinnie's stayin' awful long at the jail to-day," said the woman
fretfully. "Do you hear her comin', Bobbie?"

"No," said Bobbie, "I've been stretchin' my ears almost to the hill to
hear her. If she doesn't come soon, I'll die--my stars've been gone a
long time."

"I wish she'd come," sighed Mrs. Grandoken.

"Bend over here, Peg," entreated Bobbie, "I want to touch your eyes!"

Without comment the woman leaned over, and the boy's fingers wavered
over her wrinkled countenance.

"You're awful sick, dearie," he grieved, pressing against her. "Can
Blind Bobbie do anything?"

Peg dropped her arm around him.

"I'm afraid," she whispered. "I wish Lafe and Jinnie was here."

One long shiver shook Bobbie's slender body. That Peg could ever be
afraid was a new idea to him. It terrified him even to contemplate it.
He began to sob wistfully, but in another instant raised his head.

"She's comin'," he cried sharply. "I hear 'er. I got two stars, mebbe
three."

When Jinnie opened the door, the water was dripping from her clothes,
and her hair hung in long, wet curls to her waist. One look into Peg's
twisted, pain-ridden face, and she understood.

"I'm glad you're here," said the woman, with a gesture of
helplessness. And Bobbie echoed, with fluttering hands, "I'm glad,
too, Jinnie. Me and Peg was so 'fraid."

The girl spoke softly to Bobbie, and drew Peggy into the bedroom.
There, with her arm thrown across Mrs. Grandoken's shoulder, she gave
all the assurance and comfort of which she was capable.

Long after midnight, the rain still came down in thrashing torrents,
and through the pieces of broken tin on the roof the wind shrilled
dismally.

There was a solemn hush in the back bedroom where Peggy lay staring at
the ceiling. In front of the shadowy lamp was a bit of cardboard to
protect the sick woman's eyes from the light. At Peggy's side sat
Jinnie, and in her arms lay a small bundle. Jinnie had gained much
knowledge in the last few hours. She had discovered the mystery of all
existence. She had seen Peg go down into that wonderful valley of life
and bring back Lafe's little boy baby, and the girl's eyes held an
expression of impenetrable things. She moved her position slightly so
as to study Mrs. Grandoken's face.

Suddenly Peg's eyes lowered.

"Jinnie, gimme a drink, will you?"

Placing the child on the bed, the girl got up instantly. She went to
the kitchen and returned with a glass of milk. It had scarcely touched
the woman's lips before she raised her hand and pushed it away.

"I mustn't drink that," she whispered feebly.

"I got it specially for you, Peggy dear," insisted Jinnie.... "Drink
it," she wheedled, "please."

Then Jinnie sat down again, listening as the elements kept up their
continuous rioting, and after a while they lulled her to rest.
Suddenly her head dropped softly on the bundle in her arms, and the
three--Peggy, Jinnie and the tiny Jewish baby--slept.

Jinnie's name, spoken in low tones, roused her quickly. She raised her
head, a sharp pain twisting her neck. Peggy was looking at her, with
misery in her face.

"I feel awful sick, Jinnie," she moaned. "Can't you say somethin'
t'me, somethin' to make me feel better?"

Something to make her feel better! The words touched the listener
deeply. Oh, how she wanted to help! To alleviate Peg's suffering was
her one desire. If it had been Bobbie, or even Lafe, Jinnie would have
known exactly what to say; but Peggy, proud, stoical Peggy!

"Let me put the baby with you where it's warm, Peg," she said, gently.
"I'm going to talk to you a minute.... There, now, you're all safe,
little mister, near your mammy's heart."

Then she knelt down by the bed and took the woman's hot fingers in
hers.

"Peggy," she began softly, "things look awful bad just now, but Lafe
told me once, when they looked that way, it was time for some one to
come along and help. I'll tell you about it, Peg! Eh?"

"Who c'n come?" demanded Mrs. Grandoken, irritably. "Mr. King can't,
an' we hain't no other friends who'll come to a cobbler's shop."

The question in her voice gave Jinnie the chance she was looking for.

"Yes, there is," she insisted. "Now listen, while I say something;
will you?"

"Sure," said Peg, squeezing Jinnie's fingers.

Then Jinnie started to repeat a few verses Lafe had taught her. She
couldn't tell exactly where they were in the Bible, but the promise in
them had always made her own burdens lighter, and since seeing Lafe
daily, she had partially come back to her former trust.

"'The Lord is my Shepherd,'" she droned sleepily. Then on and on until
she came to, "'Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of
death,'" and Peg broke into a sob.

"'I will fear no evil,'" soothed Jinnie, amid the roaring of the wind
and the crackling of the thunder over the hill.

"'For thou art with me,'" she finished brokenly. "He's the one I was
talking about, Peggy. He'll help us all if we can believe and be----"

Then she quickly ended, "Happy in Spite."

Peg continued to sob. One arm was across her baby boy protectingly,
and the other hand Jinnie held in hers.

"Somehow things seem easier, Peggy, when you hold your head up high,
and believe everything'll come all right.... Lafe said so; that's why
he started the club."

"I wisht I could think that way. I'm near dead," groaned the woman.

Jinnie smoothed the soft, grey-streaked hair.

"Wouldn't you like to come into the club, dear?" she faltered,
scarcely daring to put the question. "Then you'll be happy with us
all--with Lafe and Bobbie and--and----"

Jinnie wanted to say another name, but doubted its wisdom--and then
abruptly it came; "and Jinnie," she finished.

Peggy almost sat up in bed.

"Darlin'," she quivered. "Darlin' girl, I've been cussed mean to Lafe
an' you. I've told you many a time with my own mouth I hated you, but
God knows, an' Lafe knows, I loved you the minute I set eyes on you."
She dropped back on the pillow and continued, "If you'll take me in
your club, an' learn me how to believe, I'll try; I swear I will."

For a long time Jinnie sat crooning over and over the verses she'd
learned from Lafe, and bye-and-bye she heard Peg breathing regularly
and knew she slept. Then she settled herself in the chair, and sweet,
mysterious dreams came to her through the storm.



CHAPTER XXXVIII

THE STORY OF A BIRD


Lafe Grandoken, in his wheel chair, sat under the barred prison
window, an open Bible on his knees. Slowly the shadows were falling
about him, and to the man every shade had an entity of its own. First
there trooped before him all the old memories of the many
yesterdays--of Peg--his little dead lad--and Jinnie. And lastly,
ghostlike, came the shattered hopes of to-morrow, and with these he
groaned and shivered.

Jinnie stole in and looked long upon her friend through the
iron-latticed door. The smile that played with the dimples in her
cheeks and the dancing shadows in the violet eyes indicated her
happiness. Lafe looked older and thinner than ever before, and her
heart sang when she thought of the news she had to tell him. She
longed to pronounce his name, to take away the far-away expression
that seemed to hold him in deep meditation. During her tramp to the
jail she'd concocted a fairy story to bring a smile to the cobbler's
lips. So at length:

"Lafe," she whispered.

Mr. Grandoken's head came up quickly, and he turned the chair and
wheeled toward her. There was the same question in his eyes that had
been there for so many days, and Jinnie smiled broadly.

"Lafe," she began mysteriously, "a great big bird flew right into the
house last night. He flopped in to get out of the storm!"

"A bird?" repeated Lafe, startled.

"Yes, and everybody says it's awful good luck."

Lafe's expression grew tragic, and Jinnie hurried on with her tale.

"I'll bet you can't guess what kind of a bird 'twas, Lafe."

Lafe shook his head. "I can't lessen 'twas a robin," said he.

Jinnie giggled.

"My, no! He was a heap bigger'n a robin. Guess again!"

Such chatter from Jinnie was unusual, especially of late, but Lafe
bore it patiently.

"I can't," he sighed, shaking his head.

Jinnie clapped her hands.

"I knew you couldn't! Well, Lafe, it was a--a----"

"Yes?" queried Lafe wearily, during her hesitation. "Well, Jinnie?"

"It was a great, big, beautiful white stork, Lafe, and he brought you
a new Jew baby. What'd you think of that?"

"Jinnie, girl, lass, you ain't tellin' me----"

"Yes, dear, he's there, as big as life and twice as natural, Peg
says.... Of course," she rambled on, "the stork went away, but the Jew
baby--to make a long story short, he's with----"

"His ma, eh, dear?" interjected Lafe. "How's Peg, honey?"

"Oh, she's fine," replied Jinnie, "and I've a lot to tell you,
dearest."

"Begin," commanded Lafe, with wide, bright eyes.

Jinnie commenced by telling how lovely the baby was. Of course she
didn't rehearse Peg's suffering. It wouldn't do any good.

"And the baby looks like you, Lafe," she observed.

"Does he really?" gasped Lafe, trying to smile.

"He's got your Jew look 'round his nose," added Jinnie gravely. "You
wanted him to look like you, didn't you, Lafe?"

"Sure, Jinnie. And now about Peggy? Tell me about Peggy."

"Peggy's with us, Lafe----" Jinnie stopped and drew a long breath.
"What'd you think? Oh--guess!"

"I couldn't! Tell me, Jinnie! Don't keep me waitin' for good things."

"Peggy's in the 'Happy in Spite', and I'm learning her all the verses
you taught me."

Then Lafe's head dropped on his hands and tears trickled through his
fingers.

"I wish I could see her," he groaned deeply.

"When she gets well, you can," promised Jinnie, "and mebbe the baby."

Lafe's head was raised quickly and his eyes sparkled.

"I'd love to see 'em both," was all he could stammer.

The girl thrust her fingers through the bars to him, and they stood
thus, regarding each other in all confidence and faith, until Jinnie
dropped his hand.

"Mr. King's getting well," she said softly.

"I'm glad, very glad. He don't think I done it, does he, Jinnie?"

"No, and when I see him I'll tell him you didn't."

And as if that settled it, she turned to go; then hesitating, she
smiled upon him.

"Give me four nice kisses, Lafe. I'll take one to Peg, Bobbie, and the
baby, and keep one for myself." Then after their lips had met through
the bars in resounding smacks, Jinnie gasped, "We can't forget Milly
Ann and Happy Pete. Two more, honey!"

"God bless you, Jinnie lass," murmured Lafe, trying to hide his
emotion, and then he wheeled quickly back into the falling afternoon
light under the window.

Jinnie's energetic mind was busy with a scheme. She wasn't sure it
would meet with Peg's approval, but when she arrived home, she sat
down beside Mrs. Grandoken.

"Now, Peggy," she began emphatically, "I want you to pay attention to
what I'm saying to you."

"I will," said Peggy.

"Lafe wants to see the baby!"

"Now?" asked Mrs. Grandoken, surprised.

"Well, he didn't say just now, but his eyes asked it, and, Peg, I was
wondering if I couldn't take the little kid up to the jail."

Peggy shook her head.

"They wouldn't let you in with 'im," she objected.

Jinnie thought a long time. Presently she laughed a little, chuckling
laugh.

"I know how to get him in there!"

"How?" asked Peggy, incredulously.

"Why, everybody knows I've been a shortwood girl. I'll roll him up in
a bundle----"

Peg's hand sought the little body under the covers protectingly.

"Oh, I won't hurt him, Peg," assured Jinnie. "We'll wrap him up the
first fine day! You can do it yourself, dear."

One week later Jinnie went slowly up the incline that led to the
prison. On her back was a shortwood strap filled with brush and small
twigs.

"I want to see Lafe Grandoken," she said.

To surprise Lafe she crept softly along the corridor until she halted
at his cell door. She could see him plainly, and the troubled lines
were almost erased from between his brows. She was glad of that, for
she wanted him to smile, to be "Happy in Spite."

She called his name and he turned, wheeling toward her.

"I hoped you'd be comin'," he said, smiling gravely. Then noting the
shortwood, he exclaimed, "Have you had to go to work again, lass?"

"Just for to-day," and Jinnie displayed her white teeth in a broad
smile. "I've brought you something, Lafe, and I wrapped it up in
shortwood."

The girl carefully slipped the strap from her shoulders and sat down
beside it on the floor. Watching eagerly, Lafe peered between the
bars, for surely his Peggy had sent him some token of her love. The
girl paused and looked up.

"Shut your eyes tight, Lafe," she commanded playfully.

Lafe closed his eyes, wrinkling down his lids. Then Jinnie lifted the
baby and uncovered the small face. The little chap opened his eyes and
yawned as the girl held him close to the bars.

"Now, Lafe, quick! Look! Ha! It's a Jew!"

The cobbler's eyes flew open, and he was staring squarely into a
small, rosy, open-eyed baby face. For a moment he thought he was
dreaming--dreaming a dream he had dreamed every night since the
thunder storm. He caught at his chin to stay the chattering of his
teeth.

"It ain't him, Jinnie, my Jew baby?" he murmured brokenly.

"Yes, 'tis," and she laughed. "It's your own little feller. I brought
him to get a kiss from his daddy. Kiss him! Kiss him smack on the
mouth, Lafe."

And Lafe kissed his baby--kissed him once, twice, and three times,
gulping hard after each caress. He would never have enough of those
sweet kisses, never, never! And as his lips descended reverently upon
the smooth, rose-colored skin, Mr. Grandoken laughed, and Jinnie
laughed, and the baby, too, wrinkled up his nose.

"Lafe," Jinnie said tenderly, drawing the baby away, "I knew you
wanted to see him; didn't you?"

Lafe nodded. "An' I'll never be able to thank you for this, Jinnie....
Let me kiss him once more.... Oh, ain't he beautiful?"

Just before the girl wrapped the boy again in the shortwood, she
suggested,

"Lafe, what's against taking him into the 'Happy in Spite'? He's
happier'n any kid in the whole world, having you for a daddy and Peg
for his mother."

Jinnie thrust the baby's plump hand through the bars, and Lafe, with
tears in his eyes, shook it tenderly, then kissed it.

"Lafe Grandoken, Jr," he whispered, "you're now a member of the 'Happy
in Spite' Club."

And then Jinnie took the baby back to Peggy.



CHAPTER XXXIX

JINNIE'S VISIT TO THEODORE


So suddenly had the two strong, friendly forces been swept from
Jinnie's daily life that as yet she had not the power to think with
precision. Lafe she had had every day for almost three years, and
Theodore King--oh, how she loved him! Rumors were afloat that no power
could save Lafe--her dear, brave cobbler.

Day by day the girl's faith increased, and of late she had uttered
silent prayers that she might be allowed to see Theodore.

One morning she was in the kitchen rocking little Lafe when Peggy
called her.

"There's some one to see you," said she.

Jinnie gave the mother her baby and went to the shop door. A man in a
white suit smiled down upon her.

"I'm from the hospital," said he. "Mr. King would like to see you this
morning."

Jinnie's heart seemed to climb into her throat.

"Mr. Theodore King?" she murmured.

"Yes," said the young man. "I've got a car here. Will you come?"

"Of course! Wait till I get my hat."

Once at their destination, they tiptoed into Theodore's room
noiselessly, and as Jinnie stood over the bed, looking down upon him,
she suffered keenly, he looked so deathlike; but she resolutely
controlled her feelings. When Theodore glanced at her, she forced
herself to smile, and the sight of the lovely girl refreshed the sick
man, giving him a new impetus to recover.

He smiled back, endeavoring not to show his weakness.

"You see I'm getting well," he whispered.

Jinnie nodded. She wasn't sure whether he was or not. How her heart
ached to do something for him!

One of his long, thin hands lay over the coverlet, and Jinnie wanted
to kiss it. Tears were standing thick on her lashes.

The doctor stood beside her, consulting his watch.

"If you wish to speak, Mr. King," he said kindly, "you must do so
quickly, for the young lady can stay but two minutes more. That's
all!"

The doctor turned his back upon them, watch in hand.

"Kiss me, dear!" murmured Theodore.

Oblivious of the doctor's presence, Jinnie stooped and kissed him
twice, taking the thin hand he extended.

"I sent for you because I feared you'd go to work at the wood again."

Jinnie would reassure him on this point even by an untruth, for she
might be driven, for the sake of Peggy and the children, to go back
into that hated occupation.

"I promise I won't," she said.

"Are you still taking lessons?"

Jinnie shook her head.

"I couldn't when you were sick. I just couldn't."

"But you must; you must go to-morrow. I have something here for you,"
he said, reaching under the pillow with his free hand.

Jinnie drew back abashed.

"You're too sick to think of us," she murmured.

Theodore raised her hand to his lips.

"No! No, darling, I think of you always--every day and shall even
when I'm dead. You must take this money. Do you love me, dearest, very
much?"

He smiled again as she stooped impetuously to kiss him, and with her
face very close to his, she whispered,

"Lafe didn't do it, darling!"

"I know it," replied Theodore, closing his eyes.

Then the doctor turned and sent her away.

When she sank back in the automobile, Jinnie opened her hand with the
roll of bills in it, and all the way home, she repeated, "He has given
His angels charge over thee." She was hoping and praying for Theodore
King.

Two days later, coming down the hill, she met Miss Merriweather on
horseback. The young woman stopped her and asked her to accompany her
home. Jennie hesitated. She still had memories of the cat sent to its
death in Molly's fit of anger and the woman's chilling reception of
her at the King dinner. Nevertheless she turned and walked slowly
beside the horse. When they reached the porch of Mr. King's home, a
groom came and led the animal away. Jinnie laid down her fiddle,
taking the chair indicated by Molly. It had been Jordan Morse's idea
that she should endeavor to again talk with the girl, but the woman
scarcely knew how to begin. Jinnie looked so very lovely, so
confiding, so infinitely sweet. Molly leaned over and said:

"Wasn't it queer how suddenly I remembered who you were? That night at
the party your name refused to come to my mind. I've wanted to tell
you several times how sorry I was about your accident!"

"I recognized you the minute I saw you," said Jinnie, smiling,
relieved a little by Molly's apology.

"You've a good memory," answered Molly. "Now I want to tell you
something, and I hope you'll be guided by my judgment."

Jinnie looked straight at her without a sign of acquiescence.

"What is it?" she asked presently.

"You must leave Grandoken's!"

Jinnie started to speak, but Molly's next words closed her lips.

"Please don't get nervous! Listen to me! You're a very young and very
pretty girl and there--there is some one interested in you."

Jinnie pricked up her ears. Some one interested in her! Of course she
knew who it was. Theodore! But she wouldn't leave Peggy even for him,
and the thought that he would not ask this of her brought her
exquisite joy.

"Is it Mr. King who's interested in me?" she asked, timidly.

Molly's eyes narrowed into small slits.

"No, it isn't Mr. King who's interested in you!" she replied a trifle
mockingly. "Mr. King's too sick to be interested in anybody."

Jinnie couldn't refrain from saying, "He looked awful ill when I saw
him at the hospital."

Molly stared at her blankly. She grew dizzy and very angry. This girl
always made her rage within herself.

"You've seen him since--since----"

A maddened expression leapt into Molly's eyes.

"I drive there every day, but they won't let _me_ see him," she said,
reddening.

"Mr. King sent for me," Jinnie replied, resolutely.

And as the girl admitted this, with deepening flushes, Molly looked
away. When she had first spoken of Jinnie's future to Jordan Morse,
she had pleaded with him to be kind to her, but now she could surround
that white throat and strangle the breath from it without
compunction.

"Will you tell me what he said to you?" she queried, trying to hide
her anger.

Jinnie looked down, and locked her fingers together.

"I can't tell," she said at length, moving in discomfort.

She wanted to go--to get away from the woman who looked at her so
analytically, so resentfully. She got up nervously and picked up her
fiddle.

"Don't go," urged Molly, starting forward.

Then she laughed a little and went on, "I suppose I did feel a bit
jealous at first because we--Mr. King and I--have been friends so many
years. But now we won't think any more about it. I do want you to go
from that terrible Paradise Road. It's no place for a girl in your
position."

"You've told me that before," retorted Jinnie, with clouded eyes. "My
position isn't anything. I haven't any other home, and I'm a sort of a
helper to Peggy."

A helper to Peggy! Doubtless if Lafe had heard that he would have
smiled. Truly she was a wonderful little helper, but she was more than
that, much more--helper, friend, and protector all in one.

"Another thing," added Jinnie quickly, "I love 'em all."

"You've your own home in Mottville," the woman suggested. "You ought
to be there."

Jinnie sank back into the chair.

"Oh, I couldn't ever go there!" she cut in swiftly. "But I can't tell
you why."

"Don't you want me to help you?"

Jinnie shook her head doubtfully.

"It wouldn't help any, taking me away from Peggy. I'd rather you'd do
something for Lafe. Help him get out of prison. Will you?"

"I'm not interested in him," said Molly. "But I am in you----"

"Why?" blurted Jinnie.

Molly colored.

"One can't explain an interest like mine. But I'd go back to Mottville
with you, and help you with your----"

Jinnie shook her head violently.

"I wouldn't go there for anything in the world," she interjected.

"I can't understand why not!"

"Well, first I couldn't, and I won't.... Then Peggy needs me in
Paradise Road, and there's the baby and Bobbie."

"Who's Bobbie?"

"Our little kid," replied Jinnie, smiling sweetly.

She did not think it necessary to explain that she had found Bobbie in
the woods. He was as much one of them as Lafe's baby or herself.
Neither did she speak of the boy's pitiful condition.

In spite of Jinnie's absolute refusal, Molly went on:

"But you don't understand. You've got your own life to think of!"

Jinnie burst in with what she thought was a clinching triumph.

"I take lessons on my fiddle every day. Some time I hope----"

Molly's eyes gleamed again.

"How can you afford to take lessons?"

The questioner read the truth in the burning blush that swept the
girl's dark hair line, and her little white teeth came together.

"Mr. Grandoken is not your uncle," she snapped.

"He's more'n my uncle; he's a father to me, and when he comes
home----"

"He's not coming home. Murderers don't get off so easily."

Jinnie got up and again picked her fiddle from the floor.

"He isn't a murderer!" she stammered, with filling eyes. "Lafe
wouldn't kill anything.... I've been with him almost three years and I
know. Why, he wouldn't let Peg or me swat flies."

Miss Merriweather saw her mistake. She realized then as never before
that nothing could take from the girl her belief in the cobbler.

"Sit down," she urged. "Don't go yet."

"I don't want to sit down," said Jinnie, very much offended. "I'm
going! I'm sorry you think Lafe----"

Molly rose too. Impetuously she held out her hand.

"I really shouldn't have spoken that way, because I don't know a thing
about it."

Jinnie relented a little, but not enough to sit down. She was too
deeply hurt to accept Molly's hospitality further.

"And we musn't quarrel, child," decided the woman. "Now won't you
reconsider my proposition? I should love to do something for you."

Resolutely the dark curls shook in refusal.

"I'm going to stay with Peggy till Lafe gets out, and then when I'm
eighteen I'm going to school. I've been studying a lot since I left
Mottville.... Why sometimes----" she resumed eagerly, "when we haven't
had enough to eat, Lafe's made me buy a book to study out of, and I
promised him I'd stay with his family till he came back. And----" she
walked to the edge of the porch, turning suddenly, "and he's coming
back, all right," she ended, going down the stairs.

Molly watched the slim young figure swing out to the road. The girl
didn't look around, and the woman waited until she had disappeared
through the gate.

"He'll not get out, and you, you little upstart," she gritted, "you'll
not stay in Paradise Road, either."



CHAPTER XL

AN APPEAL TO JINNIE'S HEART


One afternoon she was on her way home from her lesson when she heard a
voice call, "Miss Grandoken!" She glanced up swiftly, recognizing the
speaker immediately. He had been present that first night she had
played for Theodore's guests, and she remembered vividly her intuitive
dislike of him; but because he was a friend of Theodore's she went
forward eagerly. The man drove his car to the side of the pavement and
bowed.

"Would you care to be of service to Mr. King?" he asked, smiling.

Jinnie noticed his dazzling teeth and scarlet lips.

"Oh, yes, indeed! I wish I might."

"Then come with me," replied the man. "Will you?"

Without fear she entered the open car door and sat down, placing her
violin on the seat beside her. She sank back with a sigh. The time had
come she had so longed for; she was going to do something for
Theodore. She was glad now she had consented to take two lessons that
day, or she would have missed this blessed opportunity to show her
gratitude to her dear one, in acts, as well as words. The car turned
and sped up the hill.

If Jinnie wondered where the man was taking her, she did not allude to
it. They were driving in the same direction she took every day to
visit the master, and the very familiarity of it turned aside any
question that arose in her mind. As he helped her from the machine,
she looked up at the sombre building in front of them. In passing it
daily she had often wondered what it was and if any one lived within
its vast stone walls. One hasty glance, as she was being ushered in,
showed paint pails, brushes, and long ropes fastened from the roof to
broad planks below.

"Miss Merriweather will be here very soon," the man explained
good-naturedly. "She wants you to go with her to the hospital."

Jinnie's mind flew to that one time she had visited Theodore's sick
bed. She would be glad to see Molly the Merry.

She had forgiven all the woman's cruelty.

The long flights of stairs they mounted were dark and uncarpeted.
Their footsteps made a hollow sound through the wide corridors, and
there was no other sign of human life about the place. But still
Jinnie followed the man in front of her, up and up, until she had
counted five floors. Then he took a key from his pocket and put it in
the lock, turning it with a click.

Jinnie waited until, stepping inside, he turned and smilingly bade her
enter. There was so little natural suspicion in the girl's heart that
she never questioned the propriety, much less the safety, of coming
into a strange place with an unknown man. Her dear one was ill. She
was anxious to see him again, to help him if possible. She felt a
little shy at the thought of seeing Miss Merriweather once more. The
man led her to an inner room and suavely waved to a chair, asking her
to be seated. Casting anxious eyes about the place, she obeyed.

"I'm going after Miss Merriweather now, if you'll wait a few moments,"
explained the stranger. "She wasn't ready and asked me to bring you
first. I think she's preparing a surprise for Mr. King."

Jinnie's tender little heart warmed toward Molly the Merry. Just then
she had untold gratitude for the woman who was allowing her to take
Theodore something with her own hands. Oh, what joy!

She smiled back at the speaker as he moved toward the door. Then he
left her, asking her politely to make herself at home until he
returned.

Jinnie waited and waited until she thought she couldn't possibly wait
any longer. Peg would be worried, terribly worried, and little Bobbie
wouldn't eat his supper without her. But because of Miss
Merriweather's kindness and her own great desire to see her
sweetheart, she must stay until the last moment. She grew tired, stiff
with sitting, and the little clock on the mantel told her she'd been
there over two hours. She got up and went to the window. The building
stood high on a large wooded bluff overlooking a deep gorge. The
landscape before her interested her exceedingly, and took her in fancy
to the wilderness of Mottville. The busy birds fluttered to and fro,
twittering sleepily to each other, and for a short time the watcher
forgot her anxiety in the majesty of the scene.

Miles of hills and miles and miles of water stretched northward as far
as her eyes could discern anything. The same water passed and repassed
the old farmhouse, and for some time Jinnie tried to locate some
familiar spot, off where the sky dipped to the lake. It wasn't until
she noticed the hands of the clock pointed to half past six that she
became terribly nervous.

She wanted to go to the hospital and get back to Peg. Mrs. Grandoken
couldn't leave the baby with Blind Bobbie, and there was supper to
buy. Once more she paced the rooms, then back to the window. She
shivered for some unknown reason, and a sharp consciousness of evil
suddenly grew out of the lengthening hours. With the gathering dusk
the hills and gorge had fallen into voiceless silence, and because her
nerves tingled with vague fear, Jinnie drew the curtains to shut out
the yawning dark, and lighted a lamp on the table.

The room was arranged simply with a small divan, at the head of which
was a pillow. Jinnie sat down and leaned back. Her face held a look of
serious attention. She wondered if anything had happened to Molly the
Merry. Then abruptly she decided to go downstairs. If they weren't
coming, she'd _have_ to go home. She went to the door and, turning the
knob, pulled hard. The door was locked, and the key was gone! Her
discovery seemed to unmake her life in a twinkling. She was like one
stricken with death--pale, cold and shivering. She did not know what
she was going to do, but she must act--she must do something! A round
of inspection showed her she could not open one of the doors. The
windows, too, had several nails driven into their tops and along the
sides, and the doors were securely fastened with keys. She went back
to the window, raised the curtains, and looked out into the gloom.
There was not another light to be seen.

The clock on the mantel had struck nine, and Jinnie had grown so
horrified she dared not sit down. Many a time she went to the door and
pressed her ear to it, but no sound came through the deep silence.

It was after eleven when she dropped on the divan and drew the
coverlet over her. The next she knew, daylight was streaming in upon
her face.



CHAPTER XLI

JINNIE'S PLEA


Jinnie sprang up, unable at first to remember where she was. Then it
all came to her. She was locked away from the world in a big house
overlooking the gorge. However, the morning brought a clear sun,
dissipating some of her fear--filling her with greater hope.

The dreadful dreams during the night had been but dreams of fear and
pain--of eternal separation from her loved ones. Such dreams, such
fears, were foolish! No one could take her away from Peggy. She
wouldn't go! Ah, the man would return very soon with Molly the Merry.

The clock struck eight. What would Blind Bobbie think--and Peggy? The
woman might decide she had left her forever; but no, no, Peg couldn't
think that!

Childlike, she was hungry. If some one had intentionally imprisoned
her, they must have left her something to eat. Investigation brought
forth some cold meat, a bottle of milk, and some bread. Jinnie ate all
she could swallow. Then for an hour and a half she paced up and down,
wishing something would happen, some one would come. Anything would be
better than such deadly uncertainty.

Perhaps it was the overwhelming stillness of the building, possibly a
natural alertness indicative of her fear, that allowed Jinnie to catch
the echoes of footsteps at the farther end of the corridor. But before
she got to the door, a key grated in the lock, and the man who had
brought her there was standing beside her. Their eyes met in a
clinging, challenging glance--the blue of the one clashing with the
sinister grey, as steel strikes fire from steel. An insolent smile
broke over his face and he asked nonchalantly:

"Did you find the food?"

Jinnie did not answer. She stood contemplating his face. How she hated
his smile, his white teeth, and his easy, suave manner. Their glances
battled again for a moment across the distance.

"Why did you bring me here?" she demanded abruptly.

He spread his feet outward and hummed, toying the while with a smooth
white chin.

"Sit down," said he, with assumed politeness.

Jinnie stared at him with contemptuous dread in her eyes.

"I don't want to; I want to know why I'm here."

"Can't you guess?" asked the stranger with an easy shrug.

"No," said Jinnie. "Why?"

"And you can't guess who I am?"

"No," repeated Jinnie once more, passionately, "and I want to know why
I'm here."

He came toward her, piercing her face with a pair of compelling,
mesmeric eyes that made her stagger back to the wall. Then he advanced
a step nearer, covering the space Jinnie had yielded.

"I'm Jordan Morse," he then said, clipping his words off shortly.

If a gun had burst in Jinnie's face, she could have been no more
alarmed. She was frozen to silence, and every former fear her father
had given life to almost three years before, beset her once more, only
with many times the amount of vigor. Nevertheless, she gave back look
for look, challenge for challenge, while her fingers locked and
interlocked. Her uncle, who had sent her father to his grave, the man
who wanted her money, who desired her own death!

Then her eyes slowly took on a tragic expression. She knew then she
was destined to encounter the tragedy of Morse's terrific vengeance,
and no longer wondered why her father had succumbed to his force. He
stood looking at her, his gaze taking in the young form avidiously.

"You're the most beautiful girl in the world," he averred presently.

Jinnie's blue eyes narrowed angrily. However, in spite of her rage,
she was terribly frightened. An instinct of self-preservation told her
to put on a bold, aggressive front.

"Give me that key and let me go," she insisted, with an upward toss of
her head.

She walked to the door and shook it vigorously. Morse followed her and
brought her brutally back to the center of the room.

"Not so fast," he grated. "Don't ever do that again! I've been hunting
you for almost three years.... Sit down, I said."

"I won't!" cried Jinnie, recklessly. "I won't! You can't keep me here.
My friends'll find me."

The man hazarded a laugh.

"What friends?" he queried.

Jinnie thought quickly. What friends? She had no friends just then,
and because she knew she was dependent upon him for her very life, she
listened in despair as he threw a truth at her.

"The only friends you have're out of business! Lafe Grandoken will be
electrocuted for murder----"

The hateful thing he had just said and the insistence in it maddened
her. She covered her face with her hands and uttered a low cry.

"And Theodore King is in the hospital," went on Morse, mercilessly.
"It'll do no good for you to remember him."

She was too normally alive not to express the loving heart outraged
within her.

"I shall love him as long as I live," she shivered between her
fingers.

"Hell of a lot of good it'll do you," grunted the man coarsely.

Keen anxiety empowered her to raise an anguished face.

"You want my money----" she hesitated. "Well, you can have it.... You
want it, don't you?"

Her girlish helplessness made Morse feel that he was without heart or
dignity, but he thought of his little boy and of how this girl was
keeping from him the means to institute a search for the child, and
his desire for vengeance kindled to glowing fires of hate. He
remembered that, steadily of late, he had grown to detest the whole
child-world because of his own sorrow, and nodded acquiescence,
supplementing the nod with a harsh:

"And, by God, I'm going to have it, too!"

"Then let me go back to Lafe's shop. I'll give you every cent I
have.... I won't even ask for a dollar."

It took some time for Morse to digest this idea; then he slowly shook
his head.

"You wouldn't be allowed to give me what would be mine----"

"If I die," breathed Jinnie, shocked. She had read his thought and
blurted it forth.

"Yes, if you die. But I haven't any desire to kill you.... I have
another way."

"What way? Oh, tell me!"

"Not now," drawled Morse. "Later perhaps."

The man contemplated the tips of his boots a minute. Then he looked at
her, the meditative expression still in his eyes.

"To save your friends," he said at length, "you've got to do what I
want you to."

"You mean--to save Lafe?" gasped Jinnie, eagerly.

Morse gave a negative gesture.

"No, not him. The cobbler's got to go. _He knows too much about me._"

Jinnie thought of Lafe, who loved and helped everybody within helping
distance, of his wonderful faith and patience, of the day they had
arrested him, and his last words.

She could not plan for herself nor think of her danger, only of the
cobbler, her friend,----the man who had taken her, a little forlorn
fugitive, when she had possessed no home of her own--he who had taught
her about the angels and the tenderness of Jesus. From her uncle's
last statement she had received an impression that he knew who had
fired those shots. He could have Lafe released if he would. She would
beg for the cobbler's life, beg as she had never begged before.

"Please, please, listen," she implored, throwing out her hands. "You
must! You must! Lafe's always been so good. Won't you let him live?...
I'll tell him about your wanting the money.... You shall have it! I'll
make any promise for him you want me to, and he'll keep it.... He
didn't kill Maudlin Bates, and I believe you know who did."

Morse lowered his lids until his eyes looked like grey slits across
his face.

"Supposing I do," he taunted. "As I've said, Grandoken knows too much
about me. He won't be the first one I've put out of my way."

He said this emphatically; he would teach her he was not to be
thwarted; that when he desired anything, Heaven and earth,
figuratively speaking, would have to move. He frowned darkly at her as
Jinnie cut in swiftly:

"You killed my father. He told me you did."

Morse flicked an ash from a cigar he had lighted, and his eyes grew
hard, like rocks in a cold, gray dawn.

"So you know all my little indiscretions, eh?" he gritted. "Then don't
you see I can't give you--your liberty?"

Liberty! What did he mean by taking her liberty away? She asked him
with beating heart.

"Just this, my dear child," he advanced mockingly. "There are places
where people're taken care of and--the world thinks them dead. In
fact, your father had a taste of what I can do. Only he happened
to----"

"Did you put him somewhere?"

"Yes."

"Where?"

"Same kind of a place I'm going to put you----" He hesitated a moment
and ended, "A mad house!"

"Did you let him come home to me?"

"Not I. Damn the careless keepers! He skipped out one day, and I
didn't know until he'd a good start of me. I followed as soon as
possible, but you were gone. Now--now--then, to find _such_ a place
for you!"

Jinnie's imagination called up the loathsome thing he mentioned and
terrified her to numbness. At that moment she understood what her
father had written in that sealed letter to Lafe Grandoken.

But she couldn't allow her mind to dwell upon his threat against
herself.

"What'd you mean when you said I could save my friends?"

"You're fond of Mrs. Grandoken, aren't you?"

Jinnie nodded, trying to swallow a lump in her throat.

"And--and there's a--a--blind child too--who could be hurt easily."

Jinnie's living world reeled before her eyes. During this speech she
had lost every vestige of color. She sprang toward him and her fingers
went blue-white from the force of her grip on his arm.

"Oh, you couldn't, you wouldn't hurt poor little Bobbie?" she cried
hysterically. "He can't see and he's sick, terribly ill all the time.
I'll do anything you say--anything to help 'em."

Then she fell to the floor, groveling at his feet.

"Get up! You needn't cry; things'll be easy enough for you if you do
exactly as I tell you. The first order I give you is to stay here
quietly until I come again."

As he spoke, he lifted her up, and she stood swaying pitiably.

"Can't I let Peg know where I am?" she entreated when she could speak.
"Please! Please!"

"I should think not," scoffed Morse. Then, after a moment's
consideration, he went on, "You might write her a note, if you say
what I dictate. I'll have it mailed from another town. I don't want
any one to know you're still in Bellaire."

"Could I send her a little money, too?" she asked.

"Yes," replied Morse.

"Then tell me what to write, and I will."

After he had gone and Jinnie was once more alone, she sat at the
window, her eyes roving over the landscape. Her gaze wandered in
melancholy sadness to the shadowy summit of the distant hills, in
which the wild things of nature lived in freedom, as she herself had
lived with Lafe Grandoken in Paradise Road, long before her uncle's
menacing shadow had crossed her life. Then her eyes lowered to the
rock-rimmed gorge, majestic in its eternal solitude. She was on the
brink of some terrible disaster. She knew enough of her uncle's
character to realize that. She spent the entire day without even
looking at her beloved fiddle, and after the night closed in, she lay
down, thoroughly exhausted.

Peggy took a letter from the postman's hand mechanically, but when she
saw the well-known writing, she trembled so she nearly dropped the
missive from her fingers. She went into the shop, where Bobbie lay
face downward on the floor. At her entrance, he lifted a white face.

"Has Jinnie come yet?" he asked faintly.

"No," said Peg, studying the postmark of the letter. Then she opened
it. A five-dollar bill fell into her lap, and she thrust it into her
bosom with a sigh.

                  *       *       *       *       *

"PEGGY DARLING," she read with misty eyes.

"I've had to go away for a little while. Don't worry. Here's some
money. Use it and I'll send more. Kiss Bobbie for me and tell him
Jinnie'll come back soon. And the baby, oh, Peggy, hug him until he
can't be hugged any more. Don't tell Lafe I'm away.

                                            "With all my love,
                                                             "JINNIE."

                  *       *       *       *       *

Peggy put down the letter.

"Bobbie!" she said.

The boy looked up. "I ain't got any stars, Peggy," he wailed
tragically. "I want Jinnie and Lafe."

"I've got a letter from Jinnie here," announced Peggy.

The boy got to his feet instantly.

"When she's comin' back?"

"She don't say, but she sends a lot of kisses and love to you. She had
to go away for a few days.... Now don't snivel!... Come here an' I'll
give you the kisses she sent."

He nestled contentedly in Peggy's arms.

"Let me feel the letter," came a faltering whisper presently.

Bobbie ran his fingers over the paper, trying with sensitive finger
tips to follow the ink traces.

"Can I keep it a little while?" he begged.... "Please, Peggy!"

"Sure," said Peg, putting him down, and when the baby cried, Mrs.
Grandoken left the blind child hugging Happy Pete, with Jinnie's
letter flattened across his chest between him and the dog.



CHAPTER XLII

BOBBIE TAKES A TRIP


Jinnie had been gone two weeks. Nearly every day the postman brought a
letter from the girl to Peggy, and after reading it several times to
herself, she gave it to Blind Bobbie. Mrs. Grandoken had discovered
this was the way to keep him quiet.

One afternoon the boy sat on the front steps of the cobbler's shop,
sunning himself.

"You can hear Jinnie better when she comes," said Peg, as an excuse to
coax him out of doors. "Now sit there till I get back from the
market."

Bobbie had Happy Pete in his arms when he heard strange footsteps
walking down the short flight of steps. He lifted his head as he heard
a voice speak his name.

"Bobbie," it said softly. "Are you Bobbie?"

"Yes," replied the boy tremblingly.

The soft voice spoke again. "Do you want to see Jinnie?"

Bobbie clutched Happy Pete with one arm and struggled up, holding out
a set of slender fingers that shook like small reeds in a storm.

"Yes, I want to see 'er," he breathed. "Do you know where she is?"

"If you'll come along with me, I'll take you to her. Bring the dog if
you like."

"I want to see her to-day," stated Bobbie.

Jordan Morse took Bobbie's hand in his.

"Come on then, and don't make a noise," cautioned the man. "Put down
the dog; he'll follow you."

Once in Paradise Road, he stooped and lifted the slight boyish figure
and walked quickly away. Beyond the turn in the road stood his car. He
placed Bobbie and the dog on the seat beside him, and in another
moment they were speeding toward the hill.

At that moment Jinnie was brooding over her violin. Her fiddle was her
only comfort in the lonely hours. The plaintive tones she drew from it
were the only sounds she heard, save the rushing water in the gorge
and the thrashing of the trees when the wind blew. The minutes hung
long on her hands, and the hours seemed to mock her as they dragged
along in interminable sequence. With her face toward the window, she
passed several hours composing a piece which had been in embryo in her
heart for a long time. The solitude, the grandeur of the scenery, the
wonderful lake with its curves and turns, sometimes made her forget
the tragic future that lay before her.

She was just finishing with lingering, tender notes when Jordan Morse
came quickly through the corridor.

Bobbie stiffened in his arms suddenly.

"I hear Jinnie's fiddle," he gasped. "I'm goin' to my Jinnie."

When the key turned in the lock, the girl came to the door. At first
she didn't notice the blind child, but her name, unsteadily called,
brought her eyes to the little figure. Happy Pete recognized her with
a wild yelp, wriggled himself past the other two, and whiningly
crouched at her feet. Jinnie had them both in her arms before Morse
turned the key again in the lock.

"Bobbie and Happy Pete!" she cried. Then she got up and flashed
tearful eyes upon Morse.

"What did you bring them for? Did you tell Peg?"

"No, I didn't tell Peg and--and I brought him----" he paused and
beckoned her with an upward toss of his chin.

Jinnie followed him agitatedly.

"I brought him," went on Morse, "because I don't just like your
manner. I brought him as a lever to move you with, miss."

Then he left hurriedly, something unknown within him stirring with
life. He decided afterward it was the sight of the blind child's
golden head pressed against Jinnie's breast that had so upset him.

As he drove away, he crushed a desire to return again, to take them
both, boy and girl, back to the cobbler's shop. But he must not allow
his better emotions to attack him in this matter. He had known for a
long time Jinnie could be wielded through her affection for the lad.
He thought of his own child somewhere in the world and what it meant
to him to possess Jinnie's money, and set his teeth. He would bring
the girl to his terms through her love for the slender blind boy.

That day Jinnie wrote a letter to Peg, telling her that Bobbie was
with her, and Happy Pete, too.

The stolid woman had quite given way under the mysterious
disappearance of the boy. When she returned home, she searched every
lane leading to the marshes until dusk. In fact, she stumbled far into
the great waste place, calling his name over and over. He was the last
link that held her to the days when Lafe had been in the shop, and Peg
would have given much if her conscience would cease lashing her so
relentlessly. It eased her anxiety a little when a new resolution was
born in her stubborn heart. If they all came back to the shop, she'd
make up to them in some way for her ugly conduct. With this resolve,
she went home to her own baby, sorrowful, dejected and lonely.

All the evening while Peg was mourning for them, Jinnie sat cuddling
Bobbie, until the night put its dark hood on the ravine and closed it
in a heavy gloom. Happy Pete, with wagging tail, leaned against the
knees of the girl, and there the three of them remained in silence
until Bobbie, lifting his face, said quiveringly:

"Peggy almost died when you went away, Jinnie."

Jinnie felt her throat throb.

"Tell me about it," she said hoarsely.

"There ain't much to tell," replied the child, sighing, "only Peggy
was lonely. She only had me and the baby, and I didn't have any stars
and the baby's got no teeth."

"And the baby? Is he well, dear?" questioned Jinnie.

"Oh, fine!" the boy assured her. "He's growed such a lot. I felt his
face this morning, and oh, my, Jinnie, his cheeks puff out like
this!"

Bobbie gathered in a long breath, and puffed out his own thin, drawn
cheeks.

"Just like that!" he gasped, letting out the air.

"And Lafe?" ventured Jinnie.

"Lafe's awful bad off, I guess. Bates' little boy told me he was going
to die----"

"No, Bobbie, no, he isn't!" Jinnie's voice was sharp in protestation.

"Yes, he is!" insisted Bobbie. "Bates' boy told me so! He said Lafe
wouldn't ever come back to the shop, 'cause everybody says he killed
Maudlin."

As the words left his lips, he began to sob. "I want my cobbler," he
screamed loudly, "and I want my beautiful stars!"

"Bobbie, Bobbie, you'll be sick if you scream that way. There, there,
honey!" Jinnie hushed him gently.

"I want to be 'Happy in Spite'," the boy went on. But his words
brought before the pale girl that old, old memory of the cobbler who
had invented the club for just such purposes as this. How could she be
'Happy in Spite' when Bobbie suffered; when Peg and baby Lafe needed
her; happy when Lafe faced an ignominious death for a crime he had not
committed; happy when her beloved was perhaps still very ill in the
hospital? She got up and began to walk to and fro. Suddenly she paused
in her even march across the room. Unless she steadied her fluttering,
stinging nerves, she'd never be able to still the wretched boy.
There's an old saying that when one tries to help others, winged aid
will come to the helper. And so it was with Jinnie. She had only again
taken Bobbie close when there came to her Lafe's old, old words: "He
hath given his angels charge over thee."

"Bobbie," she said softly, "I'm going to play for you."

As Jinnie straightened his limp little body out on the divan, she
noticed how very thin he had become, how his heart throbbed
continually, how the agonized lines drew and pursed the sensitive,
delicate mouth.

Then she played and played and played, and ever in her heart to the
rhythm of her music were the words, "His angels shall have charge over
thee." Suddenly there came to her a great belief that out of her faith
and Lafe's faith would come Bobbie's good, and Peg's good, and
especially the good of the man shut up in the little cell. When the
boy grew sleepy, Jinnie made him ready for bed.

"I'll lie down with you, Bobbie," she whispered, "and Happy Pete can
sleep on the foot of the bed."

And as the pair of sad little souls slept, Lafe's angels kept guard
over them.



CHAPTER XLIII

THEODORE SENDS FOR MOLLY


Theodore King was rallying rapidly in the hospital. All danger of
blood poison had passed, and though he was still very weak, his
surgeon had ceased to worry, and the public at large sat back with a
sigh, satisfied that the wealthiest and most promising young citizen
in the county had escaped death at the hand of an assassin.

One morning a telephone message summoned Molly Merriweather to the
hospital. In extreme agitation she dressed quickly, telling Mrs. King
she would return very soon. Never had she been so hilariously happy.
Jinnie Grandoken had disappeared, as if she had been sunk in the sea.
Molly now held the whip hand over her husband; she could force him to
divorce her quietly. It was true of them both now their principal
enemies were out of the way. Theo was getting well, and would come
home in a few days.

While she had thought him dying, nothing save Jordan's tales of the
girl's experiences in the gorge house had been able to rouse her to
more than momentary interest.

With glowing cheeks she followed the hospital attendant through a long
corridor to Theodore's room. She entered softly and for a moment stood
gazing at him admiringly. How very handsome he was, even with the
hospital pallor! When the sick man became cognizant of Molly's
presence, he turned and smiled a greeting. He indicated a chair, and
she sank into it.

"You sent for me, Theodore?" she reminded him softly, bending
forward.

"Yes."

He was silent so long, evidently making up his mind to something, that
Molly got up and smoothed out his pillow. Theodore turned to her after
she had reseated herself.

"Molly," he began, "do you know where Jinnie Grandoken is?"

Molly's eyelids narrowed. So he was still thinking of the girl!

"No," she said deliberately.

"It seems strange," went on King somberly. "I've tried every way I
know how to discover her whereabouts, and can't. I sent to the
Grandoken's for her, but she was gone."

"You still care for her then?" queried Molly dully.

"Yes. I know you dislike the poor child, but I thought if you knew
that I--well, I really love her, you might help me, Molly."

It was a bitter harvest to reap after all these weeks of waiting--his
telling her he loved another woman--and as his voice rang with
devotion for Jinnie Grandoken, Molly restrained herself with
difficulty. She dared not lose her temper, as she had several times
before under like conditions. With her hands folded gracefully in her
lap, she replied:

"If I could help you, Theo, I would; but if Mrs. Grandoken doesn't
know where her own niece is, how should I know?"

"You're so clever," sighed Theodore, "I imagined you might be able to
discover something where a woman like Mrs. Grandoken would fail. She's
got a young child, I hear."

"What do you suggest?" inquired Molly presently.

"I want to find out quickly where she's gone," the sick man said
bluntly.

"You want to see her?" demanded Molly.

Theodore nodded.

"Yes, I'd get well sooner if I could," and he sighed again. Then his
ivory skin grew scarlet even to his temples, but the blood rushed
away, leaving him deathly white. Molly went to him quickly and leaned
over the bed. She wanted--oh, how she wanted to feel his arms about
her! But he only touched her cold hand lightly.

"Help me, Molly," he breathed.

Molly choked back an explanation. She would glory in doing anything
for him--anything within her power; but nothing, nothing for Jinnie
Grandoken. Suddenly an idea took possession of her. She would make him
doubt Jinnie's love for him, even if she lied to him.

"Of course I knew you cared for her," she said slowly.

"Yes, I made that clear, I think," said Theo, "and she cares for me. I
told you I asked her to marry me."

He laid stress on the latter half of his statement because of a
certain emphasis in Molly's.

"I don't like to hurt you--while you're ill," she ventured.

Theodore thrust forth his hand eagerly.

"Come closer," he pleaded. "You know something; you can tell me.
Please do, Molly."

"I don't know much, mind you, Theo----"

"Take hold of my hand, Molly!... Please don't keep me in such
suspense."

She drew her chair closer to the bed, her heart throbbing first with
desire, then with anger, and laid her white fingers in his.

"Tell me," insisted Mr. King.

"There was a boy----"

"You mean the little blind boy?"

"No, no," denied Molly, paling. The very mention of such an affliction
hurt her sadly. "No," she said again, "I mean a friend of the boy who
was shot; you remember him?"

"Oh, I remember Maudlin Bates; certainly I do; but I don't think I
heard of any other."

Molly hadn't either; she had shot at random and the shot told.

Theodore sat up in bed with whitening face.

"Molly," he stammered, "Molly, has any one hurt her? Has----"

Molly shook her head disgustedly.

"Don't be foolish, Theo," she chided. "No one would want to hurt a
grown girl like her."

"Then what about the man?"

"I think she went away with him."

"Where to?"

"I'm not sure----"

Theodore sank back. Molly's fingers slipped from his, and for a moment
he covered his face with his hands, soundless sobs shaking his weak
body. The woman knew by his appearance that he believed her
absolutely.

"It'll kill me!" he got out at last.

Molly slipped an arm under his head. She had never seen him in such a
state.

"Theo, don't! Don't!" she implored. "Please don't shake so, and I'll
tell you all I know."

"Very well!... I'm listening."

The words were scarcely audible, but Molly knew and hugged the thought
that his belief in Jinnie Grandoken had been shaken.

"Did you hear that Jinnie was in Binghamton?"

"Yes," murmured Theodore.

The woman released her hold on Theodore, and said:

"The man was over there with her."

Theodore turned his face quickly away and groaned.

"That's enough," he said. "Don't tell me any more."

They were quiet for a long time--very quiet.

Then Molly, with still enlarging plans, burst out:

"What if I should bring her back to you, Theo?"

He flashed dark-circled eyes toward her.

"Could you?" he asked drearily.

"I think so, perhaps. Suppose you write her a little note, and
then----"

"Ring the bell for writing material quickly."

He had all his old-time eagerness. He was partly sitting up, and Molly
placed another pillow under his head.

Theodore wrote steadily for some moments. Then he addressed an
envelope to "Jinnie Grandoken," placed the letter in it, and fastened
down the flap.

"You won't mind?" he asked wearily, handing it to Molly and sinking
back.

Molly took the letter, and with a few more words, went out. Once at
home in her bedroom, she sat down, breathing deeply. With a hearty
good will she could have torn the letter into shreds, but instead she
ripped open the envelope and read it.

After she had finished, she let the paper flutter from her hand and
sat thinking for a long time. Then, sighing, she got up and tucked the
letter inside her dress.



CHAPTER XLIV

MOLLY GIVES AN ORDER TO JINNIE


A motor car dashed to the side of the street, and Jordan Morse helped
Molly to the pavement. She stood for a moment looking at the gorge
building contemplatively.

"And she's been here all the while?" she remarked.

"Yes, and a devil of a time I've had to keep her, too. If there'd been
any one in the whole place, I believe she'd have made them hear;
though since the boy came she's behaved better." Morse's face became
positively brutal under recollections. "I've made her mind through
him," he terminated.

Jinnie had put Bobbie into bed and kissed him, and soon the child was
breathing evenly. She knew Jordan Morse would come that night, so she
closed the door between the two rooms and walked nervously up and
down. Bobbie was always ill for hours after Morse had made his daily
calls. She hoped the man would allow the child to remain in bed. When
the key grated in the lock, she was standing in the middle of the
room, her eyes fastened on the door. Every time he came, she had hopes
that he might relent, if but a little.

Morse entered, followed by Molly the Merry. Jinnie took a step forward
when she saw the woman. Molly paused and inspected sharply the slim
young figure, her mind comprehending all its loveliness. Then woman to
woman they measured each other, as only women can. Jinnie advanced
impulsively.

"You've come to take me home!" she breathed.

Molly shook her head.

"I've come to talk to you," she retorted hoarsely.

Never had she seen so beautiful a girl! The martyrdom Jinnie had
endured had only enhanced her attractiveness.

"Sit down," said Molly peevishly.

Jinnie made a negative gesture.

"I'm tired of sitting.... Oh, you will do something for me, something
for poor little Bobbie?"

Morse moved to the door between the two rooms, but Jinnie rushed in
front of him.

"He's asleep," she said beseechingly. "Don't wake him up! He's had a
dreadful spell with his heart to-day."

Morse turned inquiring eyes upon Molly.

"You wanted to see him, didn't you?" he asked.

Molly flung out a hand pettishly.

"Let him sleep," she replied. "I don't want to be bored with fits and
tears."

Jinnie sank into a chair.

"He ought to have a doctor," she sighed, as if she were speaking to
herself. Then turning to Molly, she bent an entreating look upon her.

"Please do something for him. Get a doctor, oh, do! He's so little and
so sick."

"I'm not a bit interested in him," replied Molly with a shrug.

Jinnie's nerves had borne all they could. She trembled unceasingly.
The girlish spirit had been broken by Morse's continual persecution.

"He's so little," she petitioned again, "and he can't live long."

As Molly had said, she was not interested in the sleeping child. The
only time she cared to hear him mentioned was when Jordan told her of
Jinnie's anguish over his treatment of the child. She had delighted
in his vividly described scene of how he had forced the girl to do his
will through her love for the little fellow. Now she, too, would wreak
her vengeance on Jinnie through the same source.

"I've come to tell you something about Theodore King," she remarked
slowly, watching the girl avidly the while.

Jinnie sat up quickly. If her dear one had sent her a message, then he
must know where she was.

"Then tell it," was all she said.

Molly put her hand into a leather hand bag and drew forth a letter.

"It isn't for you," she stated, with glinting eyes. "I've known for a
long time you thought he cared for you----"

"He does," interjected Jinnie emphatically.

"I think not. Here's a letter he wrote to me. It will dispel any idea
you may have about his affection for you."

"I don't wish to read your letter," said Jinnie proudly.

"Read it!" ordered Morse frowning, and because she feared him, Jinnie
took the letter nervously. The woman's words had shattered her last
hope. For a moment the well-known handwriting whirled; then the words
came clearly before her vision:

                  *       *       *       *       *

"MY DARLING," she read.

"Won't you come to me when you get this? My heart aches to have you
once more in my arms. I shall expect you very soon. With all my love,

                                                           "THEODORE."

                  *       *       *       *       *

It was not strange that she crushed the paper between her fingers.

"You needn't destroy my letter," Molly said mockingly, thrusting forth
her hand. "Give it to me."

She took it from Jinnie's shaking hand and, smoothing it out, replaced
it in her pocket book.

"I wouldn't have come but for your own good," she said, looking up.
"Mr. Morse told me you had an idea that Mr. King loved you, and I want
you to write him a letter----"

"Write who a letter?" asked Jinnie dully.

"Theodore."

"Why?"

"Because I tell you to," snapped Molly.

Then taking another letter from her bag, she held it out.

"You're to copy this and give it to Mr. Morse to-morrow."

Jinnie took the letter and read it slowly. She struggled to her feet.

"I'll not write it," she said hoarsely.

"I think you will," said Morse, rising.

Jinnie stared at him until he reached the closed door behind which
Bobbie slept.

"Don't! Don't!" she shuddered. "I'll write, I'll do anything if you
won't hurt Bobbie." Raising her eyes to Morse, she said in subdued
tones, "I'll try to give it to you to-morrow."

Never had her heart ached as it did then. The perils she was passing
through and had passed through were naught to the present misery. She
realized then her hope had been in Theodore's rescuing her.

A certain new dignity, however, grew upon her at that moment. She
stood up, looking very tall, very slight, to the man and woman
watching her.

"I wish you'd both go," she said wearily. "I'd rather be alone with
Bobbie."

Molly smiled and went out with Jordan Morse.

"She gave in all right," remarked Molly, when they were riding down
the hill. "I knew she would."

Morse shrugged his shoulders.

"Of course. She worships Grandoken's youngster.... I was wondering
there once how you felt when you knew she was reading her own
letter."

Molly's face grew dark with passionate rebellion.

"He'll write me one of my own before the year is out," said she.

"I'm not so sure!" responded Morse thoughtfully.

For a long time after the closing of the door, Jinnie sat huddled in
the chair. Nothing else in all the world could have hurt her as she
had been hurt that night, and it wasn't until very late that she crept
in beside the blind boy, and after four or five hours, dropped
asleep.



CHAPTER XLV

WRITING A LETTER TO THEODORE


The first thing Jinnie saw the next morning was the rough draft of the
letter Molly had ordered her to copy. To send it to Theodore was
asking more of her than she could bear. She turned and looked at
Bobbie. He was still sleeping his troubled, short-breathed sleep. She
had shielded him with her life, with her liberty. Now he demanded, in
that helpless, babyish, blind way of his, that she repudiate her
love.

In the loneliness of the gorge house she had become used to the idea
of never again seeing Theodore, but to allow him to think the false
thing in that letter was dreadful. She picked it up and glanced it
over once more, then dropped it as if the paper had scorched her
fingers. She'd die rather than send it, and she would tell her uncle
so when he came that morning.

She was very quiet, more than usually so, when she gave the blind boy
his breakfast.

"Bobbie," she said, "you know I'd do anything for you in this whole
world, don't you? I mean--I mean anything I could?"

Mystified, the boy bobbed his curly head.

"Sure I do, Jinnie, and I'd do anything for you too, honey."

She kissed him passionately, as her eyes sought the letter once more.
It lay on the floor, the words gleaming up at her in sinister
mockery. She tore her eyes from it, shaking in dread. Would she have
the courage to stand against Jordan Morse in this one thing? She had
given in to him at every point, but this time she intended to stand
firmly upon the rock of her love. Once more she picked up the letter
and put it away.

Two hours later, with loathing and disgust depicted in her white face,
she saw Mr. Morse enter, and her blazing blue eyes stabbed the man's
anger to the point of desiring to do her harm. For a moment he
contemplated her in silence. He was going to have trouble with her
that day. What a fool Molly was! It was she who insisted upon that
bally letter. What did he care about Theodore King? Still his wife had
him completely within her power, and he was really afraid of her now
and then when she flew into rages about his niece and Theodore. He
mopped his brow nervously.

A few days more and it would be ended. Inside of one week he would be
free from every element which threatened him, free to commence the
search for his child. He strode across the room to Jinnie.

"Come on with me," he ordered under his breath.

Jinnie obediently followed him into the inner room. Morse slammed the
door with his foot.

"Where's the letter?" he growled between his teeth.

Jinnie went to the table, got the original draft and handed it over.

"Here it is," she said slowly.

He glanced over the paper.

"Why, this is the one we left here yesterday, isn't it?"

"Yes!"

"Where is the one you wrote? I don't want this."

A glint of understanding flashed upon him.

"Where is the other?" he demanded once more.

"I haven't written it and I don't intend to."

For one single instant Morse's mind swept over the sacrifices she had
made. She had done every single thing he had told her, not for her
sake but for others. He shuddered when he thought of the trouble he
would have had with her had not the blind boy been within his power
also.

"Get the paper and write it now," he said ominously.

"I will not!"

She meant the words, a righteous indignation flaming her face, making
her eyes shine no longer blue, but opal color. Morse wondered dully if
she could and would stand out against what he would be forced to do.

"I see," he began shiftily. "I have to teach you a lesson every time I
come here, eh?"

"This time you won't," she flashed at him.

"This time I will," he taunted.

"I'd rather be dead," she faltered. "I'd rather be dead than write
it."

"Perhaps! But would you rather have----" he made a backward jerk of
his thumb toward the other room--"him dead?"

Jinnie's eyes misted in agony, but Theodore was still near her in
spirit, and she remembered the dear hours they had spent together and
how much she loved him. A sudden swift passion shook her as his kisses
lived warm again upon her face. That letter she would not write. But
as she made this decision for the hundredth time that day, Morse's
words recurred to her. Would she rather have Bobbie dead? Yes, if she
were dead too. But life was so hard to part with! She was so strong.
How many times she had prayed of late to die! But every morning found
her woefully and more miserably alive than the one before.

"I understand you'd rather, then," drawled Morse.

Jinnie shook her head.

"I don't know what I'd rather have, only I can't write the letter."
She made one rapid step toward him--"I know," she went on feverishly,
"I won't ever see Theodore again----"

Morse's emphatic nod broke off her words, but she went on
courageously. "I don't expect to, but I love him. Can't you see
that?"

"Quite evident," replied the man.

"Why hurt me more than necessary then?" she demanded.

"This is part of Miss Merri----"

"She loves him too?" cried Jinnie, staggering back.

"Yes, and he--well, you saw his letter yesterday."

"Yes, I saw it," breathed Jinnie with swift coming breath.

"Miss Merriweather thinks Theodore might still feel his obligations to
you unless you----"

"Does she know he asked me to marry him?" In spite of her agony, she
thrilled in memory.

"Yes, and he told me, too. But Miss Merriweather intends to marry him
herself, and all she wants is to wipe thoughts of you from his mind."

A powerful argument swept from her lips.

"It wouldn't make any difference to him about me if he loved her."

"You're an analytical young miss," said Morse with one of his
disagreeable smiles.

"You've taught me to be," she retorted, blazing. "Now listen! You
asked me if I'd rather have Bobbie die than write the letter, didn't
you?"

He nodded.

"Then I say 'yes'." She caught her breath. "We'll both die."

"Well, by God, you're a cool one! Theodore's more lucky than I
thought. So that's the way you love him?"

She grew more inexplicable with each passing day.

"Poor Theodore!" murmured Morse, to break the tense silence.

"I thought it all out this morning," explained Jinnie. "Bobbie's
awfully ill, terribly. He can't live long anyway, and I----" A
terrific sob shook her as a raging gale rends a slender flower.

Jinnie controlled her weeping that the blind child in the other room
might not hear. Never had Jordan been so sorely tempted to do a good
deed. Good deeds were not habitual to him, but at that moment a desire
possessed him to take her in his arms, to soothe her, to restore her
to Peggy and give her back to Theodore. But the murder scene in the
cobbler's shop came back with strong renewed vigor. He had gone too
far, and he must have money. Molly held him in her power, and as he
thought of her tightly set lips, the danger signal she had tossed at
him more times than once, he crushed dead his better feeling.

"Your plan won't work," he said slowly. "Write the letter--I am in a
hurry."

"I will not," she refused him once more.

Morse walked to the door, and she allowed him to open it. Then with
clenched hands she tottered after him. He was going to kill Bobbie and
herself. Somehow within her tortured being she was glad. Morse waited
and looked back, asking her a question silently.

She made no response, however, but cast her eyes upon the blind boy
sitting dejectedly upon the floor, one arm around Happy Pete.

"Jinnie," said Bobbie, rolling his eyes, "I was afraid you were goin'
to stay in there all day."

"Come here, boy," ordered Morse. "Get up and come here."

Bobbie turned his delicate, serious face in the direction of the
voice.

"I don't want to," he gulped, shaking his head. "I don't like you,
Mister Black Man. I can't get up anyway, my heart hurts too much!"

Still the girl stood with the vision of Theodore King before her.

"I won't write it, I won't," she droned to herself insistently.

Morse sprang forward and grasped the child.

"Get up," he hissed.

Bobbie scrambled up because he was made to. He uttered a frightened,
terrified cry.

Then, "Jinnie!" he gasped.

Jinnie saw Morse shake the slender little body and drop into a chair,
dragging the child forward. Bobbie could no longer speak. The dazed
girl knew the little heart was beating in its very worst terror. She
couldn't bear the sight and closed her eyes for an instant. When she
opened them, Morse's hand was raised above the boy's golden head, but
she caught it in hers before it descended.

"I'll do it," she managed to whisper. "Look! Look! You've killed
him."

In another moment she had Bobbie in her arms, his face pressed against
her breast.

"Get out of here!" she said, deathly white, to Morse. "I'll do it,
come back to-morrow."

And Morse was glad to escape.

After Jinnie brought Bobbie to his senses and he lay like a crumpled
leaf on the divan, she took up the hated letter. She sat down to read
it once more.

It was short, concise, and to the point.

                  *       *       *       *       *

"MR. KING:

"I made a mistake in ever thinking I cared for you. I have some one
else now I love better, and expect to be very happy with him.

                                                   "JINNIE GRANDOKEN."

                  *       *       *       *       *

The next morning when Morse came jauntily in, she handed him the copy
of it without a word. He only said to her:

"You'd have saved yourself a lot of trouble if you'd done this in the
first place. You won't bother me long now. Mr. King is home and almost
well." Then he smiled, showing his white, even teeth. "He'll be glad
to receive this letter."

"Get out," Jinnie gritted. "Get out before I--I kill you!"

                  *       *       *       *       *

Two days later Molly Merriweather was in the seventh heaven of bliss.
As Morse had said, Theodore was home, looking more like himself. With
her heart in her mouth, the woman entered his sitting room with
Jinnie's letter. Jordan had had it mailed to King from Binghamton.

"I've brought you a letter, Theodore," smiled Molly nervously.

He extended his hand, and upon recognizing the handwriting, turned
deadly white.

"I'd like to be alone," said he without looking up.

When he sent for her a little while later, and she sat opposite him,
he said:

"I'd rather not speak of--of--Miss Grandoken again. Will you give me a
drink, Molly?" And the woman noted the hurt look in his eyes.



CHAPTER XLVI

"BUST 'EM OUT"


"Jinnie, ain't we ever goin' back to Peggy?" Bobbie asked one day, his
eyes rolling upward. His small face was seamed with questioning
anxiety.

The girl drew him to her lap.

How many times Jinnie had asked that question of herself! How she
longed for Paradise Road, with its row of shacks, Peggy and the baby!
Bobby knew how she felt by the way she squeezed his hand.

"Ain't we?" he asked again.

"Some time," answered Jinnie limply.

"Did the black man say we could go, Jinnie?" the boy demanded.

Jinnie patted his head comfortingly.

"I hope he'll take us home soon," she remarked, trying to put full
assurance into her tones.

Bobbie zigzagged back to the divan, drew himself upon it, and Jinnie
knew by his abstracted manner that he was turning the matter over in
his busy little brain.

Two hours later, when Jordan Morse came in, the child was still
sitting in the same position, and the man beckoned the girl into the
other room.

"Grandoken's trial is to start this afternoon within an hour," he
informed her. "You'll be here to-day and to-morrow. You see the court
won't be long in proving the cobbler's guilt."

If he had expected her to cry, he was mistaken. She was past crying,
seemingly having shed all of her tears.

"He didn't do it," she averred stubbornly. "I know he didn't."

In justice to Lafe, she always reiterated this.

Morse gave a sinister laugh.

"What you know or don't know won't matter," he responded, and looking
at the angry, beautiful face, he ejaculated, "Thank God for that!"

Jinnie turned her back, but he requested her sharply to look at him.

"Have you told the boy where I'm going to take you?" he demanded, when
she was eyeing him disdainfully.

"No."

"I never knew a woman before who could hold her tongue," he commented
in sarcasm.

Jinnie didn't heed the compliment.

"When he asks you questions, what do you tell him?"

"That you will come for us soon."

"I will, all right."

Jinnie went nearer him.

"Where are you going to take him?"

Morse shrugged his shoulders.

"You'll know in time," said he.

How ominous his words were, and how his eyes narrowed as he looked at
her! She was thoroughly afraid of that tone in his voice. Her own fate
she was sure of, but Bobbie--desperation filled her soul. She would
beg Morse to let him go back to Peggy.

Lifting clasped hands, she walked very close to him.

"You're going to have all my money," she said with emphasis. "I've
done everything I can, and I'll make Bobbie promise not to say a word
to any one if you'll take him to Mrs. Grandoken."

Morse shook his head.

"Too dangerous," he replied, and he went out without a glance at the
blind boy on the divan.

Once more alone with Bobbie, Jinnie sat down to think. How could she
rescue him from this awful position? How get him back to Peggy?
Somehow she felt that if she could be sure the little boy was safe,
she could go away to the place Morse had described with at least a
little relief. That day Lafe's accusers were to try him before a
jury----. She had almost lost hope for the cobbler--he was lame, had
no friends, and was a Jew, one of the hated race. She knew how the
people of Bellaire despised the Jews. For Peggy she didn't worry so
much. Jordan Morse had given his solemn promise that, if Lafe died in
the electric chair--and she died to the world--he would be of
financial assistance to Peggy.

She sat studying Bobbie attentively. The child's face was pathetically
white and she could see the quick palpitation of his heart under his
jacket.

"I heard what the black man said, Jinnie," Bobbie blurted presently,
sinking in a little heap. "I mean when he had you in the other room a
little while ago. You was beggin' him to help me; wasn't you,
Jinnie?"

Jinnie went to him quickly and gathered him into her arms.

"Bobbie," she implored, "you must never let him know, never, never,
that you heard him talking. He might hurt you worse than he has."

Bobbie flashed his eyes questioningly in evident terror.

"What'd he hurt me more for? I ain't done nothin' to him."

"I guess because he's bad, dear," said Jinnie sadly.

"Then if he's bad, why do you stay here?" He clung to her tremulously.
"Take me away, Jinnie!"

"I can't!" lamented Jinnie. "I've told you, Bobbie, the door's
locked."

She could lovingly deceive him no longer.

How the little body trembled! How the fluttering hands sought her aid
in vain!

"My stars're all gone, Jinnie," sobbed Bobbie. "My beautiful stars! I
can't see any of 'em if I try. I'm awful 'fraid, honey dear. It's so
dark."

Jinnie tightened her arms about him, racking her brain for soothing
words.

"But Lafe's God is above the dark, Bobbie," she whispered reverently.
"We've got to believe it, dearie! God is back up there ... just up
there."

She took his slender forefinger and pointed upward.

"How does God look, Jinnie? Just how does he look?"

"I've never seen him," admitted the girl, "but I think, Bobbie, I
think he looks like Lafe. I know he smiles like him anyway."

"I'm glad," sighed the boy. "Then He'll help us, won't He? Lafe would
if he could. If you say He will, He will, Jinnie!"

Five tense minutes passed in silence. Then: "Sure we couldn't get out
of the window, dearie?" asked Bobbie.

"They're locked, too," answered the girl, low-toned.

"I'd bust 'em out," volunteered the boy, with sudden enthusiasm.

"But there's a deep gorge in front of every one, honey," replied
Jinnie sadly.

Yet Bobbie's words--"bust 'em out"--took hold of her grippingly, and
the thought of leaving that unbearable place was like a tonic to the
frantic girl. She crossed the room rapidly and examined the window
panes. But even if she could break them, as Bobbie suggested, the
water below would receive their bodies, and death would follow. If it
were a street, she might manage. Yet the sight of the flowing water,
the dark depths between the ragged rocks, did not send Bobbie's words,
"bust 'em out," from her mind. If they fell together, the boy would
never be tortured any more. To-morrow Jordan Morse would be in the
courtroom all day. To-morrow----God, dear God! She seemed to hear
Lafe's monotone, "There's always to-morrow, Jinnie."

She was called upon to think, to act alone in a tragic way. Of course
she would be killed if she jumped into the deep gorge with the child
and Happy Pete. She tried to think, to plan, but after the manner of
all believing sufferers, could only pray.

Bobbie need fear no evil! "Angels have been given charge over him, and
Bobbie shall not want," Jinnie whispered, her mind spinning around
like a child's top. A sudden faith boomed at the portals of her soul.
What was the use of asking help for Bobbie if she didn't have faith in
an answer?

To-day would bring forth a plan for to-morrow. To-morrow Bobbie would
be saved from Jordan Morse. To-morrow would end his terror in the
gorge house. To-morrow--she would be eighteen years old!

"Bobbie," she entreated, going to the child swiftly, "Bobbie, do you
remember any prayers Lafe taught you?"

The child bobbed his head.

"Sure," he concurred. "'Now I lay me' and 'Our Father which art in
Heaven.'... I know them, Jinnie."

"Then sit upon the divan again and say them over and over, and pray
for Lafe, and that you'll get out of here and be happy. You mustn't
tell Mr. Morse if he comes, but I'm going to try to get you out of the
window."

As she stood in the gathering gloom and peered into the water below,
Jinnie could hear the child lisping his small petitions.

At that moment a new faith came for herself. Lafe's angels would save
her, too, from Jordan Morse's revenge.

At ten-thirty the next morning Morse came. With trepidation Jinnie
heard him open the door. He was extremely nervous and stayed only a
few moments.

"I've got to be in court at eleven," he explained, "and I'll come for
you both about ten this evening. Be ready, you and the boy, and
remember what I told you!"

When they were alone once more, she sat down beside the blind child
and placed her arm around him.

"Bobbie, will you do exactly what I tell you?"

"Sure," responded Bobbie, cheerfully. "Are we goin' home?"

Without answering him, Jinnie said:

"Then take Happy Pete and don't move until I get back. Just pray and
pray and pray! That's all."

Happy Pete snuggled his head under Bobbie's arm and they both sat very
still. The boy scarcely dared to breathe, he was so anxious to please
his Jinnie.

The farthest window in the inner room door seemed to be the best one
to attack. If Morse surprised her, it would be easier to cover up her
work. With a frantic prayer on her lips, she took off her shoe and
gave the pane of glass one large, resounding blow. It cracked in two,
splinters not only flying into the room, but tumbling into the gorge
below. Then she hastily hammered away every particle of glass from the
frame, and, shoving her shoulders through, looked out and down. The
very air seemed filled with angels. They could and would save her and
Bobbie even in the water--even if they were within the suction of the
falls there, some distance below and beyond. Then her eyes swept over
the side of the building, and she discovered a stone ledge wide enough
for a human being to crawl along. Would she dare try it with her loved
ones? She distinctly remembered seeing a painter's paraphernalia in
the front, and they might be there still! The more she thought, the
greater grew her hope, and with this growing hope came a larger faith.
At least she'd find what was at the end of the building away off there
to the east.

To-day, yes, now!... She couldn't wait, for her uncle was coming
to-night. It must be now, this minute. She went back to Bobbie.

"I'm going to try it, darling," she told him, kissing his cheek. "Sit
right here until I get back. Hang to Petey. He might follow me."

Then cautiously she dragged her body through the hole in the window,
and began to crawl along the stone ledge. The roar of the water on the
rocks below made her dizzy. But over and over did she cry into God's
ever listening ear:

"He has given--he has given his angels--angels charge over thee."

Jinnie reached the corner of the building, and looked out over the
city. The ledge extended around the other side of the building, and
she turned the corner and went slowly onward. At the south end she
stopped still, glancing about.

Only one thing of any value was in the range of her vision. The two
long ropes she had seen long before were still hanging from the roof
and fastened securely to a large plank almost on the ground. It
brought to Jinnie's mind what Lafe had told her,--of Jimmie Malligan
who had been killed, and of how he himself had lost his legs.

Could she, by means of the rope, save the three precious things back
in that awful room--Bobbie, Happy Pete, and her fiddle?

To be once more under God's sun with the blue above gave her new
strength. Then she turned and crawled slowly back.

At the corner she grew faint-hearted. It must have been the gorge
below that made her breath come in catching sobs. But on and on she
went until through the window she could see Bobbie with Happy Pete
asleep in his arms. The child was still muttering over his little
prayers, his blind eyes rolling in bewildered anxiety.

Jinnie was very white when she sat down beside him. Putting her face
close to his, she brushed his cheek lovingly.

"Bobbie," she said, touching his hair with her lips, "how much do you
love Jinnie?"

"More'n all the world," replied Bobbie without hesitation.

"Then if you love me _that_ much, you'll do just what I tell you."

"Yes," Bobbie assured her under his breath.

Jinnie took a towel--she couldn't find a rope--and strapped the violin
to Bobbie's back.

"I've got to take my fiddle with me, dearie," she explained, "and I
can't carry it because I've got you. You can't carry it because you've
got to hold Happy Pete.... Now, then, come on!"

Jinnie drew the reluctant, trembling child to his feet and permitted
him to feel around the window-sash; she also held him tightly while he
measured the stone ledge with his fingers.

"I'm awful 'fraid," he moaned, drooping.

Jinnie feared he was going to have another fainting spell. To ward it
off, she said firmly:

"Bobbie, you want to see Lafe, don't you?"

"S'awful much," groaned Bobbie.

"Then don't hold your breath." She saw him stagger, and grasping him,
cried out "Breathe, Bobbie, breathe! We're going to Peggy."

Bobbie began to breathe naturally, and a beatific smile touched the
corners of his lips.

"I got so many stars to-day, Jinnie," he quavered, "one slipped right
down my throat."

"But you mustn't be scared again, Bobbie! If we stay, the black man'll
come back and shake you again and take us to some place that'll make
us both sick. You just keep on praying, and I will, too.... Now, then,
I'm going out, and when I say, 'Ready,' you crawl after me."

"What's that noise?" shivered Bobbie, clutching Happy Pete.

"It's water," answered Jinnie, "water in the gorge."

Bobbie's teeth chattered. "Do we have to jump in it?"

"No, I'm going to take you down a rope."

With that she crawled through the hole, and when once on the stone
ledge, she put her hand in on the boy's head.

"Lift up your leg and hang tight to Petey," she shuddered, and the
blind boy did as he was bidden, and Jinnie pulled him, with the dog
and fiddle, through the opening. She put him on his knees in front of
her with her arms tightly about him.

"Jinnie, Jinnie!" moaned Bobbie. "My heart's jumpin' out of my
mouth!"

Jinnie pressed her teeth together with all her might and main,
shivering so in terror that she almost lost the strength of her arms.

"Don't think about your heart," she implored, "and don't shake so!
Just think that you're going to Lafe and Peg."

Then they began their long, perilous journey to the corner of the
building. It must have taken twenty minutes. Jinnie had no means by
which to mark the time. She only knew how difficult it was to keep the
blind child moving, with the water below bellowing its stormy way down
the rock-hill to the lake. Happy Pete gave a weird little cry now and
then. But on and on they went, and at the corner Jinnie spoke:

"Bobbie, we've got to turn here. Let your body go just as I shove
it."

Limp was no word for Bobbie's body. He was dreadfully tired. His heart
thumped under Jinnie's arms like a battering-ram.

"Bobbie, don't breathe that way, don't!" she entreated.

"I can't help it, honey! my side hurts," he whispered. "But I'll go
where you take me, Jinnie dear."

The girl turned him carefully around the sharp ledge corner, and they
went on again. Her arms seemed almost paralyzed, but they clung to the
child ahead, and the child ahead clung to the little dog, who hung
very straight and inert in front of his body.

When they reached the south corner, Jinnie explained their next move
to Bobbie in this way:

"Now listen," she told him. "You get on my back with your legs under
my arms, hang to me like dear life, and keep Happy Pete between us.
Don't hurt him if you can help it."

They were within touch of one of the dangling ropes and far below
Jinnie saw the swaying plank to which it was fastened. Once on that
board, she could get to the ground.

Then she continued: "Now while I lean over, you get on my back."

As she guided his slender hands, she felt them cold within her own,
but in obedience to her command, Bobbie put his legs about her, one
arm around her neck, and with the other held Happy Pete.

"We won't fall, will we, Jinnie?" quavered the boy.

"No," said Jinnie, helping to settle him on her back.

Then she crawled closer to the rope, took up her skirt and placed it
about the rough hemp. She was afraid to use her bare hands. The rope
might cut and burn them so dreadfully that she'd have to let go. With
a wild inward prayer, she swung off into the air, with the boy, the
dog and the fiddle on her back, and began her downward slide. She
counted the windows as they passed, one, two, three, and then four.
Only a little distance more before she would be upon firm ground. As
her feet touched the plank, she glanced into the street and in that
awful moment saw Jordan Morse crossing the corner diagonally, within
but a few yards of where she stood, terrified.



CHAPTER XLVII

BOBBIE'S STARS RENEW THEIR SHINING


Jinnie stood rooted to the spot, the burden on her back bearing
heavily upon her. She scarcely dared breathe, but kept her startled
eyes upon the advancing man. Her uncle was walking with his head down.
As he approached the building, a terrible shiver passed over the blind
boy.

"The black man's comin'!" he shuddered. "I hear----"

"Hush!" whispered Jinnie, and Bobbie dropped his head and remained
quiet.

The girl's heart was thumping almost as fast as his.

In the oppressive silence she heard Bobbie's faint whisper: "Our--our
Father who art in Heaven," and her own lips murmured: "He has given
his angels charge over thee."

Without raising his eyes, Jordan Morse sprang to the steps and entered
the door.

Jinnie turned her head and almost mechanically watched him disappear.
Then she took one long, sobbing breath.

"Bobbie, Bobbie," she panted, "get down quick!"

The boy slid to the plank, dropping Happy Pete.

Jinnie grasped the child's cold hand in hers, and they ran rapidly to
a thick clump of trees. Once out of sight of the building, she picked
up the little dog and sank down, clutching Bobbie close to her
heart.

The beginning of the second day of Lafe's trial brought a large crowd
to the courthouse. All the evidence thus far given had been against
him, but he sat in his wheelchair, looking quietly from under his
shaggy brows, and never once, with all that was said against him, did
the sweet, benevolent expression change to anger. The cobbler had put
his life into higher hands than those in the courtroom, and he feared
not.

After the morning session, Jordan Morse left the room with a satisfied
smile. He walked rapidly to the streetcar and took a seat, with a
thoughtful expression on his countenance. Lafe would be convicted, and
he would get rid of the girl now shut away from the world in the gorge
building. Then, with the money that would be his, he'd find his
child,--the little boy who was his own and for whom he so longed. He
often looked at Molly and wondered how she could smile so radiantly
when she knew she had lost her child,--her own flesh and blood,--her
own little son.

Even after he left the car and was approaching the gorge, he worried
about the two in the house. It was because his mind was bent on
important plans that he did not see Jinnie swinging in the sunshine
between heaven and earth. He climbed the stairs, framing a sentence
for the girl's benefit. As he unlocked the door, the silence of the
room bore down upon him like an evil thing. He went hurriedly into the
second room, only to find it also empty. For the moment he did not
notice the shattered glass on the floor, and his heart sank within
him, but the breeze that drifted to his face brought his eyes to the
broken window. With an oath, he jumped to it and looked out. Far
below, the water tumbled as of yore over the rocks. He strained
horrified eyes for a glimpse of a human body. The girl and boy must
have dropped together into the deep abyss, preferring death to
uncertainty. They were gone--gone over the ragged rocks, where their
bodies would be lost in some of the fathomless juts a mile beyond. He
would never be bothered with Jinnie again. Then he turned from the
window. His most terrifying obstacle was out of his way. The blind
child did not concern him. He was but a feather in the wind,--the
little fellow who always shrank from him.

As if leaving a tomb, he went softly from the room and turned the key
in the lock with a sigh. Jinnie had relieved him of an awful
responsibility. At least fate had taken from his hands a detestable
task, at which he had many a time recoiled. So far all of his enemies,
with the exception of Theodore King, had one by one been taken away,
and he swung himself out of the building with a great burden lifted
from his shoulders.

As he passed, Jinnie was still drawing long breaths under the thick
bushes, Bobbie's face against her breast, and it was not until she was
sure Morse had gone that she ventured to speak.

"We're going to Lafe and Peg, Bobbie," she said. "Can you walk a long
way?"

"Yes," gurgled Bobbie, color flaming his face. "My legs'll go faster'n
anything."

And "faster'n anything" those thin little legs did go. The boy trotted
along beside his friend, down the hill to the flats. Jinnie chose a
back street leading to the lower end of the town.

"I'd better carry you a while, dearie," she offered presently, noting
with what difficulty he breathed. "You take the fiddle!" And without
remonstrance from the boy she lifted him in her arms.

From the tracks Lafe's small house had the appearance of being
unoccupied. Jinnie went in, walking from the shop to the kitchen,
where she called "Peggy!" two or three times. Then the thought of the
cobbler's trial rushed over her. Peggy and the baby were at court with
Lafe, of course.

Knowing she must face her uncle in the courtroom, she went to Lafe's
black box and drew forth the sealed letter her father had sent to
Grandoken. This she hid in her dress, and taking Bobbie and the
fiddle, she went out and closed the door.

Another long walk brought them to the courthouse, which stood in
solemn stone silence, with one side to the dark, iron-barred jail.
Jinnie shivered when she thought of the weary months Lafe had sat
within his gloomy cell.

She entered the building, holding Bobbie's hand. Every seat in the
room was filled, and a man was making a speech, using the names of
Maudlin Bates and Lafe Grandoken.

Then she looked about once more, craning her neck to catch sight of
those ahead. Her eyes fell first upon Lafe, God bless him! There he
sat, her cobbler, in the same old wheelchair, wearing that look of
benign patience so familiar to her. Only a little distance from him
sat Peggy, the baby sleeping on her knees. Molly the Merry was seated
next to Jordan Morse, whose large white hand nervously clutched the
back of the woman's chair.

Several stern-looking men at a table had numerous papers over which
they were bending. Then Jinnie's gaze found Jasper Bates. She could
see, by the look upon his face, that he was suffering. She felt sorry,
sorry for any one who was in trouble, who had lost a son in such a
manner as Jasper had. Then she awoke to the import of the lawyer's
words.

"Before you, Gentlemen of the Jury," he was saying, "is a murderer, a
Jew, Lafe Grandoken. You know very well the reputation of the people
on Paradise Road. The good book says 'a life for a life.' This Jew
shot and killed his neighbor----"

Jinnie lost his next words. She was looking at Lafe, and saw his dear
face grow white with stabbing anguish. The girl's throat filled with
sobs, and she suddenly remembered something Theodore had once said to
her.

"If you want anything, child, just play for it."

And she wanted the life of her cobbler, the man who had taken her,
with such generosity, into his heart and meagre home. She slipped the
fiddle from the case and stooped and whispered in Bobbie's ear:

"Grab the back of my dress, dearie, and don't let go!"

She moved into the aisle, making ready to start on her life mission.
She lifted the bow, and with a long sweep, drew an intense minor note
from the strings. A sea of faces swung in her direction. Jinnie forgot
every one but the cobbler--she was playing for his life--improvising
on the fiddle strings a wild, pleading, imploring melody. On and on
she went, with Blind Bobbie, in trembling confusion, clinging to her
skirts, and Happy Pete with sagging head at their heels. At the first
sound of the fiddle Lafe tried to rise, and did rise. He stood for a
moment on his shaking legs, and there, to the amazement of the gaping
crowd of his townsfolk, he swayed to and fro, watching and listening
as the wonderful music filled and thrilled through the room.

A heavenly light shone on the wrinkled face.

Jordan Morse got to his feet, chalk white. Molly the Merry was looking
at Jinnie as if she saw a ghost.

The onlookers saw Lafe's unsteady steps as he tottered toward the
lovely girl and blind child. When he was within touching distance, she
put the instrument and bow under one arm and took Lafe's hand in hers.
Her voice rang out like the tone of a bell.

"I've come for you, Lafe. I've come to take you back."

Then Molly's eyes dropped from Jinnie to the boy, and a cry broke from
her. Before her was the child for whom, in spite of the evidence of
her smiling lips, she had truly mourned. The wan, blind face was
turned upward, the golden hair lying in damp curls on the lovely head.
Spontaneously the woman reached forward and took the little hand in
hers. All the mother within her leaped up, like a brilliant flash of
lightning.

"My baby!" was all she said; and Bobbie, white, trembling and
palpitating, cried in a weird, high voice:

"I've found my mother!"

Then Jordan Morse understood. The hot blood was tearing to his ear
drums. The blind boy he had persecuted and tortured, the boy he had
made suffer, was his own son. That wonderful quality in the man, the
fatherhood within him, rose in surging insistence. Instant remorse
attacked him, as an oak is attacked by fierce winter storms. He saw
the boy's angelic face grow the color of death; saw Molly the Merry
gather him up. Then a stab of jealousy cut his heart like a knife. He
bent over with set jaws.

"Give him to me," he cried. "He's mine!"

Molly surrendered the child with reluctance, but terror and fright
were depicted upon Bobbie's face.

"Jinnie! Lafe! Peggy!" he screamed. "He'll hurt me! The black man's
goin' to kill me! Jinnie, pretty Jinnie----"

The passionate voice grew faint and ceased. Then the loving little
heart burst in the boyish bosom, and Bobbie's angels bore away his
young soul to another world where blindness is not,--where his
uplifted being would understand that the stars he'd loved,--the stars
he'd gathered in his small, unseeing head,--were but a reflection of
those in God's firmament. With one final quiver he straightened out in
his father's arms and was silent. All his loves and sorrows were in
the eternal yesterdays, and to-day had delivered him into the charge
of Lafe's angels.

Jinnie was crying hysterically, and her father's dying curse upon her
uncle leapt into her mind. She was clinging to the cobbler, and both
had moved to Peg, where the woman sat as if turned to stone.

Not a person in the courtroom stirred. In consternation the jury sat
in their chairs like graven images, taking in the freshly wrought
tragedy with tense expressions. The judge, too, leaned forward in his
chair, watching.

Jordan Morse faced the room, with its silent, observant crowd,
pressing to his breast the dead body of his child. Then he turned to
Lafe, white, twitching, and suffering.

"I shot Maudlin Bates," he said, haltingly; then turning to the jury
he continued: "The cobbler's an innocent man----"

A menacing groan fell from a hundred lips at his words.

He deliberately took from his hip pocket a revolver, lifted the weapon
and finished:

"I'm--I'm sorry, Jinnie, I'm----"

Then came the sharp, short bark of the gun, and the bullet found a
path to his brain. He staggered, frantically clutching the slender
body of Bobbie closer--and toppled over.



CHAPTER XLVIII

FOR BOBBIE'S SAKE


Lafe's homecoming was one of solemn rejoicing. The only shadow hanging
over the happy family was the absence of Blind Bobbie, who now lay by
the side of his dead father.

After the first greetings, Lafe took his boy baby and pressed him
gratefully to his heart.

"He's beautiful, Peggy dear, ain't he?" he implored, drinking in with
affectionate, fatherly eyes the rosy little face. "Wife darlin', make
a long story short an' tell me he's beautiful."

Mrs. Grandoken eyed her husband sternly.

"Lafe," she admonished, "you're as full of brag as a egg is of meat,
and salt won't save you. All your life you've boasted till I thought
the world'd come to an end, an' I ain't never said a word against it.
Now you can't teach me none of your bad habits, because I won't learn
'em, so don't try." She paused, her lips lifting a little at the
corners, and went on: "But I'm tellin' you with my own lips there
ain't a beautifuller baby in this county'n this little feller, nor one
half so beautiful! So there's my mind, sir."

"'Tis so, dear," murmured the cobbler, rejoicing.

About five o'clock in the afternoon, while Peggy was uptown
replenishing the slender larder and Lafe and Jinnie were alone with
the baby, there came a timid knock.

Jinnie went to the door and there stood Molly Merriweather. The
woman's face was white and drawn, her eyes darkly circled underneath.

One glance at her and Jinnie lost her own color.

"I want to speak with you just a moment," the woman said beseechingly.
"May I come in?"

Without answering, Jinnie backed into the room, which action Molly
took as a signal to enter.

She inclined her head haughtily to the cobbler.

"Would you mind if I spoke to Miss Grandoken alone?"

Lafe looked to Jinnie for acquiescence.

"If Jinnie'll help me to the kitchen," he replied, "you can talk here.
I'm a little unsteady on my feet yet, miss!"

It took some time for the tottering legs to bear him away, but the
strong, confident girl helped him most patiently.

"You might just slip me the baby, Jinnie," said Lafe, after he was
seated in the kitchen. "I could be lookin' at 'im while you're
talkin'. You ain't mindin' the woman, honey lass, be you?"

"No, dear," answered Jinnie.

This done, the girl returned to Molly, who stood at the window staring
out upon the tracks. She turned quickly, and Jinnie noticed her eyes
were full of tears.

"I suppose you won't refuse to tell me something of my--my little
boy?" she pleaded.

Tears welled over Jinnie's lids too. Bobbie's presence and adoration
were still fresh in her mind.

"He's dead," she mourned. "My little Bobbie! Poor little hurt
Bobbie!"

Molly made a passionate gesture with her gloved hands.

"Don't, please don't say those things! I'm so miserable I can't think
of him. I only wanted to know how you got him."

"I just found him," stated Jinnie. Then, because Molly looked so
white, she forgot the anguish the woman had caused her, and rehearsed
the story of Bobbie's life from the time she had discovered him on the
hill.

"I guess he was always unhappy till he came to us."

"And I helped to hurt him," cried Molly, shivering.

"But you didn't know he was yours," soothed Jinnie.

The woman shook her head.

"No, of course I didn't know," she replied, and then went on rapidly:

"I was so young when I married your uncle, I didn't know anything.
When I lost my baby, I knew no way to search for him."

"Won't you sit down?" Jinnie had forgotten that they were both
standing. "Sit in that little rocker; it's Bobbie's," she finished.

Molly looked at the little chair and turned away.

"Lafe bought it for him," Jinnie explained eagerly. "He was too sick
with his heart to get around much like other boys."

Miss Merriweather wrung her hands.

"Don't tell me any more," she begged piteously. "He's dead and nothing
can help him now. I've--something else to say to you." Jinnie wiped
her eyes.

"Mr. King is quite well now, and----"

"Oh, I'm glad!" cried Jinnie. "Does he--he ever speak of me?"

Molly shook her head mutely.

"I don't want him to see you!" she cried, her eyes growing hard and
bright.

"Why?" Jinnie said the one word in bewilderment.

"He doesn't know yet what Jordan and I did to you, nor
about--about--Bobbie. I don't want him to, either, just yet. I fear if
he does, he won't care for me."

Jinnie's eyes drew down at the corners.

"Of course he wouldn't if he knew," she said, with tightly gripped
fingers.

Molly paid no heed to this, but went on rapidly:

"Well, first, you don't love him as I do----"

"I love him very much," interjected Jinnie, "and he used to love me."

The woman's lips drew linelike over her teeth.

"But you see he doesn't any longer," she got out, "and if you go
away----"

"Go away?" gasped Jinnie.

"Yes, from Bellaire. You won't stay here, now that you're rich." She
threw a contemptuous glance about the shop. Jinnie caught the
inflection of the cutting voice and noted the expression in the dark
eyes.

"I'll stay wherever Lafe and Peggy are," she said stubbornly.

"Perhaps, but that doesn't say you're going to live in this street all
your life.... I want you to go back to Mottville."

Jinnie still looked a cold, silent refusal.

Molly grew even whiter than before, but remembering Jinnie's kindly
heart, she turned her tactics.

"I'm very miserable," she wept, "and I love Theodore better than any
one in the world."

"So do I," sighed Jinnie, bowing her head.

"But he doesn't love you, child, and he does love me."

Jinnie's eyes fixed their gaze steadily on the other woman.

"Then why're you afraid for him to see me?" she demanded.

Molly got to her feet. She saw her flimsily constructed love world
shattered by the girl before her. She knew Theodore still loved her,
and that if he knew all her own wickedness, his devotion would
increase a hundredfold. He must not see Jinnie! Jinnie must not see
him! Rapidly she reviewed the quarrels she and Theodore had had,
remembered how punctiliously he always carried out his honorable
intentions, and then--Molly went very near the girl, staring at her
with terror in her eyes.

"Jinnie," she said softly, "pretty Jinnie!"

Those words were Bobbie's last earthly appeal to her, and Jinnie's
face blanched in recollection.

"Didn't you love my baby?" Molly hurried on.

A memory of fluttering fingers traveling over her face left Jinnie's
heart cold. Next to Lafe and Theodore she had loved Bobbie best.

"I loved him, oh, very much indeed!" she whispered.

"And he often told you he loved--his--his--mother?"

"Yes."

Molly was slowly drawing the girl's hands into hers.

"He'd want me to be happy, Jinnie dear. Oh, please let me have the
only little happiness left me!"

Jinnie drew away, almost hypnotized.

"I can't be a--a good woman unless I have Theodore," Molly moaned.
"You're very young----"

Her eyes sought the girl's, who was struggling to her feet.

"For Bobbie's sake, Jinnie, for--for----"

Jinnie brought to mind the blind boy, his winsome ways, his desire for
his beautiful mother, her own love for Theodore, and turning away,
said with a groan:

"I want Theodore to be happy, and I want you to be happy, too,
for--for Bobbie's sake. I--I promise not to see him, but I'll always
believe he loves me--that--that----"

"You're a good girl," interrupted Molly with a sigh of relief.

Jinnie went to the door.

"Go now," she said, with proudly lifted head, "and I hope I'll never
see you again as long as I live."

Then Molly went away, and for a long time the girl stood, with her
back to the door, weeping out the sorrow of a torn young soul. She had
promised to give up Theodore completely. She had lost her love, her
friend, her sweetheart. Once more she had surrendered to Bobbie
Grandoken the best she had to give.

Later, when the cobbler and his wife were crooning over their little
son, Jinnie, with breaking heart, decided she would leave Bellaire at
once, as Molly had asked her. She must never think of Theodore again.
She'd renounced him, firmly believing he still loved her; she'd
promised to depart without seeing him, but surely, oh, a little
farewell note, with the assurances of her gratitude, would not be
breaking that promise.

So, until Peggy carried the baby away to bed, the girl composed a
letter to Theodore, pathetic in its terseness. She also wrote to
Molly, telling her she had decided to go back to Mottville
immediately.

When she had finished the letters, she took her usual place on the
stool at the cobbler's feet.

"Lafe," she ventured, wearily, "some time I'm going to tell you
everything that's happened since I last saw you, but not to-night!"

"Whenever you're ready, honey," acquiesced Lafe.

"And I've been thinking of something else, dear. I want to go to
Mottville."

Lafe's face paled.

"I don't see how Peg an' me'll live without you, Jinnie."

Jinnie touched the hand smoothing her curls.

"I couldn't live without you either, Lafe, and I won't try----"

The cobbler bent and kissed her.

"I won't try, dear," she repeated. "You must all live with me,
although I'll go first to arrange things a little. We'll never worry
about money any more, dearest."

"And Mr. King," Lafe faltered, quite disturbed, "what about him?"

"I shan't ever see him again," Jinnie stated sadly. "I've just written
him, and he'll understand."

Lafe knew by the finality of her tones that she did not care to
discuss Theodore that night.



CHAPTER XLIX

BACK HOME


Late the next afternoon Jinnie left the train at Mottville station,
her fiddle box in one hand, and a suitcase in the other. She stood a
moment watching the train as it disappeared. It had carried her from
the man she loved, brought her away from Bellaire, the city of her
hopes. One bitter fact reared itself above all others. The world of
which Theodore King had been the integral part was dead to her. What
was she to do without him, without Bobbie to pet and love? But a
feeling of thanksgiving pervaded her when she remembered she still had
Lafe's smile, the baby to croon over, and dear, stoical Peggy. They
would live with her in the old home. It was preferable to staying in
Bellaire, where her heart would be tortured daily. Rather the brooding
hills, the singing pines, and all the wildness of nature, which was
akin to the struggle within her, and perhaps in the future she might
gather up the broken threads of her life.

She shook as if attacked with ague as she came within sight of the
gaunt farmhouse, and the broken windows and hanging doors gave her a
sense of everlasting decay.

Below her in the valley lay the blue lake, a shining spread of water,
quiet and silent, here and there upon it the shadow of a floating,
fluffy cloud. She listened to the nagging chatter of the squirrels,
mingled with the fluttering of the forest birds high above her head.
As she stood on the hill, the only human being in all the wilderness
about, in fancy she seemed to be at the very top of the world.

She heard the old familiar voices of the mourning pines, and
remembered their soothing magic, and a stinging reproach swept over
her at the thought of her forgetfulness of them. They had been friends
when no other friends were near. Along with the flood of memories came
Matty's ghastly ghost stories and her past belief that her mother's
spirit hovered near her.

She went through the lane leading to the house and paused under the
trees. Presently she placed her violin box and suitcase on the grass
and lay down beside them. In the eaves of the house a dove cooed his
late afternoon love to his mate, and Jinnie, because she was very
young and very much in love, brought Theodore before her with that
lingering retrospection that takes possession in such sensuous
moments. She could feel again the hot tremor of his hands as they
clung to hers, and she bent her head in shame at the acute,
electrifying sensations. He belonged to another woman; he no longer
belonged to her. She must conquer her love for him, and at that moment
every desire to study, every thought of work seemed insipid and
useless. The whole majestic beauty of the scene, her sudden coming
into a great deal of money, did not add to her happiness. She would
gladly give it all up to be again with her loves of yesterday. But
that could not be! The future lay in a hard, straight line before her.
She was striving against a ceaseless, resisting force,--the force of
her whole passionate nature.

With their usual reluctance, the things of night at length crept
forth. Jinnie felt some of them as they touched her hands, her face,
and moved on. One of the countless birds fluttered low, as if
frightened at the advancing dark, brushed her cheek, then winged on
and up and was lost in the tree above her. Somewhere deep in the gloom
shrouding the little graveyard came the ghostly flutter of an owl.

Jinnie was flat on her back, and how long she lay thus she could never
afterward remember, but it was until the stars appeared and the moon
formed queer fantastic pictures, like frost upon a window pane. In
solemn review passed the days,--from that awful night when she had
left her father dead upon the floor in the house nearby to the present
moment. She glanced at the windows. They looked back at her like
square, darkening eyes.

She wondered dully how that wee star away off there could blink so
peacefully in its nightly course when just below it beat a heart that
hurt like hers. She closed her eyes, and when she opened them again,
long black fingers were drawing dark pictures across the sky. A drop
of rain fell upon her face, but still she did not move. Then, like
rows of soldiers, the low clouds drew slowly together, and the stars
softly wept themselves out.

Suddenly, from the other side of the lake, the thunder rolled up, and
with the distant boom came the thought of Lafe's infinite faith, and
the memory fell upon Jinnie like a benediction from God's dark sky.

She arose from the grass, took the fiddle box and bag, and walked to
the porch. She went in through the broken door. It was dark, too dark
to see much, and from the leather case she took a box of matches and a
candle. Memories crowded down upon her thick and fast. In the kitchen,
which was bare, she could mark the place where Matty used to sit and
where her own chair had been.

The long stairs that led from the basement to the upper floor yawned
black in the gloom. Candle and fiddle in hand, Jinnie mounted them and
halted before the unopened door. Somehow it seemed as if she would
find before the grate the long, thin body of her dead father, and she
distinctly remembered the spindle fire-flames falling in golden yellow
licks upon his face. In her imagination she could again see the
flake-like ashes, thrown out from the smoldering fire, rise grey to
the ceiling, then descend silently over him like a pale shroud.

After this hesitation, she slowly turned the handle of the door and
walked in. The only things remaining in the room were a broken table
and chair. She placed the violin on the floor and the candle on the
table. Then with a shudder Jinnie drew from her blouse an unopened
letter, studying it long in the flickering light. It had been written
in this very room three years before, and within its sealed pages lay
the whole secret which now none but the dead knew.

It took no effort on her part to bring back to her memory Jordan
Morse's handsome face and his rock-grey eyes, eyes like Bobbie's. He
and Bobbie had gone away together. She touched the corner of the
envelope to the candle, watching it roll over in a brown curl as it
burned.

"He's happy now," she murmured. "He's got his baby and Lafe's
angels."

Then she gathered up the handful of ashes, opened the window, and
threw them out. The hands of the night wind snatched them as they fell
and carried them swiftly away through the rain.

On her way to the attic stairs, she stood a minute before the window,
awe-stricken. From the north the great storm was advancing, and from
among the hills rolled the distant roar of thunder. It brought to her
mind the night when Peggy had gone into the life-valley and brought
back Lafe's baby; and she remembered, too, with a sob, Blind Bobbie,
and how she missed him. Ah, it was a lonely, haunted little spirit
that crept up the dark narrow stairs to the garret!

Only that the room seemed lower and more stuffy, it, too, was much the
same as she had left it. She brushed aside some silvery cobwebs,
raised the window, and sat down on a dilapidated trunk. On the floor
at her feet, almost covered with dust, was the old fairy book about
the famous kings. She picked it up mechanically. On the first page was
the man in the red suit, with the overhanging nose and fat body,--he
whom she at one time believed to be related to Theodore.

Again she was overwhelmed with her misery. Theodore belonged to
another woman, and Jinnie, alone with her past and an uncertain
future, sat staring dry-eyed into the stormy night.



CHAPTER L

"GOD MADE YOU MINE"


"I haven't seen any papers for three days, Molly. What's become of
them all?"

Theodore and Molly were sitting in the waning sunshine, the
many-colored autumn leaves drifting silently past them to form a
varied carpet over the grass.

All fear had now left the woman. She had Jinnie's promise not to see
Theodore, and he had apparently forgotten there ever was such a girl
in the world.

"I'd really like to see the papers," repeated Theodore. "Dear me, how
glad I am to be so well!"

"We're all glad," whispered Molly, with bright eyes.

She had kept the papers from him purposely, playfully pretending she
would rather give him an account of the court proceedings. When she
described how another man had confessed to the shooting, Theodore felt
a glad thrill that the cobbler was exonerated. Later Molly decided she
would tell him about Morse, but never that she had married him. It was
she who suggested, after a time of silence:

"Theodore, don't you think a little trip would do us all good? Your
mother's been so worried over you----"

"Where would we go?" he asked, without interest.

"Anywhere to get away from Bellaire for a season."

"We might consider it," he replied reluctantly. Then he fell to
thinking of a blue-eyed girl, of the letter,--that puzzling letter
she had sent him. When he could bear his thoughts no longer, he got up
and walked away under the trees, and Molly allowed him to go. She
watched him strolling slowly, and was happy. He had been so sweet, so
kindly, almost thrilling to her of late. She would make him love her.
It would be but a matter of a few weeks if she could get him away from
Bellaire. Just at that moment Mrs. King's bell rang, and she went into
the house. When she came back, Theodore was sitting on the veranda
reading a letter, with another one unopened on his knee. The sight of
his white face brought an exclamation from her lips.

"Theodore!" she cried.

He reminded her she was standing by saying:

"Sit down!"

This she was glad to do, for her knees trembled. Her eyes caught the
handwriting on the unopened letter, resting like a white menace on
Theodore's lap. She saw her own name upon it, but dared not, nor had
she the strength, to ask for it.

At length, with a long breath, Theodore looked at her steadily.

"This letter is for you," he said, picking up her own. "Open it and
then--give it to me."

Never had she heard such tones in his voice, nor had she ever been so
thoroughly frightened. Mechanically she took the letter, tore open the
flap, and read the contents:

                  *       *       *       *       *

"DEAR MISS MERRIWEATHER:

"After you left the shop, I decided to do as you wanted me to. I shall
go back to Mottville, and afterwards Peggy and Lafe will come to me.
I'll keep my promise and won't see Theodore. I hope you will make him
happy.

                                                    JINNIE GRANDOKEN."

                  *       *       *       *       *

Molly crushed the paper between her fingers.

"Don't do that," commanded Theodore sharply. "Give it to me."

"It's mine," murmured Molly, lacking breath to speak aloud.

"Give it to me!" thundered Theodore.

And because she dared not disobey, she slowly extended the letter.

With deliberation the man spread out the crumpled page and read it
through slowly. Then once more he took up his own letter and perused
it.

                  *       *       *       *       *

"DEAR MR. KING:

"I'm going back to my home in the hills to-morrow. I'm so glad you're
better. I thank you for all you've done for Lafe and Peggy, and hope
you'll always be happy. For what you did for me I can't thank you
enough, but as soon as I get my money, I'll send back all you've
advanced for my lessons and other things. I'm praying all the time for
you.

                                         "JINNIE GRANDOKEN SINGLETON."

                  *       *       *       *       *

Sudden tears almost blotted the signature from Theodore's vision.

On the spur of the moment he picked up both letters and thrust them
into his pocket.

"Come upstairs with me," he ordered the woman staring at him with
frozen features.

Molly followed him as in a dream, preceding him when he stepped aside
to allow her to enter the little sitting-room, where of late she had
passed so many pleasant hours. Then as he closed the door, he whirled
upon her.

"Now I want the meaning of those letters. Have you seen Miss
Grandoken?"

"Yes!" She could say no more.

"When?"

"Yesterday."

"There's something I don't know. Ah! That's why you kept the papers
from me." Quickly he turned to the bell.

"Theodore!" gasped Molly. "Wait! Wait! Don't--don't ring! I'll tell
you; I will!"

He pressed the bell button savagely.

"I wouldn't believe you under oath," he muttered.

"I want all this week's papers, and I want 'em quick!" he snapped at
the servant. "Every one! Last night's too!"

He walked to the window, but turned again as a knock came upon the
door.

"I can't find the papers, sir," excused the maid.

"Wait!" Theodore closed the door, exclaiming in white heat, "Molly,
where are those papers?"

"In my room," replied Molly sulkily.

Mr. King gave the order, and again they were behind closed doors.
Molly made a sorry picture of shame when Theodore looked at her.

"I'll get to the bottom of this if it kills me," he said wearily.

"Theo, Theo, don't read the papers!" she gasped. Then she fell forward
at his feet. "I love you, dear; I love you."

"You've lost your mind, Molly," he said harshly. "You're mad,
completely mad."

"No, I'm not. Listen, Theodore, I'm here at your feet, miserable,
unhappy; I want to be forgiven----"

"Then tell me what you did to Jinnie Grandoken."

"I can't! I can't!"

When another knock sounded on the door, Theodore opened it and took
the papers through the smallest imaginable crack. Molly crawled to a
chair and leaned her head upon the seat. Without a word, Theodore sat
down and began to turn the pages of the papers nervously. As he read
both accounts of Lafe's trial, bitter ejaculations fell from his lips.
The story of Bobbie's dramatic death and Morse's suicide brought forth
a groan. When he placed the papers slowly beside him on the floor,
Molly raised her face, white and torn with grief.

"Now you know it all, forgive me!"

"Never, while I live!" he cried. "What ungodly wretchedness you've
made that child suffer! And you were married all the time to Morse,
and the mother of that poor little boy!"

"Yes," sobbed Molly.

Then a sudden thought took possession of him.

"You and Morse made Jinnie write me that first letter."

Molly nodded.

"May God forgive you both!" he stammered, and whirled out of the
room.

An hour later, with new strength and purpose, Theodore threw a few
clothes into a suitcase, ordered the fastest motor in the garage, and
was standing on the porch when Molly came swiftly to him.

"Theodore," she said, with twitching face, "if you go away now, you
won't find me here when you get back."

He glanced her over with curling lip.

"As you please," he returned indifferently. "You've done enough damage
as it is. If you've any heart, stay here with the only person in the
world who has any faith in you."

Vacantly the woman watched the motor glide away over the smooth white
road, and then limply slid to the floor in a dead faint.

All the distance from Bellaire to Mottville Theodore was tortured with
doubt. He brought to mind Jinnie's girlish embarrassment when they had
been together; the fluttering white lids as his kisses brought a blue
flash from the speaking love-lit eyes. She had loved him then; did she
now? Of course she must love him! She had brought to him the freshness
of spring--the love of the mating birds among the blossoms--the
passionate desire of a heaven-wrought soul for its own, to whom could
be entrusted all that was his dearest and best. He would follow her
and win her,--yea, _win_ the woman God had made for him and him alone,
and into his eyes leapt the expression of the conquering male, the
force God had created within him to reach for the woman sublime and
cherish her.

When the car entered Mottville, rain was falling and the wind was
mourning ceaselessly.

By inquiry, Theodore found the road to the Singleton farm, and again,
as he impatiently sank back in the motor, he mentally vowed, with the
vow of a strong man, that the girl should listen to him. He never
realized, until they were climbing the rain-soaked hill, how starved
was the very soul of him.

The road was running with water, but they ploughed on, until through
the trees the farmhouse loomed up darkly. Bennett stopped the car at
the gate and Theodore jumped out. A light twinkling in the upper part
of the house told him she was there. Harmonious echoes were sounding
and resounding in his ears. They were notes from Jinnie's fiddle, and
for a moment, as they sobbed out through the attic window, he leaned
back against the wet fence, feeling almost faint. The wild, sweet,
unearthly melody surged over him with memories of the past.

Then he passed under the thrashing pines, mounted the broken steps,
and entered the house.

It took but a minute to find the stairs by which to reach her, and
there he stood in the gloom of the attic door, watching the swaying
young figure and noting the whole pitiful dejection of her. In the
single little light her eyes were as blue as the wing of a royal bird,
and oh, what suffering she must have gone through! Then Jinnie ceased
playing, and, as if drawn by a presence she knew not of, she turned
her eyes slowly toward the door, and when she saw him, she fell,
huddled with her violin on the garret floor, staring upward with
frightened eyes.

"If you're there," she panted, "if--if--speak to me!"

He bounded forward and gathered her up, and the light of an adoring
love shone full upon him.

"My sweet, my sweet, my beautiful, my little wonder-woman!" he
breathed. "Did you think I could live without you?"

She was leaning, half fainting, against his breast, like a wind-blown
flower.

"I've come for you," he said hoarsely. "Dearest, sweetest Jinnie!"

She pressed backward, loyalty for another woman rising within her.

"But Molly, Molly the Merry----" she breathed.

Theodore shook his head.

"I only know I love you, sweetheart, that I've come for you," and as
his lips met hers, Jinnie clung to him, a very sweet young thing, and
between those warm, passionate kisses she heard him murmur:

"God made you mine, littlest love!"

And so they went forth from the lonely farmhouse, with none but the
cobbler's angels watching over them.

THE END





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