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Title: Ladies-In-Waiting
Author: Wiggin, Kate Douglas Smith, 1856-1923
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 "Ladies-In-Waiting" ***

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LADIES-IN-WAITING

By
KATE DOUGLAS WIGGIN

WITH FRONTISPIECE BY
CHRISTINE TUCKE CURTISS

BOSTON AND NEW YORK
HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY

The Riverside Press Cambridge



COPYRIGHT, 1919, BY KATE DOUGLAS RIGGS
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED



FOREWORD

It may be urged that all proper heroines go through a period of
uncertainty before giving their hands and hearts in marriage.
Occasionally, however, there are longer seasons of indecision,
incident to pride, high temper, or misunderstanding on the lady's
side, or to poverty, undue timidity, or lack of high pressure on the
part of the gentleman. I have christened the heroines of this volume
"Ladies-in-Waiting," and that no mental picture may be formed of Queen
and Court and Maids of Honor I have asked the artist to portray for
the frontispiece a marriageable maiden seated pensively upon a
hillside. Her attitude is plainly one of suspended animation while the
new moon above her shoulders suggests to the reader that she will not
wait in vain.

                                                KATE DOUGLAS WIGGIN

August 11, 1919



CONTENTS

CHAPTER                         PAGE
Miss Thomasina Tucker              1
The Turning-Point                 97
Huldah The Prophetess            145
Two On A Tour                    183
Philippa's Nervous Prostration   275



LADIES-IN-WAITING

MISS THOMASINA TUCKER

I


"Good-bye, Miss Tucker!"

"Good luck, Miss Tommy!"

"Bye, bye, Tomsie!"

"Don't stay away too long!"

These sentiments were being called from the Hoboken dock to the deck
of an ocean steamer, while a young lady, buried in bouquets and
bonbons, leaned over the rail, sparkling, inciting, compelling,
responding.

"Take care of yourself, Tommy!"

"I don't see but that I must! Nobody else to do it!" she responded
saucily.

"You wouldn't let 'em if they tried!" This from a rosy-cheeked
youngster who was as close to the water's edge as safety permitted.
"Say, did you guess what my floral offering was to be when you trimmed
your hat? I _am_ flattered!"

"Sorry! The hat was trimmed weeks ago, and I'm wearing your bouquet
because it matches."

"Thanks, awfully," replied the crestfallen youth. "Plans for reduction
of head-size constantly on file in Miss Tucker's office."

"Just Carl's luck to hit on a match."

"Don't see any particular luck in being accessory to a hat trimming,"
grumbled Carl.

"Write now and then, Miss Tommy, won't you?" said a fellow with
eyeglasses and an air of fashion.

"Won't promise! I'll wait till I'm rich enough to cable!"

"Shilling a word's expensive, but you can send 'em to me collect. My
word is 'Hopeful,'"--at which the little party laughed.

"Register another, and make it 'Uncertain,'" called the girl
roguishly, seeing that no one was paying any attention to her friends
and their nonsense.

"London first, is it?" asked the rosy youth. "Decided on your hotel?"

"Hotel? It's going to be my share of a modest Bloomsbury lodging," she
answered. "Got to sing my way from a third-floor-back in a side street
to a gorgeous suite at the Ritz!"

"We'll watch you!" cried three in chorus.

"But we'd rather hear you, darling," said a nice, tailor-made girl,
whose puffy eyelids looked as if she had been crying.

"Blessed lamb! I hope I'll be better worth hearing! Oh, do go home,
all of you; especially you, Jessie! My courage is oozing out at the
heels of my shoes. Disappear! I've been farewelling actively for an
hour and casually for a week. If they don't take off the gangplank in
a minute or two I shan't have pluck enough to stick to the ship."

"You can't expect us to brace you up, Tommy," said the rosy youth.
"We're losing too much by it. Come along back! What's the matter with
America?"

"Don't talk to her that way, Carl,"--and the tailor-made girl looked
at him reproachfully. "You know she's got nobody and nothing to come
back to. She's given up her room. She's quarreled with her beastly
uncle at last; all her belongings are in the hold of the steamer, and
she's made up her mind."

"All ashore that's going ashore!" The clarion tones of the steward
rang through the air for the third time, and the loud beating of the
ship's gong showed that the last moment had come. The gangplank was
removed and the great liner pushed off and slowly wended her way
down-river, some of the more faithful ones in the crowd waving
handkerchiefs until she was a blur in the distance.

"Well, there's no truer way of showing loyalty than by going to
Hoboken to see a friend off," said the eyeglassed chap as he walked
beside Jessie Macleod to the ferry. "I wouldn't do it for anybody but
Tommy."

"Nor I!" exclaimed the rosy youth. "Good old Tommy! I wonder whether
she'll sing and have a career, or fall in love over there?"

"She might do both, I should think; at least it has been done, though
not, perhaps, with conspicuous success," was Carl's reply.

"Whatever she does, we've lost her," sighed the girl; "and our little
set will be so dull without Tommy!"

                   *       *       *       *       *

Fergus Appleton had leaned over the deck rail for a few moments before
the ship started on her voyage; leaned there idly and indifferently,
as he did most things, smoking his cigarette with an air of complete
detachment from the world. He was going to no one, and leaving no one
behind. He had money enough to live on, but life had always been
something of a bore to him and he could not have endured it without
regular occupation. His occasional essays on subjects connected with
architecture, his critical articles in similar fields, his travels in
search of wider information, the book on which he was working at the
moment,--these kept him busy and gave him a sense of being tolerably
useful in his generation. The particular group of juveniles shouting
more or less intimate remarks to a girl passenger on board the steamer
attracted his attention for a moment.

"They are very young," he thought, "or they would realize that they
are all revealing themselves with considerable frankness, although
nobody seems to be listening but me!"

He would not have listened, as a matter of fact, had it not been for
the voice of the girl they called Tommy. It was not loud, but it had
the quality of a golden bell, and Fergus was susceptible to a
beautiful voice. One other thing--the slightest possible
thing--enlisted his notice. She wore a great bunch of mignonette stuck
in the waistband of her green cloth dress, and her small hat had a
flat wreath of the same flower. Mignonette was, perhaps, the only
growing thing of which Fergus Appleton ever took note, and its perfume
was the only one that particularly appealed to his rather dull sense
of smell; the reason being that in the old garden of the house in
which he was born there was always a huge straggling patch of
mignonette. His mother used to sit there on summer mornings and read
to him, and when he lay on his back in the sunshine he used to watch
the butterflies and humming-birds and trees, and sniff the fragrance
that filled the air. When his mother died, he wandered into the
garden, sought the familiar corner, and flung himself on the bed of
mignonette to cry his heart out--the lonely heart of an eight-year-old
boy. That was five and twenty years ago, but he never passed a
florist's open door in summer-time without remembering that despairing
hour and the fragrance of the flowers, bruised with his weight and
moist with his tears.

The girl vanished the moment the steamer was out of sight of the dock,
and Fergus did not give her another thought for a day or two. He had
liked her green cloth dress and the hat that framed her young,
laughing, plucky face. He had thought her name suited her, and
wondered what dignified appellation had been edited, cut, and
metamorphosed to make "Tommy," deciding after a look at the passenger
list that it was Thomasina, and that the girl must be Miss Thomasina
Tucker, an alliterative combination which did not appeal to his
literary taste.

The voyage was a rough one, and he saw her only now and then, always
alone, and generally standing on the end of the ship, her green cape
blowing in a gale of wind and showing a scarlet lining, her mignonette
hat exchanged for a soft green thing with an upstanding scarlet quill.
She was the only companionable person on board, but he did not know
her and sat nowhere near her at table, an assemblage of facts that
seemed to settle the matter, considering the sort of man he was and
the sort of girl she was.

"She's too pretty and too young to be gallivanting about 'on her
own,'" he said to himself one morning, when Tommy stood on the upper
deck looking out to sea and, as far as he could judge, singing, though
there was such a gale blowing that he could not hear her voice. "But
all the girls are the same nowadays,"--and he puffed his pipe
disconsolately; "all the same; brisk, self-supporting, good fellows.
If I ever met a nice, unsuccessful-but-not-depressed sort of girl,
soft but not silly, mild but not tame, flexible but not docile,
spirited but not domineering, I think I should capitulate; but they're
all dead. The type has changed, and I haven't changed with it."

                   *       *       *       *       *

Fergus Appleton did not make acquaintances easily; no man does who has
had a lonely, neglected boyhood, his only companion a father who
seldom remembered his existence, and, when he did, apparently
regretted it. He had known girls, but he was a shy, silent, ugly boy,
and appealed as little to them as they to him. He did not live through
the twenties without discovering that a fine crop of sentiment was
growing in his heart; he also discovered that he didn't know in the
least what to do with it. George Meredith, speaking of Romance, says:
"The young who avoid that region escape the title of Fool at the cost
of a Celestial crown." Fergus Appleton wouldn't have minded being
called a fool if only he could have contrived to deserve the title,
and the glimmer of the crown celestial had been in his imagination
more than once until he turned thirty and decided it was not for his
head. Guileless school-girls did not appeal to him, and elderly sirens
certainly had no power to charm; he was even widow-proof, so he became
a thoroughfare for sisterly affection. Girls suffocated him with
friendliness, which was not the stuff of which his dreams were made.

However, he had nothing to complain of, for he got as good as he gave,
and it occurred to him that he could not expect to start a disastrous
conflagration in any maiden bosom so long as he had no brimstone, nor
any substitute for it, on his own premises.

"Anyway," he reflected (though perhaps not oftener than once a year),
"if I haven't a tie in the world, I have complete freedom to do as I
like!" And if the said freedom palled upon him occasionally, nobody
was the wiser, for Fergus Appleton did not wear his heart on his
sleeve.

As for Tommy, there had been several Thomas Tuckers in genealogical
line, and the father of Thomasina was already Thomas Tucker the third.
Mr. and Mrs. Tucker, the parents of the first Thomas, must have been
somewhat lacking in humor, and somewhat ignorant of the classics, for
although they could not, perhaps, help being Tuckers, they needn't
have saddled their offspring with a Christian name which would suggest
Mother Goose to every properly educated person. However, the first
Thomas grew into a great man, healthy, wealthy, and wise, and his
descendants could hardly do less than keep his name alive. Thomas the
third was disappointed, not to say mortified, when his only child,
born in his old age, turned out to be a girl, but he bravely did the
best he could and named her Thomasina. Mrs. Tucker did not like the
name, but she died before the baby was three days old. The baby hated
it herself when she reached years of discretion, and when she found
that she possessed a voice and had a possible career before her, she
saw plainly that something more mellifluous must be substituted if
programmes should ever be in question. Meantime she was Tommy to her
friends, and the gay little name suited her to a T. The gay little
rhyme suited her, too, for like the Tommy Tucker in Mother Goose, she
had to "sing for her supper"; for her breakfast, and her dinner, and
her tea also, for that matter, if any were to be eaten.

Her only relation, a disagreeable bachelor uncle, had given her a home
during her orphaned girlhood, and her first idea on growing up was to
get out of it. This she did promptly when she secured a place in a
Brooklyn choir. The salary was modest, but it provided a room and at
least one meal a day, not, of course, a Roman banquet, but something
to satisfy a youthful appetite. It seemed to the intrepid possessor of
a charming voice, an equally charming face, and a positive gift for
playing accompaniments, that the other two meals, and a few clothes
and sundries, might be forthcoming. As a matter of fact, they were,
although the uncle said that Tommy would starve, and he almost hoped
that she would, just to break the back of her obstinate independence.


II


Tommy had none too much to eat, and, according to her own æsthetic
ambitions, nothing at all to wear; but she was busy all day long and
absurdly happy. Her income was uncertain, but that was amusing and
thrilling rather than pitiful or tragic. She had two or three
"steadies" among singers, who gave her engagements as accompanist at
small drawing-room recitals or charitable entertainments. There was a
stout prima donna whose arias for dramatic soprano kept her practicing
until midnight, and a rich young lady amateur who needed a very
friendly and careful accompaniment because she sang flat and always
lost her breath before the end of a long phrase. The manner in which
Tommy concealed these defects was thoroughly ingenious and
sympathetic. When Miss Guggenheim paused for breath, Tommy filled the
gap with instrumental arabesques; when she was about to flat, Tommy
gave her the note suggestively. If she was too dreadfully below pitch,
and had breath enough to hang on to the note so long that the audience
(always composed of invited guests) writhed obviously, Tommy would
sometimes drop a sheet of music on the floor and create a diversion,
always apologizing profusely for her clumsiness. The third patron was
a young baritone, who liked Miss Tucker's appearance on the platform
and had her whenever he didn't sing Schubert's "Erl König," which
Tommy couldn't play. This was her most profitable engagement, but it
continued alas! for only three months, for the baritone wanted to
marry her, and she didn't like him because he was bald and his neck
was too fat. Also, she was afraid she would have to learn to play the
"Erl König" properly.

All this time Tommy was longing to sing in public herself, and trying
to save money enough to take more lessons by way of preparation.

When she lost the baritone, who was really peevish at being rejected
after suiting his programmes to her capacities for a whole season,
Tommy conceived a new idea. She influenced Jessie Macleod, who had a
fine contralto, and two other girls with well-trained voices, to form
a quartette.

"We can't get anything to do separately; perhaps we can make a
pittance together," she said. "We'll do good simple things; our voices
blend well, and if we practice enough there's no reason why we
shouldn't sing beautifully."

"Singing beautifully is one thing and getting engagements is another,"
sighed Jessie Macleod.

"As if I didn't know that! We can't hope to be superior to other
quartettes, so we must be different--unusual, unique--I can't think
just how at the moment, but I will before we make our début."

And she did, for Tommy was nothing if not fertile in ideas.

Every hour that the girls could spare in the month of October was
given to rehearsal, till the four fresh young voices were like one.
They had decided to give nothing but English songs, to sing entirely
from memory, and to make a specialty of good words well spoken. All
the selections but one or two were to be without accompaniment, and in
these Tommy would sit at the piano surrounded by the other three in a
little group.

Miss Guggenheim was to give them their first appearance, invite fifty
or sixty people, and serve tea. She kindly offered to sing some solos
herself, but Tommy, shuddering inwardly, said she thought it was
better that the quartette should test its own strength unaided.

Miss Guggenheim couldn't sing, but she could dress, and she had an
inspiration a week before the concert.

"What are you going to wear, girls?" she asked.

"Anything we have, is the general idea," said Tommy. "Mine is black."

"Mine's blue"--"White"--"Pink!" came from the other three.

"But must you wear those particular dresses? Can't you each compromise
a little so as to look better together?"

"So hard to compromise when each of us has one dress hanging on one
nail; one neck and sleeves filled up for afternoons and ripped out for
evenings!"

"I should get four simple dresses just alike," said Miss Guggenheim,
who had a dozen.

"What if they should hang in our closets unworn and unpaid for?" asked
Jessie Macleod.

"We're sure to get at least one engagement some time or other. Nothing
ventured, nothing have. We ought to earn enough to pay for the
dresses, if we do nothing more,"--and Tommy's vote settled it.

Miss Guggenheim knew people, if she did sing flat, and her
drawing-room was full on the occasion of the début. Carl Bothwick, a
friend of Tommy's, was in a publishing office, and nobly presented
programmes for the occasion. The quartette had not thought of naming
itself, but Carl had grouped the songs under the heading, "The Singing
Girls," and luckily they liked the idea.

At four o'clock the hum of conversation ceased at the sound of singing
voices in the distance. A sort of processional effect had been Tommy's
suggestion, and the quartette formed in the dressing-room and sang its
way to the audience.

             "Hark, hark, the lark at Heaven's gate sings,
             And Phoebus 'gins to rise."

The voices rang high and clear, coming nearer and nearer. All the
words could be heard and understood. The hall portières divided, and
the girls entered, all in soft gray crêpe, gardenias at the belt,
little brimmed hats of black velvet with a single gardenia on the
side, the flowers being the offering of the dramatic soprano, who
loved Tommy. They were young, they were pretty, they sang delightfully
in tune, and with quite bewitching effect. Several ladies fell in love
with them at first sight, and hoped that they would sing for nothing a
few times, "just to get themselves known." They had done nothing else
for two years, so that Tommy said they must be acquainted with the
entire State of New York, though nothing ever came of it. It was a
joyous surprise, then, when an old gentleman in the company (who was
seen to wipe tears away when the girls sang "Darby and Joan") engaged
them to sing at his golden wedding the next night. That was the
beginning of a season of modest prosperity. Tommy's baritone had
married his new accompanist (he seemed determined to have a
piano-playing wife), and wishing to show Miss Tucker that his heart
was not broken by her rejection, he gave a handsome party and engaged
the quartette, paying for their services in real coin of the realm.
Other appearances followed in and out of town, and Tommy paid for her
gray dress, spent a goodly sum for an attack of tonsillitis, the
result of overwork, and still saved two hundred dollars. The season
was over. She was fagged, but not disheartened. Who is at twenty-two?
But it was late April, and drawing-room entertainments were no more.
The two hundred dollars when augmented by the church salary would
barely take her through till October.

"It is very annoying," thought Tommy, "when you have to eat, drink,
sleep, and dress twelve months in the year, that the income by which
you do these things should cease abruptly for four months. Still,
furriers can't sell furs in hot weather, and summer boarders can't
board in winter, so I suppose other people have to make enough money
in eight months to spend in twelve."

             "'Hark, hark, the lark at Heaven's gate sings,
             And Phoebus 'gins to rise!'"

she caroled, splashing about in her morning tub as she finished making
these reflections, the tub being an excellent place for trills and
scales.

Proceeding from tub to her sitting-room to make things ready for
toilet and breakfast, her mind ran on her little problems.

"I want to learn more, see more, hear more," she thought. "I have one
of those nasty, unserviceable, betwixt-and-between talents: voice not
high enough for 'Robert, toi que j'aime,' nor low enough for
'Ständchen'; not flexible enough for 'Caro Nome,' nor big enough for
'Ocean, Thou Mighty Monster'; poor French accent, worse German;
awfully good English, but that doesn't count. Can sing old ballads,
folk-songs, and nice, forgotten things that make dear old gentlemen
and ladies cry--but not pay. If I were billed at all, it ought to be

              "First Appearance in Public[[v:small-caps]]
                           of[[v:small-caps]]
                Behind-the-Times Tommy"[[v:small-caps]]

This appellation so tickled her fancy that she nearly upset the
coffee-pot, and she continued to laugh at her own wit until a fat
letter was pushed under her door from the hall outside. She picked it
up. It had an English postmark.

"Helena Markham!" she cried, joyously.

  DEAR TOMMY: [the letter read]

  Don't you want to come over to London for the season? You never
  make any money at home from June to October, and if by chance
  you have a penny in the bank (I don't know why I say "if" when
  none of us ever had such a thing!) I think I can put enough in
  your way to pay part of your expenses. I am really beginning to
  get on!--three engagements in the provincial towns all arranged.
  My accompanist plays lots better than you do, but I don't sing
  half so well with him as I used to with you. You somehow infuse
  the spirit into me that I lack. I incline to be lumpy and heavy.
  They may not notice it in the provinces, for I dare say they are
  lumpy and heavy there, too. However, though I shall have to have
  somebody well known over here for concerts of any great
  pretensions, I could work you into smaller ones, and coach with
  you, too, since I must have somebody. And you are so
  good-looking, Tommy dear, and have such a winning profile! I am
  plainer than ever, but no plainer than Madame Titiens, so the
  papers say. I never saw or heard her, of course, but the critics
  say I have the same large, "massive" style of voice and person.
  My present accompanist would take first prize for ugliness in
  any competition; he is more like a syndicate of plainness than
  one single exemplification of it! I must have a noble nature to
  think more of my audiences than of myself, but I should like to
  give them something to please their eyes--I flatter myself I can
  take care of their ears!

  Oh, do come, Tommy! Say you will!

                                                        HELENA.

Tommy pirouetted about the room like an intoxicated bird, waving the
letter, and trilling and running joyful chromatic scales, for the most
part badly done.

"Will I go to London?" she warbled in a sort of improvised recitative.
"Will I take two or two and a half lessons of Georg Henschel? Will I
grace platforms in the English provinces? Will I take my two hundred
dollars out of the bank and risk it royally? Perhaps the bystanders
will glance in at my windows and observe me giving the landlady
notice, and packing my trunk, both of which delightful tasks I shall
be engaged in before the hour strikes."


III


Fergus Appleton thought he saw "the singing girl" of his voyage from
New York one May day in Wells, where he went to study the cathedral.
He noticed a hansom with a pink-clad figure in the opening, looking
like a rosebud of a new and odd sort on wheels. At least, it looked
like a rosebud at the moment the doors rolled back like the leaves of
a calyx, and the flower issued, triumphant and beautiful. She was
greeted by a tall, stout young lady, who climbed into the hansom, and
the two settled themselves quickly and drove off.

Appleton's hansom followed on its own course, which chanced to be in
the same direction, and he saw the slim and the stout disappear up a
hilly street, at the top of which was a famous old house. He walked
that way in the afternoon, having nothing better to do, but could
observe no dwelling at which the two ladies might be staying. There
was a pretty cottage with a long, graveled pathway leading to it, and
a little sign on the locked gate reading: "Spring Cleaning. Please do
not knock or ring." Farther along was a more pretentious house, so
attractive that he was sorry he had never noticed it before, for the
sign "Apartments to Let" was in one of the front windows. He heard a
piano in the rear somewhere, but on reaching the front door another
sign confronted him: "The parlor maid is slightly deaf. If doorbell is
not answered at once, please step inside and ring the dinner bell on
the hall table."

This somehow required more courage than Appleton possessed, though he
determined to look at the rooms on his next visit, so he stole down
the path and went about his business, wondering why in the world he
had done such a besotted thing as to take a walk among the furnished
lodgings of the cathedral town of Wells.

The summer waxed. He had nearly finished his book, and feeling the
need of some peaceful retreat where he could do the last chapters and
work up his sketches, he took the advice of an English friend and went
down to Devonshire, intending to go from place to place until he found
a hotel and surroundings to his mind.

The very first one pleased his exacting taste, and he felt that the
Bexley Sands Inn would be the very spot in which to write; comfortable
within, a trifle too large, perhaps, and at week-ends too full of
people, but clean, well-kept, and sunny.

It was a Friday evening, and the number of guests who arrived on the
last train from Torquay was rather disturbing. The dining-room service
was not interfered with, but Appleton made up his mind to smoke his
pipe in his own sitting-room and go down to the lounge later to read
the papers, when the crowd might have dispersed. At nine o'clock,
accordingly, he descended, and was preparing to settle himself with
the last "Spectator" when the young lady in the office observed:
"There's a very good concert going on in the drawing-room, sir, if you
enjoy music. No admittance, you know; just a plate at the door as you
leave--quite optional."

Appleton bowed his thanks, filled his pipe, and taking up his
newspaper with a sensation of comfortable idleness, was beginning an
article on the situation in the Balkans, when a voice floated out from
the distant drawing-room, down the long corridor, through the
writing-room into the lounge. It was not a little voice nor a big
voice, it seemed to have no extraordinarily high notes and no low
ones, it did not arrest attention by the agility of its use; but it
was as fresh and young as a bird's and sweeter than honey in the comb.
It began by caroling "My Love's an Arbutus," went on to "The Little
Red Lark" and "The Low-Backed Car," so that Appleton, his head thrown
back in the easy-chair, the smoke wreaths from his pipe circling in
the air, the Balkans forgotten, decided that the singer was Irish.

"A pretty voice, sir," remarked the goddess of the hotel office. "I'm
sorry so many of our guests are playing bowls this evening, and
there's a bridge party of three tables in our first-floor private
sitting-room, or the young lady would have had an audience. She seems
a nice little thing, quite a stranger, with no experience."

If the singer had even a small group of hearers, they were apparently
delighted with "The Low-Backed Car," for with only a second's pause
she gave "The Minstrel Boy." A certain individual quality of tone and
spirit managed to bridge the distance between the drawing-room and
lounge; or perhaps it was the piano accompaniment, so beautifully
played that one could almost imagine it a harp; or was it that the
words were so familiar to Appleton that every syllable was understood,
so that the passion and fire of the old song suffered no loss?

               "The minstrel fell, but the foeman's chain
                 Could not bring that proud soul under!
               The harp he loved ne'er spoke again,
                 For he tore its chords asunder."

"It's a pity her programme is so old-fashioned," said the young lady
of the office, passing his chair to give an order to the page. "It's
true only the elderly people went in, but our week-enders are very
up-to-date in everything. There's a lot of Londoners here, and those
from Torquay are frightfully musical. If they don't get Debewssy, it
seems they think nothing of the programme."

"Well, I confess that Debussy seems a trifle alien to this time and
place," said Appleton, "and these old ballads suit my taste much
better. I think I'll take a nearer view."

He shoved his pipe into its case and strolled down the corridor,
pausing behind the heavy velvet portières that shut off the
drawing-room. There was no buzz of conversation going on, because
there was not a sufficient number of persons to buzz. A very quiet,
stodgy audience it was, with no friendly grouping; just a few old
gentlemen here and a few old ladies there, sometimes with their
prematurely aged and chastened paid companions by their sides. There
were some girls of fifteen or sixteen, too, scattered about, a few of
them accompanied by prim governesses.

Appleton heard the entrance of some one from the anteroom beyond the
grand piano, then a few chords, struck by hands that loved the ivory
keys and evoked a reciprocal tenderness every time they touched them;
then:

                 "Near Woodstock Town in Oxfordshire
                 As I walked forth to take the air,
                 To view the fields and meadows round,
                 Methought I heard a mournful sound."

So the chronicle ran on until the crisis came:

                  "The lady round the meadow ran,
                  And gathered flowers as they sprang.
                  Of every sort she there did pull
                  Until she got her apron full."

The history of the distracted lady's unhappy passion persevered:

                 "The green ground served her as a bed,
                 The flowers a pillow for her head.
                 She laid her down and nothing spoke.
                 Alas! for love her heart was broke."

Appleton was at first too enchanted with the mischievous yet
sympathetic rendition of this tragedy to do anything but listen. The
voice, the speech, were so full of color and personality he forgot for
the moment that there would be a face behind them; but there was an
irresistible something in the line, "Until she got her apron full,"
that forced him to peep behind the curtain just in time to catch the
singer's smile.

As this is not a story of plot, suspense, or mystery, there is no
earthly use in denying that the lady in question was Miss Thomasina
Tucker, nor any sense in affirming that her appearance in Fergus
Appleton's hotel was in the nature of a dramatic coincidence, since
Americans crossing the Atlantic on the same steamer are continually
meeting in the British Isles and on the Continent.

Appleton was pleased to see the girl again because he had always liked
her face, and he was delighted to find that her voice not only
harmonized with it, but increased its charm a hundredfold. Miss Tommy
had several rather uncommon qualities in her equipment. One was that
when she sang a high note she did it without exposing any of the
avenues which led to her singing apparatus. She achieved her effects
without pain to herself or to the observer, just flinging them off as
gayly and irresponsibly as a bird on a bough, without showing any
_modus operandi_. She had tenderness also, and fire, and a sense of
humor which, while she never essayed a "comic" song, served her in
good stead in certain old ballads with an irresistibly quaint twist in
them. She made it perfectly clear that she was sorry for the poor lady
who was running around the meadow preparing her flowery bier, but the
conviction crept over you that she was secretly amused at the same
time. Appleton heard the smile in her voice before he pulled aside the
curtain and saw its counterpart on her face; heard and responded, for
when Tommy tossed a smile at you, you caught it gratefully and tossed
it back in the hope of getting a second and a third.

Another arrow in Tommy's modest quiver was the establishment of an
instantaneous intimacy between herself and her audience. The singing
of her songs was precisely like the narration of so many stories, told
so simply and directly that the most hardened critic would have his
sting removed without being aware of it. He would know that Tommy
hadn't a remarkable voice, but he would forget to mention it because
space was limited. Sometimes he would say that she was an interpreter
rather than a singer, and Tommy, for her part, was glad to be called
anything, and grateful when she wasn't brutally arraigned for the
microscopic size of her talent.

It was Tommy's captivating friendliness and the quality of her smile
that "did" for the shyest and stiffest of men, for by the time she had
finished her programme the thunderbolt, the classic, the eternal
thunderbolt, had fallen, and Fergus Appleton was in love. Tommy began
her unconscious depredations with "Near Woodstock Town" and "Phillida
Flouts Me," added fuel to the flames with "My Heart's in the
Highlands" and "Charlie Is My Darling," and reduced his heart to ashes
with "Allan Water" and "Has Sorrow Thy Young Days Shaded?" The smile
began it, but it was tears that worked the final miracle, though
moisture very rarely has this effect on fires of any sort.

Tommy was tired and a bit disheartened; Appleton, the only responsive
person in the audience, was seated in a far corner of the room,
completely hidden behind a lady of formidable width and thickness, so
the singer could not be expected to feel the tidal waves of
appreciation he was sending toward her, although they ran so high at
one moment that he could have risen to his feet and begged her to
elope with him. The rest of her hearers sat heavily, stodgily in their
seats without moving a muscle, mental, emotional, or physical. They
had no private sitting-rooms, and they might as well be where they
were as anywhere else; that was the idea they conveyed in every
feature of their expressionless faces. An old gentleman in the front
row left the room during the last song on the programme, and Appleton
was beset by, and resisted, a vulgar temptation to put out his foot
and trip him up in the doorway. When Tommy sang:

                 "Has hope, like the bird in the story,
                 That flitted from tree to tree
                 With the talisman's glitt'ring glory,
                 Has hope been that bird to thee?
                 On branch after branch alighting,
                 The gem did she still display,
                 And when nearest and most inviting,
                 Then waft the fair gem away."

"Yes, yes, a thousand times yes," answered Fergus Appleton's heart,
for the first time in his life conscious of loneliness, lack of
purpose, lack of anchorage, lack of responsibilities, lack of
everything he had never wanted before, but wanted desperately all at
once, and quite independent of logic.

He slipped out of the door and let the scattered units in the audience
assemble, pass him, and drift down the corridor toward the office and
lounge. To his astonishment and anger they dropped shillings on the
plate, and the young people sixpences and, great Heavens! even
pennies; one half-crown, the tacit apology of the old gentleman who
had left early, was the only respectable offering. Appleton took out a
sovereign, and then was afraid to put it in the collection for fear of
exciting the singer's curiosity, so he rummaged his pockets for
half-crowns and two-shilling pieces. Finding only two or three, he
changed his mind and put back the gold-piece just in time to avoid the
eye of the page, who came to take the offering back to Miss Tucker.
Appleton twisted his mustache nervously, and walked slowly toward the
anteroom with no definite idea in mind, save perhaps that she might
issue from her retreat and recognize him as she passed. (As a matter
of fact she had never once noticed him on the steamer, but the poor
wretch was unconscious of that misfortune!) The page came out, putting
something in his pocket, and left the door half open behind him.
Appleton wheeled swiftly, feeling like a spy, but not until he had
seen Miss Thomasina Tucker take a large copper coin from the plate,
fling it across the room, bury the plate of silver upside down in a
sofa cushion, and precipitate herself upon it with a little quivering
wail of shame, or disappointment, or rage, he could hardly determine
which.

Appleton followed the unfeeling, unmusical, penurious old ladies and
gentlemen back into the lounge, glaring at them as belligerently and
offensively as a gentleman could and maintain his self-respect. Then
he went into the waiting-room and embarked upon a positive orgy of
letter-writing. Looking up from the last of his pile a half-hour
later, he observed the young lady who was unconsciously preventing a
proper flow of epistolary inspiration on his part, seated at a desk in
the opposite corner. A pen was in her right hand, and in her left she
held a tiny embroidered handkerchief, rather creased. Sometimes she
bit the corner of it, sometimes she leaned her cheek upon it,
sometimes she tapped the blotting-pad with the pen-handle, very much
as if she had no particular interest in what she was doing, or else
she was very doubtful about the wisdom of it.

Presently she took some pennies from a small purse, and rising, took
her letters with her with the evident intention of posting them.
Appleton rose too, lifting his pile of correspondence, and followed
close at her heels. She went to the office, laid down threepence, with
her letters, turned, saw Fergus Appleton with the physical eye, but
looked directly through him as if he were a man of glass and poor
quality of glass at that, and sauntered upstairs as if she were
greatly bored with life.

However, the top letter of her three was addressed very plainly to the
"Bishop of Bath and Wells," and Fergus Appleton had known the bishop,
and the bishop's wife, for several years. Accordingly, the post-bag
that night held two letters addressed to the Bishop's Palace, and
there was every prospect of an immediate answer to one of them.


IV


As for the country roundabout the Bexley Sands Inn, it is one of the
loveliest in Devonshire. It does not waste a moment, but, realizing
the brevity of week-end visits and the anxiety of tourists to see the
greatest amount of scenery in the shortest space, it begins its duty
at the very door of the inn and goes straight on from one stretch of
loveliness to another.

If you have been there, you remember that if you turn to the right and
go over the stone bridge that crosses the sleepy river, you are in the
very heart of beauty. You pick your way daintily along the edge of the
road, for it is carpeted so thickly with sea-pinks and yellow and
crimson crow's-foot that you scarcely know where to step. Sea-poppies
there are, too, groves of them, growing in the sandy stretches that
lie close to and border the wide, shingly beach. In summer the long,
low, narrow stone bridge crosses no water, but just here is an acre or
two of tall green rushes. You walk down the bank a few steps and sit
under the shadow of a wall. The green garden of rushes stretches in
front of you, with a still, shallow pool between you and it, a pool
floating with blossoming water-weeds. On the edge of the rushes grow
tall yellow irises in great profusion; the cuckoo's note sounds in the
distance; the sun, the warmth, the intoxication of color, make you
drowsy, and you lean back among the green things, close your eyes, and
then begin listening to the wonderful music of the rushes. A million
million reeds stirred by the breeze bend to and fro, making a faint
silken sound like that of a summer wave lapping the shore, but far
more ethereal.

Thomasina Tucker went down the road, laden with books, soon after
breakfast Monday morning. Appleton waited until after the post came
in, and having received much-desired letters and observed with joy the
week-enders setting forth, hither and thither on their return
journeys, followed what he supposed to be Miss Tucker's route; at
least, it was her route on Saturday and Sunday, and he could not
suppose her to harbor caprice or any other feminine weakness.

Yes, there she was, in the very loveliest nook, the stone wall at her
back, and in front nice sandy levels for books and papers and
writing-pad.

"Miss Tucker, may I invade your solitude for a moment? Our mutual
friend, the Bishop of Bath and Wells, has written asking me to look
you up as a fellow countryman and see if I can be of any service to
you so far away from home."

Tommy looked up, observed a good-looking American holding a letter in
one hand and lifting a hat with the other, and bade him welcome.

"How kind of the bishop! But he is always doing kind things; his wife,
too. I have seen much of them since I came to England."

"My name is Appleton, Fergus Appleton, at your service."

"Won't you take a stone, or make yourself a hollow in the sand?" asked
Tommy hospitably. "I came out here to read and study, and get rid of
the week-enders. Isn't Bexley Sands a lovely spot, and do you ever get
tired of the bacon and the kippered herring, and the fruit tarts with
Devonshire cream?"

"I can't bear to begin an acquaintance with a lady by differing on
such vital points, but I do get tired of these Bexley delicacies."

"Perhaps you have been here too long--or have you just come this
morning?"

Appleton swallowed his disappointment and hurt vanity, and remarked:
"No, I came on Friday." (He laid some emphasis on Friday.)

"The evening train is so incorrigibly slow! I only reached the hotel
at ten o'clock when I arrived on Thursday night." Miss Tucker shot a
rapid glance at the young man as she made this remark.

"I came by the morning express and arrived here at three on Friday,"
said Appleton.

Miss Tucker, with a slight display of perhaps legitimate temper,
turned suddenly upon him. "There! I have been trying for two minutes
to find out when you came, and now I know you were at my beastly
concert on Friday evening!"

"I certainly was, and very grateful I am, too."

"I suppose all through my life people will be turning up who were in
that room!" said Miss Tucker ungraciously. "I must tell somebody what
I feel about that concert! I should prefer some one who wasn't a
stranger, but you are a great deal better than nobody. Do you mind?"

Appleton laughed like a boy, and flung his hat a little distance into
a patch of sea-pinks.

"Not a bit. Use me, or abuse me, as you like, so long as you don't
send me away, for this was my favorite spot before you chose it for
yours."

"I live in New York, and I came abroad early in the summer," began
Tommy.

"I know that already!" interrupted Appleton.

"Oh, I suppose the bishop told you."

"No, I came with you; that is, I was your fellow passenger."

"Did you? Why, I never saw you on the boat."

"My charms are not so dazzling that I expect them to be noted and
remembered," laughed Appleton.

"It is true I was very tired, and excited, and full of anxieties,"
said Tommy meekly.

"Don't apologize! If you tried for an hour, you couldn't guess just
why I noticed and remembered _you_!"

"I conclude then it was not for _my_ dazzling charms," Tommy answered
saucily.

"It was because you wore the only flower I ever notice, one that is
associated with my earliest childhood. I never knew a woman to wear a
bunch of mignonette before."

"Some one sent it to me, I remember, and it had some hideous scarlet
pinks in the middle. I put the pinks in my room and pinned on the
mignonette because it matched my dress. I am very fond of green."

"My mother loved mignonette. We always had beds of it in our garden
and pots of it growing in the house in winter. I can smell it whenever
I close my eyes."

Tommy glanced at him. She felt something in his voice that she liked,
something that attracted her and wakened an instantaneous response.

"But go on," he said. "I only know as yet that you sailed from New
York in the early summer, as I did."

"Well, I went to London to join a great friend, a singer, Helena
Markham. Have you heard of her?"

"No; is she an American?"

"Yes, a Western girl, from Montana, with oh! such a magnificent voice
and such a big talent!" (The outward sweep of Tommy's hands took in
the universe.) "We've had some heavenly weeks together. I play
accompaniments, and--"

"I know you do!"

"I forgot for the moment how much too much you know! I went with her
to Birmingham, and Manchester, and Leeds, and Liverpool. I wasn't
really grand enough for her, but the audiences didn't notice me,
Helena was so superb. In between I took some lessons of Henschel. He
told me I hadn't much voice, but very nice brains. I am always called
'intelligent,' and no one can imagine how I hate the word!"

"It is offensive, but not so bad as some others. I, for example, have
been called a 'conscientious writer'!"

"Oh, are you a writer?"

"Of a sort, yes. But, as you were saying--"

"As I was saying, everything was going so beautifully until ten days
ago, when Helena's people cabled her to come home. Her mother is
seriously ill and cannot live more than a few months. She went at
once, but I couldn't go with her--not very well, in midsummer--and so
here I am, all alone, high and dry."

She leaned her chin in the cup of her hand and, looking
absent-mindedly at the shimmering rushes, fell into a spell of silence
that took no account of Appleton.

To tell the truth, he didn't mind looking at her unobserved for a
moment or two. He had almost complete control of his senses, and he
didn't believe she could be as pretty as he thought she was. There was
no reason to think that she was better to look at than an out-and-out
beauty. Her nose wasn't Greek. It was just a trifle faulty, but it was
piquant and full of mischief. There was nothing to be said against her
mouth or her eyelashes, which were beyond criticism, and he
particularly liked the way her dark-brown hair grew round her temples
and her ears--but the quality in her face that appealed most to
Appleton was a soft and touching youthfulness.

Suddenly she remembered herself, and began again:

"Miss Markham and I had twice gone to large seaside hotels with great
success, but, of course, she had a manager and a reputation. I thought
I would try the same thing alone in some very quiet retreat, and see
if it would do. Oh! wasn't it funny!" (Here she broke into a perfectly
childlike fit of laughter.) "It was such a well-behaved, solemn little
audience, that never gave me an inkling of its liking or its
loathing."

"Oh, yes, it did!" remonstrated Appleton. "They loved your Scotch
songs."

"Silently!" cried Tommy. "I had dozens and dozens of other things
upstairs to sing to them, but I thought I was suiting my programme to
the place and the people. I looked at them during luncheon and made my
selections."

"You are flattering the week-enders."

"I believe you are musical," she ventured, looking up at him as she
played with a tuft of sea-pinks.

"I am passionately fond of singing, so I seldom go to concerts," he
answered, somewhat enigmatically. "Your programme was an enchanting
one to me."

"It was good of its kind, if the audience would have helped me,"--and
Tommy's lip trembled a little; "but perhaps I could have borne that,
if it hadn't been for the--plate."

"Not a pleasant custom, and a new one to me," said Appleton.

"And to me!" (Here she made a little grimace of disgust.) "I knew
beforehand I had to face the plate--but the contents! Where did you
sit?"

"I was forced to stay a trifle in the background, I entered so late.
It was your 'Minstrel Boy' that dragged me out of my armchair in the
lounge."

"Then perhaps you saw the plate? I know by your face that you did! You
saw the sixpences, which I shall never forget, and the pennies, which
I will never forgive! I thirst for the blood of those who put in
pennies!"

"They would all have been sitting in boiling oil since Friday if I had
had my way," responded Appleton.

Tommy laughed delightedly. "I know now who put in the sovereign! I
knew every face in that audience--that wasn't difficult in so small a
one--and I tried and tried to fix the sovereign on any one of them,
and couldn't. At last I determined that it was the old gentleman who
went out in the middle of 'Allan Water,' feeling that he would rather
pay anything than stay any longer. Confess! it _was_ you!"

Appleton felt very sheepish as he met Tommy's dancing eyes and
heightened color.

"I couldn't bear to let you see those pennies," he stammered, "but I
couldn't get them out before the page came to take the plate."

"Perhaps you were 'pound foolish,' and the others were 'penny wise,'
but it was awfully nice of you. If I can pay my bill here without
spending that sovereign, I believe I'll keep it for a lucky piece. I
shall be very rich by Saturday night, anyway."

"A legacy due?"

"Goodness, no! I haven't a relation in the world except one, who
disapproves of me; not so much as I disapprove of him, however. No,
Albert Spalding and Donald Tovey have engaged me for a concert in
Torquay."

"I have some business in Torquay which will keep me there for a few
days on my way back to Wells," said Appleton nonchalantly. (The
bishop's letter had been a pure and undefiled source of information on
all points.)

"Why, how funny! I hope you'll be there on Saturday. There'll be no
plate! Tickets two and six to seven and six, but you shall be my
guest, my sovereign guest. I am going to Wells myself to stay
till--till I make up my mind about a few things."

"America next?" inquired Appleton, keeping his voice as colorless as
possible.

"I don't know. Helena made me resign my church position in Brooklyn,
and for the moment my 'career' is undecided."

She laughed, but her eyes denied the mirth that her lips affirmed, and
Appleton had such a sudden, illogical desire to meddle with her
career, to help or hinder it, to have a hand in it at any rate, that
he could hardly hold his tongue.

"The Torquay concert will be charming, I hope. You know what
Spalding's violin-playing is, and Donald Tovey is a young genius at
piano-playing and composing. He is going to accompany me in some of
his own songs, and he wants me to sing a group of American
ones--Macdowell, Chadwick, Nevin, Mrs. Beach, and Margaret Lang."

"I hope you'll accompany yourself in some of your own ballads!"

"No, the occasion is too grand; unless they should happen to like me
very much. Then I could play for myself, and sing 'Allan Water,' or
'Believe Me,' or 'Early One Morning,' or 'Barbara Allen.'"

(Appleton wondered if a claque of sizable, trustworthy boys could be
secured in Torquay, and under his intelligent and inspired leadership
carry Miss Thomasina Tucker like a cork on the wave of success.)

"Wouldn't it be lunch-time?" asked Miss Tucker, after a slight pause.

"It is always time for something when I'm particularly enjoying
myself," grumbled Appleton, looking at his watch. "It's not quite one
o'clock. Must we go in?"

"Oh, yes; we've ten minutes' walk,"--and Tommy scrambled up and began
to brush sand from her skirts.

"Couldn't I sit at your table--under the chaperonage of the Bishop of
Bath and Wells?" And Appleton got on his feet and collected Tommy's
books.

The girl's laugh was full-hearted this time. "Certainly not," she
said. "What does Bexley Sands know of the bishop and his interest in
us? But if you can find the drawing-room utterly deserted at any time,
I'll sing for you."

"How about a tea-basket and a walk to Gray Rocks at four o'clock?"
asked Appleton as they strolled toward the hotel.

"Charming! And I love singing out of doors without accompaniment. I'm
determined to earn that sovereign in course of time! Are you from New
England?"

"Yes; and you?"

"Oh, I'm from New York. I was born in a row of brown-stone fronts, in
a numbered street, twenty-five or thirty houses to a block, all
exactly alike. I wonder how I've outlived my start. And you?"

"In the country, bless it,--in the eastern part of Massachusetts. We
had a garden and my mother and I lived in it during all the months of
my life that matter. That's where the mignonette grew."

"'And He planted a garden eastward in Eden,'" quoted Tommy, half to
herself.

"It's the only Eden I ever knew! Do you like it over here, Miss
Tucker, or are you homesick now that your friend is in America?"

"Oh, I'm never homesick; for the reason that I have never had any home
since I was ten years old, when I was left an orphan. I haven't any
deep roots in New York; it's like the ocean, too big to love. I
respect and admire the ocean, but I love a little river. You know the
made-over aphorism: 'The home is where the hat is'? For 'hat' read
'trunk,' and you have my case, precisely."

"That's because you are absurdly, riotously young! It won't suit you
forever."

"Does anything suit one forever?" asked Tommy frivolously, not
cynically, but making Appleton a trifle uncomfortable nevertheless.
"Anything except singing, I mean? Perhaps you feel the same way about
writing? You haven't told me anything about your work, and I've
confided my past history, present prospects, and future aspirations to
you!"

"There's not so much to say. It is good work, and it is growing
better. I studied architecture at the Beaux-Arts. I do art-criticism,
and I write about buildings chiefly. That would seem rather dull to a
warbler like you."

"Not a bit. Doesn't somebody say that architecture is frozen music?"

"I don't get as immediate response to my work as you do to yours."

"No, but you never had sixpences and pennies put into your plate! Now
give me my books, please. I'll go in at the upper gate alone, and run
upstairs to my room. You enter by the lower one and go through the
lounge, where the guests chiefly congregate waiting for the opening of
the dining-room. Au revoir!"

When Tommy opened her bedroom door she elevated her pretty,
impertinent little nose and sniffed the air. It was laden with a
delicate perfume that came from a huge bunch of mignonette on the
table. It was long-stemmed, fresh, and moist, loosely bound together,
and every one of its tiny brown blossoms was sending out fragrance
into the room. It did not need Fergus Appleton's card to identify the
giver, but there it was.

"What a nice, kind, understanding person he is! And how cheerful it
makes life to have somebody from your own country taking an interest
in you, and liking your singing, and hating those beastly pennies!"
And Tommy, quickly merging artist in woman, slipped on a coatee of
dull-green crêpe over her old black taffeta, and taking down her hat
with the garland of mignonette from the shelf in her closet, tucked
some of the green sprays in her belt, and went down to luncheon. She
didn't know where Fergus Appleton's table was, but she would make her
seat face his. Then she could smile thanks at him over the
mulligatawny soup, or the filet of sole, or the boiled mutton, or the
apple tart. Even the Bishop of Bath and Wells couldn't object to
that!


V


Their friendship grew perceptibly during the next two days, though
constantly under the espionage of the permanent guests of the Bexley
Sands Inn, but on Wednesday night Miss Tucker left for Torquay,
according to schedule. Fergus Appleton remained behind, partly to make
up arrears in his literary work, and partly as a sop to decency and
common sense. He did not deem it either proper or dignified to escort
the young lady on her journey (particularly as he had not been asked
to do so), so he pined in solitary confinement at Bexley until
Saturday morning, when he followed her to the scene of her labors.

After due reflection he gave up the idea of the claque, and rested
Tommy's case on the knees of the gods, where it transpired that it was
much safer, for Torquay liked Tommy, and the concert went off with
enormous éclat. From the moment that Miss Thomasina Tucker appeared on
the platform the audience looked pleased. She wore a quaint dress of
white flounced chiffon, with a girdle of green, and a broad white hat
with her old mignonette garland made into two little nosegays perched
on either side of the transparent brim. She could not wear the
mignonette that Appleton had sent to her dressing-room, because she
would have been obscured by the size of the offering, but she carried
as much of it as her strength permitted, and laid the fragrant bouquet
on the piano as she passed it. (A poem had come with it, but Tommy did
not dare read it until the ordeal was over, for no one had ever
written her a poem before. It had three long verses, and was signed
"F.A."--that was all she had time to note.)

A long-haired gentleman sitting beside Appleton remarked to his
neighbor: "The girl looks like a flower; it's a pity she has such a
heathenish name! Why didn't they call her Hope, or Flora, or Egeria,
or Cecilia?"

When the audience found that Miss Tucker's singing did not belie her
charming appearance, they cast discretion to the winds and loved her.
Appleton himself marveled at the beauty of her performance as it
budded and bloomed under the inspiration of her fellow artists and the
favor of the audience, and the more he admired the more depressed he
became.

"She may be on the threshold of a modest 'career,' of a sort, after
all," he thought, "and she will never give it up for me. Would she be
willing to combine me with the career, and how would it work? I
shouldn't be churl enough to mind her singing now and then, but it
seems to me I couldn't stand 'tours.' Besides, hers is such a
childlike, winsome, fragrant little gift it ought not to be exploited
like a great, booming talent!"

The audience went wild over Donald Tovey's songs. He played, and Tommy
sang them from memory, and it seemed as if they had been written then
and there, struck off at white heat; as if the composer happened to be
at the piano, and the singer chanced with his help to be interpreting
those particular verses for that particular moment.

His setting of "Jock o'Hazeldean" proved irresistible:

                "They sought her baith by bower an ha';
                   The ladie was not seen."

And then with a swirl and a torrent of sound, a clangor of sword and a
clatter of hoofs:

                    "She's o'er the Border and awa'
                         Wi' Jock o' Hazeldean."

Appleton didn't see any valid reason why Tovey should kiss Tommy's
hand in responding to the third recall, but supposed it must be a
composer's privilege, and wished that he were one.

Then the crowd made its way into the brilliant Torquay sunshine, and
Appleton lingered in the streets until the time came for the tea-party
arranged for the artists at the hotel.

It was a gay little gathering, assisted by a charming lady of the
town, who always knew the celebrated people who flock there in all
seasons. Spalding and Tovey were the lions, but Miss Thomasina Tucker
did not lack for compliments. Her cheeks glowed and her eyes sparkled
under the white tulle brim of her hat. Her neck looked deliciously
white and young, rising from its transparent chiffons, and her bunch
of mignonette gave a note of delicate distinction. The long-haired
gentleman was present, and turned out to be a local poet. He told Miss
Tucker that she ought never to wear or to carry another flower. "Not,
at all events, till you pass thirty!" he said. "You belong
together--you, your songs, and the mignonette!"--at which she flung a
shy upward glance at Appleton, saying: "It is this American friend who
has really established the connection, though I have always worn green
and white and always loved the flower."

"You sent me some verses, Mr. Appleton," she said, as the poet moved
away. "I have them safe" (and she touched her bodice), "but I haven't
had a quiet moment to read them."

"Just a little tribute," Appleton answered carelessly. "Are you
leaving? If so, I'll get your flowers into a cab and drive you on."

"No. I am going, quite unexpectedly, to Exeter to-night. Let us sit
down in this corner a moment and I'll tell you. Mr. Tovey has asked me
to substitute for a singer who is ill. The performance is on Monday
and I chance to know the cantata. I shall not be paid, but it will be
a fine audience and it may lead to something; after all, it's not out
of my way in going to Wells."

"Aren't you overtired to travel any more to-night?"

"No, I am treading air! I have no sense of being in the body at all.
Mrs. Cholmondeley, that dark-haired lady you were talking with a
moment ago, lives in Exeter and will take me to her house. And how
nice that I don't have to say good-bye, for you still mean to go to
Wells?"

"Oh, yes! I haven't nearly finished with the cathedral--I shall be
there before you. Can I look up lodgings or do anything for you?"

"Oh, no, thank you. I shall go to the old place where Miss Markham and
I lived before. The bishop and Mrs. Kennion sent us there because
there is a piano, and the old ladies, being deaf, don't mind musical
lodgers. Didn't the concert go off beautifully! Such artists, those
two men; so easy to do one's best in such company."

"It was a triumph! Doesn't it completely efface the memory of the
plate and the pennies?"

"Yes," Tommy answered. "I bear no ill-will to any living creature. The
only flaw is my horrid name. Can't you think of another for me? I've
just had an anonymous note. Hear it!" (taking it from her glove):

  DEAR MADAM:

  The name of Thomasina Tucker is one of those bizarre
  Americanisms that pain us so frequently in England. I fancy you
  must have assumed it for public use, and if so, I beg you will
  change it now, before you become too famous. The grotesque name
  of Thomasina Tucker belittles your exquisite art.

                                          Very truly yours,
                                                 A WELL WISHER.

"What do you think of that?"

Appleton laughed heartily and scanned the note. "It is from some
doddering old woman," he said. "The name given you by your sponsors in
baptism to be condemned as a 'bizarre Americanism'!"

"I cannot think why the loyalty of my dear mother and father to
Tucker, and to Thomas, should have made them saddle me with such a
handicap! They might have known I was going to sing, for I bawled
incessantly from birth to the age of twelve months. I shall have to
change my name, and you must help me to choose. Au revoir!"--and she
darted away with a handshake and a friendly backward glance from the
door.

"Can I think of another name for her?" apostrophized Appleton to
himself. "Can feminine unconsciousness and cruelty go farther than
that? Another name for her shrieks from the very housetops, and I
agree with 'Well Wisher' that she ought to take it before she becomes
too famous; before it would be necessary, for instance, to describe
her as Madame Tucker-Appleton!"


VI


These are the verses:

                          TO MISS TOMMY TUCKER
                      (WITH A BUNCH OF MIGNONETTE)

                 A garden and a yellow wedge
                    Of sunshine slipping through,
                 And there, beside a bit of hedge,
                    Forget-me-nots so blue,
                 Bright four-o'clocks and spicy pinks,
                    And sweet, old-fashioned roses,
                 With daffodils and crocuses,
                    And other fragrant posies,
                 And in a corner, 'neath the shade
                 By flowering apple branches made,
                        Grew mignonette.

                 I do not know, I cannot say,
                    Why, when I hear you sing,
                 Those by-gone days come back to me,
                    And in their long train bring
                 To mind that dear old garden, with
                    Its hovering honey-bees,
                 And liquid-throated songsters on
                    The blossom-laden trees;
                 Nor why a fragrance, fresh and rare,
                 Should on a sudden fill the air,
                        Of mignonette!

                 Your mem'ry seems a garden fair
                    Of old-time flowers of song.
                 There Annie Laurie lives and loves,
                    And Mary Morison,
                 And Black-eyed Susan, Alice Grey,
                    Phillida, with her frown--
                 And Barbara Allen, false and fair,
                    From famous Scarlet Town.
                 What marvel such a garland rare
                 Should breathe sweet odors on the air,
                        Like mignonette?
                                           F. A.


VII


There was never such a summer of enchanting weather as that particular
summer in Wells. The whole population of Somersetshire, save those who
had crops requiring rain, were in a heaven of delight from morning
till night. Miss Tommy Tucker was very busy with some girl pupils, and
as accompanist for oratorio practice; but there were blissful hours
when she "studied" the cathedral with Fergus Appleton, watching him
sketch the stately Central Tower, or the Lady Chapel, or the Chain
Gate. There were afternoon walks to Tor Hill, winding up almost daily
with tea at the palace, for the bishop and his wife were miracles of
hospitality to the two Americans.

Fergus Appleton had declared the state of his mind and heart to Mrs.
Kennion a few days after his arrival, though after his confidence had
been received she said that it was quite unnecessary, as she had
guessed the entire situation the moment she saw them together.

"If you do, it is more than Miss Tucker does," said Appleton, "for I
can't flatter myself that she suspects in the least what I am about."

"You haven't said anything yet?"

"My dear Mrs. Kennion, I've known her less than a fortnight! It's bad
enough for a man to fall in love in that absurd length of time, but I
wouldn't ask a girl to marry me on two weeks' acquaintance. It would
simply be courting refusal."

"I am glad you feel that way about it, for we have grown greatly
attached to Miss Tucker," said the bishop's wife. "She is so simple
and unaffected, so lovable, and such good company! So alone in the
world, yet so courageous and independent. I hope it will come out all
right for your dear mother's son," she added affectionately, with a
squeeze of her kind hand. "Miss Tucker is dining here to-morrow, and
you must come, too, for she has offered to sing for our friends."

Everybody agreed that Mrs. Kennion's party for the young American
singer was a delightful and memorable occasion. She gave them song
after song, accompanying herself on the Erard grand piano, at which
she always made such a pretty picture. It drifted into a request
programme, and Tommy, whose memory was inexhaustible, seemed always to
have the wished-for song at the tip of her tongue, were it English,
Scotch, Irish, or Welsh. There was general laughter and surprise when
Madame Eriksson, a Norwegian lady who was among the guests, asked her
for a certain song of Halfdan Kjerulf's.

"I only know it in its English translation," Tommy said, "and I
haven't sung it for a year, but I think I remember it. Forgive me if I
halt in the words:

                   "'I hardly know, my darling,
                   What mostly took my heart,
                   Unless perhaps your singing
                   Has done the greater part.
                   I've thrilled to many voices,
                   The passionate, the strong,
                   But I forgot the singer,
                   And I forgot the song.
                   But there's one song, my darling,
                   That I can ne'er forget.
                   I listened and I trembled,
                   And felt my cheek was wet;
                   It seemed my heart within me
                   Gave answer clear and low
                   When first I heard you sing, dear,
                   Then first I loved you so!'"

Tommy had sung the song hundreds of times in earlier years, and she
had not the slightest self-consciousness when she began it; but just
as she reached the last four lines her eyes met Fergus Appleton's. He
was seated in a far corner of the room, leaning eagerly forward, with
one arm on the back of a chair in front of him. She was singing the
words to the company, but if ever a man was uttering and confirming
them it was Fergus Appleton at that moment. The blindest woman could
see, the deafest could hear, the avowal.

Tommy caught her breath quickly, looked away, braced her memory, and
finished, to the keen delight of old Madame Eriksson, who rose and
kissed her on both cheeks.

Tommy was glad that her part of the evening was over, and to cover her
confusion offered to sing something of her own composing, the Mother
Goose rhyme of "Little Tommy Tucker Sings for His Supper," arranged as
an operatic recitative and aria. The humor of this performance
penetrated even to the remotest fastnesses of the staid cathedral
circle, and the palace party ended in something that positively
resembled merriment, a consummation not always to be reached in
gatherings exclusively clerical in character.

The bishop's coachman always drove Miss Tucker home, and Appleton
always walked to his lodgings, which were in the opposite direction,
so nothing could be done that night, but he determined that another
sun should not go down before he put his fate to the touch.

How could he foresee what the morning post would bring and deposit,
like an unwelcome bomb, upon his breakfast tray?

His London publishers wanted to see him at once, not only on a
multitude of details concerning his forthcoming book, but on a
subject, as they hoped, of great interest and importance to him.

Thinking it a matter of a day or so, Appleton scribbled notes to Mrs.
Kennion and Miss Tucker, with whom he was to go on an excursion, and
departed forthwith to London.

Everything happened in London. The American publishers wanted a
different title for the book and four more chapters to lengthen it to
a size selling (at a profit) for two dollars and a half. The English
publishers thought he had dealt rather slightingly with a certain very
interesting period, and he remembered, guiltily, that he had been at
Bexley Sands when he wrote the chapters in question. It would take
three days' labor to fill up these gaps, he calculated, and how
fortunate that Miss Thomasina Tucker was safely entrenched in the
heart of an ecclesiastical stronghold for the next month or two; a
town where he had not, so far as he knew, a single formidable rival.
He wrote her regarding his unexpected engagements, adding with
legitimate pride that one of England's foremost critics had offered to
write a preface for his book; then he settled to his desk and slaved
at his task until it was accomplished, when he departed with a beating
heart for the town and county that held Miss Thomasina Tucker in their
keeping.

Alighting at the familiar railway station, he took a hansom, intending
to drop his portmanteau at his lodgings and go on to the palace for
news, but as he was driving by the deanery on the north side of
Cathedral Green, he encountered Mrs. Kennion in her victoria. She
signaled him with her hand and spoke to her coachman, who drew up his
horses. Alighting from his hansom, he strode forward to take her
welcoming hand, his face radiating the pleasure of a home-coming
traveler.

"If you'll let the cabman take your luggage, I'd like to drive you
home myself. I have something to tell you," said Mrs. Kennion, making
room for him by her side.

"Nothing has happened, I hope?" he asked anxiously.

"Miss Tucker is leaving for America to-morrow morning."

"Going away?" Appleton's tone was one of positive dismay.

"Yes. It is all very sudden and unexpected."

"Sailing to-morrow?" exclaimed Appleton, taking out his watch. "From
where? How can I get there?"

"Not sailing to-morrow--leaving Wells to-morrow on an early train and
sailing Saturday from Southampton."

"Oh, the world is not lost entirely, then!"--and Appleton leaned back
and wiped his forehead. "What has happened? I ought never to have gone
to London."

"She had a cable yesterday from her Brooklyn church, offering her a
better position in the choir, but saying that they could hold it only
ten days. By post on the same day she received a letter from a New
York friend--"

"Was it a Carl Bothwick?"

"No; a Miss Macleod, who said that a much better position was in the
market in a church where Miss Tucker had influential friends. She was
sure that if Miss Tucker returned immediately to sing for the
committee she could secure a thousand-dollar salary. We could do
nothing but advise her to make the effort, you see."

"Did she seem determined to go?"

"No; she appeared a little undecided and timid. However, she said
frankly that, though she had earned enough in England to pay her
steamer passage to America, and a month's expenses afterward, she
could not be certain of continuing to do so much through a London
winter. 'If I only had a little more time to think it out,' she kept
saying, 'but I haven't, so I must go!'"

"Where is she now?"

"At her lodgings. The bishop is detained in Bath and I am dining with
friends in his stead. I thought you might go and take her to dinner at
the Swan, so that she shouldn't be alone, and then bring her to the
palace afterward--if--if all is well."

"If I have any luck two churches will be lamenting her loss to-morrow
morning," said Fergus gloomily; "but she wouldn't have consented to go
if she cared anything about me!"

"Nonsense, my dear boy! You were away. No self-respecting girl would
wire you to come back. She was helpless even if she did care. Here we
are! Shall I send a hansom back in half an hour?"

"Twenty-five minutes will do it," Appleton answered briskly. "You are
an angel, dear lady!"

"Keep your blarney! I hope you'll need it all for somebody else
to-night! Good fortune, dear boy!"


VIII


Appleton flung the contents of his portmanteau into his closet, rid
himself of the dust of travel, made a quick change, and in less than
forty minutes was at the door of Miss Tucker's lodgings.

She had a little sitting-room on the first floor, and his loud
rat-a-tat brought her to the door instead of the parlor-maid.

At the unexpected sight of him she turned pale.

"Why--why, I thought it was the luggage-man. Where did you come from?"
she stammered.

"From London, an hour ago. I met Mrs. Kennion on my way from the
station."

"Oh! Then she told you I am going home?"

"Yes, she told me. How could you go to America without saying
good-bye, Miss Tommy?"

She flushed and looked perilously near tears.

"I wrote to you this morning as soon as I had decided," she said. "I
don't like to dart off in this way, you can imagine, but it's a
question of must."

He did not argue this with her; that was a bridge to be crossed when a
better understanding had been reached; so, as if taking the journey as
an inexorable fact, he said: "Come out and dine with me somewhere, and
let us have a good talk."

"I'm afraid I can't. I'm eating now on a tray in my sitting-room,"--and
she waved a table napkin she was holding in her hand. "I am rather
tired, and Miss Scattergood gave me some bacon and an egg from the nest."

"Give the bacon to the cat and put back the egg in the nest," he said
coaxingly. "Mrs. Kennion said: 'Don't let her eat her last dinner
alone. Take her to the Swan.'"

"Oh, I am only in my traveling-clothes and the Swan is full of
strangers to-night."

"The Green Dragon, then, near the cathedral. You look dressed for
Buckingham Palace."

She hesitated a moment, and then melted at the eagerness of his wish.
"Well, then, if you'll wait five minutes."

"Of course; I'll go along to the corner and whistle a hansom from the
stand. Don't hurry!"

The mental processes of Miss Thomasina Tucker had been very confused
during the excitement of the last twenty-four hours.

That she loved Fergus Appleton she was well aware since the arrival of
the cablegram calling her back to America. Up to that time she had
fenced with her love--parried it, pricked it, thrust it off, drawn it
back, telling herself that she had plenty of time to meet the issue if
it came. That Fergus Appleton loved her she was also fairly well
convinced, but that fact did not always mean--everything--she told
herself, with a pitiful little attempt at worldly wisdom. Perhaps he
preferred his liberty to any woman; perhaps he did not want to settle
down; perhaps he was engaged to some one whom he didn't care for now,
but would have to marry; perhaps he hadn't money enough to share with
a wife; perhaps he was a flirt--no, she would not admit that for an
instant. Anyway, she was alone in the world, and the guardian of her
own dignity. If she could have allowed matters to drift along in the
heavenly uncertainty of these last days, there would have been no
problem; but when she was forced to wake from her delicious dream and
fly from everything that held her close and warm, fly during Fergus
Appleton's absence, without his knowledge or consent--that indeed was
heart-breaking. And still her pride showed her but the one course. She
was alone in the world and without means save those earned by her own
exertions. A living income was offered her in America and she must
take it or leave it on the instant. She could not telegraph Fergus
Appleton in London and acquaint him with her plans, as if they
depended on him for solution; she could only write him a warm and
friendly good-bye. If he loved her as much as a man ought who loved at
all, he had time to follow her to Southampton before her ship sailed.
If business kept him from such a hurried journey, he could ask her to
marry him in a sixpenny wire, reply paid. If he neither came nor
wired, but sent a box of mignonette to the steamer with his card and
"Bon voyage" written on it, she would bury something unspeakably dear
and precious that had only just been born--bury it, and plant
mignonette over it. And she could always sing! Thank Heaven for the
gift of song!

This was Tommy's mood when she was packing her belongings, after
hearing the bishop say that Appleton could not return till noon next
day. It had changed a trifle by the time that Fergus had gone to the
corner to whistle for a hansom. Her gray frieze jacket and skirt were
right enough when she hastily slipped on a better blouse with a deep
embroidered collar, pinned with Helena Markham's parting gift of an
emerald clover-leaf. Her gray straw hat had a becoming band of flat
green leaves, and she had a tinge of color. (Nothing better for roses
in the cheeks than hurrying to be ready for the right man.) Anyway,
such beauty as Tommy had was always there, and when she came to the
door she smote Appleton's eyes as if she were "the first beam from the
springing east."

Once in the hansom, they talked gayly. They dared not stop, indeed,
for when they kept on whipping the stream they forgot the depth of the
waters underneath.

                   *       *       *       *       *

Meantime the Green Dragon, competitor of the Swan, had great need of
their lavish and interesting patronage.

The Swiss head waiter, who was new to Wells, was a man of waxed
mustaches and sleepless ambitions. The other hotels had most of the
tourists, but he intended to retrieve the fortunes of his employer,
and bring prosperity back to the side streets. He adored his vocation,
and would have shed his heart's blood on the altar of any dining-room
of which he had charge.

There were nine tables placed about the large room, though not more
than three had been occupied in his tenure of office; but all were
beautifully set with flowers and bright silver and napkins in
complicated foldings. Pasteboard cards with large black numbers from
one to eight stood erect on eight of the tables, and on the ninth an
imposing placard bore the sign:

                                ENGAGED

in letters two inches high, giving the idea that a hungry crowd was
waiting to surge in and take the seats.

The second man, trained within an inch of his life, had been already
kindled by the enthusiasm of his superior, and shared his vigils.

This very evening there had been hopes deferred and sickened hearts
over the indifference of the public to a menu fit for a king. Were
there not consommé royale, filet of sole, maître d'hôtel, poulet en
casserole, pommes de terres sautés, haricots verts, and a wonderful
Camembert? A savory could be inserted in an instant, and a sweet
arranged in the twinkling of an eye.

"A carriage, Walter! Prepare!"

Both flew silently to the window.

"Two ladies; ah, they are not alighting! They wish to know if there is
evening service in the cathedral."

"A gentleman, Walter! In a four-wheeler!"

"No, he dines not. He has come to request his umbrella of the
porter."

"A hansom, Walter!"

"Ah, they alight. She is of an elegance unmistakable. They are young
married ones, and will dine well. Hasten, Walter, and order both sweet
and savory!"

Fergus and Tommy looked about the cozy room with pleasure as they
entered, receiving the salute of Gustave and the English bow of Walter
as tributes to their deep, unspoken hopes.

"Where will you sit, Miss Tucker?" asked Appleton, and as he spoke his
quick eye observed the "Engaged" placard, and with lightning dexterity
he steered his guest toward that table. (There _was_ an opening, if
you like!) Not quick enough for Tommy, though, for she had seen it and
dropped into a seat several feet away, declaring its position was
perfect. Gustave put menus before his distinguished clients with a
flourish, and indicated the wine card as conspicuously as was
consistent with good form. Then he paused and made mental notes of the
situation.

"Ah, very good, very good," murmured Appleton. "You might move the
flowers, please; they rather hide--the view; and bring the soup,
please."

"Very young married ones!" thought Gustave, summoning his slave and
retiring to a point where he could watch the wine card. Walter brought
the consommé, and then busied himself at the other tables. They would
never be occupied, but it was just as well to pretend, so he set
hideous colored wine-glasses, red, green, and amber, at the various
places, and polished them ostentatiously with a clean napkin in the
hope that the gentleman would experience a desire for liquid
refreshment.

"This is very jolly, and very unexpected," said Appleton.

"It is, indeed."

"I hope you don't miss the nest-egg."

"You mustn't call it a nest-egg! That's a stale thing, or a china one
that they leave in, I don't know why--for an example, or a pattern, or
a suggestion," said Tommy, laughing. "An egg from the nest is Miss
Scattergood's phrase, and it means a new-laid one."

"Oh, I see!--well, do you regret it?"

"Certainly not, with this sumptuous repast just beginning!"

"You always give me an appetite," exclaimed Appleton.

"It's a humble function, but not one to be despised," Tommy answered
mischievously, fencing, fencing every minute, with her heart beating
against her ribs like a sledge-hammer.

Walter brought the fish and solicitously freed the wine card that had
somehow crept under a cover of knives and forks.

"I beg ten thousand pardons. What will you drink, Miss Tucker? We must
have a drop of something to cheer us at a farewell dinner. Here is a
vintage champagne, a good honest wine that will hearten us up and
leave no headache in its train."

"I couldn't to-night, Mr. Appleton; I really couldn't."

"Then I refuse to be exhilarated alone," said Fergus gallantly; "and
you always have the effect of champagne on me anyway. I decline to say
good-bye. I can't even believe it is 'au revoir' between us. We had
such delightful days ahead, and so many plans."

"Yes; it isn't nice to make up your mind so suddenly that it turns
everything topsy-turvy," sighed Tommy--"I won't have any meat, thank
you."

Walter looked distinctly grieved. "I can recommend the
pulley-ong-cazzerole, miss, and there's potatoes sortey with it."

Tommy's appetite kindled at the sound of his accent, and she relented.
"Yes, I'll have a small portion, please, after all."

"When friends are together the world seems very small, and when they
are separated it becomes a space too vast for human comprehension--I
think I've heard that before, but it's true," said Appleton.

"Yes," Tommy answered, for lack of anything better to say.

"It seems as if we had known each other for years."

"And it is less than three weeks," was Tommy's contribution to the
lagging conversation.

"The bishop offered me a letter of introduction to you when he wrote
me at the Bexley Sands Inn, you remember, but he added in a postscript
that in case of accident he was not to be held responsible. Rather
cryptic, I thought--at the time."

"A little Commonburg, sir?" asked Walter. "It is a very fine ripe one,
and we have some fresh water-cress."

"'Commonburg,' Miss Tucker? No? Then bring the coffee, please."

A desperate silence fell between them, they who had talked unendingly
for days and evenings!

When Walter brought the tray with the coffee-pot and the two little
cups, Appleton suddenly pushed his chair back, saying: "Let us take
our coffee over by the window, shall we, and perhaps I may have a
cigarette later? Don't light the gas, waiter--we want to see the hills
and the afterglow."

There was no avoiding it; Appleton and the waiter conveyed Tommy
helplessly over to a table commanding the view and the sunset, and it
was the one on which the huge "Engaged" placard reared itself
persuasively and suggestively.

"We shall need nothing more, waiter; you may go; I think this will
cover the bill,"--and scorning the chair opposite Tommy, Appleton
seated himself beside her.

"You have turned your back to the afterglow," she said, as she reached
forward to move "Engaged" to a position a trifle less obvious.

"I don't care tuppence about the afterglow," and Appleton covered her
hand with his own. "Make it come true, dear, dear Tommy! Make it come
true!"

"What?" she asked, between a smile and a tear.

"The placard, dear, the placard! If you should travel the world over,
you couldn't find a man who loves you as I do."

"What would be the use in my traveling about to find another man when
I am so satisfied with this one?" whispered Tommy. "Oh, remember! they
may come back at any moment!"

"I will, I will, if only I may have the comfort of holding your hand
after all my miserable doubts! I never knew what companionship meant
before I met you! I never really cared about life until now."

"I have always cared about it, but never like this," confessed Tommy.
"You see, I have always been alone, ever since I grew up."

"And I! How wonderful of Fate to bring us together! And will you let
me cable to the churches that you cannot come home just yet?"

"You think I'd better not go--so soon?"

"Without me? Never! You shall go anywhere you like, any time you like,
so long as you take me with you. We'll settle all those things
to-morrow--the blessedest day that ever dawned, that's what to-morrow
will be! Couldn't you marry me to-morrow, Tommy?"

"Certainly not! At any rate--not in the morning!" said Tommy
mischievously, withdrawing her hand and moving out of the danger
zone.

"And you must remember that your talent is your own, to use as you
like!" Appleton continued after a well-filled pause. "Your voice is a
unique and precious gift. I'll try not to be selfish with it, or
jealous of it, though if it had half the effect on other men that it
has upon me, the floor would be strewn with broken hearts every time
you sing!"--and he hummed under his breath:

                      "I hardly know, my darling,
                      What mostly took my heart,
                      Unless perhaps your singing
                      Has done the greater part."

"Oh, you dear absurdity!" said Tommy, twinkling and sparkling
enchantingly.--"I wish the waiter wouldn't come in every time I want
to say something especially private!"

"'Confound his politics, frustrate his knavish tricks,' but we shall
soon be out of his reach, spinning along to the palace."

"Are we going there? Oh! I shall be afraid to tell the bishop and Mrs.
Kennion!"

"You needn't be. I told Mrs. Kennion this afternoon that I loved you
to distraction. If the bishop is back from Bath, she'll have passed on
the information by now."

"I was just going to say, when the waiter came so near, that it isn't
the public I love, it's the singing! Just to sing and sing, that's
what I long to do!"

"And what you shall do, so help me! You know you wanted me to find a
new name for you? Wasn't I clever to think of Appleton?"

"Very! And you're kindly freeing me of half of my 'bizarre
Americanism,' as my Torquay correspondent called it. How shall we deal
with Thomasina?"

"We'll call her Tommy. A darling, kissable little name, Tommy!--No,
I'm not going to do anything!"

"You don't think it's cowardly of me to marry you?"

"Cowardly?"

"Yes, when I haven't actually proved that I can earn my living; at
least, I haven't done it long enough, or well enough, yet."

"I think it's brave of you to marry me."

"Brave?"

"To turn your back on a possible career."

"It's not the 'careering' that I love; though it will seem very
strange when Tommy Tucker doesn't have to sing for her supper!--Shall
we go? The waiter is coming in again. I believe he thinks we are going
to run off with the spoons!"

"So we are! At least, when we go, the spoons will go! I know it's a
poor joke, but I am too happy to be brilliant. Call the head waiter,
please,"--this to Walter, who despaired of ever getting rid of his
guests, and was agreeably disappointed that a gentleman who had not
ordered wine should ask for Gustave.

Appleton took the "Engaged" placard off the table and used it
nonchalantly as a fan in crossing the room. Then as he drew near the
men he slipped two gold pieces into Tommy's hand.

"May I carry away this placard, waiter?" he asked, as if it were quite
a sane request. "I've taken a fancy to it as a souvenir of a most
delightful and memorable dinner."

"Assuredly, assuredly!" murmured Gustave. He knew that there was
romance in the air, although he did not perceive the exact point of
Appleton's request.

"The young lady will reward you for your courtesy. No; I'll help with
her jacket, thank you."

Tommy, overcome with laughter and confusion and blushes, pressed the
gold pieces into the hands of the astonished waiters, who bowed almost
to the floor.

"You are always giving me sovereigns, dear Fergus," she whispered with
a laugh and something like a sob, as they drove along in the delicious
nearness provided by the hansom.

"Never mind," said Fergus. "You will be giving me one when you marry
me!"



THE TURNING-POINT


Not far from the village of Bonny Eagle, on the west bank of the Saco,
stood two little low-roofed farmhouses; the only two that had survived
among others of the same kind that once dotted the green brink of the
river.

Long years before, in 1795 or thereabouts, there had been a cluster of
log houses on this very spot, known then as the Dalton Right
Settlement, and these in turn had been succeeded at a later date by
the more comfortable frame-roof farmhouses of the period.

In the old days, before the sound of the axe for the first time
disturbed the stillness of the forest, the otter swam in the shadowy
coves near the shore and the beaver built his huts near by. The red
deer came down to dip his antlers and cool his flanks in the still
shallows. The speckled grouse sat on her nest in the low pine boughs,
while her mate perched on the mossy logs by the riverside unmolested.

The Sokokis built their bark wigwams here and there on the bank,
paddling their birch canoes over the river's smooth surface, or
threading the foamy torrents farther down its course.

Here was the wonderful spring that fed, and still feeds, Aunt Judy's
Brook, the most turbulent little stream in the county. Many a moccasin
track has been made in the soft earth around the never-failing
fountain, and many the wooden bucket lowered into its crystal depths
by the Dalton Righters when in their turn they possessed the land.

The day of the Indian was over now, and the day of the farmer who
succeeded him was over, too. The crash of the loom and the whir of the
spinning-wheel were heard no longer, but Amanda Dalton,
spinster,--descendant of the original Tristram Dalton, to whom the
claim belonged,--sat on alone in her house, and not far away sat Caleb
Kimball, sole living heir of the original Caleb, himself a Dalton
Righter, and contemporary of Tristram Dalton.

Neither of these personages took any interest in pedigree or
genealogy. They knew that their ancestors had lived and died on the
same acres now possessed by them, but the acres had dwindled sadly,
and the ancestors had seemingly left little for which to be grateful.
Indeed, in Caleb's case they had been a distinct disadvantage, since
the local sense of humor, proverbially strong in York County, had
always preserved a set of Kimball stories among its most cherished
possessions. Some of them might have been forgotten in the century and
a half that had elapsed, if the Caleb of our story had not been the
inheritor of certain family traits famous in their day and
generation.

Caleb the first had been the "cuss" of his fellow farmers, because in
coming from Scarboro to join the Dalton Righters he had brought
whiteweed with the bundle of hay for his cattle when he was clearing
the land. The soil of this particular region must have been especially
greedy for, and adapted to, this obnoxious grass-killer, for it
flourished as in no other part of the county; flourishes yet,
indeed--though, if one can forget that its presence means poor feed
for cattle where might be a crop of juicy hay, the blossoming fields
of the old Dalton Settlement look, in early June, the loveliest, most
ethereal, in New England. There, a million million feathery daisies
sway and dance in the breeze, lifting their snowy wheels to the blue
June sky. There they grow and thrive, the slender green stalks tossing
their pearly disks among sister groves of buttercups till the eye is
fairly dazzled with the symphony of white and gold. The back-aching
farmers of the original Dalton Settlement had indeed tried to root out
the lovely pests, but little did our Caleb care! If he had ever trod
his ancestral acres either for pleasure or profit he might in time
have "stomped out" the whiteweed, so the neighbors said, for he had
the family foot, the size of an anvil; but he much preferred a
sedentary life, and the whiteweed went on seeding itself from year to
year.

Caleb was tall, loose-jointed, and black as a thunder-cloud--the
swarthy skin, like the big foot, having been bequeathed to him by the
original Caleb, whose long-legged, shaggy-haired sons had been known
as "Caleb's colts." Tall and black, all of them, the "colts," so black
that the village wits said the Kimball children must have eaten smut
and soot and drunk cinder tea during the years their parents were
clearing the land. Tall and black also were all the Kimball daughters,
so tall it was their boast to be able to look out over the tops of the
window curtains; and proud enough of their height to cry with rage
when any rival Amazon came into the neighborhood.

Whatever else they were or were not, however, the Kimballs had always
been industrious and frugal. It had remained for the last scion of the
old stock to furnish a byword for slackness. In a village where
stories of outlandish, ungodly, or supernatural laziness were sacredly
preserved from year to year, Caleb Kimball's indolence easily took the
palm. His hay commonly went to seed in the field. His cow yielded her
morning's milk about noon, and her evening "mess" was taken from her
(when she was lucky) by the light of a lantern. He was a bachelor of
forty-five, dwelt alone, had no visitors and made his living, such as
it was, off the farm, with the help of a rack-o'-bones horse. He had
fifty acres of timber-land, and when his easy-going methods of farming
found him without money he simply sold a few trees.

The house and barn were gradually falling into ruins; the farm
implements stood in the yard all winter, and the sleigh all summer.
The gate flapped on its hinges, the fences were broken down, and the
stone walls were full of gaps. His pipe, and a snarling rough-haired
dog, were his only companions. Hour after hour he sat on the side
steps looking across the sloping meadows that separated his place from
Amanda Dalton's; hour after hour he puffed his pipe and gazed on the
distant hills and the sparkling river; gazed and gazed--whether he saw
anything or thought anything, remembered anything, or even dreamed
anything, nobody could guess, not even Amanda Dalton, who was good at
guessing, having very few other mental recreations to keep her
mother-wit alive.

Caleb Kimball, as seen on his doorstep from Amanda Dalton's sink
window, was but a speck, to be sure, but he was her nearest neighbor;
if a person whose threshold you never cross, and who never crosses
yours, can be called a neighbor. There were seldom or never meetings
or greetings between the two, yet each unconsciously was very much
alive to the existence of the other. In days or evenings of solitude
one can make neighbors of very curious things.

The smoke of Amanda's morning fire cried "Shame" to Caleb's when it
issued languidly from his kitchen chimney an hour later. Amanda's
smoke was like herself, and betokened the brisk fire she would be
likely to build; Caleb's showed wet wood, poor draught, a fallen brick
in the chimney.

Later on in the morning Caleb's dog would sometimes saunter down the
road and have a brief conversation with Amanda's cat. They were
neither friends nor enemies, but merely enlivened a deadly, dull
existence with a few casual remarks on current topics.

Once Caleb had possessed a flock of hens, but in the course of a few
years they had dwindled to one lonely rooster, who stalked gloomily
through the wilderness of misplaced objects in the Kimball yard, and
wondered why he had been born.

Amanda pitied him, and flung him a surreptitious handful of corn from
her apron pocket when she met him walking dejectedly in the road
halfway between the two houses. So encouraged he extended his rambles,
and one afternoon Amanda, looking out of her window, saw him stop at
her gate and hold a tête-à-tête with one of her Plymouth Rock hens.
The interview was brief but effective. In a twinkling he had told her
of his miserable life and his abject need of sympathy.

"There are times," he said, "when, I give you my word, I would rather
be stewed for dinner than lead my present existence! It is weak for me
to trouble you with my difficulties, but you have always understood me
from the first."

"Say no more," she replied. "I am a woman and pity is akin to love.
The fowls of Amanda Dalton's flock do not need me as you do. Eleven
eggs a day are laid here regularly, and I will go where my egg will be
a daily source of pleasure and profit."

"The coop is draughty and the corn scarce," confessed the rooster,
doing his best to be noble.

"I am of the sex created especially to supply companionship," returned
the hen, "therefore I will accompany you, regardless of personal
inconvenience."

Amanda saw the departure of the eloping couple and pursued them not.

"Land sakes!" she exclaimed, "if any male thing hereabouts has sprawl
enough to go courtin' I'm willin' to encourage 'em. She'll miss her
clean house and good food, I guess, but I ain't sure. She's
'women-folks' after all, and I shouldn't wonder a mite but she'd take
real comfort in makin' things pleasanter up there for that pindlin',
God-forsaken old rooster! She'll have her hands full, but there, I
know what 'tis to get along with empty ones!"

There were not many such romances or comedies as these to enliven
Amanda's mornings. Then afternoon would slip into twilight, darkness
would creep over the landscape, and Amanda's light--clear, steady,
bright, serene--would gleam from its place on the sink shelf through
the kitchen window, over the meadow, "up to Kimball's." It was such a
light as would stream from a well-trimmed lamp with a crystal clean
chimney, but it met with small response from its neighbor's light
during many months of the year. In late autumn and winter there would
be a fugitive candle gleam upstairs in the Kimball house, and on
stormy evenings a dull, smoky light in the living-room.

From the illumination in the Dalton sink window, Caleb thought Amanda
sat in the kitchen evenings, but she didn't. She said she kept the
second light there because she could afford it, and because the cat
liked it. The cat enjoyed the black haircloth sofa in the
sitting-room, afternoons, but she greatly preferred the kitchen for
evening use; it made a change, and the high-backed cushioned rocker
was then vacant. Amanda had nobody to consider but the cat, so she
naturally deferred to her in every possible way. It was bad for the
cat's character, but at least it kept Amanda from committing suicide,
so what would you? Here was a woman of insistent, unflagging, unending
activity. Amanda Dalton had energy enough to attend to a husband and
six children--cook, wash, iron, churn, sew, nurse--and she lived alone
with a cat. The village was a mile, and her nearest female neighbor,
the Widow Thatcher, a half-mile away. She had buried her only sister
in Lewiston years before, and she had not a relation in the world. All
her irrepressible zeal went into the conduct of her house and plot of
ground. Day after day, week after week, year after year, the
established routine was carried through. First the washing of the
breakfast dishes and the putting to rights of the kitchen, which was
radiantly clean before she began upon it. Next her bedroom; the
stirring-up of the cornhusk mattress, the shaking of the bed of live
geese feathers, the replacing of cotton sheets, homespun blankets, and
blue-and-white counterpane. Next came the sitting-room with its tall,
red, flag-bottomed chairs, its two-leaved table, its light stand that
held the Bible and work-basket and lamp. The chest of drawers and tall
clock were piously dusted, and the frames of the Family Register,
"Napoleon Crossing the Alps," and "Maidens Welcoming Washington in the
Streets of Alexandria," were carefully wiped off. Once a week the
parlor was cleaned, the tarlatan was lifted from the two plaster
Samuels on the mantelpiece, their kneeling forms were cleaned with a
damp cloth, the tarlatan replaced, and the parlor closed again
reverently. There was kindling to chop, wood to bring in, the modest
cooking, washing, ironing, and sewing to do, the flower-beds to weed,
and the little vegetable garden to keep in order.

But Amanda had a quick foot, a neat hand, a light touch, and a
peculiar faculty of "turning off" work so that it simply would not
last through the day. Why did she never think of going to the nearest
city and linking her powers with those of some one who would put them
to larger uses? Simply because no one ever did that sort of thing in
Bonny Eagle in those days. Girls crowded out of home by poverty sought
employment here and there, but that a woman of forty, with a good home
and ten acres of land--to say nothing of coupon bonds that yielded a
hundred dollars a year in cash--that such a one should seek a larger
field in a strange place, would have been thought flying in the face
of Providence, as well as custom.

Outside Bonny Eagle, in the roar and din and clamor of cities, were
all sorts of wrongs that needed righting, wounds that cried out to be
healed. There were motherless children, there were helpless sufferers
moaning for the sight of a green field, but the superfluous females of
Amanda Dalton's day had not awakened to any sense of responsibility
with regard to their unknown brothers and sisters.

Amanda was a large-hearted woman. She would have shared her soda
biscuit, her bean soup, her dandelion greens, her hogshead cheese, her
boiled dinner, her custard pie, with any hungry mortal, but no one in
Bonny Eagle needed bite nor sup. Therefore she feather-stitched her
dish-towels, piled her kindling in a "wheel pattern" in the shed,
named her hens and made friends of them, put fourteen tucks in her
unbleached cotton petticoats, and fried a pancake every Saturday for
her cat.

"It's either that or blow your brains out, if you've got a busy mind!"
she said grimly to Susan Benson, her best friend, who was passing a
Saturday afternoon with her. It was chilly and they liked the cheerful
warmth of the Saturday fire that was baking the beans and steaming the
brown bread.

Susan unrolled her patchwork and, giving a flip to the cat with her
thimble finger, settled herself comfortably in the kitchen rocker.

The cat leaped down and stalked into the next room with an air of
offended majesty, as much as to say: "Of all the manners I ever saw,
that woman has the worst! She contrives to pass by three empty chairs
and choose the one I chance to be occupying!"

"You wouldn't be so lonesome if you could see a bit of life from your
house, Mandy," said Mrs. Benson. "William an' I were sayin' last night
you'd ought to move into the village winters, though nothin' could be
handsomer than the view from your sink window this minute. Daisies,
daisies everywhere! How do you manage to keep 'em out o' your place,
Mandy, when they're so thick on Caleb Kimball's?"

"I just root an' root, an' keep on rootin'," Amanda responded
cheerfully, "though I don't take a mite o' pride out of it, for the
better my place looks the worse his does, by comparison."

"It is a sight!" said Mrs. Benson, standing for a moment by the sink
and looking up to Kimball's.

"I went up there one night after dark, when I knew Caleb 'd gone to
Hixam, an' I patched up some o' the holes in his stone wall, thinkin'
his whiteweed seeds wouldn't blow through quite so thick!"--and Amanda
joined Mrs. Benson at the window. "I'd 'a' done a day's work on his
side o' the wall as lief as not, only I knew folks would talk if they
saw me."

"Land, no, they wouldn't, Mandy. Everybody knows you wouldn't take him
if he was the last man on earth; an' as for Caleb, I guess he wouldn't
marry any woman above ground, not if she was a seraphim. I used to
think he'd spunk up some time or other, when he got over his mother's
death; but it's too late now, I'm afraid."

"Caleb set great store by his mother; that's one good thing about
him," said Amanda.

"He did for certain," agreed Mrs. Benson. "If that girl he was engaged
to hadn't 'a' spoken disrespectful to her in his hearin' there'd 'a'
been a wife an' children up there now an' the place would 'a' looked
diff'rent."

"Not so very diff'rent! He didn't lose much in Eliza Johnson. I guess
he knows that by now!" remarked Amanda serenely; "though I s'pose 't
was quarrelin' with her that set him runnin' down hill, all the
same."

"I never thought he cared anything about Eliza. She was determined to
have him, an' he was too lazy to say no, but you see in the end she
only got her labor for her pains. The Kimball boys never had any luck
with their love affairs. When Caleb an' his mother was left alone, she
was terrible anxious for him to marry. She was allers findin' girls
for him, but part of 'em wouldn't look at him, and he wouldn't make up
to any of 'em."

"I was livin' in Lewiston those years," said Amanda.

"I remember you was. Well, when old Mrs. Kimball broke her arm,
Charles, the youngest son, that was a stage-driver, determined he'd
get somebody for Caleb, for his own wife wouldn't lift her finger to
help 'bout the house. He saw a girl up to Steep Falls that he kind o'
liked the looks of, an' he offered her a ride down to his mother's to
spend the day, thinkin' if the family liked her she might do for
Caleb. However, her eyes was weak an' she didn't know how to milk, so
they thought she'd better go home by train. That would 'a' been fair
enough for both parties, but when Charles drove her to the station he
charged her fifteen cents an' it made an awful sight o' talk. She had
a hot temper, an' she kind o' resented it!"

"I dare say 't wa'n't so," commented Amanda; "but everybody's dead
that could deny it, except Caleb, and he wouldn't take the trouble."

"It's one of the days when he's real drove, ain't it?" asked Susan
sarcastically, as she looked across the field to the wood-pile where a
gray-shirted figure sat motionless. "If ever a man needed a wife to
patch the seat of his pants, it's Caleb Kimball! I guess it's the only
part of his clothes he ever wears out. He wa'n't like that before his
mother died; the wheels seemed to stop in him then an' there. He was
queer an' strange an' shy, but I never used to think he'd develop into
a reg'lar hermit. She'd turn in her grave, Mis' Kimball would, to see
him look as he does. I don't s'pose he gets any proper nourishment.
The smartest man in the world won't take the trouble to make pie for
himself, yet he'll eat it 's long 's he can stan' up! Caleb's mother
was a great pie-baker. I can see her now, shovelin' 'em in an' out o'
the oven Saturdays, with her three great black lanky boys standin'
roun' waitin' for 'em to cool off.--'Only _one_, mother?' Caleb used
to say, kind o' wheedlin'ly, while she laughed up at him leanin'
against the door-frame.--'What's one blueb'ry pie amongst me?'"

"He must 'a' had some fun in him once," smiled Amanda.

"They say women-folks ain't got no sense o' humor," remarked Mrs.
Benson, with a twitch of her thread. "I notice the men that live
_without_ 'em don't seem to have any! We may not amount to much, but
we're somethin' to laugh _at_."

"Why don't you bake him a pie now an' then, an' send it up, Susan?"
asked Amanda.

"Well, there, I don't feel I hardly know him well enough, though
William does. I dare say he wouldn't like it, an' he'd never think to
return the plate, so far away.--Besides, there never _is_ an extry pie
in a house where there's a man an' three boys; which reminds me I've
got to go home an' make one for breakfast, with nothin' to make it out
of."

"I could lend you a handful o' dried plums."

"Thank you; I'll take 'em an' much obliged. I declare it seems to me,
now the rhubarb's 'bout gone, as if the apples on the trees never
would fill out enough to drop off. There does come a time in the early
summer, after you're sick of mince, 'n' squash, 'n' punkin, 'n'
cranberry, 'n' rhubarb, 'n' custard, 'n' 't ain't time for currant, or
green apple, or strawb'ry, or raspb'ry, or blackb'ry--there does come
a time when it seems as if Providence might 'a' had a little more
ingenuity in plannin' pie-fillin'!--You might bake a pie for Caleb now
an' then yourself, Mandy; you're so near."

"Mrs. Thatcher lives half a mile away," replied Amanda; "but I
couldn't carry Caleb Kimball a pie without her knowin' it an' makin'
remarks. I'd bake one an' willin' if William 'd take it to him; but
there, 't would only make him want another. He's made his bed an' he's
got to lie on it."

"He _lays_ on his bed sure enough, an' most o' the time probably--but
do you believe he ever makes it?"

Amanda shuddered. "I don't know, Susan; it's one o' the things that
haunts me; whether he makes it or whether he don't."

"Do you ever see any wash hung out?" Mrs. Benson's needle stopped in
midair while she waited for Amanda's answer.

"Ye-es; now an' then."

"What kind?"

"Sheets; once a gray blanket; underclothes; but naturally I don't look
when they're hung out. He generally puts 'em on the grass, anyway."

"Well, it's a sin for a man to live so in a Christian country, an' the
kindest thing to say about him is that he's crazy. Some o' the men
folks over to the store declare he is crazy; but William declares he
ain't. He says he's asleep. William kind o' likes him. Does he ever
pass the time o' day with you?"

"Hardly ever. I meet him once or twice a year, maybe, in the road. He
bows when I go past on an errand an' holds on to his dog when he tries
to run out an' bite me."

"That's real kind o' gentlemanly," observed Susan.

"I never thought of it that way," said Amanda absently; "but perhaps
it is. All I can say is, Caleb Kimball's a regular thorn in my flesh.
I can't do anything for him, an' I can't forget him, right under foot
as he is--his land joinin' mine. Mornin', noon, an' night for years
I've wanted to get into that man's house an' make it decent for him;
wanted to milk the cow the right time o' day; feed the horse; weed the
garden; scrub the floor; wash the windows; black the stove."

"How you do go on, Mandy!" exclaimed Mrs. Benson. "What diff'rence
does it make to you how dirty he is, so long's you're clean?"

"It does make a diff'rence, an' it always will. I hate to see the
daisies growin' so thick, knowin' how he needs hay. I want to root 'em
out same's I did mine, after I'd been away three years in Lewiston. I
hate to take my pot o' beans out o' the oven Saturday nights an' know
he ain't had gumption enough to get himself a Christian meal. Livin'
alone 's I do, Susan, things 'bulk up' in my mind bigger'n they'd
ought to."

"They do so," agreed Susan; "an' you mustn't let 'em. You must come
over to our house oftener. You know William loves to have you, an' so
do the boys. The Bible may insinuate we are our brother's keeper, but
we can't none of us help it if he won't _be_ kept!--There, I must be
gettin' home. I've had considerable many reminders the last half-hour
that it's about time! It's none o' my business, Mandy, but you do
spoil that cat, an' the time's not far off when he won't be a mite o'
comfort to you. Of course, I'm too intimate here to take offense, but
if the minister should happen to set in this chair when he calls, an'
see that cat promenade round an' round the rockers an' then rustle off
into the settin'-room as mad as Cuffy, he'd certainly take notice an'
think he wa'n't a welcome visitor."

"Like mistress, like cat!" sighed Amanda. "Tristram an' I get awful
set in our ways."

"Kind o' queer, Mandy, namin' a cat for your grandfather," Mrs. Benson
observed anxiously as she opened the door. "William an' me don't want
you to get queer."

"I ain't got anything better 'n a cat to name for grandfather," said
poor Amanda, in a tone that set her friend Susan thinking as she
walked homeward.

The summer wore along and there came a certain Tuesday different from
all the other Tuesdays in that year, or in all the forty years that
had gone before--a Tuesday when the Kimball side door was not opened
in the morning. No smoke issued from the chimney all day. The rooster
and his kidnapped hen flew up from the steps and pecked at the door
panels vigorously. Seven o'clock in the evening came, then eight, and
no light to be seen anywhere. The dog howled; the horse neighed; the
cow lowed ominously in the closed barn. At nine o'clock Amanda took a
lantern and sped across the field, found a pail in the shed, slipped
into the barn, milked the cow, gave the beasts hay and water, and
leaving the pail of milk on the steps, went quietly home again,
anxious lest she had done too much, anxious also lest she had not done
enough.

Next morning she stationed herself at her kitchen window and took
account of her signs. The milk-pail was overturned on the steps, the
rooster and hen perching on the rim, but there was no smoke coming
from the chimney. She thought quickly as she did everything else. She
waited long enough to make a cup of coffee, then she slipped out of
her door and up to Kimball's. Her apron was full of kindling, and on
her arm she carried a basket with a package of herbs, a tiny bottle of
brandy, one of cologne, some arrowroot and matches, a cake of hard
soap and a clean towel, bones for the dog and corn for the hen.

Caleb's door was unlocked. The dog came out of the shed evincing no
desire to bark or bite. The kitchen was empty, and--she thanked the
Lord silently, as she gave a hasty glance about--not as dreadful as
she had anticipated. Untidy beyond words, bare, dreary, cheerless, but
not repulsively dirty. She stole softly through the lower part of the
house, and then with a beating heart went up the uncarpeted stairs. At
the head was an open door that showed her all she expected and feared
to find. The sun streamed in at the dusty, uncurtained window over the
motionless body of Caleb Kimball, who lay in a strange, deep sleep,
unconscious, on the bed. His hair was raven black against the pillow
and the lashes on his cheeks looked more 'n a yard long, Amanda told
Susan Benson. (She afterward confessed that this was a slight
exaggeration due to extreme excitement.) She spoke his name three
times, but he did not stir. She must get the doctor and send for
William Benson, that was clear; but first she must try her hand at
improving the immediate situation.

Stealing downstairs she tied on her apron and lighted a fire in the
kitchen stove, with the view of making things respectable before
gossipy neighbors came in. Her sister used to say that the minute
Amanda tied on her apron things began to move and take a turn for the
better, and it was so now. She poured a few drops of cologne into a
basin of water, and putting the towel over her arm went upstairs to
Caleb's bedside.

"I've done him wrong," she thought remorsefully as she noted his
decent night-clothing and bedding. "He ain't lost his self-respect in
all these years, and every soul in Bonny Eagle thought he was living
like an animal!"

She bathed his face and throat and hands, then moistened and smoothed
his hair without provoking a movement or a sound. He seemed in a
profound stupor, but there was no stertorous breathing. Straightening
the bedclothes and giving a hasty wipe to the tops of the pine bureau
and table, she opened the window and closed the blinds. At this moment
she spied one of the Thatcher boys going along the road, and ran down
to the gate to ask him to send William Benson and the doctor as soon
as possible.

"Tell them Miss Dalton says please to come quick; Caleb Kimball's very
sick," she said.

"Don't you need mother, too?" asked the boy. "She's wanted to git into
his house for years, and she'd do most anything for the chance."

"No, thank you," said Amanda pitilessly. "I can do everything for the
present, and Mr. Benson will probably want his wife, if anybody."

"All right," said the boy as he started off on a dog-trot. News was
rare in Bonny Eagle, and Caleb Kimball was a distinguished and
interesting figure in village gossip.

Amanda Dalton had never had to hurry in her life. That was one of her
crosses, for there probably never was a woman who could do more in
less time. It was an hour and a half before William Benson came, and
in those ninety minutes she had swept the kitchen and poured a pail or
two of hot soap-suds over the floor, that may have felt a mop, but
certainly had not known a scrubbing-brush for years. She tore down the
fly-specked, tattered, buff shades, and washed the three windows;
blackened the stove; fed the dog and horse; milked the cow; strained
the milk and carried it down cellar; making three trips upstairs in
the meantime to find no change in the patient. His lids stayed down as
though they were weighted with lead, his long arms lay motionless on
the counterpane.

Amanda's blood coursed through her veins like lightning. Here was work
to her hand; blessed, healing work for days, perhaps weeks to come. In
these first moments of emotional excitement I fear she hoped it would
be a long case of helpless invalidism, during which it would be her
Christian duty to clean the lower part of the house and perhaps make
some impression on the shed; but this tempting thought was quickly
banished as she reflected that Caleb Kimball was a bachelor, and the
Widow Thatcher the person marked out by a just but unsympathetic
Providence for sick-nurse and housekeeper.

"She shan't come!" thought Amanda passionately. "I'll make the doctor
ask me to take charge. William Benson shall stay here nights an' Susan
will run in now an' then daytimes, or I'll get little Abby Thatcher to
do the rough work an' keep me company; then her mother won't make
talk."

"I don't know exactly what's the matter with the man," confessed the
doctor, when he came. "There's a mark and a swelling on the back of
his head as if he might have fallen somewhere. He hasn't got any pulse
and he's all skin and bone. He's starved out, I guess, and his
machinery has just stopped. He wants nursing and feeding and all the
things a woman can do for him. The Lord never intended men-folks to
live alone!"

"If they ain't got wit enough to find that out for themselves it ain't
likely any woman'll take the trouble to tell 'em!" exclaimed Amanda
with some spirit.

"Don't get stuffy, Amanda! Just be a good Christian and take hold here
for a few days till we see whether we've got to have a nurse from
Portland. Man's extremity is God's opportunity; maybe Caleb'll come to
his senses before he gets over this sickness."

"I wonder if he ever had any senses?" said Amanda.

"Plenty," the doctor answered as he prepared the medicines; "but he
hasn't used them for twenty years.--I'll come back in an hour and
fetch Bill Benson with me. Then I'll stay till I can bring Caleb back
to consciousness. We shall have to get him downstairs as soon as he
can be moved; it will be much easier to take care of him there."

                   *       *       *       *       *

The details of Caleb Kimball's illness would be such as fill a nurse's
bedside record book. The mainspring of life had been snapped and the
machinery refused to move for a long time. When he recovered
consciousness his solemn black eyes followed Amanda Dalton's movements
as if fascinated, but he spoke no word save a faltering phrase or two
at night to William Benson.

Meantime much had been happening below-stairs, where Amanda Dalton
reigned supreme, with Susan Benson and Abby Thatcher taking turns in
housework or nursing. William Benson was a painter by trade, and
Amanda's ingenious idea was to persuade him to paint and paper the
Kimball kitchen before Caleb was moved downstairs.

This struck William as a most extraordinary and unnecessary
performance.

"Israel in Egypt!" he exclaimed. "What's the matter with you women? I
never heard o' such goin's-on in my life! I might lay abed a thousand
years an' nobody'd paint my premises. Let Caleb git his strength back
an' then use a little elbow grease on his own house--you can't teach
an old dog new tricks, Susan!"

"'Pends on how old the dog is, an' what kind o' tricks you want to
teach him," Susan replied. "It'd be a queer dog that wouldn't take to
a clean kennel, or three good meals a day 'stead o' starvation
vittles. Amanda says it may be a kind of a turnin'-point in Caleb's
life, an' she thinks we'd ought to encourage him a little."

"Ain't I encouragin' him by sleepin' on his settin'-room lounge every
night an' givin' him medicine every two hours by the alarm clock? I've
got my own day's work to do; when would I paint his kitchen, I'd like
to know?"

"We thought probably you'd like to do it nights," suggested his wife
timidly.

"Saul in Tarsus! Don't that beat the devil?" ejaculated William.
"Caleb Kimball ain't done a good day's work for years, an' I'm to set
up nights paintin' his kitchen!" Nevertheless the magnificent
impertinence of the idea so paralyzed his will that he ended by
putting on twelve single rolls of fawn-colored paper and painting the
woodwork yellow to harmonize, working from eight to twelve several
nights and swearing freely at his own foolishness.

By this time Amanda had made the downstairs chamber all tidy and
comfortable for the patient. She had contributed a window shade and
dimity curtains; Susan a braided rug and a chair cushion. The chamber
(the one in which Caleb's mother had died) opened from the kitchen and
commanded an enticing view of the fresh yellow walls and shining
cook-stove. On the day before Caleb's removal Amanda sat on the foot
of the bed and looked through the doorway with silent joy, going to
and fro to move a bright tin dipper into plainer view or retire a
drying dish-cloth to greater privacy.

Even Abby Thatcher was by this time a trifle exhilarated. She did not
understand the situation very well, being of a sternly practical
nature herself, but she caught the enthusiasm of the two women and
scrubbed the kitchen floor faithfully every morning in order to remove
the stains of years of neglect.

"You wouldn't think your old hen 'd be such a fool, Miss Dalton," she
said; "but I kind o' surmised the reason she's been missin', an' I
found her to-day in a corner o' the haymow sittin' on five eggs. Now,
wouldn't you s'pose at her age she'd know better than to try an' raise
chickens in October?"

"I'm afraid they'll die if it should be a cold fall, with nobody to
look after 'em; but maybe I can take 'em home to my shed an' lend Mr.
Kimball another hen." (Amanda's tone was motherly.) "I never like to
break up a hen's nest, somehow; it seems as if they must have feelin's
like other folks."

"I'd take her off quicker'n scat, an' keep takin' her off, till she
got some sense," said Abby, with the Chinese cruelty of sixteen.

"Well, you let her be till Mr. Kimball gets well enough to ask; an' I
think, Abby, you might clean up the dooryard just a little mite this
mornin'," suggested Amanda. "If you could straighten up the fence an'
find a couple of old hinges to hang the gate with, it would kind o'
put new heart into Mr. Kimball when he's sittin' up an' lookin' out
the window."

"Why didn't he put heart into hisself by hangin' his _own_ gate,
before he took sick?" grumbled Abby, reducing Amanda to momentary
silence by her pitiless logic.

"Why didn't he, indeed?" echoed her heart gloomily, receiving nothing
in the way of answer from her limited experience of men.

Caleb had spoken more frequently the last few days. When by the
combined exertions of the Bensons and the doctor he had been brought
down into his mother's old room, Amanda closed the kitchen door,
thinking one experience at a time was enough for a man in his weak and
exhausted condition. William Benson couldn't see any sense in this
precaution, but he never did see much sense in what women-folks did.
He wanted to show Caleb the new paint and paper immediately, and
remark casually that he had done all the work while he was
"night-nursin'."

The next morning Amanda had seized a good opportunity to open the door
between the two rooms, straightway retiring to the side entry to await
developments. In a few moments she heard Caleb moving, and going in
found him half sitting up in bed, leaning on his elbow.

"What's the matter with the kitchen?" he asked feebly, staring with
wide-open eyes at the unaccustomed prospect.

"Only fresh paint an' paper; that's William's work."

"O God, I ain't worth it! I ain't worth it!" he groaned as he hid his
face in the pillow.

"Have you been here all the time?" he asked Amanda when she brought
him his gruel later in the day.

"Yes, off an' on, when I could get away from my own work."

"Who found me?"

"I did. I knew by the looks somethin' was wrong up here."

"Somethin' wrong, sure enough, an' always was!" Amanda heard him
mutter as he turned his face to the wall.

The next day he opened his eyes suddenly as she was passing through
the room.

"Did you make that pie William Benson brought me last month?"

"What made you think I did?"

"Oh, I don't know; it looked, an' it tasted like one o' yours," he
said, closing his eyes again. "If you know a woman, you can tell her
pie, somehow!"

When had Caleb Kimball ever tasted any of her cooking? A mysterious
remark, but everything he said sounded a trifle lightheaded.

His questions came back to her when she was waiting for William Benson
at twilight that same day.

Caleb had been sleeping quietly for an hour or more. Amanda was
standing at the stove stirring his arrowroot gruel. The kitchen was
still.

A smothered "_miaow_" and the scratching of claws on wood arrested her
attention, and she went hurriedly to the door.

"Tristram Dalton; what _are_ you up here for, away from your own
home?" she exclaimed.

Tristram vouchsafed no explanation of his appearance, but his demeanor
spoke louder than words to Amanda's guilty conscience, as he walked
in.

"No shelter for me but the shed these days!" he seemed to say.
"Instead of well-served meals, a cup of milk set here or there!"

He made the circuit of the kitchen discontentedly and finding nothing
to his taste went into the adjoining room, and after walking over the
full length of Caleb's prostrate form curled himself up in a hollow at
the foot of the bed.

"I've neglected him!" thought Amanda; "but his turn'll come again soon
enough," and she bent her eyes on the gruel.

The blue bowl sat in the pan of hot water on the stove, and she
stirred and stirred, slowly, regularly, continuously, in order that
the arrowroot should be of a velvety smoothness.

The days were drawing in, and the October sun was setting very yellow,
sending a flood of light over her head and shoulders. She wore her
afternoon dress of alpaca, with a worked muslin collar and cuffs and a
white apron tied round her trim waist. She was one of your wholesome
shining women and her bright brown hair glistened like satin.

Caleb's black eyes looked yearningly at her as she stood there all
unconscious, doing one of her innumerable neighborly kindnesses for
him.

She made a picture of sweet, strong, steady womanliness, although she
did not know it. Caleb knew something extraordinary was going on
inside of him, but under what impulse he was too puzzled and
inexperienced to say.

"Amanda."

Amanda turned sharply at the sound of his voice as she was lifting the
steaming arrowroot out of the water.

"Whose cat is this?"

"Mine.--Come off that bed, Tristram!"

"Don't disturb him; I like to have him there.--Where's Abby
Thatcher?"

"She's gone home on an errand; she'll be back in fifteen minutes
now."

"Where's William?"

"It's only five o'clock. He don't come till six. What can I get for
you? Have you had a good sleep?"

She set the gruel on the back of the stove and went in to his
bedside.

"I don't sleep much; I just lie an' think ... Amanda, ... now, they're
all away, ... if I get over this spell, ... an' take a year to
straighten up an' get hold o' things like other folks, ... do you
think ... you'd risk ... marryin' me?"

There was a moment's dead silence; then Amanda said, turning pale:
"Are you in your right mind, Caleb Kimball?"

"I am, but I don't wonder at your askin'," said the man humbly. "I've
kind o' fancied you for years; but you've always been way down there
across the fields, out o' reach!"

"I'm too amazed to think it out," faltered Amanda.

"Don't you think it out, for God's sake, or you'll never do it!" He
caught at her hand as if it had been a life-line--her kind, smooth
hand, the helpful hand with the bit of white cambric bound round a
finger burned in his service.

"It was the kitchen that put the courage into me," he went on
feverishly. "I laid here an' thought: 'If she can make a house look so
different in a week, what could she do with a man?'"

"I ain't afraid but I could," stammered Amanda; "if the man would
help--not hinder."

"Just try me, Amanda. I wouldn't need a year--honest, I wouldn't--I
could show you in three months!"

Caleb's strength was waning now. His head dropped forward and Amanda
caught it on her breast. She put one arm round his shoulders to keep
him from falling back, while her other hand supported his head. His
cheek was wet and as she felt the tears on her palm, mutely calling to
her strength, all the woman in her gathered itself together and rushed
to meet the man's need.

"If only ... you could take me ... now ... right off," he faltered;
"before anything happens ... to prevent? I'd be good to you ... till
the day I die!"

"I ain't afraid to risk it, Caleb," said Amanda. "I'll take you now
when you need me the most. We'll just put our two forlorn houses
together an' see if we can make 'em into a home!"

Caleb gave one choking sob of content and gratitude. His hand relaxed
its clasp of Amanda's; his head dropped and he fainted.

William Benson came in just then.

"What's the matter?" he cried, coming quickly toward the bed. "Has he
had a spell? He was so much better last night I expected to see him
settin' up!"

"He'll come to in a minute," said Amanda. "Give me the palm-leaf fan.
We're goin' to be married in a day or so, an' he got kind of excited
talkin' it over."

"Moses in the bulrushes!" ejaculated William Benson, sitting down
heavily in the nearest chair.

William Benson was not a sentimental or imaginative person, and he
confessed he couldn't make head nor tail out o' the affair; said it
was the queerest an' beatin'est weddin' that ever took place in Bonny
Eagle; didn't know when they fixed it up, nor how, nor why, if you
come to that. Amanda Dalton had never had a beau, but she was the
likeliest woman in the village, spite o' that, an' Caleb Kimball was
the onlikeliest man. Amanda was the smartest woman, an' Caleb the
laziest man. He kind o' thought Amanda 'd married Caleb so 't she
could clean house for him; but it seemed an awful high price to pay
for a job. He guessed she couldn't bear to have his everlastin'
whiteweed seedin' itself into her hayfield, an' the only way she could
stop it was to marry him an' weed it out. He thought, too, that Caleb
had kind o' got int' the habit o' watchin' Mandy flyin' about down to
her place. There's nothin' so fascinatin' as to set still an' see
other folks work. The critter was so busy, an' so diff'rent from him,
mebbe it kind o' tantalized him.

The Widow Thatcher was convinced that Mandy must have gone for Caleb
hammer 'n' tongs when he was too weak to hold out against her. No
woman in her sober senses would paper a man's kitchen for him unless
she intended to get some use out of it herself. "We don't know what
the disciples would 'a' done," she said, "nor the apostles, nor the
saints, nor the archangels; we only know what women-folks would 'a'
done, and there ain't one above ground that would 'a' cleaned Caleb
Kimball's house without she expected to live in it."

Susan Benson had a vague instinct with regard to the real facts of the
case, but even she mustered up courage to ask Amanda once how the
wonderful matter came about.

Amanda looked at Mrs. Benson with some embarrassment, for she was not
good at confidences.

"Susan, you an' I've been brought up together, gone to school
together, experienced religion an' joined the church together, an' I
stood up with you an' William when you was married, so 't I'd speak
out freer to you than I would to most."

"I hope so, I'm sure."

"Though I wouldn't want you to repeat anything, Susan."

"'Tain't likely I would, Mandy."

"Well, I'd no sooner got Caleb into a clean bed an' a clean room an'
begun to feed him good food than I begun to like him. There's things
in human hearts that I ain't wise enough to explain, Susan, an' I
ain't goin' to try. Caleb Kimball seemed to me like a man that was
drownin', all because there wa'n't anybody near to put a hand under
his chin an' keep his head out o' water. I didn't suspicion he'd let
me do it! I thought he'd just lie there an' drown, but it didn't turn
out that way."

"Well, it does kind o' seem as if you'd gone through the woods o' life
to pick up a crooked stick at last," sighed Susan; "though I will say,
now I've been under Caleb Kimball's roof, he's an awful sight nicer
man close to than he is fur off. So, take it all in all, life an'
men-folks bein' so uncertain, an' old age a-creepin' on first thing
you know, perhaps it's for the best; an' I do hope you'll make out to
be happy, Mandy."

There was a quiver of real feeling in Susan Benson's voice, though she
made no movement to touch her friend's hand.

"I'm goin' to be happy!" said Amanda cheerfully. "I always did like
plenty to do, an' now I've got it for the rest o' my life!"

"I only hope you can stan' his ways, Amandy," and Susan's voice was
still doubtful. "That's all I'm afraid of; that you're so diff'rent
you can't never stan' his ways."

"He won't have so many ways when we've been married a spell," said
Amanda.



HULDAH THE PROPHETESS


                     "And they went unto Huldah the
                   Prophetess and communed with her"

Huldah Rumford leaned from her bedroom window as she finished plaiting
her hair.

The crowing of the white Brahma rooster had interrupted her toilet and
she craned her neck impatiently until she discovered that he had come
from the hen-yard in the rear and established himself on the
doorsteps, from which dominating position he was announcing his
message.

"That means company coming, and I hope it's true," she said to
herself, as she looked absent-mindedly in the old-fashioned looking
glass, with its picture of Washington crossing the Delaware.

Her thoughts were evidently wandering, for she took her petticoat from
a hook in the closet and pulling it over her head found, when she
searched for the buttons in the waistband, that she had it on
wrong-side out.

"I don't care!" she exclaimed, giving the unoffending garment an angry
twitch, "but it does seem as if I was possessed! I can't keep my mind
on my clothes long enough to get them on straight! I turned my
petticoat yesterday, in spite of knowing it brings bad luck, but
to-day I just won't take the chance."

The pink calico morning dress went on without adventure. Then she
carefully emptied the water from the wash-bowl into the jar, wiped it
neatly and hung the towel to dry; straightened the photograph of her
deceased father in its black-walnut frame; shook the feather bed and
tightened a sagging cord under the cornhusk mattress; took the
candlestick from the light-stand by her bedside and tripped down the
attic stairs two at a time.

Huldah was seventeen, which is a good thing; she was bewitchingly
pretty, which is a better thing; and she was in love, which is
probably the best thing of all, making due allowance, of course, for
the occasions in which it is the worst possible thing that can happen
to anybody.

Mrs. Rumford was in the kitchen frying doughnuts for breakfast. She
was a comfortable figure as she stood over the brimming "spider" with
her three-pronged fork poised in the air. She turned the yellow rings
in the hissing fat until they were nut-brown, then dropped them for a
moment into a bowl of powdered sugar, from which they issued the most
delicious conspirators against the human stomach that can be found in
the catalogue of New England cookery.

The table was neatly laid near the screen door that opened from the
kitchen into the apple-orchard. A pan of buttermilk biscuits was
sitting on the back of the stove, and half a custard pie, left from
the previous night's supper, held the position of honor in front of
Mrs. Rumford's seat. If the pie had been cereal, the doughnuts
omelette, and the saleratus biscuits leavened bread, the plot and the
course of this tale might have been different; but that is neither
here nor there.

"Did you hear the Brahma rooster crowing on the doorstep, mother?"
asked Huldah.

"No; but I ain't surprised, for I can't seem to keep my dish-cloth in
my hand this morning; if I've dropped it once I've dropped it a dozen
times: there's company coming, sure."

"That rooster was crowin' on the fence last time I seen him, and he's
up there ag'in now," said little Jimmy Rumford, with the most
offensive skepticism.

"What if he is?" asked his sister sharply. "That means fair weather,
and don't interfere with the sign of company coming; it makes it all
the more certain."

"I bet he ain't crowin' about Pitt Packard," retorted Jimmy, with a
large joy illuminating his sunburnt face. "Pitt ain't comin' home from
Moderation this week; he's gone to work on the covered bridge up
there."

Huldah's face fell.

"I'd ought to have known better than to turn my white skirt
yesterday," she sighed. "I never knew it to fail bringing bad luck. I
vow I'll never do it again."

"That's one o' the signs I haven't got so much confidence in," said
Mrs. Rumford, skimming the cream from a pan of milk into the churn and
putting the skimmed milk on the table. "It don't come true with me
more 'n three times out o' five, but there's others that never fails.
You jest hold on, Huldy; the dish-cloth and the rooster knows as much
'bout what's goin' to happen as your white petticoat does."

"Jest about as much," interpolated Jimmy, with his utterance somewhat
choked by hot doughnut.

Huldah sat down at the table and made a pretense of eating something,
but her heart was heavy within her.

"What are you churning for on Friday, mother?" she asked.

"Why, I told you I am looking for strangers. It ain't Pitt Packard
only that I expect. Yesterday mornin' I swept a black mark on the
floor; in the afternoon I found two o' the settin'-room chairs
standin' back to back, and my right hand kep' itchin' all day, so't I
knew I was goin' to shake hands with somebody."

"You told me 't was the left hand," said Jimmy.

"I never told you no such thing, Jimmy Rumford. Eat your breakfast,
and don't contradict your mother, or I'll send you to bed quick 's you
finish eatin'. Don't you tell me what I said nor what I didn't say,
for I won't have it. Do you hear me?"

"You did!" responded Jimmy obstinately, preparing to dodge under the
table in case of sudden necessity. "You said your left hand itched,
and it meant money comin', and you hoped Rube Hobson was goin' to pay
you for the turkey he bought a year ago last Thanksgivin'-time, so
there!"

"So I did," said the widow reflectively. "Come to think of it, so I
did; it must 'a' been a Wednesday my right hand kep' itchin' so."

"And comp'ny didn't come a Wednesday neither," persevered Jimmy.

"Jimmy Rumford, if you don't behave yourself and speak when you're
spoken to, and not before, you'll git a trouncin' that you'll remember
consid'able of a spell afterwards."

"I'm ready for it!" replied the youngster, darting into the shed and
peeping back into the kitchen with a malignant smile. "I dreamt o'
Baldwin apples last night.

                     'Dream fruit out o' season,
                     That's anger without reason.'

I knew when I got up you'd get mad with me the first thing this
morning, and I'm all prepared--when you ketch me!"

Both women gave a sigh of relief when the boy's flying figure
disappeared around the corner of the barn. He was morally certain to
be in mischief wherever he was, but if he was out of sight there was
one point gained at least.

"Why do you care so dreadfully whether Pitt comes or not?" asked Mrs.
Rumford, now that quiet was restored, "If he don't come to-day, then
he'll come a Sunday; and if he don't come this Sunday, then he'll come
the next one, so what's the odds? You and him didn't have a fallin'
out last time he was home, did you?"

"Yes, if you must know it, we did."

"Haven't you got any common sense, Huldy? Sakes alive! I thought when
I married Daniel Rumford, if I could stand his temper it was nobody's
business but my own. I didn't foresee that he had so much he could
keep plenty for his own use, and then have a lot left to hand down to
his children, so 't I should have to live in the house with it to the
day of my death! Seems to me if I was a girl and lived in a village
where men-folks is as scarce as they be here, I'd be turrible careful
to keep holt of a beau after I'd got him. What in the name o' goodness
did you quarrel about?"

Huldah got up from the table and carried her plate and cup to the
sink. She looked out of the window to conceal her embarrassment, and
busied herself with preparations for the dish-washing, so that she
could talk with greater freedom.

"We've had words before this, plenty of times, but they didn't amount
to anything. Pitt's good, and he's handsome, and he's smart; but he's
awful dictatorial and fault-finding, and I just ain't goin' to eat too
much humble-pie before I'm married, for fear I won't have anything
else to eat afterwards, and it ain't very fattening for a steady diet.
And if there ever was a hateful old woman in the world it's his
stepmother. I've heard of her saying mean things about our family
every once in a while, but I wouldn't tell you for fear you'd flare up
and say Pitt couldn't come to see me. She's tried to set him against
me ever since we began to keep company together. She's never quite
managed to do it, but she's succeeded well enough to keep me in
continual trouble."

"What's she got to say?" inquired Mrs. Rumford hotly. "She never had a
silk dress in the world, till Eben Packard married her, and everybody
knows her father was a horse-doctor and mine was a reg'lar one!"

"She didn't say anything about fathers, but she did tell Almira Berry
that no member of the church in good standing could believe in signs
as you did and have hope of salvation. She said I was a chip off the
old block, and had been raised like a heathen. It seems when I was
over there on Sunday I refused to stand up and have my height measured
against the wall, and I told 'em if you measured heights on Sunday
you'd like as not die before the year was out. I didn't know then she
had such a prejudice against signs, but since that time I've dragged
'em in every chance I got, just to spite her."

"More fool you!" said her mother, beginning to move the dasher of the
churn up and down with a steady motion. "You might have waited until
she was your mother-in-law before you began to spite her. The first
thing you know you won't get any mother-in-law."

"That's the only thing that would console me for losing Pitt!"
exclaimed Huldah. "If I can't marry him I don't have to live with her,
that's one comfort! The last thing she did was to tell Aunt Hitty
Tarbox she'd as lief have Pitt bring one of the original Salem witches
into the house as one of the Daniel Rumford tribe."

"The land sakes!" ejaculated the widow, giving a desperate and
impassioned plunge to the churn-dasher. "Now I know why I dreamt of
snakes and muddy water the night before she come here to the Ladies'
Aid Club. Well, she's seventy, and she can't live forever; she can't
take Eben Packard's money into the next world with her, either, and I
guess if she could 't would melt as soon as it got there."

Huldah persevered with her confession, dropping an occasional tear in
the dishwater.

"Last time Pitt came here he said he should have three or four days'
vacation the 12th of August, and he thought we'd better get married
then, if 't was agreeable to me. I was kind of shy, and the almanac
was hanging alongside of the table, so I took it up and looked to see
what day of the week the 12th fell on. 'Oh, Pitt,' I said, 'we can't
be married on Friday; it's dreadful unlucky.' He began to scold then,
and said I didn't care anything about him if I wouldn't marry him when
it was most convenient; and I said I would if 't was any day but
Friday; and he said that was all moonshine, and nobody but foolish old
women believed in such nonsense; and I said there wasn't a girl in
town that would marry him on a Friday; and he said there was; and I
asked him to come right out and tell who he meant; and he said he
didn't mean anybody in particular; and I said he did; and he said,
well, Jennie Perkins would, on Friday or Sunday or wash-day or any
other day; and I said if I was a man I vow I wouldn't take a girl that
was so anxious as all that; and he said he'd rather take one that was
a little too anxious than one that wasn't anxious enough; and so we
had it, back and forth, till I got so mad I couldn't see the almanac.
Then, just to show him I had more good reasons than one, I said,
'Besides, if we should be married on a Friday we'd have to go away on
a Saturday, and ten to one 't would rain on our wedding-trip.'

"'Why would it rain Saturday more than any other day?' said he; and
then I mistrusted I was getting into fresh trouble, but I was too mad
to back out, and said I, 'They say it rains more Saturdays in the year
than any other day'; and he got red in the face and said, 'Where'd you
get that silly notion?' Then I said it wasn't any silly notion, it was
Gospel truth, and anybody that took notice of anything knew it was so;
and he said he never heard of it in his life; and I said there was
considerable many things that he'd never heard of that he'd be all the
better for knowing; and he said he was like Josh Billings, he'd rather
know a few things well than know so many things that wa'n't so."

"You might have told him how we compared notes about rainy days at the
Aid Club," said her mother. "You remember Hannah Sophia Palmer hadn't
noticed it, but the minute you mentioned it she remembered how, when
she was a child, she was always worryin' for fear she couldn't wear
her new hat a Sunday, and it must have been because it was threatening
weather a Saturday, and she was afraid it would keep up for Sunday.
And the widow Buzzell said she always picked up her apples for
pie-baking on Friday, it was so apt to be dull or wet on a Saturday."

"I told him all of that," continued Huldah, "and how old Mrs. Bascom
said they had a literary society over to Edgewood that used to meet
twice a month on Saturday afternoons, and it rained or snowed so often
they had to change their meetings to a Wednesday.

"Then the first thing I knew Pitt stood up so straight he looked more
than ten feet tall, and says he, 'If you don't marry me a Friday,
Huldah Rumford, you don't marry me at all. You're nothing but a mass
of superstition, and if you're so scared for fear it will rain on your
wedding-bonnet a Saturday, you can stay home under cover the rest of
your life, for all I care. I'll wash the top buggy, put the umbrella
under the seat, and take Jennie Perkins; she won't be afraid of a
wetting so long as she gets it in good company.'

"'You're right,' I said, 'she won't, especially if the company's a
man, for she'll be so dumfounded at getting one of 'em to sit beside
her she won't notice if it rains pitchforks, and so far as I'm
concerned she's welcome to my leavings.' Then he went out and slammed
the kitchen door after him, but not so quick that I didn't get a good
slam on the sitting-room door first."

"He'll come back," churned Mrs. Rumford philosophically. "Jennie
Perkins has got a pug nose, and a good-sized mole on one side of it. A
mole on the nose is a sure sign of bad luck in love-affairs,
particularly if it's well to one side. He'll come back."

                   *       *       *       *       *

But, as a matter of fact, the days went by, the maple-trees turned
red, and Pitt Packard did not come back to the Rumford farm. His
comings and his goings were all known to Huldah. She knew that he took
Jennie Perkins to the Sunday-School picnic, and escorted her home from
evening meetings. She knew that old Mrs. Packard had given her a
garnet pin, a glass handkerchief-box, and a wreath of hair flowers
made from the intertwined tresses of the Packards and the Doolittles.
If these symptoms could by any possibility be misinterpreted, there
were various other details of an alarmingly corroborative character,
culminating in the marriage of Pitt to Jennie on a certain Friday
evening at eight o'clock. He not only married her on a Friday, but he
drove her to Portland on a Saturday morning; and the Fates, who are
never above taking a little extra trouble when they are dealing out
misery, decreed that it should be one of the freshest, brightest, most
golden mornings of the early autumn.

Pitt thought Portland preferable to Biddeford or Saco as a place to
pass the brief honeymoon, if for no other reason than because the road
thither lay past the Rumford house. But the Rumfords' blinds were
tightly closed on the eventful Saturday, and an unnecessarily large
placard hung ostentatiously on the front gate, announcing to
passers-by that the family had gone to Old Orchard Beach, and would be
home at sundown. This was a bitter blow to the bridegroom, for he had
put down the back of the buggy with the intention of kissing the bride
within full view of the Rumford windows. When he found it was of no
use, he abandoned the idea, as the operation never afforded him any
especial pleasure. He asked Mrs. Pitt if she preferred to go to the
beach for her trip, but she decidedly favored the gayeties of a
metropolis.

The excitement of passing the Rumford house having faded, Jennie's
nose became so oppressive to Pitt that he finally changed places with
her, explaining that he generally drove on the left side. He was more
tranquil then, for her left profile was more pleasing, though for the
life of him he could not help remembering Huldah's sweet outlines, the
dimple in her chin, her kissable mouth, her delicate ear. Why, oh,
why, had she inherited her father's temper and her mother's gift of
prophecy, to say nothing of her grandfather's obstinacy and her
grandmother's nimble tongue! All at once it dawned upon him that he
might have jilted Huldah without marrying Jennie. It would, it is
true, have been only a half revenge; but his appetite for revenge was
so dulled by satisfaction he thought he could have been perfectly
comfortable with half the quantity, even if Huldah were not quite so
uncomfortable as he wished her to be. He dismissed these base and
disloyal sentiments, however, as bravely as he could, and kissed
Jennie twice, in a little stretch of wood road that fell in
opportunely with his mood of silent penitence.

About two o'clock clouds began to gather in the sky, and there was a
muttering of thunder. Pitt endured all the signs of a shower with such
fortitude as he could command, and did not put up the buggy-top or
unstrap the boot until the rain came down in good earnest.

"Who'd have suspicioned this kind of weather?" he growled as he got
the last strap into place and shook the water from his new straw hat.

"I was afraid of it, but I didn't like to speak out," said Jennie
primly; "they say it gen'ally does rain Saturdays."

                   *       *       *       *       *

Meanwhile Huldah lay in the spare room at the back of the house and
sobbed quietly. Mrs. Rumford and the skeptical Jimmy had gone to Old
Orchard, and Huldah had slipped out of the front door, tacked the
obtrusive placard on the gate-post, and closed all the blinds in honor
of the buried hopes that lay like a dead weight at the bottom of her
heart.

She was a silly little thing, a vain little thing, and a spitfire to
boot, but that did not prevent her suffering an appreciable amount,
all that her nature would allow; and if it was not as much as a larger
nature would have suffered, neither had she much philosophy or
strength to bear it. The burden is fitted to the back as often as the
back to the burden.

She frequently declared to herself afterwards that she should have had
"a fit of sickness" if it had not been for the thunderstorm that came
up on that never-to-be-forgotten Saturday afternoon. She had waked
that morning with a dull pain in her heart--a dull pain that had grown
keener when she looked from her attic window and saw the sun shining
clear in the sky. Not a cloud sullied the surface of that fair blue
canopy on this day of the faithless Pitt's wedding-journey. A sweet
wind blew the tail feathers of the golden cock on the squire's barn
till he stared the west directly in the eye. What a day to drive to
Portland! She would have worn tan-colored low shoes and brown openwork
stockings (what ugly feet Jennie Perkins had!), a buff challie dress
with little brown autumn leaves on it, a belt and sash of brown
watered ribbon (Jennie had a waist like a flour-barrel!), and a sailor
hat with a bunch of yellow roses on one side--or would two brown
quills, standing up coquettishly, have been more attractive? Then she
would have taken a brown cloth shoulder-cape, trimmed with rows upon
rows of cream-colored lace, and a brown parasol with an acorn of
polished wood on the handle. Oh, what was the use of living when she
could wear none of this bridal apparel, but must put on her old pink
calico and go down to meet Jimmy's brotherly sneers? Was there ever
such a cruelly sunshiny morning? A spot of flickering light danced and
quivered on her blue wallpaper until she could bear it no longer, and
pinned a towel over it. She sat down by the open window and leaned
dejectedly on the sill, the prettiest picture of spiteful, unnecessary
misery that the eye of mortal man ever rested upon, with her bright
hair tumbling over her unbleached nightgown, and her little bare feet
curled about the chair-rounds like those of a disconsolate child.
Nobody could have approved of, or even sympathized with, so trivial a
creature, but plenty of people would have been so sorry for her that
they would have taken sensible, conscientious, unattractive Jennie
Perkins out of Pitt Packard's buggy and substituted the heedless
little Huldah, just for the pleasure of seeing her smile and blush.
There was, however, no guardian imp to look after her ruined fortunes,
and she went downstairs as usual to help about the breakfast,
wondering to herself if there were any tragedies in life too terrible
to be coexistent with three meals a day and the dishes washed after
each one of them.

An infant hope stirred in her heart when she saw a red sparkle here
and there on the sooty bottom of the tea-kettle, and it grew a little
when her mother remarked that the dishwater boiled away so fast and
the cows lay down so much that she believed it would rain the next
day. When, that same afternoon, the welcome shower came with scarce
ten minutes' warning, Huldah could hardly believe her eyes and ears.
She jumped from her couch of anguish and remorse like an excited
kitten, darted out of the house unmindful of the lightning, drove the
Jersey calf under cover, chased the chickens into the coop, bolstered
up the tomatoes so that the wind and rain would not blow the fruit
from the heavily laden plants, opened the blinds and closed the
windows.

"It comes from the east," she cried, dancing up and down in a glow of
childish glee--"it comes from the east, and it's blowing in on
Jennie's side of the buggy!" She did not know that Pitt had changed
places with his bride, and that his broad shoulder was shielding her
from the "angry airt."

Then she flew into the kitchen and pinned up her blown hair in front
of the cracked looking-glass, thinking with sympathetic tenderness how
pretty she looked, with her crown of chestnut tendrils tightened by
the dampness, her round young cheeks crimsoned by the wind, and her
still tearful eyes brightened by unchristian joy. She remembered with
naughty satisfaction how rain invariably straightened Jennie Perkins's
frizzes, and was glad, _glad_ that it did. Her angry passions were so
beautifying that the radiant vision in the glass almost dazzled her.
It made her very sorry for Pitt too. She hated to think that his
ill-temper and stubborn pride and obstinacy had lost him such a lovely
creature as herself, and had forced him to waste his charms on so
unappreciative and plain a person as Jennie Perkins. She remembered
that Pitt had asked her to marry him coming home from the fair in a
rainstorm. If he meant anything he said on that occasion, he must be
suffering pangs of regret to-day. Oh, how good, how sweet, how kind of
it to rain and support her in what she had prophesied of Saturday
weather!

All at once a healing thought popped into her head. "I shall not live
many years," she reflected--"not after losing Pitt, and having his
mother crow over me, and that hateful Jennie Perkins, having the
family hair wreath hanging over her sofa, and my wedding ring on her
hand; but so long as I live I will keep account of rainy Saturdays,
and find a way to send the record to Pitt every New Year's Day just to
prove that I was right. Then I shall die young, and perhaps he will
plant something on my grave, and water it with his tears; and perhaps
he will put up a marble gravestone over me, unbeknownst to Jennie, and
have an appropriate verse of Scripture carved on it, something like:

                she openeth her mouth with wisdom;
                and in her tongue is the law of kindness

I can see it as plain as if it was written. I hope they will make it
come out even on the edges, and that he will think to have a white
marble dove perched on the top, unless it costs too much."

                   *       *       *       *       *

The years went on. Huldah surprised everybody by going away from home
to get an education. She would have preferred marriage at that stage
of her development, but to her mind there was no one worth marrying in
Pleasant River save Pitt Packard, and, failing him, study would fill
up the time as well as anything else.

The education forced a good many helpful ideas into pretty Huldah's
somewhat empty pate, though it by no means cured her of all her
superstitions. She continued to keep a record of Saturday weather, and
it proved as interesting and harmless a hobby as the collecting of
china or postage-stamps.

In course of time Pitt Packard moved to Goshen, Indiana, where he made
a comfortable fortune by the invention of an estimable pump, after
which he was known by his full name of W. Pitt Fessenden Packard. In
course of time the impish and incredulous Jimmy Rumford became James,
and espoused the daughter of a wealthy Boston merchant. His social
advancement was no surprise to Huldah and her mother, for, from the
moment he had left home, they had never dreamed of him save in
conjunction with horned cattle, which is well known to signify
unexampled prosperity.

In course of time, too, old Mrs. Rumford was gathered to her fathers
after a long illness, in which Huldah nursed her dutifully and well.
Her death was not entirely unexpected, for Hannah Sophia Palmer
observed spots like iron rust on her fingers, a dog howled every night
under Almira Berry's window, and Huldah broke the kitchen
looking-glass. No invalid could hope for recovery under these sinister
circumstances, and Mrs. Rumford would have been the last woman in the
world to fly in the face of such unmistakable signs of death. It is
even rumored that when she heard the crash of glass in the kitchen she
murmured piously, "Now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace," and
expired within the hour.

                   *       *       *       *       *

Nineteen summers and winters had passed since Pitt Packard drove "her
that was Jennie Perkins" to Portland on her wedding-trip. He had been
a good and loyal husband; she had been a good and faithful wife; and
never once in the nineteen years had they so much as touched the hem
of the garment of happiness.

Huldah the Prophetess lived on in the old house alone. Time would have
gone slowly and drearily enough had it not been for her ruling
passion. If the first part of the week were fair, she was hopeful that
there was greater chance of rain or snow by Saturday; if it were
rainy, she hoped there would be a long storm. She kept an elaborate
table showing the weather on every day of the year. Fair Saturdays
were printed in red ink, foul Saturdays in jet-black. The last days of
December were generally spent in preparing a succinct statement from
these daily entries. Then in the month of January a neat document,
presenting facts and figures, but no word of personal comment or
communication, was addressed at first to Mr. W. P. Packard, and of
late years to W. Pitt Fessenden Packard, and sent to Goshen, Indiana.

Mr. Packard was a good and loyal husband, as I have said, but there
was certainly no disloyalty in the annual perusal of statistical
weather tables. That these tables, though made out by one of the
weaker sex, were accurate and authentic, he had reason to believe,
because he kept a rigid account of the weather himself, and compared
Huldah's yearly record with his own. The weather in Pleasant River did
not, it is true, agree absolutely with the weather in Goshen, but the
similarity between Maine and Indiana Saturdays was remarkable. The
first five years of Pitt's married life Huldah had the advantage, and
the perusal of her tables afforded Pitt little satisfaction, since it
proved that her superstitions had some apparent basis of reason. The
next five years his turn came, and the fair Saturdays predominated. He
was not any happier, however, on the whole, because, although he had
the pleasure of being right himself, he lost the pleasure of believing
Huldah right. So time went on until Mrs. Pitt died, and was buried
under the handsomest granite monument that could be purchased by the
sale of pumps. Not only were the funeral arrangements carried out with
the liveliest consideration for the departed, but Mr. Packard
abstained from all gay society and conducted himself with the greatest
propriety. Nevertheless, when his partner and only confidential friend
extolled Jennie's virtues as wife, housekeeper, companion, and church
member, he remarked absently: "She was all that, Jim, but somehow I
never liked her."

For two years after his bereavement Huldah omitted sending her weather
statistics to Mr. Packard, thinking, with some truth, that it might
seem too marked an attention from an attractive Maine spinster to a
"likely" Indiana widower.

                   *       *       *       *       *

Matters were in this state when Mr. Packard alighted at the Edgewood
station one bright day in August. He declined the offer of a drive,
and soon found himself on the well-remembered road to Pleasant River.
He had not trodden that dusty thoroughfare for many a year, and every
tree and shrub and rock had a message for him, though he was a plain,
matter-of-fact maker of pumps. There was no old home to revisit, for
his stepmother had died long ago, and Jennie had conscientiously
removed the family wreath from the glass case and woven some of the
departed lady's hair into the funereal garland. He walked with the
brisk step of a man who knew what he wanted, but there was a kind of
breathless suspense in his manner which showed that he was uncertain
of getting it. He passed the Whippoorwill Mill, the bubbling spring,
the old moss-covered watering-trough, and then cut across the widow
Buzzell's field straight to the Rumford farm. He kept rehearsing the
subject-matter of a certain speech he intended to make. He knew it by
heart, having repeated it once a day for several months, but nobody
realized better than he that he would forget every word of it the
moment he saw Huldah--at least, if the Huldah of to-day were anything
like the Huldah of the olden time.

The house came in sight. It used to be painted white; it was drab now,
and there was a bay-window in the sitting-room. There was a new pump
in the old place, and, happy omen, he discovered it was one of his own
manufacture. He made his way by sheer force of habit past the kitchen
windows to the side door. That was where they had quarreled mostly. He
had a kind of sentiment about that side door. He paused a moment to
hide his traveling-bag under the grapevine that shaded the porch, and
as he raised his hand to grasp the knocker the blood rushed to his
face and his heart leaped into his throat. Huldah stood near the
window winding the old clock. In her right hand was a "Farmer's
Almanac." How well he knew the yellow cover! and how like to the
Huldah of seventeen was the Huldah of thirty-six! It was incredible
that the pangs of disappointed love could make so little inroad on a
woman's charms. Rosy cheeks, plump figure, clear eyes, with a little
more snap in them than was necessary for connubial comfort, but not a
whit too much for beauty; brown hair curling round her ears and
temples--what an ornament to a certain house he knew in Goshen,
Indiana!

She closed the wooden door of the clock, and, turning, took a generous
bite from the side of a mellow August sweeting that lay on the table.
At this rather inauspicious moment her eye caught Pitt's. The sight of
her old lover drove all prudence and reserve from her mind, and she
came to the door with such an intoxicating smile and such welcoming
hands that he would have kissed her then and there, even if he had not
come to Pleasant River for that especial purpose. Of course he forgot
the speech, but his gestures were convincing, and he mumbled a
sufficient number of extracts from it to convince Huldah that he was
in a proper frame of mind--this phrase meaning to a woman the one in
which she can do anything she likes with a man.

They were too old, doubtless, to cry and laugh in each other's arms,
and ask forgiveness for past follies, and regret the wasted years, and
be thankful for present hope and life and love; but that is what they
did, old as they were.

"I wouldn't have any business to ask you to marry such a dictatorial
fool as I used to be, Huldah," said Pitt; "but I've got over
considerable of my foolishness, and do say you will. Say, too, you
won't make me wait any longer, but marry me Sunday or Monday. This is
Thursday, and I must be back in Goshen next week at this time. Will
you, Huldah?"

Huldah blushed, but shook her head. She looked lovely when she
blushed, and she hadn't lost the trick of it even at thirty-six.

"I know it's soon; but never mind getting ready. If you won't say
Monday, make it Tuesday--do."

She shook her head again.

"Wednesday, then. _Do_ say Wednesday, Huldy dear."

The same smile of gentle negation.

He dropped her hand disconsolately.

"Then I'll have to come back at Christmas-time, I s'pose. It's just my
busy season now, or I would stay right here on this doorstep till you
was ready, for it seems to me as if I'd been waiting for you ever
since I was born, and couldn't get you too soon."

"Do you really want me to marry you so much, Pitt?"

"Never wanted anything so bad in my life."

"Didn't you wonder I wasn't more surprised to see you to-day?"

"Nothing surprises me in women-folks."

"Well, it was because I've dreamed of a funeral three nights running.
Do you know what that's a sign of?"

Pitt never winked an eyelash; he had learned his lesson. With a sigh
of relief that his respected stepmother was out of hearing, he
responded easily, "I s'pose it's a sign somebody's dead or going to
die."

"No, it isn't: dreams go by contraries. It's a sign there's going to
be a wedding."

"I'm glad to know that much, but I wish while you was about it you'd
have dreamt a little more, and found out when the wedding was going to
be."

"I did; and if you weren't the stupidest man alive you could guess."

"I know I'm slow-witted," said Pitt meekly, for he was in a mood to
endure anything, "but I've asked you to have me on every day there is
except the one I'm afraid to name."

"You know I've had plenty of offers."

"Unless all the men-folks are blind, you must have had a thousand,
Huldah."

Huldah was distinctly pleased. As a matter of fact she had had only
five; but five offers in the State of Maine implies a superhuman power
of attraction not to be measured by the casual reader.

"Are you sorry you called me a mass of superstition?"

"I wish I'd been horsewhipped where I stood."

"Very well, then. The first time you wouldn't marry me at all unless
you could have me Friday, and of course I wouldn't take you Friday
under those circumstances. Now you say you're glad and willing to
marry me any day in the week, and so I'll choose Friday of my own
accord. I'll marry you to-morrow, Pitt: and"--here she darted a
roguishly sibylline glance at the clouds--"I have a water-proof; have
you an umbrella for Saturday?"

Pitt took her at her word, you may be sure, and married her the next
day, but I wish you could have seen it rain on Saturday! There never
was such a storm in Pleasant River. The road to the Edgewood station
was a raging flood; but though the bride and groom were drenched to
the skin they didn't take cold--they were too happy. Love within is a
beautiful counter-irritant.

Huldah didn't mind waiting a little matter of nineteen years, so long
as her maiden flag sank in a sea of triumph at the end; and it is but
simple justice to an erring but attractive woman to remark that she
never said "I told you so!" to her husband.



TWO ON A TOUR


LOG-BOOK OF CHARLOTTE AMALIA CLIFFORD

                                       S.S. Diana, January 21, 1918
                                   On the way to the Virgin Islands

I engrossed the above heading in my journal shortly after we left the
dock in New York, but from what has occurred in the past few days I
think my occasional entries in the log-book are likely to be records
of Dorothea Valentine's love-affairs as they occur to her day by day,
and as unluckily they are poured into my ear for lack of a better or
more convenient vessel.

We are dear friends, Dolly and I. Her name is Dorothea, but apparently
she will have to grow up to it, for at present everybody calls her
Dolly, Dora, Dot, or Dodo, according to his or her sex, color, or
previous condition of servitude. Dolly is twenty and I am thirty;
indeed, her mother is only forty, so that I am rather her contemporary
than Dolly's, but friendship is more a matter of sympathy than
relative age, and Mrs. Valentine and I are by no means twin souls. As
a matter of fact, that lady would never have noticed me, the private
secretary of Clive Winthrop, a government official in Washington, had
it not been that, through him and his sister, I had access to a more
interesting group in society than had Mrs. Valentine, a widow of large
means but a stranger in the Capital. Clive Winthrop is a person of
distinction and influence, and Miss Ellen Winthrop, an old friend of
my mother's, is one of the most charming hostesses in Washington,
while I am in reality nothing but a paid scribe; the glad, willing,
ardent, but silent assistant of a man who is serving the
Administration with all his heart; but neither he nor his sister will
have it so considered. I almost think that Miss Ellen Winthrop, still
vivacious and vigorous at seventy, is ready to give up to me her place
as head of the household if I consent to say the word; but I am not
sure enough yet to say it; and because of that uncertainty I cannot
trust myself in the daily company of the two persons most deeply
concerned in my decision.

A sea voyage is the best thing in the world to blow away doubts or
difficulties; it also clears the air so that one can see one's course,
whether it be toward the north of duty or the south of desire.

My work for a long time has been to report interviews, take
stenographic records, and write hundreds of letters for Mr. Winthrop
during the somewhat protracted discussion that preceded the
acquisition of the Virgin Islands by the United States. It is odd that
these tasks should have fallen to me, who added below Clive Winthrop's
signature to many communications the typed initials C. A. C., for I
have a special interest in these new possessions of ours, a very close
and sentimental one, since I was born on St. Thomas, one of the Virgin
Islands, and christened Charlotte Amalia after the little red-roofed
town on the shore of the perfect harbor. My birth in St. Thomas was
entirely unpremeditated, and I was taken away as soon as my mother was
able to travel; nevertheless, I have always longed during the twelve
years of my loneliness, without father or mother, to see the place
where they were so happy in each other and so blissful in the prospect
of my appearance.

I, then, have a right to this particular holiday and this opportunity
to decide my future. Miss Dorothea Valentine, on the contrary, is a
wholly unexpected, I will not say an unwelcome, companion, although
when I wish to be thinking of my own problems she generally desires to
discuss hers, which are trivial, though interesting and unique.

Everything about the girl piques interest; her beauty, her charm, her
childlike gayety and inconsequence, which are but the upper current of
a deeper sea of sincerity and common sense. Somebody says: "Ladies
vary in looks; they're like military flags for a funeral or a
celebration--one day furled, next day streaming. Men are ships;
figureheads, about the same in a storm or a calm, and not too
handsome, thanks to the ocean." The last phrases are peculiarly true
of Clive Winthrop, who is sometimes called the ugliest man in
Washington, yet who commands attention in any room that he enters
because of his fine physique, his noble head, and his distinction of
bearing and speech. Rugged he is, "thanks to the ocean," but he looks
as if he could swim against the strongest current. On the other hand,
it cannot be said that Dolly Valentine varies. She is lovely at
breakfast, lovelier at luncheon, and loveliest at dinner when the
dazzling whiteness of her neck and shoulders is revealed. Only a
tolerably generous woman would suffer herself to be in the almost
daily companionship of such a charmer, and that I am in that dangerous
juxtaposition is her fault, not mine.

"You must take me with you on your sea voyage, Charlotte," she said.
"I must get away from Washington and from mother. No, don't raise your
eye-brows and begin to scold before you know what I mean! I am not
going to criticize my maternal parent, but I am so under her thumb at
the moment that I am a flabby mass of indecision. I have no more mind
than a jellyfish, yet I have to decide a matter of vital importance
within a month. How can I make up a non-existent mind? Answer me that.
Your life is so fixed and serene and settled; so full of absorbing
work; you are so flattered and appreciated that you are like a big
ship anchored in a safe harbor, and you can't think what it's like to
be a silly little yacht bobbing about on the open sea!" (Such is the
uncomprehending viewpoint of twenty toward thirty; the calm assumption
that ladies of that mature age can have no love-affairs of their own
to perplex them!)

"There is no need of your being a silly little yacht, Dolly!" I
answered. "If you want to make a real voyage you have the power to
choose your craft."

"Mother always chooses for me," she said with a pout. "She doesn't gag
me and put me in irons and lead me up the gangplank by brute force,
but she dominates me. I start out each morning like a nice, fat, pink
balloon and by evening, though I haven't felt any violent pin-pricks,
I am nothing but a little shrunken heap of shriveled rubber. You know
it, Charlotte! You have seen me bouncing at breakfast and seen me flat
at dinner!"

It was impossible not to laugh at her. "Don't be ridiculous!" I
expostulated. "There is nothing between you and happiness but a little
cloud so diaphanous that a breath of common sense would blow it away.
Now read your magazine and let me write in my log-book. It is intended
to be an informal report to my chief, of the islands we are to visit.
We shall be at St. Thomas to-morrow morning and in the four days we
have been journeying from New York the only topic of conversation in
which you have shown the slightest enthusiasm is whether you should or
should not marry Marmaduke Hogg!"

"Don't call him all of it, Charlotte," and she shuddered. "Mother is
always doing it and I can't bear it!" whereupon she flounced about on
her deck-chair and hid her face in her steamer-rug.

                   *       *       *       *       *

It was a foolish little love-story, that of Dorothea Valentine. Her
mother was a mass of polite and unnecessary conventions; a pretty sort
of person with a clear profile like that of a cold, old little bird.
Her small, sharp nose resembled a beak; her eyes were like two black
beads; and her conversation was a lengthy series of twitterings.
Charlotte Clifford used to tell Miss Winthrop that if Mrs. Valentine
had been a canary, people would have forever been putting a towel over
her cage to secure silence. She was always idle, save for a
bewildering succession of reconstruction periods, apparently
forestalling ruins that no one else could have prophesied. She dieted
and reduced her hips; had violet rays applied to her scalp; had her
wrinkles ironed out by some mysterious process. If you caught her
before ten in the morning you would find her with crescent-shaped bits
of court-plaster beside her eyes, in front of her ears, and between
her brows. She was beautifully clothed, shod, gloved, massaged,
manicured, and marcelled. She lived on the best sides of the streets
and at the proper hotels. She answered notes, returned calls, and gave
wedding presents punctiliously. She never used the telephone for
invitations, nor had anything but contempt for abbreviations,
carefully writing out Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Minneapolis,
Minnesota, when she addressed her sisters in those cities. A mass of
the most glaring virtues was Mrs. Reginald Valentine, impeccable and
unassailable, with views on all subjects as rigid as the laws of the
Medes and Persians. She had ordered her husband's life during their
ten years of marriage, he being a gentle and artistic soul, and she
had more or less directed his exercise, amusements, diet, as well as
his political and religious opinions. She nursed him faithfully in his
last illness, but when he timidly begged to be cremated instead of
buried, she reminded him that it was a radical, ultra-modern idea;
that the Valentine lot and monument were very beautiful; that there
never had been any cremations in the family connection; and that she
hoped he would not break a long-established custom and leave behind
him a positively irreligious request. Various stories of Mr.
Valentine's docility had crept into circulation, and it is said that
on this occasion he turned his head meekly to the wall and sighed:
"Very well, Emma! Do just as you think best; it's your funeral!"

Just how Dorothea blossomed on this stalk it is difficult to say. A
bright-eyed, sunshiny, willful baby, she had grown into an unaffected,
attractive, breezy young woman, outwardly obedient, inwardly mutinous.
She was generally calm in her mother's presence, never criticizing her
openly, and her merry heart kept her from being really unhappy in a
relationship that many girls would have found intolerable. Beaux she
had a-plenty and lovers not a few. As cream or honey to flies, so was
Dorothea Valentine to mankind in general; but she took them on gayly
and cast them off lightly, little harm being done on either side by
the brief experience.

Of course the suits of some of the suitors had been hard-pressed by
Mrs. Valentine. "You will go through the woods to find a crooked stick
at last, Dorothea," she would say. "You don't know a desirable _parti_
when you see one. You must have an extraordinary opinion of your own
charms to think that you have only to pick and choose. Those charms
will fade, rather prematurely, I fear, and when your looked-for ideal
comes along it may be that he will not regard you as flawless."

"I don't expect him to, mother! I only expect him to find my own flaws
interesting."

"There is no certainty of that, my dear,"--and Mrs. Valentine's tone
was touched with cynicism. "I had an intimate friend once, Clara
Wyman, a very nice girl she was, who had been in love with my cousin
Roger Benson for years. He seemed much attached to her and when time
went by and nothing happened, I spoke to him plainly one night and
asked him if he didn't intend to propose to her, and if not, what were
his reasons. What do you suppose they were?"

Mrs. Valentine's tone implied that a shock was coming.

Dolly sat erect on her mother's Italian day-bed as one prepared.

"I'm sure I have no idea--how could I have?" she asked.

"Roger said that he didn't like her wiping her nose through her
veil!!"

Dolly flung herself at length on the couch and buried her face in the
cushions, her whole body shaking convulsively with silent mirth.

"You may laugh, Dorothea, but this incident, which I have told many
times, shows how fantastic, erratic, despotic, and hypercritical men
generally are. You will come to your senses some time and realize that
no one is likely to bear with your perversities more patiently than
Arthur Wilde or Lee Wadsworth, who have both wasted a winter dangling
about you."

Dolly raised her head, patted her hair, and wiped her streaming eyes.

"I realize the dangerous obstacles between me and the altar as I never
did before,"--and the girl's voice was full of laughter. "But I should
have to lock Arthur Wilde in the basement whenever professors came to
dinner. I couldn't marry Arthur's vocabulary, mother,--I couldn't!"

"He is a wonderful son, and a millionaire; he has three houses, four
motors, and a steam yacht!"

"Sure, but that don't 'enthuse me,' 'tremenjous' as it sounds! (I am
imitating Mr. Wilde's style of conversation.) And as for Lee Wadsworth
he is bow-legged!"

"Lee's reputation is straight at any rate, and his income all that
could be desired," responded Mrs. Valentine loftily. "I wish I could
convince you, Dorothea, that there are no perfect husbands. You are
looking for the impossible! Indeed, I have always found men singularly
imperfect, even as friends and companions, and in a more intimate
relation they leave still more to be desired. You dismissed Sir Thomas
Scott because he was too dictatorial, although you knew he intended to
have the family diamonds reset for you."

"He'd have had them reset in Sheffield or Birmingham, but, anyhow, one
doesn't marry diamonds, mother."

"One might at least make the effort, Dorothea! I notice that most of
the people who disdain diamonds generally possess three garnets, two
amethysts, and one Mexican opal."

Dolly laughed. "You know I did emulate the celebrated Mrs. Dombey,
mother."

"I know you made a very brief and feeble effort to be sensible, and
you might have conquered yourself had it not been for the sudden
appearance of this young Hogg on your horizon."

"You shall not call him a young Hogg!" cried Dolly passionately. "It
isn't fair; I won't endure it!"

"I thought that was his name," remarked Mrs. Valentine, placidly
shifting a wrinkle-plaster from one place to another. "You wouldn't
object if I had alluded to young Benham or young Wadsworth. You show
by your very excitement how disagreeable his name is to your ears. It
isn't a question of argument; Marmaduke Hogg is an outrageous,
offensive name; if he had been Charles or James it would have been
more decent. The 'Marmaduke' simply calls attention to the 'Hogg.' If
any one had asked to introduce a person named Hogg to me I should have
declined."

"I've told you a dozen times, mother, that the Wilmots' house-party
was at breakfast when I arrived from the night train. There was a
perfect Babel and everybody was calling him 'Duke.' He looked like
one, and nobody said--the other. I didn't even hear his last name till
evening, and then it was too late."

"'Too late!' Really, Dorothea, if you have no sense of propriety you
may leave the room!"--and Mrs. Valentine applied the smelling-bottle
to her birdlike nose as a sign that her nerves were racked to the
limit and she might at any moment succumb.

"All I know is," continued Dorothea obstinately, "that he was the
best-looking, the most interesting, the cleverest, the most
companionable man in the house-party, or for that matter in the
universe. You don't ask the last name of Orlando, or Benedick, or
Marcus Aurelius, or Albert of Belgium."

"It wouldn't be necessary." (Here Mrs. Valentine was quite
imperturbable.) "The Valentines have never been required to associate
with theatrical people or foreigners. In some ways I dislike the name
of Marmaduke as much as Hogg. It is so bombastic that it seems somehow
like an assumed name, or as if the creature had been born on the
stage. When coupled with Hogg it loses what little distinction it
might have had by itself. One almost wishes it had been Marmalade.
Marmalade Hogg suggests a quite nauseating combination of food, but
there is a certain appropriateness about it."

Dorothea's face was flaming. "You will never allow Duke to explain
himself, mother, nor hear me through when I attempt to make things
clear to you. You never acknowledge that you know, but you do know,
that Duke's people were English a long way back, and 'Marmaduke' is an
old family name. The Winthrops will tell you that Duke's father and
mother were named Forrest and that they changed it to Hogg to pacify
an old bachelor uncle who wanted to leave Duke six thousand dollars a
year. He had no voice in the matter; he was only twelve years old."

"It was a very short-sighted business proposition, and your Duke must
have been very young for his age,"--and Mrs. Valentine took another
deep sniff of lavender. "Sixty thousand a year wouldn't induce me to
be named Hogg, and I shall never consent to have one in my family!"

Dorothea burst into tears, a most uncommon occurrence.

"You have dwelt so long on this purely immaterial objection," she
sobbed, "that you have finally inoculated me with something of your
own feeling and made me miserable and ashamed. I dare say, too, I have
hurt Duke's pride by trying to give him a reason for your indifferent
attitude, yet never having courage for the real, piffling explanation.
I am mortified at my despicable weakness and I will overcome it by
realizing how unworthy I am to bear Duke's honorable, unstained name,
even if it is Hogg. You might as well give up, mother! If the dearest,
best, most delightful man in the world loves me, I shall marry him,
name and all."

"I do not regard it as settled," replied Mrs. Valentine calmly. "The
young man may not think you so desirable when he learns that my
refusal to accept him as a son-in-law means that he must take you
without any income. Your dear father must have foreseen some such
tragedy when he left all his money in my care!"

"Duke will take me without a penny!" cried Dorothea hotly. "I would
stake my life on that!"

"Don't be melodramatic, Dorothea. We shall see in time. It is just
possible that the young man may not be greedy, and so belie his name."
This was Mrs. Valentine's last shaft as Dorothea walked out of the
room with her chin in the air.

                   *       *       *       *       *

                                       S.S. Diana, January 26, 1918

St. Thomas, and Charlotte Amalia, the little town for which I was
named, looked so lovely when we landed early this morning that I felt
a positive thrill of pride.

This halfway house of the sea, this gateway of the Caribbean, as it
has been picturesquely called, seemed, as Dolly and I climbed the
hills and the stone stairways, to materialize into a birthplace
instead of a vague dream. A year ago, with the _Dannebrog_, the
scarlet, white-crossed banner of Denmark, floating over the red Danish
fortress on the water-front, I might have felt an alien, but the Stars
and Stripes made me feel at home and I could only remember that my
father and mother met and loved each other in this little Paradise,
and that when I was born there they were the two happiest people under
the sun. If they could have seen their daughter saluting the American
flag so near the very spot in which she first saw the light, they
would have been comforted, I am sure, instead of repining that they
had both been taken away when she most needed their love and
protection.

Such a view from Diana's deck as we crept into the wonderful harbor! A
background of towering green hills and a dazzling blue of velvet sky
and crystal sea, like that of Algiers, greeted our enchanted gaze!
Like some of the coast towns of Italy, Charlotte Amalia is gay with
color, and its white, red-roofed villas nestle among their luxuriant
gardens and tropical foliage, standing out in a perfect riot of orange
and yellow, blue and red.

Never, save in Venice, have I seen such a gorgeous array of color in a
landscape.

Five hours we had in St. Thomas while the Diana put off hundreds of
barrels of cement; but what with the gayly painted boats and their
dark-skinned crews, the naked brown boys diving and swimming for
pennies and dimes in the harbor, a walk to Bluebeard's Tower and
Blackbeard's Castle, we were well amused. Particularly so was
Dorothea, who disappeared from my side for a half-hour while I chatted
with the captain, rejoining me in the tiny palm-bordered park near the
landing.

She was glowing with happiness.

"What do you think, Charlotte?" she exclaimed. "I have a letter from
Duke. Not written after we sailed, of course, for it couldn't have
reached me. He bearded mother in her fortress the morning we left
Washington. She was out, or said she was, but sent a note saying that
I had gone on a journey and would be absent for a month. He went
directly to the Winthrops for news and they told him I was with you
and that if he wrote at once by special delivery he could reach the
ship before it left New York dock. He sent the letter to the captain
and asked him to give it to me at St. Thomas for a surprise. The
captain is such a nice man, though a good deal of a tease! Mr.
Winthrop was delighted to hear you were not alone. Poor Miss Winthrop
has influenza and they both wish they had taken this trip. It seems
they are thinking of it just a little."

"The Winthrops coming on this voyage," I exclaimed. "Impossible! They
hadn't an idea of it."

"Mightn't he want to interview the governor and look at the island?"

"He hasn't time. I chose this journey instead of another so that I
could interview the governor and look at the islands myself."

"Well, I dare say there's nothing in it. Duke didn't speak of it as
anything settled, and he may have misunderstood, his mind being on me.
May I read you the letter--I mean parts of it?"

"I shouldn't expect to hear all of it," I replied dryly.

"Yet the bits I leave out are the ones that show him as he is," she
said, looking off into the grove of palms. "Duke is so conscientious
that until we succeed in melting mother--that would be a good title
for a story, 'Melting Mother'!--and until she sanctions an engagement
he won't let himself go, even on paper. So I get only a lovely sort of
'seepage' that breaks through in spite of him!"

"Skip the seepage," I said unsympathetically, "and give the news."

She re-read the first paragraphs to herself with a good deal of
dimpling and with eyes that suffused with feeling now and then, and
turning the page began to read aloud:

  Knowing that you were on the high seas far away from me, though
  safe with your charming Miss Clifford (Duke admires you
  extravagantly, Charlotte!), I concluded to burn my ships and
  have a straightforward talk with your mother, although you have
  repeatedly warned me that this was not the best method of
  approach and that only patience would win my cause. I sent up my
  card at the New Willard, and doubtless she would have refused to
  receive me, but, going from the office to one of the reception
  rooms to await her, I found her seated there with your
  Philadelphia aunt and another lady. There had evidently been
  confidences, so they scented trouble and took to their heels
  when I had been introduced to them somewhat informally as a
  friend of Dorothea's, my name not being mentioned.

  I asked your mother, when we were left alone, if she had any
  objection to me other than my uneuphonious and suggestive
  surname.

  She replied guardedly, no, or at least nothing in particular,
  though she might say without conceit that Dorothea might aspire
  to anybody, even the highest.

  I cordially agreed, saying that if the male sex had any eye for
  beauty, charm or loveliness of character, Dorothea might marry
  not only anybody but everybody.

  She said she thought persiflage was out of taste when the
  happiness of a mother's whole life was in question.

  I begged pardon, but said it was necessary for me to whistle to
  keep my courage up, for the happiness of _my_ whole life was in
  question.

  She said that was beside the point and her daughter's happiness
  must also be considered.

  I remarked that her daughter, to my infinite surprise and
  gratitude, assured me that her happiness lay in the same
  direction as my own.

  She vouchsafed the information that Dorothea was a romantic
  fool.

  I denied it.

  She dealt what she considered to be a body-blow by affirming
  that your property would not be in your hands till you were
  twenty-one.

  I replied that I didn't care if it didn't reach you till you
  were a hundred and twenty-one.

  She said, "Don't be silly," and asked me if I had ever thought
  of changing my name back to Forrest from Hogg.

  I inquired in return if she would mind the loss of six thousand
  dollars a year, supposing that I should take such a step.

  She reflected and said that she should, but she would rather
  lose it than take the name; and that we could rub along on
  Dorothea's money, she supposed, if that was my idea of a
  pleasant life.

  I hastened to say that I would relinquish the six thousand
  without a pang, confident that I could make a living anyway; but
  that it would be disloyal to my good old uncle, whose bounty had
  given me a college course, two years at Oxford and three at
  Harvard Law School. It had also permitted me to give my services
  to the United States Shipping Board without compensation.

  She said she thought it was very selfish in a government to
  accept a man's whole time and give him no remuneration; that the
  Secretary of the Treasury had only to say to the banks, "Let
  there be money," and there was money. There would be plenty for
  everybody if only the engravers and laborers at the Mint would
  not strike.

  I reminded her that men were remunerated sufficiently in being
  allowed to serve their country in time of war.

  She returned that she thought that point of view foolish and
  fantastic, but if she found, after a year, that her daughter's
  peace of mind was threatened, would I then change my name and
  live on Dorothea's income until I could establish myself in the
  practice of the law? She said that I must acknowledge that this
  was a ridiculously generous proposition and one that neither my
  talents nor my station in life merited.

  I replied that the proposition meant to me that I should simply
  be selling myself and buying her daughter, and that I declined
  to accept it.

("Oh, Charlotte!" the girl interrupted with a catch in her throat,
"don't you think that was splendid and clever, too?")

  Your mother said that she wished to take the matter into
  consideration during your absence [so the letter ran on], and
  just as we were rising the Philadelphia aunt came in from one
  door and General X, Senator Y, and Lord Z from another.

  They are at the moment three of the most significant figures in
  the moving picture of Washington society, and all women pursue
  them. They beamed at me as if they had been commandeered for
  that special purpose, and Senator Y said jovially: "How are you,
  Duke? Glad to see you. Are you free to dine with us?"

  I hastily turned to your mother, saying: "I was just going to
  ask you and your sister if you would dine with me."

  Lord Z, who was at Balliol with me, you remember, said: "Then
  perhaps you will allow us to come to your table for coffee,
  Hogg?" Your mother gazed at him, astounded that his noble tongue
  could utter the name. Then she actually and gracefully "fell"
  for the dinner, lured by the bait of the post-prandial coffee
  with the distinguished trio, and the Philadelphia aunt kept
  things going serenely. She is a delightful person and will be a
  perfect companion for your mother when--you know when--when she
  needs one--and I no longer do!

("There never was a man who said things like Duke!" interpolated Dolly
ecstatically.)

  All would have gone swimmingly to the end had not a page
  suddenly entered the room bawling: "Mr. Hogg wanted at the
  telephone: Mr. Hogg? Telephone message for Mr. HOGG!"

  Only capitals can give an idea of the volume of voice. My
  ear-drum, grown painfully sensitive since I met your mother,
  echoed and reëchoed with the tone as I threaded my way through
  the crowded room, followed by every eye, while I imagined people
  saying: "I wonder if he's called to the stockyard?" (It is
  queer, but I never felt this way in Oxford, for they still
  remember Hogg, the Scottish poet, and I hung myself to his
  revered coat-tails.)

  The telephone message was from my secretary, and healed my
  wounded vanity, for it came from the British Embassy conveying
  the thanks of the Foreign Office for Mr. Hogg's friendly and
  helpful action in conducting negotiations for the chartering of
  ex-enemy ships lying in South American ports.

("You see what he is!" exclaimed Dolly, looking up from the letter
with eyes full of unshed tears! "Of course he has five or six
superiors in office but I suppose really that Duke's extraordinary
talent keeps that whole shipping board going! You mark my words,
Charlotte, when Duke gives up his position and goes to Plattsburg
there'll be an absolute slump in that office! But just hear what
follows; it is so discouraging!")

  But when, glowing with the delight that always comes to me when
  I have any little tribute to lay with my love at your charming
  number-three feet, when I returned to my table your mother had
  gone to her room and the Philadelphia aunt remained to explain
  that she had been taken suddenly ill.

  "It will all come right, Mr.--my dear boy!" she said. "My sister
  has one weakness, an abnormal sensitiveness to public opinion.
  She thinks constantly what people will say of this, that, or the
  other trifling thing, and in that way perpetually loses sight of
  the realities of life. There is a great deal of good in her that
  you have never seen because for the moment she is absolutely
  obsessed by her objection to your name and her conviction that
  Dorothea might and should marry a title. My sister married
  Reginald Valentine more for the effect on her future
  visiting-card than anything else, but Dorothea's father
  bequeathed his good looks, his sunny disposition, his charm, and
  his generous nature to his daughter. You have chosen wisely, my
  dear Mr.--boy, but not more wisely, to my mind, than Dorothea
  has!"

  So it ended, but I somehow hope that I may have converted your
  mother from an enemy alien to an armed neutral!

"There is nothing more of--of--general interest," said Dolly
tearfully, as she slipped the letter in the envelope. "Aunt Maggie is
a trump. Oh, Charlotte! if only you had ever had a love-problem like
mine and could advise me! Duke always wondered that you never
married."

(Dorothea ought to be cuffed for impertinence, but she is too
unconscious and too pretty and lovable for corporal punishment.)

"Perhaps there may still be hope even at thirty!" I said stiffly.

"Oh, I didn't mean that! You might have anybody by lifting your
finger! We only wonder you've never lifted it! But you could be happy
only with a very learned and prominent man, you are so clever!"

"I'm clever enough to prefer love to learning, if I have to choose,
Dolly, my dear."

"I'm so sorry you didn't get a letter, Charlotte," said the girl,
snuggling sympathetically to my side on the bench.

This was more than flesh and blood or angel could bear!

I kissed her, and, shaking her off my shoulder vigorously, I said, as
I straightened my hat: "As a matter of fact, Miss Valentine, I have
had a letter every day since we left New York; a letter delivered
before breakfast by the steward. You have had but one, yet you are
twenty and I am thirty!"

"_Charlotte!_"

"Don't add to your impudence by being too astonished, darling," I
continued. "Come! let's go and pick bananas and pineapples and
tamarinds and shaddocks and star-apples and sapodillas!"

"I won't budge a step till you tell me all about it!"

"Then you'll grow to this green bench and have to be cut away by your
faithful Marmaduke!"

"Is it a secret?"

"It doesn't exist at all for you. You are not of age, Dolly."

"I'm old enough to know the things one can learn by heart!" was
Dolly's comment.

When the Diana was leaving St. Thomas at sunset and we were well on
our way to St. Croix, Dolly made a half confidence.

"You are not my chaperon, Charlotte, because in my hour of need I
simply fastened myself to you like a limpet, or an albatross, or a
barnacle, or any other form of nautical vampire that you prefer.
Still, I might as well confess that I cabled to Duke, or wirelessed,
or did something awfully expensive of that sort at St. Thomas while
you were having that interminable talk with the captain, who, by the
way, is married and devoted to his wife, they say."

"That was foolish and extravagant, my child," I answered. "I don't
know what you said, but I have the most absolute confidence in your
indiscretion. I hope you remembered that all messages are censored in
war-time?"

"I did, indeed," she sighed. "I was never so hampered and handicapped
in my life, but I think I have outwitted the censors. I wish I were as
sure about--mother!"

                   *       *       *       *       *

                                             S.S. Diana, January 26

St. Croix was delightful, with a motor-ride across the island from
Frederikstad to Christianstad, where we lunched.

Dolly's mind is not in a state especially favorable for instruction,
but I took a guidebook, and, sitting under a wonderful tamarind tree,
read her Alexander Hamilton's well-known letter describing a West
Indian hurricane, written from St. Croix in 1772.

We were with a party of Canadian acquaintances made on shipboard and
greatly interested in our first visits to sugar plantations. Vast
cane-fields of waving green stretched mile after mile on the right and
on the left, making it seem incredible that a Food Commissioner need
beg the sweet tooth to deny itself in the midst of such riotous
plenty.

There was a dazzling glare from the white buildings of the town and
the coral roads, but the moment we reached the outlying country all
was verdant and restful. The beautiful hard roads ran like white
ribbons over velvet hills and through rich valleys; tall windmills,
belonging to the earlier days of sugar-making, rose picturesquely from
the magnificent palms and other shade-trees; there were brilliant
flowers and blossoming vines breaking through hedges here and there,
and acres of pineapples and orange groves. Truly, our Canadian
companions might wish us luck in our new possessions!

                   *       *       *       *       *

                                                   Later in the day

We have left the Virgin Islands now and at dawn we neared St. Kitts,
of the Leeward group, anchoring a half-mile away from the landing and
putting passengers ashore in the small boats that ranged themselves
near the steamer. There was a very bedlam of chatter, argument, and
recrimination among the black boatmen, mounting at times to furious
invective in a patois we failed wholly to understand, for though the
majority of the natives speak English on all the islands, whether
Dutch, French, or British, they use a language of their own vintage on
these undress occasions. I could see Dolly's bright head and laughing
eyes peeping through her porthole, nodding good-morning to me as I
viewed the scene from my own little stateroom opposite hers.

The St. Kitts boatmaster was a superb personage in white linen uniform
and cap. He stood at the top of the steps lowered from our steamer to
the ocean, and from that serene height of power commanded his
clamorous and refractory legions.

It was his voice that called me irresistibly from my berth and kept my
ears, as well as my eyes, glued to the porthole of my cabin. It was a
deep, rich barytone, as full of color as his own native skies and sea.
The white cap set off his dark skin, and a pair of eyes that shot
lightnings of authority gleamed from under his vizor. He ought to have
been singing the "Pagliacci" prologue at the Metropolitan Opera House,
but instead he was calling resonantly (his private megaphone seemed to
be located in his own throat): "_Don't crowd, Edward.... Push in,
Victoria.... Get away, George.... Come nearer, come nearer, Mary....
Show your number, Albert, or meet me in court to-morrow at eleven!_"

As a matter of fact, these were the names painted on the boats
crowding and jamming their way to the most favorable places for
securing passengers or freight; but the quality of his voice made it
seem as if, in calling Victoria, Edward, George, Mary, and Albert, he
were summoning a corporeal bevy of kings and queens to do his instant
bidding. The excitement reached its climax when an aged bishop
descended the stairway, which was under some circumstances as perilous
as a ladder. The bishop's quaint hat and gown and hood of various
colors made him seem like a benign figure in comic opera; and perhaps
because of his dignity or his multiplicity of luggage, all the boats
ardently desired him as a passenger. Two green boxes, carrying much
information painted in white on the sides, gave us all details of his
rank, ancestry, and place of residence. These were projected down the
stairway and then followed an imposing procession of servitors bearing
potted plants, packages done up in linen cloth, baskets of eggs,
limes, lemons, grapefruit, a canary in a cage, some white mice, and a
Persian cat; the last three, it is needless to say, being in separate
crates.

Majestic being, that St. Kitts boatmaster; never more impressive than
when he successfully landed a bishop of the isles! Dolly and I
recalled the "Admirable Crichton" in Barrie's whimsical play, who, as
butler in a titled English family, was wrecked with the entire
household on a desert island. It needed only the emergencies of
twenty-four hours to establish him as the dominant intellectual force
and the practical governor of the sadly inefficient earls, countesses,
ladies, and honorables; and before long he assumed the authority
properly belonging to him. That the earl's daughter finally fell in
love with him seemed not so much dramatic license as a tribute to his
obvious superiority. In London the lady would have been criticized as
marrying beneath her; on the desert island it actually appeared as if
she were doing particularly well for herself; indeed, Dolly confessed
that though she would prefer marrying Marmaduke Hogg she would rather
be wrecked in the company of the St. Kitts boatmaster.

                   *       *       *       *       *

                                     S.S. Diana, Sunday, January 27

After breakfast, on our way to anchor at Antigua for the night, we saw
in the distance the towering cone of Nevis, the "Gorgeous Isle" of
Alexander Hamilton's birth and the famous scene of Lord Nelson's
marriage. It has fallen from its proud estate of former years into
poverty and neglect, but it is still marvelously beautiful to the eye.
We sat on deck reading, or at least glancing drowsily over the pages
of our books to the sapphire sea and the emerald forests of the island
shores with a never-ceasing delight. There were three Roman Catholic
priests on board, also four Protestant missionaries, one of them with
a wife and a family of charming children--Samuel, Naomi, Esther,
Daniel. Piously they were named and never once did they bring contempt
on the Holy Scriptures! From below in a far end of the boat we could
hear echoes of gospel hymns in some little cabin where a
Sunday-morning service was being held.

Dorothea gave a deep sigh.

"It is all so peaceful, Charlotte! One day just like another and all
beautiful and tranquil. We haven't seen anybody hurry since we left
New York. Do you remember Rudyard Kipling saying, when he came back
there after a long absence, that he was afraid to step slowly lest the
man behind him should walk up his back? Nobody ever seems nervous in
these islands. The natives can be ragged and hungry without being much
concerned. Work never appears to be a delight to them for its own
sake, but only as a means to get food. I feel slip--slip--slipping
into a heavenly state of coma. Does anything ever stir the tropics
except hurricanes and earthquakes, I wonder? How can women fight for
suffrage in this climate? How can a man be awakened to great
ambitions?"

"Alexander Hamilton was born on Nevis and passed all his boyhood and
youthful days on what is now our own St. Croix," I said.

"Yes, but he wasn't Washington's aide-de-camp nor secretary of the
treasury in the tropics!"

"True; nevertheless, when he was Nicholas Cruger's bookkeeper at the
age of twelve he wrote to an American friend: 'I contemn the groveling
condition of a clerk to which my fortunes condemn me, and I would
willingly risk my life, though not my character, to exalt my
station.... My youth excludes me from any hope of immediate
preferment, but I mean to prepare the way for futurity.' You see the
yeast was stirring, even in the tropics, Dolly!"

"Well, I feel no yeast stirring in me," she said languidly. "All the
morning I have been trying to recapture a certain 'Ode to a Cow'
written by a man of action in a country hotel where mother and I were
sojourning last summer. I could have echoed it when I first regarded
the inhabitants of these islands, and now anybody might say it of me,
for I grow more and more cow-like with every passing day. It runs this
way:


                      "'ODE TO A CUD-CHEWING COW

           "'Why, Cow, art thou so satisfied,
           So well content with all things here below,
           So meek, so lazy, and so awful slow?
           Dost thou not know that men's affairs are mixed?
           That grievously the world needs to be fixed?
           That nothing we can do has any worth?
           That life is care and trouble and untowardness?
           Prit, Cow! This is no time for idleness!
           The cud thou chewest is not what it seems.
           Get up and moo! Tear round and quit thy dreams!'"

By this time Dorothea was asleep. Her book slid to the floor, I shaded
her face with my green umbrella, pulled down her muslin frock over her
pretty ankles, and gave myself up to vagrant thoughts of her probable
future.

Sunday on shipboard is a good day for reflections and heart-searchings.
My own problem, after all, is not so baffling as Dolly's. She is as
loyal as a charming and sensible girl can be to a mother like Mrs.
Valentine, whose soul, if the truth were told, is about the size of a
mustard-seed. A frivolous, useless, bird-minded woman is Dolly's
mother; a woman pecking at life as a canary pecks at its cuttlefish,
simply to sharpen its bill. How the girl can respect her I cannot
imagine! I suppose flesh calls to flesh and she loves her without too
much analysis, but they seem to have come to the parting of the ways.
It is Dolly's highest self that is in love with Marmaduke Hogg, and I
don't believe she will sacrifice it to a maternal whim and call it
filial obedience. Perhaps the absence that makes the heart grow
fonder is working like a philter in this journey planned by Mrs.
Valentine with a far different purpose.

"Let her go with you, Charlotte," she begged me with tears in her
eyes. "I must get her away from this attractive but undesirable young
man! That absurd uncle who didn't want his name to die out must have
been a lunatic or an imbecile. Why shouldn't such a vulgar name become
extinct? And to think that my exquisite Dorothea--whose figure and
eyelashes have been remarked by royalty--to think that she should be
expected to graft herself on to that family tree of all others! To
think that she may take that name herself and, for aught we know, add
half a dozen more to the list; all boys, probably, who would marry in
course of time and produce others, piling Hoggs on Hoggs, as it were!
It is like one of those horrible endless chains that are condemned by
the government!"

I gave way to peals of laughter at this impassioned speech, evidently
annoying Mrs. Valentine, who expected sympathy. I tried to placate her
with reference to the poet of the name which had none but delightful
associations in Scotland.

"Then if they choose to defy me and marry each other, let them go and
live in Scotland!" she snapped.

"Would you have minded Dolly's marrying Lord Bacon?" I asked.

This gave her food for thought.

"No," she said reflectively, "for, of course, he was a lord, which is
something."

"But how about the associations?"

"I can't explain, but somehow they are not as repulsive to me," she
insisted. "I always think of bacon cooked, not raw, and--the other is
alive!"

As for my own difficulty, it is, after all, a conventional one. I
cannot bear the idea of marrying my employer; a man known by sight and
reputation to everybody in Washington, while I am a relatively unknown
person without fortune, kith, or kin. The thought brings to mind
sensational headlines in cheap newspapers regarding the wedding of
some aged millionaire with his youthful stenographer, and the
consequent alarms of his household; or the alliance of some scion of a
wealthy house with a trained nurse of obscure lineage and vaulting
ambition. I am all alone in the world, and though my father, who died
when he was only five and twenty, left me but the barest support, I
have gloried in my independence and rejoiced in my modest successes.

My people on both sides were of good stock. Even the Winthrops could
climb my family tree and find no bad fruit on it, but the world will
say: "What a splendid match for Charlotte Clifford." ... "I wonder how
Ellen Winthrop will take it?" ... "I shouldn't have thought Clive
Winthrop would marry his secretary, somehow, though there's nothing
against her; but he could look higher!"

The world would be quite right. It is a splendid marriage for
Charlotte Clifford, and Clive Winthrop could look higher. He is my
superior and that is the reason I love him. That he loves me proves
that there is something in me that will rise to his level. All the
same, I wrote him when I came away that I could never cross the bridge
between us (there is a bridge, although he does not see it) until I
was no longer his secretary and until I was sure his sister would
welcome me into the household that has been so harmonious and
delightful to every human being that has ever crossed its threshold.
Nobody could equal Ellen Winthrop as a hostess, with her fine,
spirited face, lovely even at seventy; her gift of repartee, her
stately manner, her simple, trailing dress, always of black or gray,
and always reaching the floor, when most of the feminine world looks,
in its best clothes, as if mounted on stilts, with a skimpy,
semi-detached tail wriggling its silly length behind! I could never
scale the heights on which the splendid Ellen perpetually dwells, but
I could sit at the foot of them and admire with all my heart, and
perhaps that attitude, if fully understood, might win her affection.

                   *       *       *       *       *

                                       S.S. Diana, January 28, 1918

At Antigua we anchored and took a steam launch to see the town, where
we visited a very fine sugar-cane factory, watching the whole process
from the cane-field to the market.

We did not land at Guadeloupe, the hour not being favorable and the
stay being too brief to compensate for the effort involved. But this
morning at eight we approached Dominica, the largest of the Leeward
group, the loftiest of the Lesser Antilles, and the loveliest--if one
could or ought to make comparison--the loveliest of the West Indian
Isles. The guidebook calls it "The Caribbean Wonderland," and Dolly
and I were not disposed to quarrel with the phrase, after hanging over
the deck-rail for an hour before breakfast and marveling at the beauty
of the view. Mountains shimmered in the distance like visions seen in
dreams, mountains like towering emeralds springing from a sapphire
sea! We passed tiny hamlets, half-hidden in lime orchards, and
cocoa-groves with yellow patches of cane gleaming here and there
against a background of forest. As we drew nearer we could see white
torrents dashing tempestuously down through green valleys, for
Dominica has a too plenteous water-supply, since in some districts
three hundred inches a year is the average rainfall. It rained seven
times in the three hours that we passed on shore, but the showers were
gentle ones, and we found generous shelter in the wonderful Botanical
Garden, where we spent most of our time.

Nature is sometimes a kindly mother; often she wears a tragic mask,
and now and then she indulges in melodrama; but I never conceived the
possibility of her having a sense of humor until we witnessed her
freakish mood in the Dominica garden. There were the usual varieties
of magnificent palms and brilliant flowering shrubs; but the joy of
joys was the Sausage-Tree, around which we walked in helpless mirth at
the incredible veracity of the imitation. It reached a goodly height,
and had a splendid girth and circumference of shade; but no factory in
Bologna or Frankfort, or any other possible birthplace of the real
article, could rival this amazing, this funny, tree in fertility. Its
product was just a trifle large, save for the omnivorous lover of
sausage; but in other respects it was a faithful copy of the
original--unless, indeed, the first sausage-maker borrowed the idea
from the tree, instead of the other way about. These vegetable
sausages hung in hundreds of strings and festoons and clusters from
the topmost to the lowest branches. Because of the way they hung, the
way they were strung, their shape and color, and the very manner in
which the skin was neatly drawn over each one and fastened, no one
possessing a sense of the ridiculous but would sit down under the tree
and laugh at the joke. Oddly enough we could find no pictorial
postcard of this phenomenon to bring home for the enlivening of winter
evenings, though we bought a capital one of the Cannon-Ball Tree, just
as unique in its way but not so absurd.

Dorothea was enchanted with Dominica, and kept exclaiming every few
minutes: "Oh, if only Great Britain would sell us this island! I think
I'd choose to live in Dominica, because if I had a sausage-tree in my
garden I should laugh every day, and the children wouldn't need any
playthings."

                   *       *       *       *       *

                                       S.S. Diana, February 1, 1918

We have had a glimpse of France through a day at Martinique. The
principal feature of our visit was a wild motor-drive up an
eighteen-hundred-foot mountain. It was a steady climb from glory to
glory, with tropical forests on every side. Our method of progress was
not quite serene, for there was not a sufficient number of cars to
satisfy the demand.

After a long wait Dolly and I took a small mongrel sort of motor that
had been refused by all the Diana's passengers. The Creole driver,
handsome, debonair, persuasive, and fluent, though unintelligible,
assured us that he had ascended and descended the mountain hundreds of
times, a fact only too obvious to one who examined his means of
transportation. None of the tires matched, and two of them looked like
wounded soldiers just home from the front, displaying patches of
adhesive plaster and bandages of cotton and woolen rags of every
color, with an occasional inset of an alien material into the rubber.
One could catch a glimpse of a tin tomato-can neatly introduced in the
place of some vital bit of machinery; a Waterbury alarm-clock figured
in an unexpected position, apparently adding its power to the engine;
and there were stout ropes, here and there, which I never observed
before in the rigging of any motor.

I hesitated to enter, for the future, though not absolutely certain,
looked full of hope and promise; but Dolly was firm and reckless. I am
ten years her senior, but still young to be called a "'fraid cat" with
impunity; so I finally mounted the vehicle. The driver gave a gay,
insouciant tap to a front tire, as much as to say: "Courage, mon
enfant! C'est la dernière fois!"--then flung himself into his seat,
and, blowing a horn, started his base-hospital up the mountain at a
breakneck pace. The motor's own horn was out of commission, but there
was a substitute by the driver's side. It was easy for him to blow it
because he had no particular use for either of his hands, his steering
being left largely to chance. Repeated expostulations in
boarding-school French only elicited a reply that sounded like: "Soyez
tranquilles, mesdames. You speak American? Bien! Leezy est
parfaitement docile!"

This conveyed no idea to me, although his broad grin convinced me that
in his own opinion it was a subtle witticism. At length, however, it
burst upon Dolly, who went off into irrepressible gales of laughter.

"You have lived so continuously in a rarefied Winthrop atmosphere,
Charlotte, that you haven't any modern vocabulary. He is telling you
the pet name of his car, to give you confidence. Nobody ever dies in a
tin 'Lizzie.' Not only is the machine indestructible, but the people
that ride in it. Isn't the driver a witty, reckless darling?"

He was, indeed; and, incredible as it may seem, Lizzie ascended and
descended the mountain in safety--though only because a kind
Providence watched over us. Then, when we had paid the reckless,
danger-proof darling twice the sum he should have demanded, we sat on
a bench in the Savanna, where we could be quietly grateful that we
were alive and watch the coming and going of the Fort-de-France
townspeople, so unmistakably French, with the bright costumes of the
women, the pose of their turbans or hats, their sparkle and chatter
and vivacious gestures.

Here in the Savanna travelers always gather to look at the marble
statue of the Empress Josephine, which is called the greatest work of
art in the West Indies. That is not fatuous praise, perhaps, but the
figure needed the hand of no master sculptor to hold the eye and
captivate the imagination. It is mounted on a huge pedestal and is of
heroic size, the white glitter of its marble enhanced by its truly
magnificent setting, a circle of towering royal palms. There she
stands, the lovely Creole woman of Martinique, forever looking at
"Trois Islets," as if she were remembering her birth in an overseer's
shack and her girlhood passed in a sugar-mill. Straightway the crowds
of native men and women chaffering in the market-place, the mothers
holding up their crowing babies to the statue, the nursemaids and
groups of playing children, all vanished, and we re-lived in spirit
poor Josephine's past, thrilling anew at the remembrance of her
romance, her triumph, and her bitter sorrow--the Creole girl who
crossed the sea to become Empress of France and share a throne with
Napoleon, but who sailed back to her island home a brokenhearted
woman.

Good-bye, Martinique, land of Josephine; and land of St. Pierre, the
scene of one of the greatest tragedies of modern times, when the fury
of Mont Pelée engulfed the growth of centuries and buried forty
thousand human creatures in its scalding lava. St. Lucia, of the
Windward group, to-morrow, and then Barbados, from whence the Diana
goes on to Demerara and returns a week or so later, so that we are
able to rejoin her, taking up our former comfortable cabins and our
much-liked captain.

                   *       *       *       *       *

                                                     S.S. Diana
                                      Between Barbados and New York
                                                    February 11

Here we are again on our homeward trip, making fewer landings and
briefer stops, principally to take on passengers and thousands of
barrels of limes.

Barbados, with its charming hotel at Hastings, was an unalloyed
delight; and Dorothea, who had determined to live in each of the
islands as it came along, would finally have transferred her
allegiance for good and all had it not seemed more loyal for an
American to choose one of our own possessions and "grow up with the
country." We found ourselves in the midst of pleasant, even
distinguished, society--British officials, ex-governors, and
judge-advocates of the various islands, English and Canadian soldiers
on sick-leave, and officers commanding the U-boat chasers in near-by
waters. Dorothea danced nightly and held court daily on the broad
piazzas, reminding me of Rudyard Kipling's fascinating heroine in an
Indian army post, who, whenever she appeared, caused the horizon to
become black with majors. Her head and heart remained true to the
absent Marmaduke--I am not so sure about her dancing feet!

Now that that experience is over, with the many others, we are at sea
and quiet again, with one tranquil day just like the other.

"What a honeymoon journey it would make, Charlotte!" said Dolly one
moonlight evening on deck. "It is so difficult to grow in knowledge of
people in New York or Washington. One doesn't even know one's self."

"All journeys must be good for honeymooners, don't you think?"

"Yes, in a way; but some places are created for lovers and newlyweds,
who are, after all, only explorers, Charlotte, forever discovering new
lands and annexing new territories."

"Yes; and sometimes falling into the hands of savages and cannibals, I
suppose."

"Yes; that must be terrible--the awakening to find that one has been
mistaken in a man!" sighed Dolly.

"I dare say we ought to worry lest men be mistaken in us; it might
happen, you know."

"Your mind is so logical, Charlotte! However, this voyage wouldn't
have to be idealized to meet the needs of honeymooners. In a Vermont
village where I sometimes stay I remember a girl who had to be married
on Sunday because she could not give up her position as
telegraph-operator till Saturday night. That was dull enough in all
conscience, but she was married in her high-school graduating dress,
and went to her grandmother's house, ten miles away, for her
wedding-journey. I think it required considerable inward felicity to
exalt that situation!"

I sat upright in my steamer chair. "Dorothea," I said sharply, "you
have been manufacturing conversation for the last five minutes--just
killing time for fear that I should ask you questions. Is there
anything on your mind? You have been absentminded and nervous for
days."

"Your imagination is working overtime, Charlotte," she answered. "We
are nearing home, that is all; and life presses closer."

I could not gainsay her, for every mile of ocean crossed makes my
heart beat faster. I seem to be living just now in a sort of pause
between my different lives. There is the heaven of my childhood in the
vague background; then the building of my "career," if so modest a
thing can be called by so shining a name; then the steady,
half-conscious growth of a love that illumines my labors, yet makes
them difficult and perplexing; and now there is a sense of suspended
activity, of waiting, with a glimmering air-castle rising like an
iridescent bubble out of the hazy future. Sometimes there are two
welcoming faces at a window and sometimes the indistinct figure of a
woman stretching out a forbidding hand, my chief's sister, who may not
want a third person in the family!

                   *       *       *       *       *

                                      S.S. Diana, February 13, 1918

Dolly went on the bridge this afternoon and stayed a half-hour with
the captain, giving no reason save that she liked to talk with him,
which seemed plausible, but did not satisfy me. At bedtime I
discovered her unpacking and laying out in her upper berth a dazzling
toilet for our landing at St. Thomas to-morrow. She blushed when I
looked in upon her.

"Do dress 'up to me,' Charlotte," she coaxed. "I don't want to be
conspicuous. Wear your gray georgette and the broad hat with the
roses."

"Why this sudden display of vanity and good clothes?"

"Hasn't your letter of introduction to Governor Oliver brought us an
invitation to luncheon at Government House?"

"Yes; but I don't suppose it is a banquet."

"Charlotte, I must confide in you."

"I should think it was about time."

"What do you mean?"

"I have known for days that you were concealing something."

"I didn't want to be secretive, but I thought it was only fair to you
to keep my own counsel. Now you can report to mother that you knew
nothing, and that therefore you couldn't interfere."

"But what have you done? You can't be secretly married--with your
chosen man in Washington and you on the vasty deep."

"No; but I'm next door to it."

"What do you mean by 'next door'? Have you a groom and a minister
waiting on the New York dock?"

"No; mother will be there, but I fear she won't bring a minister. I'm
so glad you imagined something far, far worse than I ever intended. It
shows that you are more audacious than I--though nobody would believe
it."

"I don't like your tone; but go on."

"I've been communicating rather frequently with Duke."

"So I fancied, from your changing money at every stop and doing
continual sums on paper."

"It has made me a pauper--this telegraphing in war-time. The messages
go by Jamaica or Porto Rico or Trinidad or Bermuda and lots of other
islands, and I think some of the messages must be personally conducted
straight to New York by powerful swimmers, judging by the cost."

"Go on. Don't temporize."

"I needn't repeat all of them, and in fact I haven't copies. Duke,
after he had my first telegram from St. Thomas, wired back to St.
Croix, '_You are willing to take my name. Why, after all, shouldn't I
refuse your sacrifice and make one of my own by taking yours?_' Wasn't
that noble?"

"It would have softened the heart of a suffragette or a feminist. What
did you reply?"

"I said: '_Never in the world!_'"

"'Never' would have been enough. You wasted three words at a dollar or
so apiece."

"I wanted to be strong. I said: '_Never in the world! I am not going
to have you criticized and nagged and made unhappy, as if your name
were a crime!_' Then he wired: '_But it would remove objections, and
cost only six thousand a year._' I had to wait two whole days and
nights before I could cable: '_Objector will surely meet me in New
York. She will probably forgive if we are both firm. My mind is made
up. I would rather be a you-know-what than remain a Valentine._'"

"That was strong enough."

"I meant it to be. He has been scurrilously treated, and somebody must
stand by him. Now, to-morrow, February 14th, is his birthday. I
remember it because we met on St. Valentine's day, and it wasn't many
hours afterward that I guessed how he felt about me."

"Dorothea! Do you mean to tell me that a man spoke to you of his
feelings within twenty-four hours of the time you met?"

"No, I do not."

"You certainly intimated as much. If it wasn't many hours after you
met on the 14th it must have been on the 15th."

"No, you are wrong, Charlotte. It was the evening of the same day. We
met in the early morning."

"It sounds like a children's party with an exchange of those
snapping-mottoes."

"Duke is nearly twenty-eight, you know, Charlotte; so it is simply
nonsense to jeer at him. You ought to be able to imagine what sort of
things would be said between two persons mutually attracted to each
other--when you remember that he was born on February 14th and my name
is Valentine. The coincidence simply put ideas into our heads; but I
won't go on if you don't sympathize."

"I don't actually disapprove, not at heart. Now, what has his birthday
got to do with to-morrow and St. Thomas?"

"Why, I cabled him as soon as we arrived at Barbados: '_What would you
like for a birthday present from the West Indies?_' I knew that he
would remember we met on St. Valentine's day and an answer could reach
me at St. Thomas."

"Couldn't you buy him a souvenir without inquiring at great expense
what he'd prefer?"

"Ye-es; but I thought it was a nice, affectionate question."

"Well?"

"Well, he cabled one word, Charlotte."

"I guessed that the moment you quoted your message. When you asked:
'_What shall I bring you from the West Indies?_' Duke promptly
answered, '_Yourself._'"

"Charlotte, you are positively uncanny! How did you manage to hit upon
it?"

"It doesn't take as much intellect as you fancy. You are as
transparent as a plate of glass. Well, when he said '_Yourself_,' how
did you answer him?"

"It's the only thing I don't like to tell you, but I must. I reflected
a full half-hour at Barbados. It was one of those heavenly moonlight
nights not suitable for reflection. Then I wrote a message and sent it
to the office by one of the colored waiters so that the hotel people
shouldn't read it. It said" (and here she turned her face away from
me): "'_Deliveries from the West Indies are uncertain and expensive;
come and get me._'--Do you think that was forward?"

I laughed irresistibly and a long time. "It certainly was not
backward, but it was delicious," I said at length, wiping the tears
from my eyes. "However, he seems as impetuous and tempestuous as you,
so perhaps it doesn't matter."

"You see, Charlotte, I knew that probably he couldn't meet this boat
to save his life, so I was willing to say, '_Come and get me_,' just
for fun. I hadn't the slightest clue as to when he would receive my
message or the sailing dates of steamers from New York, everything is
so changed in war-times. I know only that the time is slipping away,
and Duke may leave the Shipping Board at any moment for the
training-camp. I intend to have one brief, straightforward talk with
mother, and declare my purpose. We are going to get your Mr. Winthrop
to intercede for us, too. I shall be of age in March, and I don't
intend to let a mere name stand between me and happiness."

"I think you are right, and that your mother will finally agree with
you; but I still don't see the need of an unusual toilet for
to-morrow."

"It's for the Governor," said Dolly, "and one never knows what may
happen."

"If a bromidic remark may also be cryptic, Dorothea, you have achieved
the combination. Now I must ask you a direct question, for, although I
am not your keeper, but your friend, I am not disposed to let you do
anything reckless. Why did you put that idea into Duke's head--the
idea of meeting you in St. Thomas?"

"I wanted to talk things over before seeing mother. I knew I could
trust him. He has some elderly cousins and a sister-in-law; surely,
between them, he could find somebody to bring along with him; and I
have you, safest and wisest of Charlottes! Duke is one of the legal
advisers of the Shipping Board. Why shouldn't he have business in
these islands? Besides, it is a practical impossibility that he should
be able to reach St. Thomas on a given date."

"Then why did you suggest it?"

"I think, Charlotte, it must have been empty-mindedness."

"I regard it as a pure lack of self-control."

"I've practiced self-control for one whole, endless year."

"You have practiced filial obedience, I grant that. But what good do
you expect to achieve if Duke does surmount the insurmountable and
meet you to-morrow?"

"What good?" Dolly almost shrieked the question. "What good, do you
ask? You callous, cold-hearted Charlotte! Why, four heavenly days
spent in his society, to be sure--with you and his chaperon having a
lovely time together somewhere not too near."

"And you haven't any sneaking idea of marrying him in St. Thomas?
Because I won't allow it."

"No such luck! He wouldn't let me, unless mother's attitude has been
miraculously changed."

"Well, I can only say that you have made me very nervous and
uncomfortable, Dolly," and I prepared to leave her cabin and cross the
narrow space that divided it from mine.

"Darling Charlotte!" Here she drew me back. "If you are nervous and
uncomfortable, it seems that you think there's a bare chance that Duke
will be in St. Thomas."

"I know nothing about the possibilities," I replied. "He might
persuade the Shipping Board that he could be of use in this vicinity,
and, of course, he would have advantages not possessed by ordinary
tourists."

"If you had had any experience with shipping boards, Charlotte, you
would know that they can only be moved by chloroform or dynamite.
Besides, Duke would never do anything underhanded; he is too
patriotic; though, of course, he is inventive."

"Of course! And inventiveness is only one of his gifts, while his
virtues are those of Sir Galahad, King Arthur, Marcus Aurelius,
Abraham Lincoln, and a few others."

"Charlotte, I don't want to seem harsh, but I hope some time you will
get a faint inkling of what love really is. Your heart reminds me of
the Rock of Gibraltar!"

"One doesn't wear the Rock of Gibraltar on one's sleeve, at all
events," I remarked.

"Do you mean that if you ever did have a love-affair you wouldn't
confide in me, when I adore you so, Charlotte?"

"I mean something of the sort, my child." At which she made a feint of
beating me with her little silver hair-brush, but ended in kissing my
cheek and whispering: "Good-night! You are a darling, even if you have
no sentiment."

                   *       *       *       *       *

Morning came. We anchored outside St. Croix at five o'clock; went
through medical inspection at six, and if there was anything the
matter with Dolly's heart or mine the physician did not offer any
comment. Then about ten we approached St. Thomas for the second time.

If the Virgin Islands looked beautiful when we first saw them, they
had grown in beauty during our brief absence, and my birthplace, in
the shining distance, was a very dream of loveliness. We saw its
outline rising above a rim of azure sea, with the mountains of Porto
Rico standing out to the westward. The great palm groves on the shore
led the eye upward to the green hills and the clouds topping the
higher peaks. Gayly painted boats began to come near the Diana, and
naked diving boys, slender shapes of brown mahogany, plunged into the
sea to catch our pennies. Then we saw the red roofs of Charlotte
Amalia, the little park near the landing, and the pink, toy-like
fortress with the Stars and Stripes floating over it.

Dorothea and I stood near the deck-rail, her hand in mine. In her
white dress, her broad hat wreathed with corn-flowers, and a scarlet
sunshade, she looked a youthful Columbia, so radiant and bewitching
that for the first time I secretly hoped Marmaduke Hogg might triumph
over the obstacles in the way and come to meet his ladylove, although
I saw many embarrassing and awkward situations arising from such a
meeting. I could not be jealous of so bright and joyous a creature,
and anyway my own happiness was only a few days distant, if I chose to
put out my arms and take it.

There seemed to be a crowd on the dock, which was made most
unattractive by a colossal mountain of coal that concealed everything
behind it. The Diana made a slow approach, but we finally passed the
coal-heap and came within thirty feet of the shore. I could feel
Dolly's heart beat through her pulse that lay under my hand. Then
suddenly her quick eyes searched the outer edge of the crowd and found
the shape they were looking for.

"I think I see him! I think I am going to faint, for I didn't really
expect him! Yes; I know it is he, though he is wearing summer clothes
that I never saw before. Look, Charlotte! Away back near that grove of
cocoanut-trees! He's with other people--I knew he would find somebody!
Give me the glasses. There's an elderly man in a Panama hat, and two
ladies, and--why, Charlotte, take the glasses yourself. It can't be,
but it looks like your Winthrop!"

My hand trembled so that I could hardly hold the glass. I could
scarcely believe Dolly's eyes or my own; but the Diana crept nearer,
and it was true! Inch by inch the picture grew clearer, and then a
pathetic surprise met my gaze.

I could see Clive plainly now, and felt that he was searching the line
of passengers on the Diana's deck to find me. My heart gave a furious
leap to think that a man like my chief would look for only one woman's
face in that crowd, and regard it, with all its blemishes, as a
precious thing.

Duke had separated himself from the little group and was swinging his
hat to Dorothea; but I could not explain why the two men were not
standing nearer together and what was the meaning of the wheeled
chair, with the nurse's head rising above the back. The identity of
the person in the chair was hidden by a tiny black frilled parasol
with a handle bent in the middle so that it could be used for a
shield. Did I know that little old-fashioned sunshade? I did! It was
the property of some one whose belongings had a certain air of
difference from those of other people. She lifted it at last, as we
came close to the dock, and I met Ellen Winthrop's affectionate,
welcoming glance. Her eyes swam in unshed tears, and mine were so wet
I could see only dimly that her beautiful hair was a shade whiter, her
face paler and thinner, that she had aged mysteriously in a month, and
the hand that was holding the parasol trembled like a leaf. She had
been very ill; there was no doubt of that. She had been ordered a
voyage, and I felt that she had chosen this one because she knew
Clive's wish. That meant she was willing to welcome me into the heart
of the family; perhaps even that she wished to help me fit myself to
take her own unique place in her brother's life. Oh, what joy to feel
that I could not only take freely all that my chief wanted to give me,
but that I could be of real service to her!

Down the precipitous landing-steps we went, Dolly, as usual, well in
the front. Clive and Duke were at the foot awaiting us, and, as we
felt a sense of safety in the midst of strangers, Dolly flung herself
at once into Duke's arms, while all the male watchers on deck or dock
gazed at him with envy. Finding myself unobserved in this spectacular
tableau, I could give Clive my own greeting as my heart dictated,
while I told him that his sister's presence answered my last doubt.

When Dolly withdrew from the embrace of her adoring swain--rosy,
joyous, unabashed--she adjusted her hat from its perilous position on
one side of her head, and gazed upon Clive and me with unflattering
astonishment mixed with awe.

"You, too, perfidious Charlotte! You needn't deny it; I saw you
both--just finishing!"

"Not at all, Miss Valentine," laughed Clive, putting out his hand to
shake hers. "We were, in fact, only just beginning."

"And to think I never suspected, when I might have known that you are
the only man in the world learned enough and good enough for
Charlotte."

"You were too absorbed in your own affairs to think about mine,
missy," I said. "Now, will you be modest and grateful for the rest of
your life, since you see that my Mr. Winthrop has brought your young
man to St. Thomas in a discreet manner that you never could have
achieved by yourself? Take me to your sister, Clive; I want her to
know without a moment's delay how I appreciate her coming with you."

"She has been terribly ill, Charlotte. For ten days after you left it
was almost hopeless, but at length she rallied, and since the doctor
insisted on a change of climate her whole heart was bent on coming
here. She has long suspected our feeling for each other, and you will
be such a joy to her as well as to me, my dear."

"It makes me so happy, so happy!" I faltered, my eyes swimming with
tears. "I was so unwilling to take all and give so little--now it will
be more!"

"Don't go off by yourselves," said Dolly. "Be dignified and
indifferent, like us. Take Mr. Winthrop's arm and I'll take Duke's."
(Here she suited the action to the word.) "There's the Governor,
expecting us to luncheon and not knowing us by sight. He won't suspect
what has happened; but after saluting him and asking him to put some
more plates on the table, we'll all walk up to Miss Winthrop's chair,
and you and I will say: 'Good-morning, dear lady. Let us introduce to
you "our new possessions," our spoils of travel, our souvenirs of a
sea-voyage.' Then Duke and Mr. Winthrop will make a profound
obeisance, and all will be over."

And so it turned out! Everybody laughed and chatted; Dorothea kissed
Ellen Winthrop's hand prettily, coquetted with Clive, and began to lay
siege to the nurse's heart, while she riveted the chains by which she
held Marmaduke Hogg in bondage. She was in high spirits, but she was
distinctly nervous, and whenever she introduced her fiancé to one of
her fellow voyagers she showed a heightened color as she slid quickly
over his surname.

Presently Clive withdrew a little distance to talk with the Governor's
secretary, and Dorothea caught the captain on his way from the ship
and entangled him in a merry conversation with Miss Winthrop. This
gave Marmaduke an opportunity to take me aside. I suspected that he
wanted to confide in me that Mrs. Valentine had made one last
determined refusal to receive him as a son-in-law, and that after the
next few days of sea-voyaging we should meet an irate parent at the
landing in New York and that there would be metaphorical "wigs on the
green."

I confess in that moment, as I envisaged the recalcitrant Dolly locked
in her room and fed upon bread and water, that I wished Mr. Marmaduke
Hogg had remained in Washington, which is the scene of so many battles
that one more or less would not be obvious on the horizon. On the
contrary, his first words were a surprise.

"Miss Clifford," he said, "no one knows what Dolly and I owe to you!"

"But what have I done?" I inquired laughingly.

"Oh, a thousand things! Taken my part gently and kindly with Mrs.
Valentine; and above all, allowed Dolly to come on this journey with
you, when she was so utterly confused by her mother's objections to
our marriage that she did not know which way to turn.--It's rather a
big job for a girl to decide whether she'll break her mother's heart,
or her lover's!"

"Mrs. Valentine has no heart, save in the physiological sense," I
interrupted.

"Well, I have cut the Gordian knot," continued Marmaduke. "I don't
want Dolly to know just at first, but I have set plans in motion for
changing my name back to Forrest!"

"But you lose six thousand dollars a year!" I exclaimed.

"It doesn't matter. I am offered a New York partnership when the war
is over and it won't be very long before I make it up."

"And what about your dear old uncle?"

"That hurts me, I confess. But I think if departed spirits know
nothing of our doings, it doesn't matter, and if they know everything,
uncle must have kept an eye on Mrs. Valentine and will understand."

"I never thought of leaving the whole matter to 'uncle,'" I observed.

"I'm not shifting the responsibility; I'm simply counting on him. I
always counted on him and he always trusted me. If I could get him on
a spiritual long-distance telephone, he would see that I cannot part
an only daughter from her only mother."

"Yes, I've often thought only children were a mistake; they bulk too
heavily in the foreground. Where there are six, each one cannot take
up so much room."

"Exactly. You see we've got to go to her mother's to dinner every
other Sunday when our cook's out. I've learned that much about
matrimony in advance."

"Perhaps you won't be invited!"

"Well, that would be even worse. Besides, she has given up her
apartment and leased a charming house."

"Does she think that you and Dolly are to live with her?"

"If she does she is mistaken, but to do her justice I don't believe
that's her idea at all. However, she is all settled and awaiting
Dorothea. The house is going to be a surprise."

"Dolly will like it; the apartment didn't suit her taste."

"A pompous butler is installed. I discovered all this when I went to
call, and conscientiously told her I was going to St. Thomas with the
Winthrops. He is elderly, of course, as all the middle-aged and young
butlers are in khaki; and wonderful to relate, there is also an aged
but well-preserved footman. He dwells on the lower floor, and
communicates with the butler on the floor above, where the drawing-
and dining-rooms are, by means of a speaking-tube. The moment the
footman approached me with his 'What name, sir?' and bawled 'MR.
HOGG!' through the tube, the butler repeating it resonantly to the
boudoir where Mrs. Valentine was sitting; at that moment I knew why
she had taken the house. It was for the speaking-tubes! I have never
before seen a small house in Washington with these annunciators. The
butler and footman were engaged for the same purpose, that of bawling
'MR. HOGG' whenever I called upon Dolly. After my interview with Mrs.
Valentine, which was placid, for she thanked me coldly for telling her
of my proposed journey and said she should go herself, but imagined
that the steamers were small and uncomfortable, and the food
villainous; however, we would talk the whole matter over in New York
and come to some decision; she then went to the speaking-tube and
called, 'Brown! Ask Jenkins to show Mr. Hogg out, please!'

"I left the lady and went at once to Clive Winthrop for advice and
began the process of amputating my surname. Perhaps I shall not call
at the X Street house till the wedding is over, and when the footman
asks: 'What name, sir?' I shall say: 'My bachelor name, as you may
remember, was Hogg, but I am now married and it is Forrest!'"



PHILIPPA'S NERVOUS PROSTRATION


A STUDY IN NOBLENESS

                                           Stanwood Sanitarium,
                                          Mapleton, Pennsylvania,
                                                          June,19--

FIRST WEEK

                                                             Monday

The door has just closed behind one of the most eminent physicians in
the State, and I am no longer Philippa Armstrong, but a case of
neurasthenia, an inmate of Room Number 17, which has a yellow placard
over its entrance; a placard announcing that no callers are allowed
within, save with the special permission of Dr. Levi Stanwood. At
present the placard is the only thing I enjoy about the institution;
that, at least, promises peace; at all events, such peace as can be
found outside of one's own soul.

I am counseled to have complete rest, cheerful surroundings,
abstinence from newspapers and letters, sound sleep, careful and
nourishing diet, freedom from anxiety, gentle tonics, with electrical
and other treatments underlined upon a printed list.

The head physician (who is a genius in the way of diagnosis, seeing
through the human system as if it were plate glass) has made a careful
study of my symptoms and written my Cousin Sarah that all I need is
six or eight weeks of his care to be quite myself again.

How little they understand us women, after all--poor, blind,
unsuspicious doctors! My heart-beats, my color, my temperature, my
pulse, my blood pressure, even my tongue, all these have told no tales
to the scientific eye, and as it was literally impossible for Dr.
Stanwood to discern my malady, it was equally beyond him to suggest a
remedy. As a matter of fact, all I need to make and keep me well is
large and constant doses of Richard Morton, Esq., of Baltimore; but
who would confess that to a doctor?

Cousin Sarah does not suspect the state of things, the gentleman
himself is, I trust, quite ignorant, and the doctor will waste upon me
all the wealth of curative agencies at his command without effecting
the least change in my condition.

Richard Morton is an orphan; so am I. He is young, strong,
good-looking, clever, and poor. I am the first, second, and fifth; as
to one's own beauty and cleverness it is difficult to speak
impartially.

I have thought for nearly six months, and indeed I am still inclined
to think, that Richard Morton loves me, and I was equally certain,
until a few weeks ago, that he was only awaiting a suitable
opportunity to declare his love and ask me to marry him. I had made up
my mind, whenever he should put the important question, to answer him
frankly and joyously in the affirmative; not because he is the
handsomest or most brilliant or most desirable person in the world,
but because for sheer lovableness and husbandliness he is unsurpassed
and unsurpassable.

In March Cousin Sarah made a visit to Germantown and met there a Mrs.
Taunton, Richard Morton's widowed aunt. When the intimacy had
progressed sufficiently Mrs. Taunton told Cousin Sarah one day that
she hoped her nephew would eventually marry a certain Amy Darling, a
near neighbor of hers; that Miss Darling's father and Richard's had
been friends from boyhood; and that they had always planned a marriage
between the two young people, each an only child.

Of course, Mr. Darling, who died only this winter, did not indulge in
any such melodramatic or bookish nonsense as setting down commands or
desires in his will, nor were any of his bequests dependent upon them.
He did talk with his daughter, however, during his last illness, and
he did leave Richard Morton a letter expressing his regard and
confidence, and saying that as his daughter was entirely without
relatives he should have felt much happier had he seen her married
before his death. If he had stopped there all would have been well,
but he went on. He knew, he said, that Amy was one of the sweetest and
most attractive girls in the world, and if a mutual affection should
grow out of her acquaintance with Richard he would be glad to know
that the fortune he had made by his own energy might be a basis for
the future prosperity and business success of his old friend's son.

Cousin Sarah came home from Germantown quite excited by this romance
and discussed it with me daily, in exasperating unconsciousness that I
could feel the least distaste for the subject.

"It seems almost providential, Philippa," she said, over her
knitting.

"Providential for which of them?" I asked, stabbing my sheet of music
paper with the pen, while I tried in vain to think how many eighth
notes would fill a measure.

"For both; though I was really thinking of Mr. Morton. His business is
one that peculiarly requires capital; then again he has many interests
in Philadelphia, and there is that beautiful place in Germantown with
house, stable, horses, and gardens all ready for him."

"And the girl, too; don't forget her," I responded. "Though some men
don't care for these ready-to-wear wives; they prefer to look about
and to choose."

"He would have to look a long distance before he found any one to
compare with Miss Darling, either in beauty or suitableness," said
Cousin Sarah, thereby injecting the first drop of poison in my blood
and starting me on the downward path toward nervous prostration.

"Miss Darling is a man's woman," she continued, unconsciously giving
me another push; "the type with which neither you nor I have anything
in common, but which we know to be irresistible."

Now Cousin Sarah is fifty-five, thin, angular, erect, uncompromising.
I love and respect her, but do not care to be lumped with her in
affairs of the heart, at least not for thirty years to come; and
although I think it is disgusting to be labeled a "man's woman" it is
insufferable to be told that one is _not_!

"I can see Amy Darling in my mind's eye," I ventured; "blonde, dimply,
fluffy as to head, willowy as to figure so as to cling the better,
blue eyes swimming in unshed tears, and a manner so exquisitely
feminine that she makes all the other women in her vicinity appear
independent and mannish. But not all men care for pets, Cousin
Sarah--some of them prefer companions."

"A pet _is_ a companion," remarked Cousin Sarah casually as she left
the room, giving me thereby an entirely new and most unpleasant
thought.

I have known Richard Morton for many months, and although I have met
him very often at other places, he has been a constant visitor at our
house. If he has had any resemblance to a possible suitor why hasn't
Cousin Sarah discovered it? Is _she_ deaf and blind, or have my ears
and eyes played me false? Am I so undesirable that it would never
cross her mind that a man might fall in love with me? Hardly, for she
is well aware that several men have expressed their willingness to
annex my poverty-stricken charms.

As I look back upon the weeks that followed the interview with Cousin
Sarah I see that Richard was never the same after he received Mr.
Darling's letter. I felt a nameless difference. It was not only that I
saw him less frequently, but that he gave me less of himself when I
did see him. I, too, was on guard and never succeeded in being quite
natural. I am not so foolish as to give up to another girl a man who
loves me, simply because she is rich. The thought that worries me
night and day is this: if at the moment he only feels for me
friendship, ought I to let it grow into love when there is another
woman who could give him with herself everything he needs to assure
his career? With Philippa Armstrong for a wife he will have to work
unceasingly, and unless fortune is particularly kind he may not
achieve a large success for many years. If he marries Amy Darling
(soft, silly, spineless little name!) he has house, lands, and money,
all the influence of her father's former business associates, and has,
besides, carried out his own father's wishes.

This is considerable; quite enough to make a man reflect and
vacillate, unless he is so deeply in love already that no temptation
is strong enough to assail him.

Richard Morton, I know, likes to dance with me, sing with me, golf
with me, talk with me, consult with me about his affairs, write
letters to me; and more than that, he doesn't like to have other men
usurp these privileges; but I am not prepared to say that he would
pine away if circumstances removed me altogether from his path. At any
rate, these perplexities have been too much for my peace of mind, and
when Richard Morton announced that he had business which would keep
him in Philadelphia for a month I began to feel physically ill and
unable to bear Cousin Sarah's sympathy, her curiosity, even at last
her proximity. When the doctor advised my coming here to this quiet,
restful place I eagerly embraced the opportunity simply because I
could be alone, and because I need not meet Richard until he had
enjoyed a full month of Amy Darling's society, either succumbing to
its fascination or resisting it, as the case might be.

Would it be nobler of me to give him up before he is really mine,
knowing that in this way I am advancing his worldly interests? This is
the question that I hope solitude will help me to answer, but its
complications and side-issues are so many that I feel dazed by their
number and their difficulty. I went to sleep last night echoing the
old negro's prayer: "Thou knowest what's about right, Lord. Now do
it!"

                   *       *       *       *       *

                                                            Tuesday

8 A.M.--Nurse gives me an alcohol bath.

8.30--She takes my pulse and temperature and enters them in the
Bedside Record Book, afterwards reading me my diet-list. It seems I do
not belong to the favored class, which, to be cured, is stuffed with
pleasant things to eat; my symptoms demand a simple, unexciting bill
of fare.

9 o'clock--Breakfast.

Fruit in season.

(This is its only name, but everybody knows it
by sight.)

Poweretta Grits with Cream.
Graham Muffins.
Wheatoata Process Coffee.

10.30--Hot fomentations.

11.15--Drop of blood extracted from ear and subjected to examination.

11.30--Glass of Certified Milk.

12--Visit from physician.

1--Dinner.

Barley Broth.
Lamb Chop--Hominy or Rice.
Bread-and-butter Pudding
Custard Sauce.

2 to 3--Silent hour.

3.30--Static electricity.

4.15--Weight taken.

4.30--Cold pack.

5--Cup of Predigested Maltese Milk.

5.30--Visit from head nurse.

6.30--Supper.

Cornetta Mush.
Poached Egg on Whole-Wheat Toast.
Sterilized Stewed Apples--Zephyrettes.
Cup of Somnolina.
(A beverage from which everything pleasant and
harmful has been extracted by a beneficent process.)

7.30--Miss Blossom, the nurse, insists on reading to me. It is not a
good performance but it doesn't matter. I know that Dick and Amy
Darling are just starting for the theater.

8.30--Tepid sponge bath.

9--Massage.

9.30--Glass of peptonized water.

9.45--Temperature and pulse taken.

10--Lights out.

Never in all my twenty-five years of life have I passed a busier or
more exhausting day.

                   *       *       *       *       *

                                                          Wednesday

Precisely like Tuesday save for some new experiences in diet. There
was a mild process-drink called Cocoatina; Teaette also made its
appearance. There were dolls' mattresses of shredded excelsior
moistened with milk; nut salad, and Grahamata mush. I could never have
supposed so many new cereals could be invented.

          There is mush in the evening, mush in the morning,
          Mush when it's looked for and mush without warning.

It is rather like the immortal "Charge of the Light Brigade":

             Oats to the right of them,
             Corn to the left of them,
             Wheat to the north of them,
             Grits to the south of them,
             Into the Valley of Mush rode the two hundred.

                   *       *       *       *       *

                                                           Thursday

I was allowed to sit on my balcony for an hour this morning. This
would have been a pleasant change had I not heartily disliked at first
sight my next-door neighbor who was sitting on the adjoining balcony.
At noon she sent me a bunch of pansies and her card: Mrs. Grosvenor
Chittenden-Ffollette.

Among fifty or sixty attendants there are always a few who gossip in
spite of repeated warnings from the authorities. Sometimes it is a
young nurse, sometimes a masseuse, a manicure or a shampooer, but
there are always those who retail the news, mostly innocent news, of
an institution like this. Cold-packing, or rubbing, or spraying, or
electrifying, or brushing, or polishing--all these operations open the
flood-gates of speech and no damming process is effectual. Miss Phoebe
Blossom is the herald who proclaims tidings of various kinds in my
room, and there is also a neophyte in the electricity department who
is always full of information and quite unable to retain it. It would
be almost more than human to ask them to be silent when they are the
only links with the world outside. A system reduced to nothingness by
a supper of Wheatoata Coffee, Cracker-dust Croquettes, Cosmos with
milk, and a choice of Cerealina, Nuttetta, Proteinetta, or Glucosa is
in no fit state to resist gossip.

It seems that Mrs. Chittenden-Ffollette is more than a mere woman--she
is a remarkable "case," and has proved a worldwide advertisement for
this sanitarium. Dr. Stanwood has almost effected a cure; her disease
has had to be named and her symptoms have been written up in all the
medical journals. I don't know what sort of person she was before she
became a case, but she is now a greater tyrant than Caligula or
Catherine of Russia. As to her disease, she has those things that she
ought not to have, and she has not those things that she ought to
have, and there is no health in her; or at least there was not until
she came here a year ago. Now she is strong enough to perambulate in
the corridor a little while each morning or be wheeled along the
board-walk in the afternoon, and when she hears that some of the other
patients are suffering, she sneers at their modest, uninteresting
ailments and glances in at their doors with half-disguised contempt.
You know the expression of the prize dog who is borne from the show
hung with medals and ribbons--how he gazes on the little mongrel curs
that gather with the crowd in the streets?

Her name, Chittenden-Ffollette, is of as vital importance as her
medical-journal malady. When the third floor is in dire confusion; when
Mrs. Parks has hysterics and Miss Simmons is crying for her mother, and
Mrs. Bell's hot-water bottle has burst in the bed, and Miss Phipps has
discovered that the undergraduate has bandaged the wrong ankle, Miss
Blossom sometimes becomes flustered and hurried and calls her patient
Mrs. Follett, whereupon she says, "_Chittenden_-Ffoll_ette, if_ you
please!"

If by any chance she sees the Chittenden-Ffollette without the hyphen
in the Nurses' Bedside Record Book or scribbled on the morning paper
she doesn't need any stimulant the rest of the day. The omission of
the hyphen sends up her pulse and temperature to the required point
for several hours, though there is always a reaction afterward. I've
told Dr. Levi that I should name one of her complaints hyphenitis. The
occasional operation performed on the hyphen by Miss Blossom, or the
young lady at the stationery counter, might be called hyphenotomy.
Everybody detests Mrs. Chittenden-Ffollette, but as the banner patient
of the sanitarium she must be treated with respectful consideration.
All America's most skillful physicians have struggled with her
organism. They have tried to get her symptoms into line, so to speak,
so as to deduce some theory from the grand array of phenomena, but the
symptoms courteously decline to point in any one direction. When the
doctors get seven eighths of them in satisfactory relation there are
always two or three that stay out and sulk, refusing to collaborate in
any sort of harmony. They act precisely like an obstinate jury, in
that they calmly refuse to agree, and then Mrs. Chittenden-Ffollette
appeals to a higher court where flaws in the testimony are always
found, judgment is reversed, and a new trial ordered. The greatest
surgeons in Europe have left the bedsides of crowned heads to ponder
over her inscrutable mysteries, and have returned to their sovereigns
crushed and humbled. All this attention would have upset a stronger
character than hers, and now that she is in a fair way to recover, her
pride will have its inevitable fall. Though much more agreeable and
docile than when she entered, she is in uniformly low spirits. The
truth is, she liked being an unsolved mystery and she is a good deal
nettled at being found at last both soluble and curable--obliged to
live, like an ex-president, on the glories of the past.

                   *       *       *       *       *

                                                             Friday

Buckle, in his "History of Civilization," claims that men and women
are divided into three classes. The first and lowest talks of persons,
the second of things, and the third and highest, of ideas. I should
divide the human race into four, instead of three classes, and name as
the lowest those persons who discuss their symptoms. The patients here
are counseled not to do it, so the vice is reduced to a minimum, being
practiced, say, not more than three out of the fourteen waking hours.

Swinging in a hammock in a shady nook this afternoon the conversation
that floated to me under my distant tree was somewhat after this
fashion.

Mrs. A. "Once I had neurasthenia. For three months I couldn't be moved
in bed, and for nine weeks I couldn't turn my head on the pillow."

_Mrs. B._ } "Mercy!"
_Mrs. C._ } "Oh, Mrs. A.!"
_Mrs. D._ } "Good gracious!"

Mrs. E. "Cerebro-spinal meningitis is worse than neurasthenia. I had
it four years ago, and the doctor said he'd never seen a woman live
that was as ill as I was. One night my temperature was 167."

_Mrs. C._ } "Goodness!"
_Mrs. B._ } "That's pretty high!"
_Mrs. A._ } "Are you sure?"

Mrs. E. "Yes, I'm perfectly sure, or at least I think I am; I am
seldom wrong on figures."

Mrs. A. "I asked, because I've noticed here that the thermometers
register only 110, and I wondered how they measured the temperature
when it rose above that point."

Mrs. E. (huffily). "Probably they have extra long thermometers for
extreme cases."

Mrs. F. "I am glad that in this sanitarium they take the temperature
by tucking the barometer-thing under the arm. My doctor at home always
puts it under the tongue, and it is a perfect nuisance. He never gets
it well placed but that I think of something I want to say. Then, of
course, I have to keep still for three minutes, which seem three
hundred, and by that time I have either forgotten it or changed my
mind, so there I am!"

Mrs. G. "Just after my youngest child was three years old--"

Mrs. F. (interrupting). "I was going to say, when Mrs. E. spoke about
the barometer, that after I was engaged to Mr. F. I had a dreadful
attack of brain fever. I was ill in bed three months and they couldn't
touch a brush to my hair for nine days."

Mrs. D. } "Horrors!"
Mrs. E. } "Dreadful!"
Mrs. C. } "Heavens!"

Mrs. G. (bravely). "Just after my youngest child was three--"

Mrs. X. "A man patient was brought on to our floor this morning."

Mrs. S. "_Our_ floor? I wish they _would_ have separate corridors for
male patients."

Mrs. X. "This gentleman is an old friend of Dr. Levi's. His wife has
been here four weeks, and now he's been taken ill, so they've put him
next her on the first floor."

Mrs. S. "I don't care, I hate to have him near us."

Mrs. B. "Why? He's perfectly harmless; he is too ill to move."

Mrs. C. "I'm sure I wish he could! Anything to relieve this hideous
dullness. What's the matter with him, I wonder!"

Mrs. D. "I'll ask Miss Oaks when I have my hot fomentations this
afternoon; she knows everything and she's as generous as a prince with
her knowledge."

Mrs. G. (patiently). "Just after my youngest child was--"

A nurse passes through the grove, bearing a sterilized tray with
peptonized preparations on it.

Mrs. Y. (calling her). "Nurse! what's the matter with the new
man-patient on our floor?"

Nurse (discreetly). "I don't know, Mrs. Y."

Mrs. X. (as the nurse vanishes). "She does, but she's a stiff thing!
Anyway, I heard the attendants whispering about him in the corridor
before breakfast. Something--I think it's an organ--is floating about
in him."

All. "_Floating?_ What kind of an organ? Horrors!"

Mrs. X. "I couldn't understand exactly. You know people always roar if
they have nothing particular to say, but if it is interesting they
whisper. I distinctly heard the word '_floating_.' I don't know
whether it's one of his regular organs, or something he swallowed
accidentally."

Mrs. C. (plaintively). "Doctors are never satisfied. If anything
floats they want to get it stationary, and if it's stationary they
want to cut it loose."

Mrs. G. "_Just after my youngest child_--"

Mrs. B. "They say Mrs. H. is going to leave to-morrow; she doesn't
like the food or the service."

Mrs. E. "Goodness, she has all the service there is on our floor!
Nobody else gets a chance! She spends her whole silent hour pushing
the electric button."

Mrs. D. "Yes, Miss Oaks declares she 'lays' on it. She says that the
head nurse told Mrs. H. she must ring less frequently, or the bell
would be removed. Miss Oaks says the patients that pay the smallest
rates always ring the bells most. It isn't fair that a thirty-dollar
patient should annoy a whole row of eighty-dollar ones and prevent
their bells from being answered."

Mrs. X. "There's nothing made out of Mrs. H. at thirty dollars a week.
She was as contented as possible last night, but this morning she
wanted her bed in the other corner, awnings put on the windows, and
the bureau changed for a chiffonier. Come, we must all go in for
treatment--it wants five minutes of four."

Mrs. G., in despair, as she sees the occupants of the hammocks
dispersing, almost shrieks: "JUST AFTER MY YOUNGEST--"

But the ladies, for some reason or other, do not care to hear anything
about Mrs. G.'s youngest, and she is obliged to seek another
audience.

                   *       *       *       *       *

                                                           Saturday

The doctor found me "over-treated" this morning and advised a day of
quiet, with a couple of hours on the roof-garden or under the trees.

I have heard at various times sighs of weariness or discontent or pain
issuing from the room opposite mine, and this afternoon when Miss
Blossom had gone into Number 19 to sit with the haughty Mrs.
Chittenden-Ffollette I stole across the corridor and glanced in at the
half-open door of Number 18.

The quaintest girl raised herself from a mound of sofa-pillows and
exclaimed: "Why, you beautiful thing! Are you Number 17? I didn't know
you looked like that!"

"It's very kind of you," I answered, blushing at this outspoken
greeting; "but I am not beautiful in the least; it is because you do
not expect much from a person who has just crept out of bed. I don't
look any better when I am dressed for a party."

"You don't need to," she said. "Now get on my bed and cuddle under the
afghan and we'll talk till Miss Blossom comes back. Won't she beat you
for being out of your room? Why are you here? You haven't the least
resemblance to a rest cure! What is the matter with you?"

"Backache, sideache, shoulderache, headache, sensation of handcuffs on
wrists, balls and chains on ankles, lack of appetite, and insomnia."

"Is that all? Haven't you any disease?"

"I believe not," I answered humbly, "but the effect is the same as if
I had. Why are you here?" I asked in return, as I looked admiringly at
her shining brown hair, plump, rosy cheeks, and dancing eyes.

"I came here, so to speak, in response to an ideal; not my ideal--I
never have any--but Laura Simonds's. She is my dearest friend and one
of the noblest girls you ever knew. She said the separation from the
world would do us both good, and so it might if she could have stayed
to keep me company. Now she has the world and I have the separation."

"She isn't here, then?"

"No, worse luck! She is always working and planning for the good of
others, but she is constantly meeting with ingratitude and
misunderstanding. She had just brought me here when she was
telegraphed for to turn about and go home. You see she had sent two
ailing slum children to be taken care of at her house, and it proved
to be scarlet fever, and, of course, her stepmother took it the first
thing--she's a hateful person and takes everything she can get--and
then the cook followed suit. Now they blame Laura and she has to find
trained nurses and settle everything before she comes back to me."

"Then you're not an invalid? I thought you were in pain and couldn't
reach the bell. That's the reason I looked in."

"Oh, dear, no, I was only yawning! I came for what Laura calls the
healing influence of solitude, but Laura thought as the place was so
expensive, and treatment was included, we'd better take Turkish baths,
massage, and electricity, they're so good for the complexion. I have a
little table to myself in the convalescents' dining-room and haven't
made any acquaintances. I can't stand their sweetbread complexions and
their double chins. The patients are all so fat they might sing Isaac
Watts' hymn in unison: 'Much of my time has run to waist.'"

"It is not an inspiring assemblage," I agreed, "though I haven't seen
them all together, as you have."

"And they think of nothing but themselves, which is exactly what I
want to think about--myself, I mean. There's one charming girl on this
floor. Something's the matter with her solar plexus and they won't
allow her to talk, so we have had some nice conversations in the
silent hour. They've told me now I mustn't call again; it seems that I
was too exciting. Tell me something about yourself, Vashti--I am sure
that's your name, or Semiramis or Zenobia or Judith, and if it isn't
one or another of those I don't want to hear what it is, for you
wouldn't look like it."

Just here a page brought in a letter which she glanced through with an
"Excuse me, please."

"Oh, dear! Now Laura can't come to-morrow! She is certainly the most
unfortunate being in the universe. She became very much interested in
a deaf man that she met in her settlement work, and so as to give the
poor thing employment she appointed him Superintendent of the Working
Boys' Club. Now the working boys refuse to play with him and the
directors have had a meeting asking Laura to remove him at once. I do
think they might have endured him one season when I gave him a
twenty-dollar ear-trumpet, but some people are utterly unreasonable;
and here I am, in need of advice every moment, and Laura kept in the
city!"

"Haven't you any family?"

"Not a soul; have you?"

"No one but a cousin."

"I believe nobody nice and interesting has a family nowadays. Laura
has no one but an uncongenial stepmother, and that is the reason we
are so intimate. I am so giddy and frivolous, and Laura is so noble
and self-sacrificing that I try to form myself on her now and then,
when I'm not too busy."

"You live with her, do you?"

"Oh, no! I don't live anywhere in particular. Of course I have a house
and a lady housekeeper, but she doesn't count. I've been staying
mostly with a Mrs. Beckett, an old friend of my mother's. She is the
dearest and loveliest woman in the world and I can't bear to be away
from her."

"Why can't she join forces with you if you are so alone in the
world?"

"Because there's a son."

"Is he too young, or too old, to join forces?"

"No, he's just right, and he'd be only too glad to join forces, or
anything else that had me in it, but he mustn't, and that's the reason
Laura made me come here!" And with this she punched the sofa-pillows
rebelliously, looking more like an enraged Angora kitten than anything
else.

"It's your hour for cold spray," said Jimmy, the page-boy, peeping in
at the crack of the door.

"I'll come!" she responded unwillingly. "Now do steal in again," she
whispered, turning to me, "for I must talk to somebody, and if Laura
could see you I know she would think you safer than anybody here."

That afternoon, as I swung in my hammock in the grove below the
sanitarium, I looked up at its three stories of height and its rows
upon rows of windows, and wondered how many cases of neurasthenia
under its roof were traceable to a conflict between love and
conscience. "I begin to have an interest in that chatterbox neighbor
of mine," I thought drowsily, "and that, after vowing not to make an
acquaintance in this place. Love will be a side dish, not the roast,
in her bill of fare, if I am any judge of character, and why does her
Laura attempt to stem the natural tide of events? It is almost wicked
of the Fates to give such a featherhead any problems to solve; she
ought to have her what's-his-name, Beckett, if she wants him,
particularly if he wants her. As for the noble Laura, I long to make
her acquaintance. I can almost hear the uncongenial stepmother, the
feverish cook, and the infuriated directors, clamoring for a
providence to remove her from their field of vision, and substitute
some thoroughly practical and ignoble person in her stead."

                   *       *       *       *       *

                                                             Sunday

I was very happy all the morning; so happy that I forgot my tonics,
massage, and sedative tablets; but the doctor called at noon and spoke
of the wonderful way in which my system responded to his remedies, so
I said nothing.

Cousin Sarah forwarded me a letter from Richard Morton, who is
superintending some surveying near a small town in Pennsylvania. He
knows that I am not well and away from home on a visit to the country,
but, of course, he is not aware of my exact whereabouts. It was just
one of his gay, friendly letters, with an undertone of something
warmer in it. Among other things he said:

  How weak a thing is man! Now that you are so far away and I am
  exiled in a village where there is but one post a day I suffer
  pangs of hunger for a word from you. So far the one daily mail
  would have been all too ample for your desires, since you have
  not written a word as yet; but there is always the hope! I have
  been speculating to-night upon the frightful risks and dangers
  surrounding the man who is waiting for a letter. It seems to me
  the very best postal service is inadequate to take care of a
  letter from you to me! Think of the uncertainties and perils to
  which it is exposed in transit! You give it to a maid to drop in
  a pillar post-box, but she may forget and leave it in her
  pocket, or she may lose it. Or say she drops it in; it must be
  removed from the box by an ordinary human being who has no
  conception of the issues involved in the rigid performance of
  this particular duty. The letter is then taken to the branch
  office of your section, then to the general post, and then to
  the railway, where new dangers menace its precious existence.
  The train may be robbed; and if a single letter is stolen it
  will be yours to me. No man alive could resist a letter of yours
  after he had once read one.

Is there not a note of tenderness here, a note that has crept in only
during the last few months? But what if there is? It occurred to me
after dinner that the question of his feeling for me is not the only,
nor even the principal one to be considered. The point under
advisement is, shall I allow him to love me when there is something
better in store for him?

Miss Blossom had scarcely left my room this evening when I heard a
pattering step and a hurried tap on my door. On my saying "Come," my
opposite neighbor slipped in and turned the key in the lock. It was an
unconventional and amusing performance, but I didn't mind. Somehow one
couldn't mind anything with such a spoiled baby.

"Good-evening, Zuleika!" she said. "No, you needn't smile and raise
your finger at me as if you were dying to tell me your name is
Abigail! Miss Blossom has gone for the night, hasn't she? I thought
so. You know it's the nurses' ball this evening, and there's only one
attendant on duty in each corridor from now to half-past nine. May I
have this big chair by the window? I am so bored with this place that
it excites me even to think how stupid it is. I almost wish I had a
symptom or two, just by way of sensation. Did you have Somnolina for
supper? I did, and some time I shall make a scene in the dining-room
when I watch the hundred and fifty dyspeptics simultaneously lifting
cups of Teaette or Somnolina to their parched lips."

"You ought to be ashamed," I chided, "when you know almost every one
who is here needs to be put upon a diet. You wouldn't expect
champagne, terrapin, and canvasback ducks?"

"I know it; don't scold, it makes you look like Cassandra. Isn't the
moonlight enchanting, and if this weren't a health resort wouldn't it
be a heaven upon earth?"

The broad, unscreened windows were wide open and vines of woodbine or
honeysuckle framed them on every side. A lake shone like a silver
mirror in the distant landscape and the elms and maples and chestnuts
swayed in the summer breeze. Little groups chatted on the broad
piazzas, and here and there on a rustic bench in the moonlight sat a
man and a woman--two minds with but a single thought, and that thought
his or her own solar plexus.

It was an hour for confidences, and I remember that my troubled heart
cried out for a strong, tried friendship on which to draw for counsel
and sympathy. What wonder, then, that the Angora kitten, deprived of
her Laura, emptied her silky little head of some of its worries,
divining that I was older and graver and perhaps would find her lost
ball and give it to her to play with again.

"There's no telling when Laura will be here!" she exclaimed
despairingly. "When there is any duty within a thousand miles she
stays to perform it. Mrs. Beckett has poisoned herself with mercury
and Laura thinks she ought to go and nurse her for a day or two--as if
Mrs. Beckett hadn't six maids and twenty thousand a year to spend in
nurses! Laura can't bear Tom, his incurable levity gets on her nerves,
and why she wants to martyr herself by staying in the house with him
when I'd be only too glad to go, passes my comprehension!"

(I can't explain it, but at this juncture I seemed to have visions of
Laura flirting with the Beckett during the Kitten's absence.)

"Sometimes," she continued, rippling along as if natural speech had
been denied her for hours, "sometimes I wish I hadn't selected such a
superior being for a bosom friend, and then again I despise myself for
harboring such a mean feeling. I'm forever trying to climb, and Laura
is continually trying to drag me to her level, but I suppose I don't
belong there, and that's the reason I keep slipping off and sliding
down. At this minute, if she'd let me be the groveling little
earthworm I am by nature, I could marry Tom Beckett and be as happy as
the day is long."

"What is the matter?" I asked sympathetically, though rather ashamed
to drop a plummet into so shallow a brook. "If you love his mother so
dearly, and love him too, and are sure of his affection, why don't you
marry him? Isn't he suitable?"

"Oh, yes; he's almost too suitable; that's one of the lions in the
way. His family is good, he is as handsome as Apollo, and he has a
much larger income than mine, but you see there's another man."

"Another man! You didn't mention him yesterday."

"Didn't I? How funny! But after all it was our very first interview,
and even silly I have my reserves."

"Do you love them both equally?" I asked, trying to keep the note of
sarcasm out of my voice.

"Certainly not. I care nothing about anybody but Tom Beckett, but
Laura says that such a marriage will simply mean a life of
self-indulgent luxury, idleness, and pleasure. She says marriage is
something loftier and nobler than pleasing one's self; that it ought
to mean growth and development both to the man and the woman. She says
that I should have no influence on Tom, and that I need somebody
strong and serious to steady me. She says Tom and I would only frisk
through life and leave the world no better or wiser than we found it.
She even says" (and here she turned her face to the honeysuckles)--"I
don't like to repeat it, but Laura is so advanced she makes my
embarrassment seem simply idiotic--she even says that the children of
such a union would be incurably light-minded and trivial; and oh,
Zuleika, if one isn't a bit advanced in any way, doesn't it seem hard
to keep from marrying somebody you love just for the good of a few
frivolous children you've never seen in your life?"

It was neither the place, the hour, nor the subject for laughter, but
I forgot my neurasthenia and gave way to a burst of wholehearted
mirth! Every second of time seemed to increase the unconscious humor
of her point of view, and only fear of the nurse on duty in the
corridor enabled me to control myself at all.

"Have I been funny?" she asked delightedly, as she drew her head in
the window. "I never can see my own jokes, but I'm glad to have amused
you, only I did hope for a little sympathy. Everybody can't be
Zenobias and Vashtis and Lauras, superior to common weaknesses!"

"I do, I do sympathize," I said, wiping the tears of merriment from my
eyes, "and I agree with you much more than with Laura. Now the 'other
man' is, I suppose, all that is grave and reverend--a complete
contrast to the too trivial Thomas?"

"Yes, and he's as good as good can be; trustworthy, talented,
honorable, everything; you know the kind? I never get on with them."

"Does he love you?"

"Laura thinks he does, but I've no reason to suppose so. We've always
been friends, while Tom Beckett and I squabble and make up twice a
week; but anyway, even if he doesn't adore me in Tom's silly way,
Laura says I ought not to mind. She says it would be noble of me to
help him to a splendid and prosperous career, and thinks I ought to
remember how much my father wanted him for a son-in-law--you see he is
awfully poor."

At this coupling of fathers and poverty a sudden light blazed in upon
my consciousness and I sat bolt upright among the sofa-pillows. How
could I have guessed that the love-affairs of this rosy-cheeked
dumpling, the casual acquaintance of a rest-cure, could have any
connection with my own? If she hadn't been the sort of person who
confides at first sight we should have learned each other's names at
the beginning and been on guard. The truth is, I had thought of no one
but Tom Beckett in her confessions; the personality of "the other man"
had stolen into the chronicle so late in the day that I had taken no
interest in him.

"Are you Amy Darling?" I asked her plump.

"Yes, but how mean of you to pump Blossom! I wanted to go on thinking
of you as Zuleika and have you call me something imaginary and
romantic."

"I am Philippa Armstrong. Did you ever hear the name?"

"No, but it's all right; it looks like you, and it's nearly as pretty
as Zenobia. Now if Tom Beckett had only chosen you and I could have
obliged Laura by falling in love with--"

"Don't mention the other man's name!" I cried hastily; "it just comes
to me that I may have met him."

"Met Dick Morton?"

It was true then! Here was the girl whom Richard ought, for his
worldly good, to marry, and she was not a woman at all, only an Angora
kitten, and moreover a kitten in love with Tom Beckett!

"Yes, I have met him, but I only this moment suspected it!"

"Have you known him long?"

"Less than a year."

"That settles it!" she cried, leaping to her feet excitedly. "If Dick
Morton has known you for a year he won't want me and I can marry Tom!
Goody, goody, goody!"

"Stuff and nonsense!" I said quickly. "Richard Morton is only a very
dear friend."

"Stuff and nonsense yourself! No man with an eye in his head could be
a dear friend to you! And Dick Morton is the hero sort who doesn't
care for Dottie Dimples, but worships Vashtis and Zuleika-Zenobias.
Have you any money?"

"Not a penny!"

"Oh, dear! I might have known you wouldn't have, with that hair and
those eyes. Never mind! I'm certain that Dick would rather have a
pauper goddess than a rich little earthworm."

"You mustn't talk any more about the matter," I said with as much
dignity as I could muster in the midst of her laughter-provoking
nonsense, which made the most sacred subjects seem a natural matter of
discussion. "I know through Mrs. Taunton all about the
circumstances--your father's wishes and his letter to Richard. If you
can possibly love him you must accept him, advance his fortunes, and
do your duty by your father. I am determined to be as noble as Laura
Simonds in this matter and I refuse to be a stumbling-block!"

The girl fell limply into the lounging-chair.

"Oh," she said despondently, "if _you_ are going to be noble, too,
there's no use discussing the matter. What an example we shall be for
the heathen nations! You will be noble and give up Dick Morton; I
shall be noble and marry him; and be noble at the same time in giving
up Tom; Tom will be noble in suffering me to marry anybody but
himself; Dick will be noble in obliging my father and marrying me
instead of you; Laura is always noble! We could use up a whole order
of nobility among us! And it is all so silly! Do you suppose my dear
father would want four of us to be unhappy, his own daughter among
them? It's really only Laura who matters, and if you had any ingenuity
you could pacify her and persuade her that it is my duty for once to
follow my ignoble inclinations. I am afraid of her, but _you_ needn't
be! You could blaze and flash and tower, if you only would, and save
us all!"

"You seem to forget," I urged, "that Mr. Morton has never asked me to
marry him."

"That's nothing; he has probably been thinking how he could get me
nicely disposed of, or how he could earn a roof under which he could
ask you to step in wet weather. He's been too stupid and moody and
dull this last winter for any use, and now I understand him. Has he
ever seen you like this with your Rebecca-at-the-well hair down?"

"Certainly not!"

"I thought so; or he'd have forgotten the necessary roof!--Come
in!--Goodness! it's your room and I locked the door! Do excuse me;
I'll open it. A telegram for you.--Wait outside for an answer,
Jimmy."

I tore open the envelope, confidently expecting that Cousin Sarah had
been struck with paralysis; instead of which I read:

                                       Archville, Pennsylvania,
                                                        June 16

  Have this moment secured a large and important contract assuring
  two years' lucrative work. May I come to see you immediately?
  Name earliest day.

                                                          R. M.

I handed the message to the Kitten, who read it and exclaimed: "I knew
he was only waiting for the roof! You see he doesn't worry about _my_
prospects--selfish pig! Answer it and say Thursday--you can get well
by Thursday, can't you?--for I want to send for Tom on the same day.
There's a polo game at home on Saturday, and Tom has a new motor car.
Tell Dick the best hotel in the town is the Brooks House. I must wire
to Laura, too. I shall say, let me see: I shall say: '_You shouldn't
have left me. I couldn't be noble alone._' That's just ten words.
She'll understand fast enough, and it will pave the way for you when
you explain the situation to her. We'll leave the sanitarium Friday
and get your Cousin Sarah to chaperon us on the journey home. Here,
I've written my messages, now do yours--hurry! There!--Jimmy, you're
too old to play with matches, aren't you?"

"Yes, marm."

"Very well, then, you can be trusted with these two telegrams. Don't
hold them near the fire; there's a match in each of them."

                   *       *       *       *       *

SECOND WEEK

As a patient Dr. Levi says I am almost as great a credit to the
institution as Mrs. Chittenden-Ffollette herself.

Monday.--I slept all day, waking only for meals.

Tuesday.--The handcuffs slipped off my wrists and the balls and chains
off my ankles.

Wednesday.--My headache, sideache, backache, and shoulderache
disappeared. Breakfasted with the doctor on coffee, hot biscuits,
beefsteak, and griddle cakes with sausage.

Thursday.--Richard Morton came.

Friday.--Dismissed as completely cured.

"The dimensions of this mercy are above my thoughts," as Cromwell
wrote after the Worcester fight.

THE END



The Riverside Press
CAMBRIDGE · MASSACHUSSETTS
U · S · A





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