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Title: Out of the Air
Author: Gillmore, Inez Haynes, 1873-1970
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Out of the Air" ***

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



OUT OF THE AIR

BY

INEZ HAYNES IRWIN

GROSSET & DUNLAP

PUBLISHERS--NEW YORK

Made in the United States of America



COPYRIGHT, 1920, 1921, BY

METROPOLITAN PUBLICATIONS, INC.

COPYRIGHT, 1921, BY

HARCOURT, BRACE AND COMPANY, INC.



TO

BILLY AND PHYLLIS



OUT OF THE AIR



I


"... so I'll answer your questions in the order you ask them. No, I
don't want ever to fly again. My last pay-hop was two Saturdays ago and
I got my discharge papers yesterday. God willing, I'll never again ride
anything more dangerous than a velocipede. I'm now a respectable
American citizen, and for the future I'm going to confine my locomotion
to the well-known earth. Get that, Spink Sparrel! The earth! In
fact...."

David Lindsay suddenly looked up from his typewriting. Under his window,
Washington Square simmered in the premature heat of an early June day.
But he did not even glance in that direction. Instead, his eyes sought
the doorway leading from the front room to the back of the apartment.
Apparently he was not seeking inspiration; it was as though he had been
suddenly jerked out of himself. After an absent second, his eye sank to
the page and the brisk clatter of his machine began again.

"... after the woman you recommended, Mrs. Whatever-her-name-is,
shoveled off a few tons of dust. It's great! It's the key house of New
York, isn't it? And when you look right through the Arch straight up
Fifth Avenue, you feel as though you owned the whole town. And what an
air all this chaste antique New England stuff gives it! Who'd ever
thought you'd turn out--you big rough-neck you--to be a collector of
antiques? Not that I haven't fallen myself for the sailor's chest and
the butterfly table and the glass lamps. I actually salaam to that
sampler. And these furnishings seem especially appropriate when I
remember that Jeffrey Lewis lived here once. You don't know how much
that adds to the connotation of this place."

Again--but absently--Lindsay looked up. And again, ignoring Washington
Square, which offered an effect as of a formal garden to the long
pink-red palace on its north side--plumy treetops, geometrical grass
areas, weaving paths; elegant little summer-houses--his gaze went with a
seeking look to the doorway.

"Question No. 2. I haven't any plans of my own at present and I am
quite eligible to the thing you suggest. You say that no one wants to
read anything about the war. I don't blame them. I wish I could fall
asleep for a month and wake up with no recollection of it. I suppose
it's that state of mind which prevents people from writing their
recollections immediately. Of course we'll all do that ultimately, I
suppose--even people who, like myself, aren't professional writers.
Don't imagine that I'm going on with the writing game. I haven't the
divine afflatus. I'm just letting myself drift along with these two
jobs until I get that _guerre_ out of my system; can look around to
find what I really want to do. I'm willing to write my experiences
within a reasonable interval; but not at once. Everything is as vivid
in my mind of course as it's possible to be; but I don't want to have
to think of it. That's why your suggestion in regard to Lutetia Murray
strikes me so favorably. I should really like to do that biography. I'm
in the mood for something gentle and pastoral. And then of course I
have a sense of proprietorship in regard to Lutetia, not alone because
she was my literary find or that it was my thesis on her which got me
my A in English 12. But, in addition, I developed a sort of platonic,
long-distance, with-the-eye-of-the-mind-only crush on her. And yet, I
don't know...."

Again Lindsay's eyes came up from his paper. For the third time he
ignored Washington Square swarming with lumbering green busses and
dusky-haired Italian babies; puppies, perambulators, and pedestrians.
Again his glance went mechanically to the door leading to the back of
the apartment.

"You certainly have left an atmosphere in this joint, Spink. Somehow I
feel always as if you were in the room. How it would be possible for
such a pop-eyed, freckle-faced Piute as you to pack an astral body is
more than I can understand. It's here though--that sense of your
presence. The other day I caught myself saying, 'Oh, Spink!' to the
empty air. But to return to Lutetia, I can't tell you how the prospect
tempts. Once on a _permission_ in the spring of '16, I finds myself in
Lyons. There are to be gentle acrobatic doings in the best Gallic manner
in the Park on Sunday. I gallops out to see the sports. One place, I
comes across several scores of _poilus_--on their _permissions_
similar--squatting on the ground and doing--what do you suppose? Picking
violets. Yep--picking violets. I says to myself then, I says, 'These
frogs sure are queer guys.' But now, Spink, I understand. I don't want
to do anything more strenuous myself than picking violets, unless it's
selling baby blankets, or holding yarn for old ladies. Perhaps by an
enormous effort I might summon the energy to run a tea-room."

Lindsay stopped his typewriting again. This time he stared fixedly at
Washington Square. His eyes followed a pink-smocked, bob-haired maiden
hurrying across the Park; but apparently she did not register. He turned
abruptly with a--"Hello, old top, what do you want?"

The doorway, being empty, made no answer.

Having apparently forgotten his remark the instant it was dropped,
Lindsay went on writing.

"I admit I'm thinking over that proposition. Among my things in storage
here, I have all Lutetia's works, including those unsuccessful and very
rare pomes of hers; even that blooming thesis I wrote. The thesis would,
of course, read rotten now, but it might provide data that would save
research. When do you propose to bring out this new edition, and how do
you account for that recent demand for her? Of course it establishes me
as some swell prophet. I always said she'd bob up again, you know. Then
it looked as though she was as dead as the dodo. It isn't the work alone
that appeals to me; it's doing it in Lutetia's own town, which is
apparently the exact kind of dead little burg I'm looking for--Quinanog,
isn't it? Come to think of it, Spink, my favorite occupation at this
moment would be making daisy-chains or oak-wreaths. I'll think it..."

He jumped spasmodically; jerked his head about; glanced over his
shoulder at the doorway--

"What I'd really like to do, is the biography of Lutetia for about one
month; then--for about three months--my experiences at the war which, I
understand, are to be put away in the manuscript safe of the publishing
firm of Dunbar, Cabot and Elsingham to be published when the demand for
war stuff begins again. That, I reckon, is what I should do if I'm going
to do it at all. Write it while it's fresh--as I'm not a professional.
But I can't at this moment say yes, and I can't say no. I'd like to stay
a little longer in New York. I'd like to renew acquaintance with the old
burg. I can afford to thrash round a bit, you know, if I like. There's
ten thousand dollars that my uncle left me, in the bank waiting me. When
that's spent, of course I'll have to go to work.

"You ask me for my impressions of America--as a returned sky-warrior. Of
course I've only been here a week and I haven't talked with so very many
people yet. But everybody is remarkably omniscient. I can't tell them
anything about the late war. Sometimes they ask me a question, but they
never listen to my answer. No, I listen to them. And they're very
informing, believe me. Most of them think that the cavalry won the war
and that we went over the top to the sound of fife and drum. For
myself..."

Again he jumped; turned his head; stared into the doorway. After an
instant of apparent expectancy, he sighed. He arose and, with an
elaborate saunter, moved over to the mirror hanging above the mantel;
looked at his reflection with the air of one longing to see something
human. The mirror was old; narrow and dim; gold framed. A gay little
picture of a ship, bellying to full sail, filled the space above the
looking-glass. The face, which contemplated him with the same unseeing
carelessness with which he contemplated it, was the face of
twenty-five--handsome; dark. It was long and lean. The continuous flying
of two years had dyed it a deep wine-red; had bronzed and burnished it.
And apparently the experiences that went with that flying had cooled and
hardened it. It was now but a smoothly handsome mask which blanked all
expression of his emotions.

Even as his eye fixed itself on his own reflected eye, his head jerked
sideways again; he stared expectantly at the open doorway. After an
interval in which nothing appeared, he sauntered through that door;
and--with almost an effect of premeditated carelessness--through the two
little rooms, which so uselessly fill the central space of many New York
houses, to the big sunny bedroom at the back.

The windows looked out on a paintable series of backyards: on a
sketchable huddle of old, stained, leaning wooden houses. At the
opposite window, a purple-haired, violet-eyed foreign girl in a faded
yellow blouse was making artificial nasturtiums; flame-colored velvet
petals, like a drift of burning snow, heaped the table in front of her.
A black cat sunned itself on the window ledge. On a distant roof, a boy
with a long pole was herding a flock of pigeons. They made glittering
swirls of motion and quick V-wheelings, that flashed the gray of their
wings like blades and the white of their breasts like glass. Their
sudden turns filled the air with mirrors. Lindsay watched their flight
with the critical air of a rival. Suddenly he turned as though someone
had called him; glanced inquiringly back at the doorway....

When, a few minutes later, he sauntered into the Rochambeau, immaculate
in the old gray suit he had put off when he donned the French uniform
four years before, he was the pink of summer coolness and the
quintessence of military calm. The little, low-ceilinged series of
rooms, just below the level of the street, were crowded; filled with
smoke, talk, and laughter. Lindsay at length found a table, looked about
him, discovered himself to be among strangers. He ordered a cocktail,
swearing at the price to the sympathetic French waiter, who made an
excited response in French and assisted him to order an elaborate
dinner. Lindsay propped his paper against his water-glass; concentrated
on it as one prepared for lonely eating. With the little-necks, however,
came diversion. From behind the waiter's crooked arm appeared the satiny
dark head of a girl. Lindsay leaped to his feet, held out his hand.

"Good Lord, Gratia! Where in the world did you come from!"

The girl put both her pretty hands out. "I _can_ shake hands with you,
David, now that you're in civies. I don't like that green and yellow
ribbon in your buttonhole though. I'm a pacifist, you know, and I've got
to tell you where I stand before we can talk."

"All right," Lindsay accepted cheerfully. "You're a darn pretty
pacifist, Gratia. Of course you don't know what you're talking about.
But as long as you talk about anything, I'll listen."

Gratia had cut her hair short, but she had introduced a style of
hair-dressing new even to Greenwich Village. She combed its sleek
abundance straight back to her neck and left it. There, following its
own devices, it turned up in the most delightful curls. Her large dark
eyes were set in a skin of pale amber and in the midst of a piquant
assortment of features. She had a way, just before speaking, of lifting
her sleek head high on the top of her slim neck. And then she was like a
beautiful young seal emerging from the water.

"Oh, I'm perfectly serious!" the pretty pacifist asserted. "You
know I never have believed in war. Dora says you've come back
loving the French. How you can admire a people who--" After a
while she paused to take breath and then, with the characteristic
lift of her head, "Belgians--the Congo--Algeciras--Morocco-- And as
for England--Ireland--India--Egypt--" The glib, conventional patter
dripped readily from her soft lips.

Lindsay listened, apparently entranced. "Gratia, you're too pretty for
any use!" he asserted indulgently after the next pause in which she dove
under the water and reappeared sleek-haired as ever. "I'm not going to
argue with you. I'm going to tell you one thing that will be a shock to
you, though. The French don't like war either. And the reason is--now
prepare yourself--they know more about the horrors of war in _one_
minute than you will in a thousand years. What are you doing with
yourself, these days, Gratia?"

"Oh, running a shop; making smocks, working on batiks, painting, writing
_vers libre_," Gratia admitted.

"I mean, what do you do with your leisure?" Lindsay demanded, after
prolonged meditation.

Gratia ignored this persiflage. "I'm thinking of taking up
psycho-analysis," she confided. "It interests me enormously. I think I
ought to do rather well with it."

"I offer myself as your first victim. Why, you'll make millions! Every
man in New York will want to be psyched. What's the news, Gratia? I'm
dying for gossip."

Gratia did her best to feed this appetite. Declining dinner, she sipped
the tall cool green drink which Lindsay ordered for her. She poured out
a flood of talk; but all the time her eyes were flitting from table to
table. And often she interrupted her comments on the absent with remarks
about the present.

"Yes, Aussie was killed in Italy, flying. Will Arden was wounded in the
Argonne. George Jennings died of the flu in Paris--see that big blonde
over there, Dave? She's the Village dressmaker now--Dark Dale is in
Russia--can't get out. Putty Doane was taken prisoner by the Germans
at--Oh, see that gang of up-towners--aren't they snippy and patronizing
and silly? But Molly Fearing is our best war sensation. You know what a
tiny frightened mouse of a thing she was. She went into the 'Y.' She was
in the trenches the day of the Armistice--_talked_ with Germans; not
prisoners, you understand--but the retreating Germans. Her letters are
wonderful. She's crazy about it over there. I wouldn't be surprised if
she never came back-- Oh, Dave, don't look now; but as soon as you can,
get that tall red-headed girl in the corner, Marie Maroo. She does the
most marvelous drawings you ever saw. She belongs to that new Vortex
School. And then Joel-- Oh, there's Ernestine Phillips and her father.
You want to meet her father. He's a riot. Octogenarian, too! He's just
come from some remote hamlet in Vermont. Ernestine's showing him a
properly expurgated edition of the Village. Hi, Ernestine! He's a Civil
War veteran. Ernest's crazy to see you, Dave!"

The middle-aged, rather rough-featured woman standing in the doorway
turned at Gratia's call. Her movement revealed the head and shoulders of
a tall, gaunt, very old man, a little rough-featured like his daughter;
white-haired and white-mustached. She hurried at once to Lindsay's
table.

"Oh, Dave!" She took both Lindsay's hands. "I _am_ glad to see you! How
I have worried about you! My father, Dave. Father, this is David
Lindsay, the young aviator I was telling you about, who had such
extraordinary experiences in France. You remember the one I mean,
father. He served for two years with the French Army before we declared
war."

Mr. Phillips extended a long arm which dangled a long hand. "Pleased to
meet you, sir! You're the first flier I've had a chance to talk with. I
expect folks make life a perfect misery to you--but if you don't mind
answering questions--"

"Shoot!" Lindsay permitted serenely. "I'm nearly bursting with
suppressed information. How are you, Ernestine?"

"Pretty frazzled like the rest of us," Ernestine answered. Ernestine had
one fine feature; a pair of large dark serene eyes. Now they flamed with
a troubled fire. "The war did all kinds of things to my psychology, of
course. I suppose I am the most despised woman in the Village at this
moment because I don't seem to be either a militarist or a pacifist. I
don't believe in war, but I don't see how we could have kept out of it;
or how France could have prevented it."

"Ernestine!" Lindsay said warmly. "I just love _you_. Contrary to the
generally accepted opinion of the pacifists, France did not deliberately
bring this war on herself. Nor did she keep it up four years for her
private amusement. She hasn't enjoyed one minute of it. I don't expect
Gratia to believe me, but perhaps you will. These four years of death,
destruction, and devastation haven't entertained France a particle."

"Well, of course--" Ernestine was beginning, "but what's the use?" Her
eyes met Lindsay's in a perplexed, comprehending stare. Lindsay shook
his handsome head gayly. "No use whatever," he said. "I'm rapidly
growing taciturn."

"What I would like to ask you," Mr. Phillips broke in, "does war seem
such a pretty thing to you, young man, after you've seen a little of it?
I remember in '65 most of us came back thinking that Sherman hadn't used
strong enough language."

"Mr. Phillips," Lindsay answered, "if there's ever another war, it will
take fifteen thousand dollars to send me a postcard telling me about
it."

The talk drifted away from the war: turned to prohibition; came back to
it again. Lindsay answered Mr. Phillips's questions with enthusiastic
thoroughness. They pertained mainly to his training at Pau and Avord,
but Lindsay volunteered a detailed comparison of the American military
method with the French. "I'll always be glad though," he concluded,
"that I had that experience with the French Army. And of course when our
troops got over, I was all ready to fly."

"Then the French uniform is so charming," Gratia put in, consciously
sarcastic.

Lindsay slapped her slim wrist indulgently and continued to answer Mr.
Phillips's questions. Ernestine listened, the look of trouble growing in
her serene eyes. Gratia listened, diving under water after her shocked
exclamations and reappearing glistening.

"Oh, there's Matty Packington!" Gratia broke in. "You haven't met Matty
yet, Dave. Hi, Matty! You _must_ know Matty. She's a sketch. She's one
of those people who say the things other people only dare think. You
won't believe her." She rattled one of her staccato explanations;
"society girl--first a slumming tour through the Village--perfectly
crazy about it--studio in McDougal Alley--yeowoman--becoming
uniform--Rolls-Royce--salutes--"

Matty Packington approached the table with a composed flutter. The two
men arose. Gratia met her halfway; performed the introductions. In a
minute the conversation was out of everybody's hands and in Miss
Packington's. As Gratia prophesied, Lindsay found it difficult to
believe her. She started at an extraordinary speed and she maintained it
without break.

"Oh, Mr. Lindsay, aren't you heartbroken now that it is all over? You
must tell me all about your experiences sometime. It must have been too
thrilling for words. But don't you think--_don't_ you think--they
stopped the war too soon? If I were Foch I wouldn't have been satisfied
until I'd occupied all Germany, devastated just as much territory as
those beasts devastated in France, and executed all those monsters who
cut off the Belgian babies' hands. Don't you think so?"

Lindsay contemplated the lady who put this interesting question to him.
She was fair and fairy-like; a little, light-shot golden blonde; all
slim lines and opalescent colors. Her hair fluttered like whirled light
from under her piquantly cocked military cap. The stress of her emotion
added for the instant to the bigness and blueness of her eyes.

"Well, for myself," he remarked finally, "I can do with a little peace
for a while. And then to carry out your wishes, Miss Packington, Foch
would have had to sacrifice a quarter of a million more Allied soldiers.
But I sometimes think the men at the front were a bit thoughtless of the
entertainment of the civilians. Somehow we _did_ get it into our heads
that we ought to close this war up as soon as possible. Another time
perhaps we'd know better."

Miss Packington received this characteristically; that is to say, she
did not receive it at all. For by the time Lindsay had begun his last
sentence, she had embarked on a monologue directed this time to Gratia.
The talk flew back and forth, grew general; grew concrete; grew
abstract; grew personal. It bubbled up into monologues from Gratia and
Matty. It thinned down to questions from Ernestine and Mr. Phillips.
Drinks came; were followed by other drinks. All about them, tables
emptied and filled, uniforms predominating; and all to the accompaniment
of chatter; gay mirth; drifting smoke-films and refilled glasses.
Latecomers stopped to shake hands with Lindsay, to join the party for a
drink; to smoke a cigarette; floated away to other parties. But the
nucleus of their party remained the same.

David answered with patience all questions, stopped patiently halfway
through his own answer to reply to other questions. At about midnight he
rose abruptly. He had just brought to the end a careful and succinct
statement in which he declared that he had seen no Belgian children with
their hands cut off; no crucified Canadians.

"Folks," he addressed the company genially, "I'm going to admit to you
I'm tired." Inwardly he added, "I won't indicate which ones of you make
me the most tired; but almost all of you give me an awful pain." He
added aloud, "It's the hay for me this instant. Good-night!"

Back once more in his rooms, he did not light up. Instead he sat at the
window and gazed out. Straight ahead, two lines of golden beads curving
up the Avenue seemed to connect the Arch with the distant horizon. The
deep azure of the sky was faintly powdered with stars. But for its
occasional lights, of a purplish silver, the Square would have been a
mere mystery of trees. But those lights seemed to anchor what was half
vision to earth. And they threw interlaced leaf shadows on the ceiling
above Lindsay's head. It was as though he sat in some ghostly bower.
Looking fixedly through the Arch, his face grew somber. Suddenly he
jerked about and stared through the doorway which led into the back
rooms.

Nothing appeared--

After a while he lighted one gas jet--after an instant's hesitation
another--

                  *       *       *       *       *

In the middle of the night, Lindsay suddenly found himself sitting
upright. His mouth was wide open, parched; his eyes were wide open,
staring.... A chilly prickling tingled along his scalp.... But the
strangest phenomenon was his heart, which, though swelled to an
incredible bulk, nimbly leaped, heavily pounded....

Lindsay recognized the motion which inundated him to be fear;
overpowering, shameless, abject fear. But of what? In the instant in
which he gave way to self-analysis, memory supplied him with a vague
impression. _Something_ had come to his bed and, leaning over, had
stared into his face--

That _something_ was not human.

Lindsay fought for control. By an initial feat of courage, his fumbling
fingers lighted a candle which stood on the tiny Sheraton table at his
bedside. On a second impulse, but only after an interval in which
consciously but desperately he grasped at his vanishing manhood, he
leaped out of bed; lighted the gas. Then carrying the lighted candle, he
went from one to another of the four rooms of the apartment. In each
room he lighted every gas jet until the place blazed. He searched it
thoroughly: dark corners and darker closets; jetty strata of shadow
under couches.

He was alone.

After a while he went back to bed. But his courage was not equal to
darkness again. Though ultimately he fell asleep, the gas blazed all
night.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Lindsay awoke rather jaded the next morning. He wandered from room to
room submitting to one slash of his razor at this mirror and to another
at that.

At one period of this process, "Rum nightmare I had last night!" he
remarked casually to the unresponsive air.

He cooked his own breakfast; piled up the dishes and settled himself to
his correspondence again. "This letter is getting to be a book, Spink,"
he began. "But I feel every moment as though I wanted to add more. I
slept on your proposition last night, but I don't feel any nearer a
decision. Quinanog and Lutetia tempt me; but then so does New York. By
the way, have you any pictures of Lutetia? I had one in my rooms at
Holworthy. Must be kicking around among my things. I cut it out of the
annual catalogue of your book-house. Photograph as I remember. She was
some pip. I'd like--"

He started suddenly, turned his head toward the doorway leading to the
back rooms. The doorway was empty. Lindsay arose from his chair,
sauntered in a leisurely manner through the rooms. He investigated
closets again. "Damn it all!" he muttered.

He resumed his letter. "You're right about writing my experiences now. I
had a long footless talk with some boobs last night, and it was curious
how things came back under their questions. I had quite forgotten them
temporarily, and of course I shall forget them for keeps if I don't
begin to put them down. I have a few scattered notes here and there. I
meant, of course, to keep a diary, but believe me, a man engaged in a
war is too busy for the pursuit of letters. But just as soon as I make
up my mind--"

Another interval. Absently Lindsay addressed an envelope. Spinney K.
Sparrel, Esq., Park Street, Boston; attacked the list of other
long-neglected correspondents. Suddenly his head jerked upward; pivoted
again. After an instant's observation of the empty doorway, he pulled
his face forward; resumed his work. Page after page slid onto the roller
of his machine, submitted to the tattoo of its little lettered teeth,
emerged neatly inscribed. Suddenly he leaped to his feet; swung about.

The doorway was empty.

"Who are you?" he interrogated the empty air, "and what do you want? If
you can tell me, speak--and I'll do anything in my power to help you.
But if you can't tell me, for God's sake go away!"

                  *       *       *       *       *

That night--it happened again. There came the same sudden start,
stricken, panting, perspiring, out of deep sleep; the same frantic
search of the apartment with all the lights burning; the same late,
broken drowse; the same jaded awakening.

As before, he set himself doggedly to work. And, as before, somewhere in
the middle of the morning, he wheeled about swiftly in his chair to
glare through the open doorway. "I wonder if I'm going nutty!" he
exclaimed aloud.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Three days went by. Lindsay's nights were so broken that he took long
naps in the afternoon. His days had turned into periods of idle revery.
The letter to Spink Sparrel was still unfinished. He worked
spasmodically at his typewriter: but he completed nothing. The third
night he started toward the Rochambeau with the intention of getting a
room. But halfway across the Park, he stopped and retraced his steps. "I
can't let you beat me!" he muttered audibly, after he arrived in the
empty apartment.

It did not beat him that night; for he stayed in the apartment until
dawn broke. But from midnight on, he lay with every light in the place
going. At sunrise, he dressed and went out for a walk. And the moment
the sounds of everyday life began to humanize the neighborhood, he
returned; sat down to his machine.

"Spink, old dear, my mind is made up. I accept! I'll do Lutetia for you;
and, by God, I'll do her well! I'm starting for Boston tomorrow night on
the midnight. I'll call at the office about noon and we'll go to
luncheon together. I'll dig out my thesis and books from storage, and if
you'll get all your dope and data together, I can go right to it. I'm
going to Quinanog tomorrow afternoon. I need a change. Everybody here
makes me tired. The pacifists make me wild and the militarists make me
wilder. Civilians is nuts when it comes to a war. The only person I can
talk about it with is somebody who's been there. And anybody who's been
there has the good sense not to want to talk about it. I don't ever want
to hear of that war again. Personally, I, David Lindsay, meaning me,
want to swing in a hammock on a pleasant, cool, vine-hung piazza; read
Lutetia at intervals and write some little pieces subsequent. Yours,
David."



II


Susannah Ayer dragged herself out of her sleepless night and started to
get up. But halfway through her first rising motion, something seemed to
leave her--to leave her spirit rather than her body. She collapsed in a
droop-shouldered huddle onto the bed. Her red hair had come out of its
thick braids; it streamed forward over her white face; streaked her
nightgown with glowing strands. She pushed it out of her eyes and sat
for a long interval with her face in her hands. Finally she rose and
went to the dresser. Haggardly she stared into the glass at her
reflection, and haggardly her reflection stared back at her. "I don't
wonder you look different, Glorious Susie," she addressed herself
wordlessly, "because you _are_ different. I wonder if you can ever wash
away that experience--"

She poured water into the basin until it almost brimmed; and dropped her
face into it. After her sponge bath, she contemplated herself again in
the glass. Some color had crept into the pearly whiteness of her cheek.
Her dark-fringed eyes seemed a little less shadow-encircled. She turned
their turquoise glance to the picture of a woman--a miniature painted on
ivory--which hung beside the dresser.

"Glorious Lutie," she apostrophized it, "you don't know how I wish you
were here. You don't know how much I need you now. I need you so much,
Glorious Lutie--I'm frightened!"

The miniature, after the impersonal manner of pictures, made no response
to this call for help. Susannah sighed deeply. And for a moment she
stood a figure almost tragic, her eyes darkening as she looked into
space, her young mouth setting its soft scarlet into hard lines. In
another moment she pulled herself out of this daze and continued her
dressing.

An hour and a half later, when, cool and lithe in her blue linen suit,
she entered the uptown skyscraper which housed the Carbonado Mining
Company, her spirits took a sudden leap. After all, here _was_ help. It
was not the help she most desired and needed--the confidence and advice
of another woman--but at least she would get instant sympathy, ultimate
understanding.

Anyone, however depressed his mood, must have felt his spirits rise as
he stepped into the Admolian Building. It was so new that its
terra-cotta walls without, its white-enameled tiling within, seemed
always to have been freshly scrubbed and dusted. It was so high that,
with a first acrobatic impulse, it leaped twenty stories above ground;
and with a second, soared into a tower which touched the clouds. That
had not exhausted its strength. It dug in below ground, and there spread
out into rooms, eternally electric-lighted. From the eleventh story up,
its wide windows surveyed every purlieu of Manhattan. Its spacious
elevators seemed magically to defy gravitation. A touch started their
swift flight heavenward; a touch started their soft drop earthward.
Every floor housed offices where fortunes were being made--and lost--at
any rate, changing hands. There was an element of buoyancy in the air,
an atmosphere of success. People moved more quickly, talked more
briskly, from the moment they entered the Admolian Building. As always,
it raised the spirits of Susannah Ayer. The set look vanished from her
eyes; some of their normal brilliancy flowed back into them. Her mouth
relaxed-- When the elevator came to a padded halt at the eighteenth
floor, she had become almost herself again.

She stopped before the first in a series of offices. Black-printed
letters on the ground glass of the door read:

                                  46
                       Carbonado Mining Company
                        Private. Enter No. 47

An accommodating hand pointed in the direction of No. 47. Susannah
unlocked the door and with a little sigh, as of relief, stepped in.

Other offices stretched along the line of the corridor, bearing the
inscriptions, respectively, "No. 48, H. Withington Warner, President and
General Manager; No. 49, Joseph Byan, Vice-President; No. 50, Michael
O'Hearn, Secretary and Treasurer." Ultimately, Susannah's own door would
flaunt the proud motto, "No. 51, Susannah Ayer, Manager Women's
Department."

Susannah threaded the inner corridor to her own office. She hung up her
hat and jacket; opened her mail; ran through it. Then she lifted the
cover from her typewriter and began mechanically to brush and oil it.
Her mind was not on her work; it had not been on the letters. It kept
speeding back to last night. She did not want to think of last night
again--at least not until she must. She pulled her thoughts into her
control; made them flow back over the past months. And as they sped in
those pleasant channels, involuntarily her mood went with them. Had any
girl ever been so fortunate, she wondered. She put it to herself in
simple declaratives--

Here she was, all alone in New York and in New York for the first time,
settled--interestingly and pleasantly settled. Eight months before, she
had stepped out of business college without a hundred dollars in the
world; her course in stenography, typewriting, and secretarial work had
taken the last of her inherited funds. Without kith or kin, she was a
working-woman, now, on her own responsibility. Two months of
apprenticeship, one stenographer among fifty, in the great offices of
the Maxwell Mills, and Barty Joyce, almost the sole remaining friend who
remembered the past glories of her family, had advised her to try New
York.

"Susannah," he said, "now is the time to strike--now while the men are
away and while the girls are still on war jobs. Get yourself entrenched
before they come back. You've the makings of a wonderful office helper."

Susannah, with a glorious sense of adventure once she was started, took
his advice and moved to New York. For a week, she answered
advertisements, visited offices; and she found that Barty was right. She
had the refusal of half a dozen jobs. From them she selected the offer
of the Carbonado Mining Company--partly because she liked Mr. Warner,
and partly because it seemed to offer the best future. Mr. Warner said
to her in their first interview:

"We are looking for a clever woman whom we can specially train in the
methods of our somewhat peculiar business. If you qualify, we shall
advance you to a superior position."

That "superior position" had fallen into her hand like a ripe peach.
Within a week, Mr. Warner had called her into the private office for a
long business talk.

"Miss Ayer," he said, "you seem to be making good. I am going to tell
you frankly that if you continue to meet our requirements, we shall
continue to advance you and pay you accordingly. You see, our
business--" Mr. Warner's voice always swelled a little when he said "our
business"--"our business involves a great deal of letter-writing to
women investors and some personal interviews. Now we believe--both Mr.
Byan and I--that women investing money like to deal with one of their
own sex. We have been looking for just the right woman. A candidate for
the position must have tact, understanding, and clearness of written
expression. We have been trying to find such a woman; and frankly, the
search has been difficult. You know how war work--quite rightly, of
course--has monopolized the able women of the country. We have tried out
half a dozen girls; but the less said about them the better. For two
weeks we will let you try your hand at correspondence with women
investors. If your work is satisfactory, it means a permanent job at
twice your present salary."

Her work had pleased them! It had pleased them instantly. But oh, how
she had worked to please them and to continue to please! Every letter
she sent out--and after explaining the Carbonado Company and its
attractions, Mr. Warner let her compose all the letters to women--was a
study in condensed and graceful expression. At the end of the fortnight
Mr. Warner engaged her permanently. He went even further. He said:

"Miss Ayer, we're going to make you manager of our women's department;
and we're going to put your name with ours on the letterhead of the new
office stationery." When the day came that she first signed herself
"Susannah Ayer, Manager Women's Department," she felt as though all the
fairy tales she ever read had come true.

Susannah, as she was assured again and again, continued to give
satisfaction. No wonder; for she liked her job. The work interested her
so much that she always longed to get to the office in the morning,
almost hated to leave it at night. It was a pleasant office, bright and
spacious. Everything was new, even to the capacious waste basket. Her
big, shiny mahogany desk stood close to the window. And from that window
she surveyed the colorful, brick-and-stone West Side of Manhattan, the
Hudson, and the city-spotted, town-dotted stretches beyond. The clouds
hung close; sometimes their white and silver argosies seemed to besiege
her. Once, she almost thought the new moon would bounce through her
window. Snow noiselessly, winds tumultuously, assailed her; but she sat
as impervious as though in an enchanted tower. Gray days made only a
suaver magic, thunderstorms a madder enchantment, about her eyrie.

The human surroundings were just as pleasant. Though the Carbonado
Company worked only with selected clients, though they transacted most
of their business by mail, there were many visitors--some customers;
others, apparently, merely friends of Mr. Warner, Mr. Byan, and Mr.
O'Hearn--who dropped in of afternoons to chat a while. Pleasant, jolly
men most of these. Snatches of their talk, usually enigmatic, floated to
her across the tops of the partitions; it gave the office an exciting
atmosphere of something doing. And then--it happened that Susannah's way
of life had brought her into contact with but few men--everything was so
_manny_.

She stood a little in awe of H. Withington Warner, president and general
manager. Mr. Warner was middle-aged and iron-gray. That last adjective
perfectly described him--iron-gray. Everything about him was gray; his
straight, thick hair; his clear, incisive eyes; even his colorless skin.
And his personality had a quality of iron. There was about him a
fascinating element of duality. Sometimes he seemed to Susannah a little
like a clergyman. And sometimes he made her think of an actor. This
histrionic aspect, she decided, was due to his hair, a bit long; to his
features, floridly classic; to his manner, frequently courtly; to his
voice, occasionally oratorical. This, however, showed only in his
lighter moments. Much of the time, of course, he was merely brisk and
businesslike. Whatever his tone, it carried you along. To Susannah, he
was always charming.

If she stood a little in awe of H. Withington Warner, she made up by
feeling on terms of the utmost equality with Michael O'Hearn, secretary
and treasurer of the Carbonado Mining Company. Mr. O'Hearn--the others
called him "Mike"--was a little Irishman. He had a short stumpy figure
and a short stumpy face. Moreover, he looked as though someone had
delivered him a denting blow in the middle of his profile. From this
indentation jutted in one direction his long, protuberant, rounded
forehead; peaked in another his upturned nose. The rest of him was sandy
hair and sandy complexion, and an agreeable pair of long-lashed Irish
eyes. He was the wit of the office, keeping everyone in constant good
temper. Susannah felt very friendly toward Mr. O'Hearn. This was
strange, because he rarely spoke to her. But somehow, for all that, he
had the gift of seeming friendly. Susannah trusted him as she trusted
Mr. Warner, though in a different way.

In regard to Joseph Byan, the third member of the combination, Susannah
had her unformulated reservations. Perhaps it was because Byan really
interested her more than the other two. Byan was little and slender;
perfectly formed and rather fine-featured; swift as a cat in his darting
movements. In his blue eyes shone a look of vague pathos and on his lips
floated--Susannah decided that this was the only way to express it--a
vague, a rather sweet smile. Susannah's job had not at first brought her
as much into contact with Mr. Byan as with Mr. Warner. His work, she
learned, lay mostly outside of the office. But once, during her third
week, he had come into her office and dictated a letter; had lingered,
when he had finished with the business in hand, for a little talk. The
conversation, in some curious turn, veered to the subject of firearms.
He was speaking of the various patterns of revolvers. He stood before
her, a slim, perfectly proportioned figure whose clothes, of an almost
feminine nicety and cut, seemed to follow every line of the body
beneath. Suddenly, one of his slight hands made a swift gesture. There
appeared--from where, she could not guess--a little, ugly-looking black
revolver. With it, he illustrated his point. Since, he had never passed
through the office without Susannah's glance playing over him like a
flame. Nowhere along the smooth lines of his figure could she catch the
bulge of that little toy of death. Despite his suave gentleness, there
was a believable quality about Byan; his personality carried conviction,
just as did that of the others. Susannah trusted him, too; but again in
a different way.

On the very day when Mr. Byan showed her the revolver, she was passing
the open door of Mr. Warner's office; and she heard the full, round
voice of the Chief saying:

"Remember, Joe, rule number one: no clients or employ--" Byan hastily
closed the door on the tail of that sentence. Sometimes she wondered how
it ended.

A cog in the machine, Susannah had never fully understood the business.
That was not really necessary; Mr. Warner himself kept her informed on
what she needed to know. He explained in the beginning the glorious
opportunity for investors. From time to time, he added new details, as
for example the glowing reports of their chief engineer or their special
expert. Susannah knew that they were paying three per cent dividends a
month--and in April there was a special dividend of two per cent.
Besides, they were about to break into a "mother lode"--the reports of
their experts proved that--and when that happened, no one could tell
just how high the dividends might be. True, these dividend payments were
often made a little irregularly. One of the things which Susannah did
not understand, did not try to understand, was why a certain list of
preferred stockholders was now and then given an extra dividend; nor why
at times Mr. Warner would transfer a name from one list to another.

"I'm thinking of saving my money and investing myself in Carbonado
stock!" said Susannah to Mr. Warner one day.

"Don't," said Mr. Warner; and then with a touch of his clerical manner:
"We prefer to keep our office force and our investors entirely separate
factors for the present. We are trying to avoid the reproach of letting
our people in on the ground floor. When our ship comes in--when we open
the mother lode--you shall be taken care of!"

So, for six months, everything went perfectly. Susannah had absorbed
herself completely in her job. This was an easy thing to do when the
business was so fascinating. She had gone for five months at this pace
when she realized that she had not taken the leisure to make friends.
Except the three partners--mere shadows to her--and the people at her
boarding-house--also mere shadows to her--she knew only Eloise. Not that
the friendship of Eloise was a thing to pass over lightly. Eloise was a
host in herself.

They had met at the Dorothy Dorr, a semi-charitable home for young
business women, at which Susannah stayed during her first week in New
York. Eloise was an heiress, of that species known to the newspapers as
a "society girl." Pretty, piquant, gay, extravagant, she dabbled in
picturesque charities, and the Dorothy Dorr was her pet. Sometimes in
the summer, when she ran up to town, she even lodged there. By natural
affinity, she had picked Susannah out of the crowd. By the time Susannah
was established in her new job and had moved to a boarding-house, they
had become friends. But the friendship of Eloise could not be very
satisfactory. She was too busy; and, indeed, too often out of town. From
her social fastnesses, she made sudden, dashing forays on Susannah; took
her to luncheon, dinner, or the theater; then she would retreat to upper
Fifth Avenue, and Susannah would not see her for a fortnight or a month.

Then, that terrible, perplexing yesterday. If she could only expunge
yesterday from her life--or at least from her memory!

Of course, there were events leading up to yesterday. Chief among them
was the appearance in the office, some weeks before, of Mr. Ozias
Cowler, from Iowa. Mr. Cowler, Susannah gathered from the manner of the
office, was a customer of importance. He was middle-aged. No, why mince
matters--he was an old man who looked middle-aged. He was old, because
his hair had gone quite white, and his face had fallen into areas broken
by wrinkles. But he appeared to the first glance middle-aged, because
the skin of those areas was ruddy and warm; because his eyes were as
clear and blue as in youth. He looked--well, Susannah decided that he
looked _fatherly_. He was quiet in his step and quiet in his manner.
Though he appeared to her in the light of a customer rather than that of
an acquaintance, Susannah was inclined to like him, as she liked
everyone and everything about the Carbonado offices.

Susannah gathered in time that Mr. Cowler had a great deal of money, and
that he had come to New York to invest it. Of course the Carbonado
Mining Company--and this included Susannah herself--saw the best of
reasons why it should be invested with them. But evidently, he was a
hard, cautious customer. He came again and again. He sat closeted for
long intervals with Mr. Warner. Sometimes Mr. Byan came into these
conferences. Mr. Cowler was always going to luncheon with the one and to
dinner with the other. He even went to a baseball game with Mr. O'Hearn.
But, although he visited the office more and more frequently, she
gathered that the investment was not forthcoming. Susannah knew how
frequently he was coming because, in spite of the little, admonitory
black hand on the ground-glass door, he always entered, not by the
reception room, but by her office. Usually, he preceded his long talk
with Mr. Warner by a little chat with her. Evidently, he had not yet
caught the quick gait of New York business; for as he left--again
through Susannah's office--he would stop for a longer talk. Once or
twice, Susannah had to excuse herself in order to go on with her work.
She had been a little afraid that Mr. Warner would comment on these
delays in office routine. But, although Mr. Warner once or twice glanced
into her office during these intervals, he never interfered.

Then came--yesterday.

Early in the morning, Mr. Warner said:

"Miss Ayer, I wonder if you can do a favor for us?" He went on, without
waiting for Susannah's answer: "Cowler--you know what a helpless person
he is--wants to go to dinner and the theater tonight. It happens that
none of us can accompany him. We've all made the kind of engagement
which can't be broken--business. He feels a little self-conscious. You
know, his money came to him late, and he has never been to a big city
before. I suspect he is afraid to enter a fashionable restaurant alone.
He wants to go to Sherry's and to the theater afterward--" Mr. Warner
paused to smile genially. "He's something of a hick, you know, and
especially in regard to this Sherry and midnight cabaret stuff." Mr.
Warner rarely used slang; and when he did, his smile seemed to put it
into quotation marks. "True to type, he has bought tickets in the front
row. After the show, he wants to go to one of the midnight cabarets.
Would you be willing to steer him through all this? The show is _Let's
Beat It_."

Susannah expressed herself as delighted; and indeed she was. To herself
she admitted that Mr. Cowler was no more of a "hick" in regard to
Broadway, Sherry's, and midnight cabarets than she herself. But about
admitting this, she had all the self-consciousness of the newly arrived
New Yorker.

"That is very good of you, Miss Ayer," said Mr. Warner, appearing much
relieved. "You may go home this afternoon an hour earlier." Again Mr.
Warner passed from his incisive, gray-hued sobriety to an expansive
geniality. "I know that in these circumstances, ladies like to take time
over their toilettes." He smiled at Susannah, a smile more expansive
than any she had ever seen on his face; it showed to the back molars his
handsome, white, regular teeth.

Mr. Cowler called for her in a taxicab at seven and--

                  *       *       *       *       *

She heard Mr. Warner's door open and shut. Footsteps sounded in the
corridor--that was Mr. O'Hearn's voice. She glanced at her wrist-watch.
Half-past nine. The partners had arrived early this morning, of all
mornings. They were night birds, all three, seldom appearing before
half-past ten, and often working in the office late after she had gone.
Susannah stopped mid-sentence a letter which she was tapping out to a
widow in Iowa, rose, moved toward the door. At the threshold, she
stopped, a deep blush suffusing her face. So she paused for a moment,
irresolute. When finally she started down the corridor, Mr. Warner
emerged from the door of his own office, met her face to face. And as
his eyes rested on hers, she was puzzled by the expression on his smooth
countenance. Was it anxiety? His expression seemed to question her--then
it flowed into his cordial smile.

Susannah was first to speak:

"Good-morning, Mr. Warner. May I see you alone for a moment?"

"Certainly!" With his best courtliness of manner, he bowed her into his
private office. "Won't you have a seat?"

Susannah sat down.

"It's about--about Mr. Cowler and last night." She paused.

"Oh," asked Mr. Warner, carelessly, casually, "did you have a pleasant
evening?"

"It's about that I wanted to talk with you," Susannah faltered.
Suddenly, her embarrassment broke, and she became perfectly composed.
"Mr. Warner, I dislike to tell you all this, because I know how it will
shock you to hear it. But you will understand that I have no choice in
the matter. It is very hard to speak of, and I don't know exactly how to
express it, but, Mr. Warner, Mr. Cowler insulted me grossly last evening
... so grossly that I left the table where we were eating after the
theater and ... and ... well, perhaps you can guess my state of mind
when I tell you that I was actually afraid to take a taxi. Of course, I
see now how foolish that was. But I ... I ran all the way home."

For an instant, Mr. Warner's fine, incisive geniality did not change.
Then suddenly it broke into a look of sympathetic understanding. "I am
sorry, Miss Ayer," he declared gravely, "I am indeed sorry." His
clergyman aspect was for the moment in the ascendent. He might have been
talking from the pulpit. His voice took its oratorical tone. "It seems
incredible that men should do such things--incredible. But one must, I
suppose, make allowances. A rural type alone in a great city and
surrounded by all the intoxicating aspects of that city. It undoubtedly
unbalanced him. Moreover, Miss Ayer, I may say without flattery that you
are more than attractive. And then, he is unaccustomed to drinking--"

"Oh, he had not drunk anything to speak of," Susannah interrupted. "A
little claret at dinner. He had ordered champagne, but this ... this
episode occurred before it came."

"Incredible!" again murmured Mr. Warner. "Inexplicable!" he added. He
paused for a moment. "You wish me to see that he apologizes?"

"I don't ask that. I am only telling you so that you may understand why
I can never speak to him again. For of course I don't want to see him as
long as I live. I thought perhaps ... that if he comes here again ...
you might manage so that he doesn't enter through my office."

"We can probably manage that," Mr. Warner agreed urbanely. "Of course we
can manage that. He is, you see, a prospective client, and a very
profitable one. We must continue to do business with him as usual."

"Oh, of course!" gasped Susannah. "Please don't think I'm trying to
interfere with your business. I understand perfectly. It is only that
I--but of course you understand. I don't want to see him again." She
rose. Her lithe figure came up to the last inch of its height; the
attitude gave her the effect of a column. Her head was like a glowing
alabaster lamp set at the top of that column. All the trouble had faded
out of her face. The set, scarlet lines in her mouth had melted to their
normal scarlet curves. The light had come back in a brilliant flood to
her turquoise eyes. In this uprush of spirit, her red hair seemed even
to bristle and to glisten. She sparkled visibly. "And now, I guess I'll
get back to work," she said. "Oh, by the way, I found in my mail this
morning a letter addressed, not to the women's department, but to the
firm. I opened it, but of course by accident."

Mr. Warner drew the letter from its envelope, began casually running
through it. The conversation seemed now to be ended; Susannah moved
toward the door. From his perusal of the letter, Mr. Warner stabbed at
her back with one quick, alarmed glance, and:

"Oh, Miss Ayer, don't go yet," he said. His tone was a little tense and
sharp. But he continued to peruse the letter. As he finished the last
page, he looked up. Again, his tone seemed peculiar; and he hesitated
before he spoke.

"Er--did you make out the signature on this?" he asked.

"No--it puzzled me," replied Susannah.

"Sit down again, please," said Mr. Warner. Now his manner had that
accent of suavity, that velvety actor quality, which usually he reserved
solely for women clients. "I'm awfully sorry, but I'm afraid I shall
have to ask you to see Mr. Cowler again."

"Mr. Warner, I ... I simply could not do that. I can never speak to him
again. You don't know.... You can't guess.... Why, I could scarcely tell
my own mother ... if I had one...."

"It seems quite shocking to you, of course, and--Wait a moment--" Mr.
Warner rose and walked toward the door leading to Byan's office. But he
seemed suddenly to change his mind. "I know exactly how you must feel,"
he said, returning. "Believe me, my dear young lady, I enter perfectly
into your emotions. Shocked susceptibilities! Wounded pride! All
perfectly natural, even exemplary. But, Miss Ayer, this is a strange
world. And in some aspects a very unsatisfactory one. We have to put up
with many things we don't like. I, for instance. You could not guess the
many disagreeable experiences to which I submit daily. I hate them as
much as anyone, but business compels me to endure them. Now you, in your
position as manager of the Women's Department--"

"Nothing," Susannah interrupted steadily, "could induce me knowingly to
submit again to what happened last night. I would rather throw up my
job. I would rather die."

"But, my dear Miss Ayer, you are not the only young lady in this city
who has been through such experiences. If women will invade industry,
they must take the consequences. Actresses, shopgirls, woman-buyers
accept these things as a matter of course--as all in the day's work.
Indeed, many stenographers complain of unpleasant experiences. You have
been exceedingly fortunate. Have we not in this office paid you every
possible respect?"

"Of course you have! It is because you have been so kind that I came to
you at once, hoping ... believing ... that you would understand. It
never occurred to me that you...."

"Of course I understand," Mr. Warner insisted, in his most soothing
tone. "It's all very dreadful. What I am trying to point out to you is
that whatever you do or wherever you go in a great city, the same thing
is likely to happen. I am trying to prove to you that you are especially
protected here. You like your work, don't you?"

"I love it!" Susannah protested with fervor.

"Then I think you will do well to ignore the incident. Come, my
child,"--Mr. Warner was now a combination of guiding pastor and
admonishing parent,--"forget this deplorable incident. When Mr. Cowler
comes in this afternoon, meet him as though nothing had happened.
Undoubtedly he is now bitterly regretting his mistake. Unquestionably he
will apologize. And the next time he asks you to go out with him, he
will have learned how to treat a young lady so admirable and estimable,
and you can accept his invitation with an untroubled spirit."

"If I meet Mr. Cowler I will treat him exactly as though nothing had
happened," Susannah declared steadily. "I mean that upon meeting him I
will bow. I will even--if you ask it--give him any information he may
want about the business. But as to going anywhere with him again--I must
decline absolutely."

"But that is one of the services which we shall have to demand from time
to time. Clients come to town. They want an attractive young lady, a
lady who will be a credit to them--a description which, I may say,
perfectly applies to you--to accompany them about the city. That will be
a part of your duties in future. Had the occasion arisen before, it
would have been a part of your duties in the past. If Mr. Cowler asks
you again to accompany him for the evening, we shall expect you to go."

"You never told me," said Susannah after a perceptible interval, during
which directly and piercingly she met Mr. Warner's gentle gaze, "that
you expected this sort of thing."

"My dear young lady," replied Mr. Warner with a kind of bland elegance,
"I am very sorry if I did not make that clear."

"Then," said Susannah--so unexpectedly that it was unexpected even to
herself--"I shall have to give up my position. Please look for another
secretary. I shall consider it a favor if you get her as soon as
possible."

Another pause; and then Mr. Warner asked:

"Would you mind waiting here for just a few moments before you make that
decision final?"

"I will wait," agreed Susannah. "But I will not change my decision."

Mr. Warner did not seem at all surprised or annoyed. He arose abruptly,
started toward Byan's office. This time he entered and closed the door
behind him. A moment later, Susannah realized from the muffled sounds
which filtered through the partition that the partners were in
conference. She caught the velvety tones of Byan; O'Hearn's soft lilt.
And as she sat there, idly tapping the desk with a penholder, something
among the memories of that confused morning crept into her mind; spread
until it blotted out even the memory of Mr. Cowler. That letter--what
did it mean? In her listless, inattentive state of mind, she had opened
it carelessly, read it through before she realized that it was addressed
not to the Women's Department, but to the company. Had anyone asked her,
a moment after she laid it down, just what it said, she could not have
answered. Now, her perplexed loneliness brought it all out on the
tablets of her mind as the chemical brings out the picture from the
blankness of a photographic plate. She glanced at the desk. The letter
was not there--Mr. Warner had taken it with him.

The man with the illegible signature wrote from Nevada. He had seen,
during a visit to Kansas City, the circulars of the Carbonado Mining
Company. After his return, he had passed through Carbonado. "I wondered,
when I saw your literature, whether there had been a new strike in that
busted camp," he wrote. "There hadn't. Carbonado now consists of one
store-keeper and a few retired prospectors who are trying to scrape
something from the corners of the old Buffalo Boy property. That camp
was worked out in the eighties--and it was never much but promises at
that." As for the photographs which decorated the Carbonado Company's
circulars, this man recognized at least one of them as a picture of a
property he knew in Utah. Finally, he asked sarcastically just how long
they expected to keep up the graft. "It's the old game, isn't it?" he
inquired, "pay three per cent for a while and then get out with the
capital." Three per cent a month--that _was_ exactly what the Carbonado
Company was paying. She wondered--

Conjecture for Susannah would have been certainty could she have heard
the conversation just the other side of that closed door. At the moment
when the contents of this letter flashed back into her mind, the letter
itself lay on Mr. Byan's polished mahogany table. Beside it lay a pile
of penciled memoranda through which fluttered from time to time the
nervous hand of H. Withington Warner. Susannah would scarcely have known
her genial employer. The mask of actor and clergyman had slipped from
his face. His cheeks seemed to fall flat and flabby. His eyes had lost
their benevolence. His mouth was set as hard as a trap, the corners
drooping. Across the table from him, too, sat a transformed Byan. His
smooth, regular features had sharpened to the likeness of a rat's. His
voice, however, was still velvety; even though it had just flung at
Warner a string of oaths.

"I told you we ought to've let go and skipped six weeks ago," he said,
"that was the time for the touch-off. Secret Service still chasin'
Heinies--everythin' coming in and nothin' going out. The suckers had
already stopped biting and then you go and hand out two more monthly
dividends and settle all the bills like you intended to stay in business
forever. What did we want with this royal suite here, and ours a
correspondence game? What do we split if we stop today? Twelve hundred
dollars. Twelve hundred dollars! We land this Cowler--see!"

Warner, unperturbed, swept his glance to O'Hearn, who sat huddled up in
his chair, searching with his glance now one of his partners, now the
other.

"Mike," he said, "you're certain about your tip on the fly cops?"

"Dead sure!" responded O'Hearn. "The regular bulls ain't touching mining
operations just now. It's up to the Secret Service. In two weeks more
they'll be all cleaned up on the war, and then they'll be reorganizing
their little committee on high finance. That there Inspector Laughlin
will take charge. He knows you, Boss. Then"--O'Hearn spread his hands
with a gesture of finality--"about a week more and they'll get round to
us. Three weeks is all we're safe to go. They stop our mail and
then--the pinch maybe. The tip's straight from you-know-who. The
pinch--see!"

At the repetition of that word "pinch," Byan's countenance changed
subtly. It was as though he had winced within. But he spoke in his usual
velvety tone.

"Less than three weeks--h'm! How much is Cowler good for?"

"About a hundred thou'--big or nothing," replied Warner. He was drawing
stars and circles on the desk blotter. "He can't be landed without the
girl. If he'd tumbled for the Lizzies you shook at him--but he
didn't--it's this red-headed doll in our office or nothing. And I've
told you--"

Here O'Hearn threw himself abruptly into the conversation.

"Lave out th' girrul," he said. Usually O'Hearn's Irish showed in his
speech only by a slight twist at the turn of his tongue. Now it reverted
to a thick brogue. "I'll not have anythin' to do--"

"We'll leave in or take out exactly what I say," put in Warner smoothly.
"Exactly what I say," he repeated. At this direct thrust, Byan lifted
his somewhat dreamy eyes. He dropped them again. Then Warner, his gaze
directly on O'Hearn's face, made a swift, sinister gesture. He drew a
forefinger round his own throat, and completed the motion by pointing
directly upward. O'Hearn, his face suddenly going a little pale,
subsided. Warner broke into the sweet, Christian smile of his office
manner. Subtly, he seemed to take command. His personality filled the
room as he leaned forward over the table and summed everything up.

"As for your noise about quitting six weeks ago," he said, "how was I to
know that the suckers were going to stop running? We looked good for
three months then. We've got three weeks to go. All right. As for the
pinch, they won't get us unless the wad gives out. Every stage of this
game has been submitted to a lawyer. We're just a hair inside--but
inside all the same. _But_ if we can't come through liberally to him
when we're really in trouble, we might as well measure ourselves for
stripes. He's that kind of lawyer. With a hundred thousand dollars--" he
seemed to roll that phrase under his tongue--"we can stay and make
snoots at the Secret Service or beat it elsewhere, just as we please.
Ozias Cowler can furnish the hundred thou'. But he'll take only one
bait. I've tried 'em all--flies, worms, beetles, and grasshoppers--and
there's only one. And that one is trying to wriggle off the hook. I
thought last night when I sent her out with him that maybe she would
fall for him. The rest would have been easy. But she only worked up a
case of this here maidenly virtue. On top of that, she reads this
letter. Of course, she has read it, though she don't know I know. I
squeezed that out of her.

"There," concluded Warner, "that's the layout, isn't it?" He turned to
Byan; and his smiling, office manner came over his expression. "What
would you say, Joe? You're by way of being an expert on this kind of
bait." In the Carbonado Mining Company, Warner ruled partly through his
quality of personal force, but partly through fear, the cement of
underworld society. Just as he shook at O'Hearn from time to time the
threat conveyed by that sinister gesture, he held over Byan the
knowledge of that trade and traffic, shameful even among criminals, from
which Byan had risen to be a pander of low finance. At this thrust,
however, Byan did not pale, as had O'Hearn. His expression became only
the more inscrutable.

"You should have let me break her in when I wanted to, months ago," he
said. "I'd 'a' had her ready now. He won't fall for anyone else. I've
offered those other Molls to him, but he's crushed on her and won't look
at anybody else. So we've got to put the screws on her. They're all
cowards inside--yellow every one."

"Meaning?" inquired Warner.

"She's in it up to her neck with us," said Byan. "We saw to that. All
right. If we should go up against it, she'd have a hell of a time
proving to a jury that she didn't know what her letters to customers
were all about. Now wouldn't she? Ask yourself. Looked like hard luck to
me when she saw that letter just when she'd slapped the face of this
Cowler. But maybe it's a regular godsend. Put it to her straight that
this business is a graft, that we're due to go up against it in three
weeks unless something nice happens, and that she's in it as deep as any
of us. When she's so scared she can't see, let her know that she has got
one way out--fall for Cowler and help us touch him for his hundred
thousand. Make her think that it's the stir sure if she don't, and a
clean getaway if she does."

"Suppose," continued Warner in the manner of one weighing every chance,
"she goes with her troubles to some wise guy?"

"She's got no friends here," said Byan. "I looked into that. Runs around
with one fluff, but she don't count. If she's scared enough, I tell you,
she'll never dare peep--and she'll come round."

"Suppose she beats it?" suggested Warner.

"Well, Mike and I can shadow her, can't we?" replied Byan. "If she tries
to get out by rail, we can stop her and put on the screws right away.
The screws!" repeated Byan, as one who liked the idea. "And if she does
hold out a while, nothin's lost. You've got the old dope worked up to
the idea she's interested in him, haven't you? Well, if she don't fall
right away, you can take a little time explaining to him why she acted
that way last night. Maybe best to dangle her a while, anyway--get him
so anxious to see her that he'll fall for anything when you bring her
round. I'll be tightening up the screws, and when he's ripe I'll deliver
her."

"The screws," repeated O'Hearn. "Meanin'--?"

"Leave that to me," said Byan. "I know how."

Warner smiled; but it was not the genial beam of his office manner. For
when the corners of his drooping mouth lifted, they showed merely a
gleam of canine teeth, which lay on his lip like fangs.

"I suppose, when it's over, she's your personal property," he concluded.

"Oh, sure!" responded Byan carelessly.

"You'll not--" began O'Hearn; but this time it was Warner who
interrupted.

"Mickey," he said, "any arrangements between this lady and Byan are
their own private affair--after the touch-off, which may stand you
twenty-five thousand shiners. Besides--" He did not make his threatening
gesture now, but merely flashed that smile of fangs and sinister
suggestion. Then he rose.

"All right," he said. "Come on--all of you--and I'll give her that
little business talk, before she's had time to think and work up another
notion. Maybe she'll fall for it right away."

"Not right away, she won't," Byan promulgated from the depths of his
experience, "but before I'm through, she will."

                  *       *       *       *       *

The three men came filing into the room where Susannah sat, her elbows
on the desk, her chin on her hands. She rose abruptly and faced them,
eyes wide, lips parted. Mr. Warner wore his office manner; his smile was
now benevolent.

"I have been telling Mr. Byan and Mr. O'Hearn about your experience and
your decision, Miss Ayer," began Mr. Warner.

Susannah blushed deeply; and for an instant her lashes swept over a
sudden stern flame in her eyes. Then she lifted them and looked with a
noncommittal openness from one face to the other. "I think I have
nothing to add," she said.

"Yes, but perhaps we have," Mr. Warner informed her gently. "Sit down,
Miss Ayer. Sit down, boys."

The three men seated themselves. "Thank you," said Susannah; but she
continued to stand. Byan rose thereupon, and stood lolling in the
corner, his vague smile floating on his lips. O'Hearn dropped his chin
almost to that point on his chest where his folded arms rested. His lips
drooped. Occasionally he studied the situation from under his
protuberant forehead.

"Miss Ayer," Warner went on after a pause, "you read that letter--the
one you handed to me this morning?"

Susannah hesitated for an almost imperceptible moment. "Yes," she
admitted, "entirely by mistake."

"I am going to tell you something that it will surprise you to hear,
Miss Ayer. What this fellow says is all true. Carbonado is merely a--a
convenient name, let us say. In other words, we are engaged in selling
fake stocks to suckers. To be still more explicit, we are conducting a
criminal business. We could be arrested at any moment and sent to jail.
To the Federal penitentiary, in fact. I suppose that is a great surprise
to you?"

Though she had guessed something of this ever since she recalled the
contents of the letter, the cold-blooded statement came indeed with all
the force of a surprise. Susannah's figure stiffened as though she had
touched a live wire. The crimson flush drained out of her face. And she
heard herself saying, as though in another's voice and far away, the
inadequate words: "How perfectly terrible!"

"Exactly so!" agreed Warner. "Only you haven't the remotest idea how
terrible. Miss Ayer, this company--you as well as the rest of us--needs
money and needs it right away. Ozias Cowler has money--a great deal of
money. Somebody's bound to get it--and why not we? We use various means
to get money out of suckers. There's only one way with Cowler. He's
stuck on you. You can get it from him. We want you to do that--we expect
you to do that."

Susannah stared at him. "Mr. Warner, I think you are crazy. I could no
more do that ... I couldn't ... I wouldn't even know how ... my
resignation goes into effect immediately. I couldn't possibly stay here
another minute." She turned to leave the office.

"Just one moment!" Mr. Warner's words purled on. His tone was low, his
accent bland--but his voice stopped her instantly. "Miss Ayer, you don't
understand yet. Unless we get some money--a great deal of money--we
shan't last another two weeks. The situation is--but I won't take the
time to explain that. Unless we clean up that aforesaid money, we go to
jail--for a good long term. If we get the money--we don't. Never mind
the details. I assure you it's true."

"I'm sorry," said Susannah, her lips scarcely moving as she spoke, "but
I fail to see what I have to do with that--"

"I was about to go on to say, Miss Ayer, that you have everything to do
with it. You must be aware, if you look back over your service with us,
that you are as much involved as anyone. Your name is on our letterhead.
You have signed hundreds and perhaps thousands of letters to woman
investors. Putting a disagreeable fact rather baldly, what happens to us
happens to you. If it's the stir--if it's jail--for us, it's jail for
you."

Susannah stared at him. She grew rigid. But she roused herself to a
trembling weak defense.

"I'll tell them, if they arrest me ... all that has gone on here ..."
she began.

"If you do," put in Mr. Warner smoothly, "you only create for yourself
an unfavorable impression. You put yourself in the position of going
back on your pals, and it will not get you immunity. If Mr. Cowler comes
through, you are entitled to a share of the proceeds. Whether you take
it or no is a matter for your private feelings. But the main point is
that with Cowler in, this thing will be fixed, and without him in, you
are in jail or a fugitive from justice."

He paused now and looked at Susannah--paused not as one who pities but
as one who asks himself if he has said enough. Susannah's face proved
that he had.

"Now of course you won't feel like working this morning. And I don't
blame you. Go home and think it over. Your first instinct, probably,
will be to see a lawyer. For your own sake, I advise you not to do that.
For ours, I hope you do. If he tells you the truth, he will show you how
deeply involved you are in this thing. No lawyer whom you can command
will handle your case. What you'd better do is lie down and take a nap.
Then at about five o'clock this afternoon, send for hot coffee and doll
yourself up--Mr. Cowler will call for you at seven."

                  *       *       *       *       *

Susannah took part of Mr. Warner's advice. She went home immediately.
But she did not take a nap. Instead, she walked up and down her bedroom
for an hour, thinking hard. She could think now; in her passage home on
the Subway, her first wild panic had beaten its desperate black wings to
quiet. What Warner had told her she now believed implicitly. She was as
much caught in the trap as any one of the three crooks with whom she had
been associated. The only difference was that she did not mean to stay
in the trap. She meant to escape. Also she did not mean to let it drive
her from the city in which she was challenging success. She meant to
stay in New York. She meant to escape. But how?

If there were only somebody to whom she could go! She had in New York a
few acquaintances--but no real friends. Besides, she didn't want anybody
to know; all she wanted was to get away from--to vanish from their
sight. But where could she go--when--how?

Fortunately she had plenty of money on hand, plenty at least for her
immediate purposes. She owned a few pawnable things, though only a few.
But at present what she needed, more even than money, was time. She must
get away at once. But again where? For a moment resurgent panic tore
her. Then common sense seemed to offer a solution. Here she was in the
biggest city in the country; the biggest in the world. She had heard
somewhere that a big city was the best place in the world to hide in.
She would hide in New York. Then--

She had forgotten one terrifying fact. Byan boarded in the same house.

She realized why now. A fortnight before--shortly after Mr. Cowler
appeared in the office--he had come to her for advice. He had given up
one bachelor apartment, he said, and was taking another. Repairs had
become inevitable in the new apartment. He did not want to go to a
hotel. Did she know of a good boarding-house in which to spend a month?
She did, of course--her own. Byan came there the next day; although,
curiously enough, she saw but little of him. They had separate tables,
and his meal-hours and hers were different.

Byan usually came in at about six o'clock. But today he might follow
her. She must work quickly.

She pulled her trunk out from under the bed and began in frenzied haste
to pack it. Down came all the pictures from her walls. Into the trunk
went most of her clothes; some of her toilet articles; her half-dozen
books; her stationery; all her slender Lares and Penates. When she had
finished with her trunk, she packed her suitcase. As many thin dresses
as she could crush in--inconsequent necessities--her storm boots; her
tooth-brush--

Then she wrote a note to her landlady. It read: "Dear Mrs. Ray: I have
been suddenly called away from the city. Will you keep my trunk until I
send for it? Yours in great haste and some trouble, Susannah Ayer." She
put it with her board money in an envelope, addressed to Mrs. Ray, and
placed it on the trunk.

At three o'clock, her suitcase in one hand, her bag and her umbrella in
the other, her long cape over her arm, she ventured into the hall.

It was vacant and silent.

She stole silently down the stairs. She met nobody. She noiselessly
opened the front door. Apparently nobody noticed her. She walked briskly
down the steps; turned toward the Avenue. At the corner something
impelled her to look back.

Byan, his look directed downward, two fingers fumbling in his side
pocket for his key, was briskly ascending the steps.



III


Lindsay drove directly from the Quinanog station to the Quinanog Arms.
The Arms proved to be a tiny mid-Victorian hotel, not an inexact
replica--and by no means a discreditable one--of many small rustic
hotels that he had seen in England and France. Indeed Quinanog, as he
caught it in glimpses, might have been one part of France or one part of
England--that region which only the English Channel prevents from being
the same country. The motor, which conducted him from the station to the
Arms, drove on roads in which high wine-glass elms made Gothic arches;
between wide meadowy stretches, brilliant with buttercups, daisies,
iris; unassertive, well-proportioned houses with roomy vegetable plots
and tiny patches here and there of flower garden. He arrived at so early
an hour that the best of the long friendly day stretched before him. He
felt disposed to spend it merely in reading and smoking. He had plenty
to smoke; he had seen to that himself in New York. And he had plenty to
read; Spink Sparrel had seen to that in Boston. The bottom of one of his
trunks was covered with Lutetia Murray's works.

But although he smoked a great deal, he did not read at all. Until
luncheon he merely followed his impulses. Those impulses took him a
little way down the main street, which ran between comfortable, white
colonial houses, set back from the road. He walked through the tiny
triangular Common. He visited the little, poster-hung post-office;
looked into the big neatly arranged general store; strolled back again.
His impulses then led him to explore the grounds of the Arms and
deposited him finally in the hammock on the side porch. After a simple
and very well-cooked luncheon, his languor broke into a sudden
restlessness. "Where is the Murray place?" he asked of the proprietor of
the Arms, whose name, the letterhead of the Arms stationery stated, was
Hyde.

"The Murray place!" Hyde repeated inquiringly. He was a long,
noncommittal-looking person with big pale blue eyes illuminating a sandy
baldness. "Oh, the _Murray_ place! You mean the old Murray place."

"I mean the house, whichever and wherever it is, that Lutetia Murray,
the author, used to live in."

"Oh, sure! I get you. You see it's been empty for such a long spell that
we forget all about it. The old Murray place is on the road to West
Quinanog."

"It isn't occupied, you say?"

"Lord, no! Hasn't been lived in since--well, since Lutetia Murray died.
And that was--let me see--" Hyde cast a reflective eye upward. "Ten,
eleven, twelve--oh, fifteen or twenty, I should say. Yes, all of fifteen
years."

"Does it still belong in the Murray family?"

"Lord bless your soul, no. There hasn't been a Murray around these parts
since--well, since Lutetia Murray died."

"Who owns it now?"

"The Turners. They bought it when it came up for sale after Miss
Murray's death."

"Well, weren't there any heirs?"

"There was a niece--her brother's little girl. They had to sell the
place and everything in it. There never _was_ a sale in Quinanog like
that. Why, folks say that the mahogany would bring fancy prices in New
York nowadays."

"Didn't they get as much as they should have?" Lindsay asked idly.

"Oh Lord, no! And they found her estate was awful involved, and the
debts et up about all the auction brought in."

"What became of the little girl?"

"Some cousins took her."

"Where is she now?"

"Never heard tell."

"Has anybody ever lived in the Murray place since the family left?"

"No, I believe not."

"Is it to let?"

"Yes, and for sale."

"Well, why hasn't it let or sold?"

"Oh, I dunno exactly. It's a great big barn of a place. Kinda
ramshackle, and of course it's off the main-traveled road. You'd need a
flivver, at least, to live there nowadays. And there ain't a single
modern improvement in it. No bathroom, nor electric lights, not set
tubs, nor any of the things that women like. No garage neither."

"Every disability you quote makes it sound all the better to me,"
Lindsay commented. He meditated a moment. "I'd like to go over and look
at it this afternoon. Is there anyone here to drive me?"

"Yes, Dick'll take you in the runabout." Hyde appeared to meditate in
his turn, and he cocked an inquiring eye in Lindsay's direction. "You
wasn't thinking of hiring the place, was you?"

Lindsay laughed. "I should say I wasn't. No, I just wanted to look at
it."

"I was going to say," Hyde went on, "that it's a very pleasant location.
City folks always think it's a lovely spot. If you was thinking of
hiring it, my brother's the agent."

Lindsay laughed again. "Hiring a house is about as far from my plans at
present as returning to France."

"Well," Hyde commented dryly, "judging from the way the Quinanog boys
feel, I guess I know just about how much you want to do that."

"How soon can we go to the Murray place?" Lindsay inquired.

"Now--as far as Dick's concerned."

"By the way," Hyde dropped, as he turned toward the garage, "the Murrays
called the place Blue Medders."

"Blue Meadows," Lindsay repeated aloud. And to himself, "Blue Meadows."
And again, though wordlessly, "Blue Meadows." It was apparent that he
liked the sound and the image the sound evoked.

The runabout chugged to Blue Meadows in less than ten minutes. The road
branched off from the State highway at the least frequented place in its
ample stretch; ran for a long way to West Quinanog. On this side road,
houses were few and they grew fewer and fewer until they left Blue
Meadows quite by itself. Its situation, though solitary, was not lonely.
It sat near the road. Perhaps, Lindsay decided, it would have been too
near if stately wine-glass elms, feathered with leaves all along their
lissom trunks, in collaboration with a high lilac hedge now past its
blooming, had not helped to sequester it. From the street, the house
showed only a roof with two capacious chimneys, the upper story of its
gray clapboarded façade.

Dick, a gangling freckled youth, slowed down the machine as if in
preparation for a stop. "I've got the key," he volunteered, "if you want
to go in."

Until that moment Lindsay had entertained no idea of going in. But
Dick's words fired his imagination. "Thanks, I think I will."

Dick handed over the long, delicately wrought key. He made no move to
follow Lindsay out of the car. "If you don't mind," he said, "I'll run
down the road to see a cousin of mine. How soon before you'll want to
start back?"

"Oh, give me half an hour or so," Lindsay decided carelessly.

The runabout chugged into the green arch which imprisoned the distance.

Alone, Lindsay strolled between lilac bushes and over the sunken flags
which led to the front door. Then, changing his mind, he made an
appraising tour about the outside of the place.

Blue Meadows was a big old house: big, so it seemed to his amateur
judgment, by an incredible number of rooms; and old--and here his
judgment, though swift, was more accurate--to the time of two hundred
years. Outside, it had all the earmarks of Colonial architecture--plain
lines, stark walls, the windows, with twenty-four lights, geometrically
placed; but its lovely lines, its beautiful proportions, and the soft
plushy nap which time had laid upon its front clapboardings mitigated
all its severities. The shingles of the roof and sides were
weather-beaten and gray, the blinds a deep old blue. At one side jutted
an incongruous modern addition; into the second story of which was set a
galleried piazza. At the other side stretched an endless series of
additions, tapering in size to a tiny shed.

"This is Lutetia's house!" Lindsay stopped to muse. "Is it true that I
spent two years with the French Army? Is it true that I served two more
with the American Army? Oh, to think you didn't live to see all that,
Lutetia!"

A lattice arched over the doorway and on it a big climbing rose was just
coming into bud. The beautiful door showed the pointed architrave, the
leaded side panels, the fanlight, the engaged columns, of Colonial
times. It resisted the first attack of the key, but yielded finally to
Lindsay's persuasion. He stepped into the hall.

It was a rectangular hall, running straight to the back of the house.
Pairs of doors, opposite each other, gaped on both sides. At the left
arose a slender straight stairway, mahogany-railed. Lindsay strolled
from one room to the other, opening windows and blinds. They were big
square rooms, finished in the conventional Colonial manner, with
fireplaces and fireplace cupboards. The wallpaper, faded and stained,
was of course quite bare of pictures and ornaments. He stopped to
examine the carving on the white, painted panels above the
fireplace--garlands of flowers caught with torches and masks.

Smiling to himself, Lindsay returned to the hall. "Oh, Lutetia, I should
like to have seen you here!" he remarked wordlessly.

Behind the stairway, at the back, appeared another door. He opened it
into darkness. Fumbling in his pocket, he produced a box of matches,
lighted his way through the blackness; again opened windows and
shutters. This proved to be the long back room so common in Colonial
homes; running the entire width of the house. There were two fireplaces.
One was small, with a Franklin stove. The other--Lindsay calculated that
it would take six-foot logs. Four well-grown children, shoulder to
shoulder, could have walked into it. This room was not entirely empty.
In the center--by a miracle his stumbling progress had just avoided
it--was a long table of the refectory type. Lindsay studied the position
of the two fireplaces. He examined the ceiling. "You threw the whole lot
of little rooms together to make this big room, Lutetia. You're a lady
quite of my own architectural taste. I, too, like a lot of space."

He continued his explorations. From one side of the long living-room
extended kitchen, laundry; servants' rooms and servants' dining-room; an
endless maze of butteries, pantries, sheds. Lindsay gave them short
shrift. At the other side, however, lay a little half-oval room, the
first floor of that Victorian addition which he had marked from the
outside.

"Oh, Lutetia, Lutetia, how could you, how could you?" he burst out at
first glance. "To add this modern bit to that fine Colonial stateliness!
Perhaps we're not kindred souls after all."

Hugging the wall of this room and leading to the second floor was a
stairway so narrow that only one person could mount it at a time.
Lindsay proved this to his own satisfaction by ascending it. It opened
into a big back room of the main house, the one with the galleried
piazza. Lindsay opened all the windows here; and then went rapidly from
room to room, letting in the June sunshine.

They were all empty, of course--and yet, in a dozen plaintive
ways--faded wall spaces, which showed the exact size of pictures, nails
with carpet tufts still clinging to them, a forgotten window shade or
two--they spoke eloquently of habitation. Indeed, the whole place had a
friendly atmosphere, Lindsay reflected; there was none of the cold, dead
connotation of most long-empty houses. This old place was spiritually
warm, as though some reflection of a long-ago vivid life still hung
among its shadows. From the dust, the stains, the cobwebs, it might have
been vacant for a century. From the welcoming warmth of its quiet rooms,
it might have been vacant but for a day.

Through the back windows, Lindsay looked down onto what must once have
been a huge rectangle of lawn; and near the house, what must once have
been an oval of flower garden. The lawn, stretching to a stone
wall--beyond which towered a chaos of trees--was now knee-deep in
timothy-grass; the garden had reverted to jungle. He studied the garden.
Close to the house, an enormous syringa bush heaped into a mountain of
fragrant snow. Near, a smoke-bush was just beginning to bubble into
rounds of blood-scarlet gauze. Strangled rosebushes showed yellow or
crimson. Afar an enormous patch of tiger lilies gave the effect of a
bizarre, orchidous tropical group. The rest was an indiscriminate
early-summer tangle of sumac; elderberry; bayberry; silver birches; wild
roses; daisies; buttercups; and what would later be Queen Anne's lace
and goldenrod. From a back corner window, it seemed to him that he
caught a glint of water; but he could not recapture it from any other
point of view. However, he lost all memory of this in a more affording
discovery. For the front windows gave him the reason of the name, Blue
Meadows. Across the road stretched a series of meadows, all bluish
purple with blooming iris.

Lindsay contemplated this charming prospect for a long interval.

"And now, Lutetia," he suddenly turned and addressed the empty rooms, "I
want to find _your_ room. Which of these six was it?"

Retracing his steps, he went from room to room until, many times, he had
made a complete survey of the second floor. He crossed and recrossed his
own trail, as the excitement of the quest mounted in him.

"Ah!" he exclaimed aloud, "here it is! You can't escape your soul-mate,
Lutetia."

It was not because the room was so much bigger than the rest that he
made this decision; it was only because it was so much more quaint. At
one side it merged, by means of a slender doorway, with the galleried
piazza. From it, by means of that tiny flight of stairs, Lutetia could
have descended to the first floor of that mid-Victorian addition. "I
take it all back, Lutetia," he approved. "Middle of the nineteenth
century or not, it's a wonder--this combination." At the back of
Lutetia's room was a third door; as slender as the door leading to the
gallery, but much lower; not four feet high. Lindsay pushed it open,
crawled on hands and knees through it. He had of course, on his first
exploration, entered the small room into which it led. But he had gone
in and out without careful examination; it had seemed merely a
four-walled room. Coming into it, however, from Lutetia's bedroom, it
suddenly acquired character.

The walls were papered in white. And on the mid-Victorian dado scarcely
legible now, he suddenly discovered drawings. Drawings of a curious
character and of a more curious technique. He followed their fluttery
maze from wall to wall--a flight of little beings, winged at the
shoulders and knees, with flying locks and strange finlike hands and
feet; fanciful, comic, tender.

"Oh!" Lindsay emitted aloud. "Ah!" And in an instant: "I see! This room
belonged to that child Hyde spoke of."

He ascended to the garret. This was of course the big storeroom of the
Colonial imagination. It too was quite empty. At one spot a
post--obviously not a roof-support--ran from floor to ceiling. Lindsay
gazed about a little unseeingly. "I wonder what that post was for?" he
questioned himself absently. After a while, "What's become of that
child?" he demanded of circumambient space.

As though this offered food for reflection, he descended by means of the
main stairway to the lower floor; sat on the doorsteps a while. He
mused--gazing out into the green-colored, sweet-scented June afternoon.
After an interval he arose and repeated his voyage of exploration.

Again he was struck with the friendly quality of the old place. That
physical dampness, which long vacant houses hold in solution, seemed
entirely to have disappeared before the flood of June sunshine. The
spiritual chill, which always accompanies it--that sinister quality so
connotative of congregations of evil spirits--he again observed was
completely lacking. As he emerged from one room to enter another, it
seemed to him that the one back of him filled with--_companionship_, he
described it to himself. As he continued his explorations, it seemed to
him that the room he was about to enter would offer him not ghostly but
human welcome. That human welcome did not come, of course. Instead,
there surged upon him the rich odors of the lilacs and syringas; the
staccato greetings of the birds.

After a while he went downstairs again. Sitting in the front doorway, he
fell into a rich revery.

This was where Lutetia Murray wrote the books which had so intrigued his
boyish fancy. Mentally he ran over the list: _The Sport of the
Goddesses_, _The Weary Time_, _Mary Towle_, _Old Age_, _Intervals_,
_With Pitfall and with Gin_, _Cynthia Ware_-- Details came up before his
mental vision which he had entirely forgotten and now only half
remembered; dramatic moments; descriptive passages; conversational
interludes; scenes; epigrams.... He tried to imagine Lutetia Murray at
Blue Meadows. The picture which, in college, he had cut from a
book-house catalogue, flashed before him; he had found it among his
papers. The figure was standing.... He had looked at it only yesterday,
but his masculine observation retained no details of the gown except
that it left her neck and arms bare. The face was in profile. The
curling hair rose to a high mass on her head. The delicate features were
_mignonne_, except for the delicious, warm, lusciously cut mouth-- Was
she blonde or brunet he wondered. She died at forty-five. To David
Lindsay at twenty-two, forty-five had seemed a respectable old age. To
David Lindsay at twenty-eight, it seemed almost young. She was dead, of
course, when he began to read her. Oh, if he could only have met her! It
was a great pity that she had died so young. Her work--he had made a
point of this in his thesis--had already swung from an erratic, highly
colored first period into a more balanced, carefully characterized
second period; was just emerging into a third period that was the union
of these two; big and rounded and satisfying. But death had cut that
development short. In the last four years Lindsay had seen a great deal
of death and often in atrocious form. He had long ago concluded that he
had thought on the end of man all the thoughts that were in him. But
now, sitting in the scented warmth of Lutetia's trellised doorway, he
found that there were still other thoughts which he could think.

                  *       *       *       *       *

The runabout chugged up the road presently. "Ben waiting long?" the
freckled Dick asked with a cheery shamelessness.

"No, I've been looking the house over. Wonderful old place, isn't it?"

"Don't care much for it myself," Dick answered. "I don't like anything
old--old houses or that old truck the summer folks are always buying.
Things can't be too new or up-to-date for me."

Lindsay did not appear at first to hear this; he was still bemused from
the experiences of the afternoon. But as they approached the Arms, he
emerged from his daze with a belated reply. "Well, I suppose a lot of
people feel the way you do," he remarked vaguely. "Mr. Hyde tells me
that the Murray place hasn't been let for fifteen years. I expect the
rest of the people around here don't like old houses."

"Oh, that ain't the reason the Murray house hasn't let," Dick explained
with the scorn of rustic omniscience. "They say it's haunted."

                  *       *       *       *       *

"What rent do they ask for the Murray house?" Lindsay asked Hyde that
evening.

Hyde scratched the back of his head. His face contracted with that
mental agony which afflicts the Yankee when an exact statement is
demanded of him. "Well, I shouldn't be surprised if you could get it for
two hundred dollars the season," he finally brought out.

Lindsay considered, but apparently not Hyde's answer; for presently he
came out with a different question. "Why do they say it's haunted?"

Hyde emitted a short contemptuous laugh. "Did you ever hear of any house
in the country that's been empty for a number of years that worn't
considered haunted?"

"No," Lindsay admitted. "I am disappointed, though. I had hoped you
would be able to tell me about the ghost."

"Well, I can't," Hyde asserted scornfully, "nor nobody else neither."

The two men smoked in silence.

After a while Lindsay made the motions preliminary to rising. He knocked
the ashes out of his pipe; put his pipe in his pocket; withdrew his feet
from their comfortable elevation on the piazza rail. Finally he
assembled his full height on the floor, but not without a prolonged
stretching movement. "Well," he said, halfway through the yawn, "I guess
you can tell that brother of yours that I'm going to hire the Murray
house for the season."

Hyde was equally if not more _dégagé_. He did not move; nor did he
change his expression. "All right," he commented without enthusiasm,
"I'll let him know. How soon would you like to go in, say?"

"As soon as I can buy a bed." Lindsay disappeared through the doorway.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Two days later Lindsay found himself comfortably settled at Blue
Meadows. Upstairs--he had of course chosen Lutetia's room--was a cot and
a bureau of soft wood. Downstairs was a limited assortment of cheap
china; cheaper cutlery; the meagerest possible cooking equipment.

But there was an atmosphere given to Lindsay's room by Lutetia's own
picture hanging above the bureau. And another to the living-room by
Lutetia's own works--a miscellaneous collection of ugly-proportioned,
ugly-colored, late-nineteenth-century volumes--ranged on the broad shelf
above the fireplace; by Lindsay's writing materials scattered over the
refectory table. Economical as he had been inside, he had exploded into
extravagance outside. A Gloucester hammock swung at the back. A
collection of garden materials which included a scythe, a spade, a
sickle, a lawn-mower, and a hose filled one corner of the barn.
Already--his back still complained of the process--he had cut the
spacious lawn.

He was at one and the same time sanely placid and wildly happy.

Every morning he awoke with the sun and the birds. Adapting himself with
an instant spiritual content to the fact that he was no longer in France
and would not have to fly, he turned over to take another nap. An hour
or two later, he was up and eating his self-prepared breakfast. The rest
of the day was reading Lutetia; musing on Lutetia; "scything" or
"sickling," as he called it in his letters to Spink, in the garden;
reflecting on Lutetia; exploring the neighborhood on foot; meditating on
Lutetia; reading and rereading the mass of Spink's data on Lutetia;
hosing the garden; making notes on Spink's data on Lutetia and thinking
of his notes on Spink's data on Lutetia. He awoke in the morning with
Lutetia on his mind. He fell asleep at night with Lutetia in his heart.
He had come to realize that Lutetia, the author, was even better than he
had supposed her. His college thesis had described her merely as the
Mrs. Gaskell of New England. Now, mentally, he promoted her to its Jane
Austen. His youth had risen to the lure of her color and fecundity, but
his youngness had not realized how rich she was in humor; how wise; what
a tenderness for people informed her careful, realistic detail. It was a
triumph to find her even better than the flattering dictum of his boyish
judgment.

Exploring Lutetia's domain gave results only second in satisfaction to
exploring Lutetia's mind. It was obvious at his first inspection that
the garden had once stretched contrasting glories of color and perfume.
A careful study from the windows was even more productive than a close
survey. There, definitely, he could trace the remains of flower-plots;
pleached paths; low hedges and lichened rocks. Resurrecting that garden
would be an integral part of the joy of resurrecting Lutetia. By this
time also, he had explored the barn. There, a big roomy lower floor
sustained only part of a broken stairway. The equally roomy upper floor
seemed, from such glimpses as he could get below, to be piled with
rubbish. Some day, he promised himself, he would clean it out. Beyond,
and to the right of the barn, bounded by the stone wall, scrambled a
miniature wilderness. That wilderness evaded every effort of
exploration. Only an axe could clear a trail there. Another day he would
tackle the wilderness. But in the meantime he would devote himself to
garden and lawn; in the meantime also loaf and invite his soul. After
all, that was his main reason for coming to Quinanog. Whenever he
thought of this, he took immediately to the Gloucester hammock.

Every morning he walked briskly over the long mile of road, shaded with
wine-glass elms, slashed with vistas of pasture, pond, and brook which
lay between Blue Meadows and the Quinanog post-office. When he had
inquired for his mail--usually he had none--he strolled over to the
general store and made his few simple purchases. He had followed this
routine for ten days before it occurred to him that he had not seen a
newspaper since he settled himself at Blue Meadows. "I'll let it go that
way, I guess," he said to himself. He noticed at first with a little
embarrassment and then with amusement that the groups in the post-office
waiting for mail, the customers at the general store, were all quietly
watching him. And one morning this floated to him from behind a pile of
cracker boxes:

"He's the nut that's taken the Murray place. Lives all alone--batching
it. Some sort of highbrow."

Gradually, however, he made acquaintance. Silas Turner, who owned the
next farm to Blue Meadows, offered him a ride one morning on the road.
Out of a vague conversation on the weather and real estate, Mr. Turner
dropped one interesting fact. He had known Lutetia Murray. This
revelation kept Lindsay chatting for half an hour while Mr. Turner
spilled a mass of uncorrelated details. Such as Miss Murray's
neighborliness; the time her cow ran away and Art Curtis brought it
back; how Miss Murray admired Mis' Turner's beach plum jelly so much
that Mis' Turner always made some extra just for her. As they parted he
let fall dispassionately: "She was a mighty handsome woman. Fine
figure!" He added, still dispassionately but with an effect somehow of
enthusiastic conviction, "She kept her looks to the last day of her
life."

Useless, all this, for a biography, Lindsay reflected; but it gave him
an idea. He bought that day a second-hand bicycle at the Quinanog
garage; and thereafter, when the devil of restlessness stirred in his
young muscles, he trundled about the countryside in search of those
families mentioned in Lutetia's letters. Some were utterly gone from
Quinanog, some were not affording, and some added useful detail; as when
old Mrs. Apperson produced a dozen letters written from Europe during
Lutetia's first trip abroad. "I'd have admired to go to Europe, but it
never came so's I could," said Mrs. Apperson. "When Miss Murray went,
she wrote me from every city, telling me all about it. I read 'em over a
lot--makes me feel as though I'd been there too. And every Decoration
Day," she added inconsequently, "I put a bunch of heliotrope on her
grave. She just loved the smell of heliotrope."

Somehow, Lindsay had never even thought of Lutetia's grave. The next day
he made that pilgrimage. The graveyard lay near the town center,
overtopped by the pine-covered hill which bore three austere white
buildings--church, town-hall, and grange. The grave itself was in a
patch of modern tombstones, surrounded by the flaking slabs of two
centuries ago. The stone was featureless, ill-proportioned; the
inscription recorded nothing but her name and the dates of her birth and
death.

The note which most often came out of these wayside gossipings was a
high one--of the gaiety and the brilliancy of the Blue Meadows
hospitality. Apparently people were coming and going all the time; some
distinguished; some undiscovered: but all with personality. When Lindsay
returned from such a talk, the old house glowed like an opal--so full
did it seem of the colors of those vivacious days.

But he was not quite content to be long away from his own fireside. The
friendly atmosphere of the Murray house continued to exercise its
enchanting sway. He always felt that one room became occupied the
instant he left it, that the one he was about to enter was already
occupied--and this feeling grew day by day, augmented. It brought him
back to the house always with a sense of expectancy. "Lutetia's house is
my hotel-lobby, my movie, my theater, my grand opera, my cabaret," he
wrote Spink. "There's a strange fascination about it--a fascination with
an element of eternal promise."

At times, when he entered the trellised doorway, he found himself
expecting someone to come forward to greet him. It kept occurring to him
that a neighbor had stopped to call, was waiting inside for him.
Sometimes in the middle of the night he would drift slowly out of a
delicious sleep to a sense, equally delicious, of being most gently and
lovingly companioned in the room; sometimes in the morning he would wake
up with a snap, as though the house were full of company. For a moment
the whole place would seem brilliant and gay, and then--it was as though
a bubble burst in the air--he was alone. "It's almost as good," he wrote
Spink, "as though you were here yourself, you goggle-eyed hick, you!"
Once or twice he caught himself talking aloud; addressing the empty air.
He stifled this impulse, however. "People always have a tendency to get
bughouse," he explained to Spink, "when they live alone. I used to do
that in your rooms. I'm going to try to keep sane as long as possible."

Ten days increased rather than diminished this impression. By this time
he had burned his thesis and was now making notes that were part the
direct product of Spink's data and part the byproduct of Lutetia's own
works. The syringas were beginning to run down; but the roses were
coming out in great numbers. The hollyhocks had opened flares of color
under the living-room window. The lawn was as close to plush as constant
care could make it. The garden was not yet quite cleaned out. He was
glad, for he liked working there. It was not a whit less friendly than
the house. Indeed, he felt so companioned there that sometimes he looked
up suddenly to see who was watching his efforts to resurrect a neglected
rosebush; or to uproot a flourishing patch of poison ivy. The evenings
were long, and as--consciously girlish and in quotation marks he wrote
Spink--"lovely." His big lamp made a spot of golden color in the shadowy
long room. One northeaster, which lasted three days, gave him dark and
damp excuse for three days of roaring fire. Much of that time he sat
opposite the blazing logs in the big, rush-bottomed piazza chair which
he had purchased, smoking and reading Lutetia. Now and then, he looked
up at Lutetia's picture, which he had finally brought down from his
bedroom.

Perhaps it was the picture which made him feel more companioned here
than anywhere in the house or out. The living-room was peculiarly rich
with presence, so rich that he left it reluctantly at night and returned
to it as quickly as possible in the morning; so rich that often he
smiled, though why he could not have said; so rich that in the evening
he often looked up suddenly from his book and stared into its shadowy
length for a long, moveless--and breathlessly expectant--interval.

Indeed that sensation so concretely, so steadily, so persistently
augmented that one evening--

He had been reading ever since dark; and it was getting late. Finally he
arose; closed the door and windows. He came back to the table and stood
leaning against it, idly whistling the _Sambre et Meuse_ through his
teeth, while he looked at Lutetia's portrait.

He took up _The Sport of the Goddesses_ just to look it over ... turned
a page or two ... became immersed.... Suddenly ... he realized that he
was not alone....

He was not alone. That was conclusive. That he suddenly and absolutely
knew; though how he knew it he could not guess. His eyes stopped, in the
midst of Lutetia's single grim murder, fixed on the printed line. He
could not move them along that line. He did not mind that. But he could
not move them off the page. And he did mind that; for he wanted--most
intensely wanted--to lift his gaze. After lifting it, he presently
discovered, he would want to project it to the left. Whoever his visitor
was, it sat at the left. That he knew, completely, absolutely, and
conclusively; but again, how he knew it, he did not know.

An immeasurable interval passed.

He tried to raise his eyes. He could not accomplish it. The air grew
thick; his hands, still holding the book, turned cold and hard as clamps
of iron. His eyes smarted from their unwinking immobility. This was
absurd. Breaking this deathly ossification was just a matter of will. He
made himself turn a page. Five lines down he decided; he would look up.
But he did not look up. He could not. He wanted to see ... but something
stronger than desire and will withheld him. He read; turned another
page. Five lines down....

Ah ... the paralysing chill was moving off.... In a moment ... he was
going to be able.... In a moment....

He lifted his eyes.... He gazed steadily to the left....



IV


Before night Susannah had found a room which exactly suited her purpose.
This was as much a matter of design as of luck. She had heard of the
place before. It was a large building in the West Twenties which had
formerly been the imposing parsonage of an imposing and very important
church. The church had long ago gone the way of all old Manhattan
buildings. But the parsonage, divided into an infinite number of
cubby-hole rooms, had become a lodging-house. A lodging-house with a
difference, however. For whereas in the ordinary establishment of this
kind, one paid rent to a landlady who lived on the spot, here one paid
it to an agent who came from somewhere, promptly every Monday morning,
for the purpose of collection. It was a perfect hiding-place. You did
not know your neighbor. Your neighbor did not know you. With due care,
one could plan his life so that he met nobody.

Susannah, except for a choice of rooms, did not for an interval plan her
life at all. She made that choice instantly, however. Of two rooms
situated exactly opposite each other at the back of the second floor,
she chose one because it overlooked a yard containing a tree. It was a
tiny room, whitewashed; meagerly and nondescriptly furnished. But the
door-frame and window-frame offered decoration. Following the
ecclesiastical design of the whole house, they peaked into triangles of
carved wood.

Susannah gave scant observation to any of these things. Once alone in
her room, she locked the door. Then she removed two things from her
suitcase--a nightgown and the miniature of Glorious Lutie. The latter
she suspended by a thumbtack beside the mirror of her bureau. Then she
undressed and went to bed. She slept fitfully all the rest of that day
and all that night. Early in the morning she crept out, bought herself,
at a Seventh Avenue delicatessen shop, a jar of milk and a loaf of
bread. She lunched and dined in her room. She breakfasted next morning
on the remains.

Her sleep was deep and dreamless; but in her waking moments her thoughts
pursued the same treadmill.

"Glorious Lutie," she began one of the wordless monologues which she was
always addressing to the miniature, "I ought to have known long ago that
they were a gang of crooks! Why don't we trust our intuitions? I suppose
it's because our intuitions are not always right. I can't quite go with
anything so magic, so irrational as intuition! And then again I'm afraid
I'm too logical. But I'm always having the same thing happen to me.
Perhaps I'm talking with somebody I have met for the first time.
Suddenly that person makes a statement. Instantly--it's like a little
hammer knocking on my mind--something inside me says: 'That is a lie. He
is lying deliberately and he knows he lies.' Now you would think that I
would trust that lead, that I would follow it implicitly. But do I? No!
Never! I pay no more attention to it than as though it never happened.
And generally my intuition is right. But always I find it out too late.
Now that little hammer has been knocking its warnings about the
Warner-Byan-O'Hearn bunch ever since I started to work for them. But I
could not _make_ myself pay any attention to it. I did not want to
believe it, for one thing. And then of course the work was awfully
interesting. I kept calling myself all kinds of names for thinking-- And
they _were_ kind. I _wouldn't_ believe it. But my intuition kept telling
me that Warner was a hypocrite. And as for Byan--"

Perhaps Susannah could not voice, even to Glorious Lutie, the thoughts
that flooded her mind when she conjured up the image of Byan. For in her
heart Susannah knew that Byan admired her overmuch, that he would have
liked to flirt with her, that he had started-- But Warner had called him
off. The enigmatic phrase, which had come to her from Warner's office
and in Warner's voice, recurred. "Keep off clients and office employ--"
Susannah knew the end of it now--"employees" of course. Warner's rule
for his fellow crooks was that they must not flirt with clients or the
office force. Again and again in her fitful wakefulness she saw Byan
standing before her; slim, blade-like; his smartly cut suit adhering, as
though pasted there, to the lithe lines of his active body. And then
suddenly that revolver which came from--where? Byan was of course the
most attractive of them all. That floating, pathetic smile revealed such
white teeth! That deep look came from eyes so long-lashed! Warner with
his pseudo-clergyman, pseudo-actor oratory, deep-voiced and vibrant, was
the most obvious. O'Hearn, his lids perpetually down, except when they
lifted swiftly to let his glance lick up detail, was the most
mysterious. But Byan was the most attractive--

"Yes, Glorious Lutie, I was always receiving letters which started that
little hammer of intuition knocking. I was always overhearing bits of
conversation which started it; although often I could not understand a
word. I was always trying to piece things together--wondering-- Well,
the next time I'll know better. I've learned my lesson. But oh--think,
think, _think_ what I've helped to do. They robbed widows and orphans
and all kinds of helpless people. Of course I didn't know I was doing
it. But that's going to haunt me for a long, long time. I wish there
were some way I could make up. I've come out of it safe. But they--oh, I
mustn't think of this. I _mustn't_. I can't stand it if I do. Oh,
Glorious Lutie, believe me, my guardian angel was certainly on _that_
job. Otherwise I don't know what would have become of me. Are you my
guardian angel, I wonder?"

When Susannah finally arose for good, she discovered, naturally enough,
that she was hungry. She went out immediately and, in the nearest
Child's restaurant, ordered a dinner which she afterward described to
Glorious Lutie as "magnanimously, munificently, magnificently
masculine." It consisted mainly of sirloin steak and boiled potatoes,
"and I certainly ate my fill of them both." Then she took a little
aimless, circumscribed walk; returned to her room. She unpacked her
tightly stratified suitcase; hung her clothes in her little closet;
ranged her small articles in the bureau drawer. As though she were going
to start clean in her new career, she bathed and washed her hair in the
public bathroom on the second floor. Coming back into her room, she sat
for a long time before the window while her dripping locks dried. She
sat there through the dusk.

"After all, Glorious Lutie," she reflected contentedly, "why do I ever
live in anything bigger than a hall bedroom? All a girl needs is a bed,
a bureau, one chair and a closet, and that is exactly what I've got. And
for full measure they have thrown in all those ducky little backyards
and a tree. I don't expect you to believe it, but I tell you true. A
tree in Manhattan. How do you suppose it got by the censor! And just
now, if you please, a tiny new moon all tangled up in its branches. It's
trying its best to get out, but it can't make it. I never saw a new moon
struggle so hard. Honest, I can hear it pant for breath. It looks like a
silver fish that tried to leap out of this window and got caught in a
green net. I suppose your Glorious Susie must be thinking of annexing a
job sometime, Glorious Lutie. Or else we'll cease to eat. But for a few
days I won't, if you don't mind; I'm fed up on jobs. And I've lost my
taste for offices. No, I think I'll take those few days off and do a
rubberneck trip around Manhattan. I feel like looking on innocent
objects that can't speak or think. And for a time I don't want to go any
place where I'd be likely to see my friends of the Carbonado Mining
Company. After a while the thought of them won't bother me so. Probably
by this time they have hired some other poor girl. Perhaps she won't
mind Mr. Cowler though. Anyway, I'm free of them."

When Susannah awoke the next morning, which was the third of her
occupancy of the little room, some of her normal vitality had flowed
back, her spirits began to mount. She sang--she even whistled--as she
bathed and dressed; and she indulged in no more than the usual number of
exasperated exclamations over the uncoilableness of her freshly
shampooed, sparkling hair. "Why do we launder our tresses, I ask you,
Glorious Lutie?" she questioned once. "And oh, why didn't I have regular
gold hair like yours instead of this garnet mane? I look like--I look
like--Azinnia! But oh, I ought never to complain when I reflect that
I've escaped the curse of white eyelashes."

A consideration first of the shimmery day outside, and next of the
clothes hanging in her closet, deflected her attention from this
grievance. She chose from her closet a salmon-colored linen gown,
slightly faded to a delicate golden rose. It was a long, slim dress and
it made as much as possible of every inch of Susannah's long slimness.
Moreover, it was notably successful in bringing out the blue of her
brilliant eyes, the red of her brilliant hair, the contrasting white of
her smooth warm skin. That face now so shone and smelled of soap that,
the instant she caught sight of it in the glass, she pulled open the top
drawer of her bureau and powdered it frantically.

"I always shine, Glorious Lutie, as though I had washed with brass
polish. I don't remember that you ever glistened. But I do remember that
you always smelled as sweet as--roses, or new-mown hay, or heliotrope. I
wonder what powder you did use? And it was a very foxy move on your
part, to have yourself painted in just that soft swirl of blue tulle.
You look as though you were rising from a cloud. I wonder what your
dresses were like? I seem to remember pale blues and pinks; very
delicate yellows and the most silvery grays. It seems to me that tulle
and tarlatan and maline were your dope. Do you think, Glorious Lutie,
when I reach your age, I shall be as good-looking as you?"

Glorious Lutie, with that reticence which distinguishes the inhabitants
of portraits, made no answer. But an observer might have said that the
young face, staring alternately at the mirror and at the miniature,
would some day mature to a face very like the one which stared back at
it from the gold frame. Both were blonde. But where Glorious Lutie's
eyes were a misty brown-lashed azure, Glorious Susie's were a spirited
dark-lashed turquoise. Glorious Lutie's hair was like a golden crown,
beautifully carved and burnished. Glorious Susie's turbulent mane was
red, and it made a rumpled, coppery bunch in her neck. However, family
resemblances peered from every angle of the two faces, although
differences of temperament made sharp contrast of their expressions.
Glorious Lutie was all soft, dreamy tenderness; Susannah, all spirit,
active charm, resolution.

Susannah spent three days--almost carefree--of of what she described to
the miniature as "touristing." She had very little time to converse with
Glorious Lutie; for the little room saw her only at morning and night.
But she gave her confidante a detailed account of the day's adventures.
"It was the Bronx Zoo this morning, Glorious Lutie," she would say.
"Have you ever noticed how satisfactory little beasties are? They don't
lay traps for you and try to put you in a tortured position that you
can't wriggle out of?" Though her question was humorous in spirit,
Susannah's eyes grew black, as with a sudden terror. "No, _we_ lay traps
for _them_. I guess I've never before even tried to guess what it means
to be trapped?" Or, "It was the Art Museum this afternoon, Glorious
Lutie. I've looked at everything from a pretty nearly life-size replica
of the Parthenon to a needle used by a little Egyptian girl ten million
years ago. I'm so full of information and dope and facts that, if an
autopsy were to be held over me at this moment, it would be found that
my brain had turned into an Encyclopædia Britannica. In fact, I will
modestly admit that I know everything." Or, "It was the Aquarium this
morning, Glorious Lutie. Why didn't you tell me that fish were
interesting? I've always hated a fish. They won't roll over or jump
through for you and practically none of them bark or sing--or anything.
I have always thought of them only as something you eat unwillingly on
Fridays. But some of them are really beautiful; and interesting. I
stayed there three hours; and I suppose if it hadn't been for the horrid
stenchy smell I'd be there yet."

But in spite of these vivacious, wordless monologues, her spirits were a
long time rising to their normal height. The frightened look had not
completely left her eyes; and often on her long, lonely walks, she would
stop short suddenly, trembling like a spirited horse, as though some
inner consideration harassed her. Then she would take up her walk at a
frantic pace. Ultimately, however, she succeeded in leaving those
terrifying considerations behind. And inevitably in the end, the
resilience of youth conquered. The day came when Susannah leaped out of
bed as lightly as though it were her first morning in New York.

"Glorious Lutie," began her ante-breakfast address, "we are not a
millionairess; ergo, today we buy all the morning papers and read them
at breakfast in order to hunt for a job via the ads. And perhaps the
next time your Glorious Susie begins to earn money, you might advise her
to save a little against an unexpected situation. Of course I shouldn't
have squandered my money the way I did. But I never had had so much
before in my life--and oh, the joy of having cut-steel buckles and a
perfectly beautiful raincoat--and my first set of furs--and perfumery
and everything."

The advertising columns were not, she found (and attributed it to the
return of so many men from France), very fecund. Each newspaper offered
only from two to six chances worth considering. One, which appeared in
all of them, seemed to afford the best opening. It read:

    "_Wanted_: A stenographer, lady-like appearance and address,
    with some executive experience. Steady job and quick advancement
    to right woman. Apply between 9 and 11, room 1009, Carman
    Building."

"I am requested to apply for this spectacular job at the office itself,
Glorious Lutie," she confided on her return to her room, "and I'm going
out immediately after it. It's a romantic thing, getting a job through
an advertisement. I hope I float up to the forty-sixth floor of a
skyscraper, sail into a suite of offices which fill the entire top
story; all Turkish rugs on the highly polished floor; all expensive
paintings on the delicately tinted walls; all cut flowers with yard-long
stems in the finely cut crystal vases. I should like to find there a new
employer; tall, young, handsome, and dark. Dark he must be, Glorious
Lutie. I cannot marry a blond; our children would be albinos. He would
address me thus: 'Most Beauteous Blonde--you arrive at a moment when we
are so much in need of a secretary that if you don't immediately seat
yourself at yon machine, we shall go out of business. Your salary is one
hundred dollars a week. This exquisite rose-lined boudoir is for your
private use. You will find a bunch of fresh violets on your desk every
morning. May I offer you my Rolls-Royce to bring you back and forth to
work? And,' having fallen in love with me instantly, 'how soon may I ask
you to marry me?'"

Susannah took the Subway to Wall Street; walked through that busy
city-cañon to the Carman Building. She strode into the elevator, almost
empty in the hour which followed the morning rush; started to emerge, as
directed by the elevator-man, at the tenth floor. But she did not
emerge. Instead, her face as white as paper, she leaped back into the
elevator; ascended with it to the top floor; descended with it;
hurriedly left the building.

That first casual glance down the corridor had given her a glimpse of H.
Withington Warner sauntering slowly away from the elevator.

"Say, Eloise," she said late that afternoon over the telephone to the
friend she had made at the Dorothy Dorr Home. "When can I see you?...
Yes.... No.... Well, you see I'm out of a job at present.... No, I can't
tell you about it. This is a rooming-house. There is no telephone in my
room. I am telephoning from the hall. And so I'd rather wait until I see
you. But in brief, I'm eating at Child's, soda-fountains and even peanut
stands. I'm really getting back my girlish figure. Only I think I'm
going to be a regular O. Henry story. Headlines as follows: _Beautiful
Titian-haired_ (mark that _Titian-haired_, Eloise) _Blonde Dead of
Starvation. Drops Dead on Fifth Avenue. Too Proud to Beg._ I hope that
none of those wicked reporters will guess that my new shoes with the
cut-steel buckles cost thirty-five dollars. All right! All right.... The
'Attic' at seven. I'll be there promptly as usual and you'll get there
late as usual.... Oh yes, you will! Thanks awfully, Eloise. I feel just
like going out to dinner."

Eloise, living up to her promise, made so noble an effort that she was
only ten minutes late. Then, as usual, she came dashing and sparkling
into the room; a slim brown girl, much browner than usual, for her coat
of seashore tan; with narrow topaz eyes and deep dimples; very smart in
embroidered linen and summer furs. The Attic restaurant occupied the
whole top floor of a very high, downtown West Side skyscraper. Its main
business came at luncheon, so the girls sat almost alone in its long,
cool quiet. They found a table in a little stall whose window overhung
the gray, fog-swathed river which seamlessly joined gray fog-misted sky.
A moon, opaque as a scarlet wafer, seemed to be pasted at a spot that
could be either river or sky. The girls ordered their inconsequent
dinner. They talked their inconsequent girl chatter. They drank each a
glass of May wine.

Susannah had quite recovered her poise and her spirit. She described her
new room with great detail. She suggested that Eloise, whom she
invariably addressed as, "you pampered minion of millions, you!" should
call on her in that scrubby hall bedroom. In fact, her narrative went
from joke to joke in a vein so steadily and so augmentingly gay that,
when Eloise had paid the bill and they sat dawdling over their coffee,
suddenly she found herself on the verge of breaking her vow of secrecy,
of relating the horrors of the last week.

"Eloise," she began, "I'm going to tell you something that I don't want
you ever to--"

And then the words dried on her lips. Her tongue seemed to turn to wood.
She paled. She froze. Her eyes set on--

O'Hearn was walking into the Attic.

He did not perceive that instant terror of petrification; for it
happened he did not even glance in their direction. He walked,
self-absorbed apparently, to the other end of the room. But his
face--Susannah got it clearly--was stony too. It had the look somehow of
a man about to perform a deed repugnant to him.

"What's the matter, Sue?" Eloise asked in alarm. "You look awfully ill
all of a sudden."

"The fact is," Susannah answered with instant composure, "I feel a
little faint, Eloise. Do you mind if we go now? I really should like to
have a little air."

"Not at all," Eloise answered. "Any time you say. Come on!"

They made rapidly for the elevator. Susannah did not glance back. But
inwardly she thanked her guardian-angel for the fortuitous miracle by
which intervening waiters formed a screen. Not until they had walked
block after block, turning and twisting at her own suggestion, did
Susannah feel safe.

"Oh, what was it you were going to tell me, Susannah," Eloise
interrupted suddenly, "just before we left the Attic?"

"I don't seem to remember at this moment," Susannah evaded. "Perhaps it
will come to me later."

                  *       *       *       *       *

Susannah did not sleep very well that night. But by morning she had
recovered her poise. "Glorious Lutie," she said wordlessly from her bed,
"I think I'll go seriously to the business of getting a job. It'll take
my mind off--things. I'm going to ignore that little _rencontre_ of
yesterday. Don't you despair. The handsome young employer with his
romantic eyes and movie-star eyelashes awaits me somewhere. And just as
soon as we're married, you shall be hung in a manner befitting your
birth and station in a drawing-room as big as Central Park. I wish it
weren't so darn hot. Somehow too, I don't feel so strong about answering
ads in _person_ as I did two days ago."

On her way to breakfast she bought all the newspapers. She spent her
morning answering advertisements by letter. She received no replies to
this first batch; but she pursued the same course for three days.

"Glorious Lutie," she addressed the miniature a few days later, "this is
beginning to get serious. I am now almost within sight of the end bill
in my wad. In point of fact I will not conceal from you that today I
pawned my one and only jewel--my jade ring. You don't know how naked I
feel without it. It will keep us for--perhaps it will last three weeks.
And after that-- However, I don't think we'll either of us starve. You
don't take any sustenance and I take very little these days. I wish this
weather would change. You are so cool living in that blue cloud,
Glorious Lutie, that you don't appreciate what it's like when it's
ninety in the shade and still going up. I'm getting pretty sick of it. I
guess," she concluded, smiling, "I'll make out a list of the friends I
can appeal to in case of need."

The idea seemed to raise her spirits. She sat down and turned to the
unused memorandum portion of her diary. Her list ran something like
this:

New York--

No. 1--First and foremost--Eloise, who, being an heiress and the owner
of a check-book, never has any real cash and always borrows from me.

Providence--

No. 2--Barty Joyce--Always has money because he's prudent--and the salt
of the earth--

P.S. Eloise never pays the money back that she borrows from me--

"Will you tell me, Glorious Lutie, why I don't fall in love with Barty
and why he doesn't fall in love with me? There's something awfully out
about me. I don't think I've been in love more than six times; and the
only serious one was the policeman on the beat who had a wife and five
children."

Providence again--

No. 3--The Coburns--nice, comfy, middle-aged folks; not rich; the best
friends a girl could possibly have.

No. 4--

But here she yawned loudly and relinquished the whole proceeding.

That afternoon Susannah visited several employment agencies which dealt
with office help. She answered all the inquiries that their
questionnaires put to her; omitting any reference to the Carbonado
Mining Company. It was late in the afternoon when she finished. She
walked slowly homeward down the Avenue. Outside of her own door, she
tried to decide whether she would go immediately to dinner or lie down
first. A sudden fatigue forced decision in favor of a nap. She walked
wearily up the first flight of stairs. Ahead, someone was ascending the
second flight--a man. He turned down the hall. She followed. He stopped
at the room opposite hers; fumbled unsuccessfully with the key. As she
approached, she glanced casually in his direction.

It was Byan.



V


Dear Spink:

This is the kind of letter one never writes. But if you knew my mental
chaos.... And I've got to tell somebody about the thing that I can speak
about to nobody. If I don't.... What do you suppose I've done? I've
bought a house. Yep-- I'm a property owner now. Of course you guess! Or
do you guess? It's the Murray place. I could just make it and have
enough left over for a year or two or three. But after that, Spink, I'm
going to work because I'll have to.

I suppose you're wondering why I did it. You're not puzzled half as much
as I am; although in one way I know exactly why I did it. Perhaps I
didn't do it at all. Anyway, I didn't do it of my own volition. Somebody
made me. I'm going to tell you about that presently.

Yes, it's all mine: beautiful old square-roomed house with its carved
panelings and its generous Colonial fireplaces; its slender doors and
amusing door-latches; an upstairs of ample bedrooms; an old garret with
slave quarters; the downstairs with that little, charmingly incongruous,
galleried, mid-Victorian addition; barn; lawn; flower-garden. And how
beautiful I'm making that flower-garden you'll never suspect till you
see it. But you won't see it for quite a while--I withdraw all my
invitations to visit me. I don't want you now, Spink; although I never
wanted you so much in my life. I'll want you later, I think. Of course
it isn't from you personally--you beetle-eyed old scout--that I'm
withdrawing my invitation; it's from any flesh-and-blood being. If you
had an astral self-- I don't want anybody. I never wanted to be alone so
much in my life. In a moment I'm going to tell you why.

And the wine-glass elms are mine; and the lilacs and syringas and the
smoke-bush and the hollyhocks; and all the things I've planted; my
Canterbury bells (if they come up); my deep, rich dahlias and my
flame-colored phlox (if ditto). All mine! Gee, Spink, I never felt so
rich in my life, because what I've enumerated isn't twenty-five per cent
of what I own. In a minute I'm going to tell you what the remaining
seventy-five per cent is.

This place is full of birds and bees. I watch them from the house.
Spink, we flying-men are boobs. Have you ever watched a bee fly? I spend
hours, it seems to me, just studying them--trying to crab their act. And
the other day there was an air-fight just over my roof. A chicken-hawk
attacked by the whole bird population. It was a reproduction in
miniature of a bombing-machine pursued by a dozen combat-planes. Spink,
it was the best flying I've ever seen. You should have seen the sparrows
keeping on his tail! The little birds relied on their quickness of
attack, just as combat planes do. They attacked from all angles with
such rapidity that the hawk could do nothing but run for his life. The
little birds circled about, waiting for the moment to dive. A
combat-plane dives; its machines go ta-ta-ta-ta-ta-ta and it turns off
before the gunner can swing his guns over. The birds dived, picked
furiously at his eyes while the hawk turned bewildered from one attack
to another. But the little birds did something that planes can't even
attempt--they hovered over him almost motionless, waiting their moment
to attack. Here I am talking of flying! Flying! Did I ever fly? When I
got to New York, Greenwich Village seemed strange and unnatural, just a
pasteboard dream. Pau--Avord--Verdun--were the only real things in my
life. Now _they're_ shadows like Greenwich Village. Quinanog--the Murray
place--and Lutetia--seem the only real things.

I'm going to tell you all about it in a moment. I sure am. The world
seems to be full of landing-places, but for some reason I can't land.
Every time, I seem to come short on the field; or overshoot it. Perhaps
it's because I feel it ought not to be told-- Perhaps it's because I
feel you won't believe me--

But I've got to do it. So here goes!

Spink, the remaining seventy-five per cent that I own in this place is--
This place is haunted. Not by a ghost, but by _ghosts_! There are not
one of them, but four. Three I see occasionally. But one of the
quartet--I see her all the time. She is Lutetia.

It began-- Well, it all goes back to your rooms in New York. They're
haunted too, but you don't know it, you wall-eyed old grave-digger, you.
Not because you're inept or unsensitive or anything stupid-- It's
because there's something they want to say to _me_--a message they want
to give to me alone. But I can't stop to go into that now. To return to
your apartment, _something_ ... used to come ... to my bed at night ...
and bend over me ... I don't know who it was or what it was, except that
it was masculine. And how I knew that, I dunno.

It bothered me. One reason why I came down here was that I thought I was
going crazy. Perhaps I have gone crazy. Anyway, if I have I like it. But
here I am again! It's as though the world slipped out from under me. I
can fly on and on or climb, but it's the coming down that baffles me.
When I cut the motor off and the noise dies away, I feel sick and
afraid; the bus seems to take its own head. Now for a landing--even if I
do smash.

From the moment I entered this house, I felt as though there were others
here. Not specifically, you understand. At first, it was only a
sensation of warmth in the atmosphere that grew to a feeling of
friendliness that deepened to a sense of companionship until-- Well, I
found myself in a mood of eternal expectancy. Something was going to
happen but I didn't know what or how or when.... Oh yes, in a _way_ I
knew what. I was going to see something. Some time--I felt dimly--when I
should enter one of these rooms, so stark and yet so occupied, somebody
would be there to greet me ... or some day turning a corner I should
come suddenly on.... I did not dread that experience, Spink, I give you
my word. I reveled in the expectancy of it. It was beautiful; it was
rich. I wasn't anything of what you call _afraid_. I wanted it to
happen.

And it did happen.

One evening, as usual, I was reading Lutetia. I was sitting in my big
chair beside the refectory table. Outside, it was a perfect night I
remember; dark and still, and the stars so big that they seemed to spill
out of the heavens. Inside, the lamp was bright. My eyes were on my
book. Suddenly.... I was not alone. Don't ask me how I knew it. Only
take it from me that I did. I knew it all right. For--_oh, Spink_--(I've
underlined that just like a girl) all in a flash I didn't want--to look
up. I wanted to go away from this place and to go with considerable
speed, not glancing back. It was the worst sensation that I have ever
known--worse even than a night raid. After a while something came back;
courage I suppose you'd call it; a kind of calm, a poise. Anyway, I
found that I was going to be able to look up presently and not mind
it....

Of course I knew whom I was going to see....

I did look up. And I did see-- It was Lutetia. Spink, if you try to say
those things that people always say--that it was imagination, that I was
overwrought, that my mind, moving all the day among the facts and
realities of Lutetia's life, suddenly projected a picture--I'll never
speak to you again. There she sat, her elbow resting on the arm of her
chair, her chin in her hand, looking at me. I can't tell you how long
she stayed. But all the time she was there she looked at me. And all
that time I looked at her. I don't think, Spink, I have ever guessed how
much eyes can say. Her eyes said so much that I think I could write the
whole rest of the night about them. Except that I'm not quite sure what
they said. It was all entreaty; oh, blazing, blasting, blinding
entreaty.... Of that I am sure. But what she asked of me I haven't the
remotest idea. After a while ... something impelled me to look down at
my book again. When I lifted my eyes Lutetia was gone.

That wasn't all, Spink; for that night, or the next day-- But I'm going
to try to keep to a consecutive story. I didn't go to bed immediately. I
didn't feel like sleeping. You can understand it was considerable of a
shock. And very thrilling. Literally thrilling! I shook. It didn't
bother me an atom after it was over. I wasn't the least afraid. But I
vibrated for hours. I walked four or five miles--where, I don't know. I
must have passed the Fallows place, because I recall the scent of
honeysuckle. But I assure you I seemed to be walking through the
stars.... She is beautiful. I can't tell you how beautiful because I
have no colors to give you; no flesh to go by. Perhaps she is not
beautiful, but lovely. What queer things words are! I have called
females _pretty_ and _stunning_ and even _fascinating_ and _beautiful_.
I think I never called any woman _lovely_ before. I've been that young.
But I'm not as young as I was yesterday. I'm a century, an age, an æon
older. I was obsessed though. If you believe it, when I went to bed, I
had only one idea in my mind--a hope that she would come back soon.

She didn't come back soon--at least not that night. But somebody else
did....

In the middle of the night, I suddenly found myself, wide-eyed and
clear-minded, sitting upright in bed and listening to something. I don't
know what I had heard, but I remember with perfect clearness--Spink, you
tell me this is a dream and I'll murder you--what I immediately did and
what I subsequently saw. I got up quite calmly and lighted a candle.
Then I opened the door.

Do you remember my writing you that the chamber, just back of the one I
occupy, must have been the room of a child--Lutetia's little niece? The
door of that room, of course, leads into the hall as mine does. As I
stood there, shading my candle from the draft, that door opened and
there emerged from the room--what do you suppose?

A little girl.

I say--a little girl. She wasn't, you understand, a real little girl.
Nor was she a dead little girl. Instantly I knew that--just as instantly
as I had known that Lutetia _was_ dead. I mean, and I hope this
phraseology is technically correct, that Lutetia, as I saw her, was the
ghost of someone who had once lived. This little girl was an apparition;
an appearance projected through space of some one who now lives. That
or--oh, how difficult this is, Spink--a sloughed-off, astral self left
in this old place; or--but I won't go into that.

I stood there, as I said, shading my candle. The little girl closed her
door with a meticulous care. Did I hear the ghost of a click? Perhaps my
ear supplied that. By one hand she was dragging a big doll--one of those
rag-dolls children have. I couldn't tell you anything about
Lutetia--except that she was lovely--ineffably lovely. But I can tell
you all about this little girl. She was pigtailed and freckled. The
pigtails were short, very thick, so tight that their ends snapped
upwards, like hundreds of little-girl pigtails that I have seen. There
was a row of tangled little ringlets on her forehead. She didn't look at
me. She didn't know that I was there. She proceeded straight across the
hall, busily stub-toeing her way like any freckled, pigtailed little
girl, the doll dragging on the floor behind her, until she reached the
garret stairs. She opened the garret door, closed it with the same
meticulous care. The last I got was a little white glimpse of her
down-dropped face, as she pulled the rag-doll's leg away from the
shutting door.

I waited there a long time--until my candle guttered to nothing. She did
not return. I did not see her or anybody else again that night.

I went back to bed and fell immediately into a perfectly quiet,
dreamless sleep. The next morning early, I went over to Hyde's
brother--his name is Corning--and bought this house. Perhaps you can
tell me why I did it. I don't exactly know myself; for of course I
couldn't afford it. I realized only that I could not--I simply and
absolutely could _not_--let anybody else buy Lutetia.

You think, of course, that I've finished now, Spink. But that isn't all.
Not by a million Persian parasangs--all. She has come again. I mean
Lutetia. For that matter, they both have come again. But I'll try to
tell my story categorically.

It was a night or two later; another dewy, placid large-starred night--
Strange how this beautiful weather keeps up! I had been reading as
usual; but my mind was as vacant as a glass bell from which you have
exhausted the air. I was rereading, I remember, Lutetia's _The Sport of
the Goddesses_. Spink, how that woman could write! And.... Again I
became aware that I wasn't alone. Just as definitely, I knew that it was
not Lutetia this time; nor even Little Pigtails. This time, and perhaps
it's because I'm getting used to this sort of thing, I had a sense
of--not _fear_--but only of what I'll call a _spiritual diffidence_.

Yet instantly I looked up.

He--it was a _he_ this time--was standing in the doorway, which leads
from this big living-room into the front hall. We were
vis-à-vis--tête-à-tête one might say. He was looking straight at me and
I--I assure you, Spink--I looked straight at him.

Spink, you have never heard of a jovial ghost, have you? I'm sure I
haven't. But this was or could have been a jovial ghost. He was big--not
fat but ample--middle-aged, more than middle-aged. He wore an enormous
beard cut square like the men in Assyrian mural tablets. Hair a little
long. I assure you he was the handsomest old beggar that I have ever
seen. He looked like a portrait by Titian. I got--it's like holding a
photographic negative up to the light and trying to get the figures on
it--that he wore a sort of flowing gown; it made him stately. And one of
those little round caps that conceal or protect baldness. I can't
describe him. How the devil _can_ you describe a ghost? I mean an
apparition. For he isn't dead either--any more than the little girls is.
He's alive somewhere.

Well, our steady exchange of looks went on and on and on. If I could
have said anything it would have been: "What do you want of me, you
handsome old beggar?" What he would have said to me I don't know;
although he was trying with all his ghostly strength to put some message
over. How he was trying! It was that effort that kept him from being
what he was--_is_--jovial. God, how that gaze burned--tore--ate. It grew
insupportable after a while--it was melting me to nothingness. I dropped
my eyes. Suddenly I could lift them, for I knew he was gone. Somehow I
had the feeling that a monstrous bomb had noiselessly exploded in the
room. His going troubled me no more than his coming. I remember I said
aloud: "I'm sorry I couldn't get you, old top! Better luck next time!"

I got up from my chair after a few minutes to take my usual
before-going-to-bed walk. I walked about the room; absent-mindedly
putting things to rights--the way women do. My mind--and I suspect my
eyes too--were still so full of him that when, on stepping outside, I
came across another--I was conscious of some shock. Again not of fear,
but of a terrific surprise.

Are you getting all this, Spink? Oh, of course you're not, because you
don't believe it. But try to believe it. Put yourself in my place! Try
to get the wonder, the magic, the terror, the touch now and then of
horror, but above all the fierce thrill--of living with a family of
ghosts?

This one--the fourth--was a man too. About thirty, I should say. And
awfully charming. Yes, you spaniel-eyed fish, you, one man is saying
this of another man. He was awfully charming. Short, dark. He
wore--again it is like holding a negative up to the light--he wore white
ducks or flannels. He stood very easily, his weight--listen to me, his
_weight_--mainly on one foot and one hand curved against his hip. In the
other hand, he carried his pipe. He looked at me--God, how he looked at
me! How, for that matter, they all look at me! They want something,
Spink. Of me. They're trying to tell me. I can't get it, though. But,
believe me, I'm trying. This was worse than the old fellow. For this
one, like Lutetia, was dead. And he, like her, was trying to put his
message across a world, whereas the old fellow had only to pierce a
dimension. How he looked at me; held me; bored into me. It was like
sustaining visual vitriol.... How he looked at me! It became
horrible.... Pretty soon I realized I wasn't going to be able to stand
it....

Yet I stayed with it as long as he did, and of course we continued to
glare at each other. I don't exactly know what the etiquette of these
meetings is; but I seem to feel vaguely that it's up to me to stay with
them as long as they're here. This time, it must have been all of five
minutes, although it seemed longer ... much longer ... and I, all the
time, trying to hold on. Then suddenly something happened. I don't know
what it was, but one instant he was there, and another he wasn't. Don't
ask me how he went away. I don't know. He simply ceased to be; and yet
so swifter-than-instantly, so exquisitely, so subtly that my only
question was--even though my mind was still stinging from his gaze--had
he been there at all. It was as though the tree back of him had
instantaneously absorbed him. It was a shock too--that disappearance.

Well, again I went out for a hike. I walked anywhere--everywhere. How
far I don't know. But half the night. Again it was as though I marched
through the stars....

I haven't seen the old painter again--I call him painter simply because
he wore that long robe. And I haven't seen the young guy again. But I
see Lutetia all the time. She comes and goes. Sometimes when I enter the
living-room, I find her already there.... Sometimes when I leave it, I
know she enters by another door.... We spend long evenings together....
I can't write when she's about; but curiously enough I can sometimes
read; that is to say, I can read Lutetia. I try to read because moments
come when I realize that she prefers me not to look at her. It's when
she's exhausted from trying to give me her message. Or when she's
girding herself up for another go. At those moments, the room is full of
a frightful struggle; a gigantic spiritual concentration. It seems to me
I could not look even if she wanted me. Oh, how she tries, Spink! It
wrings my heart. She's so helpless, so hopeless--so gentle, so tender,
so lovely! It's all my own stupidity. The iron-wall stupidity of flesh
and blood. Perhaps, if I were to kill myself--and I think I could do
that for her.... Only she doesn't want me to do that.... But what does
she want me to do? If I could only....

                  *       *       *       *       *

Lindsay had written steadily the whole evening; written at a violent
speed and with a fierce intensity. Now his speed died down. His hands
dropped from the typewriter. That mental intensity evaporated. He became
aware....

He was not alone.

The long living-room was doubly cheerful that night. The inevitable
tracks of living had begun to humanize it. A big old bean-pot full of
purple iris sat on one end of the refectory table. Lindsay's books and
notebooks; his paper and envelopes; his pens and pencils sprawled over
the length of table between him and the iris. That the night was a
little cool, Lindsay had seized as pretext to build a huge fire. The
high, jagged flames conspired with the steady glow of the big lamp to
rout the shadows from everywhere but the extreme corners.

No more than--after her coming--he was alone was Lutetia alone. It was,
Lindsay reflected, a picture almost as posed as for a camera. Lutetia
sat; and leaning against her, close to her knee, stood a pigtailed
little girl. She might have been listening to a story; for her little
ear was cocked in Lutetia's direction. That attitude brought to
Lindsay's observation a delicious, snub-nosed child profile. She gazed
unseeingly over her shoulder to a far corner. And Lutetia gazed straight
over the child's head at Lindsay--

They sat for a long time--a long long time--thus. The little girl's
vague eyes still fixed themselves on the shadows as on magic realms that
were being constantly unrolled to her. Lutetia's eyes still sought
Lindsay's. And Lindsay's eyes remained on Lutetia's; held there by the
agony of her effort and the exquisite torture of his own bewilderment.

After a while he arose. With slow, precise movements, he gathered up the
pages of his letter to Spink. He arranged them carefully according to
their numbers--twelve typewritten pages. He walked leisurely with them
over to the fireplace and deposited them in the flames.

When he turned, the room was empty.

The next day brought storm again.

                  *       *       *       *       *

The coolness of the night vanished finally before the sparkling sunshine
of a wind-swept day. Lindsay wrote for an hour or two. Then he gave
himself up to what he called the "chores." He washed his few dishes. He
toiled on the lawn and in the garden. He finished the work of repairing
the broken stairway in the barn. At the close of this last effort, he
even cast a longing look in the direction of the rubbish collection in
the second story of the barn. But his digestion apprised him that this
voyage of discovery must be put off until after luncheon. He emerged
from the back entrance of the barn, made his way, contrary to his usual
custom, by a circuitous route to the front of the house. He stopped to
tack up a trail of rosebush which had pulled loose from the trellis
there. He felt unaccountably tired. When he entered the house he was
conscious for the first time of a kind of loneliness....

He had not seen Lutetia, nor any of her companions, for three days. He
admitted to himself that he missed the tremendous excitement of the last
fortnight. But particularly he missed Lutetia. He paused absently to
glance into the two front rooms, still as empty as on the day he had
first seen them. He wandered upstairs into his bedroom. From there, he
journeyed to the child's room beyond; examined again the dim drawings on
the wall. It occurred to him that, by going over them with crayons, he
could restore some of their lost vividness. The idea brought a little
spurt of exhilaration to his jaded spirit. He returned to his own room,
just for the sake of descending Lutetia's little private stairway to
what must have been her private living-room below. He walked absently
and a little slowly; still conscious of loneliness. He did not pause
long in the living-room, although he made a tentative move in the
direction of the kitchen. Still absently and quite mechanically he
opened the back door; started to step out onto the broad flat stone
which made the step....

Most unexpectedly--and shockingly, he was not alone. A tiny figure ...
black ... sat on the doorstep; sat so close to the door that, as it
rose, his curdling flesh warned him he had almost touched it. A curious
thing happened. Lindsay swayed, pitched; fell backwards, white and
moveless.



VI


"How did they find me, Glorious Lutie?" Susannah asked next morning.
"How _did_ they find me? If I could only teach myself to listen to the
warning of those little hammers. Something told me when I saw Warner
walking along the corridor of the Carman Building that he was not there
by accident. Something told me when I ran into O'Hearn at the Attic the
other night that _he_ was not _there_ by accident. They have been
following me all the time. They've known what I've been doing every
moment. Just as Byan knows where I am now. How did they do it? I've
never suspected it for a moment. I've never seen anybody. I'm
frightened, Glorious Lutie; I'm dreadfully frightened. I don't know
where to turn. If I only had a real friend-- But perhaps that wouldn't
help as much as I think. For I'm afraid--I'm too afraid to tell
_anybody_--"

All this, she said as usual, wordlessly. But she said it from her bed,
her eyes fixed in a lackluster stare on the little oval gleam of the
miniature.

"I don't know what I'd do without you, Glorious Lutie, to tell my
troubles to. You're a great deal more than a picture to me. You're a
real presence-- Oh, if you could only see for me now. I wonder if Byan
is still in his room? I wonder what he's going to do. I mean--what is
the next move? Oh, of course he's there! He wants to talk with me. But I
won't let him talk with me. I'll stay in this room until I starve! And
he can't telephone. How can he put over what he wants to say?"

That question answered itself automatically when she dragged herself up
from bed. A white square glimmered beside her door. She pounced upon it.

    "Dear Miss Ayer:

    "Of course we have known where you were and what you were doing
    every instant since you left the office. We did not interfere
    with your quitting your boarding-house because we preferred to
    give you a few days to think things over. I hope you've been
    enjoying your little excursions to the Museum and the Aquarium.
    We knew you'd come to your senses after a while and be ready to
    talk business. That is why you've had those little, accidental
    meetings from time to time. That advertisement for a job in the
    Carman Building was a decoy ad. It is useless for you to try to
    get away from us.

    "And in the meantime the situation is getting more and more
    desperate. You know why. Now listen. We can clean up on that
    little business deal in three days. Do you know what that means?
    Maybe a hundred thousand dollars. We'll let you in. Your share
    would be twelve thousand five hundred. Don't that sound pretty
    good to you? You can avoid any trouble by going away with us. Or
    you can go alone and nobody will bother you. We'll give you the
    dope on that; for believe me, we know how. And you wouldn't have
    to do a thing you don't want to do. We've got grandpa tamed now
    in regard to you. We've told him that you're a lady, and won't
    stand for that rough stuff. He's wild about you, and crazy to
    see you, and make it all right again. Now why not use a little
    sense? Slip a note under my door across the way and tell me that
    you'll doll yourself up and be ready to go to dinner with him
    tonight at seven."

    A postscript added: "This is unsigned and typewritten on your
    own typewriter and so couldn't be used by anyone who didn't like
    our way of doing business. For your own safety though, I advise
    you to burn it."

This last was the one bit of advice in the letter which Susannah
followed. She lighted a match and burned it over her water basin. Then
she forced her protesting throat to swallow a glass of milk. She ate
some crackers. After that she went to bed.

What to do and where to go! Over and over again, she turned the meager
possibilities of her situation. Nothing offered escape. A hackneyed
phrase floated into her mind--"woman's wit." From time immemorial it had
been a bromidiom that any woman, however stupid, could outwit any man,
however clever. Was it true? Perhaps not all the time, and perhaps
sometimes. That was the only way though--she must pit her nimble,
inexperienced woman's wit against their heavier but trained man's wit.
Her problem was to get out of this house, unseen. But how? All kinds of
fantastic schemes floated through her tired mind. If she could only
disguise herself-- But she would have to go out first to get the
disguise. And Byan was across the hall, waiting for just that move. If
there were only a convenient fire-escape! But of course he would
anticipate that. If she could only summon a taxi, leap into it and drive
for an hour! But she would have to telephone for the taxi in the outside
hall, where Byan could hear her. On and on, she drove her tired mind;
inventing schemes more and more impracticable. For a long time, that
woman's wit spawned nothing--

Then suddenly a curious idea came to her. It was so ridiculous that she
rejected it instantly. Ridiculous--and it stood ninety-nine per cent
chance of failure; offered but one per cent chance of success.
Nevertheless it recurred. It offered more and more suggestion, more and
more temptation. True, it was a thing barely possible; true also, that
it was the only thing possible. But could she put it through? Had she
the nerve? Had she the strength?

She must find both the nerve and the strength.

She bathed and dressed quickly and with a growing steadiness. She packed
her belongings into her suitcase, put Glorious Lutie's miniature in her
handbag.

She sat down at her bureau and wrote a note:

"If you will come to my room, after you have had your breakfast, I will
talk the matter over with you. I will not leave the building before you
return. I will be ready to see you at ten o'clock."

She opened her door, walked across the corridor; slipped the note under
the door of Byan's room. Then she hurried back; locked her door; sat
down and waited, her hands clasped. Her hands grew colder and colder
until they seemed like marble, but all the time her mind seemed to
steady and clarify.

After a long while she heard Byan's door open. She heard his steps
retreating down the hall and over the stairs.

Ten minutes later, Susannah appeared, suitcase in hand, at the janitor's
office on the first floor. "I'm Miss Ayer in No. 9, second floor," she
said. "May I leave this suitcase here? I've just thought that I wanted
to go to a friend's room on the fifth floor and I don't want to lug it
up all those stairs."

The janitor considered her for a puzzled second. Of course he was in
Byan's pay, Susannah reflected.

"Sure," he answered uncertainly after a while.

"I'm expecting a gentleman to call on me," Susannah went on steadily.
"Tell him I'll be on the fifth floor at No. 9. My friend is out," she
ended in glib explanation, "but she's left her key with me. There's a
little work that I wanted to do on her typewriter." The janitor--she had
worked this out in advance--must know that Room 9, fifth floor--was
occupied by a woman who owned a typewriter. Susannah established that
when, a few days before, she had restored to its owner a letter shoved
by mistake under her own door.

Susannah deposited her bag on the floor in the janitor's office. She
walked steadily up the stairs to the second floor. She felt the
janitor's gaze on the first flight of her progress. She stopped just
before she reached her own room, glanced back. She was alone there. The
janitor had not followed her. Perhaps Byan's instructions to him were
only to watch the door. With a swift pounce, she ran to Byan's door,
turned the knob.

It opened.

She ran to the closet; opened that. As she suspected, it was empty.
Indeed, her swift glance had discovered no signs of occupancy in the
room. Even the bed was undisturbed. Byan had hired it, of course, just
for the purpose of being there that one night. Susannah closed the
closet door after her, so that the merest crack let in the air she
should demand--and waited. In that desperate hour when she lay thinking,
the idea had suddenly flashed into her mind that there was only one
place in the house where Byan would not look for her. That place was his
own room. But it would not have occurred to her to take refuge there if
she had not noted, even in her taut terror of the night before, that
when Byan entered his own room he had omitted to lock the door after
him. As indeed, why should he? There was nothing to steal in it but
Byan. Moreover, of course Byan had sat up all night--his door
unlocked--ready to forestall any effort of hers to escape.

                  *       *       *       *       *

An hour later Susannah heard a padded, rather brisk step ascending the
stairs, coming along the hall. It was Byan, of course--no one could
mistake his pace. He knocked on the door of her room; at first gently,
then insistently. A pause. Then he tried the knob, again at first
gently, then insistently. His steps retreated down the hall and the
stairs. He must have got a pass-key from the janitor, for when, a long
minute later, she heard his steps return, the scraping of a lock sounded
from across the hall. She heard her somewhat rusty door-hinges creak.
There followed a low whistle as of surprise, then an irregular
succession of steps and creaks proving that he was looking under the
bed, was inspecting the closet. She heard him retreat again down the
stairs, and braced herself to endure a longer wait. At last, two pairs
of feet sounded on the stairs. Had her ruse fully succeeded--would they
mount at once to Room 9, fifth floor? No--they were coming again along
the second-floor corridor. With a tingle of nerves in her temples and
cheeks, she realized that she had reached the supreme moment of peril.
They began knocking at every door on the second-floor corridors. Once
she heard a muffled colloquy--the impatient tones of some strange man,
the apologetic voice of the janitor. At other doors she heard, shortly
after the knock, the scraping of the pass-key. Now they were in the room
just beyond the wall of the closet where she was crouching. She heard
them enter and emerge--the moment had come! But their footsteps passed
her door; an instant later, she heard the pass-key grate in the door of
the room on the other side. Then--one hand shaking convulsively on the
knob of Byan's closet door--she heard them go flying up the stairs to
the third story--the fourth--

                  *       *       *       *       *

Before noon of that haunted, hunted morning, Susannah found a room in a
curious way. When she escaped from the house in the West Twenties, she
had walked westward almost to the river. In a little den of a restaurant
just off the docks, she ordered breakfast and the morning newspapers.
But when she tried to look over the advertising columns with a view to
finding a room, she had a violent fit of trembling. The members of the
Carbonado Mining Company, she recalled to herself, were studying those
advertisements just as closely as she; and perhaps at that very moment.

Hiding in a great city! Why, she thought to herself, it's the only place
where you can't hide!

Susannah dawdled over breakfast as long as she dared. She found herself
wincing as she emerged onto the busy dingy street of docks. She stopped
under the shade of an awning and controlled the abnormal fluttering of
her heart while she thought out her situation. She dared no longer walk
the streets. She dared not go to a real-estate agent. How, then, might
she find a room and a hiding-place?

Then a Salvation Army girl came picking her way across the crowded,
cluttered dock-pavement toward her awning. And Susannah had a sudden
impulse which she afterwards described to Glorious Lutie as a stroke of
genius. She came out to the edge of the pavement and accosted the Blue
Bonnet.

"Do you know of any place where a girl who's a stranger in New York may
find a cheap and respectable lodging?" she asked.

The Salvation Army girl gave her a long, steady scrutiny from under the
scoop of her bonnet.

"My sister keeps a rooming-house up on Eighth Avenue," she said finally.
"She always has an extra room, and she will take you in, I guess. Have
you a bit of paper? I'll write her a note."

Susannah flew, swift as a homing dove, to the address. The landlady, a
shapeless, featureless, middle-aged blonde, read the note; herself gave
a long glance of scrutiny, and showed the room. Susannah's examination
was merely perfunctory. In fact, she looked with eyes which saw not.
Probably never before did a shabby, battered bedchamber, stained as to
ceiling, peeling as to wallpaper, carelessly patched as to carpet,
indescribably broken-down and nondescript as to furniture, seem a very
paradise to the eyes of twenty-five.

The bed was humpy, but it was a double bed; and clean. Susannah sank on
to it. She did not rise for a long time. Then, true to her accepted
etiquette on occasions of this kind, she drew the miniature from her
handbag and pinned it on to the wall beside her bureau.

"Glorious Lutie," her thoughts ran, "I'm as weak as a sick cat. If there
was ever a girl more terrified, more friendless, more worn-out than I
feel at this moment, I'd like to know how she got that way. I want to
crawl into that bed and stay there for a week just reveling in the
thought that I'm safe. Safe, Glorious Lutie. Safe! Alone with you. And
nobody to be afraid of. Our funds are running low of course. I've
nothing to pawn except you. But don't be afraid--I'll never pawn you. If
we have to go down, we'll go down together and with all sails set. I've
got an awful hate and fear on this job-hunting business now. Heaven
knows I don't want much money; only enough to live on. I guess I won't
try to be a high-class queen of secretaries any longer--or at least for
the present. My lay is to lie low for a month or two. I'll rest for a
few days. Then I'll go into--what? What, Glorious Lutie, tell me what?
I've got it! Domestic service. That's my escape. I've certainly got
brains enough to be a second girl and they never could find me tucked
away in somebody's house, especially if I never take my afternoons out.
Which, believe me, Glorious Lutie, I won't. I'll spend them all with
you. Oh, what an idea that is! I'll wait around here for about a week
and then I'll tackle one of the domestic service agencies. If I know
anything about after-the-war conditions, I'll be snapped up like hot
cakes."

Keeping her promise to herself, Susannah stayed as much as possible
indoors. The landlady consented to give her breakfast, but she would do
no more--even that was an accommodation. In gratitude, Susannah took
care of her own room. She kept it in spotless order; she even pottered
with repairs. With breakfast at home, she had no need to leave the house
of mornings. She went without luncheon; and late in the afternoon,
before the home-going flood from the offices, she had dinner in a
Child's restaurant round the corner. For the rest of the time, she read
the landlady's books--few, and mostly cheap. But they included a set of
Dickens; and she renewed acquaintance with a novelist whom she loved for
himself and who called up memories of her happiest times. But her mood
with Dickens was curiously capricious. His deaths and persecutions and
poignant tragedies she could no longer endure--they swept her into a
gulf of black melancholy. On the second day of her voluntary
imprisonment, she glanced through _Bleak House_; stumbled into the
wanderings of Little Jo through the streets of London. Suddenly she
surprised herself by a fit of hysterical, trembling tears. This
explosion cleared her mental airs; but afterward she skipped through
Dickens, picking and choosing his humors, his love-passages, his
gargantuan feasts in wayside inns.

When her eyes grew weary with reading, or when she ran into one of those
passages which brought the black cloud, Susannah gazed vacantly out of
the window.

Her lodging-house stood on a corner; she had a back, corner room on the
third floor. The house next door, on the side street, finished to the
rear in a two-story shed. Its roof lay almost under her window. The
landlady, upon showing the room, had called her attention to this shed.
"We've got no regular fire escapes, dearie," she said, "but in case of
trouble, you're all right. You just step out here and if the skylight
ain't open, somebody'll get you down with a ladder. A person can't be
too careful about fires!" Across the skylight lay a few scanty
backyards--treeless, grassless, uninteresting. This city area of yards
and sheds seemed to be the club, the Rialto for all the stray cats of
Eighth Avenue. Susannah named them, endowed them with personalities.
Their squabbles, their amours, their melodramatic stalking, gave her a
kind of apathetic interest.

The interest lessened as three days went by, and the apathy deepened.
"It's my state of mind, Glorious Lutie," she apprised the miniature.
"It's this weight that's on my spirit. It's fear. Just as soon as I can
get my mind off--I mean just as soon as I become convinced that I'm
never going to be bothered again, it will go, I'm sure. Of course I
can't help feeling as I do. But I ought not to. I'm perfectly safe now.
In a few days those crooks won't trouble about me any more. It will be
too late. And I know it."

She reiterated those last two sentences as though Glorious Lutie were a
difficult person to convince. The next morning, however, came diversion.
Work--roofing--began on the shed just under her window. Susannah watched
the workmen with an interest that held, at first, an element of
determined concentration. The roofers, an elderly man and a younger one,
incredibly dirty in their blackened overalls, which were soon matched by
face and hands, were very conscious at first of the brilliant tawny head
just above. Once, muffled by the window, she caught an allusion to white
horses. But Susannah ignored this; continued to watch them disappearing
and emerging through the open skylight, setting up their melting-pot,
arranging their sheets of tin.

Before she was out of bed next morning they were making a metallic
clatter with their hammers. In her normal state, Susannah was a creature
almost without nerves. She even retained a little of the child's
enjoyment of a racket for its own sake. But now--the din annoyed her,
annoyed her unspeakably. She crept languidly out of bed, peeped through
the edge of the curtain. They were just beginning work. It would keep up
all day.

"I can't stand this!" said Susannah aloud; and then began one of her
wordless addresses to the miniature.

"I guess the time has come, anyhow, to strike into pastures new. Behold,
Glorious Lutie, your Glorious Susie descending from the high and mighty
position of pampered secretary to that of driven slave. Tomorrow morn I
apply for a job as second girl. If it weren't for this headache, I'd do
it today."

However, the hammering only intensified her headache; she must get
outside. So when the landlady arrived with her breakfast, Susannah
inquired for the address of the nearest employment office. She dressed,
and descended to the street. As always, of late, she had a shrinking as
she stepped out into the open world of men and women. When she had
controlled this, she moved with a curious apathy to the old, battered
ground-floor office with yellow signs over its front windows, where
girls found work at domestic service. Presently, she was registered, was
sitting on a long bench with a row of women ranging from slatternly to
cheaply smart. She scarcely observed them. That apathy was settling
deeper about her spirits; her only sensation was her dull headache.
Somehow, when she sat still it was not wholly an unpleasant headache.
Then the voice of the sharp-faced woman at the desk in the corner called
her name. It tore the veil, woke her as though from sleep. She rose, to
face her first chance--a thin, severe woman with a mouth like a steel
trap.

This first chance furnished no opening, however; neither, as the morning
wore away, did several other chances. The process of getting a second
maid's job was at the same time more difficult and less difficult than
she had thought. Susannah had forgotten that people always ask servants
for references. She had supposed her carefully worked out explanation
would cover that situation--that she had been a stenographer in
Providence; that she had come to New York soon after the Armistice was
signed, hoping for a bigger outlook; that the returning soldiers were
snapping up all the jobs; that she had tried again and again for a
position; that her money was fast going; that she had been advised to
enter domestic service. Housekeepers from rich establishments and the
mistresses of small ones interviewed her; but the lack of references
laid an impassable barrier. In the afternoon, however, luck changed. A
suburbanite from Jamaica, a round, grizzled, middle-aged woman,
desperately in need of a second girl, cut through all the red-tape that
had held the others up. "You're perfectly honest," she said
meditatively, "about admitting you've had no experience, and you _look_
trustworthy."

"I assure you, madam,"--Susannah was eager, but wary; not too eager. She
even laughed a little--"I am honest--so honest that it hurts."

"The only thing is," her interlocutor went on hesitatingly; "you must
pardon me for putting it so bluntly; but we might as well be open with
each other. I'm afraid you'll feel a little above your position."

"Well," Susannah responded honestly, "to be straightforward with _you_,
I suppose I shall. But I give you my word, I'll never _show_ it. And
that's the only thing that counts, isn't it?"

The woman smiled.

"I must confess I like you," she burst out impulsively. "But how am I
going to know that you're--all right?"

Susannah sighed. "I understand your situation perfectly. I don't know
how you're to know I'm all right--morally or just in the matter of mere
honesty. For there's nobody but me to tell you that I'm moral and
honest. And of course I'm prejudiced."

"Well, anyway I'm going to risk it. I'm engaging you now. It is
understood--ten dollars a week; and alternate Thursdays and Sundays out.
I don't want you until tomorrow because I want my former maid out of the
house before you come. Now will you promise me that you'll take the nine
train tomorrow?"

"I promise," Susannah agreed.

"But that reminds me," the woman came on another difficulty, "what's to
guarantee that you'll stay with me?"

"I guarantee," Susannah said steadily, "that if you keep to your end of
the agreement, I'll stay with you at least three months."

The woman sparkled. "All right, I'll expect you tomorrow on the nine
train. I'll be there with the Ford to meet you. Here are the
directions." She scribbled busily on a card.

Susannah walked home as one who treads on air. The veil of apathy had
broken. And in spite of her headache, which caught her by fits and
starts, her mood broke into a joy so wild that it sent her pirouetting
about the room. "Glorious Lutie, I never felt so happy in my life. So
gayly, grandly, gorgeously, gor-gloriously happy! All my troubles are
over. I'm safe." And on the strength of that security, she washed and
ironed her lavender linen suit. Her headache was better again. Perhaps
if she went out now to an early dinner, it might disappear altogether.
But how languorous she felt, how indisposed to effort. She would sit and
read a while. She opened _Pickwick Papers_ on its last pages. She had
almost finished the book.

"I suppose it will be a long time before I have a chance to do any more
reading," she meditated. "So I think I'll finish this. You've helped me
through a hard passage in my life, Charles Dickens, and I thank you with
all my heart."

But she could not read. As soon as she sat down by the window and
settled her eyes on the book, the headache returned. The men were still
at work on the roof, hammering away at one corner. Every blow seemed to
strike her skull. Midway of the roof, the skylight yawned open; their
extra tools were laid out beside it. At five o'clock they would quit for
the day. Usually she disliked to have them go. In spite of their noise,
she felt that still. They gave her a kind of warm, human sense of
companionship. And they had become accustomed to her appearances at the
window. Their flirtatious first glances had ceased for want of
encouragement. They scarcely seemed to see her when they looked up. But
now--that hammering at her skull! Susannah suddenly rose and closed the
window, hot though the day was, against this torrent of sound. As though
its futile shield would give added protection, she drew the curtain. In
the dimmed light she sat rocking, her head in her hands. Her face was
fire-hot--why, she wondered-- The hammering stopped. They were soldering
now. They were always doing that; beating the tin sheets into place and
stopping to solder them. There would be silence for a time. In a moment,
she would open the window for a breath of air on her burning face....

She started at a knock on her door, low, quick, but abrupt. Before she
could answer, it opened. His face shadowed in the three-quarters light,
but his form perfectly outlined, instantly recognizable--stood Warner.
Behind Warner was Byan, and behind Byan, O'Hearn.

All the blood of her heart seemed to strike in one wave on Susannah's
aching head, and then to recede. She knew both the tingling of terror
and the numbness of horror. Prickling, stinging darts volleyed her face,
her hands, her feet; and yet she seemed to be freezing to stone.

They came into the room before anyone spoke--Warner first. Byan lolled
to a place in the corner; the three-quarters light, filtering through
the thin fabric of the flimsy, yellow curtain, revealed his clean
profile, his mysterious half-smile. O'Hearn stood just at the entrance.
He did not continue to look at her. His eyes sought the floor.

Warner was speaking now:

"Good-evening, Miss Ayer. We have come to finish up that little piece of
business with you. It has been delayed as long as it can be. Pardon us
for breaking in upon you like this. Your landlady tried to prevent us,
but we assured her that you would want to see us. As I think you will
when you come to your senses and hear what I have to say."

He stopped, as though awaiting her reply. But Susannah made no answer.
She had dropped her eyes now; her hands lay limp in her lap. And in this
pause, a curious piece of byplay passed between Warner and O'Hearn. The
master of this trio caught the glance of his assistant and, with a swift
motion of three fingers toward the lapel of his coat, gave him that
"office" in the underworld sign manual--which means "look things over."
O'Hearn, moving so lightly that Susannah scarcely noted his passage,
stepped to the window, lifted the edge of the curtain. He took a swift,
intent look outside and returned to Warner. His back to Susannah, he
spoke with his lips, scarcely vocalizing the words.

"No getaway there, Boss--straight drop--" he said.

Warner was speaking again.

"Your landlady says we may have her parlor for our conference. Wouldn't
you prefer to make yourself presentable for the street and then join us
there--in about ten minutes, say?"

Ten minutes--this gave her a chance to play for time--the only chance
she had. She looked up. Nothing on the clean-cut, pearl-white exterior
of her face gave a clue to the anarchy within; nothing, even, in her
black-fringed, blue gaze the tautly-held scarlet lips. Her fire-bright
head lifted a little higher and she gazed steadily into Warner's eyes,
as she spoke in a voice which seemed to her to belong to someone else:

"I can give you a few minutes, but I have not changed my determination."

"But I think you will," said Warner. "I really think you will. Before we
go, I might remind you that we have been extremely gentle and patient
with you, Miss Ayer. I might also remind you that you have never
succeeded in giving us the slip. You were very clever when you escaped
from your last lodging. We don't know yet exactly how you did it.
Perhaps you will tell us in the course of our little talk this
afternoon. But you were not quite clever enough. You did not figure that
with such important matters pending, we would have the outside of the
house watched as well as the inside. So that you may not think our
meeting this afternoon is accidental, let me remind you that you have an
engagement for tomorrow afternoon in Jamaica--to take a job as second
maid. What we have to offer you this afternoon will probably be so
attractive that you will overlook that engagement."

He paused.

"I will be with you in ten minutes," said Susannah. She was conscious of
no emotion now--only that her head ached, and that the faded roses in
the old carpet were entwined with forget-me-nots--a thing she had never
noticed before.

"Thank you." Warner made her a gallant little bow. "Mr. Byan and I will
wait in the parlor. Until we come to an understanding, we shall have to
continue the old arrangement. It will therefore be necessary for Mr.
O'Hearn to watch in the hall. If you do not arrive in ten minutes--this
room will probably do as well as the parlor. Until then, Miss Ayer!"

He opened the door, passed out. Byan retreated after him, flashing one
of his pathetically sweet, floating smiles. Susannah looked up now,
followed their movements as the felon must follow the movements of the
man with the rope. O'Hearn had been standing close to Susannah, his
veiling lashes down. He fell in behind the other two. But before he
joined the file, those lashes came up in a quick glance which stabbed
Susannah. His hand came up too. He was pointing to the window. And then
he spoke two words in a whisper so low that they carried only to the
ears of Susannah, scarce three feet away--so low that she could not have
made them out but for the exaggerated, expressive movement of his lips.

"Skylight--quick--" he said. He made for the door in the wake of the
other two.

For the fraction of an instant Susannah did not comprehend. And then
suddenly one of those little intuitive blows which she was always
receiving and ignoring gave, on the hard surface of her mind, a faint
tap. This time, she was conscious of it. This time, she trusted it
instantly. This time, it told her what to do.

"I'll be with you as soon as I get dolled up," she called.

"That's right," came the suave voice of Warner from the hall.

She closed the door. She listened while two sets of footsteps descended
the stairs. She heard a third set, which must be O'Hearn's, retreat for
a few paces and then stop. She fell swiftly to work. She put on her hat
and cape. She took the miniature, thumbtack and all, from the wall, and
put it in her wrist bag. "Help me, Glorious Lutie," she called from the
depths of her soul. "Help me! Help me! Help me! I'm lost if you don't
help me! I can't do it any more alone."



VII


When Lindsay pulled back from the quiet gray void which had enshrouded
him, he was lying on the grass. Far, far away, as though pasted against
the brilliant blue sky, was a face. Gradually the sky receded. The face
came nearer. It topped, he gradually gathered, the tiny slender
black-silk figure of a little old lady. "Do you feel all right now?" it
asked.

Lindsay wished that she would not question him. He was immensely
preoccupied with what seemed essentially private matters. But the
instinct of courtesy prodded him. "Very much, thank you," he answered
weakly. He closed his eyes again. He became conscious of a wet cloth
sopping his forehead and cheeks. A breeze tingled on the bare flesh of
his neck and chest. He opened his eyes again; sat up. "Do you mean to
tell me I fainted?" he demanded with his customary vigor.

"That's exactly what you did, young man," the old lady answered. "The
instant you looked at me! I was setting with my back to the door. You
could have knocked me down with a feather, when you fell over
backwards."

"Have I been out long?"

"Not more'n a moment. I flaxed around and got some water and brought you
to in a jiffy. You ain't an invalid, are you?"

"Far from it," Lindsay reassured her. "I'm afraid, though, I've been
working too long in the hot sun this morning."

"Like as not!" the little old lady agreed briskly. "I guess you're
hungry too," she hazarded. "Now you just get up and lay in the hammock
and I'm going to make you some lunch. I see there was some eggs there
and milk and tea. I'll have you some scrambled eggs fixed in no time. My
name is Spash--Mrs. Spash."

"My name is Lindsay--David Lindsay."

Lindsay found himself submitting without a murmur to the little old
lady's program. He lay quiescent in the hammock and let the tides of
vitality flow back.... Mrs. Spash's prophecy, if anything,
underestimated her energy. In an incredibly short time she had produced,
in collaboration with the oil stove, eggs scrambled on bread deliciously
toasted, tea of a revivifying heat and strength.

"Gee, that tastes good!" Lindsay applauded. He sighed. "It certainly
takes a woman!"

"What are you doing here?" Mrs. Spash inquired. "Batching it?"

"Yes, I think that describes the process," Lindsay admitted. After an
instant, "How did you happen to be on the doorstep?"

"Well, I don't wonder you ask," Mrs. Spash declared. "I didn't know the
Murray place was let and--well, I was making one of my regular visits.
You see, I come here often. I'm pretty fond of this old house. I lived
here once for years."

Lindsay sat upright. "Did you by chance live here when Lutetia Murray
was alive?"

"Well, I should say I did!" Mrs. Spash answered. "I lived here the last
twenty years of Lutetia Murray's life. I was her housekeeper, as you
might say."

Lindsay stared at her. He started to speak. It was obvious that
conflicting comments fought for expression, but all he managed to
say--and ineptly enough--was: "Oh, you knew her, then?"

"Knew her!" Mrs. Spash seemed to search among her vocabulary for words.
Or perhaps it was her soul for emotions. "Yes, I knew her," she
concluded with a feeble breathlessness.

"You've lived in this house, then, for twenty years," Lindsay repeated,
musing.

"Yes, all of that." Mrs. Spash appeared to muse also. For an instant the
two followed their own preoccupations. Then as though they led them to
the same _impasse_, their eyes lifted simultaneously; met. They smiled.

"I've bought this house, Mrs. Spash," Lindsay confided. "And you never
can guess why."

Mrs. Spash started what appeared to be a comment. It deteriorated into a
little inarticulate murmur.

"I bought it," Lindsay went on, "because when I was in college, I fell
in love with Lutetia Murray." And then, at Mrs. Spash's wide-eyed, faded
stare, "Not with Miss Murray herself--I never saw her--but with her
books. I read everything she wrote and I wrote in college what we call a
thesis on her."

"Sort of essay or composition," Mrs. Spash defined thesis to herself.

"Exactly," Lindsay permitted.

"She was--she was--" Mrs. Spash began in a dispassionate sort of way.
She concluded in a kind of frenzy. "She was an angel."

"Oh yes, she's that all right. I have never seen anybody so lovely."

Mrs. Spash made a swift conversational pounce. "I thought you said you'd
never seen her."

Lindsay flushed abjectly. "No," he admitted. "But you see I have a
picture of her." He pointed to the mantel.

"Yes, I noticed that when I came in to get some water." Strangely enough
Mrs. Spash did not, for a moment, look at the picture. Instead she
stared at Lindsay. Lindsay submitted easily enough to this examination.
After a while Mrs. Spash appeared to abandon her scrutiny of him. She
trotted over to the fireplace; studied Lutetia's likeness.

"I don't know as I ever see that one--it don't half do her justice--I
hate a profile picture--" She pronounced "profile" to rhyme with
"wood-pile." "None of her pictures ever did do her justice. Her beauty
was mostly in her hair and her eyes. She had a beautiful skin too,
though she never took no care of it. Never wore a hat--no matter how hot
the sun was. And then her expression-- Well, it was just
beautiful--changing all the time."

Lindsay was only half listening. He was, with an amused glint in his
eyes, studying Mrs. Spash's spare, erect black-silk figure. She was a
relic perfectly preserved, he reflected, of mid-Victorianism. Her black
was of the kind that is accurately described by the word decent. And she
wore fittingly a little black, beaded cape with a black shade-hat that
tilted forward over her face at a decided slant. Her straight, white,
abundant hair was apparently parted in the middle under her hat. At any
rate, the neat white parting continued over the crown of her head to her
very neck, where it concealed itself under a flat black-silk bow. Her
gnarled, blue-veined hands had been covered with the lace mitts that now
lay on the table. Her little wrinkled face was neat-featured. The irises
of her eyes were a faded blue and the whites were blue also; and this
put a note of youthful color among her wrinkles.

But Lindsay lost interest in these details; for, obviously, a new idea
caught him in its instant clutch. "Oh, Mrs. Spash," he suggested, "would
you be so good as to take me through this house? I want you to tell me
who occupied the rooms. This is not mere idle curiosity on my part. You
see Miss Murray's publishers have decided to bring out a new edition of
her works. They want me to write a life of Miss Murray. I'm asking
everybody who knows anything about her all kinds of questions."

Mrs. Spash received all this with that unstirred composure which
indicates non-comprehension of the main issue.

"Of course I'm interested on my own account too," Lindsay went on.
"She's such a wonderful creature, so charming and so beautiful, so
sweet, so unbearably poignant and sad. I can't understand," he concluded
absently, "why she is so sad."

Mrs. Spash seemed to comprehend instantly. "It's the way she died," she
explained vaguely, "and how everything was left!" She walked in little
swift pattering steps, and with the accustomed air of one who knows her
way, through the side door into the addition. "This was Miss Murray's
own living-room," she told Lindsay. "She had that little bit of a
stairway made, she _said_, so's too many folks couldn't come up to her
room at once. Not that that made any difference. Wherever she was, the
whole household went."

With little nipping steps Mrs. Spash ascended the stairway. Lindsay
followed.

"Did Miss Murray die in her room?" Lindsay asked.

"How did you know this was her room?" Mrs. Spash demanded.

"I don't know exactly. I just guessed it," Lindsay answered. "I sleep
here myself," he hurriedly threw off.

"Yes. She died here. She was all alone when she died. You see--" Mrs.
Spash sat down on the one chair and, instantly sensing her mood, Lindsay
sat down on the bed.

"You see, things hadn't gone very well for Miss Murray the last years of
her life. Her books didn't sell-- And she spent money like water. She
was allus the most open-hearted, open-handed creature you can imagine.
She allus had the house full of company! And then there was the little
girl--Cherry--who lived with her. At the end, things were bad. No money
coming in. And Miss Murray sick all the time."

"You say she was alone when she died," Lindsay gently brought her back
to the track.

"Yes--except for little Cherry, who slept right through
everything--childlike. Cherry had that room." Mrs. Spash jerked an
angular thumb back.

Lindsay nodded. "Yes, I guessed that--with all the drawings--"

"The Weejubs! Mr. Gale drew them pictures for Cherry. He was an artist.
He used to paint pictures out in the backyard there. I didn't fancy them
very much myself--too dauby. You had to stand way off from them 'fore
they'd look like anything _a-tall_. But he used to get as high as five
hundred dollars for them. Oh, what excitement there was in this house
while he was decorating Cherry's room! And little Cherry chattering like
a magpie! Mr. Gale made up a whole long story about the Weejubs on her
walls. Lord, I've forgotten half of it; but Cherry could rattle it all
off as _fast_. Miss Murray had that door between her room and Cherry's
made small on purpose. She said Cherry could come into her room whenever
she wanted to, as long as she was a little girl. But when Cherry grew
up, she was going to make it hard for her. But she promised when Cherry
was sixteen years old she shouldn't have to call her auntie any
more--she could call her jess Lutetia. Queer idea, worn't it?"

Mrs. Spash's old eyes so narrowed before an oncoming flood of
reminiscence that they seemed to retreat to the back of her head, where
they diminished to blue sparks. For a moment the room was silent. Then
"Let me show you something! You'd oughter know it, seein' it's your
house. There's some, though, I wouldn't show it to."

She pattered with her surprising quickness to the back wall. She pressed
a spot in the paneling and a small square of the wood moved slowly back.

"You see, Miss Murray's bed ran along that wall, just as Cherry's did in
the other room. Mornings and evenings they used to open this panel and
talk to each other."

Lindsay's eyes filmed even as Mrs. Spash's had. Mentally he saw the two
faces bending toward the opening....

"But you was asking about Miss Murray's death-- As I say, things didn't
go well with her. I didn't understand how it all happened. Folks stopped
buying her books, I guess. Anyway, when she died, there was nothing
left. And there was debts. The house and everything in it was sold--at
auction. It was awful to see Miss Murray's things all out on the lawn.
And a great crowd of gawks--riff-raff from everywhere--looking at 'em
and making fun of 'em-- She had beautiful things, but they went for
nothing a-tall. They jess about paid her debts."

Lindsay groaned. "But her death--"

"Oh yes, as I was sayin'. You see, Miss Murray worn't ever the same
after Mr. Lewis died. You know about that?"

Lindsay nodded. "He was drowned."

Mrs. Spash nodded confirmatively. "Yes, in Spy Pond--over South Quinanog
way. He was swimming all alone. He was taken with cramps way out in the
middle of the Pond. Finally somebody saw him struggling and they put out
in a boat, but they were too late. Miss Murray was in the garden when
they brought him back on a shutter. I was with her. I can see the way
her face looked now. She didn't say anything. Not a word! She turned to
stone. And it didn't seem to me that she ever came back to flesh again.
They was to be married in October. He was a splendid man. He came from
New York."

"Yes. Curiously enough I spent a few days in what used to be his rooms,"
Lindsay informed her.

"That so?" But it was quite apparent that nothing outside the radius of
Quinanog interested Mrs. Spash deeply. She made no further comment.

"Was she very much in love with Lewis?" Lindsay ventured.

"In love! I wish you could see their eyes when they looked at each
other. They'd met late. Miss Murray had always had lots of attention.
But she never seemed to care for anybody--though she'd flirt a
little--until she met Mr. Lewis. It was love at first sight with them."

She proceeded.

"Well, Miss Murray died five years after Mr. Lewis. She died--well, I
don't know exactly what it was. But she had _attacks_. She was a
terrible sufferer. And she was worried--money matters worried her. You
see, little Cherry's mother died when she was born and her father soon
after. Miss Murray'd always had Cherry and felt responsible for her. I
know, because she told me. 'It ain't myself, Eunice Spash,' she said to
me more'n once. 'It's little Cherry.' Anyway, she was alone when her
last attack came. She'd sent for a cousin--I forget the name--to be with
her, and she was up in Boston getting a nurse, and I was in the other
side of the house. I never heard a sound. We found her dead in the
middle of the floor--there." Her crooked forefinger indicated the spot.
"Seemed she'd got up and tried to get to the door to call. But she
dropped and died halfway. She was all contorted. Her face looked--Not so
much suffering of the body as-- Well, you could see it in her face that
it come to her that she was going, and Cherry was left with nothing."

"What became of that cousin?" Lindsay inquired. "I have asked everybody
in the neighborhood, but nobody seems to know."

"And I don't know. She went to Boston, taking Cherry with her. For a
time we heard from Cherry now and then--she'd write letters to the
children. Then we lost sight of her. I don't know whether Miss Murray's
cousin's living or dead; Cherry either."

Lindsay felt that he could have assured her that Cherry was alive; but
his conclusion rested on premises too gauzy for him to hazard the
statement.

Mrs. Spash sighed. She arose, led the way into the hall. "This was Mr.
Monroe's room; and Mr. Gale's room was back of his. He liked the room
that overlooked the garden. Mr. Monroe--"

"That's the big man, the sculptor," Lindsay hazarded.

"How'd you know?" Mrs. Spash pounced on him again.

"Oh, I've talked with a lot of people in the neighborhood," Lindsay
returned evasively.

"That Mr. Monroe," Mrs. Spash glided on easily, "was a case and a half.
Nothing but talk and laugh every moment he was in the house. I used to
admire to have him come."

"Where is he?" Lindsay asked easily. He hoped Mrs. Spash did not guess
how, mentally, he hung upon her answer.

"He went to Italy--to Florence--after Miss Murray died." Mrs. Spash
stopped. "He was in love with Miss Murray. Had been for years. She
wouldn't have him though. He was an awful nice man. Sometimes I thought
she would have him. But after Mr. Lewis came-- Queer, worn't it? I don't
know whether Mr. Monroe's alive or dead."

Again Lindsay felt that he could have assured her that he was alive, but
again gauzy premises inhibited exact conclusions.

"The last I heard of him he was in Rome. 'Tain't likely he's alive now.
_Land_, no! He'd be well over seventy--close onto seventy-five. Mr. Gale
was in love with her too. He was younger. I don't think he ever told
Miss Murray, I never _did_ know if she knew. You couldn't fool me
though. Well, I started out to show you this house. I must be gitting
on. You've seen the slave quarters and the whipping-post upstairs?"

"Yes. _Everybody_ could tell me about the whipping-post and the slave
quarters. But the things I wanted to know--"

"Well, it's natural enough that folks shouldn't know much about her.
Miss Murray was a lady that didn't talk about her own affairs and she
kept sort of to herself, as you might say. She wasn't the kind that ran
in on folks. She wrote by fits and starts. Sometimes she'd stay up late
at night. She _allus_ wrote new-moon time. She said the light of the
crescent moon inspired her. How they used to make fun of her about that!
But she'd write with all of them about, laughing and talking and playing
the piano or singing--and dancing even. The house was so lively those
days--they was all great trainers. And yet she could fall asleep right
in the midst of all that confusion. Well--so you see she wasn't given to
making calls. And then there was always so much to do and so many folks
around at home. Have you been upstairs in the barn?"

"No--not yet. The stairs were all broken away. I had just finished
mending them when I had the pleasure of making your acquaintance."

They both smiled reminiscently.

"Let's go up there now--there must be a lot of things--" She ended her
sentence a little vaguely as the old sometimes do. But the movement with
which she arose from her chair and trotted toward the stairs was full of
an anticipation almost youthful.

"The garden used to be so pretty," she sighed as they started on the
well-worn trail to the barn. "Miss Murray worn't what you might call
practical, but she could make flowers grow. She never cooked, nor sewed,
nor anything sensible, but she'd work in that garden till-- There was
certain combinations of flowers that she used to like; hollyhocks,
especially the garnet ones so dark they was almost black, surrounded by
them blue Canterbury bells; and then phlox in all colors, white and pink
and magenta and lavender and purple. I think there was some things put
out here," she interrupted herself vaguely, "that nobody wanted at the
auction. There wasn't even a bid on them."

She trotted up the stairs like a pony that has suddenly become aged.
Lindsay followed, two steps at a time. The upper story of the barn was
the confused mass of objects that the lumber room of any large household
inevitably collects. Broken chairs; tables, bureaux; rejected pieces of
china; kitchen furnishings; a rusty stove, old boxes; bandboxes; broken
trunks; torn bags.

"There! That's the table Miss Murray used to do her writing at. She said
there never had been a table built big enough for her. I expect that's
why nobody bought it at the auction. 'Twas too big for mortal use, you
might say. The same reason I expect is why the dining-room table didn't
sell either."

"Where did she write?" Lindsay asked, measuring the table with his eye.

"All summer in the south living-room. But when it come winter, she'd
often take her things and set right in front of the fire in the
living-room. Then she'd write at that long table you're writing on."

"This table goes back to the south living-room tomorrow," Lindsay
decided almost inaudibly. "Can you tell me the exact spot?"

"I guess I _can_. Lord knows I've got down on my hands and knees and
dusted the legs often enough. Miss Murray said, though it was soft wood,
it was the oldest piece in the house. She bought it at some old tavern
where they was having a sale. She said it dated back--long before
Revolutionary times--to Colonial days."

"Could you tell me, I wonder, about the rest of Miss Murray's
furniture?" Lindsay came suddenly from out a deep revery. "Do you
remember who bought it? I would like to buy back all that I can get. I'd
like to make the old place look, as much as possible, as it used to
look."

Mrs. Spash flashed him a quick intent look. Then she meditated. "I think
I could probably tell you where most every piece went. The Drakes got
the Field bed and the ivory-keyhole bureau and the ivory-keyhole desk;
and Miss Garnet got the elephant and Mis' Manson got the gazelles--"

"Elephant! Gazelles!" Lindsay interrupted.

"The gazelles," Mrs. Spash smiled indulgently. "Well, it does sound
queer, but Miss Murray used to call those little thin-legged candle
tables that folks use, _gazelles_. The elephant was a great high chest
of drawers. Mis' Manson got the maple gazelles--" She proceeded in what
promised to be an indefinite category.

"Do you think I could buy any of those things back?" Lindsay asked after
listening patiently to the end.

"Some of them, I guess. I have a few things in my attic I'll sell
you--and some I'll give you. I'd admire to see them in the old place
once more."

"You must let me buy them all," Lindsay protested.

"Well, we'll see about that," Mrs. Spash disposed of this disagreement
easily. "Have you seen the Dew Pond yet?"

"The Dew Pond!" Lindsay echoed.

"The little pond beyond the barn," Mrs. Spash explained. Then, as though
a great light dawned, "Oh, of course it's all so growed up round it
you'd never notice it. Come and I'll show it to you."

Lindsay followed her out of the barn. This was all like a dream, he
reflected--but then everything was like a dream nowadays. He had lived
in a dream for two months now. Mrs. Spash struck into a path which led
beyond the barn.

The trail grew narrower and narrower; threatened after a while to
disappear. Lindsay finally took the lead, broke a path. They came
presently on a pond so tiny that it was not a pond at all; it was a
pool. Water-lilies choked it; forget-me-nots bordered it; high wild
roses screened it.

Lindsay stood looking for a long time into it. "It's the Merry Mere of
_Mary Towle_," he meditated aloud. Mrs. Spash received this in the
uninterrogative silence with which she had received other of his
confidences. She apparently fell back easily into the ways of literary
folk.

"I remember now I got a glint of water from one of the upstairs
bedrooms," Lindsay went on, "the first time I came into the house. But I
forgot it instantly; and I've never noticed it since."

"Wait a moment!" Mrs. Spash seemed afraid that he would leave. "There's
something else." She attempted to push her way through the jungle in the
direction of the house. For an instant her progress was easy, then
bushes and vines caught her. Lindsay sprang to her assistance.

"There's something here--that was left," she panted. "Folks have
forgotten all about--" She dropped explanatory phrases.

Heedless of tearing thorns and piercing prickers, Lindsay crashed on.
Mrs. Spash watched expectantly.

"There!" she called with satisfaction.

On a cairn of rocks, filmed over by years of exposure to the weather,
stood what Lindsay immediately recognized to be a large old rum-jar. The
sun found exposed spots on its surface, brought out its rich olive
color.

"After Mr. Lewis died," Mrs. Spash explained, "Miss Murray went abroad
for a year. She went to Egypt. She put this here when she came home.
Then you could see it from the house. The sun shone on it something
handsome. She told me once she went into a temple on the Nile cut out of
the living-rock, where there was room after room, one right back of the
other. In the last one, there was an altar; and once a year, the first
ray of the rising sun would strike through all the rooms and lay on that
altar. Worn't that cute? I allus thought she had that in mind when she
put this here."

Lindsay contemplated the old rum-jar. Mrs. Spash contemplated him. And
suddenly it was as though she were looking at Lindsay from a new point
of view.

Lindsay's face had changed subtly in the last two months. The sun of
Quinanog had added but little to the tan and burn with which three years
of flying had crusted it. He was still very handsome. It was not,
however, this comeliness that Mrs. Spash seemed to be examining. The
experiences at Quinanog had softened the deliberate stoicism of his
look. Rather they had fed some inner softness; had fired it. His air was
now one of perpetual question. Yet dreams often invaded his eyes;
blurred them; drooped his lips.

"It's all unbelievable," Lindsay suddenly commented, "I don't believe
it. I don't believe you. I don't believe myself."

Mrs. Spash still kept her eyes fixed on the young man's face. Her look
had grown piercing.

"Have you a shovel handy?" she surprisingly asked.

"Yes, why?"

Mrs. Spash did not answer immediately. He turned and looked at her. She
was still gazing at him hard; but the light from some long-harbored
emotion of her dulled old soul was shining bluely in her dulled old
eyes.

"I want you should get it," she ordered briefly. "There's something
right here," she pointed, "that I want you to dig up."



VIII


Susannah let herself lightly down on the tin roof; it was scarcely a
step from her window. With deliberate caution, she turned and drew the
shade. Then she tiptoed toward the skylight. The workmen were still
soldering; the older man, with the air of one performing a delicate
operation, lay stretched out flat, holding some kind of receptacle; the
younger was pouring molten lead from a ladle. Try as she might, she
could not prevent her feet from making a slight tapping on the tin. The
older man glanced sharply up. "Look out!" called the younger, and he
bent again to his work. Almost running now, she stepped into the gaping
hole of the skylight. The stairs were very steep--practically a ladder.
As she disappeared from view, she heard a quick "What the hell!" from
the roof above her.

Susannah hurried forward along a dark passage, looking for stairs. The
passage jutted, became lighter, went forward again. This must be the
point where the shed-addition joined the main building. She was in the
hallway of a dingy, conventional flat-house, with doors to right and
left. One of these doors opened; a woman in a faded calico dress looked
her over, the glance including the traveling-bag; then picked up a
letter from the hall-floor, and closed it again. Susannah found herself
controlling an impulse to run. But no steps sounded behind her--she was
not as yet pursued. And there was the stairway--at the very front of the
house! She descended the two flights to the entrance. There, for a
moment, she paused. As soon as Warner discovered her flight, they would
be after her. The workmen would point the way. The street--and
quick--was the only chance. Noiselessly she opened the door. At the head
of the steps leading to the street, she stopped long enough for a look
to right and left. Only a scattered afternoon crowd--no Warner, no Byan.
An Eighth Avenue tram-car was ringing its gong violently. On a sudden
impulse of safety, she shot down the steps, ran past her own door to the
corner. An open southbound car had drawn up, was taking on passengers.
She reached it just as the conductor was about to give the forward
signal, and was almost jerked off her feet as she stepped onto the
platform. Steadying herself, she looked, in the brief moment afforded by
the bumpy crossing of the car, down the side street.

The entrances of her own house at the corner, the entrances to the house
she had just left, were blank and undisturbed; no one was following her.
She paid her fare, and settled down on the end of a cross-seat.

And now she was aware not of relief or reaction or fear, but solely of
her headache. It had changed in character. It had become a furious
internal bombardment of her brows. If she turned her eyes to right or
left, she seemed to be dragging weights across the front of her brain.
Yet this headache did not seem quite a part of herself. It was as though
she knew, by a supernormal sensitiveness, the symptoms of someone else.
It was as though suddenly she had become two people. Anyway, it had
ceased to be personal. And somewhere else within her head was growing a
delicious feeling of freedom, of lightness, of escape from a wheel. Her
evasion of the Carbonado Mining Company did not account for all that;
she felt free from everything. "I'm not going to take any more rooms,"
she said to herself. "I'm going to sleep out of doors now, like the
birds. People find you when you take rooms. Where shall I begin?" She
considered; and then one of those little hammers of intuition seemed to
tap on her brain. Again, she did not resist. "Why, Washington Square of
course!" she said to herself.

The car was threading now the narrow ways of Greenwich Village. It
stopped; Susannah stepped off. The rest seemed for a long time to be
just wandering. But that curious sense of duality had vanished. She was
one person again. She did not find Washington Square easily; but then,
it made no difference whether she ever found it. For New York and the
world were so amusing when once you were free! You could laugh at
everything--the passing crowds, surging as though business really
mattered; the Carbonado Mining Company; the grisly old fool in their
toils, and Susannah Ayer. You could laugh even at the climate--for
sometimes it seemed very hot, which was right in summer, and sometimes
cold, which wasn't right at all. You could laugh at the headache, when
it tied ridiculous knots in your forehead. There was the
Arch--Washington Square at last.

But it wasn't time to sleep in Washington Square yet. The birds hadn't
gone to bed. Sparrows were still pecking and squabbling along the
borders of the flower-beds. Besides, New York was still flowing, on its
homeward surge from office and workshop, down the paths. Susannah sat
down on a bench and considered. She had a disposition to stay there--why
was she so weak? Oh, of course she hadn't eaten. People always had
dinner before going to bed. She must eat--and she had money. She shook
out her pocketbook into her lap. A ten-dollar bill, a one-dollar bill,
and some small change. She must dine gloriously--free creatures always
did that when they had money. Besides, she was never going to pay any
more room rent. Susannah rose, strolled up Fifth Avenue. The crowd was
thinning out. That was pleasant, too. She disliked to get out of the way
of people. She was crossing Twenty-third Street now; and now she was
before the correct, white façade of the Hague House. A proper and
expensive place for dinner.

Susannah found it very hard to speak to the waiter. It was like talking
to someone through a partition. It seemed difficult even to move her
lips; they felt wooden.

"A petite marmite, please; then I'll see what more I want," she heard
herself saying at last.

But when the petite marmite came, steaming in its big, red casserole,
she found herself quite disinclined to eat--almost unable to eat. She
managed only two or three mouthfuls of the broth; then dallied with the
beef. Perhaps it was because instantly--and for no reason whatever--she
had become two people again. Perhaps it was because she had been
drinking so much ice-water. It couldn't be because H. Withington Warner
was sitting at the next table to the right. It couldn't be that--because
she had told him, when first she saw him sitting there, that she was no
longer afraid of the Carbonado Company. And indeed, when she turned to
the left and saw him sitting there also--when by degrees she discovered
that there was one of him at every table in the room, she thought of
Alice in the Trial Scene in Wonderland, and became as contemptuous as
Alice. "After all," she said, "you're only a pack of cards."

With a flourish, the waiter set the dinner-card before her, asking:
"What will you have next, Madame?" Oh yes, she was dining!

"I think I can't eat any more--the bill, please," she heard one of her
selves saying. That self, she discovered, took calm cognizance of
everything about her; listened to conversation. As the waiter turned his
back, that half of her saw that Mr. Warner wasn't there any more;
neither at the table on her right, nor anywhere. But when she had paid
the bill, tipped, and risen to go, the other self discovered that he was
back again at every table; and that with every Warner was a Byan and an
O'Hearn. "I am snapping my fingers at them, though nobody sees it," she
said to both her selves. "I can't imagine how they ever troubled me so
much. They don't know what I'm doing! I'm sleeping out of doors; they
can find me only in rooms!" As though staggered by her complete
composure, not one of this triplicate multitude of enemies followed her
outside.

"Now I'll go to Washington Square," she said, realizing that her
personalities had merged again. "The birds must be in bed." She took a
bus; and sank into languor and that curious, impersonal headache until
the conductor, calling "All out," at the south terminus, recalled to her
that she was going somewhere. "I must have been asleep," she thought.
"Isn't this a wonderful world?"

The long, early summer twilight was just beginning to draw about the
world. The day lingered though--in an exquisite luminousness. All around
her the city was grappling tentatively with oncoming dusk. On a few of
the passing limousines, the front lamps struck a garish note. Near, the
Fifth Avenue lights were like slowly burning bonfires in the trees; in
the distance, seemingly suspended by chains so delicate that they were
invisible, they diminished to pots of gold. The six-o'clock rush had
long ago ceased. Now everyone sauntered; for everyone was freshly
caparisoned for the wonderful night glories of midsummer Manhattan.

Susannah sat down on a bench in Washington Square and surveyed this free
world. Though her eyes burned, they saw crystal-clear. All about her
Italian-town mixed democratically with Greenwich Village; made
contrasting color and noise. Fat Italian mothers, snatching the
post-sunset breezes, chattered from bench to bench while they nursed
babies. On other benches, lovers clasped hands. Children played over the
grass. The birds twittered and the trees murmured. Every color darted
pricklingly distinct to Susannah's avid eyes, burning and heavy though
it was. Every sound came distinct to her avid ears, though it sounded
through a ringing.

The Fifth Avenue busses were clumping and lumbering in swift succession
to their stopping-places. How much, Susannah thought, they looked like
prehistoric beetles; colossally big; armored to an incredible hardness
and polish. And, already, roped-off crowds of people were patiently
waiting upstairs seats. As each bus stopped, there came momentary
scramble and confusion until inside and out they filled up. She watched
this process for a long, long time.

"I can't go to sleep yet," she said to herself finally, "the people
won't let me. One can't sleep in this wonderful world. Where does one go
after dinner? Oh, to the theater, of course! On Broadway!" She found
herself drifting, happily though languorously, through the arch and
northward.

Twilight had settled down; had become dusk; had become night. New York
was so brilliant that it almost hurt. It was deep dusk and yet the
atmosphere was like a purple river flowing between stiff cañon-like
buildings. Everywhere in that purple river glittered golden lights. And,
floating through it, were mermaids and mermen of an extreme beauty.
Susannah passed from Fifth Avenue to Broadway. She stopped under one of
the most brilliant palace-fronts of light, and bought a ticket in the
front row. The curtain was just rising on the second act of a musical
comedy. Susannah would have been hazy about the plot anyway, for the
simple reason that there was no plot. But tonight she was peculiarly
hazy, because she enjoyed the dancing so much that she became oblivious
to everything else. Indeed, at times she seemed to be dancing with the
dancers. The illusion was so complete that she grew dizzy; and clung to
the arm of her seat. She did not want to divide into two people again.

After a while, though, this sensation disappeared in a more intriguing
one. For suddenly she discovered that the audience consisted entirely of
her and the Carbonado Mining Company. H. Withington Warners, by the
hundred, filled the orchestra seats. Byans, by the score, filled the
balcony. O'Hearns, by the dozen, filled the gallery. But this did not
perturb her. "You're only a pack of cards," she accused them mentally.
And she stayed to the very end.

"I thought so," she remarked contemptuously as she turned to go out. For
the Carbonado Mining Company had vanished into thin air. She was the
only real person who left the theater.

When she came out on the street again, her headache had stopped and the
languor was over. There was a beautiful lightness to her whole body.
That lightness impelled her to walk with the crowd. But--she suddenly
discovered--she was not walking. She was _floating_. She even flew--only
she did not rise very high. She kept an even level, about a foot above
the pavement; but at that height she was like a feather. And in a
wink--how this extraordinary division happened, she could not guess--she
was two people once more.

New York was again blooming; but this time with its transient, vivacious
after-the-theater vividness. Crowds were pouring up; pouring down,
deflecting into side streets; emerging from side streets. Everywhere was
light. Taxicabs and motors raced and spun and backed and turned; they
churned, sizzled, spluttered, and foamed--scattering light. Tram-cars,
the low-set, armored cruisers of Broadway, flashed smoothly past,
overbrimming with light. The tops of the buildings held great
congregations of dancing stars. Light poured down their sides.

Susannah floated with the strong main current of the crowd up Broadway
and then, with a side current, a little down Broadway. Eddies took her
into Forty-second Street, and whirled her back. And all the time she was
in the crowd, but not of it--she was above it. She was looking down on
people--she could see the tops of their heads. Susannah kept chuckling
over an extraordinary truth she discovered.

"I must remember to tell Glorious Lutie," she said to herself, "how few
people ever brush their hats."

While one self was noting this amusing fact, however, the other was
listening to conversations; the snatches of talk that drifted up to her.

"Let's go to a midnight show somewhere," a peevish wife-voice suggested.

"No, _sir_!" a gruff husband-voice answered. "Li'l' ole beddo looks
pretty good to muh. I can't hit the hay too soon."

"What's Broadway got on Market Street?" a blithe boy's voice demanded.
"Take the view from Twin Peaks at night. Why, it has Broadway beat forty
ways from the jack."

"I'll say so!" a girl's voice agreed.

Theaters were empty now, but restaurants were filling. In an incredibly
short time, this phantasmagoria of movement, this kaleidoscope of color,
this hurly-burly of sound had shattered, melted, fallen to silence.
People disappeared as though by magic from the street; now there were
great gaps of sidewalk where nobody appeared. Susannah--both of her,
because now she seemed to have become two people permanently--felt
lonely. She quickened her pace, her floating rather, to catch up with a
figure ahead. It was a girl, just an everyday girl, in a white linen
suit and a white sailor hat topping a mass of black hair. She carried a
handbag. Susannah found herself following, step by step, behind this
girl whose face she had as yet not seen. She was floating; yet every
time she tried to see the top of that sailor hat her vision became
blurred. It was annoying; but this stealthy pursuit was pleasant,
somehow--satisfying.

"They've been shadowing me," said Susannah to herself. "Now I'm
shadowing. I've helped the Carbonado Company to rob orphans. I'm going
to break my promise to go to Jamaica tomorrow. Isn't it glorious to
float and be a criminal!"

So she followed westward on Forty-second Street and reached the Public
Library corner of Fifth Avenue, which stretched now deserted except
where knots of people awaited the omnibusses. Such a knot had gathered
on that corner. Suddenly the girl in white raised her hand, waved; a
woman in a light-blue summer evening gown answered her signal from the
crowd; they ran toward each other. They were going to have a talk.
Susannah floated toward them. The air-currents made her a little
wabbly--but wasn't it fun, eavesdropping and caring not the least bit
about manners!

"My train doesn't start until one," said the white linen suit. "It's no
use going back to my room--the night is so hot. I've been to the Summer
Garden, and I'm killing time."

"Oh," asked blue dress, "did you sublet your room?"

"No," said the white linen suit, "I'll be gone for only a month, and I
decided it wasn't worth while. I'll have it all ready when I get back.
I've even left the key under the rug in the hall."

"I wouldn't ever do that!" came the voice of the blue dress.

"Well," said the linen suit, "you know _me_! I always lose keys. I'm
convinced that when I get to Boston, I shan't have my trunk key! And
there isn't much to steal."

"Still, I'd feel nervous if I were you."

"I don't see why. Nobody stays up on the top floor, where I am--that is,
in the summer. All the other rooms are in one apartment, and the young
man who lives there has been away for ages. The people on the ground
floor own the house. I get the room for almost nothing by taking care of
it and the hall. I haven't seen anyone else on the floor since the man
in the apartment went away. That's why I love the place--you feel so
independent!"

"I think I know the house," said blue dress. "The old house with the
fanlight entrance, isn't it? Mary Merle used to have a ducky little flat
on the second floor, didn't she?"

"Yes--Number Fifty-seven and a Half--"

Susannah was floating down the Avenue now. But floating with more
difficulty. Why was there effort about floating? And why did she keep
repeating, "Number Fifty-seven and a Half, Washington Square, top floor,
key under the rug?"

She met few people. A policeman stared at her for a moment, then turned
indifferently away. How surprising that her floating made no impression
upon him! But then, there was no law against floating! Once she drifted
past H. Withington Warner, who was staring into a shop window. He did
not see her. Susannah had to inhibit her chuckles when, floating a foot
above his head, she realized for the first time that he dyed his hair.
Why could she see that? He should have his hat on--or was she seeing
through his hat?

She was passing under the arch into Washington Square. But she wasn't
floating any longer. She was dragging weights; she was wading through
something like tar, which clung to her feet. She was coughing violently.
She had been coughing for a long time. Night in New York was no longer
beautiful; glorious. Tragic horrors were rasping in her head. There was
Warner. And there was Byan. She could not snap her fingers at them
now.... But she knew how to get away from them ... she must rest....

She cut off a segment of Washington Square, looking for a number. There
was a fanlight; and, plain in the street lamps, seeming for a moment the
only object in the world, the number "Fifty-seven and a Half." The outer
door gave to her touch. A dim point of gaslight burned in the hall. She
floated again for a minute as she mounted the stairs.... She was before
a door.... She was on her hands and knees fumbling under the rug.... She
was dragging herself up by the door-knob....

The key opened the door.

Light, streaming from somewhere in the backyard areas, illuminated a
wide white bed.

"I am sick, Glorious Lutie--I think I am very sick," said Susannah.
"Watch me, won't you? Keep Warner out!" Fumbling in the bag, she drew
out the miniature, set it up against the mirror on the bureau beside the
bed--just where she could see it plainly in the shaft of light.

She locked the door. She lay down.



IX


Lindsay sat in the big living-room beside the refectory table. Mrs.
Spash moved about the room dusting; setting its scanty furnishings to
rights. On the long table before him was set out a series of tiny
villages, some Chinese, some Japanese: little pink or green-edged houses
in white porcelain; little thatched-roofed houses in brown adobe;
pagodas; bridges; pavilions. Dozens of tiny figures, some on mules,
others on foot, and many loaded with burdens walked the streets. A bit
of looking-glass, here and there, made ponds. Ducks floated on them, and
boats; queer Oriental-looking skiffs, manned by tiny, half-clad sailors;
Chinese junks. In neighboring pastures, domestic animals grazed.
Roosters, hens, chickens grouped in back areas.

"That's just what Miss Murray used to do," Mrs. Spash observed. "She'd
play with them toys for hours at a time. And of course Cherry loved them
more than anything in the house. That's the reason I stole them and
buried them."

"How did you manage that exactly?" Lindsay asked.

"Oh, that was easy enough," Mrs. Spash confessed cheerfully. "Between
Miss Murray's death and the auction, I was here a lot, fixing up. They
all trusted me, of course. Those toys was all set out in little villages
by the Dew Pond. Nobody knew that they were there. So I just did them up
in tissue paper and put them in that big tin box and hid them in the
bushes. One night late I came back and buried them. Folks didn't think
of them for a long time after the auction. You see, nobody had touched
them during Miss Murray's illness. And when they did remember them, they
thought they had disappeared during the sale." Mrs. Spash paused a
moment. Her face assumed an expression of extreme disapproval. "Other
things disappeared during the sale," she accused, lowering her voice.

"Who took them?" Lindsay asked.

All the caution of the Yankee appeared in Mrs. Spash's voice. "I don't
know as I'd like to say, because it isn't a thing anybody can prove. I
have my suspicions though."

Lindsay did not continue these inquiries.

"Where did Miss Murray get all these toys?"

"Well, a lot of 'em came from China. Miss Murray had a great-uncle who
was a sea-captain. He used to go on them long whaling voyages. He
brought them to her different times. Miss Murray had played with them
when she was a child, and so she liked to have little Cherry play with
them. Sometimes they'd all go out to the Dew Pond--Miss Murray, Mr.
Monroe, Mr. Gale, Mr. Lewis, and spend a whole afternoon laying them out
in little towns--jess about as you've got 'em there. There was two
little places on the shore that Miss Murray had all cut down, so's the
bushes wouldn't be too tall. They useter call the pond the Pacific
Ocean. One of them cleared places was the China coast and the other the
Japanese coast. They'd stay there for hours, floating little boats back
and forth from China to Japan. And how they'd laugh! I useter listen to
their voices coming through the window. But then, the house was always
full of laughter. It began at seven o'clock in the morning, when they
got up, and it never stopped until--after midnight sometimes--when they
went to bed. Oh, it was such a gay place in those days."

Lindsay arose and stretched. But the stretching did not seem so much an
expression of fatigue or drowsiness as the demand of his spirit for
immediate activity of some sort. He sat down again instantly. Under his
downcast lids, his eyes were bright. "These walls are soaked with
laughter," he remarked.

"Yes," Mrs. Spash seemed to understand. "But there was tears too and
plenty of them--in the last years."

"I suppose there were," Lindsay agreed. He did not speak for a moment;
nor did Mrs. Spash. There came a silence so concentrated that the
sunlight poured into it tangible gold. Then, outside a thick white cloud
caught the sun in its woolly net. The world gloomed again.

"She's sad still," Lindsay dropped in absent comment.

"Yes," Mrs. Spash agreed.

"I wonder what she wants?" Lindsay addressed this to himself. His voice
was so low that perhaps Mrs. Spash did not hear it. At any rate she made
no answer.

Another silence came.

Mrs. Spash finished her dusting. But she lingered. Lindsay still sat at
the table; but his eyes had left the little villages arranged there.
They went through the door and gazed out into the brilliant patch of
sunlight on the grass. There spread under his eyes a narrow stretch of
lawn, all sun-touched velvet; beyond a big crescent of garden.
Low-growing zinnias in futuristic colors, high phlox in pastel colors;
higher, Canterbury bells, deep blue; highest of all, hollyhocks, wine
red. Beyond stretched further expanses of lawn. One tall, wide
wine-glass elm spread a perfect circle of emerald shade. One low, thick
copper-beech dropped an irregular splotch of luminous shadow. Beyond all
this ran the gray, lichened stone wall. And beyond the stone wall came
unredeemed jungle. Mrs. Spash began, all over again, to dust and to
arrange the scanty furniture. After a while she spoke.

"Mr. Lindsay--"

Lindsay started abruptly.

"Mr. Lindsay--that time you fainted when you first saw me, setting out
there on the door-stone, you remember--?"

Lindsay nodded.

"Well, who was you expecting to see?"

Lindsay, alert now as a wire spring, turned on her, not his eyes alone,
nor his head; but his whole body. Mrs. Spash was looking straight at
him. Their glances met midway. The old eyes pierced the young eyes with
an intent scrutiny. The young eyes stabbed the old eyes with an intense
interrogation. Lindsay did not answer her question directly. Instead he
laughed.

"I guess I don't have to answer you," he declared. "I had seen her often
then.... I had seen the others too.... I don't know why _you_ should
have frightened me when _they_ didn't.... I think it was that I wasn't
expecting anything human.... I've seen them since.... They never
frighten me."

Mrs. Spash's reply was simple enough. "I see them all the time." She
added, with a delicate lilt of triumph, "I've seen them for years--"

Lindsay continued to look at her--and now his gaze was somber; even a
little despairing. "What do they want? What does _she_ want?"

Mrs. Spash's reply came instantly, although there were pauses in her
words. "I don't know. I've tried.... I can't make out." She accompanied
these simple statements with a reinforcing decisive nod of her little
head.

"I can't guess either--I can't conjecture-- There's something she wants
me to do. She can't tell me. And they're trying to help her tell me. All
except the little girl--"

"Do you see the little girl?" Mrs. Spash demanded. "Well, I declare!
That's very queer, I must say. I never see Cherry."

"I wish I saw her oftener," Lindsay laughed ruefully. "_She_ doesn't ask
anything of me. She's just herself. But the others--Gale--Monroe-- My
God! It's killing me!" He laughed again, and this time with a real
amusement.

Mrs. Spash interrupted his laughter. "Do you see Mr. Monroe?" she asked
in a pleased tone. "Well, I declare! Aren't you the fortunate creature.
I never see _him_!"

"All the time," Lindsay answered shortly. "If I could only get it. I
feel so stupid, so incredibly gross and lumbering and heavy. I'd do
anything--"

He arose and walked over to the picture of Lutetia Murray which still
hung above the fireplace. He stared at her hard. "I'd do anything for
her, if I could only find out what it was."

"Yes," Mrs. Spash admitted dispassionately, "that's the thing everybody
felt about her, they'd do anything for her. Not that she ever asked them
to do anything--"

Lindsay began to pace the length of the long room. "What is happening?
Has the old ramshackle time-machine finally broken a spring so that, in
this last revolution, it hauls, out of the past, these pictures of two
decades ago? Or is it that there are superimposed one on the other two
revolving worlds--theirs and ours--and _theirs_ or _ours_ has stopped an
instant, so that I can glance into _theirs_? I feel as though I were in
the dark of a camera obscura gazing into their brightness. Or have those
two years in the air permanently broken my psychology; so that through
that rift I shall always have the power to look into strange worlds? Or
am I just piercing another dimension?"

Mrs. Spash had been following him with her faded, calm old eyes.
Apparently she guessed these questions were not addressed to her. She
kept silence.

"I've racked my brain. I lie awake nights and tear the universe to
pieces. I outguess guessing and outconjecture conjecture. My thoughts
fly to the end of space. My wonder invades the very citadel of fancy. My
surmises storm the last outpost of reality. But it beats me. I can't get
it." Lindsay stopped. Mrs. Spash made no comment. Apparently her twenty
years' training among artists had prepared her for monologues of this
sort. She listened; but it was obvious that she did not understand; did
not expect to understand.

"Does she want me to stay _here_ or go _there_?" Lindsay demanded of the
air. "If _here_, what does she want me to do? If _there_--where is
_there_? If _there_, what does she want me to do _there_? Is her errand
concerned with the living or the dead? If the living, who? If the dead,
who? Where to find them? How to find them?" He turned his glowing eyes
on Mrs. Spash. "I only know two things. She wants me to do something.
She wants me to do it soon. Oh, I suppose I know another thing-- If I
don't do it soon, it will be too late."

Mrs. Spash was still following him with her placid, blue, old gaze.
"There, there!" she said soothingly. "Now don't you get too excited, Mr.
Lindsay. It'll all come to you."

"But how--" Lindsay objected. "And when--"

"I don't know--but she'll tell you somehow. She's cute-- She's awful
cute. You mark my words, she'll find a way."

"That's the reason I don't have you in the house yet, Mrs. Spash,"
Lindsay explained.

"Oh, you don't have to tell me that," Mrs. Spash announced, triumphant
because of her own perspicuity.

"It's only that I have a feeling that she can do it more easily if we're
alone. That's why I send you home at night. She comes oftenest in the
evening when I'm alone. They all do. Oh, it's quite a procession some
nights. They come one after another, all trying--" He paused. "Sometimes
this room is so full of their torture that I-- You know, it all began
before I came here. It began in an apartment in New York. It was in
Jeffrey Lewis' old rooms. He tried to tell me first, you see."

"Did you see Mr. Lewis there?" Mrs. Spash asked this as casually as
though she had said, "Has the postman been here this morning?" She
added, "I see him here."

"No, I didn't see him," Lindsay explained grimly, "but I felt him. And,
believe me, I knew he was there. He was the only one of the lot that
frightened me. I wouldn't have been frightened if I had seen him. It was
he, really, who sent me here. I work it out that he couldn't get it over
and he sent me to Lutetia because he thought she could. I wonder--" he
stopped short. This explanation came as though something had flashed
electrically through his mind. But he did not pursue that wonder.

"Well, don't you get discouraged," Mrs. Spash reiterated. "You mark my
words, she'll manage to say what she's got to say."

"Well, it's time I went to work," Lindsay remarked a little listlessly.
"After all, the life of Lutetia Murray must get finished. Oh, by the
way, Mrs. Spash," Lindsay veered as though remembering suddenly
something he had forgotten, "do other people see them?"

"No--at least I never heard tell that they did."

"How did the rumor get about that the place was haunted, then?"

"I spread it," Mrs. Spash explained. "I didn't want folks breaking in to
see if there was anything to steal. And I didn't want them poking about
the place."

"How did you spread it?"

"I told children," Mrs. Spash said simply. "Less than a month, folks
were seeing all kinds of ridic'lous ghosts here. Nobody likes to go by
alone at night."

"It's a curious thing," Lindsay reverted to his main theme, "that I know
her message has nothing to do with this biography. I don't know how I
know it; but I do. Of course, that would be the first thing a man would
think of. It is something more instant, more acute. It beats me
altogether. All I can do is wait."

"Now don't you think any more about it, Mr. Lindsay," Mrs. Spash
advised. "You go upstairs and set to work. I'm going to get you up the
best lunch today you've had yet."

"That's the dope," Lindsay agreed. "The only way to take a man's mind
off his troubles is to give him a good dinner. You'll have to work hard,
though, Eunice Spash, to beat your own record."

Lindsay arose and sauntered into the front hall and up the stairs. He
turned into the room at the right which he had reserved for work, now
that Mrs. Spash was on the premises. At this moment, it was flooded with
sunlight.... A faint odor of the honeysuckle vine at the corner seemed
to emanate from the light itself....

Instantly ... he realized ... that the room was not empty.

Lindsay became feverishly active. Eyes down, he mechanically shuffled
his papers. He collected yesterday's written manuscript, brought the
edges down on the table in successive clicks, until they made an even,
rectangular pile. He laid his pencils out in a row. He changed the point
in his penholder. He moved the ink-bottle. But this availed his spirit
nothing. "I am incredibly stupid," he said aloud. His voice was low, but
it rang as hollowly as though he were from another world. "If you could
only speak to me. Can't you speak to me?"

He did not raise his eyes. But he waited for a long interval, during
which the silence in the room became so heavy and cold that it almost
blotted out the sunlight.

"But have patience with me. I want to serve you. Oh, you don't know how
I want to serve you. I give you my word, I'll get it sometime and I
think not too late. I'll kill myself if I don't. I'm putting all I am
and all I have into trying to understand. Don't give me up. It's only
because I'm flesh and blood."

He stopped and raised his eyes.

The room was empty.

That afternoon Lindsay took a walk so long, so devil-driven that he came
back streaming perspiration from every pore. Mrs. Spash regarded him
with a glance in which disapproval struggled with sympathy. "I don't
know as you'd ought to wear yourself out like that, Mr. Lindsay. Later,
perhaps you'll need all your strength--"

"Very likely you're right, Mrs. Spash," Lindsay agreed. "But I've been
trying to work it out."

Mrs. Spash left as usual at about seven. By nine, the last remnant of
the long twilight, a collaboration of midsummer with daylight-saving,
had disappeared. Lindsay lighted his lamp and sat down with Lutetia's
poems. The room was peculiarly cheerful. The beautiful Murray sideboard,
recently discovered and recovered, held its accustomed place between the
two windows. The old Murray clock, a little ship swinging back and forth
above its brass face, ticked in the corner. The old whale-oil lamps had
resumed their stand, one at either end of the mantel. Old pieces, old
though not Lutetia's--they were gone irretrievably--bits picked up here
and there, made the deep sea-shell corner cabinet brilliant with the
color of old china, glimmery with the shine of old pewter, sparkly with
the glitter of old glass. Many chairs--windsors, comb-backs, a Boston
rocker--filled the empty spaces with an old-time flavor. In traditional
places, high old glasses held flowers. The single anachronism was the
big, nickel, green-shaded student lamp.

Lindsay needed rest, but he could not go to bed. He knew perfectly well
that he was exhausted, but he knew equally well that he was not drowsy.
His state of mind was abnormal. Perhaps the three large cups of
jet-black coffee that he had drunk at dinner helped in this matter. But
whatever the cause, he was conscious of every atom of this exaggerated
spiritual alertness; of the speed with which his thoughts drove; of the
almost insupportable mental clarity through which they shot.

"If this keeps up," he meditated, "it's no use my going to bed at all
tonight. I could not possibly sleep."

He found Lutetia's poems agreeable solace at this moment. They contained
no anodyne for his restlessness; but at least they did not increase it.
Her poetry had not been considered successful, but Lindsay liked it. It
was erratic in meter; irregular in rhythm. But at times it astounded him
with a delicate precision of expression; at moments it surprised him
with an opulence of fancy. He read on and on--

Suddenly that mental indicator--was it a flutter of his spirit or merely
a lowering of the spiritual temperature?--apprised him that he was not
alone.... But as usual, after he realized that his privacy had been
invaded, he continued to read; his gaze caught, as though actually tied,
by the print.... After a while he shut the book.... But he still sat
with his hand clutching it, one finger marking the place.... He did not
lift his eyes when he spoke....

"Tell the others to go," he demanded.

                  *       *       *       *       *

After a while he arose. He did not move to the other end of the room nor
did he glance once in that direction. But on his side, he paced up and
down with a stern, long-strided prowl. He spoke aloud.

"Listen to me!" His tone was peremptory. "We've got to understand each
other tonight. I can't endure it any longer; for I know as well as you
that the time is getting short. You can't speak to me. But I can speak
to you. Lutetia, you've got to outdo yourself tonight. You must give me
a sign. Do you understand? You _must_ show me. Now summon all that you
have of strength, whatever it is, to give me that sign--do you
understand, _all you have_. Listen! Whatever it is that you want me to
do, it isn't here. I know that now. I know it because I've been here two
months-- Whatever it is, it must be put through somewhere else. An idea
came to me this morning. I spent all the afternoon thinking it out.
Maybe I've got a clue. It all started in New York. _He_ tried to get it
to me there. Listen! Tell me! Quick! Quick! Quick! Do you want me to go
to New York?"

The answer was instantaneous. As though some giant hand had seized the
house in its grip, it shook. Shook for an infinitesimal fraction of an
instant. Almost, it seemed to Lindsay, walls quivered; panes rattled;
shutters banged, doors slammed. And yet in the next infinitesimal
fraction of that instant he knew that he had heard no tangible sound.
Something more exquisite than sound had filled that unmeasurable
interval with shattering, deafening confusion.

Lindsay turned with a sharp wheel; glared into the dark of the other
side of the room.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Lindsay dashed upstairs to his desk. There he found a time-table. The
ten-fifteen from Quinanog would give him ample time to catch the
midnight to New York. He might not be able to get a sleeping berth; but
the thing he needed least, at that moment, was sleep. In fact, he would
rather sit up all night. He flung a few things into his suitcase; dashed
off a note to Mrs. Spash. In an incredibly short time, he was striding
over the two miles of road which led to the station.

There happened to be an unreserved upper berth. It was a superfluous
luxury as far as Lindsay was concerned. He lay in it during what
remained of the night, his eyes shut but his spirit more wakeful than he
had ever known it. "Every revolution of these wheels," he said once to
himself, "brings me nearer to it, whatever it is." He arose early; was
the first to invade the washroom; the first to step off the train; the
first to leap into a taxicab. He gave the address of Spink's apartments
to the driver. "Get there faster than you can!" he ordered briefly. The
man looked at him--and then proceeded to break the speed law.

Washington Square was hardly awake when they churned up to the sidewalk.
Lindsay let himself in the door; bounded lightly up the two flights of
stairs; unlocked the door of Spink's apartment. Everything was silent
there. The dust of two months of vacancy lay on the furnishings. Lindsay
stood in the center of the room, contemplating the door which led
backward into the rest of the apartment.

"Well, old top, _you're_ not going to trouble me any longer. I get that
with my first breath. I've done what _she_ wanted and what _you_ wanted
so far. Now what in the name of heaven is the next move?"

He stood in the center of the room waiting, listening.

And then into his hearing, stretched to its final capacity, came sound.
Just _sound_ at first; then a dull murmur. Lindsay's hair rose with a
prickling progress from his scalp. But that murmur was human. It
continued.

Lindsay went to the door, opened it, and stepped out into the hall. The
murmur grew louder. It was a woman's voice; a girl's voice; unmistakably
the voice of youth. It came from the little room next to Spink's
apartment.

Again Lindsay listened. The monotone broke; grew jagged; grew shrill;
became monotonous again. Suddenly the truth dawned on him. It was the
voice of madness or of delirium.

He advanced to the door and knocked. Nobody answered. The monotone
continued. He knocked again. Nobody answered. The monotone continued. He
tried the knob. The door was locked. With his hand still on the knob, he
put his shoulder to the door; gave it a slow resistless pressure. It
burst open.

It was a small room and furnished with the conventional furnishings of a
bedroom. Lindsay saw but two things in it. One was a girl, sitting up in
the bed in the corner; a beautiful slim creature with streaming loose
red hair; her cheeks vivid with fever spots; her eyes brilliant with
fever-light. It was she who emitted the monotone.

The other thing was a miniature, standing against the glass on the
bureau. A miniature of a beautiful woman in the full lusciousness of a
golden blonde maturity.

The woman of the miniature was Lutetia Murray.

The girl--



X


She felt that the room was full of sunshine. Even through her glued-down
lids she caught the darting dazzle of it. She knew that the air was full
of bird voices. Even through her drowse-filmed ears, she caught the
singing sound of them. She would like to lift her lids. She would like
to wake up. But after all it was a little too easy to sleep. The impulse
with which she sank back to slumber was so soft that it was scarcely
impulse. It dropped her slowly into an enormous dark, a colossal quiet.

Presently she drifted to the top of that dark quiet. Again the sunlight
flowed into the channels of seeing. Again the birds picked on the
strings of hearing. By an enormous effort she opened her eyes.

She stared from her bed straight at a window. A big vine stretched films
of green leaf across it. It seemed to color the sunshine that poured
onto the floor--green. She looked at the window for a long time.
Presently she discovered among the leaves a crimson, vase-like flower.

"Why, how thick the trumpet-vine has grown!" she said aloud.

It seemed to her that there was a movement at her side. But that
movement did not interest her. She did not fall into a well this time.
She drifted off on a tide of sleep. Presently--perhaps it was an hour
later, perhaps five minutes--she opened her eyes. Again she stared at
the window. Again the wonder of growth absorbed her thought; passed out
of it. She looked about the room. Her little bedroom set, painted a soft
creamy yellow with long tendrils of golden vine, stood out softly
against the faded green cartridge paper.

"Why! Why have they put the bureau over there?" she demanded aloud of
the miniature of Glorious Lutie which hung beside the bureau. With a
vague alarm, her eyes sped from point to point. The dado of Weejubs
stood out as though freshly restored. But all her pictures were gone;
the four colored prints, Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter--each the head
of a little girl, decked with buds or flowers, fruit or furs, had
vanished. The faded squares where they had hung showed on the walls. Oh,
woe, her favorite of all, "My Little White Kittens," had disappeared
too. On the other hand--on table, on bureau, and on commode-top--crowded
the little Chinese toys.

"Why, when did they bring them in from the Dew Pond?" she asked herself,
again aloud.

With a sudden stab of memory, she reached her hand up on the wall. How
curious! Only yesterday she could scarcely touch the spring; now her
hand went far beyond it. She pressed. The little panel opened slowly.
She raised herself in bed and looked through the aperture.

Glorious Lutie's room was stark--bare, save for a bed and her long
wooden writing-table.

Her thoughts flew madly ... suddenly her whole acceptance of things
crumbled. Why! She wasn't Cherie and eight. She was Susannah and
twenty-five; and the last time she had been anywhere she had been in New
York.... Lightnings of memory tore at her ... the Carbonado Mining
Company ... Eloise ... a Salvation Army woman on the street ... roofers.
Yet this was Blue Meadows. She did not have to pinch herself or press on
her sleepy eyelids. It _was_ Blue Meadows. The trumpet-vine, though as
gigantic as Jack's beanstalk, proved it. The painted furniture proved
it. The Chinese toys proved it. Yes, and if she wanted the final touch
that clinched all argument, there beside the head of the bed was the
maple gazelle. This really was not the final proof. The final proof was
human and it entered the room at that moment in the person of Mrs.
Spash. And Mrs. Spash--in her old, quaint inaccurate way--was calling
her as Cherry.

Susannah burst into tears.

                  *       *       *       *       *

"Oh, I feel so much better now," Susannah said after a little talk; more
sleep; then talk again. "I'm going to be perfectly well in a little
while. I want to get up. And oh, dear Mrs. Spash--do you remember how
sometimes I used to call you Mrs. Splash? I do want as soon as possible
to see Mr. Lindsay and his cousin--Miss Stockbridge, did you say? I want
to thank them, of course. How can I ever thank them enough? And I want
to talk to him about the biography. Oh, I'm sure I can give him so much.
And I can make out a list of people who can tell him all the things you
and I don't remember; or never knew. And then, in my trunk in New York,
is a package of all Glorious Lutie's letters to me. I think he will want
to publish some of them; they are so lovely, so full of our games--and
jingles, and even drawings. Couldn't I sit up now?"

"I don't see why not," Mrs. Spash said. "You've slept for nearly
twenty-six hours, Cherry. You waked up once--or half-waked up. We gave
you some hot milk and you went right to sleep again."

"It's going to make me well--just being at Blue Meadows," Susannah
prophesied. "If I could only stay-- But I'm grateful for a day, an
hour."

                  *       *       *       *       *

Later, she came slowly down the stairs--one hand on the rail, the other
holding Mrs. Spash's arm. She wore her faded creamy-pink, creamy-yellow
Japanese kimono, held in prim plaits by the broad sash, a big obi bow at
the back. Her red hair lay forward in two long glittering braids. Her
face was still pale, but her eyes overran with a lucent blue excitement.
It caught on her eyelashes and made stars there.

A slim young man in flannels; tall with a muscular litheness; dark with
a burnished tan; handsome; arose from his work at the long refectory
table. He came forward smiling--his hand outstretched. "My cousin, Miss
Stockbridge, has run in to Boston to do some shopping," he explained. "I
can't tell you how glad I am to see you up, or how glad she will be." He
took her disengaged arm and reinforced Mrs. Spash's efforts. They guided
her into a big wing chair. The young man found a footstool for her.

"I suppose I'm not dreaming, Mr. Lindsay," Susannah apprised him
tremulously. "And yet how can it be anything but a dream? I left this
place fifteen years ago and I have never seen it since. How did I get
back here? How did you find me? How did you know who I was? And what
made you so heavenly good as to bring me here? I remember fragments here
and there-- Mrs. Spash tells me I've had the flu."

Lindsay laughed. "That's all easily explained," he said with a
smoothness almost meretricious. "I happened to go to New York on
business. As usual I went to my friend Sparrel's apartment. You were ill
and delirious in the next room. I heard you; forced the door open and
sent at once for a doctor. He pronounced it a belated case of flu. So I
telephoned for Miss Stockbridge; we moved you into my apartment and
after you passed the crisis--thank God, you escaped pneumonia!--I asked
the doctor if I could bring you over here. He agreed that the country
air would be the very best thing for you, and yet would not advise me to
do it. He thought it was taking too great a risk. But I felt--I can't
tell you how strongly I felt it--that it would be the best thing for
you. My cousin stood by me, and I took the chance. Sometimes now,
though, I shudder at my own foolhardiness. You don't remember--or do
you?--that I went through the formality of asking your consent."

"I do remember now--vaguely," Susannah laughed. "Isn't it lucky I
didn't--in my weakness--say no?"

Lindsay laughed again. "I shouldn't have paid any attention to it, if
you had. I knew that this was what you needed. You were sleeping then
about twenty-five hours out of the twenty-four. So one night we brought
you in a taxi to the boat and took the night trip to Boston. The boat
was making its return trip that night, but I bribed them to let you stay
on it all day until it was almost ready to sail. Late in the afternoon,
we brought you in an automobile to Quinanog. You slept all the way. That
was yesterday afternoon. It was dark when we got here. You didn't even
open your eyes when I carried you into the house. In the meantime I had
wired Mrs. Spash--and she fixed up your room, as much like the way it
used to be when you were a child, as she could remember."

"It's all too marvelous," Susannah murmured. New brilliancies were
welling up into her turquoise eyes, the deep dark fringes of lash could
not hold them; the stars kept dropping off their tips. Fresh spurts of
color invaded her face. Nervously her long white hands pulled at her
coppery braids.

"There are so many questions I shall ask you," she went on, "when I'm
strong enough. But some I must ask you now. How did you happen to come
here? And when did the idea of writing Glorious Lutie's--my
aunt's--biography occur to you? And how did you come to know Mrs. Spash?
Where did you find the little Chinese toys? And my painted bedroom set?
And the sideboard there? And the six-legged highboy? Oh dear, a hundred,
thousand, million things. But first of all, how did you know that, now
being Susannah Ayer, I was formerly Susannah Delano?"

"There was the miniature of Miss Murray hanging on your wall. That made
me sure--in--in some inexplicable way--that you were the little lost
Cherry. And of course we went through your handbag to make sure. We
found some letters addressed to Susannah Delano Ayer. But will you tell
me how you _do_ happen to be Susannah Ayer, when you were formerly
Susannah Delano, alias Cherry--or Cherie?"

"I went from here to Providence to live with a large family of cousins.
Their name was Ayer, and I was so often called Ayer that finally I took
the name." Susannah paused, and then with a sudden impulse toward
confidence, she went on. "I grew up with my cousins. I was the youngest
of them all. The two oldest girls married, one a Californian, the other
a Canadian. I haven't seen them for years. The three boys are scattered
all over everywhere, by the war. My uncle died first; then my aunt. She
left me the five hundred dollars with which I got my business training."

The look of one who is absorbing passionately all that is being said to
him was on Lindsay's face. But a little perplexity troubled it.
"Glorious Lutie?" he repeated interrogatively.

"Oh, of course," Susannah murmured. "I always called her Glorious Lutie.
She always called me Glorious Susie--that is when she didn't call me
_Cherie_. And we had a game--the Abracadabra game. When she was telling
me a story--her stories were _marvels_; they went on for days and
days--and she got tired, she could always stop it by saying,
Abracadabra! If I didn't reply instantly with Abracadabra, the story
stopped. Of course she always caught my little wits napping--I was so
absorbed in the story that I could only stutter and pant, trying to
remember that long word."

"That's a Peter Ibbetson trick," Lindsay commented.

                  *       *       *       *       *

The talk, thus begun, lasted for the three hours which elapsed before
Miss Stockbridge's return. Two narratives ran through their talk;
Lindsay's, which dealt with superficial matters, began with his return
to America from France; Susannah's, which began with that sad day,
fifteen years ago, when she saw Blue Meadows for the last time. But
neither narrative went straight. They zig-zagged; they curved, they
circled. Those deviations were the result of racing up squirrel tracks
of opinion and theory; of little excursions into the allied experiences
of youth; even of talks on books. Once it was interrupted by the
noiseless entry of Mrs. Spash, who deposited a tray which contained a
glass of milk, a pair of dropped eggs, a little mound of buttered toast.
Susannah suddenly found herself hungry. She drained her glass, ate both
eggs, devoured the last crumb of toast.

After this, she felt so vigorous that she fell in with Lindsay's
suggestion that she walk to the door. There she stood on the door-stone
for a preoccupied, half-joyful, half-melancholy interval studying the
garden. Then, leaning on his arm, she ventured as far as the seat under
the copper-beech. Later, even, she went to the barn and the Dew Pond.
Before she could get tired, Lindsay brought her back, reestablishing her
in the chair. Then--and not till then--and following another impulse to
confide in Lindsay, Susannah told him the whole story of the Carbonado
Mining Company. Perhaps his point of view on that matter gave her her
second accession of vitality. He paced up and down the room during her
narrative; his hands, fists. But he laughed their threats to scorn. "Now
don't give another thought to that gang of crooks!" he adjured her. "I
know a man in New York--a lawyer. I'll have him look up that crowd and
put the fear of God into them. They'll probably be flown by that time,
however. Undoubtedly they were making ready for their getaway. Don't
think of it again. They can't hurt you half as much as that bee that's
trying to get in the door." He was silent for a moment, staring fixedly
down at his own manuscript on the table. "By God!" he burst out
suddenly, "I've half a mind to beat it on to New York. I'd like to be
present. I'd have some things to say--and do."

Somewhere toward the end of this long talk, "I've not said a word yet,
Mr. Lindsay," Susannah interpolated timidly, "of how grateful I am to
you--and your cousin. But it's mainly because I've not had the strength
yet. I don't know how I'm going to repay you. I don't know how I'm even
going to tell you. What I owe you--just in money--let alone eternal
gratitude."

"Now, that's all arranged," Lindsay said smoothly. "You don't know what
a find you were. You're an angel from heaven. You're a Christmas present
in July. For a long time I've realized that I needed a secretary.
Somebody's got to help me on Lutetia's life or I'll never get it done.
Who better qualified than Lutetia's own niece? In fact you will not only
be secretary but collaborator. As soon as you're well enough, we'll go
to work every morning and we'll work together until it's done."

Susannah leaned back, snuggled into the soft recess of the comfortable
chair. She dropped her lids over the dazzling brilliancy of her eyes. "I
suppose I ought to say no. I suppose I ought to have some proper pride
about accepting so much kindness. I suppose I ought to show some
firmness of mind, pawn all my possessions and get back to work in New
York or Boston. Girls in novels always do those things. But I know I
shall do none of them. I shall say yes. For I haven't been so happy
since Glorious Lutie died."

"Oh," Lindsay exclaimed quickly as though glad to reduce this dangerous
emotional excitement. "There comes the lost Anna Sophia Stockbridge.
She's a dandy. I think you'll like her. It's awfully hard not to."

                  *       *       *       *       *

The instant Susannah had disappeared with Miss Stockbridge up the
stairs, Mrs. Spash appeared in the Long Room. Apparently, she came with
a definite object--an object in no way connected with the futile dusting
movements she began to emit.

Lindsay watched her.

Suddenly Mrs. Spash's eyes came up; met his. They gazed at each other a
long moment; a gaze that was luminous with question and answer.

"She's gone," Lindsay announced after a while.

Mrs. Spash nodded briskly.

"She'll never come back," Lindsay added.

Again Mrs. Spash nodded briskly.

"They've all gone," Lindsay stated.

For the third time Mrs. Spash briskly nodded.

"When Cherie came, _they_ left," Lindsay concluded.

"They'd done what they wanted to do," Mrs. Spash vouchsafed. "Brought
you and Cherry together. So there was no need. She took them away. She'd
admire to stay. That's like her. But she don't want to make the place
seem--well, _queer_. So, as she allus did, she gives up her wish."

"Mrs. Spash," Lindsay exploded suddenly after a long pause, "we've
_never_ seen them. You understand we've never seen them; either of us.
They never were here."

Mrs. Spash nodded for the fourth time.

                  *       *       *       *       *

That night after his cousin and his guest had gone to bed, Lindsay
wandered about the place. The moon was big enough to turn his paths into
streams of light. He walked through the flower garden; into the barn;
about the Dew Pond. The tallest hollyhocks scarcely moved, so quiet was
the night. The little pond showed no ripple except a flash of the
moonlight. The barn was a cavern of gloom. Lindsay gazed at everything
as though from a new point of view.

An immeasurable content filled him.

After a while he returned to the house. His picture of Lutetia Murray
still hung over the mantel in the living-room. He gazed at it for a long
while. Then he turned away. As he looked down the length of the
living-room, there was in his face a whimsical expression, half of an
achieved happiness, half of a lurking regret. "This house has never been
so full of people since I've been here," he mused, "and yet never was it
so empty. My beloved ghosts, I miss you. But you've not all gone after
all. You've left one little ghost behind. Lutetia, I thank you for her.
How I wish you could come again to see.... But you're right. Don't come!
Not that I'm afraid. You're too lovely--"

His thoughts broke halfway. They took another turn. "I wonder if it ever
happened to any other man before in the history of the world to see the
little-girl ghost of the woman--"

                  *       *       *       *       *

Blue Meadows had for several weeks now been projecting pictures from its
storied past into the light of everyday. Could it have projected into
that everyday one picture from the future, it would have been something
like this.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Susannah came into the south living-room. Her husband was standing
between the two windows.

"Davy," she exclaimed joyfully, "I've located the lowboy. A Mrs. Norton
in West Hassett owns it. Of course she's asking a perfectly prohibitive
price, but of course we've got to have it."

"Yes," Lindsay answered absently, "we've got to have it."

"I'm glad we found things so slowly," Susannah dreamily. "It adds to the
wonder and magic of it all. It makes the dream last longer. It keeps our
romance always at the boiling point."

She put one arm about her husband's neck and kissed him. Lindsay turned;
kissed her.

"At least we have the major pieces back," Susannah said contentedly.
"And little Lutetia Murray Lindsay will grow up in almost the same
surroundings that Susannah Ayer enjoyed. Oh--today--when I carried her
over to the wall of the nursery, she noticed the Weejubs; she actually
put her hand out to touch them."

"Oh, there's something here for you--from Rome--just came in the mail,"
Lindsay exclaimed. "It's addressed to Susannah Delano too."

"From Rome!" Susannah ejaculated. "Susannah Delano!" She cut the strings
of the package. Under the wrappings appeared--swathed in tissue paper--a
picture. A letter dropped from the envelope. Susannah seized it; turned
to the signature.

"Garrison Monroe!" she ejaculated. "Oh, dear dear Uncle Garry, he's
alive after all!" She read the letter aloud, the tears welling in her
eyes.

"How wonderful!" she commented when she finished. "You see, he's
apparently specialized in tomb-sculpture."

She pulled the tissue paper from the picture. Their heads met, examining
it.

"Oh, how lovely!" Susannah exclaimed in a hushed voice. And "It's
beautiful!" Lindsay agreed in a low tone.

It was the photograph of a bit of sculptured marble; a woman swathed in
rippling draperies lying, at ease, on her side. One hand, palm upward,
fingers a little curled, lay by her cheek; the other fell across her
breast. A veil partially obscured the delicate profile. But from every
veiled feature, from every line of the figure, from every fold in the
drapery, exuded rest.

"It's perfect!" Susannah said, still in a low tone. "Perfect. Many a
time she's fallen asleep just like than when we've all been talking and
laughing. When she slept, her hand always lay close to her face as it is
here. She always wore long floating scarves. You see he had to do her
face from photographs ... and memory.... He's used that scarf device to
conceal.... How beautiful! How beautiful!"

There came silence.

"Mrs. Spash says he was in love with her," Susannah went on. "Of course
I was too young. I didn't realize it. But it's all here, I think. Did
you notice that part of the letter where he says that for the last year
or two his mind has been full of her? And of all his life here? That's
very pathetic, isn't it? Now there will be a fitting monument over
her.... He says it will be here in a few months. We must send him
pictures when it's put on her grave. How happy it makes me! He says he's
nearly eighty.... How beautiful.... You're not listening to me," she
accused her husband with sudden indignation. But her indignation
tempered itself by a flurry of little kisses when, following the
direction of his piercing gaze, she saw it ended on the miniature which
hung beside the secretary. "Looking at Glorious Lutie!" she mocked
tenderly. "How that miniature fascinates you! Sometimes," she added,
obviously inventing whimsical cause for grievance, "sometimes I think
you're as much in love with her as you are with me."

"If I am," Lindsay agreed, "it's because there's so much of you in her."

THE END



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