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Title: The Crux
Author: Gilman, Charlotte Perkins, 1860-1935
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 "The Crux" ***

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[Illustration: Book Cover]



THE CRUX



BOOKS BY CHARLOTTE PERKINS GILMAN


  Women and Economics                                  $1.50
  Concerning Children                                   1.25
  In This Our World (verse)                             1.25
  The Yellow Wallpaper (story)                          0.50
  The Home                                              1.00
  Human Work                                            1.00
  What Diantha Did (novel)                              1.00
  The Man-Made World; or, Our Androcentric Culture      1.00
  Moving the Mountain                                   1.00
  The Crux                                              1.00
  Suffrage Songs                                        0.10



  THE CRUX


  A NOVEL
  BY
  CHARLOTTE PERKINS GILMAN

  CHARLTON COMPANY
  NEW YORK
  1911



  Copyright, 1911
  by
  Charlotte Perkins Gilman


  THE CO-OPERATIVE PRESS, 15 SPRUCE STREET, NEW YORK



PREFACE


This story is, first, for young women to read; second, for young men
to read; after that, for anybody who wants to. Anyone who doubts its
facts and figures is referred to "Social Diseases and Marriage," by
Dr. Prince Morrow, or to "Hygiene and Morality," by Miss Lavinia Dock,
a trained nurse of long experience.

Some will hold that the painful facts disclosed are unfit for young
girls to know. Young girls are precisely the ones who must know them,
in order that they may protect themselves and their children to come.
The time to know of danger is before it is too late to avoid it.

If some say "Innocence is the greatest charm of young girls," the
answer is, "What good does it do them?"



CONTENTS


  CHAPTER                       PAGE
     I. THE BACK WAY               9

    II. BAINVILLE EFFECTS         31

   III. THE OUTBREAK              60

    IV. TRANSPLANTED              81

     V. CONTRASTS                101

    VI. NEW FRIENDS AND OLD      126

   VII. SIDE LIGHTS              149

  VIII. A MIXTURE                174

    IX. CONSEQUENCES             204

     X. DETERMINATION            229

    XI. THEREAFTER               256

   XII. ACHIEVEMENTS             283



      _Who should know but the woman?--The young wife-to-be?
        Whose whole life hangs on the choice;
      To her the ruin, the misery;
        To her, the deciding voice._

      _Who should know but the woman?--The mother-to-be?
        Guardian, Giver, and Guide;
      If she may not foreknow, forejudge and foresee,
        What safety has childhood beside?_

      _Who should know but the woman?--The girl in her youth?
        The hour of the warning is then,
      That, strong in her knowledge and free in her truth,
        She may build a new race of new men._



CHAPTER I

THE BACK WAY

      Along the same old garden path,
      Sweet with the same old flowers;
      Under the lilacs, darkly dense,
      The easy gate in the backyard fence--
      Those unforgotten hours!


The "Foote Girls" were bustling along Margate Street with an air of
united purpose that was unusual with them. Miss Rebecca wore her black
silk cloak, by which it might be seen that "a call" was toward. Miss
Jessie, the thin sister, and Miss Sallie, the fat one, were more
hastily attired. They were persons of less impressiveness than Miss
Rebecca, as was tacitly admitted by their more familiar nicknames, a
concession never made by the older sister.

Even Miss Rebecca was hurrying a little, for her, but the others were
swifter and more impatient.

"Do come on, Rebecca. Anybody'd think you were eighty instead of
fifty!" said Miss Sallie.

"There's Mrs. Williams going in! I wonder if she's heard already. Do
hurry!" urged Miss Josie.

But Miss Rebecca, being concerned about her dignity, would not allow
herself to be hustled, and the three proceeded in irregular order
under the high-arched elms and fence-topping syringas of the small New
England town toward the austere home of Mr. Samuel Lane.

It was a large, uncompromising, square, white house, planted starkly in
the close-cut grass. It had no porch for summer lounging, no front gate
for evening dalliance, no path-bordering beds of flowers from which to
pluck a hasty offering or more redundant tribute. The fragrance which
surrounded it came from the back yard, or over the fences of neighbors;
the trees which waved greenly about it were the trees of other people.
Mr. Lane had but two trees, one on each side of the straight and narrow
path, evenly placed between house and sidewalk--evergreens.

Mrs. Lane received them amiably; the minister's new wife, Mrs.
Williams, was proving a little difficult to entertain. She was from
Cambridge, Mass., and emanated a restrained consciousness of that
fact. Mr. Lane rose stiffly and greeted them. He did not like the
Foote girls, not having the usual American's share of the sense of
humor. He had no enjoyment of the town joke, as old as they were, that
"the three of them made a full yard;" and had frowned down as a
profane impertinent the man--a little sore under some effect of
gossip--who had amended it with "make an 'ell, I say."

Safely seated in their several rocking chairs, and severally rocking
them, the Misses Foote burst forth, as was their custom, in
simultaneous, though by no means identical remarks.

"I suppose you've heard about Morton Elder?"

"What do you think Mort Elder's been doing now?"

"We've got bad news for poor Miss Elder!"

Mrs. Lane was intensely interested. Even Mr. Lane showed signs of
animation.

"I'm not surprised," he said.

"He's done it now," opined Miss Josie with conviction. "I always said
Rella Elder was spoiling that boy."

"It's too bad--after all she's done for him! He always was a scamp!"
Thus Miss Sallie.

"I've been afraid of it all along," Miss Rebecca was saying, her voice
booming through the lighter tones of her sisters. "I always said he'd
never get through college."

"But who is Morton Elder, and what has he done?" asked Mrs. Williams
as soon as she could be heard.

This lady now proved a most valuable asset. She was so new to the
town, and had been so immersed in the suddenly widening range of her
unsalaried duties as "minister's wife," that she had never even heard
of Morton Elder.

A new resident always fans the languishing flame of local
conversation. The whole shopworn stock takes on a fresh lustre, topics
long trampled flat in much discussion lift their heads anew, opinions
one scarce dared to repeat again become almost authoritative, old
stories flourish freshly, acquiring new detail and more vivid color.

Mrs. Lane, seizing her opportunity while the sisters gasped a momentary
amazement at anyone's not knowing the town scapegrace, and taking
advantage of her position as old friend and near neighbor of the family
under discussion, swept into the field under such headway that even the
Foote girls remained silent perforce; surcharged, however, and holding
their breaths in readiness to burst forth at the first opening.

"He's the nephew--orphan nephew--of Miss Elder--who lives right back
of us--our yards touch--we've always been friends--went to school
together, Rella's never married--she teaches, you know--and her
brother--he owned the home--it's all hers now, he died all of a sudden
and left two children--Morton and Susie. Mort was about seven years
old and Susie just a baby. He's been an awful cross--but she just
idolizes him--she's spoiled him, I tell her."

Mrs. Lane had to breathe, and even the briefest pause left her stranded
to wait another chance. The three social benefactors proceeded to
distribute their information in a clattering torrent. They sought to
inform Mrs. Williams in especial, of numberless details of the early
life and education of their subject, matters which would have been
treated more appreciatively if they had not been blessed with the later
news; and, at the same time, each was seeking for a more dramatic
emphasis to give this last supply of incident with due effect.

No regular record is possible where three persons pour forth statement
and comment in a rapid, tumultuous stream, interrupted by cross
currents of heated contradiction, and further varied by the
exclamations and protests of three hearers, or at least, of two; for
the one man present soon relapsed into disgusted silence.

Mrs. Williams, turning a perplexed face from one to the other, inwardly
condemning the darkening flood of talk, yet conscious of a sinful
pleasure in it, and anxious as a guest, _and_ a minister's wife, to be
most amiable, felt like one watching three kinetescopes at once. She
saw, in confused pictures of blurred and varying outline, Orella Elder,
the young New England girl, only eighteen, already a "school ma'am,"
suddenly left with two children to bring up, and doing it, as best she
could. She saw the boy, momentarily changing, in his shuttlecock flight
from mouth to mouth, through pale shades of open mischief to the black
and scarlet of hinted sin, the terror of the neighborhood, the darling
of his aunt, clever, audacious, scandalizing the quiet town.

"Boys are apt to be mischievous, aren't they?" she suggested when it
was possible.

"He's worse than mischievous," Mr. Lane assured her sourly. "There's a
mean streak in that family."

"That's on his mother's side," Mrs. Lane hastened to add. "She was a
queer girl--came from New York."

The Foote girls began again, with rich profusion of detail, their
voices rising shrill, one above the other, and playing together at
their full height like emulous fountains.

"We ought not to judge, you know;" urged Mrs. Williams. "What do you
say he's really done?"

Being sifted, it appeared that this last and most terrible performance
was to go to "the city" with a group of "the worst boys of college,"
to get undeniably drunk, to do some piece of mischief. (Here was great
licence in opinion, and in contradiction.)

"_Anyway_ he's to be suspended!" said Miss Rebecca with finality.

"Suspended!" Miss Josie's voice rose in scorn. "_Expelled!_ They said
he was expelled."

"In disgrace!" added Miss Sallie.

Vivian Lane sat in the back room at the window, studying in the
lingering light of the long June evening. At least, she appeared to be
studying. Her tall figure was bent over her books, but the dark eyes
blazed under their delicate level brows, and her face flushed and
paled with changing feelings.

She had heard--who, in the same house, could escape hearing the Misses
Foote?--and had followed the torrent of description, hearsay, surmise
and allegation with an interest that was painful in its intensity.

"It's a _shame_!" she whispered under her breath. "A _shame_! And
nobody to stand up for him!"

She half rose to her feet as if to do it herself, but sank back
irresolutely.

A fresh wave of talk rolled forth.

"It'll half kill his aunt."

"Poor Miss Elder! I don't know what she'll do!"

"I don't know what _he'll_ do. He can't go back to college."

"He'll have to go to work."

"I'd like to know where--nobody'd hire him in this town."

The girl could bear it no longer. She came to the door, and there, as
they paused to speak to her, her purpose ebbed again.

"My daughter, Vivian, Mrs. Williams," said her mother; and the other
callers greeted her familiarly.

"You'd better finish your lessons, Vivian," Mr. Lane suggested.

"I have, father," said the girl, and took a chair by the minister's
wife. She had a vague feeling that if she were there, they would not
talk so about Morton Elder.

Mrs. Williams hailed the interruption gratefully. She liked the
slender girl with the thoughtful eyes and pretty, rather pathetic
mouth, and sought to draw her out. But her questions soon led to
unfortunate results.

"You are going to college, I suppose?" she presently inquired; and
Vivian owned that it was the desire of her heart.

"Nonsense!" said her father. "Stuff and nonsense, Vivian! You're not
going to college."

The Foote girls now burst forth in voluble agreement with Mr. Lane.
His wife was evidently of the same mind; and Mrs. Williams plainly
regretted her question. But Vivian mustered courage enough to make a
stand, strengthened perhaps by the depth of the feeling which had
brought her into the room.

"I don't know why you're all so down on a girl's going to college. Eve
Marks has gone, and Mary Spring is going--and both the Austin girls.
Everybody goes now."

"I know one girl that won't," was her father's incisive comment, and her
mother said quietly, "A girl's place is at home--'till she marries."

"Suppose I don't want to marry?" said Vivian.

"Don't talk nonsense," her father answered. "Marriage is a woman's
duty."

"What do you want to do?" asked Miss Josie in the interests of further
combat. "Do you want to be a doctor, like Jane Bellair?"

"I should like to very much indeed," said the girl with quiet
intensity. "I'd like to be a doctor in a babies' hospital."

"More nonsense," said Mr. Lane. "Don't talk to me about that woman!
You attend to your studies, and then to your home duties, my dear."

The talk rose anew, the three sisters contriving all to agree with Mr.
Lane in his opinions about college, marriage and Dr. Bellair, yet to
disagree violently among themselves.

Mrs. Williams rose to go, and in the lull that followed the liquid
note of a whippoorwill met the girl's quick ear. She quietly slipped
out, unnoticed.

The Lane's home stood near the outer edge of the town, with an outlook
across wide meadows and soft wooded hills. Behind, their long garden
backed on that of Miss Orella Elder, with a connecting gate in the
gray board fence. Mrs. Lane had grown up here. The house belonged to
her mother, Mrs. Servilla Pettigrew, though that able lady was seldom
in it, preferring to make herself useful among two growing sets of
grandchildren.

Miss Elder was Vivian's favorite teacher. She was a careful and
conscientious instructor, and the girl was a careful and conscientious
scholar; so they got on admirably together; indeed, there was a real
affection between them. And just as the young Laura Pettigrew had
played with the younger Orella Elder, so Vivian had played with little
Susie Elder, Miss Orella's orphan niece. Susie regarded the older girl
with worshipful affection, which was not at all unpleasant to an
emotional young creature with unemotional parents, and no brothers or
sisters of her own.

Moreover, Susie was Morton's sister.

The whippoorwill's cry sounded again through the soft June night.
Vivian came quickly down the garden path between the bordering beds of
sweet alyssum and mignonette. A dew-wet rose brushed against her hand.
She broke it off, pricking her fingers, and hastily fastened it in the
bosom of her white frock.

Large old lilac bushes hung over the dividing fence, a thick mass of
honeysuckle climbed up by the gate and mingled with them, spreading
over to a pear tree on the Lane side. In this fragrant, hidden corner
was a rough seat, and from it a boy's hand reached out and seized the
girl's, drawing her down beside him. She drew away from him as far as
the seat allowed.

"Oh Morton!" she said. "What have you done?"

Morton was sulky.

"Now Vivian, are you down on me too? I thought I had one friend."

"You ought to tell me," she said more gently. "How can I be your friend
if I don't know the facts? They are saying perfectly awful things."

"Who are?"

"Why--the Foote girls--everybody."

"Oh those old maids aren't everybody, I assure you. You see, Vivian,
you live right here in this old oyster of a town--and you make
mountains out of molehills like everybody else. A girl of your
intelligence ought to know better."

She drew a great breath of relief. "Then you haven't--done it?"

"Done what? What's all this mysterious talk anyhow? The prisoner has a
right to know what he's charged with before he commits himself."

The girl was silent, finding it difficult to begin.

"Well, out with it. What do they say I did?" He picked up a long dry
twig and broke it, gradually, into tiny, half-inch bits.

"They say you--went to the city--with a lot of the worst boys in
college----"

"Well? Many persons go to the city every day. That's no crime, surely.
As for 'the worst boys in college,'"--he laughed scornfully--"I
suppose those old ladies think if a fellow smokes a cigarette or says
'darn' he's a tough. They're mighty nice fellows, that bunch--most of
'em. Got some ginger in 'em, that's all. What else?"

"They say--you drank."

"O ho! Said I got drunk, I warrant! Well--we did have a skate on that
time, I admit!" And he laughed as if this charge were but a familiar
joke.

"Why Morton Elder! I think it is a--disgrace!"

"Pshaw, Vivian!--You ought to have more sense. All the fellows get gay
once in a while. A college isn't a young ladies' seminary."

He reached out and got hold of her hand again, but she drew it away.

"There was something else," she said.

"What was it?" he questioned sharply. "What did they say?"

But she would not satisfy him--perhaps could not.

"I should think you'd be ashamed, to make your aunt so much trouble.
They said you were suspended--or--_expelled_!"

He shrugged his big shoulders and threw away the handful of broken
twigs.

"That's true enough--I might as well admit that."

"Oh, _Morton_!--I didn't believe it. _Expelled!_"

"Yes, expelled--turned down--thrown out--fired! And I'm glad of it." He
leaned back against the fence and whistled very softly through his
teeth.

"Sh! Sh!" she urged. "Please!"

He was quiet.

"But Morton--what are you going to do?--Won't it spoil your career?"

"No, my dear little girl, it will not!" said he. "On the contrary, it
will be the making of me. I tell you, Vivian, I'm sick to death of this
town of maiden ladies--and 'good family men.' I'm sick of being fussed
over for ever and ever, and having wristers and mufflers knitted for
me--and being told to put on my rubbers! There's no fun in this old
clamshell--this kitchen-midden of a town--and I'm going to quit it."

He stood up and stretched his long arms. "I'm going to quit it for
good and all."

The girl sat still, her hands gripping the seat on either side.

"Where are you going?" she asked in a low voice.

"I'm going west--clear out west. I've been talking with Aunt Rella
about it. Dr. Bellair'll help me to a job, she thinks. She's awful cut
up, of course. I'm sorry she feels bad--but she needn't, I tell her. I
shall do better there than I ever should have here. I know a fellow
that left college--his father failed--and he went into business and
made two thousand dollars in a year. I always wanted to take up
business--you know that!"

She knew it--he had talked of it freely before they had argued and
persuaded him into the college life. She knew, too, how his aunt's hopes
all centered in him, and in his academic honors and future professional
life. "Business," to his aunt's mind, was a necessary evil, which could
at best be undertaken only after a "liberal education."

"When are you going," she asked at length.

"Right off--to-morrow."

She gave a little gasp.

"That's what I was whippoorwilling about--I knew I'd get no other
chance to talk to you--I wanted to say good-by, you know."

The girl sat silent, struggling not to cry. He dropped beside her,
stole an arm about her waist, and felt her tremble.

"Now, Viva, don't you go and cry! I'm sorry--I really am sorry--to
make _you_ feel bad."

This was too much for her, and she sobbed frankly.

"Oh, Morton! How could you! How could you!--And now you've got to go
away!"

"There now--don't cry--sh!--they'll hear you."

She did hush at that.

"And don't feel so bad--I'll come back some time--to see you."

"No, you won't!" she answered with sudden fierceness. "You'll just
go--and stay--and I never shall see you again!"

He drew her closer to him. "And do you care--so much--Viva?"

"Of course, I care!" she said, "Haven't we always been friends, the
best of friends?"

"Yes--you and Aunt Rella have been about all I had," he admitted with
a cheerful laugh. "I hope I'll make more friends out yonder. But
Viva,"--his hand pressed closer--"is it only--friends?"

She took fright at once and drew away from him. "You mustn't do that,
Morton!"

"Do what?" A shaft of moonlight shone on his teasing face. "What am I
doing?" he said.

It is difficult--it is well nigh impossible--for a girl to put a name
to certain small cuddlings not in themselves terrifying, nor even
unpleasant, but which she obscurely feels to be wrong.

Viva flushed and was silent--he could see the rich color flood her face.

"Come now--don't be hard on a fellow!" he urged. "I shan't see you again
in ever so long. You'll forget all about me before a year's over."

She shook her head, still silent.

"Won't you speak to me--Viva?"

"I wish----" She could not find the words she wanted. "Oh, I wish
you--wouldn't!"

"Wouldn't what, Girlie? Wouldn't go away? Sorry to disoblige--but I
have to. There's no place for me here."

The girl felt the sad truth of that.

"Aunt Rella will get used to it after a while. I'll write to her--I'll
make lots of money--and come back in a few years--astonish you
all!--Meanwhile--kiss me good-by, Viva!"

She drew back shyly. She had never kissed him. She had never in her
life kissed any man younger than an uncle.

"No, Morton--you mustn't----" She shrank away into the shadow.

But, there was no great distance to shrink to, and his strong arms
soon drew her close again.

"Suppose you never see me again," he said. "Then you'll wish you
hadn't been so stiff about it."

She thought of this dread possibility with a sudden chill of horror,
and while she hesitated, he took her face between her hands and kissed
her on the mouth.

Steps were heard coming down the path.

"They're on," he said with a little laugh. "Good-by, Viva!"

He vaulted the fence and was gone.

"What are you doing here, Vivian?" demanded her father.

"I was saying good-by to Morton," she answered with a sob.

"You ought to be ashamed of yourself--philandering out here in the
middle of the night with that scapegrace! Come in the house and go to
bed at once--it's ten o'clock."

Bowing to this confused but almost equally incriminating chronology,
she followed him in, meekly enough as to her outward seeming, but
inwardly in a state of stormy tumult.

She had been kissed!

Her father's stiff back before her could not blot out the radiant,
melting moonlight, the rich sweetness of the flowers, the tender,
soft, June night.

"You go to bed," said he once more. "I'm ashamed of you."

"Yes, father," she answered.

Her little room, when at last she was safely in it and had shut the
door and put a chair against it--she had no key--seemed somehow changed.

She lit the lamp and stood looking at herself in the mirror. Her eyes
were star-bright. Her cheeks flamed softly. Her mouth looked guilty
and yet glad.

She put the light out and went to the window, kneeling there, leaning
out in the fragrant stillness, trying to arrange in her mind this
mixture of grief, disapproval, shame and triumph.

When the Episcopal church clock struck eleven, she went to bed in
guilty haste, but not to sleep.

For a long time she lay there watching the changing play of moonlight
on the floor.

She felt almost as if she were married.



CHAPTER II.

BAINVILLE EFFECTS.

      Lockstep, handcuffs, ankle-ball-and-chain,
      Dulltoil and dreary food and drink;
      Small cell, cold cell, narrow bed and hard;
      High wall, thick wall, window iron-barred;
      Stone-paved, stone-pent little prison yard--
      Young hearts weary of monotony and pain,
      Young hearts weary of reiterant refrain:
      "They say--they do--what will people think?"


At the two front windows of their rather crowded little parlor sat
Miss Rebecca and Miss Josie Foote, Miss Sallie being out on a foraging
expedition--marketing, as it were, among their neighbors to collect
fresh food for thought.

A tall, slender girl in brown passed on the opposite walk.

"I should think Vivian Lane would get tired of wearing brown," said
Miss Rebecca.

"I don't know why she should," her sister promptly protested, "it's a
good enough wearing color, and becoming to her."

"She could afford to have more variety," said Miss Rebecca. "The Lanes
are mean enough about some things, but I know they'd like to have her
dress better. She'll never get married in the world."

"I don't know why not. She's only twenty-five--and good-looking."

"Good-looking! That's not everything. Plenty of girls marry that are
not good-looking--and plenty of good-looking girls stay single."

"Plenty of homely ones, too. Rebecca," said Miss Josie, with meaning.
Miss Rebecca certainly was not handsome. "Going to the library, of
course!" she pursued presently. "That girl reads all the time."

"So does her grandmother. I see her going and coming from that library
every day almost."

"Oh, well--she reads stories and things like that. Sallie goes pretty
often and she notices. We use that library enough, goodness knows, but
they are there every day. Vivian Lane reads the queerest
things--doctor's books and works on pedagoggy."

"Godgy," said Miss Rebecca, "not goggy." And as her sister ignored
this correction, she continued: "They might as well have let her go to
college when she was so set on it."

"College! I don't believe she'd have learned as much in any college,
from what I hear of 'em, as she has in all this time at home." The
Foote girls had never entertained a high opinion of extensive culture.

"I don't see any use in a girl's studying so much," said Miss Rebecca
with decision.

"Nor I," agreed Miss Josie. "Men don't like learned women."

"They don't seem to always like those that aren't learned, either,"
remarked Miss Rebecca with a pleasant sense of retribution for that
remark about "homely ones."

The tall girl in brown had seen the two faces at the windows opposite,
and had held her shoulders a little straighter as she turned the corner.

"Nine years this Summer since Morton Elder went West," murmured Miss
Josie, reminiscently. "I shouldn't wonder if Vivian had stayed single
on his account."

"Nonsense!" her sister answered sharply. "She's not that kind. She's
not popular with men, that's all. She's too intellectual."

"She ought to be in the library instead of Sue Elder," Miss Rebecca
suggested. "She's far more competent. Sue's a feather-headed little
thing."

"She seems to give satisfaction so far. If the trustees are pleased
with her, there's no reason for you to complain that I see," said Miss
Rebecca with decision.

       *       *       *       *       *

Vivian Lane waited at the library desk with an armful of books to take
home. She had her card, her mother's and her father's--all utilized.
Her grandmother kept her own card--and her own counsel.

The pretty assistant librarian, withdrawing herself with some emphasis
from the unnecessary questions of a too gallant old gentleman, came to
attend her.

"You _have_ got a load," she said, scribbling complex figures with one
end of her hammer-headed pencil, and stamping violet dates with the
other. She whisked out the pale blue slips from the lid pockets,
dropped them into their proper openings in the desk and inserted the
cards in their stead with delicate precision.

"Can't you wait a bit and go home with me?" she asked. "I'll help you
carry them."

"No, thanks. I'm not going right home."

"You're going to see your Saint--I know!" said Miss Susie, tossing her
bright head. "I'm jealous, and you know it."

"Don't be a goose, Susie! You know you're my very best friend,
but--she's different."

"I should think she was different!" Susie sharply agreed. "And you've
been 'different' ever since she came."

"I hope so," said Vivian gravely. "Mrs. St. Cloud brings out one's
very best and highest. I wish you liked her better, Susie."

"I like you," Susie answered. "You bring out my 'best and highest'--if
I've got any. She don't. She's like a lovely, faint, bright--bubble! I
want to prick it!"

Vivian smiled down upon her.

"You bad little mouse!" she said. "Come, give me the books."

"Leave them with me, and I'll bring them in the car." Susie looked
anxious to make amends for her bit of blasphemy.

"All right, dear. Thank you. I'll be home by that time, probably."

       *       *       *       *       *

In the street she stopped before a little shop where papers and
magazines were sold.

"I believe Father'd like the new Centurion," she said to herself, and
got it for him, chatting a little with the one-armed man who kept the
place. She stopped again at a small florist's and bought a little bag
of bulbs.

"Your mother's forgotten about those, I guess," said Mrs. Crothers, the
florist's wife, "but they'll do just as well now. Lucky you thought of
them before it got too late in the season. Bennie was awfully pleased
with that red and blue pencil you gave him, Miss Lane."

Vivian walked on. A child ran out suddenly from a gate and seized upon
her.

"Aren't you coming in to see me--ever?" she demanded.

Vivian stooped and kissed her.

"Yes, dear, but not to-night. How's that dear baby getting on?"

"She's better," said the little girl. "Mother said thank you--lots of
times. Wait a minute--"

The child fumbled in Vivian's coat pocket with a mischievous upward
glance, fished out a handful of peanuts, and ran up the path laughing
while the tall girl smiled down upon her lovingly.

A long-legged boy was lounging along the wet sidewalk. Vivian caught
up with him and he joined her with eagerness.

"Good evening, Miss Lane. Say--are you coming to the club to-morrow
night?"

She smiled cordially.

"Of course I am, Johnny. I wouldn't disappoint my boys for
anything--nor myself, either."

They walked on together chatting until, at the minister's house, she
bade him a cheery "good-night."

Mrs. St. Cloud was at the window pensively watching the western sky.
She saw the girl coming and let her in with a tender, radiant
smile--a lovely being in a most unlovely room.

There was a chill refinement above subdued confusion in that
Cambridge-Bainville parlor, where the higher culture of the second
Mrs. Williams, superimposed upon the lower culture of the first, as
that upon the varying tastes of a combined ancestry, made the place
somehow suggestive of excavations at Abydos.

It was much the kind of parlor Vivian had been accustomed to from
childhood, but Mrs. St. Cloud was of a type quite new to her. Clothed
in soft, clinging fabrics, always with a misty, veiled effect to them,
wearing pale amber, large, dull stones of uncertain shapes, and
slender chains that glittered here and there among her scarfs and
laces, sinking gracefully among deep cushions, even able to sink
gracefully into a common Bainville chair--this beautiful woman had
captured the girl's imagination from the first.

Clearly known, she was a sister of Mrs. Williams, visiting
indefinitely. Vaguely--and very frequently--hinted, her husband had
"left her," and "she did not believe in divorce." Against her
background of dumb patience, he shone darkly forth as A Brute of
unknown cruelties. Nothing against him would she ever say, and every
young masculine heart yearned to make life brighter to the Ideal
Woman, so strangely neglected; also some older ones. Her Young Men's
Bible Class was the pride of Mr. Williams' heart and joy of such young
men as the town possessed; most of Bainville's boys had gone.

"A wonderful uplifting influence," Mr. Williams called her, and
refused to say anything, even when directly approached, as to "the
facts" of her trouble. "It is an old story," he would say. "She bears
up wonderfully. She sacrifices her life rather than her principles."

To Vivian, sitting now on a hassock at the lady's feet and looking up
at her with adoring eyes, she was indeed a star, a saint, a cloud of
mystery.

She reached out a soft hand, white, slender, delicately kept, wearing
one thin gold ring, and stroked the girl's smooth hair. Vivian seized
the hand and kissed it, blushing as she did so.

"You foolish child! Don't waste your young affection on an old lady
like me."

"Old! You! You don't look as old as I do this minute!" said the girl
with hushed intensity.

"Life wears on you, I'm afraid, my dear.... Do you ever hear from him?"

To no one else, not even to Susie, could Vivian speak of what now
seemed the tragedy of her lost youth.

"No," said she. "Never now. He did write once or twice--at first."

"He writes to his aunt, of course?"

"Yes," said Vivian. "But not often. And he never--says anything."

"I understand. Poor child! You must be true, and wait." And the lady
turned the thin ring on her finger. Vivian watched her in a passion of
admiring tenderness.

"Oh, you understand!" she exclaimed. "You understand!"

"I understand, my dear," said Mrs. St. Cloud.

When Vivian reached her own gate she leaned her arms upon it and
looked first one way and then the other, down the long, still street.
The country was in sight at both ends--the low, monotonous, wooded
hills that shut them in. It was all familiar, wearingly familiar. She
had known it continuously for such part of her lifetime as was
sensitive to landscape effects, and had at times a mad wish for an
earthquake to change the outlines a little.

The infrequent trolley car passed just then and Sue Elder joined her,
to take the short cut home through the Lane's yard.

"Here you are," she said cheerfully, "and here are the books."

Vivian thanked her.

"Oh, say--come in after supper, can't you? Aunt Rella's had another
letter from Mort."

Vivian's sombre eyes lit up a little.

"How's he getting on? In the same business he was last year?" she
asked with an elaborately cheerful air. Morton had seemed to change
occupations oftener than he wrote letters.

"Yes, I believe so. I guess he's well. He never says much, you know.
I don't think it's good for him out there--good for any boy." And
Susie looked quite the older sister.

"What are they to do? They can't stay here."

"No, I suppose not--but we have to."

"Dr. Bellair didn't," remarked Vivian. "I like her--tremendously,
don't you?" In truth, Dr. Bellair was already a close second to Mrs.
St. Cloud in the girl's hero-worshipping heart.

"Oh, yes; she's splendid! Aunt Rella is so glad to have her with us.
They have great times recalling their school days together. Aunty used
to like her then, though she is five years older--but you'd never
dream it. And I think she's real handsome."

"She's not beautiful," said Vivian, with decision, "but she's a lot
better. Sue Elder, I wish----"

"Wish what?" asked her friend.

Sue put the books on the gate-post, and the two girls, arm in arm,
walked slowly up and down.

Susie was a round, palely rosy little person, with a delicate face and
soft, light hair waving fluffily about her small head. Vivian's hair was
twice the length, but so straight and fine that its mass had no effect.
She wore it in smooth plaits wound like a wreath from brow to nape.

After an understanding silence and a walk past three gates and back
again, Vivian answered her.

"I wish I were in your shoes," she said.

"What do you mean--having the Doctor in the house?"

"No--I'd like that too; but I mean work to do--your position."

"Oh, the library! You needn't; it's horrid. I wish I were in your shoes,
and had a father and mother to take care of me. I can tell you, it's no
fun--having to be there just on time or get fined, and having to poke
away all day with those phooty old ladies and tiresome children."

"But you're independent."

"Oh, yes, I'm independent. I have to be. Aunt Rella _could_ take care
of me, I suppose, but of course I wouldn't let her. And I dare say
library work is better than school-teaching."

"What'll we be doing when we're forty, I wonder?" said Vivian, after
another turn.

"Forty! Why I expect to be a grandma by that time," said Sue. She was
but twenty-one, and forty looked a long way off to her.

"A grandma! And knit?" suggested Vivian.

"Oh, yes--baby jackets--and blankets--and socks--and little shawls. I
love to knit," said Sue, cheerfully.

"But suppose you don't marry?" pursued her friend.

"Oh, but I shall marry--you see if I don't. Marriage"--here she
carefully went inside the gate and latched it--"marriage is--a woman's
duty!" And she ran up the path laughing.

Vivian laughed too, rather grimly, and slowly walked towards her own
door.

The little sitting-room was hot, very hot; but Mr. Lane sat with his
carpet-slippered feet on its narrow hearth with a shawl around him.

"Shut the door, Vivian!" he exclaimed irritably. "I'll never get over
this cold if such draughts are let in on me."

"Why, it's not cold out, Father--and it's very close in here."

Mrs. Lane looked up from her darning. "You think it's close because
you've come in from outdoors. Sit down--and don't fret your father;
I'm real worried about him."

Mr. Lane coughed hollowly. He had become a little dry old man with
gray, glassy eyes, and had been having colds in this fashion ever
since Vivian could remember.

"Dr. Bellair says that the out-door air is the best medicine for a
cold," remarked Vivian, as she took off her things.

"Dr. Bellair has not been consulted in this case," her father returned
wheezingly. "I'm quite satisfied with my family physician. He's a man,
at any rate."

"Save me from these women doctors!" exclaimed his wife.

Vivian set her lips patiently. She had long since learned how widely she
differed from both father and mother, and preferred silence to dispute.

Mr. Lane was a plain, ordinary person, who spent most of a moderately
useful life in the shoe business, from which he had of late withdrawn.
Both he and his wife "had property" to a certain extent; and now lived
peacefully on their income with neither fear nor hope, ambition nor
responsibility to trouble them. The one thing they were yet anxious
about was to see Vivian married, but this wish seemed to be no nearer
to fulfillment for the passing years.

"I don't know what the women are thinking of, these days," went on the
old gentleman, putting another shovelful of coal on the fire with a
careful hand. "Doctors and lawyers and even ministers, some of 'em!
The Lord certainly set down a woman's duty pretty plain--she was to
cleave unto her husband!"

"Some women have no husbands to cleave to, Father."

"They'd have husbands fast enough if they'd behave themselves," he
answered. "No man's going to want to marry one of these
self-sufficient independent, professional women, of course."

"I do hope, Viva," said her mother, "that you're not letting that Dr.
Bellair put foolish ideas into your head."

"I want to do something to support myself--sometime, Mother. I can't
live on my parents forever."

"You be patient, child. There's money enough for you to live on. It's
a woman's place to wait," put in Mr. Lane.

"How long?" inquired Vivian. "I'm twenty-five. No man has asked me to
marry him yet. Some of the women in this town have waited
thirty--forty--fifty--sixty years. No one has asked them."

"I was married at sixteen," suddenly remarked Vivian's grandmother.
"And my mother wasn't but fifteen. Huh!" A sudden little derisive
noise she made; such as used to be written "humph!"

For the past five years, Mrs. Pettigrew had made her home with the
Lanes. Mrs. Lane herself was but a feeble replica of her energetic
parent. There was but seventeen years difference in their ages, and
comparative idleness with some ill-health on the part of the
daughter, had made the difference appear less.

Mrs. Pettigrew had but a poor opinion of the present generation. In her
active youth she had reared a large family on a small income; in her
active middle-age, she had trotted about from daughter's house to son's
house, helping with the grandchildren. And now she still trotted about
in all weathers, visiting among the neighbors and vibrating as regularly
as a pendulum between her daughter's house and the public library.

The books she brought home were mainly novels, and if she perused
anything else in the severe quiet of the reading-room, she did not talk
about it. Indeed, it was a striking characteristic of Mrs. Pettigrew
that she talked very little, though she listened to all that went on
with a bright and beady eye, as of a highly intelligent parrot. And now,
having dropped her single remark into the conversation, she shut her
lips tight as was her habit, and drew another ball of worsted from the
black bag that always hung at her elbow.

She was making one of those perennial knitted garments, which, in her
young days, were called "Cardigan jackets," later "Jerseys," and now by
the offensive name of "sweater." These she constructed in great numbers,
and their probable expense was a source of discussion in the town. "How
do you find friends enough to give them to?" they asked her, and she
would smile enigmatically and reply, "Good presents make good friends."

"If a woman minds her P's and Q's she can get a husband easy enough,"
insisted the invalid. "Just shove that lamp nearer, Vivian, will you."

Vivian moved the lamp. Her mother moved her chair to follow it and
dropped her darning egg, which the girl handed to her.

"Supper's ready," announced a hard-featured middle-aged woman, opening
the dining-room door.

At this moment the gate clicked, and a firm step was heard coming up
the path.

"Gracious, that's the minister!" cried Mrs. Lane. "He said he'd be in
this afternoon if he got time. I thought likely 'twould be to supper."

She received him cordially, and insisted on his staying, slipping out
presently to open a jar of quinces.

The Reverend Otis Williams was by no means loathe to take occasional
meals with his parishioners. It was noted that, in making pastoral
calls, he began with the poorer members of his flock, and frequently
arrived about meal-time at the houses of those whose cooking he
approved.

"It is always a treat to take supper here," he said. "Not feeling
well, Mr. Lane? I'm sorry to hear it. Ah! Mrs. Pettigrew! Is that
jacket for me, by any chance? A little sombre, isn't it? Good evening,
Vivian. You are looking well--as you always do."

Vivian did not like him. He had married her mother, he had christened
her, she had "sat under" him for long, dull, uninterrupted years; yet
still she didn't like him.

"A chilly evening, Mr. Lane," he pursued.

"That's what I say," his host agreed. "Vivian says it isn't; I say it
is."

"Disagreement in the family! This won't do, Vivian," said the minister
jocosely. "Duty to parents, you know! Duty to parents!"

"Does duty to parents alter the temperature?" the girl asked, in a voice
of quiet sweetness, yet with a rebellious spark in her soft eyes.

"Huh!" said her grandmother--and dropped her gray ball. Vivian picked
it up and the old lady surreptitiously patted her.

"Pardon me," said the reverend gentleman to Mrs. Pettigrew, "did you
speak?"

"No," said the old lady, "Seldom do."

"Silence is golden, Mrs. Pettigrew. Silence is golden. Speech is
silver, but silence is golden. It is a rare gift."

Mrs. Pettigrew set her lips so tightly that they quite disappeared,
leaving only a thin dented line in her smoothly pale face. She was
called by the neighbors "wonderfully well preserved," a phrase she
herself despised. Some visitor, new to the town, had the hardihood to
use it to her face once. "Huh!" was the response. "I'm just sixty. Henry
Haskins and George Baker and Stephen Doolittle are all older'n I
am--and still doing business, doing it better'n any of the young folks
as far as I can see. You don't compare them to canned pears, do you?"

Mr. Williams knew her value in church work, and took no umbrage at her
somewhat inimical expression; particularly as just then Mrs. Lane
appeared and asked them to walk out to supper.

Vivian sat among them, restrained and courteous, but inwardly at war
with her surroundings. Here was her mother, busy, responsible, serving
creamed codfish and hot biscuit; her father, eating wheezily, and
finding fault with the biscuit, also with the codfish; her
grandmother, bright-eyed, thin-lipped and silent. Vivian got on well
with her grandmother, though neither of them talked much.

"My mother used to say that the perfect supper was cake, preserves,
hot bread, and a 'relish,'" said Mr. Williams genially. "You have the
perfect supper, Mrs. Lane."

"I'm glad if you enjoy it, I'm sure," said that lady. "I'm fond of a
bit of salt myself."

"And what are you reading now, Vivian," he asked paternally.

"Ward," she answered, modestly and briefly.

"Ward? Dr. Ward of the _Centurion_?"

Vivian smiled her gentlest.

"Oh, no," she replied; "Lester F. Ward, the Sociologist."

"Poor stuff, I think!" said her father. "Girls have no business to
read such things."

"I wish you'd speak to Vivian about it, Mr. Williams. She's got beyond
me," protested her mother.

"Huh!" said Mrs. Pettigrew. "I'd like some more of that quince, Laura."

"My dear young lady, you are not reading books of which your parents
disapprove, I hope?" urged the minister.

"Shouldn't I--ever?" asked the girl, in her soft, disarming manner.
"I'm surely old enough!"

"The duty of a daughter is not measured by years," he replied
sonorously. "Does parental duty cease? Are you not yet a child in your
father's house?"

"Is a daughter always a child if she lives at home?" inquired the
girl, as one seeking instruction.

He set down his cup and wiped his lips, flushing somewhat.

"The duty of a daughter begins at the age when she can understand the
distinction between right and wrong," he said, "and continues as long
as she is blessed with parents."

"And what is it?" she asked, large-eyed, attentive.

"What is it?" he repeated, looking at her in some surprise. "It is
submission, obedience--obedience."

"I see. So Mother ought to obey Grandmother," she pursued
meditatively, and Mrs. Pettigrew nearly choked in her tea.

Vivian was boiling with rebellion. To sit there and be lectured at the
table, to have her father complain of her, her mother invite pastoral
interference, the minister preach like that. She slapped her
grandmother's shoulder, readjusted the little knit shawl on the
straight back--and refrained from further speech.

When Mrs. Pettigrew could talk, she demanded suddenly of the
minister, "Have you read Campbell's New Theology?" and from that on
they were all occupied in listening to Mr. Williams' strong, clear and
extensive views on the subject--which lasted into the parlor again.

Vivian sat for awhile in the chair nearest the window, where some thin
thread of air might possibly leak in, and watched the minister with a
curious expression. All her life he had been held up to her as a
person to honor, as a man of irreproachable character, great learning
and wisdom. Of late she found with a sense of surprise that she did
not honor him at all. He seemed to her suddenly like a relic of past
ages, a piece of an old parchment--or papyrus. In the light of the
studies she had been pursuing in the well-stored town library, the
teachings of this worthy old gentleman appeared a jumble of age-old
traditions, superimposed one upon another.

"He's a palimpsest," she said to herself, "and a poor palimpsest at
that."

She sat with her shapely hands quiet in her lap while her
grandmother's shining needles twinkled in the dark wool, and her
mother's slim crochet hook ran along the widening spaces of some thin,
white, fuzzy thing. The rich powers of her young womanhood longed for
occupation, but she could never hypnotize herself with "fancywork."
Her work must be worth while. She felt the crushing cramp and
loneliness of a young mind, really stronger than those about her, yet
held in dumb subjection. She could not solace herself by loving them;
her father would have none of it, and her mother had small use for
what she called "sentiment." All her life Vivian had longed for more
loving, both to give and take; but no one ever imagined it of her, she
was so quiet and repressed in manner. The local opinion was that if a
woman had a head, she could not have a heart; and as to having a
body--it was indelicate to consider such a thing.

"I mean to have six children," Vivian had planned when she was younger.
"And they shall never be hungry for more loving." She meant to make up
to her vaguely imagined future family for all that her own youth missed.

Even Grandma, though far more sympathetic in temperament, was not
given to demonstration, and Vivian solaced her big, tender heart by
cuddling all the babies she could reach, and petting cats and dogs
when no children were to be found.

Presently she arose and bade a courteous goodnight to the still prolix
parson.

"I'm going over to Sue's," she said, and went out.

       *       *       *       *       *

There was a moon again--a low, large moon, hazily brilliant. The air
was sweet with the odors of scarce-gone Summer, of coming Autumn.

The girl stood still, half-way down the path, and looked steadily into
that silver radiance. Moonlight always filled her heart with a vague
excitement, a feeling that something ought to happen--soon.

This flat, narrow life, so long, so endlessly long--would nothing ever
end it? Nine years since Morton went away! Nine years since the
strange, invading thrill of her first kiss! Back of that was only
childhood; these years really constituted Life; and Life, in the
girl's eyes, was a dreary treadmill.

She was externally quiet, and by conscience dutiful; so dutiful, so
quiet, so without powers of expression, that the ache of an
unsatisfied heart, the stir of young ambitions, were wholly
unsuspected by those about her. A studious, earnest, thoughtful
girl--but study alone does not supply life's needs, nor does such
friendship as her life afforded.

Susie was "a dear"--Susie was Morton's sister, and she was very fond
of her. But that bright-haired child did not understand--could not
understand--all that she needed.

Then came Mrs. St. Cloud into her life, stirring the depths of romance,
of the buried past, and of the unborn future. From her she learned to
face a life of utter renunciation, to be true, true to her ideals, true
to her principles, true to the past, to be patient; and to wait.

So strengthened, she had turned a deaf ear to such possible voice of
admiration as might have come from the scant membership of the Young
Men's Bible Class, leaving them the more devoted to Scripture study.
There was no thin ring to turn upon her finger; but, for lack of
better token, she had saved the rose she wore upon her breast that
night, keeping it hidden among her precious things.

And then, into the gray, flat current of her daily life, sharply
across the trend of Mrs. St. Cloud's soft influence, had come a new
force--Dr. Bellair.

Vivian liked her, yet felt afraid, a slight, shivering hesitancy as
before a too cold bath, a subtle sense that this breezy woman, strong,
cheerful, full of new ideas, if not ideals, and radiating actual
power, power used and enjoyed, might in some way change the movement
of her life.

Change she desired, she longed for, but dreaded the unknown.

Slowly she followed the long garden path, paused lingeringly by that
rough garden seat, went through and closed the gate.



CHAPTER III.

THE OUTBREAK

      There comes a time
      After white months of ice--
      Slow months of ice--long months of ice--
      There comes a time when the still floods below
      Rise, lift, and overflow--
      Fast, far they go.


Miss Orella sat in her low armless rocker, lifting perplexed, patient
eyes to look up at Dr. Bellair.

Dr. Bellair stood squarely before her, stood easily, on broad-soled,
low-heeled shoes, and looked down at Miss Orella; her eyes were
earnest, compelling, full of hope and cheer.

"You are as pretty as a girl, Orella," she observed irrelevantly.

Miss Orella blushed. She was not used to compliments, even from a
woman, and did not know how to take them.

"How you talk!" she murmured shyly.

"I mean to talk," continued the doctor, "until you listen to reason."

Reason in this case, to Dr. Bellair's mind, lay in her advice to Miss
Elder to come West with her--to live.

"I don't see how I can. It's--it's such a Complete Change."

Miss Orella spoke as if Change were equivalent to Sin, or at least to
Danger.

"Do you good. As a physician, I can prescribe nothing better. You need
a complete change if anybody ever did."

"Why, Jane! I am quite well."

"I didn't say you were sick. But you are in an advanced stage of
_arthritis deformans_ of the soul. The whole town's got it!"

The doctor tramped up and down the little room, freeing her mind.

"I never saw such bed-ridden intellects in my life! I suppose it was
so when I was a child--and I was too young to notice it. But surely
it's worse now. The world goes faster and faster every day, the people
who keep still get farther behind! I'm fond of you, Rella. You've got
an intellect, and a conscience, and a will--a will like iron. But you
spend most of your strength in keeping yourself down. Now, do wake up
and use it to break loose! You don't have to stay here. Come out to
Colorado with me--and Grow."

Miss Elder moved uneasily in her chair. She laid her small embroidery
hoop on the table, and straightened out the loose threads of silk, the
doctor watching her impatiently.

"I'm too old," she said at length.

Jane Bellair laughed aloud, shortly.

"Old!" she cried. "You're five years younger than I am. You're only
thirty-six! Old! Why, child, your life's before you--to make."

"You don't realize, Jane. You struck out for yourself so young--and
you've grown up out there--it seems to be so different--there."

"It is. People aren't afraid to move. What have you got here you so
hate to leave, Rella?"

"Why, it's--Home."

"Yes. It's home--now. Are you happy in it?"

"I'm--contented."

"Don't you deceive yourself, Rella. You are not contented--not by a
long chalk. You are doing your duty as you see it; and you've kept
yourself down so long you've almost lost the power of motion. I'm
trying to galvanize you awake--and I mean to do it."

"You might as well sit down while you're doing it, anyway," Miss Elder
suggested meekly.

Dr. Bellair sat down, selecting a formidable fiddle-backed chair, the
unflinching determination of its widely-placed feet being repeated by
her own square toes. She placed herself in front of her friend and
leaned forward, elbows on knees, her strong, intelligent hands clasped
loosely.

"What have you got to look forward to, Rella?"

"I want to see Susie happily married--"

"I said _you_--not Susie."

"Oh--me? Why, I hope some day Morton will come back----"

"I said _you_--not Morton."

"Why I--you know I have friends, Jane--and neighbors. And some day,
perhaps--I mean to go abroad."

"Are you scolding Aunt Rella again, Dr. Bellair. I won't stand it."
Pretty Susie stood in the door smiling.

"Come and help me then," the doctor said, "and it won't sound so much
like scolding."

"I want Mort's letter--to show to Viva," the girl answered, and
slipped out with it.

She sat with Vivian on the stiff little sofa in the back room; the
arms of the two girls were around one another, and they read the
letter together. More than six months had passed since his last one.

It was not much of a letter. Vivian took it in her own hands and went
through it again, carefully. The "Remember me to Viva--unless she's
married," at the end did not seem at all satisfying. Still it might
mean more than appeared--far more. Men were reticent and proud, she
had read. It was perfectly possible that he might be concealing deep
emotion under the open friendliness. He was in no condition to speak
freely, to come back and claim her. He did not wish her to feel bound
to him. She had discussed it with Mrs. St. Cloud, shrinkingly,
tenderly, led on by tactful, delicate, questions, by the longing of
her longing heart for expression and sympathy.

"A man who cannot marry must speak of marriage--it is not honorable,"
her friend had told her.

"Couldn't he--write to me--as a friend?"

And the low-voiced lady had explained with a little sigh that men
thought little of friendship with women. "I have tried, all my life,
to be a true and helpful friend to men, to such men as seemed worthy,
and they so often--misunderstood."

The girl, sympathetic and admiring, thought hotly of how other people
misunderstood this noble, lovely soul; how they even hinted that she
"tried to attract men," a deadly charge in Bainville.

"No," Mrs. St. Cloud had told her, "he might love you better than all
the world--yet not write to you--till he was ready to say 'come.' And,
of course, he wouldn't say anything in his letters to his aunt."

So Vivian sat there, silent, weaving frail dreams out of "remember me
to Viva--unless she's married." That last clause might mean much.

Dr. Bellair's voice sounded clear and insistent in the next room.

"She's trying to persuade Aunt Rella to go West!" said Susie.
"Wouldn't it be funny if she did!"

In Susie's eyes her Aunt's age was as the age of mountains, and also
her fixity. Since she could remember, Aunt Rella, always palely pretty
and neat, like the delicate, faintly-colored Spring flowers of New
England, had presided over the small white house, the small green
garden and the large black and white school-room. In her vacation she
sewed, keeping that quiet wardrobe of hers in exquisite order--and
also making Susie's pretty dresses. To think of Aunt Orella actually
"breaking up housekeeping," giving up her school, leaving Bainville,
was like a vision of trees walking.

To Dr. Jane Bellair, forty-one, vigorous, successful, full of new
plans and purposes, Miss Elder's life appeared as an arrested
girlhood, stagnating unnecessarily in this quiet town, while all the
world was open to her.

"I couldn't think of leaving Susie!" protested Miss Orella.

"Bring her along," said the doctor. "Best thing in the world for her!"

She rose and came to the door. The two girls make a pretty picture.
Vivian's oval face, with its smooth Madonna curves under the
encircling wreath of soft, dark plaits, and the long grace of her
figure, delicately built, yet strong, beside the pink, plump little
Susie, roguish and pretty, with the look that made everyone want to
take care of her.

"Come in here, girls," said the doctor. "I want you to help me. You're
young enough to be movable, I hope."

They cheerfully joined the controversy, but Miss Orella found small
support in them.

"Why don't you do it, Auntie!" Susie thought it an excellent joke. "I
suppose you could teach school in Denver as well as here. And you
could Vote! Oh, Auntie--to think of your Voting!"

Miss Elder, too modestly feminine, too inherently conservative even
to be an outspoken "Anti," fairly blushed at the idea.

"She's hesitating on your account," Dr. Bellair explained to the girl.
"Wants to see you safely married! I tell her you'll have a thousandfold
better opportunities in Colorado than you ever will here."

Vivian was grieved. She had heard enough of this getting married, and
had expected Dr. Bellair to hold a different position.

"Surely, that's not the only thing to do," she protested.

"No, but it's a very important thing to do--and to do right. It's a
woman's duty."

Vivian groaned in spirit. That again!

The doctor watched her understandingly.

"If women only did their duty in that line there wouldn't be so much
unhappiness in the world," she said. "All you New England girls sit
here and cut one another's throats. You can't possible marry, your
boys go West, you overcrowd the labor market, lower wages, steadily
drive the weakest sisters down till they--drop."

They heard the back door latch lift and close again, a quick, decided
step--and Mrs. Pettigrew joined them.

Miss Elder greeted her cordially, and the old lady seated herself in
the halo of the big lamp, as one well accustomed to the chair.

"Go right on," she said--and knitted briskly.

"Do take my side, Mrs. Pettigrew," Miss Orella implored her. "Jane
Bellair is trying to pull me up by the roots and transplant me to
Colorado."

"And she says I shall have a better chance to marry out there--and
ought to do it!" said Susie, very solemnly. "And Vivian objects to
being shown the path of duty."

Vivian smiled. Her quiet, rather sad face lit with sudden sparkling
beauty when she smiled.

"Grandma knows I hate that--point of view," she said. "I think men and
women ought to be friends, and not always be thinking about--that."

"I have some real good friends--boys, I mean," Susie agreed, looking
so serious in her platonic boast that even Vivian was a little
amused, and Dr. Bellair laughed outright.

"You won't have a 'friend' in that sense till you're fifty, Miss
Susan--if you ever do. There can be, there are, real friendships between
men and women, but most of that talk is--talk, sometimes worse.

"I knew a woman once, ever so long ago," the doctor continued
musingly, clasping her hands behind her head, "a long way from
here--in a college town--who talked about 'friends.' She was married.
She was a 'good' woman--perfectly 'good' woman. Her husband was not a
very good man, I've heard, and strangely impatient of her virtues. She
had a string of boys--college boys--always at her heels. Quite too
young and too charming she was for this friendship game. She said that
such a friendship was 'an ennobling influence' for the boys. She
called them her 'acolytes.' Lots of them were fairly mad about
her--one young chap was so desperate over it that he shot himself."

There was a pained silence.

"I don't see what this has to do with going to Colorado," said Mrs.
Pettigrew, looking from one to the other with a keen, observing eye.
"What's your plan, Dr. Bellair?"

"Why, I'm trying to persuade my old friend here to leave this place,
change her occupation, come out to Colorado with me, and grow up.
She's a case of arrested development."

"She wants me to keep boarders!" Miss Elder plaintively protested to
Mrs. Pettigrew.

That lady was not impressed.

"It's quite a different matter out there, Mrs. Pettigrew," the doctor
explained. "'Keeping boarders' in this country goes to the tune of
'Come Ye Disconsolate!' It's a doubtful refuge for women who are
widows or would be better off if they were. Where I live it's a sure
thing if well managed--it's a good business."

Mrs. Pettigrew wore an unconvinced aspect.

"What do you call 'a good business?'" she asked.

"The house I have in mind cleared a thousand a year when it was in
right hands. That's not bad, over and above one's board and lodging.
That house is in the market now. I've just had a letter from a friend
about it. Orella could go out with me, and step right into Mrs.
Annerly's shoes--she's just giving up."

"What'd she give up for?" Mrs. Pettigrew inquired suspiciously.

"Oh--she got married; they all do. There are three men to one woman in
that town, you see."

"I didn't know there was such a place in the world--unless it was a
man-of-war," remarked Susie, looking much interested.

Dr. Bellair went on more quietly.

"It's not even a risk, Mrs. Pettigrew. Rella has a cousin who would
gladly run this house for her. She's admitted that much. So there's no
loss here, and she's got her home to come back to. I can write to Dick
Hale to nail the proposition at once. She can go when I go, in about a
fortnight, and I'll guarantee the first year definitely."

"I wouldn't think of letting you do that, Jane! And if it's as good as
you say, there's no need. But a fortnight! To leave home--in a
fortnight!"

"What are the difficulties?" the old lady inquired. "There are always
some difficulties."

"You are right, there," agreed the doctor. "The difficulties in this
place are servants. But just now there's a special chance in that line.
Dick says the best cook in town is going begging. I'll read you his
letter."

She produced it, promptly, from the breast pocket of her neat coat.
Dr. Bellair wore rather short, tailored skirts of first-class
material; natty, starched blouses--silk ones for "dress," and
perfectly fitting light coats. Their color and texture might vary with
the season, but their pockets, never.

"'My dear Jane' (This is my best friend out there--a doctor, too. We
were in the same class, both college and medical school. We
fight--he's a misogynist of the worst type--but we're good friends all
the same.) 'Why don't you come back? My boys are lonesome without you,
and I am overworked--you left so many mishandled invalids for me to
struggle with. Your boarding house is going to the dogs. Mrs. Annerly
got worse and worse, failed completely and has cleared out, with a
species of husband, I believe. The owner has put in a sort of
caretaker, and the roomers get board outside--it's better than what
they were having. Moreover, the best cook in town is hunting a job.
Wire me and I'll nail her. You know the place pays well. Now, why
don't you give up your unnatural attempt to be a doctor and assume
woman's proper sphere? Come back and keep house!'

"He's a great tease, but he tells the truth. The house is there,
crying to be kept. The boarders are there--unfed. Now, Orella Elder,
why don't you wake up and seize the opportunity?"

Miss Orella was thinking.

"Where's that last letter of Morton's?"

Susie looked for it. Vivian handed it to her, and Miss Elder read it
once more.

"There's plenty of homeless boys out there besides yours, Orella," the
doctor assured her. "Come on--and bring both these girls with you.
It's a chance for any girl, Miss Lane."

But her friend did not hear her. She found what she was looking for in
the letter and read it aloud. "I'm on the road again now, likely to be
doing Colorado most of the year if things go right. It's a fine
country."

Susie hopped up with a little cry.

"Just the thing, Aunt Rella! Let's go out and surprise Mort. He thinks
we are just built into the ground here. Won't it be fun, Viva?"

Vivian had risen from her seat and stood at the window, gazing out with
unseeing eyes at the shadowy little front yard. Morton might be there.
She might see him. But--was it womanly to go there--for that? There were
other reasons, surely. She had longed for freedom, for a chance to grow,
to do something in life--something great and beautiful! Perhaps this was
the opening of the gate, the opportunity of a lifetime.

"You folks are so strong on duty," the doctor was saying, "Why can't you
see a real duty in this? I tell you, the place is full of men that need
mothering, and sistering--good honest sweethearting and marrying, too.
Come on, Rella. Do bigger work than you've ever done yet--and, as I
said, bring both these nice girls with you. What do you say, Miss Lane?"

Vivian turned to her, her fine face flushed with hope, yet with a
small Greek fret on the broad forehead.

"I'd like to, very much, Dr. Bellair--on some accounts. But----" She
could not quite voice her dim objections, her obscure withdrawals; and
so fell back on the excuse of childhood--"I'm sure Mother wouldn't let
me."

Dr. Bellair smiled broadly.

"Aren't you over twenty-one?" she asked.

"I'm twenty-five," the girl replied, with proud acceptance of a life
long done--as one who owned to ninety-seven.

"And self-supporting?" pursued the doctor.

Vivian flushed.

"No--not yet," she answered; "but I mean to be."

"Exactly! Now's your chance. Break away now, my dear, and come West. You
can get work--start a kindergarten, or something. I know you love
children."

The girl's heart rose within her in a great throb of hope.

"Oh--if I _could_!" she exclaimed, and even as she said it, rose
half-conscious memories of the low, sweet tones of Mrs. St. Cloud. "It
is a woman's place to wait--and to endure."

She heard a step on the walk outside--looked out.

"Why, here is Mrs. St. Cloud!" she cried.

"Guess I'll clear out," said the doctor, as Susie ran to the door. She
was shy, socially.

"Nonsense, Jane," said her hostess, whispering. "Mrs. St. Cloud is no
stranger. She's Mrs. Williams' sister--been here for years."

She came in at the word, her head and shoulders wreathed in a pearl
gray shining veil, her soft long robe held up.

"I saw your light, Miss Elder, and thought I'd stop in for a moment.
Good evening, Mrs. Pettigrew--and Miss Susie. Ah! Vivian!"

"This is my friend, Dr. Bellair--Mrs. St. Cloud," Miss Elder was
saying. But Dr. Bellair bowed a little stiffly, not coming forward.

"I've met Mrs. St. Cloud before, I think--when she was 'Mrs. James.'"

The lady's face grew sad.

"Ah, you knew my first husband! I lost him--many years ago--typhoid
fever."

"I think I heard," said the doctor. And then, feeling that some
expression of sympathy was called for, she added, "Too bad."

Not all Miss Elder's gentle hospitality, Mrs. Pettigrew's bright-eyed
interest, Susie's efforts at polite attention, and Vivian's visible
sympathy could compensate Mrs. St. Cloud for one inimical presence.

"You must have been a mere girl in those days," she said sweetly.
"What a lovely little town it was--under the big trees."

"It certainly was," the doctor answered dryly.

"There is such a fine atmosphere in a college town, I think," pursued
the lady. "Especially in a co-educational town--don't you think so?"

Vivian was a little surprised. She had had an idea that her admired
friend did not approve of co-education. She must have been mistaken.

"Such a world of old memories as you call up, Dr. Bellair," their
visitor pursued. "Those quiet, fruitful days! You remember Dr. Black's
lectures? Of course you do, better than I. What a fine man he was! And
the beautiful music club we had one Winter--and my little private
dancing class--do you remember that? Such nice boys, Miss Elder! I
used to call them my acolytes."

Susie gave a little gulp, and coughed to cover it.

"I guess you'll have to excuse me, ladies," said Dr. Bellair.
"Good-night." And she walked upstairs.

Vivian's face flushed and paled and flushed again. A cold pain was
trying to enter her heart, and she was trying to keep it out. Her
grandmother glanced sharply from one face to the other.

"Glad to've met you, Mrs. St. Cloud," she said, bobbing up with
decision. "Good-night, Rella--and Susie. Come on child. It's a wonder
your mother hasn't sent after us."

For once Vivian was glad to go.

"That's a good scheme of Jane Bellair's, don't you think so?" asked
the old lady as they shut the gate behind them.

"I--why yes--I don't see why not."

Vivian was still dizzy with the blow to her heart's idol. All the
soft, still dream-world she had so labored to keep pure and beautiful
seemed to shake and waver swimmingly. She could not return to it. The
flat white face of her home loomed before her, square, hard, hideously
unsympathetic--

"Grandma," said she, stopping that lady suddenly and laying a pleading
hand on her arm, "Grandma, I believe I'll go."

Mrs. Pettigrew nodded decisively.

"I thought you would," she said.

"Do you blame me, Grandma?"

"Not a mite, child. Not a mite. But I'd sleep on it, if I were you."

And Vivian slept on it--so far as she slept at all.



CHAPTER IV

TRANSPLANTED

      Sometimes a plant in its own habitat
        Is overcrowded, starved, oppressed and daunted;
      A palely feeble thing; yet rises quickly,
        Growing in height and vigor, blooming thickly,
                  When far transplanted.


The days between Vivian's decision and her departure were harder than
she had foreseen. It took some courage to make the choice. Had she
been alone, independent, quite free to change, the move would have
been difficult enough; but to make her plan and hold to it in the face
of a disapproving town, and the definite opposition of her parents,
was a heavy undertaking.

By habit she would have turned to Mrs. St. Cloud for advice; but
between her and that lady now rose the vague image of a young boy,
dead,--she could never feel the same to her again.

Dr. Bellair proved a tower of strength. "My dear girl," she would say to
her, patiently, but with repressed intensity, "do remember that you are
_not_ a child! You are twenty-five years old. You are a grown woman, and
have as much right to decide for yourself as a grown man. This isn't
wicked--it is a wise move; a practical one. Do you want to grow up like
the rest of the useless single women in this little social cemetery?"

Her mother took it very hard. "I don't see how you can think of
leaving us. We're getting old now--and here's Grandma to take care
of----"

"Huh!" said that lady, with such marked emphasis that Mrs. Lane
hastily changed the phrase to "I mean to _be with_--you do like to
have Vivian with you, you can't deny that, Mother."

"But Mama," said the girl, "you are not old; you are only forty-three.
I am sorry to leave you--I am really; but it isn't forever! I can come
back. And you don't really need me. Sarah runs the house exactly as
you like; you don't depend on me for a thing, and never did. As to
Grandma!"--and she looked affectionately at the old lady--"she don't
need me nor anybody else. She's independent if ever anybody was. She
won't miss me a mite--will you Grandma?" Mrs. Pettigrew looked at her
for a moment, the corners of her mouth tucked in tightly. "No," she
said, "I shan't miss you a mite!"

Vivian was a little grieved at the prompt acquiescence. She felt
nearer to her grandmother in many ways than to either parent. "Well,
I'll miss you!" said she, going to her and kissing her smooth pale
cheek, "I'll miss you awfully!"

Mr. Lane expressed his disapproval most thoroughly, and more than
once; then retired into gloomy silence, alternated with violent
dissuasion; but since a woman of twenty-five is certainly free to
choose her way of life, and there was no real objection to this
change, except that it _was_ a change, and therefore dreaded, his
opposition, though unpleasant, was not prohibitive. Vivian's
independent fortune of $87.50, the savings of many years, made the
step possible, even without his assistance.

There were two weeks of exceeding disagreeableness in the household,
but Vivian kept her temper and her determination under a rain of tears,
a hail of criticism, and heavy wind of argument and exhortation. All her
friends and neighbors, and many who were neither, joined in the effort
to dissuade her; but she stood firm as the martyrs of old.

Heredity plays strange tricks with us. Somewhere under the girl's dumb
gentleness and patience lay a store of quiet strength from some
Pilgrim Father or Mother. Never before had she set her will against
her parents; conscience had always told her to submit. Now conscience
told her to rebel, and she did. She made her personal arrangements,
said goodbye to her friends, declined to discuss with anyone, was
sweet and quiet and kind at home, and finally appeared at the
appointed hour on the platform of the little station.

Numbers of curious neighbors were there to see them off, all who knew
them and could spare the time seemed to be on hand. Vivian's mother
came, but her father did not.

At the last moment, just as the train drew in, Grandma appeared,
serene and brisk, descending, with an impressive amount of hand
baggage, from "the hack."

"Goodbye, Laura," she said. "I think these girls need a chaperon. I'm
going too."

So blasting was the astonishment caused by this proclamation, and so
short a time remained to express it, that they presently found
themselves gliding off in the big Pullman, all staring at one another
in silent amazement.

"I hate discussion," said Mrs. Pettigrew.

       *       *       *       *       *

None of these ladies were used to traveling, save Dr. Bellair, who had
made the cross continent trip often enough to think nothing of it.

The unaccustomed travelers found much excitement in the journey. As
women, embarking on a new, and, in the eyes of their friends, highly
doubtful enterprise, they had emotion to spare; and to be confronted
at the outset by a totally unexpected grandmother was too much for
immediate comprehension.

She looked from one to the other, sparkling, triumphant.

"I made up my mind, same as you did, hearing Jane Bellair talk," she
explained. "Sounded like good sense. I always wanted to travel, always,
and never had the opportunity. This was a real good chance." Her mouth
shut, tightened, widened, drew into a crinkly delighted smile.

They sat still staring at her.

"You needn't look at me like that! I guess it's a free country! I
bought my ticket--sent for it same as you did. And I didn't have to
ask _anybody_--I'm no daughter. My duty, as far as I know it, is
_done_! This is a pleasure trip!"

She was triumph incarnate.

"And you never said a word!" This from Vivian.

"Not a word. Saved lots of trouble. Take care of me indeed! Laura
needn't think I'm dependent on her _yet_!"

Vivian's heart rather yearned over her mother, thus doubly bereft.

"The truth is," her grandmother went on, "Samuel wants to go to
Florida the worst way; I heard 'em talking about it! He wasn't willing
to go alone--not he! Wants somebody to hear him cough, I say! And
Laura couldn't go--'Mother was so dependent'--_Huh!_"

Vivian began to smile. She knew this had been talked over, and given
up on that account. She herself could have been easily disposed of,
but Mrs. Lane chose to think her mother a lifelong charge.

"Act as if I was ninety!" the old lady burst forth again. "I'll show
'em!"

"I think you're dead right, Mrs. Pettigrew," said Dr. Bellair. "Sixty
isn't anything. You ought to have twenty years of enjoyable life yet,
before they call you 'old'--maybe more."

Mrs. Pettigrew cocked an eye at her. "My grandmother lived to be a
hundred and four," said she, "and kept on working up to the last year.
I don't know about enjoyin' life, but she was useful for pretty near a
solid century. After she broke her hip the last time she sat still and
sewed and knitted. After her eyes gave out she took to hooking rugs."

"I hope it will be forty years, Mrs. Pettigrew," said Sue, "and I'm
real glad you're coming. It'll make it more like home."

Miss Elder was a little slow in accommodating herself to this new
accession. She liked Mrs. Pettigrew very much--but--a grandmother thus
airily at large seemed to unsettle the foundations of things. She was
polite, even cordial, but evidently found it difficult to accept the
facts.

"Besides," said Mrs. Pettigrew, "you may not get all those boarders at
once and I'll be one to count on. I stopped at the bank this morning
and had 'em arrange for my account out in Carston. They were some
surprised, but there was no time to ask questions!" She relapsed into
silence and gazed with keen interest at the whirling landscape.

Throughout the journey she proved the best of travelers; was never
car-sick, slept well in the joggling berth, enjoyed the food, and
continually astonished them by producing from her handbag the most
diverse and unlooked for conveniences. An old-fashioned traveller had
forgotten her watchkey--Grandma produced an automatic one warranted to
fit anything. "Takes up mighty little room--and I thought maybe it
would come in handy," she said.

She had a small bottle of liquid court-plaster, and plenty of the
solid kind. She had a delectable lotion for the hands, a real treasure
on the dusty journey; also a tiny corkscrew, a strong pair of
"pinchers," sewing materials, playing cards, string, safety-pins,
elastic bands, lime drops, stamped envelopes, smelling salts, troches,
needles and thread.

"Did you bring a trunk, Grandma?" asked Vivian.

"Two," said Grandma, "excess baggage. All paid for and checked."

"How did you ever learn to arrange things so well?" Sue asked
admiringly.

"Read about it," the old lady answered. "There's no end of directions
nowadays. I've been studying up."

She was so gleeful and triumphant, so variously useful, so steadily
gay and stimulating, that they all grew to value her presence long
before they reached Carston; but they had no conception of the
ultimate effect of a resident grandmother in that new and bustling
town.

To Vivian the journey was a daily and nightly revelation. She had read
much but traveled very little, never at night. The spreading beauty of
the land was to her a new stimulus; she watched by the hour the
endless panorama fly past her window, its countless shades of green,
the brown and red soil, the fleeting dashes of color where wild
flowers gathered thickly. She was repeatedly impressed by seeing
suddenly beside her the name of some town which had only existed in
her mind as "capital city" associated with "principal exports" and
"bounded on the north."

At night, sleeping little, she would raise her curtain and look out,
sideways, at the stars. Big shadowy trees ran by, steep cuttings rose
like a wall of darkness, and the hilly curves of open country rose and
fell against the sky line like a shaken carpet.

She faced the long, bright vistas of the car and studied people's
faces--such different people from any she had seen before. A heavy
young man with small, light eyes, sat near by, and cast frequent
glances at both the girls, going by their seat at intervals. Vivian
considered this distinctly rude, and Sue did not like his looks, so he
got nothing for his pains, yet even this added color to the day.

The strange, new sense of freedom grew in her heart, a feeling of
lightness and hope and unfolding purpose.

There was continued discussion as to what the girls should do.

"We can be waitresses for Auntie till we get something else," Sue
practically insisted. "The doctor says it will be hard to get good
service and I'm sure the boarders would like us."

"You can both find work if you want it. What do you want to do,
Vivian?" asked Dr. Bellair, not for the first time.

Vivian was still uncertain.

"I love children best," she said. "I could teach--but I haven't a
certificate. I'd _love_ a kindergarten; I've studied that--at home."

"Shouldn't wonder if you could get up a kindergarten right off," the
doctor assured her. "Meantime, as this kitten says, you could help
Miss Elder out and turn an honest penny while you're waiting."

"Wouldn't it--interfere with my teaching later?" the girl inquired.

"Not a bit, not a bit. We're not so foolish out here. We'll fix you up
all right in no time."

It was morning when they arrived at last and came out of the cindery,
noisy crowded cars into the wide, clean, brilliant stillness of the
high plateau. They drew deep breaths; the doctor squared her shoulders
with a glad, homecoming smile. Vivian lifted her head and faced the
new surroundings as an unknown world. Grandma gazed all ways, still
cheerful, and their baggage accrued about them as a rampart.

A big bearded man, carelessly dressed, whirled up in a dusty runabout,
and stepped out smiling. He seized Dr. Bellair by both hands, and
shook them warmly.

"Thought I'd catch you, Johnny," he said. "Glad to see you back. If
you've got the landlady, I've got the cook!"

"Here we are," said she. "Miss Orella Elder--Dr. Hale; Mrs.
Pettigrew, Miss Susie Elder, Miss Lane--Dr. Richard Hale."

He bowed deeply to Mrs. Pettigrew, shook hands with Miss Orella, and
addressed himself to her, giving only a cold nod to the two girls, and
quite turning away from them.

Susie, in quiet aside to Vivian, made unfavorable comment.

"This is your Western chivalry, is it?" she said. "Even Bainville does
better than that."

"I don't know why we should mind," Vivian answered. "It's Dr.
Bellair's friend; he don't care anything about us."

But she was rather of Sue's opinion.

The big man took Dr. Bellair in his car, and they followed in a
station carriage, eagerly observing their new surroundings, and
surprised, as most Easterners are, by the broad beauty of the streets
and the modern conveniences everywhere--electric cars, electric
lights, telephones, soda fountains, where they had rather expected to
find tents and wigwams.

The house, when they were all safely within it, turned out to be "just
like a real house," as Sue said; and proved even more attractive than
the doctor had described it. It was a big, rambling thing, at home
they would have called it a hotel, with its neat little sign, "The
Cottonwoods," and Vivian finally concluded that it looked like a
seaside boarding house, built for the purpose.

A broad piazza ran all across the front, the door opening into a big
square hall, a sort of general sitting-room; on either side were four
good rooms, opening on a transverse passage. The long dining-room and
kitchen were in the rear of the hall.

Dr. Bellair had two, her office fronting on the side street, with a
bedroom behind it. They gave Mrs. Pettigrew the front corner room on
that side and kept the one opening from the hall as their own parlor.
In the opposite wing was Miss Elder's room next the hall, and the
girls in the outer back corner, while the two front ones on that side
were kept for the most impressive and high-priced boarders.

Mrs. Pettigrew regarded her apartments with suspicion as being too
"easy."

"I don't mind stairs," she said. "Dr. Bellair has to be next her
office--but why do I have to be next Dr. Bellair?"

It was represented to her that she would be nearer to everything that
went on and she agreed without more words.

Dr. Hale exhibited the house as if he owned it.

"The agent's out of town," he said, "and we don't need him anyway. He
said he'd do anything you wanted, in reason."

Dr. Bellair watched with keen interest the effect of her somewhat daring
description, as Miss Orella stepped from room to room examining
everything with a careful eye, with an expression of growing
generalship. Sue fluttered about delightedly, discovering advantages
everywhere and making occasional disrespectful remarks to Vivian about
Dr. Hale's clothes.

"Looks as if he never saw a clothes brush!" she said. "A finger out on
his glove, a button off his coat. No need to tell us there's no woman
in his house!"

"You can decide about your cook when you've tried her," he said to
Miss Elder. "I engaged her for a week--on trial. She's in the kitchen
now, and will have your dinner ready presently. I think you'll like
her, if----"

"Good boy!" said Dr. Bellair. "Sometimes you show as much sense as a
woman--almost."

"What's the 'if'" asked Miss Orella, looking worried.

"Question of character," he answered. "She's about forty-five, with a
boy of sixteen or so. He's not over bright, but a willing worker.
She's a good woman--from one standpoint. She won't leave that boy nor
give him up to strangers; but she has a past!"

"What is her present?" Dr. Bellair asked, "that's the main thing."

Dr. Hale clapped her approvingly on the shoulder, but looked
doubtingly toward Miss Orella.

"And what's her future if somebody don't help her?" Vivian urged.

"Can she cook?" asked Grandma.

"Is she a safe person to have in the house?" inquired Dr. Bellair
meaningly.

"She can cook," he replied. "She's French, or of French parentage. She
used to keep a little--place of entertainment. The food was excellent.
She's been a patient of mine--off and on--for five years--and I should
call her perfectly safe."

Miss Orella still looked worried. "I'd like to help her and the boy, but
would it--look well? I don't want to be mean about it, but this is a
very serious venture with us, Dr. Hale, and I have these girls with me."

"With you and Dr. Bellair and Mrs. Pettigrew the young ladies will be
quite safe, Miss Elder. As to the woman's present character, she has
suffered two changes of heart, she's become a religious devotee--and a
man-hater! And from a business point of view, I assure you that if
Jeanne Jeaune is in your kitchen you'll never have a room empty."

"Johnny Jones! queer name for a woman!" said Grandma. They repeated it
to her carefully, but she only changed to "Jennie June," and adhered
to one or the other, thereafter. "What's the boy's name?" she asked
further.

"Theophile," Dr. Hale replied.

"Huh!" said she.

"Why don't she keep an eating-house still?" asked Dr. Bellair rather
suspiciously.

"That's what I like best about her," he answered. "She is trying to
break altogether with her past. She wants to give up 'public
life'--and private life won't have her."

They decided to try the experiment, and found it worked well.

There were two bedrooms over the kitchen where "Mrs. Jones" as Grandma
generally called her, and her boy, could be quite comfortable and by
themselves; and although of a somewhat sour and unsociable aspect, and
fiercely watchful lest anyone offend her son, this questionable
character proved an unquestionable advantage. With the boy's help, she
cooked for the houseful, which grew to be a family of twenty-five. He
also wiped dishes, helped in the laundry work, cleaned and scrubbed
and carried coal; and Miss Elder, seeing his steady usefulness,
insisted on paying wages for him too. This unlooked for praise and
gain won the mother's heart, and as she grew more at home with them,
and he less timid, she encouraged him to do the heavier cleaning in
the rest of the house.

"Huh!" said Grandma. "I wish more sane and moral persons would work
like that!"

Vivian watched with amazement the swift filling of the house.

There was no trouble at all about boarders, except in discriminating
among them. "Make them pay in advance, Rella," Dr. Bellair advised, "it
doesn't cost them any more, and it is a great convenience. 'References
exchanged,' of course. There are a good many here that I know--you can
always count on Mr. Dykeman and Fordham Grier, and John Unwin."

Before a month was over the place was full to its limits with what Sue
called "assorted boarders," the work ran smoothly and the business end
of Miss Elder's venture seemed quite safe. They had the twenty Dr.
Bellair prophesied, and except for her, Mrs. Pettigrew, Miss Peeder, a
teacher of dancing and music; Mrs. Jocelyn, who was interested in
mining, and Sarah Hart, who described herself as a "journalist," all
were men.

Fifteen men to eight women. Miss Elder sat at the head of her table,
looked down it and across the other one, and marvelled continuously.
Never in her New England life had she been with so many men--except in
church--and they were more scattered. This houseful of heavy feet and
broad shoulders, these deep voices and loud laughs, the atmosphere of
interchanging jests and tobacco smoke, was new to her. She hated the
tobacco smoke, but that could not be helped. They did not smoke in her
parlor, but the house was full of it none the less, in which constant
presence she began to reverse the Irishman's well known judgment of
whiskey, allowing that while all tobacco was bad, some tobacco was
much worse than others.



CHAPTER V

CONTRASTS

      Old England thinks our country
        Is a wilderness at best--
      And small New England thinks the same
        Of the large free-minded West.

      Some people know the good old way
        Is the only way to do,
      And find there must be something wrong
        In anything that's new.


To Vivian the new life offered a stimulus, a sense of stir and promise
even beyond her expectations. She wrote dutiful letters to her mother,
trying to describe the difference between this mountain town and
Bainville, but found the New England viewpoint an insurmountable
obstacle.

To Bainville "Out West" was a large blank space on the map, and the
blank space in the mind which matched it was but sparsely dotted with
a few disconnected ideas such as "cowboy," "blizzard," "prairie
fire," "tornado," "border ruffian," and the like.

The girl's painstaking description of the spreading, vigorous young
town, with its fine, modern buildings, its banks and stores and
theatres, its country club and parks, its pleasant social life, made
small impression on the Bainville mind. But the fact that Miss Elder's
venture was successful from the first did impress old acquaintances,
and Mrs. Lane read aloud to selected visitors her daughter's accounts
of their new and agreeable friends. Nothing was said of "chaps,"
"sombreros," or "shooting up the town," however, and therein a
distinct sense of loss was felt.

Much of what was passing in Vivian's mind she could not make clear to
her mother had she wished to. The daily presence and very friendly
advances of so many men, mostly young and all polite (with the
exception of Dr. Hale, whose indifference was almost rude by
contrast), gave a new life and color to the days.

She could not help giving some thought to this varied assortment, and
the carefully preserved image of Morton, already nine years dim, waxed
dimmer. But she had a vague consciousness of being untrue to her ideals,
or to Mrs. St. Cloud's ideals, now somewhat discredited, and did not
readily give herself up to the cheerful attractiveness of the position.

Susie found no such difficulty. Her ideals were simple, and while
quite within the bounds of decorum, left her plenty of room for
amusement. So popular did she become, so constantly in demand for
rides and walks and oft-recurring dances, that Vivian felt called upon
to give elder sisterly advice.

But Miss Susan scouted her admonitions.

"Why shouldn't I have a good time?" she said. "Think how we grew up!
Half a dozen boys to twenty girls, and when there was anything to go
to--the lordly way they'd pick and choose! And after all our efforts
and machinations most of us had to dance with each other. And the
quarrels we had! Here they stand around three deep asking for
dances--and _they_ have to dance with each other, and _they_ do the
quarreling. I've heard 'em." And Sue giggled delightedly.

"There's no reason we shouldn't enjoy ourselves, Susie, of course, but
aren't you--rather hard on them?"

"Oh, nonsense!" Sue protested. "Dr. Bellair said I should get married
out here! She says the same old thing--that it's 'a woman's duty,' and
I propose to do it. That is--they'll propose, and I won't do it! Not
till I make up my mind. Now see how you like this!"

She had taken a fine large block of "legal cap" and set down their
fifteen men thereon, with casual comment.

1. Mr. Unwin--Too old, big, quiet.

2. Mr. Elmer Skee--Big, too old, funny.

3. Jimmy Saunders--Middle-sized, amusing, nice.

4. P. R. Gibbs--Too little, too thin, too cocky.

5. George Waterson--Middling, pretty nice.

6. J. J. Cuthbert--Big, horrid.

7. Fordham Greer--Big, pleasant.

8. W. S. Horton--Nothing much.

9. A. L. Dykeman--Interesting, too old.

10. Professor Toomey--Little, horrid.

11. Arthur Fitzwilliam--Ridiculous, too young.

12. Howard Winchester--Too nice, distrust him.

13. Lawson W. Briggs--Nothing much.

14. Edward S. Jenks--Fair to middling.

15. Mr. A. Smith--Minus.

She held it up in triumph. "I got 'em all out of the book--quite
correct. Now, which'll you have."

"Susie Elder! You little goose! Do you imagine that all these fifteen
men are going to propose to you?"

"I'm sure I hope so!" said the cheerful damsel. "We've only been
settled a fortnight and one of 'em has already!"

Vivian was impressed at once. "Which?--You don't mean it!"

Sue pointed to the one marked "minus."

"It was only 'A. Smith.' I never should be willing to belong to 'A.
Smith,' it's too indefinite--unless it was a last resort. Several more
are--well, extremely friendly! Now don't look so severe. You needn't
worry about me. I'm not quite so foolish as I talk, you know."

She was not. Her words were light and saucy, but she was as demure and
decorous a little New Englander as need be desired; and she could not
help it if the hearts of the unattached young men of whom the town was
full, warmed towards her.

Dr. Bellair astonished them at lunch one day in their first week.

"Dick Hale wants us all to come over to tea this afternoon," she said,
as if it was the most natural thing in the world.

"Tea? Where?" asked Mrs. Pettigrew sharply.

"At his house. He has 'a home of his own,' you know. And he
particularly wants you, Mrs. Pettigrew--and Miss Elder--the girls, of
course."

"I'm sure I don't care to go," Vivian remarked with serene
indifference, but Susie did.

"Oh, come on, Vivian! It'll be so funny! A man's home!--and we may
never get another chance. He's such a bear!"

Dr. Hale's big house was only across the road from theirs, standing in
a large lot with bushes and trees about it.

"He's been here nine years," Dr. Bellair told them. "That's an old
inhabitant for us. He boarded in that house for a while; then it was for
sale and he bought it. He built that little office of his at the
corner--says he doesn't like to live where he works, or work where he
lives. He took his meals over here for a while--and then set up for
himself."

"I should think he'd be lonely," Miss Elder suggested.

"Oh, he has his boys, you know--always three or four young fellows
about him. It's a mighty good thing for them, too."

Dr. Hale's home proved a genuine surprise. They had regarded it as a
big, neglected-looking place, and found on entering the gate that the
inside view of that rampant shrubbery was extremely pleasant. Though
not close cut and swept of leaves and twigs, it still was beautiful;
and the tennis court and tether-ball ring showed the ground well used.

Grandma looked about her with a keen interrogative eye, and was much
impressed, as, indeed, were they all. She voiced their feelings
justly when, the true inwardness of this pleasant home bursting fully
upon them, she exclaimed:

"Well, of all things! A man keeping house!"

"Why not?" asked Dr. Hale with his dry smile. "Is there any
deficiency, mental or physical, about a man, to prevent his attempting
this abstruse art?"

She looked at him sharply. "I don't know about deficiency, but there
seems to be somethin' about 'em that keeps 'em out of the business. I
guess it's because women are so cheap."

"No doubt you are right, Mrs. Pettigrew. And here women are scarce and
high. Hence my poor efforts."

His poor efforts had bought or built a roomy pleasant house, and
furnished it with a solid comfort and calm attractiveness that was
most satisfying. Two Chinamen did the work; cooking, cleaning,
washing, waiting on table, with silent efficiency. "They are as steady
as eight-day clocks," said Dr. Hale. "I pay them good wages and they
are worth it."

"Sun here had to go home once--to be married, also, to see his honored
parents, I believe, and to leave a grand-'Sun' to attend to the
ancestors; but he brought in another Chink first and trained him so
well that I hardly noticed the difference. Came back in a year or so,
and resumed his place without a jar."

Miss Elder watched with fascinated eyes these soft-footed servants
with clean, white garments and shiny coils of long, braided hair.

"I may have to come to it," she admitted, "but--dear me, it doesn't
seem natural to have a man doing housework!"

Dr. Hale smiled again. "You don't want men to escape from dependence, I
see. Perhaps, if more men knew how comfortably they could live without
women, the world would be happier." There was a faint wire-edge to his
tone, in spite of the courteous expression, but Miss Elder did not
notice it and if Mrs. Pettigrew did, she made no comment.

They noted the varied excellences of his housekeeping with high
approval.

"You certainly know how, Dr. Hale," said Miss Orella; "I particularly
admire these beds--with the sheets buttoned down, German fashion,
isn't it? What made you do that?"

"I've slept so much in hotels," he answered; "and found the sheets
always inadequate to cover the blankets--and the marks of other men's
whiskers! I don't like blankets in my neck. Besides it saves washing."

Mrs. Pettigrew nodded vehemently. "You have sense," she said.

The labor-saving devices were a real surprise to them. A "chute" for
soiled clothing shot from the bathroom on each floor to the laundry in
the basement; a dumbwaiter of construction large and strong enough to
carry trunks, went from cellar to roof; the fireplaces dropped their
ashes down mysterious inner holes; and for the big one in the
living-room a special "lift" raised a box of wood up to the floor
level, hidden by one of the "settles."

"Saves work--saves dirt--saves expense," said Dr. Hale.

Miss Hale and her niece secretly thought the rooms rather bare, but
Dr. Bellair was highly in favor of that very feature.

"You see Dick don't believe in jimcracks and dirt-catchers, and he
likes sunlight. Books all under glass--no curtains to wash and darn
and fuss with--none of those fancy pincushions and embroidered
thingummies--I quite envy him."

"Why don't you have one yourself, Johnny?" he asked her.

"Because I don't like housekeeping," she said, "and you do. Masculine
instinct, I suppose!"

"Huh!" said Mrs. Pettigrew with her sudden one-syllable chuckle.

The girls followed from room to room, scarce noticing these comments, or
the eager politeness of the four pleasant-faced young fellows who formed
the doctor's present family. She could not but note the intelligent
efficiency of the place, but felt more deeply the underlying spirit, the
big-brotherly kindness which prompted his hospitable care of these nice
boys. It was delightful to hear them praise him.

"O, he's simply great," whispered Archie Burns, a ruddy-cheeked young
Scotchman. "He pretends there's nothing to it--that he wants
company--that we pay for all we get--and that sort of thing, you know;
but this is no boarding house, I can tell you!" And then he flushed till
his very hair grew redder--remembering that the guests came from one.

"Of course not!" Vivian cordially agreed with him. "You must have
lovely times here. I don't wonder you appreciate it!" and she smiled
so sweetly that he felt at ease again.

Beneath all this cheery good will and the gay chatter of the group her
quick sense caught an impression of something hidden and repressed.
She felt the large and quiet beauty of the rooms; the smooth comfort,
the rational, pleasant life; but still more she felt a deep keynote of
loneliness.

The pictures told her most. She noted one after another with inward
comment.

"There's 'Persepolis,'" she said to herself--"loneliness incarnate;
and that other lion-and-ruin thing,--loneliness and decay. Gerome's
'Lion in the Desert,' too, the same thing. Then Daniel--more lions,
more loneliness, but power. 'Circe and the Companions of
Ulysses'--cruel, but loneliness and power again--of a sort. There's
that 'Island of Death' too--a beautiful thing--but O dear!--And young
Burne-Jones' 'Vampire' was in one of the bedrooms--that one he shut
the door of!"

While they ate and drank in the long, low-ceiled wide-windowed room
below, she sought the bookcases and looked them over curiously.
Yes--there was Marcus Aurelius, Epictetus, Plato, Emerson and
Carlisle--the great German philosophers, the French, the English--all
showing signs of use.

Dr. Hale observed her inspection. It seemed to vaguely annoy him, as
if someone were asking too presuming questions.

"Interested in philosophy, Miss Lane?" he asked, drily, coming toward
her.

"Yes--so far as I understand it," she answered.

"And how far does that go?"

She felt the inference, and raised her soft eyes to his rather
reproachfully.

"Not far, I am afraid. But I do know that these books teach one how to
bear trouble."

He met her gaze steadily, but something seemed to shut, deep in his
eyes. They looked as unassailable as a steel safe. He straightened his
big shoulders with a defiant shrug, and returned to sit by Mrs.
Pettigrew, to whom he made himself most agreeable.

The four young men did the honors of the tea table, with devotion to
all; and some especially intended for the younger ladies. Miss Elder
cried out in delight at the tea.

"Where did you get it, Dr. Hale? Can it be had here?"

"I'm afraid not. That is a particular brand. Sun brought me a chest of
it when he came from his visit."

When they went home each lady was given a present, Chinese
fashion--lychee nuts for Sue, lily-bulbs for Vivian, a large fan for
Mrs. Pettigrew, and a package of the wonderful tea for Miss Orella.

"That's a splendid thing for him to do," she said, as they walked
back. "Such a safe place for those boys!"

"It's lovely of him," Sue agreed. "I don't care if he is a
woman-hater."

Vivian said nothing, but admitted, on being questioned, that "he was
very interesting."

Mrs. Pettigrew was delighted with their visit. "I like this country,"
she declared. "Things are different. A man couldn't do that in
Bainville--he'd be talked out of town."

That night she sought Dr. Bellair and questioned her.

"Tell me about that man," she demanded. "How old is he?"

"Not as old as he looks by ten years," said the doctor. "No, I can't
tell you why his hair's gray."

"What woman upset him?" asked the old lady.

Dr. Bellair regarded her thoughtfully. "He has made me no confidences,
Mrs. Pettigrew, but I think you are right. It must have been a severe
shock--for he is very bitter against women. It is a shame, too, for he
is one of the best of men. He prefers men patients--and gets them. The
women he will treat if he must, but he is kindest to the 'fallen' ones,
and inclined to sneer at the rest. And yet he's the straightest man I
ever knew. I'm thankful to have him come here so much. He needs it."

Mrs. Pettigrew marched off, nodding sagely. She felt a large and growing
interest in her new surroundings, more especially in the numerous boys,
but was somewhat amazed at her popularity among them. These young men
were mainly exiles from home; the older ones, though more settled
perhaps, had been even longer away from their early surroundings; and a
real live Grandma, as Jimmy Saunders said, was an "attraction."

"If you were mine," he told her laughingly, "I'd get a pianist and
some sort of little side show, and exhibit you all up and down the
mountains!--for good money. Why some of the boys never had a Grandma,
and those that did haven't seen one since they were kids!"

"Very complimentary, I'm sure--but impracticable," said the old lady.

The young men came to her with confidences, they asked her advice,
they kept her amused with tales of their adventures; some true, some
greatly diversified; and she listened with a shrewd little smile and a
wag of the head--so they never were quite sure whether they were
"fooling" Grandma or not.

To her, as a general confidant, came Miss Peeder with a tale of woe. The
little hall that she rented for her dancing classes had burned down on a
windy Sunday, and there was no other suitable and within her means.

"There's Sloan's; but it's over a barroom--it's really not possible.
And Baker's is too expensive. The church rooms they won't let for
dancing--I don't know what I _am_ to do, Mrs. Pettigrew!"

"Why don't you ask Orella Elder to rent you her dining-room--it's big
enough. They could move the tables----"

Miss Peeder's eyes opened in hopeful surprise. "Oh, if she _would_! Do
_you_ think she would? It would be ideal."

Miss Elder being called upon, was quite fluttered by the proposition,
and consulted Dr. Bellair.

"Why not?" said that lady. "Dancing is first rate exercise--good for
us all. Might as well have the girls dance here under your eye as
going out all the time--and it's some addition to the income. They'll
pay extra for refreshments, too. I'd do it."

With considerable trepidation Miss Orella consented, and their first
"class night" was awaited by her in a state of suppressed excitement.

To have music and dancing--"with refreshments"--twice a week--in her
own house--this seemed to her like a career of furious dissipation.

Vivian, though with a subtle sense of withdrawal from a too general
intimacy, was inwardly rather pleased; and Susie bubbled over with
delight.

"Oh what fun!" she cried. "I never had enough dancing! I don't believe
anybody has!"

"We don't belong to the Class, you know," Vivian reminded her.

"Oh yes! Miss Peeder says we must _all_ come--that she would feel _very_
badly if we didn't; and the boarders have all joined--to a man!"

Everyone seemed pleased except Mrs. Jeaune. Dancing she considered
immoral; music, almost as much so--and Miss Elder trembled lest she
lose her. But the offer of extra payments for herself and son on these
two nights each week proved sufficient to quell her scruples.

Theophile doubled up the tables, set chairs around the walls, waxed the
floor, and was then sent to bed and locked in by his anxious mother.

She labored, during the earlier hours of the evening, in the
preparation of sandwiches and coffee, cake and lemonade--which viands
were later shoved through the slide by the austere cook, and
distributed as from a counter by Miss Peeder's assistant. Mrs. Jeaune
would come no nearer, but peered darkly upon them through the
peep-hole in the swinging door.

It was a very large room, due to the time when many "mealers" had been
accommodated. There were windows on each side, windows possessing the
unusual merit of opening from the top; wide double doors made the big
front hall a sort of anteroom, and the stairs and piazza furnished
opportunities for occasional couples who felt the wish for retirement.
In the right-angled passages, long hat-racks on either side were hung
with "Derbies," "Kossuths" and "Stetsons," and the ladies took off
their wraps, and added finishing touches to their toilettes in Miss
Elder's room.

The house was full of stir and bustle, of pretty dresses, of giggles
and whispers, and the subdued exchange of comments among the
gentlemen. The men predominated, so that there was no lack of partners
for any of the ladies.

Miss Orella accepted her new position with a half-terrified enjoyment.
Not in many years had she found herself so in demand. Her always neat
and appropriate costume had blossomed suddenly for the occasion; her
hair, arranged by the affectionate and admiring Susie, seemed softer
and more voluminous. Her eyes grew brilliant, and the delicate color
in her face warmed and deepened.

Miss Peeder had installed a pianola to cover emergencies, but on this
opening evening she had both piano and violin--good, lively,
sole-stirring music. Everyone was on the floor, save a few gentlemen
who evidently wished they were.

Sue danced with the gaiety and lightness of a kitten among wind-blown
leaves, Vivian with gliding grace, smooth and harmonious, Miss Orella
with skill and evident enjoyment, though still conscientious in every
accurate step.

Presently Mrs. Pettigrew appeared, sedately glorious in black silk,
jet-beaded, and with much fine old lace. She bore in front of her a
small wicker rocking chair, and headed for a corner near the door. Her
burden was promptly taken from her by one of the latest comers, a tall
person with a most devoted manner.

"Allow _me_, ma'am," he said, and placed the little chair at the point
she indicated. "No lady ought to rustle for rockin' chairs with so
many gentlemen present."

He was a man of somewhat advanced age, but his hair was still more
black than white and had a curly, wiggish effect save as its
indigenous character was proven by three small bare patches of a
conspicuous nature.

He bowed so low before her that she could not help observing these
distinctions, and then answered her startled look before she had time
to question him.

"Yes'm," he explained, passing his hand over head; "scalped three
several times and left for dead. But I'm here yet. Mr. Elmer Skee, at
your service."

"I thought when an Indian scalped you there wasn't enough hair left to
make Greeley whiskers," said Grandma, rising to the occasion.

"Oh, no, ma'am, they ain't so efficacious as all that--not in these
parts. I don't know what the ancient Mohawks may have done, but the
Apaches only want a patch--smaller to carry and just as good to show
off. They're collectors, you know--like a phil-e-a-to-lol-o-gist!"

"Skee, did you say?" pursued the old lady, regarding him with interest
and convinced that there was something wrong with the name of that
species of collector.

"Yes'm. Skee--Elmer Skee. No'm, _not_ pronounced 'she.' Do I look like
it?"

Mr. Skee was an interesting relic of that stormy past of the once Wild
West which has left so few surviving. He had crossed the plains as a
child, he told her, in the days of the prairie schooner, had then and
there lost his parents and his first bit of scalp, was picked up alive
by a party of "movers," and had grown up in a playground of sixteen
states and territories.

Grandma gazed upon him fascinated. "I judge you might be interesting
to talk with," she said, after he had given her this brief sketch of
his youth.

"Thank you, ma'am," said Mr. Skee. "May I have the pleasure of this
dance?"

"I haven't danced in thirty years," said she, dubitating.

"The more reason for doing it now," he calmly insisted.

"Why not?" said Mrs. Pettigrew, and they forthwith executed a species
of march, the gentleman pacing with the elaborate grace of a circus
horse, and Grandma stepping at his side with great decorum.

Later on, warming to the occasion, Mr. Skee frisked and high-stepped
with the youngest and gayest, and found the supper so wholly to his
liking that he promptly applied for a room, and as soon as one was
vacant it was given to him.

Vivian danced to her heart's content and enjoyed the friendly
merriment about her; but when Fordham Greer took her out on the long
piazza to rest and breathe a little, she saw the dark bulk of the
house across the street and the office with its half-lit window, and
could not avoid thinking of the lonely man there.

He had not come to the dance, no one expected that, of course; but all
his boys had come and were having the best of times.

"It's his own fault, of course; but it's a shame," she thought.

The music sounded gaily from within, and young Greer urged for another
dance.

She stood there for a moment, hesitating, her hand on his arm, when a
tall figure came briskly up the street from the station, turned in at
their gate, came up the steps----

The girl gave a little cry, and shrank back for an instant, then
eagerly came forward and gave her hand to him.

It was Morton.



CHAPTER VI

NEW FRIENDS AND OLD

      'Twould be too bad to be true, my dear,
        And wonders never cease;
      Twould be too bad to be true, my dear,
        If all one's swans were geese!


Vivian's startled cry of welcome was heard by Susie, perched on the
stairs with several eager youths gathered as close as might be about
her, and several pairs of hands helped her swift descent to greet her
brother.

Miss Orella, dropping Mr. Dykeman's arm, came flying from the ball-room.

"Oh, Morton! Morton! When did you come? Why didn't you let us know?
Oh, my _dear_ boy!"

She haled him into their special parlor, took his hat away from him,
pulled out the most comfortable chair.

"Have you had supper? And to think that we haven't a room for you! But
there's to be one vacant--next week. I'll see that there is. You
shall have my room, dear boy. Oh, I am so glad to see you!"

Susie gave him a sisterly hug, while he kissed her, somewhat gingerly,
on the cheek, and then she perched herself on the arm of a chair and
gazed upon him with affectionate interest. Vivian gazed also, busily
engaged in fitting present facts to past memories.

Surely he had not looked just like that! The Morton of her girlhood's
dream had a clear complexion, a bright eye, a brave and gallant
look--the voice only had not changed.

But here was Morton in present fact, something taller, it seemed, and
a good deal heavier, well dressed in a rather vivid way, and making
merry over his aunt's devotion.

"Well, if it doesn't seem like old times to have Aunt 'Rella running
'round like a hen with her head cut off, to wait on me." The simile
was not unjust, though certainly ungracious, but his aunt was far too
happy to resent it.

"You sit right still!" she said. "I'll go and bring you some supper.
You must be hungry."

"Now do sit down and hear to reason, Auntie!" he said, reaching out a
detaining hand and pulling her into a seat beside him. "I'm not hungry
a little bit; had a good feed on the diner. Never mind about the
room--I don't know how long I can stay--and I left my grip at the
Allen House anyway. How well you're looking, Auntie! I declare I'd
hardly have known you! And here's little Susie--a regular belle! And
Vivian--don't suppose I dare call you Vivian now, Miss Lane?"

Vivian gave a little embarrassed laugh. If he had used her first name
she would never have noticed it. Now that he asked her, she hardly
knew what answer to make, but presently said:

"Why, of course, I always call you Morton."

"Well, I'll come when you call me," he cheerfully replied, leaning
forward, elbows on knees, and looking around the pretty room.

"How well you're fixed here. Guess it was a wise move, Aunt 'Rella.
But I'd never have dreamed you'd do it. Your Dr. Bellair must have
been a powerful promoter to get you all out here. I wouldn't have
thought anybody in Bainville could move--but me. Why, there's Grandma,
as I live!" and he made a low bow.

Mrs. Pettigrew, hearing of his arrival from the various would-be
partners of the two girls, had come to the door and stood there
regarding him with a non-committal expression. At this address she
frowned perceptibly.

"My name is Mrs. Pettigrew, young man. I've known you since you were a
scallawag in short pants, but I'm no Grandma of yours."

"A thousand pardons! Please excuse me, Mrs. Pettigrew," he said with
exaggerated politeness. "Won't you be seated?" And he set a chair for
her with a flourish.

"Thanks, no," she said. "I'll go back," and went back forthwith,
attended by Mr. Skee.

"One of these happy family reunions, ma'am?" he asked with approving
interest. "If there's one thing I do admire, it's a happy surprise."

"'Tis some of a surprise," Mrs. Pettigrew admitted, and became rather
glum, in spite of Mr. Skee's undeniably entertaining conversation.

"Some sort of a fandango going on?" Morton asked after a few rather
stiff moments. "Don't let me interrupt! On with the dance! Let joy be
unconfined! And if she must"--he looked at Vivian, and went on
somewhat lamely--"dance, why not dance with me? May I have the
pleasure, Miss Lane?"

"Oh, no," cried Miss Orella, "we'd much rather be with you!"

"But I'd rather dance than talk, any time," said he, and crooked his
elbow to Vivian with an impressive bow.

Somewhat uncertain in her own mind, and unwilling to again disappoint
Fordham Greer, who had already lost one dance and was visibly waiting
for her in the hall, the girl hesitated; but Susie said, "Go on, give
him part of one. I'll tell Mr. Greer." So Vivian took Morton's
proffered arm and returned to the floor.

She had never danced with him in the old days; no special memory was
here to contrast with the present; yet something seemed vaguely wrong.
He danced well, but more actively than she admired, and during the
rest of the evening devoted himself to the various ladies with an air
of long usage.

She was glad when the dancing was over and he had finally departed for
his hotel, glad when Susie had at last ceased chattering and dropped
reluctantly to sleep.

For a long time she lay awake trying to straighten out things in her
mind and account to herself for the sense of vague confusion which
oppressed her.

Morton had come back! That was the prominent thing, of which she
repeatedly assured herself. How often she had looked forward to that
moment, and felt in anticipation a vivid joy. She had thought of it in
a hundred ways, always with pleasure, but never in this particular
way--among so many strangers.

It must be that which confused her, she thought, for she was extremely
sensitive to the attitude of those about her. She felt an unspoken
criticism of Morton on the part of her new friends in the house, and
resented it; yet in her own mind a faint comparison would obtrude
itself between his manners and those of Jimmie Saunders or Mr. Greer,
for instance. The young Scotchman she had seen regarding Morton with
an undisguised dislike, and this she inwardly resented, even while
herself disliking his bearing to his aunt--and to her grandmother.

It was all contradictory and unsatisfying, and she fell asleep saying
over to herself, "He has come back! He has come back!" and trying to
feel happy.

Aunt Orella was happy at any rate. She would not rest until her
beloved nephew was installed in the house, practically turning out Mr.
Gibbs in order to accommodate him. Morton protested, talked of
business and of having to go away at any time; and Mr. Gibbs, who
still "mealed" with them, secretly wished he would.

But Morton did not go away. It was a long time since he had been petted
and waited on, and he enjoyed it hugely, treating his aunt with a
serio-comic affection that was sometimes funny, sometimes disagreeable.

At least Susie found it so. Her first surprise over, she fell back on
a fund of sound common sense, strengthened by present experience, and
found a good deal to criticise in her returned brother. She was so
young when he left, and he had teased her so unmercifully in those
days, that her early memories of him were rather mixed in sentiment,
and now he appeared, not as the unquestioned idol of a manless family
in a well-nigh manless town, but as one among many; and of those many
several were easily his superiors.

He was her brother, and she loved him, of course; but there were so
many wanting to be "brothers" if not more, and they were so much more
polite! Morton petted, patronized and teased her, and she took it all
in good part, as after the manner of brothers, but his demeanor with
other people was not to her mind.

His adoring aunt, finding no fault whatever with this well-loved nephew,
lavished upon him the affection of her unused motherhood, and he seemed
to find it a patent joke, open to everyone, that she should be so fond.

To this and, indeed, to his general walk and conversation, Mrs.
Pettigrew took great exception.

"Fine boy--Rella's nephew!" she said to Dr. Bellair late one night
when, seeing a light over her neighbor's transom, she dropped in for a
little chat. Conversation seemed easier for her here than in the
atmosphere of Bainville.

"Fine boy--eh? Nice complexion!"

Dr. Bellair was reading a heavy-weight book by a heavier-weight
specialist. She laid it down, took off her eyeglasses, and rubbed them.

"Better not kiss him," she said.

"I thought as much!" said Grandma. "I _thought_ as much! Huh!"

"Nice world, isn't it?" the doctor suggested genially.

"Nothing the matter with the world, that I know of," her visitor
answered.

"Nice people, then--how's that?"

"Nothing the matter with the people but foolishness--plain
foolishness. Good land! Shall we _never_ learn anything!"

"Not till it's too late apparently," the doctor gloomily agreed,
turning slowly in her swivel chair. "That boy never was taught
anything to protect him. What did Rella know? Or for that matter, what
do any boys' fathers and mothers know? Nothing, you'd think. If they
do, they won't teach it to their children."

"Time they did!" said the old lady decidedly. "High time they did!
It's never too late to learn. I've learned a lot out of you and your
books, Jane Bellair. Interesting reading! I don't suppose you could
give an absolute opinion now, could you?"

"No," said Dr. Bellair gravely, "no, I couldn't; not yet, anyway."

"Well, we've got to keep our eyes open," Mrs. Pettigrew concluded.
"When I think of that girl of mine----"

"Yes--or any girl," the doctor added.

"You look out for any girl--that's your business; I'll look out for
mine--if I can."

Mrs. Pettigrew's were not the only eyes to scrutinize Morton Elder.
Through the peep-hole in the swing door to the kitchen, Jeanne Jeaune
watched him darkly with one hand on her lean chest.

She kept her watch on whatever went on in that dining-room, and on the
two elderly waitresses whom she had helped Miss Elder to secure when
the house filled up. They were rather painfully unattractive, but
seemed likely to stay where no young and pretty damsel could be
counted on for a year. Morton joked with perseverance about their
looks, and those who were most devoted to Susie seemed to admire his
wit, while Vivian's special admirers found it pointless in the
extreme.

"Your waitresses are the limit, Auntie," he said, "but the cook is all
to the good. Is she a plain cook or a handsome one?"

"Handsome is as handsome does, young man," Mrs. Pettigrew pointedly
replied. "Mrs. Jones is a first-class cook and her looks are neither
here nor there."

"You fill me with curiosity," he replied. "I must go out and make her
acquaintance. I always get solid with the cook; it's worth while."

The face at the peep-hole darkened and turned away with a bitter and
determined look, and Master Theophile was hastened at his work till his
dim intelligence wondered, and then blessed with an unexpected cookie.

Vivian, Morton watched and followed assiduously. She was much changed
from what he remembered--the young, frightened, slender girl he had
kissed under the lilac bushes, a kiss long since forgotten among many.

Perhaps the very number of his subsequent acquaintances during a
varied and not markedly successful career in the newer states made
this type of New England womanhood more marked. Girls he had known of
various sorts, women old and young had been kind to him, for Morton
had the rough good looks and fluent manner which easily find their way
to the good will of many female hearts; but this gentle refinement of
manner and delicate beauty had a novel charm for him.

Sitting by his aunt at meals he studied Vivian opposite, he watched
her in their few quiet evenings together, under the soft lamplight on
Miss Elder's beloved "center table;" and studied her continually in
the stimulating presence of many equally devoted men.

All that was best in him was stirred by her quiet grace, her reserved
friendliness; and the spur of rivalry was by no means wanting. Both
the girls had their full share of masculine attention in that busy
houseful, each having her own particular devotees, and the position of
comforter to the others.

Morton became openly devoted to Vivian, and followed her about, seeking
every occasion to be alone with her, a thing difficult to accomplish.

"I don't ever get a chance to see anything of you," he said. "Come on,
take a walk with me--won't you?"

"You can see me all day, practically," she answered. "It seems to me
that I never saw a man with so little to do."

"Now that's too bad, Vivian! Just because a fellow's out of a job for
a while! It isn't the first time, either; in my business you work
like--like anything, part of the time, and then get laid off. I work
hard enough when I'm at it."

"Do you like it--that kind of work?" the girl asked.

They were sitting in the family parlor, but the big hall was as usual
well occupied, and some one or more of the boarders always eager to come
in. Miss Elder at this moment had departed for special conference with
her cook, and Susie was at the theatre with Jimmie Saunders. Fordham
Greer had asked Vivian, as had Morton also, but she declined both on the
ground that she didn't like that kind of play. Mrs. Pettigrew, being
joked too persistently about her fondness for "long whist," had retired
to her room--but then, her room was divided from the parlor only by a
thin partition and a door with a most inefficacious latch.

"Come over here by the fire," said Morton, "and I'll tell you all
about it."

He seated himself on a sofa, comfortably adjacent to the fireplace,
but Vivian preferred a low rocker.

"I suppose you mean travelling--and selling goods?" he pursued. "Yes,
I like it. There's lots of change--and you meet people. I'd hate to be
shut up in an office."

"But do you--get anywhere with it? Is there any outlook for you?
Anything worth doing?"

"There's a good bit of money to be made, if you mean that; that is, if
a fellow's a good salesman. I'm no slouch myself, when I feel in the
mood. But it's easy come, easy go, you see. And it's uncertain. There
are times like this, with nothing doing."

"I didn't mean money, altogether," said the girl meditatively, "but
the work itself; I don't see any future for you."

Morton was pleased with her interest. Reaching between his knees he
seized the edge of the small sofa and dragged it a little nearer,
quite unconscious that the act was distasteful to her.

Though twenty-five years old, Vivian was extremely young in many ways,
and her introspection had spent itself in tending the inner shrine of
his early image. That ikon was now jarringly displaced by this
insistent presence, and she could not satisfy herself yet as to
whether the change pleased or displeased her. Again and again his
manner antagonized her, but his visible devotion carried an undeniable
appeal, and his voice stirred the deep well of emotion in her heart.

"Look here, Vivian," he said, "you've no idea how it goes through me
to have you speak like that! You see I've been knocking around here
for all this time, and I haven't had a soul to take an interest. A
fellow needs the society of good women--like you."

It is an old appeal, and always reaches the mark. To any women it is a
compliment, and to a young girl, doubly alluring. As she looked at
him, the very things she most disliked, his too free manner, his
coarsened complexion, a certain look about the eyes, suddenly assumed
a new interest as proofs of his loneliness and lack of right
companionship. What Mrs. St. Cloud had told her of the ennobling
influence of a true woman, flashed upon her mind.

"You see, I had no mother," he said simply--"and Aunt Rella spoiled
me--." He looked now like the boy she used to know.

"Of course I ought to have behaved better," he admitted. "I was
ungrateful--I can see it now. But it did seem to me I couldn't stand
that town a day longer!"

She could sympathize with this feeling and showed it.

"Then when a fellow knocks around as I have so long, he gets to where
he doesn't care a hang for anything. Seeing you again makes a lot of
difference, Vivian. I think, perhaps--I could take a new start."

"Oh do! Do!" she said eagerly. "You're young enough, Morton. You can
do anything if you'll make up your mind to it."

"And you'll help me?"

"Of course I'll help you--if I can," said she.

A feeling of sincere remorse for wasted opportunities rose in the
young man's mind; also, in the presence of this pure-eyed girl, a
sense of shame for his previous habits. He walked to the window, his
hands in his pockets, and looked out blankly for a moment.

"A fellow does a lot of things he shouldn't," he began, clearing his
throat; she met him more than half way with the overflowing generosity
of youth and ignorance:

"Never mind what you've done, Morton--you're going to do differently
now! Susie'll be so proud of you--and Aunt Orella!"

"And you?" He turned upon her suddenly.

"Oh--I? Of course! I shall be very proud of my old friend."

She met his eyes bravely, with a lovely look of hope and courage, and
again his heart smote him.

"I hope you will," he said and straightened his broad shoulders
manfully.

"Morton Elder!" cried his aunt, bustling in with deep concern in her
voice, "What's this I hear about you're having a sore throat?"

"Nothing, I hope," said he cheerfully.

"Now, Morton"--Vivian showed new solicitude--"you know you have got a
sore throat; Susie told me."

"Well, I wish she'd hold her tongue," he protested. "It's nothing at
all--be all right in a jiffy. No, I won't take any of your fixings,
Auntie."

"I want Dr. Bellair to look at it anyhow," said his aunt, anxiously.
"She'll know if it's diphtheritic or anything. She's coming in."

"She can just go out again," he said with real annoyance. "If there's
anything I've no use for it's a woman doctor!"

"Oh hush, hush!" cried Vivian, too late.

"Don't apologize," said Dr. Bellair from her doorway. "I'm not in the
least offended. Indeed, I had rather surmised that that was your
attitude; I didn't come in to prescribe, but to find Mrs. Pettigrew."

"Want me?" inquired the old lady from her doorway. "Who's got a sore
throat?"

"Morton has," Vivian explained, "and he won't let Aunt Rella--why
where is she?"

Miss Elder had gone out as suddenly as she had entered.

"Camphor's good for sore throat," Mrs. Pettigrew volunteered. "Three
or four drops on a piece of sugar. Is it the swelled kind, or the kind
that smarts?"

"Oh--Halifax!" exclaimed Morton, disgustedly. "It isn't _any_ kind. I
haven't a sore throat."

"Camphor's good for cold sores; you have one of them anyhow," the old
lady persisted, producing a little bottle and urging it upon Morton.
"Just keep it wet with camphor as often as you think of it, and it'll
go away."

Vivian looked on, interested and sympathetic, but Morton put his hand
to his lip and backed away.

"If you ladies don't stop trying to doctor me, I'll clear out
to-morrow, so there!"

This appalling threat was fortunately unheard by his aunt, who popped
in again at this moment, dragging Dr. Hale with her. Dr. Bellair
smiled quietly to herself.

"I wouldn't tell him what I wanted him for, or he wouldn't have come,
I'm sure--doctors are so funny," said Miss Elder, breathlessly, "but
here he is. Now, Dr. Hale, here's a foolish boy who won't listen to
reason, and I'm real worried about him. I want you to look at his
throat."

Dr. Hale glanced briefly at Morton's angry face.

"The patient seems to be of age, Miss Elder; and, if you'll excuse me,
does not seem to have authorized this call."

"My affectionate family are bound to have me an invalid," Morton
explained. "I'm in imminent danger of hot baths, cold presses, mustard
plasters, aconite, belladonna and quinine--and if I can once reach my
hat--"

He sidled to the door and fled in mock terror.

"Thank you for your good intentions, Miss Elder," Dr. Hale remarked
drily. "You can bring water to the horse, but you can't make him drink
it, you see."

"Now that that young man has gone we might have a game of whist," Mrs.
Pettigrew suggested, looking not ill-pleased.

"For which you do not need me in the least," and Dr. Hale was about to
leave, but Dr. Bellair stopped him.

"Don't be an everlasting Winter woodchuck, Dick! Sit down and play; do
be good. I've got to see old Mrs. Graham yet; she refuses to go to
sleep without it--knowing I'm so near. By by."

Mrs. Pettigrew insisted on playing with Miss Elder, so Vivian had the
questionable pleasure of Dr. Hale as a partner. He was an expert, used
to frequent and scientific play, and by no means patient with the
girl's mistakes.

He made no protest at a lost trick, but explained briefly between
hands what she should have remembered and how the cards lay, till she
grew quite discouraged.

Her game was but mediocre, played only to oblige; and she never could
see why people cared so much about a mere pastime. Pride came to her
rescue at last; the more he criticised, the more determined she grew
to profit by all this advice; but her mind would wander now and then
to Morton, to his young life so largely wasted, it appeared, and to
what hope might lie before him. Could she be the help and stimulus he
seemed to think? How much did he mean by asking her to help him?

"Why waste a thirteenth trump on your partner's thirteenth card?" Dr.
Hale was asking.

She flushed a deep rose color and lifted appealing eyes to him.

"Do forgive me; my mind was elsewhere."

"Will you not invite it to return?" he suggested drily.

He excused himself after a few games, and the girl at last was glad to
have him go. She wanted to be alone with her thoughts.

Mrs. Pettigrew, sitting unaccountably late at her front window,
watched the light burn steadily in the small office at the opposite
corner. Presently she saw a familiar figure slip in there, and, after
a considerable stay, come out quietly, cross the street, and let
himself in at their door.

"Huh!" said Mrs. Pettigrew.



CHAPTER VII.

SIDE LIGHTS.

      High shines the golden shield in front,
          To those who are not blind;
              And clear and bright
              In all men's sight,
          The silver shield behind.

      In breadth and sheen each face is seen;
          How tall it is, how wide;
              But its thinness shows
              To only those
          Who stand on either side.


Theophile wept aloud in the dining-room, nursing one hand in the
other, like a hurt monkey.

Most of the diners had departed, but Professor Toomey and Mr. Cuthbert
still lingered about Miss Susie's corner, to the evident displeasure
of Mr. Saunders, who lingered also.

Miss Susie smiled upon them all; and Mr. Saunders speculated endlessly
as to whether this was due to her general friendliness of disposition,
to an interest in pleasing her aunt's boarders, to personal preference,
or, as he sometimes imagined, to a desire to tease him.

Morton was talking earnestly with Vivian at the other end of the
table, from which the two angular waitresses had some time since
removed the last plate. One of them opened the swing door a crack and
thrust her head in.

"He's burnt his hand," she said, "and his Ma's out. We don't dare go
near him." Both of these damsels professed great terror of the poor
boy, though he was invariably good natured, and as timid as a rabbit.

"Do get the doctor!" cried Susie, nervously; she never felt at ease
with Theophile.

"Dr. Bellair, I fear, is not in her office," Professor Toomey
announced. "We might summon Dr. Hale."

"Nonsense!" said Mr. Cuthbert, rising heavily. "He's a great baby,
that's all. Here! Quit that howling and show me your hand!"

He advanced upon Theophile, who fled toward Vivian. Morton rose in her
defence. "Get out!" he said, "Go back to the kitchen. There's nothing
the matter with you."

"Wait till you get burned, and see if you think it's nothing," Jimmy
Saunders remarked with some acidity. He did not like Mr. Elder. "Come
here youngster, let me see it."

But the boy was afraid of all of them, and cowered in a corner, still
bawling. "Stop your noise," Mr. Cuthbert shouted, "Get out of this, or
I'll put you out."

Vivian rose to her feet. "You will do nothing of the kind. If you, all
of you, will go away, I can quiet Theophile, myself."

Susie went promptly. She had every confidence in her friend's
management. Mr. Cuthbert was sulky, but followed Susie; and Mr.
Saunders, after some hesitation, followed Susie, too.

Morton lingered, distrustful.

"Please go, Morton. I know how to manage him. Just leave us alone,"
Vivian urged.

"You'd better let me put him out, and keep him out, till the old woman
comes back," Morton insisted.

"You mean kindly, I don't doubt, but you're making me very angry,"
said the girl, flushing; and he reluctantly left the room. Professor
Toomey had departed long since, to fulfill his suggestion of calling
Dr. Hale, but when that gentleman appeared, he found that Vivian had
quieted the boy, stayed him with flagons and comforted him with
apples, as it were, and bound up his hand in wet cooking soda.

"It's not a very bad burn," she told the doctor, "but it hurt, and he
was frightened. He is afraid of everybody but his mother, and the men
were cross to him."

"I see," said Dr. Hale, watching Theophile as he munched his apple,
keeping carefully behind Vivian and very near her. "He does not seem
much afraid of you, I notice, and he's used to me. The soda is all
right. Where did you learn first aid to the injured, and how to
handle--persons of limited understanding?"

"The former I studied. The latter comes by nature, I think," replied
the girl, annoyed.

He laughed, rather suddenly. "It's a good quality, often needed in
this world."

"What's all this rumpus?" demanded Grandma, appearing at the door.
"Waking me up out of my nap!" Grandma's smooth, fine, still dark hair,
which she wore in "water waves," was somewhat disarranged, and she
held a little shawl about her.

"Only the household baby, playing with fire," Dr. Hale answered. "Miss
Lane resolved herself into a Red Cross society, and attended to the
wounded. However I think I'll have a look at it now I'm here."

Then was Vivian surprised, and compelled to admiration, to see with
what wise gentleness the big man won the confidence of the frightened
boy, examined the hurt hand, and bound it up again.

"You'll do, all right, won't you Theophile," he said, and offered him
a shining nickel and a lozenge, "Which will you have, old man?"

After some cautious hesitation the boy chose the lozenge, and hastily
applied it where it would do the most good.

"Where's Mrs. Jones all this time?" suddenly demanded Grandma, who had
gone back to her room and fetched forth three fat, pink gumdrops for
the further consolation of the afflicted.

"She had to go out to buy clothes for him, she hardly ever leaves him
you know," Vivian explained. "And the girls out there are so afraid
that they won't take any care of him."

This was true enough, but Vivian did not know that "Mrs. Jones" had
returned and, peering through her favorite peephole, had seen her send
out the others, and attend to the boy's burn with her own hand. Jeanne
Jeaune was not a sentimental person, and judged from her son's easy
consolation that he was little hurt, but she watched the girl's prompt
tenderness with tears in her eyes.

"She regards him, as any other boy;" thought the mother. "His
infirmity, she does not recall it." Dr. Hale had long since won her
approval, and when Theophile at last ran out, eager to share his
gumdrops, he found her busy as usual in the kitchen.

She was a silent woman, professionally civil to the waitresses, but
never cordial. The place pleased her, she was saving money, and she
knew that there must be _some_ waitresses--these were probably no
worse than others. For her unfortunate son she expected little, and
strove to keep him near her so far as possible; but Vivian's real
kindness touched her deeply.

She kept a sharp eye on whatever went on in the dining-room, and what
with the frequent dances and the little groups which used to hang
about the table after meals, or fill a corner of the big room for
quiet chats, she had good opportunities.

Morton's visible devotion she watched with deep disapproval; though
she was not at all certain that her "young lady" was favorably
disposed toward him. She could see and judge the feelings of the men,
these many men who ate and drank and laughed and paid court to both
the girls. Dr. Hale's brusque coldness she accepted, as from a higher
order of being. Susie's gay coquetries were transparent to her; but
Vivian she could not read so well.

The girl's deep conscientiousness, her courtesy and patience with all,
and the gentle way in which she evaded the attentions so persistently
offered, were new to Jeanne's experience. When Morton hung about and
tried always to talk with Vivian exclusively, she saw her listen with
kind attention, but somehow without any of that answering gleam which
made Susie's blue eyes so irresistible.

"She has the lovers, but she has _no_ beauty--to compare with my young
lady!" Jeanne commented inwardly.

If the sad-eyed Jeanne had been of Scotch extraction instead of
French, she might have quoted the explanation of the homely widow of
three husbands when questioned by the good-looking spinster, who
closed her inquiry by saying aggrievedly, "And ye'r na sae bonny."

"It's na the bonny that does it," explained the triple widow, "It's
the come hither i' the een."

Susie's eyes sparkled with the "come hither," but those who came
failed to make any marked progress. She was somewhat more cautious
after the sudden approach and overthrow of Mr. A. Smith; yet more than
one young gentleman boarder found business called him elsewhere, with
marked suddenness; his place eagerly taken by another. The Cottonwoods
had a waiting list, now.

Vivian made friends first, lovers afterward. Then if the love proved
vain, the friendship had a way of lingering. Hers was one of those
involved and over-conscientious characters, keenly sensitive to the
thought of duty and to others, pain. She could not play with hearts
that might be hurt in the handling, nor could she find in herself a
quick and simple response to the appeals made to her; there were so
many things to be considered.

Morton studied her with more intensity than he had ever before devoted
to another human being; his admiration and respect grew with
acquaintance, and all that was best in him rose in response to her
wise, sweet womanliness. He had the background of their childhood's
common experiences and her early sentiment--how much he did not know,
to aid him. Then there was the unknown country of his years of
changeful travel, many tales that he could tell her, many more which
he found he could not.

He pressed his advantage, cautiously, finding the fullest response
when he used the appeal to her uplifting influence. When they talked
in the dining-room the sombre eye at the peephole watched with growing
disapproval. The kitchen was largely left to her and her son by her
fellow workers, on account of their nervous dislike for Theophile, and
she utilized her opportunities.

Vivian had provided the boy with some big bright picture blocks, and
he spent happy hours in matching them on the white scoured table,
while his mother sewed, and watched. He had forgotten his burn by now,
and she sewed contentedly for there was no one talking to her young
lady but Dr. Hale, who lingered unaccountably.

To be sure, Vivian had brought him a plate of cakes from the pantry,
and he seemed to find the little brown things efficiently seductive,
or perhaps it was Grandma who held him, sitting bolt upright in her
usual place, at the head of one table, and asking a series of firm but
friendly questions. This she found the only way of inducing Dr. Hale
to talk at all.

Yes, he was going away--Yes, he would be gone some time--A matter of
weeks, perhaps--He could not say--His boys were all well--He did not
wonder that they saw a good deal of them--It was a good place for them
to come.

"You might come oftener yourself," said Grandma, "and play real whist
with me. These young people play _Bridge_!" She used this word with
angry scorn, as symbol of all degeneracy; and also despised pinochle,
refusing to learn it, though any one could induce her to play bezique.
Some of the more venturous and argumentative, strove to persuade her
that the games were really the same.

"You needn't tell me," Mrs. Pettigrew would say, "I don't want to play
any of your foreign games."

"But, Madam, bezique is not an English word," Professor Toomey had
insisted, on one occasion; to which she had promptly responded,
"Neither is 'bouquet!'"

Dr. Hale shook his head with a smile. He had a very nice smile, even
Vivian admitted that. All the hard lines of his face curved and
melted, and the light came into those deep-set eyes and shone warmly.

"I should enjoy playing whist with you very often, Mrs. Pettigrew; but
a doctor has no time to call his own. And a good game of whist must
not be interrupted by telephones."

"There's Miss Orella!" said Grandma, as the front door was heard to
open. "She's getting to be quite a gadder."

"It does her good, I don't doubt," the doctor gravely remarked, rising
to go. Miss Orella met him in the hall, and bade him good-bye with
regret. "We do not see much of you, doctor; I hope you'll be back soon."

"Why it's only a little trip; you good people act as if I were going
to Alaska," he said, "It makes me feel as if I had a family!"

"Pity you haven't," remarked Grandma with her usual definiteness.
Dykeman stood holding Miss Orella's wrap, with his dry smile. "Good-bye,
Hale," he said. "I'll chaperon your orphan asylum for you. So long."

"Come out into the dining-room," said Miss Orella, after Dr. Hale had
departed. "I know you must be hungry," and Mr. Dykeman did not deny it.
In his quiet middle-aged way, he enjoyed this enlarged family circle as
much as the younger fellows, and he and Mr. Unwin seemed to vie with one
another to convince Miss Orella that life still held charms for her. Mr.
Skee also hovered about her to a considerable extent, but most of his
devotion was bestowed upon damsels of extreme youth.

"Here's one that's hungry, anyhow," remarked Dr. Bellair, coming out
of her office at the moment, with her usual clean and clear-starched
appearance. "I've been at it for eighteen hours, with only bites to
eat. Yes, all over; both doing well."

It was a source of deep self-congratulation to Dr. Bellair to watch
her friend grow young again in the new atmosphere. To Susie it
appeared somewhat preposterous, as her Aunt seems to her mind a
permanently elderly person; while to Mrs. Pettigrew it looked only
natural. "Rella's only a young thing anyway," was her comment. But
Jane Bellair marked and approved the added grace of each new gown, the
blossoming of lace and ribbon, the appearance of long-hoarded bits of
family jewelry, things held "too showy to wear" in Bainville, but
somehow quite appropriate here.

Vivian and Grandma made Miss Orella sit down at her own table head,
and bustled about in the pantry, bringing cheese and crackers, cake
and fruit; but the doctor poked her head through the swing door and
demanded meat.

"I don't want a refection, I want food," she said, and Jeanne
cheerfully brought her a plate of cold beef. She was much attached to
Dr. Bellair, for reasons many and good.

"What I like about this place," said Mrs. Pettigrew, surveying the
scene from the head of her table, "is that there's always something
going on."

"What I like about it," remarked Dr. Bellair, between
well-Fletcherized mouthfuls, "is that people have a chance to grow and
are growing."

"What I like," Mr. Dykeman looked about him, and paused in the middle
of a sentence, as was his wont; "is being beautifully taken care of
and made comfortable--any man likes that."

Miss Orella beamed upon him. Emboldened, he went on: "And what I like
most is the new, delightful"--he was gazing admiringly at her, and she
looked so embarrassed that he concluded with a wide margin of
safety--"friends I'm making."

Miss Orella's rosy flush, which had risen under his steady gaze, ebbed
again to her usual soft pink. Even her coldest critics, in the most
caustic Bainvillian circles, could never deny that she had "a good
complexion." New England, like old England, loves roses on the cheeks,
and our dry Western winds play havoc with them. But Miss Orella's
bloomed brighter than at home.

"It is pleasant," she said softly; "all this coming and going--and the
nice people--who stay." She looked at no one in particular, yet Mr.
Dykeman seemed pleased.

"There's another coming, I guess," remarked Grandma, as a carriage was
heard to stop outside, the gate slammed, and trunk-burdened steps
pounded heavily across the piazza. The bell rang sharply, Mr. Dykeman
opened the door, and the trunk came in first--a huge one, dumped
promptly on the hall floor.

Behind the trunk and the man beneath it entered a lady; slim, elegant,
graceful, in a rich silk dust coat and soft floating veils.

"My dear Miss Elder!" she said, coming forward; "and Vivian! Dear
Vivian! I thought you could put me up, somewhere, and told him to come
right here. O--and please--I haven't a bit of change left in my
purse--will you pay the man?"

"Well, if it isn't Mrs. St. Cloud," said Grandma, without any note of
welcome in her voice.

Mr. Dykeman paid the man; looked at the trunk, and paid him some more.
The man departed swearing softly at nothing in particular, and Mr.
Dykeman departed also to his own room.

Miss Orella's hospitable soul was much exercised. Refuse shelter to an
old acquaintance, a guest, however unexpected, she could not; yet she
had no vacant room. Vivian, flushed and excited, moved anew by her
old attraction, eagerly helped the visitor take off her wraps, Mrs.
Pettigrew standing the while, with her arms folded, in the doorway of
her room, her thin lips drawn to a hard line, as one intending to
repel boarders at any risk to life or limb. Dr. Bellair had returned
to her apartments at the first sound of the visitor's voice.

She, gracious and calm in the midst of confusion, sat in a wreath of
down-dropped silken wrappings, and held Vivian's hand.

"You dear child!" she said, "how well you look! What a charming place
this is. The doctors sent me West for my health; I'm on my way to
California. But when I found the train stopped here--I didn't know
that it did till I saw the name--I had them take my trunk right off,
and here I am! It is such a pleasure to see you all."

"Huh!" said Mrs. Pettigrew, and disappeared completely, closing the
door behind her.

"Anything will do, Miss Elder," the visitor went on. "I shall find a
hall bedroom palatial after a sleeping car; or a garret--anything!
It's only for a few days, you know."

Vivian was restraining herself from hospitable offers by remembering
that her room was also Susie's, and Miss Orella well knew that to give
up hers meant sleeping on a hard, short sofa in that all-too-public
parlor. She was hastily planning in her mind to take Susie in with her
and persuade Mrs. Pettigrew to harbor Vivian, somewhat deterred by
memories of the old lady's expression as she departed, when Mr.
Dykeman appeared at the door, suitcase in hand.

"I promised Hale I'd keep house for those fatherless boys, you know,"
he said. "In the meantime, you're quite welcome to use my room, Miss
Elder." And he departed, her blessing going with him.

More light refreshments were now in order. Mrs. St. Cloud protesting
that she wanted nothing, but finding much to praise in the delicacies
set before her. Several of the other boarders drifted in, always glad
of an extra bite before going to bed. Susie and Mr. Saunders returned
from a walk, Morton reappeared, and Jeanne, peering sharply in,
resentful of this new drain upon her pantry shelves, saw a fair,
sweet-faced woman, seated at ease, eating daintily, while Miss Elder
and Vivian waited upon her, and the men all gathered admiringly about.
Jeanne Jeaune wagged her head. "Ah, ha, Madame!" she muttered softly,
"Such as you I have met before!" Theophile she had long since sent to
bed, remaining up herself to keep an eye on the continued disturbance
in the front of the house. Vivian and Susie brought the dishes out,
and would have washed them or left them till morning for the maids.

"Truly, no," said Jeanne Jeaune; "go you to your beds; I will attend
to these."

One by one she heard them go upstairs, distant movement and soft
dissuasion as two gentlemen insisted on bearing Mrs. St. Cloud's trunk
into her room, receding voices and closing doors. There was no sound
in the dining-room now, but still she waited; the night was not yet
quiet.

Miss Elder and Susie, Vivian also, hovered about, trying to make this
new guest comfortable, in spite of her graceful protests that they
must not concern themselves in the least about her, that she wanted
nothing--absolutely nothing. At last they left her, and still later,
after some brief exchange of surprised comment and warm appreciation
of Mr. Dykeman's thoughtfulness, the family retired. Vivian, when her
long hair was smoothly braided for the night, felt an imperative need
for water.

"Don't you want some, Susie? I'll bring you a glass." But Susie only
huddled the bedclothes about her pretty shoulders and said:

"Don't bring me _anything_, until to-morrow morning!"

So her room-mate stole out softly in her wrapper, remembering that a
pitcher of cool water still stood on one of the tables. The windows to
the street let in a flood of light from a big street lamp, and she
found her way easily, but was a bit startled for a moment to find a
man still sitting there, his head upon his arms.

"Why, Morton," she said; "is that you? What are you sitting up for?
It's awfully late. I'm just after some water." She poured a glassful.
"Don't you want some?"

"No, thank you," he said. "Yes, I will. Give me some, please."

The girl gave him a glass, drank from her own and set it down, turning
to go, but he reached out and caught a flowing sleeve of her kimono.

"Don't go, Vivian! Do sit down and talk to a fellow. I've been trying
to see you for days and days."

"Why, Morton Elder, how absurd! You have certainly seen me every day,
and we've talked hours this very evening. This is no time for
conversation, surely."

"The best time in the world," he assured her. "All the other times there
are people about--dozens--hundreds--swarms! I want to talk to just you."

There were certainly no dozens or hundreds about now, but as certainly
there was one, noting with keen and disapproving interest this
midnight tête-à-tête. It did not last very long, and was harmless and
impersonal enough while it lasted.

Vivian sat for a few moments, listening patiently while the young man
talked of his discouragements, his hopes, his wishes to succeed in
life, to be worthy of her; but when the personal note sounded, when he
tried to take her hand in the semi-darkness, then her New England
conscience sounded also, and she rose to her feet and left him.

"We'll talk about that another time," she said. "Now do be quiet and
do not wake people up."

He stole upstairs, dutifully, and she crept softly back to her room
and got into bed, without eliciting more than a mild grunt from sleepy
Susie. Silence reigned at last in the house. Not for long, however.

At about half past twelve Dr. Bellair was roused from a well-earned
sleep by a light, insistent tap upon her door. She listened,
believing it to be a wind-stirred twig; but no, it was a finger
tap--quiet--repeated. She opened the door upon Jeanne in her
stocking feet.

"Your pardon, Mrs. Doctor," said the visitor, "but it is of importance.
May I speak for a little? No, I'm not ill, and we need not a light."

They sat in the clean little office, the swaying cottonwood boughs
making a changeful pattern on the floor.

"You are a doctor, and you can make an end to it--you must make an end
to it," said Jeanne, after a little hesitation. "This young man--this
nephew--he must not marry my young lady."

"What makes you think he wants to?" asked the doctor.

"I have seen, I have heard--I know," said Jeanne. "You know, all can
see that he loves her. _He!_ Not such as he for my young lady."

"Why do you object to him, Jeanne?"

"He has lived the bad life," said the woman, grimly.

"Most young men are open to criticism," said Dr. Bellair. "Have you
anything definite to tell me--anything that you could _prove_?--if it
were necessary to save her?" She leaned forward, elbows on knees.

Jeanne sat in the flickering shadows, considering her words. "He has
had the sickness," she said at last.

"Can you prove that?"

"I can prove to you, a doctor, that Coralie and Anastasia and
Estelle--they have had it. They are still alive; but not so beautiful."

"Yes; but how can you prove it on him?"

"I know he was with them. Well, it was no secret. I myself have
seen--he was there often."

"How on earth have you managed not to be recognized?" Dr. Bellair
inquired after a few moments.

Jeanne laughed bitterly. "That was eight years ago; he was but a
boy--gay and foolish, with the others. What does a boy know?... Also,
at that time I was blonde, and--of a difference."

"I see," said the doctor, "I see! That's pretty straight. You know
personally of that time, and you know the record of those others. But
that was a long time ago."

"I have heard of him since, many times, in such company," said Jeanne.
They sat in silence for some time. A distant church clock struck a
single deep low note. The woman rose, stood for a hushed moment,
suddenly burst forth with hushed intensity: "You must save her,
doctor--you will! I was young once," she went on. "I did not know--as
she does not. I married, and--_that_ came to me! It made me a devil--for
awhile. Tell her, doctor--if you must; tell her about my boy!"

She went away, weeping silently, and Dr. Bellair sat sternly thinking
in her chair, and fell asleep in it from utter weariness.



CHAPTER VIII.

A MIXTURE.

      In poetry and painting and fiction we see
        Such praise for the Dawn of the Day,
      We've long since been convinced that a sunrise must be
        All Glorious and Golden and Gay.

      But we find there are mornings quite foggy and drear,
        With the clouds in a low-hanging pall;
      Till the grey light of daylight can hardly make clear
        That the sun has arisen at all.


Dr. Richard Hale left his brood of temporary orphans without really
expecting for them any particular oversight from Andrew Dykeman; but
the two were sufficiently close friends to well warrant the latter in
moving over to The Monastery--as Jimmie Saunders called it.

Mr. Dykeman was sufficiently popular with the young men to be welcome,
even if he had not had a good excuse, and when they found how
super-excellent his excuse was they wholly approved.

To accommodate Miss Orella was something--all the boys liked Miss
Orella. They speculated among themselves on her increasing youth and
good looks, and even exchanged sagacious theories as to the particular
acting cause. But when they found that Mr. Dykeman's visit was to make
room for the installation of Mrs. St. Cloud, they were more than
pleased.

All the unexpressed ideals of masculine youth seemed centered in this
palely graceful lady; the low, sweet voice, the delicate hands, the
subtle sympathy of manner, the nameless, quiet charm of dress.

Young Burns became her slave on sight, Lawson and Peters fell on the
second day; not one held out beyond the third. Even Susie's
attractions paled, her very youth became a disadvantage; she lacked
that large considering tenderness.

"Fact is," Mr. Peters informed his friends rather suddenly, "young
women are selfish. Naturally, of course. It takes some experience
to--well, to understand a fellow." They all agreed with him.

Mr. Dykeman, quiet and reserved as always, was gravely polite to the
newcomer, and Mr. Skee revolved at a distance, making observations.
Occasionally he paid some court to her, at which times she was cold to
him; and again he devoted himself to the other ladies with his
impressive air, as of one bowing low and sweeping the floor with a
plumed hat.

Mr. Skee's Stetson had, as a matter of fact, no sign of plumage, and
his bows were of a somewhat jerky order; but his gallantry was
sweeping and impressive, none the less. If he remained too far away
Mrs. St. Cloud would draw him to her circle, which consisted of all
the other gentlemen.

There were two exceptions. Mr. James Saunders had reached the stage
where any woman besides Susie was but a skirted ghost, and Morton was by
this time so deeply devoted to Vivian that he probably would not have
wavered even if left alone. He was not wholly a free agent, however.

Adela St. Cloud had reached an age when something must be done. Her
mysterious absent husband had mysteriously and absently died, and
still she never breathed a word against him. But the Bible Class in
Bainville furnished no satisfactory material for further hopes, the
place of her earlier dwelling seemed not wholly desirable now, and the
West had called her.

Finding herself comfortably placed in Mr. Dykeman's room, and judging
from the number of his shoe-trees and the quality of his remaining
toilet articles that he might be considered "suitable," she decided to
remain in the half-way house for a season. So settled, why, for a
thousand reasons one must keep one's hand in.

There were men in plenty, from twenty year old Archie to the uncertain
decades of Mr. Skee. Idly amusing herself, she questioned that
gentleman indirectly as to his age, drawing from him astounding
memories of the previous century.

When confronted with historic proof that the events he described were
over a hundred years passed, he would apologize, admitting that he had
no memory for dates. She owned one day, with gentle candor, to being
thirty-three.

"That must seem quite old to a man like you, Mr. Skee. I feel very
old sometimes!" She lifted large eyes to him, and drew her filmy scarf
around her shoulders.

"Your memory must be worse than mine, ma'am," he replied, "and work
the same way. You've sure got ten or twenty years added on
superfluous! Now me!" He shook his head; "I don't remember when I was
born at all. And losin' my folks so young, _and_ the family Bible--I
don't expect I ever shall. But I 'low I'm all of ninety-seven."

This being palpably impossible, and as the only local incidents he
could recall in his youth were quite dateless adventures among the
Indians, she gave it up. Why Mr. Skee should have interested her at
all was difficult to say, unless it was the appeal to his
uncertainty--he was at least a game fish, if not edible.

Of the women she met, Susie and Vivian were far the most attractive,
wherefore Mrs. St. Cloud, with subtle sympathy and engaging frankness,
fairly cast Mr. Saunders in Susie's arms, and vice versa, as
opportunity occurred.

Morton she rather snubbed, treated him as a mere boy, told tales of his
childhood that were in no way complimentary--so that he fled from her.

With Vivian she renewed her earlier influence to a great degree.

With some inquiry and more intuition she discovered what it was that
had chilled the girl's affection for her.

"I don't wonder, my dear child," she said; "I never told you of
that--I never speak of it to anyone.... It was one of the--" she
shivered slightly--"darkest griefs of a very dark time.... He was a
beautiful boy.... I never _dreamed_----"

The slow tears rose in her beautiful eyes till they shone like
shimmering stars.

"Heaven send no such tragedy may ever come into your life, dear!"

She reached a tender hand to clasp the girl's. "I am so glad of your
happiness!"

Vivian was silent. As a matter of fact, she was not happy enough to
honestly accept sympathy. Mrs. St. Cloud mistook her attitude, or
seemed to.

"I suppose you still blame me. Many people did. I often blame myself.
One cannot be _too_ careful. It's a terrible responsibility,
Vivian--to have a man love you."

The girl's face grew even more somber. That was one thing which was
troubling her.

"But your life is all before you," pursued the older woman. "Your
dream has come true! How happy--how wonderfully happy you must be!"

"I am not, not _really_," said the girl. "At least----"

"I know--I know; I understand," Mrs. St. Cloud nodded with tender
wisdom. "You are not sure. Is not that it?"

That was distinctly "it," and Vivian so agreed.

"There is no other man?"

"Not the shadow of one!" said the girl firmly. And as her questioner
had studied the field and made up her mind to the same end, she
believed her.

"Then you must not mind this sense of uncertainty. It always happens.
It is part of the morning clouds of maidenhood, my dear--it vanishes
with the sunrise!" And she smiled beatifically.

Then the girl unburdened herself of her perplexities. She could
always express herself so easily to this sympathetic friend.

"There are so many things that I--dislike--about him," she said.
"Habits of speech--of manners. He is not--not what I----"

She paused.

"Not all the Dream! Ah! My dear child, they never are! We are given
these beautiful ideals to guard and guide us; but the real is never
quite the same. But when a man's soul opens to you--when he loves--these
small things vanish. They can be changed--you will change them."

"Yes--he says so," Vivian admitted. "He says that he knows that he
is--unworthy--and has done wrong things. But so have I, for that
matter."

Mrs. St. Cloud agreed with her. "I am glad you feel that, my dear. Men
have their temptations--their vices--and we good women are apt to be
hard on them. But have we no faults? Ah, my dear, I have seen good
women--young girls, like yourself--ruin a man's whole life by--well,
by heartlessness; by lack of understanding. Most young men do things
they become ashamed of when they really love. And in the case of a
motherless boy like this--lonely, away from his home, no good woman's
influence about--what else could we expect? But you can make a new man
of him. A glorious work!"

"That's what he says. I'm not so sure--" The girl hesitated.

"Not sure you can? Oh, my child, it is the most beautiful work on
earth! To see from year to year a strong, noble character grow under
your helping hand! To be the guiding star, the inspiration of a man's
life. To live to hear him say:

      "'Ah, who am I that God should bow
        From heaven to choose a wife for me?
      What have I done He should endow
        My home with thee?'"

There was a silence.

Vivian's dark eyes shone with appreciation for the tender beauty of
the lines, the lovely thought. Then she arose and walked nervously
across the floor, returning presently.

"Mrs. St. Cloud----"

"Call me Adela, my dear."

"Adela--dear Adela--you--you have been married. I have no mother. Tell
me, ought not there to be more--more love? I'm fond of Morton, of
course, and I do want to help him--but surely, if I loved him--I
should feel happier--more sure!"

"The first part of love is often very confusing, my dear. I'll tell
you how it is: just because you are a woman grown and feel your
responsibilities, especially here, where you have so many men friends,
you keep Morton at a distance. Then the external sort of cousinly
affection you have for him rather blinds you to other feelings. But I
have not forgotten--and I'm sure you have not--the memory of that hot,
sweet night so long ago; the world swimming in summer moonlight and
syringa sweetness; the stillness everywhere--and your first kiss!"

Vivian started to her feet. She moved to the window and stood awhile;
came back and kissed her friend warmly, and went away without another
word.

The lady betook herself to her toilet, and spent some time on it, for
there was one of Miss Peeder's classes that night.

Mrs. St. Cloud danced with many, but most with Mr. Dykeman; no woman
in the room had her swimming grace of motion, and yet, with all the
throng of partners about her she had time to see Susie's bright head
bobbing about beneath Mr. Saunders down-bent, happy face, and Vivian,
with her eyes cast down, dancing with Morton, whose gaze never left
her. He was attention itself, he brought her precisely the supper she
liked, found her favorite corner to rest in, took her to sit on the
broad piazza between dances, remained close to her, still talking
earnestly, when all the outsiders had gone.

Vivian found it hard to sleep that night. All that he had said of his
new hope, new power, new courage, bore out Mrs. St. Cloud's bright
promise of a new-built life. And some way, as she had listened and did
not forbid, the touch of his hand, the pressure of his arm, grew
warmer and brought back the memories of that summer night so long ago.

He had begged hard for a kiss before he left her, and she quite had to
tear herself away, as Susie drifted in, also late; and Aunt Orella said
they must all go to bed right away--she was tired if they were not.

She did look tired. This dance seemed somehow less agreeable to her
than had others. She took off her new prettinesses and packed them
away in a box in the lower drawer.

"I'm an old fool!" she said. "Trying to dress up like a girl. I'm
ashamed of myself!" Quite possibly she did not sleep well either, yet
she had no room-mate to keep her awake by babbling on, as Susie did to
Vivian.

Her discourse was first, last and always about Jimmie Saunders. He had
said this, he had looked that, he had done so; and what did Vivian
think he meant? And wasn't he handsome--and _so_ clever!

Little Susie cuddled close and finally dropped off asleep, her arms
around Vivian. But the older girl counted the hours; her head, or her
heart, in a whirl.

Morton Elder was wakeful, too. So much so that he arose with a
whispered expletive, took his shoes in his hand, and let himself
softly out for a tramp in the open.

This was not the first of his love affairs, but with all his hot young
heart he wished it was. He stood still, alone on the high stretches of
moonlit mesa and looked up at the measureless, brilliant spaces above
him.

"I'll keep straight--if I can have her!" he repeated under his breath.
"I will! I will!"

It had never occurred to him before to be ashamed of the various
escapades of his youth. He had done no more than others, many others.
None of "the boys" he associated with intended to do what was wrong;
they were quite harsh in judgment of those who did, according to their
standards. None of them had been made acquainted with the social or
pathological results of their amusements, and the mere "Zutritt ist
Verboten" had never impressed them at all.

But now the gentler influences of his childhood, even the narrow
morality of Bainville, rose in pleasant colors in his mind. He wished
he had saved his money, instead of spending it faster than it came in.
He wished he had kept out of poker and solo and barrooms generally. He
wished, in a dumb, shamed way, that he could come to her as clean as
she was. But he threw his shoulders back and lifted his head
determinedly.

"I'll be good to her," he determined; "I'll make her a good husband."

In the days that followed his devotion was as constant as before, but
more intelligent. His whole manner changed and softened. He began to
read the books she liked, and to talk about them. He was gentler to
everyone, more polite, even to the waitresses, tender and thoughtful
of his aunt and sister. Vivian began to feel a pride in him, and in
her influence, deepening as time passed.

Mrs. Pettigrew, visiting the library on one of her frequent errands,
was encountered there and devotedly escorted home by Mr. Skee.

"That is a most fascinating young lady who has Mr. Dykeman's room;
don't you think so, ma'am?" quoth he.

"I do not," said Mrs. Pettigrew. "Young! She's not so young as you
are--nothing like--never was!"

He threw back his head and laughed his queer laugh, which looked so
uproarious and made so little noise.

"She certainly is a charmer, whatever her age may be," he continued.

"Glad you think so, Mr. Skee. It may be time you lost a fourth!"

"Lost a fourth? What in the--Hesperides!"

"If you can't guess what, you needn't ask me!" said the lady, with
some tartness. "But for my own part I prefer the Apaches. Good
afternoon, Mr. Skee."

She betook herself to her room with unusual promptness, and refused to
be baited forth by any kind of offered amusement.

"It's right thoughtful of Andy Dykeman, gettin' up this entertainment
for Mrs. St. Cloud, isn't it, Mrs. Elder?" Thus Mr. Skee to Miss
Orella a little later.

"I don't think it is Mr. Dykeman's idea at all," she told him. "It's
those boys over there. They are all wild about her, quite naturally."
She gave a little short sigh. "If Dr. Hale were at home I doubt if he
would encourage it."

"I'm pretty sure he wouldn't, Ma'am. He's certainly down on the fair
sex, even such a peacherino as this one. But with Andy, now, it's
different. He is a man of excellent judgment."

"I guess all men's judgment is pretty much alike in some ways," said
Miss Orella, oracularly. She seemed busy and constrained, and Mr. Skee
drifted off and paid court as best he might to Dr. Bellair.

"Charmed to find you at home, Ma'am," he said; "or shall I say at
office?"

"Call it what you like, Mr. Skee; it's been my home for a good many
years now."

"It's a mighty fine thing for a woman, livin' alone, to have a
business, seems to me," remarked the visitor.

"It's a fine thing for any woman, married or single, to my mind," she
answered. "I wish I could get Vivian Lane started in that kindergarten
she talks about."

"There's kids enough, and goodness knows they need a gardener! What's
lackin'? House room?"

"She thinks she's not really competent. She has no regular
certificate, you see. Her parents would never let go of her long
enough," the doctor explained.

"Some parents _are_ pretty graspin', ain't they? To my mind, Miss
Vivian would be a better teacher than lots of the ticketed ones. She's
got the natural love of children."

"Yes, and she has studied a great deal. She just needs an impetus."

"Perhaps if she thought there was 'a call' she might be willing. I
doubt if the families here realize what they're missin'. Aint there
some among your patients who could be stirred up a little?"

The doctor thought there were, and he suggested several names from his
apparently unlimited acquaintance.

"I believe in occupation for the young. It takes up their minds," said
Mr. Skee, and departed with serenity. He strolled over to Dr. Hale's
fence and leaned upon it, watching the preparations. Mr. Dykeman, in
his shirt-sleeves, stood about offering suggestions, while the young
men swarmed here and there with poles and stepladders, hanging Chinese
lanterns.

"Hello, Elmer; come in and make yourself useful," called Mr. Dykeman.

"I'll come in, but I'll be switched if I'll be useful," he replied,
laying a large hand on the fence and vaulting his long legs over it
with an agility amazing in one of his alleged years. "You all are sure
putting yourself out for this occasion. Is it somebody's birthday?"

"No; it's a get-up of these youngsters. They began by wanting Mrs. St.
Cloud to come over to tea--afternoon tea--and now look at this!"

"Did she misunderstand the invitation as bad as that?"

"O, no; just a gradual change of plan. One thing leads to another, you
know. Here, Archie! That bush won't hold the line. Put it on the
willow."

"I see," said Mr. Skee; "and, as we're quotin' proverbs, I might
remark that 'While the cat's away the mice will play.'"

Mr. Dykeman smiled. "It's rather a good joke on Hale, isn't it?"

"Would be if he should happen to come home--and find this hen-party
on." They both chuckled.

"I guess he's good for a week yet," said Mr. Dykeman. "Those medical
associations do a lot of talking. Higher up there, George--a good
deal higher."

He ran over to direct the boys, and Mr. Skee, hands behind him,
strolled up and down the garden, wearing a meditative smile. He and
Andrew Dykeman had been friends for many long years.

Dr. Bellair used her telephone freely after Mr. Skee's departure,
making notes and lists of names. Late in the afternoon she found
Vivian in the hall.

"I don't see much of you these days, Miss Lane," she said.

The girl flushed. Since Mrs. St. Cloud's coming and their renewed
intimacy she had rather avoided the doctor, and that lady had kept
herself conspicuously out of the way.

"Don't call me Miss Lane; I'm Vivian--to my friends."

"I hope you count me a friend?" said Dr. Bellair, gravely.

"I do, Doctor, and I'm proud to. But so many things have been
happening lately," she laughed, a little nervously. "The truth is, I'm
really ashamed to talk to you; I'm so lazy."

"That's exactly what I wanted to speak about. Aren't you ready to
begin that little school of yours?"

"I'd like to--I should, really," said the girl. "But, somehow, I don't
know how to set about it."

"I've been making some inquiries," said the doctor. "There are six or
eight among my patients that you could count on--about a dozen young
ones. How many could you handle?"

"Oh, I oughtn't to have more than twenty in any case. A dozen would be
plenty to begin with. Do you think I _could_ count on them--really?"

"I tell you what I'll do," her friend offered; "I'll take you around
and introduce you to any of them you don't know. Most of 'em come here
to the dances. There's Mrs. Horsford and Mrs. Blake, and that little
Mary Jackson with the twins. You'll find they are mostly friends."

"You are awfully kind," said the girl. "I wish"--her voice took on a
sudden note of intensity--"I do wish I were strong, like you, Dr.
Bellair."

"I wasn't very strong--at your age--my child. I did the weakest of
weak things--"

Vivian was eager to ask her what it was, but a door opened down one
side passage and the doctor quietly disappeared down the other, as
Mrs. St. Cloud came out.

"I thought I heard your voice," she said. "And Miss Elder's, wasn't
it?"

"No; it was Dr. Bellair."

"A strong character, and a fine physician, I understand. I'm sorry she
does not like me."

Mrs. St. Cloud's smile made it seem impossible that anyone should
dislike her.

Vivian could not, however, deny the fact, and was not diplomatic enough
to smooth it over, which her more experienced friend proceeded to do.

"It is temperamental," she said gently. "If we had gone to school
together we would not have been friends. She is strong, downright,
progressive; I am weaker, more sensitive, better able to bear than to
do. You must find her so stimulating."

"Yes," the girl said. "She was talking to me about my school."

"Your school?"

"Didn't you know I meant to have a sort of kindergarten? We planned it
even before starting; but Miss Elder seemed to need me at first, and
since then--things--have happened----"

"And other things will happen, dear child! Quite other and different
things."

The lady's smile was bewitching. Vivian flushed slowly under her gaze.

"Oh, my dear, I watched you dancing together! You don't mind my
noticing, do you?"

Her voice was suddenly tender and respectful. "I do not wish to
intrude, but you are very dear to me. Come into my room--do--and tell
me what to wear to-night."

Mrs. St. Cloud's clothes had always been a delight to Vivian. They
were what she would have liked to wear--and never quite have dared,
under the New England fear of being "too dressy." Her own beauty was
kept trimly neat, like a closed gentian.

Her friend was in the gayest mood. She showed her a trunkful of
delicate garments and gave her a glittering embroidered scarf, which
the girl rapturously admired, but declared she would never have the
courage to wear.

"You shall wear it this very night," declared the lady. "Here--show me
what you've got. You shall be as lovely as you _are_, for once!"

So Vivian brought out her modest wardrobe, and the older woman chose a
gown of white, insisted on shortening the sleeves to fairy wings of
lace, draped the scarf about her white neck, raised the soft,
close-bound hair to a regal crown, and put a shining star in it, and
added a string of pearls on the white throat.

"Look at yourself now, child!" she said.

Vivian looked, in the long depths of Mr. Dykeman's mirror. She knew
that she had beauty, but had never seen herself so brilliantly
attired. Erect, slender, graceful, the long lines of her young body
draped in soft white, and her dark head, crowned and shining, poised
on its white column, rising from the shimmering lace. Her color
deepened as she looked, and added to the picture.

"You shall wear it to-night! You shall!" cried her admiring friend.
"To please me--if no one else!"

Whether to please her or someone else, Vivian consented, the two
arriving rather late at the garden party across the way.

Mr. Dykeman, looking very tall and fine in his evening clothes, was a
cordial host, ably seconded by the eager boys about him.

The place was certainly a credit to their efforts, the bare rooms
being turned to bowers by vines and branches brought from the
mountains, and made fragrant by piled flowers. Lights glimmered
through colored shades among the leaves, and on the dining table young
Peters, who came from Connecticut, had rigged a fountain by means of
some rubber tubing and an auger hole in the floor. This he had made
before Mr. Dykeman caught him, and vowed Dr. Hale would not mind. Mr.
Peters' enjoyment of the evening, however, was a little dampened by
his knowledge of the precarious nature of this arrangement. He danced
attendance on Mrs. St. Cloud, with the others, but wore a preoccupied
expression, and stole in once or twice from the lit paths outside to
make sure that all was running well. It was well to and during supper
time, and the young man was complimented on his ingenuity.

"Reminds me of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon," said Mr. Skee,
sentimentally.

"Why?" asked Mrs. Pettigrew.

"Oh, _why_, Ma'am? How can a fellow say why?" he protested. "Because
it is so--so efflorescent, I suppose."

"Reminds me of a loose faucet," said she, _sotto voce_, to Dr. Bellair.

Mr. Peters beamed triumphantly, but in the very hour of his glory
young Burns, hastening to get a cup of coffee for his fair one,
tripped over the concealed pipe, and the fountain poured forth its
contributions among the feet of the guests.

This was a minor misadventure, however, hurting no one's feeling but
Mr. Peters', and Mrs. St. Cloud was so kind to him in consequence that
he was envied by all the others.

Mr. Dykeman was attentive to his guests, old and young, but Mrs.
Pettigrew had not her usual smile for him; Miss Orella declined to
dance, alleging that she was too tired, and Dr. Bellair somewhat dryly
told him that he need not bother with her. He was hardly to be blamed
if he turned repeatedly to Mrs. St. Cloud, whose tactful sweetness was
always ready. She had her swarm of young admirers about her, yet never
failed to find a place for her host, a smile and a word of
understanding.

Her eyes were everywhere. She watched Mr. Skee waltzing with the
youngest, providing well-chosen refreshments for Miss Orella,
gallantly escorting Grandma to see the "Lovers' Lane" they had made at
the end of the garden. Its twin lines of lights were all outside;
within was grateful shadow.

Mrs. St. Cloud paced through this fragrant arbor with each and every one
of the receiving party, uttering ever-fresh expressions of admiration
and gratitude for their kind thoughtfulness, especially to Mr. Dykeman.

When she saw Susie and Mr. Saunders go in at the farther end, she
constituted herself a sort of protective agency to keep every one else
out, holding them in play with various pleasant arts.

And Vivian? When she arrived there was a little gasp from Morton, who
was waiting for her near the door. She was indeed a sight to make a
lover's heart leap. He had then, as it were, surrounded her. Vainly
did the others ask for dances. Morton had unblushingly filled out a
card with his own name and substituted it for the one she handed him.
She protested, but the music sounded and he whirled her away before
she could expostulate to any avail.

His eyes spoke his admiration, and for once his tongue did not spoil
the impression.

Half laughing and half serious, she let him monopolize her, but quite
drove him away when Mr. Dykeman claimed his dance.

"All filled up!" said Morton for her, showing his card.

"Mine was promised yesterday, was it not, Miss Lane?" said the big man,
smiling. And she went with him. He took her about the garden later,
gravely admiring and attentive, and when Susie fairly rushed into her
arms, begging her to come and talk with her, he left them both in a
small rose-crowned summer-house and went back to Mrs. St. Cloud.

"Oh, Vivian, Vivian! What do you think!" Susie's face was buried on
Vivian's shoulder. "I'm engaged!"

Vivian held her close and kissed her soft hair. Her joyous excitement
was contagious.

"He's the nicest man in the world!" breathed Susie, "and he loves me!"

"We all supposed he did. Didn't you know it before?"

"Oh, yes, in a way; but, Vivian--he kissed me!"

"Well, child, have you never in all your little life been kissed
before?"

Susie lifted a rosy, tearful face for a moment.

"Never, never, never!" she said. "I thought I had, but I haven't! Oh,
I am so happy!"

"What's up?" inquired Morton, appearing with a pink lantern in his
hand, in impatient search for his adored one. "Susie--crying?"

"No, I'm _not_," she said, and ran forthwith back to the house, whence
Jimmy was bringing her ice cream.

Vivian started to follow her.

"Oh, no, Vivian; don't go. Wait." He dropped the lantern and took her
hands. The paper cover flared up, showing her flushed cheeks and
starry eyes. He stamped out the flame, and in the sudden darkness
caught her in his arms.

For a moment she allowed him, turning her head away. He kissed her
white shoulder.

"No! No, Morton--don't! You mustn't!"

She tried to withdraw herself, but he held her fast. She could feel
the pounding of his heart.

"Oh, Vivian, don't say no! You will marry me, won't you? Some day,
when I'm more worth while. Say you will! Some day--if not now. I love
you so; I need you so! Say yes, Vivian."

He was breathing heavily. His arms held her motionless. She still kept
her face turned from him.

"Let me go, Morton; let me go! You hurt me!"

"Say yes, dear, and I'll let you go--for a little while."

"Yes," said Vivian.

The ground jarred beside them, as a tall man jumped the hedge
boundary. He stood a moment, staring.

"Well, is this my house, or Coney Island?" they heard him say. And
then Morton swore softly to himself as Vivian left him and came out.

"Good evening, Dr. Hale," she said, a little breathlessly. "We weren't
expecting you so soon."

"I should judge not," he answered. "What's up, anyhow?"

"The boys--and Mr. Dykeman--are giving a garden party for Mrs. St.
Cloud."

"For whom?"

"For Adela St. Cloud. She is visiting us. Aren't you coming in?"

"Not now," he said, and was gone without another word.



CHAPTER IX.

CONSEQUENCES.

      You may have a fondness for grapes that are green,
      And the sourness that greenness beneath;
                   You may have a right
                   To a colic at night--
      But consider your children's teeth!


Dr. Hale retired from his gaily illuminated grounds in too much
displeasure to consider the question of dignity. One suddenly acting
cause was the news given him by Vivian. The other was the sight of
Morton Elder's face as he struck a match to light his cigarette.

Thus moved, and having entered and left his own grounds like a thief
in the night, he proceeded to tramp in the high-lying outskirts of the
town until every light in his house had gone out. Then he returned,
let himself into his office, and lay there on a lounge until morning.

Vivian had come out so quickly to greet the doctor from obscure
motives. She felt a sudden deep objection to being found there with
Morton, a wish to appear as one walking about unconcernedly, and when
that match glow made Morton's face shine out prominently in the dark
shelter, she, too, felt a sudden displeasure.

Without a word she went swiftly to the house, excused herself to her
Grandmother, who nodded understandingly, and returned to The
Cottonwoods, to her room. She felt that she must be alone and think;
think of that irrevocable word she had uttered, and its consequences.

She sat at her window, rather breathless, watching the rows of pink
lanterns swaying softly on the other side of the street; hearing the
lively music, seeing young couples leave the gate and stroll off
homeward.

Susie's happiness came more vividly to mind than her own. It was so
freshly joyous, so pure, so perfectly at rest. She could not feel that
way, could not tell with decision exactly how she did feel. But if this
was happiness, it was not as she had imagined it. She thought of that
moonlit summer night so long ago, and the memory of its warm wonder
seemed sweeter than the hasty tumult and compulsion of to-night.

She was stirred through and through by Morton's intense emotion, but
with a sort of reaction, a wish to escape. He had been so madly
anxious, he had held her so close; there seemed no other way but to
yield to him--in order to get away.

And then Dr. Hale had jarred the whole situation. She had to be polite
to him, in his own grounds. If only Morton had kept still--that
grating match--his face, bent and puffing, Dr. Hale must have seen
him. And again she thought of little Susie with almost envy. Even
after that young lady had come in, bubbled over with confidences and
raptures, and finally dropped to sleep without Vivian's having been
able to bring herself to return the confidences, she stole back to her
window again to breathe.

Why had Dr. Hale started so at the name of Mrs. St. Cloud? That was
puzzling her more than she cared to admit. By and by she saw his
well-known figure, tall and erect, march by on the other side and go
into the office.

"O, well," she sighed at last, "I'm not young, like Susie. Perhaps it
_is_ like this--"

Now Morton had been in no special need of that cigarette at that
special moment, but he did not wish to seem to hide in the dusky
arbor, nor to emerge lamely as if he had hidden. So he lit the match,
more from habit than anything else. When it was out, and the cigarette
well lighted, he heard the doctor's sudden thump on the other side of
the fence and came out to rejoin Vivian. She was not there.

He did not see her again that night, and his meditations were such
that next day found him, as a lover, far more agreeable to Vivian than
the night before. He showed real understanding, no triumph, no airs of
possession; took no liberties, only said: "When I am good enough I
shall claim you--my darling!" and looked at her with such restrained
longing that she quite warmed to him again.

He held to this attitude, devoted, quietly affectionate; till her
sense of rebellion passed away and her real pleasure in his
improvement reasserted itself. As they read together, if now and then
his arm stole around her waist, he always withdrew it when so
commanded. Still, one cannot put the same severity into a prohibition
too often repeated. The constant, thoughtful attention of a man
experienced in the art of pleasing women, the new and frankly
inexperienced efforts he made to meet her highest thoughts, to learn
and share her preferences, both pleased her.

He was certainly good looking, certainly amusing, certainly had become
a better man from her companionship. She grew to feel a sort of
ownership in this newly arisen character; a sort of pride in it. Then,
she had always been fond of Morton, since the time when he was only
"Susie's big brother." That counted.

Another thing counted, too, counted heavily, though Vivian never
dreamed of it and would have hotly repudiated the charge. She was a
woman of full marriageable age, with all the unused powers of her
woman's nature calling for expression, quite unrecognized.

He was a man who loved her, loved her more deeply than he had ever
loved before, than he had even known he could love; who quite
recognized what called within him and meant to meet the call. And he
was near her every day.

After that one fierce outbreak he held himself well in check. He knew
he had startled her then, almost lost her. And with every hour of
their companionship he felt more and more how much she was to him.
Other women he had pursued, overtaken, left behind. He felt that there
was something in Vivian which was beyond him, giving a stir and lift
of aspiration which he genuinely enjoyed.

Day by day he strove to win her full approval, and day by day he did
not neglect the tiny, slow-lapping waves of little tendernesses, small
affectionate liberties at well-chosen moments, always promptly
withdrawing when forbidden, but always beginning again a little
further on.

Dr. Bellair went to Dr. Hale's office and sat herself down solidly in
the patient's chair.

"Dick," she said, "are you going to stand for this?"

"Stand for what, my esteemed but cryptic fellow-practitioner?"

She eyed his calm, reserved countenance with friendly admiration. "You
are an awfully good fellow, Dick, but dull. At the same time dull and
transparent. Are you going to sit still and let that dangerous patient
of yours marry the finest girl in town?"

"Your admiration for girls is always stronger than mine, Jane; and I
have, if you will pardon the boast, more than one patient."

"All right, Dick--if you want it made perfectly clear to your
understanding. Do you mean to let Morton Elder marry Vivian Lane?"

"What business is it of mine?" he demanded, more than
brusquely--savagely.

"You know what he's got."

"I am a physician, not a detective. And I am not Miss Lane's father,
brother, uncle or guardian."

"Or lover," added Dr. Bellair, eyeing him quietly. She thought she saw a
second's flicker of light in the deep gray eyes, a possible tightening
of set lips. "Suppose you are not," she said; "nor even a humanitarian.
You _are_ a member of society. Do you mean to let a man whom you know
has no right to marry, poison the life of that splendid girl?"

He was quite silent for a moment, but she could see the hand on the
farther arm of his chair grip it till the nails were white.

"How do you know he--wishes to marry her?"

"If you were about like other people, you old hermit, you'd know it as
well as anybody. I think they are on the verge of an engagement, if
they aren't over it already. Once more, Dick, shall you do anything?"

"No," said he. Then, as she did not add a word, he rose and walked up
and down the office in big strides, turning upon her at last.

"You know how I feel about this. It is a matter of honor--professional
honor. You women don't seem to know what the word means. I've told
that good-for-nothing young wreck that he has no right to marry for
years yet, if ever. That is all I can do. I will not betray the
confidence of a patient."

"Not if he had smallpox, or scarlet fever, or the bubonic plague?
Suppose a patient of yours had the leprosy, and wanted to marry your
sister, would you betray his confidence?"

"I might kill my sister," he said, glaring at her. "I refuse to argue
with you."

"Yes, I think you'd better refuse," she said, rising. "And you don't
have to kill Vivian Lane, either. A man's honor always seems to want
to kill a woman to satisfy it. I'm glad I haven't got the feeling.
Well, Dick, I thought I'd give you a chance to come to your senses, a
real good chance. But I won't leave you to the pangs of unavailing
remorse, you poor old goose. That young syphilitic is no patient of
mine." And she marched off to perform a difficult duty.

She was very fond of Vivian. The girl's unselfish sweetness of
character and the depth of courage and power she perceived behind the
sensitive, almost timid exterior, appealed to her. If she had had a
daughter, perhaps she would have been like that. If she had had a
daughter would she not have thanked anyone who would try to save her
from such a danger? From that worse than deadly peril, because of
which she had no daughter.

Dr. Bellair was not the only one who watched Morton's growing devotion
with keen interest. To his aunt it was a constant joy. From the time her
boisterous little nephew had come to rejoice her heart and upset her
immaculate household arrangements, and had played, pleasantly though
tyrannically, with the little girl next door, Miss Orella had dreamed
this romance for him. To have it fail was part of her grief when he left
her, to have it now so visibly coming to completion was a deep delight.

If she had been blind to his faults, she was at least vividly
conscious of the present sudden growth of virtues. She beamed at him
with affectionate pride, and her manner to Mrs. Pettigrew was one of
barely subdued "I told you so." Indeed, she could not restrain herself
altogether, but spoke to that lady with tender triumph of how lovely
it was to have Morton so gentle and nice.

"You never did like the boy, I know, but you must admit that he is
behaving beautifully now."

"I will," said the old lady; "I'll admit it without reservation. He's
behaving beautifully--now. But I'm not going to talk about him--to
you, Orella." So she rolled up her knitting work and marched off.

"Too bad she's so prejudiced and opinionated," said Miss Elder to
Susie, rather warmly. "I'm real fond of Mrs. Pettigrew, but when she
takes a dislike----"

Susie was so happy herself that she seemed to walk in an aura of rosy
light. Her Jimmie was so evidently the incarnation of every masculine
virtue and charm that he lent a reflected lustre to other men, even to
her brother. Because of her love for Jimmie, she loved Morton
better--loved everybody better. To have her only brother marry her
dearest friend was wholly pleasant to Susie.

It was not difficult to wring from Vivian a fair knowledge of how
things stood, for, though reserved by nature, she was utterly unused
to concealing anything, and could not tell an efficient lie if she
wanted to.

"Are you engaged or are you not, you dear old thing?" demanded Susie.

And Vivian admitted that there was "an understanding." But Susie
absolutely must not speak of it.

For a wonder she did not, except to Jimmie. But people seemed to make
up their minds on the subject with miraculous agreement. The general
interest in the manifold successes of Mrs. St. Cloud gave way to this
vivid personal interest, and it was discussed from two sides among
their whole circle of acquaintance.

One side thought that a splendid girl was being wasted, sacrificed,
thrown away, on a disagreeable, good-for-nothing fellow. The other
side thought the "interesting" Mr. Elder might have done better; they
did not know what he could see in her.

They, that vaguely important They, before whom we so deeply bow, were
also much occupied in their mind by speculations concerning Mr.
Dykeman and two Possibilities. One quite patently possible, even
probable, giving rise to the complacent "Why, anybody could see
that!" and the other a fascinatingly impossible Possibility of a sort
which allows the even more complacent "Didn't you? Why, I could see it
from the first."

Mr. Dykeman had been a leading citizen in that new-built town for some
ten years, which constituted him almost the Oldest Inhabitant. He was
reputed to be extremely wealthy, though he never said anything about
it, and neither his clothing nor his cigars reeked of affluence.
Perhaps nomadic chambermaids had spread knowledge of those
silver-backed appurtenances, and the long mirror. Or perhaps it was
not woman's gossip at all, but men's gossip, which has wider base, and
wider circulation, too.

Mr. Dykeman had certainly "paid attentions" to Miss Elder. Miss Elder
had undeniably brightened and blossomed most becomingly under these
attentions. He had danced with her, he had driven with her, he had
played piquet with her when he might have played whist. To be sure, he
did these things with other ladies, and had done them for years past,
but this really looked as if there might be something in it.

Mr. Skee, as Mr. Dykeman's oldest friend, was even questioned a little;
but it was not very much use to question Mr. Skee. His manner was not
repellant, and not in the least reserved. He poured forth floods of
information so voluminous and so varied that the recipient was rather
drowned than fed. So opinions wavered as to Mr. Dykeman's intentions.

Then came this lady of irresistible charm, and the unmarried citizens
of the place fell at her feet as one man. Even the married ones
slanted over a little.

Mr. Dykeman danced with her, more than he had with Miss Elder. Mr.
Dykeman drove with her, more than he had with Miss Elder. Mr. Dykeman
played piquet with her, and chess, which Miss Elder could not play.
And Miss Elder's little opening petals of ribbon and lace curled up
and withered away; while Mrs. St. Cloud's silken efflorescence, softly
waving and jewel-starred, flourished apace.

Dr. Bellair had asked Vivian to take a walk with her; and they sat
together, resting, on a high lonely hill, a few miles out of town.

"It's a great pleasure to see this much of you, Dr. Bellair," said the
girl, feeling really complimented.

"I'm afraid you won't think so, my dear, when you hear what I have to
say: what I _have_ to say."

The girl flushed a little. "Are you going to scold me about something?
Have I done anything wrong?" Her eyes smiled bravely. "Go on, Doctor.
I know it will be for my best good."

"It will indeed, dear child," said the doctor, so earnestly that
Vivian felt a chill of apprehension.

"I am going to talk to you 'as man to man' as the story books say; as
woman to woman. When I was your age I had been married three years."

Vivian was silent, but stole out a soft sympathetic hand and slipped it
into the older woman's. She had heard of this early-made marriage, also
early broken; with various dark comments to which she had paid no
attention.

Dr. Bellair was Dr. Bellair, and she had a reverential affection for
her.

There was a little silence. The Doctor evidently found it hard to
begin. "You love children, don't you, Vivian?"

The girl's eyes kindled, and a heavenly smile broke over her face.
"Better than anything in the world," she said.

"Ever think about them?" asked her friend, her own face whitening as she
spoke. "Think about their lovely little soft helplessness--when you hold
them in your arms and have to do _everything_ for them. Have to go and
turn them over--see that the little ear isn't crumpled--that the covers
are all right. Can't you see 'em, upside down on the bath apron,
grabbing at things, perfectly happy, but prepared to howl when it comes
to dressing? And when they are big enough to love you! Little soft arms
that will hardly go round your neck. Little soft cheeks against yours,
little soft mouths and little soft kisses,--ever think of them?"

The girl's eyes were like stars. She was looking into the future; her
breath came quickly; she sat quite still.

The doctor swallowed hard, and went on. "We mostly don't go much
farther than that at first. It's just the babies we want. But you can
look farther--can follow up, year by year, the lovely changing growing
bodies and minds, the confidence and love between you, the pride you
have as health is established, strength and skill developed, and
character unfolds and deepens.

"Then when they are grown, and sort of catch up, and you have those
splendid young lives about you, intimate strong friends and tender
lovers. And you feel as though you had indeed done something for the
world."

She stopped, saying no more for a little, watching the girl's awed
shining face. Suddenly that face was turned to her, full of exquisite
sympathy, the dark eyes swimming with sudden tears; and two soft eager
arms held her close.

"Oh, Doctor! To care like that and not--!"

"Yes, my dear;" said the doctor, quietly. "And not have any. Not be
able to have any--ever."

Vivian caught her breath with pitying intensity, but her friend went
on.

"Never be able to have a child, because I married a man who had
gonorrhea. In place of happy love, lonely pain. In place of
motherhood, disease. Misery and shame, child. Medicine and surgery,
and never any possibility of any child for me."

The girl was pale with horror. "I--I didn't know--" She tried to say
something, but the doctor burst out impatiently:

"No! You don't know. I didn't know. Girls aren't taught a word of
what's before them till it's too late--not _then_, sometimes! Women
lose every joy in life, every hope, every capacity for service or
pleasure. They go down to their graves without anyone's telling them
the cause of it all."

"That was why you--left him?" asked Vivian presently.

"Yes, I left him. When I found I could not be a mother I determined to
be a doctor, and save other women, if I could." She said this with
such slow, grave emphasis that Vivian turned a sudden startled face to
her, and went white to the lips.

"I may be wrong," the doctor said, "you have not given me your
confidence in this matter. But it is better, a thousand times better,
that I should make this mistake than for you to make that. You must
not marry Morton Elder."

Vivian did not admit nor deny. She still wore that look of horror.

"You think he has--That?"

"I do not know whether he has gonorrhea or not; it takes a long
microscopic analysis to be sure; but there is every practical
assurance that he's had it, and I know he's had syphilis."

If Vivian could have turned paler she would have, then.

"I've heard of--that," she said, shuddering.

"Yes, the other is newer to our knowledge, far commoner, and really
more dangerous. They are two of the most terrible diseases known to
us; highly contagious, and in the case of syphilis, hereditary. Nearly
three-quarters of the men have one or the other, or both."

But Vivian was not listening. Her face was buried in her hands. She
crouched low in agonized weeping.

"Oh, come, come, my dear. Don't take it so hard. There's no harm done
you see, it's not too late."

"Oh, it _is_ too late! It is!" wailed the girl. "I have promised to
marry him."

"I don't care if you were at the altar, child; you _haven't_ married
him, and you mustn't."

"I have given my word!" said the girl dully. She was thinking of
Morton now. Of his handsome face, with it's new expression of
respectful tenderness; of all the hopes they had built together; of
his life, so dependent upon hers for its higher interests.

She turned to the doctor, her lips quivering. "He _loves_ me!" she
said. "I--we--he says I am all that holds him up, that helps him to
make a newer better life. And he has changed so--I can see it! He says
he has loved me, really, since he was seventeen!"

The older sterner face did not relax.

"He told me he had--done wrong. He was honest about it. He said he
wasn't--worthy."

"He isn't," said Dr. Bellair.

"But surely I owe some duty to him. He depends on me. And I have
promised--"

The doctor grew grimmer. "Marriage is for motherhood," she said. "That
is its initial purpose. I suppose you might deliberately forego
motherhood, and undertake a sort of missionary relation to a man, but
that is not marriage."

"He loves me," said the girl with gentle stubbornness. She saw Morton's
eyes, as she had so often seen them lately; full of adoration and manly
patience. She felt his hand, as she had felt it so often lately, holding
hers, stealing about her waist, sometimes bringing her fingers to his
lips for a strong slow kiss which she could not forget for hours.

She raised her head. A new wave of feeling swept over her. She saw a
vista of self-sacrificing devotion, foregoing much, forgiving much,
but rejoicing in the companionship of a noble life, a soul rebuilt, a
love that was passionately grateful. Her eyes met those of her friend
fairly. "And I love him!" she said.

"Will you tell that to your crippled children?" asked Dr. Bellair.
"Will they understand it if they are idiots? Will they see it if they
are blind? Will it satisfy you when they are dead?"

The girl shrank before her.

"You _shall_ understand," said the doctor. "This is no case for
idealism and exalted emotion. Do you want a son like Theophile?"

"I thought you said--they didn't have any."

"Some don't--that is one result. Another result--of gonorrhea--is to
have children born blind. Their eyes may be saved, with care. But it
is not a motherly gift for one's babies--blindness. You may have years
and years of suffering yourself--any or all of those diseases
'peculiar to women' as we used to call them! And we pitied the men who
'were so good to their invalid wives'! You may have any number of
still-born children, year after year. And every little marred dead
face would remind you that you allowed it! And they may be deformed
and twisted, have all manner of terrible and loathsome afflictions,
they and their children after them, if they have any. And many do!
dear girl, don't you see that's wicked?"

Vivian was silent, her two hands wrung together; her whole form
shivering with emotion.

"Don't think that you are 'ruining his life,'" said the doctor kindly.
"He ruined it long ago--poor boy!"

The girl turned quickly at the note of sympathy.

"They don't know either," her friend went on. "What could Miss Orella
do, poor little saint, to protect a lively young fellow like that! All
they have in their scatter-brained heads is 'it's naughty but it's
nice!' And so they rush off and ruin their whole lives--and their
wives'--and their children's. A man don't have to be so very wicked,
either, understand. Just one mis-step may be enough for infection."

"Even if it did break his heart, and yours--even if you both lived
single, he because it is the only decent thing he can do now, you
because of a misguided sense of devotion; that would be better than to
commit this plain sin. Beware of a biological sin, my dear; for it
there is no forgiveness."

She waited a moment and went on, as firmly and steadily as she would
have held the walls of a wound while she placed the stitches.

"If you two love each other so nobly and devotedly that it is higher
and truer and more lasting than the ordinary love of men and women,
you might be 'true' to one another for a lifetime, you see. And all
that friendship can do, exalted influence, noble inspiration--that is
open to you."

Vivian's eyes were wide and shining. She saw a possible future, not
wholly unbearable.

"Has he kissed you yet?" asked the doctor suddenly.

"No," she said. "That is--except----"

"Don't let him. You might catch it. Your friendship must be distant.
Well, shall we be going back? I'm sorry, my dear. I did hate awfully
to do it. But I hated worse to see you go down those awful steps from
which there is no returning."

"Yes," said Vivian. "Thank you. Won't you go on, please? I'll come
later."

An hour the girl sat there, with the clear blue sky above her, the
soft steady wind rustling the leaves, the little birds that hopped and
pecked and flirted their tails so near her motionless figure.

She thought and thought, and through all the tumult of ideas it grew
clearer to her that the doctor was right. She might sacrifice herself.
She had no right to sacrifice her children.

A feeling of unreasoning horror at this sudden outlook into a field of
unknown evil was met by her clear perception that if she was old
enough to marry, to be a mother, she was surely old enough to know
these things; and not only so, but ought to know them.

Shy, sensitive, delicate in feeling as the girl was, she had a fair
and reasoning mind.



CHAPTER X.

DETERMINATION.

      You may shut your eyes with a bandage,
        The while world vanishes soon;
      You may open your eyes at a knothole
        And see the sun and moon.


It must have grieved anyone who cared for Andrew Dykeman, to see Mrs.
St. Cloud's manner toward him change with his changed circumstances--she
had been so much with him, had been so kind to him; kinder than Carston
comment "knew for a fact," but not kinder than it surmised.

Then, though his dress remained as quietly correct, his face assumed a
worn and anxious look, and he no longer offered her long auto rides or
other expensive entertainment. She saw men on the piazza stop talking
as he came by, and shake their heads as they looked after him; but no
one would tell her anything definite till she questioned Mr. Skee.

"I am worried about Mr. Dykeman," she said to this ever-willing
confidant, beckoning him to a chair beside her.

A chair, to the mind of Mr. Skee, seemed to be for pictorial uses,
only valuable as part of the composition. He liked one to stand
beside, to put a foot on, to lean over from behind, arms on the back;
to tip up in front of him as if he needed a barricade; and when he was
persuaded to sit in one, it was either facing the back, cross-saddle
and bent forward, or--and this was the utmost decorum he was able to
approach--tipped backward against the wall.

"He does not look well," said the lady, "you are old friends--do tell
me; if it is anything wherein a woman's sympathy would be of service?"

"I'm afraid not, Ma'am," replied Mr. Skee darkly. "Andy's hard hit in
a worse place than his heart. I wouldn't betray a friend's confidence
for any money, Ma'am; but this is all over town. It'll go hard with
Andy, I'm afraid, at his age."

"Oh, I'm so sorry!" she whispered. "So sorry! But surely with a man of
his abilities it will be only a temporary reverse!--"

"Dunno 'bout the abilities--not in this case. Unless he has ability
enough to discover a mine bigger'n the one he's lost! You see, Ma'am,
it's this way," and he sunk his voice to a confidential rumble. "Andy
had a bang-up mine, galena ore--not gold, you understand, but often
pays better. And he kept on putting the money it made back into it to
make more. Then, all of a sudden, it petered out! No more eggs in that
basket. 'Course he can't sell it--now. And last year he refused half a
million. Andy's sure down on his luck."

"But he will recover! You western men are so wonderful! He will find
another mine!"

"O yes, he _may_! Certainly he _may_, Ma'am. Not that he found this
one--he just bought it."

"Well--he can buy another, there are more, aren't there?"

"Sure there are! There's as good mines in the earth as ever was
salted--that's my motto! But Andy's got no more money to buy any
mines. What he had before he inherited. No, Ma'am," said Mr. Skee,
with a sigh. "I'm afraid its all up with Andy Dykeman financially!"

This he said more audibly; and Miss Elder and Miss Pettigrew, sitting in
their parlor, could not help hearing. Miss Elder gave a little gasp and
clasped her hands tightly, but Miss Pettigrew arose, and came outside.

"What's this about Mr. Dykeman?" she questioned abruptly. "Has he had
losses?"

"There now," said Mr. Skee, remorsefully, "I never meant to give him
away like that. Mrs. Pettigrew, Ma'am, I must beg you not to mention it
further. I was only satisfyin' this lady here, in answer to sympathetic
anxiety, as to what was making Andrew H. Dykeman so down in the mouth.
Yes'm--he's lost every cent he had in the world, or is likely to have.
Of course, among friends, he'll get a job fast enough, bookkeepin', or
something like that--though he's not a brilliant man, Andy isn't. You
needn't to feel worried, Mrs. Pettigrew; he'll draw a salary all right,
to the end of time; but he's out of the game of Hot Finance."

Mrs. Pettigrew regarded the speaker with a scintillating eye. He
returned her look with unflinching seriousness. "Have a chair, Ma'am,"
he said. "Let me bring out your rocker. Sit down and chat with us."

"No, thanks," said the old lady. "It seems to me a little--chilly, out
here. I'll go in."

She went in forthwith, to find Miss Orella furtively wiping her eyes.

"What are you crying about, Orella Elder! Just because a man's lost
his money? That happens to most of 'em now and then."

"Yes, I know--but you heard what he said. Oh, I can't believe it! To
think of his having to be provided for by his friends--and having to
take a small salary--after being so well off! I am so sorry for him!"

Miss Elder's sorrow was increased to intensity by noting Mrs. St.
Cloud's changed attitude. Mr. Dykeman made no complaint, uttered no
protest, gave no confidences; but it soon appeared that he was working
in an office; and furthermore that this position was given him by Mr.
Skee.

That gentleman, though discreetly reticent as to his own affairs, now
appeared in far finer raiment than he had hitherto affected; developed
a pronounced taste in fobs and sleeve buttons; and a striking harmony
in socks and scarfs.

Men talked openly of him; no one seemed to know anything definite, but
all were certain that "Old Skee must have struck it rich."

Mr. Skee kept his own counsel; but became munificent in gifts and
entertainments. He produced two imposing presents for Susie; one a
"betrothal gift," the other a conventional wedding present.

"This is a new one to me," he said when he offered her the first; "but
I understand it's the thing. In fact I'm sure of it--for I've
consulted Mrs. St. Cloud and she helped me to buy 'em."

He consulted Mrs. St. Cloud about a dinner he proposed giving to Mr.
Saunders--"one of these Farewell to Egypt affairs," he said. "Not that
I imagine Jim Saunders ever was much of a--Egyptian--but then----!"

He consulted her also about Vivian--did she not think the girl looked
worn and ill? Wouldn't it be a good thing to send her off for a trip
somewhere?

He consulted her about a library; said he had always wanted a library
of his own, but the public ones were somewhat in his way. How many
books did she think a man ought really to own--to spend his declining
years among. Also, and at considerable length he consulted her about
the best possible place of residence.

"I'm getting to be an old man, Mrs. St. Cloud," he remarked
meditatively; "and I'm thinking of buying and building somewhere. But
it's a ticklish job. Lo! these many years I've been perfectly contented
to live wherever I was at; and now that I'm considering a real
Home--blamed if I know where to put it! I'm distracted between A Model
Farm, and A Metropolitan Residence. Which would you recommend, Ma'am?"

The lady's sympathy and interest warmed to Mr. Skee as they cooled to
Mr. Dykeman, not with any blameworthy or noticeable suddenness, but in
soft graduations, steady and continuous. The one wore his new glories
with an air of modest pride; making no boast of affluence; and the
other accepted that which had befallen him without rebellion.

Miss Orella's tender heart was deeply touched. As fast as Mrs. St.
Cloud gave the cold shoulder to her friend, she extended a warm hand;
when they chatted about Mr. Skee's visible success, she spoke bravely
of the beauty of limited means; and when it was time to present her
weekly bills to the boarders, she left none in Mr. Dykeman's room.
This he took for an oversight at first; but when he found the omission
repeated on the following week, he stood by his window smiling
thoughtfully for some time, and then went in search of Miss Orella.

She sat by her shaded lamp, alone, knitting a silk tie which was
promptly hidden as he entered. He stood by the door looking at her in
spite of her urging him to be seated, observing the warm color in her
face, the graceful lines of her figure, the gentle smile that was so
unfailingly attractive. Then he came forward, calmly inquiring, "Why
haven't you sent me my board bill?"

She lifted her eyes to his, and dropped them, flushing. "I--excuse me;
but I thought----"

"You thought I couldn't conveniently pay it?"

"O please excuse me! I didn't mean to be--to do anything you wouldn't
like. But I did hear that you were--temporarily embarrassed. And I
want you to feel sure, Mr. Dykeman, that to your real friends it makes
no difference in the _least_. And if--for a while that is--it should
be a little more convenient to--to defer payment, please feel
perfectly at liberty to wait!"

She stood there blushing like a girl, her sweet eyes wet with shining
tears that did not fall, full of tender sympathy for his misfortune.

"Have you heard that I've lost all my money?" he asked.

She nodded softly.

"And that I can't ever get it back--shall have to do clerk's work at a
clerk's salary--as long as I live?"

Again she nodded.

He took a step or two back and forth in the quiet parlor, and returned
to her.

"Would you marry a poor man?" he asked in a low tender voice. "Would you
marry a man not young, not clever, not rich, but who loved you dearly?
You are the sweetest woman I ever saw, Orella Elder--will you marry me?"

She came to him, and he drew her close with a long sigh of utter
satisfaction. "Now I am rich indeed," he said softly.

She held him off a little. "Don't talk about being rich. It doesn't
matter. If you like to live here--why this house will keep us both. If
you'd rather have a little one--I can live _so_ happily--on _so_
little! And there is my own little home in Bainville--perhaps you
could find something to do there. I don't care the least in the
world--so long as you love me!"

"I've loved you since I first set eyes on you," he answered her. "To
see the home you've made here for all of us was enough to make any man
love you. But I thought awhile back that I hadn't any chance--you
weren't jealous of that Artificial Fairy, were you?"

And conscientiously Miss Orella lied.

Carston society was pleased, but not surprised at Susie's engagement; it
was both pleased and surprised when Miss Elder's was announced. Some
there were who protested that they had seen it from the beginning; but
disputatious friends taxed them with having prophesied quite otherwise.

Some thought Miss Elder foolish to take up with a man of full middle
age, and with no prospects; and others attributed the foolishness to
Mr. Dykeman, in marrying an old maid. Others again darkly hinted that
he knew which side his bread was buttered--"and first-rate butter,
too." Adding that they "did hate to see a man sit around and let his
wife keep boarders!"

In Bainville circles the event created high commotion. That one of their
accumulated maidens, part of the Virgin Sacrifice of New England, which
finds not even a Minotaur--had thus triumphantly escaped from their
ranks and achieved a husband; this was flatly heretical. The fact that
he was a poor man was the only mitigating circumstance, leaving it open
to the more captious to criticize the lady sharply.

But the calm contentment of Andrew Dykeman's face, and the decorous
bliss of Miss Elder's were untroubled by what anyone thought or said.

Little Susie was delighted, and teased for a double wedding; without
success. "One was enough to attend to, at one time," her aunt replied.

       *       *       *       *       *

In all this atmosphere of wooings and weddings, Vivian walked apart,
as one in a bad dream that could never end. That day when Dr. Bellair
left her on the hill, left her alone in a strange new horrible world,
was still glaring across her consciousness, the end of one life, the
bar to any other. Its small events were as clear to her as those which
stand out so painfully on a day of death; all that led up to the
pleasant walk, when an eager girl mounted the breezy height, and a
sad-faced woman came down from it.

She had waited long and came home slowly, dreading to see a face she
knew, dreading worst of all to see Morton. The boy she had known so
long, the man she was beginning to know, had changed to an
unbelievable horror; and the love which had so lately seemed real to
her recoiled upon her heart with a sense of hopeless shame.

She wished--eagerly, desperately, she wished--she need never see him
again. She thought of the man's resource of running away--if she could
just _go_, go at once, and write to him from somewhere.

Distant Bainville seemed like a haven of safety; even the decorous,
narrow, monotony of its dim life had a new attraction. These terrors
were not in Bainville, surely. Then the sickening thought crept in that
perhaps they were--only they did not know it. Besides, she had no money
to go with. If only she had started that little school sooner! Write to
her father for money she would not. No, she must bear it here.

The world was discolored in the girl's eyes. Love had become a horror
and marriage impossible. She pushed the idea from her, impotently, as
one might push at a lava flow.

In her wide reading she had learned in a vague way of "evil"--a
distant undescribed evil which was in the world, and which must be
avoided. She had known that there was such a thing as "sin," and
abhorred the very thought of it.

Morton's penitential confessions had given no details; she had
pictured him only as being "led astray," as being "fast," even perhaps
"wicked." Wickedness could be forgiven; and she had forgiven him,
royally. But wickedness was one thing, disease was another.
Forgiveness was no cure.

The burden of new knowledge so distressed her that she avoided the
family entirely that evening, avoided Susie, went to her grandmother
and asked if she might come and sleep on the lounge in her room.

"Surely, my child, glad to have you," said Mrs. Pettigrew
affectionately. "Better try my bed--there's room a-plenty."

The girl lay long with those old arms about her, crying quietly. Her
grandmother asked no questions, only patted her softly from time to
time, and said, "There! There!" in a pleasantly soothing manner.
After some time she remarked, "If you want to say things, my dear,
say 'em--anything you please."

In the still darkness they talked long and intimately; and the wise
old head straightened things out somewhat for the younger one.

"Doctors don't realize how people feel about these matters," said Mrs.
Pettigrew. "They are so used to all kinds of ghastly things they forget
that other folks can't stand 'em. She was too hard on you, dearie."

But Vivian defended the doctor. "Oh, no, Grandma. She did
it beautifully. And it hurt her so. She told me about her
own--disappointment."

"Yes, I remember her as a girl, you see. A fine sweet girl she was
too. It was an awful blow--and she took it hard. It has made her
bitter, I think, perhaps; that and the number of similar cases she had
to cope with."

"But, Grandma--is it--_can_ it be as bad as she said? Seventy-five per
cent! Three-quarters of--of everybody!"

"Not everybody dear, thank goodness. Our girls are mostly clean, and
they save the race, I guess."

"I don't even want to _see_ a man again!" said the girl with low
intensity.

"Shouldn't think you would, at first. But, dear child--just brace
yourself and look it fair in the face! The world's no worse than it
was yesterday--just because you know more about it!"

"No," Vivian admitted, "But it's like uncovering a charnel house!" she
shuddered.

"Never saw a charnel house myself," said the old lady, "even with the
lid on. But now see here child; you mustn't feel as if all men were
Unspeakable Villains. They are just ignorant boys--and nobody ever
tells 'em the truth. Nobody used to know it, for that matter. All this
about gonorrhea is quite newly discovered--it has set the doctors all
by the ears. Having women doctors has made a difference too--lots of
difference."

"Besides," she went on after a pause, "things are changing very fast
now, since the general airing began. Dr. Prince Morrow in New York,
with that society of his--(I can never remember the name--makes me
think of tooth brushes) has done much; and the popular magazines have
taken it up. You must have seen some of those articles, Vivian."

"I have," the girl said, "but I couldn't bear to read them--ever."

"That's it!" responded her grandmother, tartly; "we bring up girls to
think it is not proper to know anything about the worst danger before
them. Proper!--Why my dear child, the young girls are precisely the ones
_to_ know! it's no use to tell a woman who has buried all her
children--or wishes she had!--that it was all owing to her ignorance,
and her husband's. You have to know beforehand if it's to do you any
good."

After awhile she continued: "Women are waking up to this all over the
country, now. Nice women, old and young. The women's clubs and
congresses are taking it up, as they should. Some states have passed
laws requiring a medical certificate--a clean bill of health--to go
with a license to marry. You can see that's reasonable! A man has to
be examined to enter the army or navy, even to get his life insured;
Marriage and Parentage are more important than those things! And we
are beginning to teach children and young people what they ought to
know. There's hope for us!"

"But Grandma--it's so awful--about the children."

"Yes dear, yes. It's pretty awful. But don't feel as if we were all on
the brink of perdition. Remember that we've got a whole quarter of the
men to bank on. That's a good many, in this country. We're not so bad
as Europe--not yet--in this line. Then just think of this, child. We
have lived, and done splendid things all these years, even with this
load of disease on us. Think what we can do when we're rid of it! And
that's in the hands of woman, my dear--as soon as we know enough.
Don't be afraid of knowledge. When we all know about this we can stop
it! Think of that. We can religiously rid the world of all
these--'undesirable citizens.'"

"How, Grandma?"

"Easy enough, my dear. By not marrying them."

There was a lasting silence.

Grandma finally went to sleep, making a little soft whistling sound
through her parted lips; but Vivian lay awake for long slow hours.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was one thing to make up her own mind, though not an easy one, by
any means; it was quite another to tell Morton.

He gave her no good opportunity. He did not say again, "Will you marry
me?" So that she could say, "No," and be done with it. He did not even
say, "When will you marry me?" to which she could answer "Never!" He
merely took it for granted that she was going to, and continued to
monopolize her as far as possible, with all pleasant and comfortable
attentions.

She forced the situation even more sharply than she wished, by turning
from him with a shiver when he met her on the stairs one night and
leaned forward as if to kiss her.

He stopped short.

"What is the matter, Vivian--are you ill?"

"No--" She could say nothing further, but tried to pass him.

"Look here--there _is_ something. You've been--different--for several
days. Have I done anything you don't like?"

"Oh, Morton!" His question was so exactly to the point; and so
exquisitely inadequate! He had indeed.

"I care too much for you to let anything stand between us now," he
went on.

"Come, there's no one in the upper hall--come and 'tell me the
worst.'"

"As well now as ever." thought the girl. Yet when they sat on the long
window seat, and he turned his handsome face toward her, with that
newer, better look on it, she could not believe that this awful thing
was true.

"Now then--What is wrong between us?" he said.

She answered only, "I will tell you the worst, Morton. I cannot marry
you--ever."

He whitened to the lips, but asked quietly, "Why?"

"Because you have--Oh, I _cannot_ tell you!"

"I have a right to know, Vivian. You have made a man of me. I love you
with my whole heart. What have I done--that I have not told you?"

Then she recalled his contrite confessions; and contrasted what he had
told her with what he had not; with the unspeakable fate to which he
would have consigned her--and those to come; and a sort of holy rage
rose within her.

"You never told me of the state of your health, Morton."

It was done. She looked to see him fall at her feet in utter
abashment, but he did nothing of the kind. What he did do astonished
her beyond measure. He rose to his feet, with clenched fists.

"Has that damned doctor been giving me away?" he demanded. "Because if
he has I'll kill him!"

"He has not," said Vivian. "Not by the faintest hint, ever. And is
_that_ all you think of?--

"Good-bye."

She rose to leave him, sick at heart.

Then he seemed to realize that she was going; that she meant it.

"Surely, surely!" he cried, "you won't throw me over now! Oh, Vivian!
I told you I had been wild--that I wasn't fit to touch your little
slippers! And I wasn't going to ask you to marry me till I felt sure
this was all done with. All the rest of my life was yours, darling--is
yours. You have made me over--surely you won't leave me now!"

"I must," she said.

He looked at her despairingly. If he lost her he lost not only a
woman, but the hope of a life. Things he had never thought about
before had now grown dear to him; a home, a family, an honorable place
in the world, long years of quiet happiness.

"I can't lose you!" he said. "I _can't_!"

She did not answer, only sat there with a white set face and her hands
tight clenched in her lap.

"Where'd you get this idea anyhow?" he burst out again. "I believe
it's that woman doctor! What does she know!"

"Look here, Morton," said Vivian firmly. "It is not a question of who
told me. The important thing is that it's--true! And I cannot marry
you."

"But Vivian--" he pleaded, trying to restrain the intensity of his
feeling; "men get over these things. They do, really. It's not so
awful as you seem to think. It's very common. And I'm nearly well. I
was going to wait a year or two yet--to make sure--. Vivian! I'd cut
my hand off before I'd hurt you!"

There was real agony in his voice, and her heart smote her; but there
was something besides her heart ruling the girl now.

"I am sorry--I'm very sorry," she said dully. "But I will not marry
you."

"You'll throw me over--just for that! Oh, Vivian don't--you can't. I'm
no worse than other men. It seems so terrible to you just because
you're so pure and white. It's only what they call--wild oats, you
know. Most men do it."

She shook her head.

"And will you punish me--so cruelly--for that? I can't live without
you, Vivian--I won't!"

"It is not a question of punishing you, Morton," she said gently. "Nor
myself. It is not the sin I am considering. It is the consequences!"

He felt a something high and implacable in the gentle girl; something
he had never found in her before. He looked at her with despairing
eyes. Her white grace, her stately little ways, her delicate beauty,
had never seemed so desirable.

"Good God, Vivian. You can't mean it. Give me time. Wait for me. I'll
be straight all the rest of my life--I mean it. I'll be true to you,
absolutely. I'll do anything you say--only don't give me up!"

She felt old, hundreds of years old, and as remote as far mountains.

"It isn't anything you can do--in the rest of your life, my poor boy!
It is what you have done--in the first of it!... Oh, Morton! It isn't
right to let us grow up without knowing! You never would have done it
_if_ you'd known--would you? Can't you--can't we--do something
to--stop this awfulness?"

Her tender heart suffered in the pain she was inflicting, suffered too
in her own loss; for as she faced the thought of final separation she
found that her grief ran back into the far-off years of childhood. But
she had made up her mind with a finality only the more absolute
because it hurt her. Even what he said of possible recovery did not
move her--the very thought of marriage had become impossible.

"I shall never marry," she added, with a shiver; thinking that he
might derive some comfort from the thought; but he replied with a
bitter derisive little laugh. He did not rise to her appeal to "help
the others." So far in life the happiness of Morton Elder had been his
one engrossing care; and now the unhappiness of Morton Elder assumed
even larger proportions.

That bright and hallowed future to which he had been looking forward
so earnestly had been suddenly withdrawn from him; his good
resolutions, his "living straight" for the present, were wasted.

"You women that are so superior," he said, "that'll turn a man down
for things that are over and done with--that he's sorry for and
ashamed of--do you know what you drive a man to! What do you think's
going to become of me if you throw me over!"

He reached out his hands to her in real agony. "Vivian! I love you! I
can't live without you! I can't be good without you! And you love me a
little--don't you?"

She did. She could not deny it. She loved to shut her eyes to the
future, to forgive the past, to come to those outstretched arms and
bury everything beneath that one overwhelming phrase--"I love you!"

But she heard again Dr. Bellair's clear low accusing voice--"Will you
tell that to your crippled children?"

She rose to her feet. "I cannot help it, Morton. I am sorry--you will
not believe how sorry I am! But I will never marry you."

A look of swift despair swept over his face. It seemed to darken
visibly as she watched. An expression of bitter hatred came upon him;
of utter recklessness.

All that the last few months had seemed to bring of higher better
feeling fell from him; and even as she pitied him she thought with a
flicker of fear of how this might have happened--after marriage.

"Oh, well!" he said, rising to his feet. "I wish you could have made
up your mind sooner, that's all. I'll take myself off now."

She reached out her hands to him.

"Morton! Please!--don't go away feeling so hardly! I am--fond of
you--I always was.--Won't you let me help you--to bear it--! Can't we
be--friends?"

Again he laughed that bitter little laugh. "No, Miss Lane," he said. "We
distinctly cannot. This is good-bye--You won't change your mind--again?"

She shook her head in silence, and he left her.



CHAPTER XI.

THEREAFTER.

      If I do right, though heavens fall,
        And end all light and laughter;
      Though black the night and ages long,
        Bitter the cold--the tempest strong--
      If I do right, and brave it all--
        The sun shall rise thereafter!


The inaccessibility of Dr. Hale gave him, in the eye of Mrs. St.
Cloud, all the attractiveness of an unscaled peak to the true mountain
climber. Here was a man, an unattached man, living next door to her,
whom she had not even seen. Her pursuance of what Mr. Skee announced
to his friends to be "one of these Platonic Friendships," did not
falter; neither did her interest in other relations less philosophic.
Mr. Dykeman's precipitate descent from the class of eligibles was more
of a disappointment to her than she would admit even to herself; his
firm, kind friendliness had given a sense of comfort, of achieved
content that her restless spirit missed.

But Dr. Hale, if he had been before inaccessible, had now become so
heavily fortified, so empanoplied in armor offensive and defensive,
that even Mrs. Pettigrew found it difficult to obtain speech with him.

That his best friend, so long supporting him in cheerful bachelorhood,
should have thus late laid down his arms, was bitterly resented. That
Mr. Skee, free lance of years standing, and risen victor from several
"stricken fields," should show signs of capitulation, annoyed him
further. Whether these feelings derived their intensity from another,
which he entirely refused to acknowledge, is matter for the
psychologist, and Dr. Hale avoided all psychologic self-examination.

With the boys he was always a hero. They admired his quiet strength
and the unbroken good nature that was always presented to those about
him, whatever his inner feelings.

Mr. Peters burst forth to the others one day, in tones of impassioned
admiration.

"By George, fellows," he said, "you know how nice Doc was last night?"

"Never saw him when he wasn't," said Archie.

"Don't interrupt Mr. Peters," drawled Percy. "He's on the brink of a
scientific discovery. Strange how these secrets of nature can lie
unrevealed about us so long--and then suddenly burst upon our ken!"

Mr. Peters grinned affably. "That's all right, but I maintain my
assertion; whatever the general attraction of our noble host, you'll
admit that on the special occasion of yesterday evening, which we
celebrated to a late hour by innocent games of cards--he was--as
usual--the soul of--of----"

"Affability?" suggested Percy.

"Precisely!" Peters admitted. "If there is a well-chosen word which
perfectly describes the manner of Dr. Richard Hale--it is affable!
Thank you, sir, thank you. Well, what I wish to announce, so that you
can all of you get down on your knees at once and worship, is that all
last evening he--had a toothache--a bad toothache!"

"My word!" said Archie, and remained silent.

"Oh, come now," Percy protested, "that's against nature. Have a
toothache and not _mention_ it? Not even mention it--without
exaggeration! Why Archimedes couldn't do that! Or--Sandalphon--or any
of them!"

"How'd you learn the facts, my son? Tell us that."

"Heard him on the 'phone making an appointment. 'Yes;' 'since noon
yesterday,' 'yes, pretty severe.' '11:30? You can't make it earlier?
All right.' I'm just mentioning it to convince you fellows that you
don't appreciate your opportunities. There was some exceptional Female
once--they said 'to know her was a liberal education.' What would you
call it to live with Dr. Hale?"

And they called it every fine thing they could think of; for these
boys knew better than anyone else, the effect of that association.

His patients knew him as wise, gentle, efficient, bringing a sense of
hope and assurance by the mere touch of that strong hand; his
professional associates in the town knew him as a good practitioner
and friend, and wider medical circles, readers of his articles in the
professional press had an even higher opinion of his powers.

Yet none of these knew Richard Hale. None saw him sitting late in his
office, the pages of his book unturned, his eyes on the red spaces of
the fire. No one was with him on those night tramps that left but an
hour or two of sleep to the long night, and made that sleep irresistible
from self-enforced fatigue. He had left the associations of his youth
and deliberately selected this far-off mountain town to build the life
he chose; and if he found it unsatisfying no one was the wiser.

His successive relays of boys, young fellows fresh from the East, coming
from year to year and going from year to year as business called them,
could and did give good testimony as to the home side of his character,
however. It was not in nature that they should speculate about him. As
they fell in love and out again with the facility of so many Romeos,
they discoursed among themselves as to his misogyny.

"He certainly has a grouch on women," they would admit. "That's the
one thing you can't talk to him about--shuts up like a clam. Of
course, he'll let you talk about your own feelings and experiences,
but you might as well talk to the side of a hill. I wonder what did
happen to him?"

They made no inquiry, however. It was reported that a minister's wife,
a person of determined character, had had the courage of her
inquisitiveness, and asked him once, "Why is it that you have never
married, Dr. Hale?" And that he had replied, "It is owing to my
dislike of the meddlesomeness of women." He lived his own life,
unquestioned, now more markedly withdrawn than ever, coming no more to
The Cottonwoods.

Even when Morton Elder left, suddenly and without warning, to the
great grief of his aunt and astonishment of his sister, their medical
neighbor still "sulked in his tent"--or at least in his office.

Morton's departure had but one explanation; it must be that Vivian had
refused him, and she did not deny it.

"But why, Vivian, why? He has improved so--it was just getting lovely
to see how nice he was getting. And we all thought you were so happy."
Thus the perplexed Susie. And Vivian found herself utterly unable to
explain to that happy little heart, on the brink of marriage, why she
had refused her brother.

Miss Orella was even harder to satisfy. "It's not as if you were a
foolish changeable young girl, my dear. And you've known Morton all
your life--he was no stranger to you. It breaks my heart, Vivian.
Can't you reconsider?"

The girl shook her head.

"I'm awfully sorry, Miss Orella. Please believe that I did it for the
best--and that it was very hard for me, too."

"But, Vivian! What can be the reason? I don't think you understand
what a beautiful influence you have on the boy. He has improved so,
since he has been here. And he was going to get a position here in
town--he told me so himself--and really settle down. And now he's
_gone_. Just off and away, as he used to be--and I never shall feel
easy about him again."

Miss Orella was frankly crying; and it wrung the girl's heart to know
the pain she was causing; not only to Morton, and to herself, but to
these others.

Susie criticised her with frankness.

"I know you think you are right, Vivian, you always do--you and that
conscience of yours. But I really think you had gone too far to draw
back, Jimmie saw him that night he went away--and he said he looked
awfully. And he really was changed so--beginning to be so thoroughly
nice. Whatever was the matter? I think you ought to tell me, Vivian,
I'm his sister, and--being engaged and all--perhaps I could straighten
it out."

And she was as nearly angry as her sunny nature allowed, when her
friend refused to give any reason, beyond that she thought it right.

Her aunt did not criticise, but pleaded. "It's not too late, I'm sure,
Vivian. A word from you would bring him back in a moment. Do speak it,
Vivian--do! Put your pride in your pocket, child, and don't lose a
lifetime's happiness for some foolish quarrel."

Miss Orella, like Susie, was at present sure that marriage must mean a
lifetime's happiness. And Vivian looked miserably from one to the other
of these loving women-folk, and could not defend herself with the truth.

Mrs. Pettigrew took up the cudgels for her. She was not going to have
her favorite grandchild thus condemned and keep silence. "Anybody'd
think Vivian had married the man and then run away with another one!"
she said tartly. "Pity if a girl can't change her mind before
marrying--she's held down pretty close afterward. An engagement isn't
a wedding, Orella Elder."

"But you don't consider the poor boy's feelings in the least, Mrs.
Pettigrew."

"No, I don't," snapped the old lady. "I consider the poor girl's. I'm
willing to bet as much as you will that his feelings aren't any worse
than hers. If _he'd_ changed his mind and run off and left _her_, I
warrant you two wouldn't have been so hard on him."

Evading this issue, Miss Orella wiped her eyes, and said: "Heaven
knows where he is now. And I'm afraid he won't write--he never did
write much, and now he's just heartbroken. I don't know as I'd have
seen him at all if I hadn't been awake and heard him rushing
downstairs. You've no idea how he suffers."

"I don't see as the girl's to blame that he hadn't decency enough to
say good-bye to the aunt that's been a mother to him; or to write to
her, as he ought to. A person don't need to forget _all_ their duty
because they've got the mitten."

Vivian shrank away from them all. Her heart ached intolerably.
She had not realized how large a part in her life this constant
admiration and attention had become. She missed the outward
agreeableness, and the soft tide of affection, which had risen
more and more warmly about her. From her earliest memories she
had wished for affection--affection deep and continuous, tender
and with full expression. She had been too reserved to show her
feeling, too proud by far to express it, but under that delicate
reticence of hers lay always that deep longing to love and to be
loved wholly.

Susie had been a comfort always, in her kittenish affection and
caressing ways, but Susie was doubly lost, both in her new absorption
and now in this estrangement.

Then, to bring pain to Miss Orella, who had been so kind and sweet to
her from earliest childhood, to hurt her so deeply, now, to mingle in
her cup of happiness this grief and anxiety, made the girl suffer
keenly. Jimmie, of course, was able to comfort Susie. He told her it
was no killing matter anyhow, and that Morton would inevitably console
himself elsewhere. "He'll never wear the willow for any girl, my dear.
Don't you worry about him."

Also, Mr. Dykeman comforted Miss Orella, not only with wise words, but
with his tender sympathy and hopefulness. But no one could comfort
Vivian.

Even Dr. Bellair seemed to her present sensitiveness an alien, cruel
power. She had come like the angel with the flaming sword to stand
between her and what, now that it was gone, began to look like Paradise.

She quite forgot that she had always shrunk from Morton when he made
love too warmly, that she had been far from wholly pleased with him
when he made his appearance there, that their engagement, so far as
they had one, was tentative--"sometime, when I am good enough" not
having arrived. The unreasoning voice of the woman's nature within her
had answered, though but partially, to the deep call of the man's; and
now she missed more than she would admit to herself the tenderness
that was gone.

She had her intervals of sharp withdrawal from the memory of that
tenderness, of deep thanksgiving for her escape; but fear of a danger
only prophesied, does not obliterate memory of joys experienced.

Her grandmother watched her carefully, saying little. She forced no
confidence, made no comment, was not obtrusively affectionate, but
formed a definite decision and conveyed it clearly to Dr. Bellair.

"Look here, Jane Bellair, you've upset Vivian's dish, and quite right;
it's a good thing you did, and I don't know as you could have done it
easier."

"I couldn't have done it harder--that I know of," the doctor answered.
"I'd sooner operate on a baby--without an anæsthetic--than tell a
thing like that--to a girl like that. But it had to be done; and
nobody else would."

"You did perfectly right. I'm thankful enough, I promise you; if you
hadn't I should have had to--and goodness knows what a mess I'd have
made. But look here, the girl's going all to pieces. Now we've got to
do something for her, and do it quick."

"I know that well enough," answered her friend, "and I set about it
even before I made the incision. You've seen that little building
going up on the corner of High and Stone Streets?"

"That pretty little thing with the grass and flowers round it?"

"Yes--they got the flowers growing while the decorators finished
inside. It's a first-rate little kindergarten. I've got a list of
scholars all arranged for, and am going to pop the girl into it so
fast she can't refuse. Not that I think she will."

"Who did it?" demanded Mrs. Pettigrew. "That man Skee?"

"Mr. Skee has had something to do with it," replied the doctor,
guardedly; "but he doesn't want his name mentioned."

"Huh!" said Mrs. Pettigrew.

Vivian made no objection, though she was too listless to take up work
with enthusiasm.

As a prescription nothing could have worked better. Enough small
pupils were collected to pay the rent of the pretty place, and leave a
modest income for her.

Dr. Bellair gathered together the mothers and aunts for a series of
afternoon talks in the convenient building, Vivian assisting, and
roused much interest among them. The loving touch of little hands, the
pleasure of seeing the gay contentment of her well-ordered charges,
began to lighten the girl's heart at last. They grew so fond of her
that the mothers were jealous, but she played with and taught them so
wisely, and the youngsters were so much improved by it, that no parent
withdrew her darling.

Further than that, the new interest, the necessary reading and study,
above all the study hours of occupation acted most beneficently,
slowly, but surely steadying the nerves and comforting the heart.

There is a telling Oriental phrase describing sorrow: "And the whole
world became strait unto him." The sense of final closing down of
life, of a dull, long, narrow path between her and the grave, which
had so oppressed the girl's spirit, now changed rapidly. Here was room
to love at least, and she radiated a happy and unselfish affection
among the little ones. Here was love in return, very sweet and honest,
if shallow. Here was work; something to do, something to think about;
both in her hours with the children and those spent in study. Her work
took her out of the house, too; away from Susie and her aunt, with
their happy chatter and endless white needlework, and the gleeful
examination of presents.

Never before had she known the blessed relief of another place to go to.

When she left The Cottonwoods, as early as possible, and placed her
key in the door of the little gray house sitting among the roses, she
felt a distinct lightening of the heart. This was hers. Not her
father's, not Miss Elder's; not anybody's but hers--as long as she
could earn the rent.

She paid her board, too, in spite of deep and pained remonstrance,
forcing Miss Elder to accept it by the ultimatum "would you rather
make me go away and board somewhere else?" She could not accept favors
where she was condemned.

This, too, gave her a feeling hitherto inexperienced, deep and
inspiring. She began to hold her graceful head insensibly higher, to
walk with a freer step. Life was not ended after all, though Love had
gone. She might not be happy, but she might be useful and independent.

Then Dr. Bellair, who had by quiet friendliness and wise waiting,
regained much of her former place with the girl, asked her to
undertake, as a special favor to her, the care of a class of rather
delicate children and young girls, in physical culture.

"Of course, Johanna Johnson is perfectly reliable and an excellent
teacher. I don't know a better; but their mothers will feel easier if
there's someone they know on the spot. You keep order and see that they
don't overdo. You'll have to go through their little exercises with
them, you see. I can't pay you anything for it; but it's only part of
two afternoons in the week--and it won't hurt you at any rate."

Vivian was more than glad to do something for the doctor, as well as to
extend her friendship among older children; also glad of anything to
further fill her time. To be alone and idle was to think and suffer.

Mrs. Pettigrew came in with Dr. Bellair one afternoon to watch the
exercises.

"I don't see but what Vivian does the tricks as well as any of them,"
said her grandmother.

"She does beautifully," the doctor answered. "And her influence with
the children is just what they needed. You see there's no romping and
foolishness, and she sets the pace--starts them off when they're shy.
I'm extremely obliged to her."

Mrs. Pettigrew watched Vivian's rhythmic movements, her erect carriage
and swinging step, her warm color and sparkling eyes, as she led the
line of happy youngsters and then turned upon the doctor.

"Huh!" she said.

At Susie's wedding, her childhood's friend was so far forgiven as to
be chief bridesmaid, but seeing the happiness before her opened again
the gates of her own pain.

When it was all over, and the glad young things were safely despatched
upon their ribboned way, when all the guests had gone, when Mrs. St.
Cloud felt the need of air and with the ever-gallant Mr. Skee set
forth in search of it, when Dr. Bellair had returned to her patients,
and Miss Orella to her own parlor, and was there consoled by Mr.
Dykeman for the loss of her niece, then Vivian went to her room--all
hers now, looking strangely large and empty--and set down among the
drifts of white tissue paper and scattered pins--alone.

She sank down on the bed, weary and sad at heart, for an hour of full
surrender long refused; meaning for once to let her grief have its
full way with her. But, just as on the night of her hurried engagement
she had been unable to taste to the full the happiness expected, so
now, surrender as she might, she could not feel the intensity of
expected pain.

She was lonely, unquestionably. She faced a lonely life. Six long,
heavy months had passed since she had made her decision.

"I am nearly twenty-seven now," she thought, resignedly. "I shall
never marry," and she felt a little shiver of the horror of last year.

But, having got this far in melancholy contemplation, her mind refused
to dwell upon it, but filled in spite of her with visions of merry
little ones, prancing in wavering circles, and singing their more
wavering songs. She was lonely and a single woman--but she had
something to do; and far more power to do it, more interest,
enthusiasm, and skill, than at the season's beginning.

She thought of Morton--of what little they had heard since his hurried
departure. He had gone farther West; they had heard of him in San
Francisco, they had heard of him, after some months, in the Klondike
region, then they had heard no more. He did not write. It seemed hard to
so deeply hurt his aunt for what was no fault of hers; but Morton had
never considered her feelings very deeply, his bitter anger, his
hopelessness, his desperate disappointment, blinding him to any pain
but his own.

But her thoughts of him failed to rouse any keen distinctive sorrow.
They rambled backward and forward, from the boy who had been such a
trouble to his aunt, such a continuous disappointment and mortification;
to the man whose wooing, looked back upon at this distance, seemed far
less attractive to the memory than it had been at the time. Even his
honest attempt at improvement gave her but a feeling of pity, and though
pity is akin to love it is not always a near relation.

From her unresisting descent into wells of pain, which proved
unexpectedly shallow, the girl arose presently and quietly set to work
arranging the room in its new capacity as hers only.

From black and bitter agony to the gray tastelessness of her present
life was not an exciting change, but Vivian had more power in quiet
endurance than in immediate resistance, and set herself now in earnest
to fulfill the tasks before her.

This was March. She was planning an extension of her classes, the
employment of an assistant. Her work was appreciated, her school
increased. Patiently and steadily she faced her task, and found a
growing comfort in it. When summer came, Dr. Bellair again begged her
to help out in the plan of a girls' camp she was developing.

This was new work for Vivian, but her season in Mrs. Johnson's
gymnastic class had given her a fresh interest in her own body and the
use of it. That stalwart instructress, a large-boned, calm-eyed
Swedish woman, was to be the manager of the camp, and Vivian this
time, with a small salary attached, was to act as assistant.

"It's a wonderful thing the way people take to these camps," said Dr.
Bellair. "They are springing up everywhere. Magnificent for children
and young people."

"It is a wonderful thing to me," observed Mrs. Pettigrew. "You go to a
wild place that costs no rent; you run a summer hotel without any
accommodations; you get a lot of parents to pay handsomely for letting
their children be uncomfortable--and there you are."

"They are not uncomfortable!" protested her friend, a little ruffled.
"They like it. And besides liking it, it's good for them. It's
precisely the roughing it that does them good."

It did do them good; the group of young women and girls who went to
the high-lying mountain lake where Dr. Bellair had bought a piece of
wild, rough country for her own future use, and none of them profited
by it more than Vivian.

She had been, from time to time, to decorous "shore places," where one
could do nothing but swim and lie on the sand; or to the "mountains,"
those trim, green, modest, pretty-picture mountains, of which New
England is so proud; but she had never before been in an untouched
wilderness.

Often in the earliest dawn she would rise from the springy, odorous
bed of balsam boughs and slip out alone for her morning swim. A run
through the pines to a little rocky cape, with a small cave she knew,
and to glide, naked, into that glass-smooth water, warmer than the
sunless air, and swim out softly, silently, making hardly a ripple,
turn on her back and lie there--alone with the sky--this brought
peace to her heart. She felt so free from every tie to earth, so like
a soul in space, floating there with the clean, dark water beneath
her, and the clear, bright heaven above her; and when the pale glow in
the east brightened to saffron, warmed to rose, burst into a level
blaze of gold, the lake laughed in the light, and Vivian laughed, too,
in pure joy of being alive and out in all that glittering beauty.

She tramped the hills with the girls; picked heaping pails of wild
berries, learned to cook in primitive fashion, slept as she had never
slept in her life, from dark to dawn, grew brown and hungry and
cheerful.

After all, twenty-seven was not an old age.

She came back at the summer-end, and Dr. Bellair clapped her warmly on
the shoulder, declaring, "I'm proud of you, Vivian! Simply proud of
you!"

Her grandmother, after a judicious embrace, held her at arm's length
and examined her critically.

"I don't see but what you've stood it first rate," she admitted. "And
if you _like_ that color--why, you certainly are looking well."

She was well, and began her second year of teaching with a serene
spirit.

In all this time of slow rebuilding Vivian would not have been left
comfortless if masculine admiration could have pleased her. The young
men at The Cottonwoods, now undistracted by Susie's gay presence,
concentrated much devotion upon Vivian, as did also the youths across
the way. She turned from them all, gently, but with absolute decision.

Among her most faithful devotees was young Percy Watson, who loved her
almost as much as he loved Dr. Hale, and could never understand, in his
guileless, boyish heart, why neither of them would talk about the other.

They did not forbid his talking, however, and the earnest youth,
sitting in the quiet parlor at The Cottonwoods, would free his heart
to Vivian about how the doctor worked too hard--sat up all hours to
study--didn't give himself any rest--nor any fun.

"He'll break down some time--I tell him so. It's not natural for any
man to work that way, and I don't see any real need of it. He says
he's working on a book--some big medical book, I suppose; but what's
the hurry? I wish you'd have him over here oftener, and make him amuse
himself a little, Miss Vivian."

"Dr. Hale is quite welcome to come at any time--he knows that," said
she.

Again the candid Percy, sitting on the doctor's shadowy piazza, poured
out his devoted admiration for her to his silent host.

"She's the finest woman I ever knew!" the boy would say. "She's so
beautiful and so clever, and so pleasant to everybody. She's
_square_--like a man. And she's kind--like a woman, only kinder; a
sort of motherliness about her. I don't see how she ever lived so long
without being married. I'd marry her in a minute if I was good
enough--and if she'd have me."

Dr. Hale tousled the ears of Balzac, the big, brown dog whose head was
so often on his knee, and said nothing. He had not seen the girl since
that night by the arbor.

Later in the season he learned, perforce, to know her better, and to
admire her more.

Susie's baby came with the new year, and brought danger and anxiety.
They hardly hoped to save the life of the child. The little mother was
long unable to leave her bed. Since her aunt was not there, but gone,
as Mrs. Dykeman, on an extended tour--"part business and part
honeymoon," her husband told her--and since Mrs. Pettigrew now ruled
alone at The Cottonwoods, with every evidence of ability and
enjoyment, Vivian promptly installed herself in the Saunders home, as
general housekeeper and nurse.

She was glad then of her strength, and used it royally, comforting the
wretched Jim, keeping up Susie's spirits, and mothering the frail tiny
baby with exquisite devotion.

Day after day the doctor saw her, sweet and strong and patient,
leaving her school to the assistant, regardless of losses, showing the
virtues he admired most in women.

He made his calls as short as possible; but even so, Vivian could not
but note how his sternness gave way to brusque good cheer for the sick
mother, and to a lovely gentleness with the child.

When that siege was over and the girl returned to her own work, she
carried pleasant pictures in her mind, and began to wonder, as had so
many others, why this man, who seemed so fitted to enjoy a family, had
none.

She missed his daily call, and wondered further why he avoided them
more assiduously than at first.



CHAPTER XII.

ACHIEVEMENTS.

      There are some folk born to beauty,
        And some to plenteous gold,
      Some who are proud of being young,
        Some proud of being old.

      Some who are glad of happy love,
        Enduring, deep and true,
      And some who thoroughly enjoy
        The little things they do.


Upon all this Grandma Pettigrew cast an observant eye, and meditated
sagely thereupon. Coming to a decision, she first took a course of
reading in some of Dr. Bellair's big books, and then developed a
series of perplexing symptoms, not of a too poignant or perilous
nature, that took her to Dr. Hale's office frequently.

"You haven't repudiated Dr. Bellair, have you?" he asked her.

"I have never consulted Jane Bellair as a physician," she replied,
"though I esteem her much as a friend."

The old lady's company was always welcome to him; he liked her
penetrating eye, her close-lipped, sharp remarks, and appreciated the
real kindness of her heart.

If he had known how closely she was peering into the locked recesses
of his own, and how much she saw there, he would perhaps have avoided
her as he did Vivian, and if he had known further that this ingenious
old lady, pursuing long genealogical discussions with him, had finally
unearthed a mutual old-time friend, and had forthwith started a
correspondence with that friend, based on this common acquaintance in
Carston, he might have left that city.

The old-time friend, baited by Mrs. Pettigrew's innocent comment on Dr.
Hale's persistence in single blessedness, poured forth what she knew of
the cause with no more embellishment than time is sure to give.

"I know why he won't marry," wrote she. "He had reason good to begin
with, but I never dreamed he'd be obstinate enough to keep it up
sixteen years. When he was a boy in college here I knew him well--he
was a splendid fellow, one of the very finest. But he fell desperately
in love with that beautiful Mrs. James--don't you remember about her?
She married a St. Cloud later, and he left her, I think. She was as
lovely as a cameo--and as hard and flat. That woman was the saintliest
thing that ever breathed. She wouldn't live with her husband because
he had done something wrong; she wouldn't get a divorce, nor let him,
because that was wicked--and she always had a string of boys round
her, and talked about the moral influence she had on them.

"Young Hale worshipped her--simply worshipped her--and she let him.
She let them all. She had that much that was god-like about her--she
loved incense. You need not ask for particulars. She was far too
'particular' for that. But one light-headed chap went and drowned
himself--that was all hushed up, of course, but some of us felt pretty
sure why. He was a half-brother to Dick Hale, and Dick was awfully
fond of him. Then he turned hard and hateful all at once--used to talk
horrid about women. He kept straight enough--that's easy for a
mysogynist, and studying medicine didn't help him any--doctors and
ministers know too much about women. So there you are. But I'm
astonished to hear he's never gotten over it; he always was
obstinate--it's his only fault. They say he swore never to marry--if
he did, that accounts. Do give my regards if you see him again."

Mrs. Pettigrew considered long and deeply over this information, as she
slowly produced a jersey striped with Roman vividness. It was noticeable
in this new life in Carston that Mrs. Pettigrew's knitted jackets had
grown steadily brighter in hue from month to month. Whereas, in
Bainville, purple and brown were the high lights, and black, slate and
navy blue the main colors; now her worsteds were as a painter's palette,
and the result not only cheered, but bade fair to inebriate.

"A pig-headed man," she said to herself, as her needle prodded
steadily in and out; "a pig-headed man, with a pig-headedness of
sixteen years' standing. His hair must 'a turned gray from the strain
of it. And there's Vivian, biddin' fair to be an old maid after all.
What on _earth_!" She appeared to have forgotten that marriages are
made in heaven, or to disregard that saying. "The Lord helps those
that help themselves," was one of her favorite mottoes. "And much more
those that help other people!" she used to add.

Flitting in and out of Dr. Hale's at all hours, she noted that he had
a fondness for music, with a phenomenal incapacity to produce any. He
encouraged his boys to play on any and every instrument the town
afforded, and to sing, whether they could or not; and seemed never to
weary of their attempts, though far from satisfied with the product.

"Huh!" said Mrs. Pettigrew.

Vivian could play, "Well enough to know better," she said, and seldom
touched the piano. She had a deep, full, contralto voice, and a fair
degree of training. But she would never make music unless she felt
like it--and in this busy life, with so many people about her, she had
always refused.

Grandma meditated.

She selected an evening when most of the boarders were out at some
entertainment, and selfishly begged Vivian to stay at home with
her--said she was feeling badly and wanted company. Grandma so seldom
wanted anything that Vivian readily acquiesced; in fact, she was quite
worried about her, and asked Dr. Bellair if she thought anything was
the matter.

"She has seemed more quiet lately," said that astute lady, "and I've
noticed her going in to Dr. Hale's during office hours. But perhaps
it's only to visit with him."

"Are you in any pain, Grandma?" asked the girl, affectionately.
"You're not sick, are you?"

"O, no--I'm not sick," said the old lady, stoutly. "I'm just--well, I
felt sort of lonesome to-night--perhaps I'm homesick."

As she had never shown the faintest sign of any feeling for their
deserted home, except caustic criticism and unfavorable comparison,
Vivian rather questioned this theory, but she began to think there was
something in it when her grandmother, sitting by the window in the
spring twilight, began to talk of how this time of year always made
her think of her girlhood.

"Time for the March peepers at home. It's early here, and no peepers
anywhere that I've heard. 'Bout this time we'd be going to evening
meeting. Seems as if I could hear that little old organ--and the
singing!"

"Hadn't I better shut that window," asked Vivian. "Won't you get cold?"

"No, indeed," said her grandmother, promptly. "I'm plenty warm--I've
got this little shawl around me. And it's so soft and pleasant out."

It was soft and pleasant, a delicious May-like night in March, full of
spring scents and hints of coming flowers. On the dark piazza across the
way she could make out a still figure sitting alone, and the thump of
Balzac's heel as he struggled with his intimate enemies told her who it
was.

"Come Ye Disconsolate," she began to hum, most erroneously. "How does
that go, Vivian? I was always fond of it, even if I can't sing any
more'n a peacock."

Vivian hummed it and gave the words in a low voice.

"That's good!" said the old lady. "I declare, I'm kinder hungry for
some of those old hymns. I wish you'd play me some of 'em, Vivian."

So Vivian, glad to please her, woke the yellow keys to softer music
than they were accustomed to, and presently her rich, low voice, sure,
easy, full of quiet feeling, flowed out on the soft night air.

Grandma was not long content with the hymns. "I want some of those
old-fashioned songs--you used to know a lot of 'em. Can't you do that
'Kerry Dance' of Molloy's, and 'Twickenham Ferry'--and 'Lauriger
Horatius?'"

Vivian gave her those, and many another, Scotch ballads, English songs
and German Lieder--glad to please her grandmother so easily, and quite
unconscious of a dark figure which had crossed the street and come
silently to sit on the farthest corner of their piazza.

Grandma, meanwhile, watched him, and Vivian as well, and then, with the
most unsuspected suddenness, took to her bed. Sciatica, she said. An
intermittent pain that came upon her so suddenly she couldn't stand up.
She felt much better lying down. And Dr. Hale must attend her
unceasingly.

This unlooked for overthrow of the phenomenally active old lady was a
great blow to Mr. Skee; he showed real concern and begged to be
allowed to see her.

"Why not?" said Mrs. Pettigrew. "It's nothing catching."

She lay, high-pillowed, as stiff and well arranged as a Knight Templar
on a tombstone, arrayed for the occasion in a most decorative little
dressing sack and ribbony night-cap.

"Why, ma'am," said Mr. Skee, "it's highly becomin' to you to be sick.
It leads me to hope it's nothin' serious."

She regarded him enigmatically. "Is Dr. Hale out there, or Vivian?"
she inquired in a low voice.

"No, ma'am--they ain't," he replied, after a glance in the next room.

Then he bent a penetrating eye upon her. She met it unflinchingly, but
as his smile appeared and grew, its limitless widening spread
contagion, and her calm front was broken.

"Elmer Skee," said she, with sudden fury, "you hold your tongue!"

"Ma'am!" he replied, "I have said nothin'--and I don't intend to. But
if the throne of Europe was occupied by you, Mrs. Pettigrew, we would
have a better managed world."

He proved a most agreeable and steady visitor during this period of
confinement, and gave her full accounts of all that went on outside,
with occasional irrelevant bursts of merriment which no rebuke from
Mrs. Pettigrew seemed wholly to check.

He regaled her with accounts of his continuous consultations with Mrs.
St. Cloud, and the wisdom and good taste with which she invariably
advised him.

"Don't you admire a Platonic Friendship, Mrs. Pettigrew?"

"I do not!" said the old lady, sharply. "And what's more I don't
believe you do."

"Well, ma'am," he answered, swaying backward and forward on the hind
legs of his chair, "there are moments when I confess it looks
improbable."

Mrs. Pettigrew cocked her head on one side and turned a gimlet eye
upon him. "Look here, Elmer Skee," she said suddenly, "how much money
have you really got?"

He brought down his chair on four legs and regarded her for a few
moments, his smile widening slowly. "Well, ma'am, if I live through
the necessary expenses involved on my present undertaking, I shall
have about two thousand a year--if rents are steady."

"Which I judge you do not wish to be known?"

"If there's one thing more than another I have always admired in you,
ma'am, it is the excellence of your judgment. In it I have absolute
confidence."

Mrs. St. Cloud had some time since summoned Dr. Hale to her side for a
severe headache, but he had merely sent word that his time was fully
occupied, and recommended Dr. Bellair.

Now, observing Mrs. Pettigrew's tactics, the fair invalid resolved to
take the bull by the horns and go herself to his office. She found him
easily enough. He lifted his eyes as she entered, rose and stood with
folded arms regarding her silently. The tall, heavy figure, the full
beard, the glasses, confused even her excellent memory. After all it was
many years since they had met, and he had been but one of a multitude.

She was all sweetness and gentle apology for forcing herself upon him,
but really she had a little prejudice against women doctors--his
reputation was so great--he was so temptingly near--she was in such
pain--she had such perfect confidence in him--

He sat down quietly and listened, watching her from under his bent
brows. Her eyes were dropped, her voice very weak and appealing; her
words most perfectly chosen.

"I have told you," he said at length, "that I never treat women for
their petty ailments, if I can avoid it."

She shook her head in grieved acceptance, and lifted large eyes for
one of those penetrating sympathetic glances so frequently successful.

"How you must have suffered!" she said.

"I have," he replied grimly. "I have suffered a long time from having
my eyes opened too suddenly to the brainless cruelty of women, Mrs.
James."

She looked at him again, searchingly, and gave a little cry. "Dick
Hale!" she said.

"Yes, Dick Hale. Brother to poor little Joe Medway, whose foolish
young heart you broke, among others; whose death you are responsible
for."

She was looking at him with widening wet eyes. "Ah! If you only knew
how I, too, have suffered over that!" she said. "I was scarce more
than a girl myself, then. I was careless, not heartless. No one knew
what pain I was bearing, then. I liked the admiration of those nice
boys--I never realized any of them would take it seriously. That has
been a heavy shadow on my life, Dr. Hale--the fear that I was the
thoughtless cause of that terrible thing. And you have never forgiven
me. I do not wonder."

He was looking at her in grim silence again, wishing he had not
spoken.

"So that is why you have never been to The Cottonwoods since I came,"
she pursued. "And I am responsible for all your loneliness. O, how
dreadful!"

Again he rose to his feet.

"No, madam, you mistake. You were responsible for my brother's death,
and for a bitter awakening on my part, but you are in no way
responsible for my attitude since. That is wholly due to myself. Allow
me again to recommend Dr. Jane Bellair, an excellent physician and
even more accessible."

He held the door for her, and she went out, not wholly dissatisfied
with her visit. She would have been far more displeased could she have
followed his thoughts afterward.

"What a Consummate Ass I have been all my life!" he was meditating.
"Because I met this particular type of sex parasite, to deliberately
go sour--and forego all chance of happiness. Like a silly girl. A
fool girl who says, 'I will never marry!' just because of some quarrel
* * * But the girl never keeps her word. A man must."

The days were long to Vivian now, and dragged a little, for all her
industry.

Mrs. St. Cloud tried to revive their former intimacy, but the girl could
not renew it on the same basis. She, too, had sympathized with Mr.
Dykeman, and now sympathized somewhat with Mr. Skee. But since that
worthy man still volubly discoursed on Platonism, and his fair friend
openly agreed in this view, there seemed no real ground for distress.

Mrs. Pettigrew remained ailing and rather captious. She had a
telephone put at her bedside, and ran her household affairs
efficiently, with Vivian as lieutenant, and the ever-faithful Jeanne
to uphold the honor of the cuisine. Also she could consult her
physician, and demanded his presence at all hours.

He openly ignored Mrs. St. Cloud now, who met his rude treatment with
secret, uncomplaining patience.

Vivian spoke of this. "I do not see why he need be so rude, Grandma. He
may hate women, but I don't see why he should treat her so shamefully."

"Well, I do," replied the invalid, "and what's more I'm going to show
you; I've always disliked that woman, and now I know why. I'd turn
her out of the house if it wasn't for Elmer Skee. That man's as good
as gold under all his foolishness, and if he can get any satisfaction
out of that meringue he's welcome. Dr. Hale doesn't hate women, child,
but a woman broke his heart once--and then he made an idiot of himself
by vowing never to marry."

She showed her friend's letter, and Vivian read it with rising color.
"O, Grandma! Why that's worse than I ever thought--even after what Dr.
Bellair told us. And it was his brother! No wonder he's so fond of
boys. He tries to warn them, I suppose."

"Yes, and the worst of it is that he's really got over his grouch; and
he's in love--but tied down by that foolish oath, poor man."

"Is he, Grandma? How do you know? With whom?"

"You dear, blind child!" said the old lady, "with you, of course. Has
been ever since we came."

The girl sat silent, a strange feeling of joy rising in her heart, as
she reviewed the events of the last two years. So that was why he
would not stay that night. And that was why. "No wonder he wouldn't
come here!" she said at length. "It's on account of that woman. But
why did he change?"

"Because she went over there to see him. He wouldn't come to her. I
heard her 'phone to him one evening." The old lady chuckled. "So she
marched herself over there--I saw her, and I guess she got her
needin's. She didn't stay long. And his light burned till morning."

"Do you think he cares for her, still?"

"Cares for her!" The old lady fairly snorted her derision. "He can't
bear the sight of her--treats her as if she wasn't there. No, indeed.
If he did she'd have him fast enough, now. Well! I suppose he'll
repent of that foolishness of his all the days of his life--and stick
it out! Poor man."

Mrs. Pettigrew sighed, and Vivian echoed the sigh. She began to
observe Dr. Hale with new eyes; to study little matters of tone and
manner--and could not deny her grandmother's statement. Nor would she
admit it--yet.

The old lady seemed weaker and more irritable, but positively forbade
any word of this being sent to her family.

"There's nothing on earth ails me," she said. "Dr. Hale says there's
not a thing the matter that he can see--that if I'd only eat more I'd
get stronger. I'll be all right soon, my dear. I'll get my appetite
and get well, I have faith to believe."

She insisted on his coming over in the evening, when not too busy, and
staying till she dropped asleep, and he seemed strangely willing to
humor her; sitting for hours in the quiet parlor, while Vivian played
softly, and sang her low-toned hymns.

So sitting, one still evening, when for some time no fretful "not so
loud" had come from the next room, he turned suddenly to Vivian and
asked, almost roughly--"Do you hold a promise binding?--an oath, a
vow--to oneself?"

She met his eyes, saw the deep pain there, the long combat, the
irrepressible hope and longing.

"Did you swear to keep your oath secret?" she asked.

"Why, no," he said, "I did not. I will tell you. I did not swear never
to tell a woman I loved her. I never dreamed I should love again.
Vivian, I was fool enough to love a shallow, cruel woman, once, and
nearly broke my heart in consequence. That was long years ago. I have
never cared for a woman since--till I met you. And now I must pay
double for that boy folly."

He came to her and took her hand.

"I love you," he said, his tense grip hurting her. "I shall love you as
long as I live--day and night--forever! You shall know that at any
rate!"

She could not raise her eyes. A rich bright color rose to the soft
border of her hair. He caught her face in his hands and made her look
at him; saw those dark, brilliant eyes softened, tear-filled, asking,
and turned sharply away with a muffled cry.

"I have taken a solemn oath," he said in a strained, hard voice,
"never to ask a woman to marry me."

He heard a little gasping laugh, and turned upon her. She stood there
smiling, her hands reached out to him.

"You don't have to," she said.

       *       *       *       *       *

A long time later, upon their happy stillness broke a faint voice from
the other room:

"Vivian, I think if you'd bring me some bread and butter--and a cup of
tea--and some cold beef and a piece of pie--I could eat it."

       *       *       *       *       *

Upon the rapid and complete recovery of her grandmother's health, and
the announcement of Vivian's engagement, Mr. and Mrs. Lane decided to
make a visit to their distant mother and daughter, hoping as well that
Mr. Lane's cough might be better for a visit in that altitude. Mr. and
Mrs. Dykeman also sent word of their immediate return.

Jeanne, using subtle powers of suggestion, caused Mrs. Pettigrew to
decide upon giving a dinner, in honor of these events. There was the
betrothed couple, there were the honored guests; there were Jimmie and
Susie, with or without the baby; there were the Dykemans; there was
Dr. Bellair, of course; there was Mr. Skee, an even number.

"I'm sorry to spoil that table, but I've got to take in Mrs. St.
Cloud," said the old lady.

"O, Grandma! Why! It'll spoil it for Dick."

"Huh!" said her grandmother. "He's so happy you couldn't spoil it with
a mummy. If I don't ask her it'll spoil it for Mr. Skee."

So Mrs. St. Cloud made an eleventh at the feast, and neither Mr.
Dykeman nor Vivian could find it in their happy hearts to care.

Mr. Skee arose, looking unusually tall and shapely in immaculate
every-day dress, his well-brushed hair curling vigorously around the
little bald spots; his smile wide and benevolent.

"Ladies and Gentlemen, both Domestic and Foreign, Friends and
Fellowtownsmen and Women--Ladies, God Bless 'em; also Children, if
any: I feel friendly enough to-night to include the beasts of the
fields--but such would be inappropriate at this convivial board--among
these convivial boarders.

"This is an occasion of great rejoicing. We have many things to
rejoice over, both great _and_ small. We have our healths; all of us,
apparently. We are experiencing the joys of reunion--in the matter of
visiting parents that is, and long absent daughters.

"We have also the Return of the Native, in the shape of my old friend
Andy--now become a Benedict--and seeming to enjoy it. About this same
Andy I have a piece of news to give you which will cause you
astonishment and gratification, but which involves me in a profuse
apology--a most sincere and general apology.

"You know how a year or more ago it was put about in this town that
Andrew Dykeman was a ruined man?" Mrs. St. Cloud darted a swift glance
at Mr. Dykeman, but his eyes rested calmly on his wife; then at Mr.
Skee--but he was pursuing his remorseful way.

"I do not wish to blame my friend Andy for his reticence--but he
certainly did exhibit reticence on this occasion--to beat the band! He
never contradicted this rumor--not once. _He_ just went about looking
kind o' down in the mouth for some reason or other, and when for the
sake o' Auld Lang Syne I offered him a job in my office--the cuss took
it! I won't call this deceitful, but it sure was reticent to a degree.

"Well, Ladies--and Gentlemen--the best of us are liable to mistakes,
and I have to admit--I am glad to humble myself and make this public
admission--I was entirely in error in this matter.

"It wasn't so. There was nothing in it. It was rumor, pure and simple.
Andy Dykeman never lost no mine, it appears; or else he had another up
his sleeve concealed from his best friends. Anyhow, the facts are
these; not only that A. Dykeman as he sits before you is a prosperous
and wealthy citizen, but that he has been, for these ten years back,
and we were all misled by a mixture of rumor and reticence. If he has
concealed these facts from the wife of his bosom I submit that that is
carrying reticence too far!" Again Mrs. St. Cloud sent a swift glance
at the reticent one, and again caught only his tender apologetic look
toward his wife, and her utter amazement.

Mr. Dykeman rose to his feet.

"I make no apologies for interrupting my friend," he said. "It is
necessary at times. He at least can never be accused of reticence.
Neither do I make apologies for letting rumor take its course--a
course often interesting to observe. But I do apologize--in this
heartfelt and public manner, to my wife, for marrying her under false
pretenses. But any of you gentlemen who have ever had any experience
in the attitude of," he hesitated mercifully, and said, "the World,
toward a man with money, may understand what it meant to me, after
many years of bachelorhood, to find a heart that not only loved me for
myself alone, but absolutely loved me better because I'd lost my
money--or she thought I had. I have hated to break the charm. But now
my unreticent friend here has stated the facts, and I make my
confession. Will you forgive me, Orella?"

"Speech! Speech!" cried Mr. Skee. But Mrs. Dykeman could not be
persuaded to do anything but blush and smile and squeeze her husband's
hand under the table, and Mr. Skee arose once more.

"This revelation being accomplished," he continued cheerfully; "and no
one any the worse for it, as I see," he was not looking in the
direction of Mrs. St. Cloud, whose slippered foot beat softly under
the table, though her face wore its usual sweet expression, possibly a
trifle strained; "I now proceed to a proclamation of that happy event
to celebrate which we are here gathered together. I allude to the
Betrothal of Our Esteemed Friend, Dr. Richard Hale, and the Fairest of
the Fair! Regarding the Fair, we think he has chosen well. But
regarding Dick Hale, his good fortune is so clear, so evidently
undeserved, and his pride and enjoyment thereof so ostentatious, as to
leave us some leeway to make remarks.

"Natural remarks, irresistible remarks, as you might say, and not
intended to be acrimonious. Namely, such as these: It's a long lane
that has no turning; There's many a slip 'twixt the cup and the lip;
The worm will turn; The pitcher that goes too often to the well gets
broken at last; Better Late than Never. And so on and so forth. Any
other gentleman like to make remarks on this topic?"

Dr. Hale rose, towering to his feet.

"I think I'd better make them," he said. "No one else could so fully,
so heartily, with such perfect knowledge point out how many kinds of a
fool I've been for all these years. And yet of them all there are only
two that I regret--this last two in which if I had been wiser, perhaps
I might have found my happiness sooner. As that cannot be proven,
however, I will content myself with the general acknowledgment that
Bachelors are Misguided Bats, I myself having long been the worst
instance; women, in general, are to be loved and honored; and that I
am proud and glad to accept your congratulations because the sweetest
and noblest woman in the world has honored me with her love."

"I never dreamed you could put so many words together, Doc--and really
make sense!" said Mr. Skee, genially, as he rose once more. "You
certainly show a proper spirit at last, and all is forgiven. But now,
my friends; now if your attention is not exhausted, I have yet another
Event to confide to you."

Mr. and Mrs. Lane wore an aspect of polite interest. Susie and Jim
looked at each other with a sad but resigned expression. So did Mrs.
Dykeman and her husband. Vivian's hand was in her lover's and she
could not look unhappy, but they, too, deprecated this last
announcement, only too well anticipated. Only Mrs. St. Cloud, her fair
face bowed in gentle confusion, showed anticipating pleasure.

Mr. Skee waved his hand toward her with a large and graceful gesture.

"You must all of you have noticed the amount of Platonic Friendship
which has been going on for some time between my undeserving self and
this lovely lady here. Among so many lovely ladies perhaps I'd better
specify that I refer to the one on my left.

"What she has been to me, in my lonely old age, none of you perhaps
realize." He wore an expression as of one long exiled, knowing no one
who could speak his language.

"She has been my guide, counsellor and friend; she has assisted me
with advice most wise and judicious; she has not interfered with my
habits, but has allowed me to enjoy life in my own way, with the
added attraction of her companionship.

"Now, I dare say, there may have been some of you who have questioned
my assertion that this friendship was purely Platonic. Perhaps even
the lady herself, knowing the heart of man, may have doubted if my
feeling toward her was really friendship."

Mr. Skee turned his head a little to one side and regarded her with a
tender inquiring smile.

To this she responded sweetly: "Why no, Mr. Skee, of course, I
believed what you said."

"There, now," said he, admiringly. "What is so noble as the soul of
woman? It is to this noble soul in particular, and to all my friends
here in general, that I now confide the crowning glory of a long and
checkered career, namely, and to wit, that I am engaged to be married
to that Peerless Lady, Mrs. Servilla Pettigrew, of whose remarkable
capacities and achievements I can never sufficiently express my
admiration."

A silence fell upon the table. Mr. Skee sat down smiling, evidently in
cheerful expectation of congratulations. Mrs. Pettigrew wore an alert
expression, as of a skilled fencer preparing to turn any offered
thrusts. Mrs. St. Cloud seemed to be struggling with some emotion,
which shook her usual sweet serenity. The others, too, were visibly
affected, and not quick to respond.

Then did Mr. Saunders arise with real good nature and ever-ready wit;
and pour forth good-humored nonsense with congratulations all around,
till a pleasant atmosphere was established, in which Mrs. St. Cloud
could so far recover as to say many proper and pretty things; sadly
adding that she regretted her imminent return to the East would end so
many pleasant friendships.

       *       *       *       *       *



BOOKS BY

Charlotte Perkins Gilman


Moving the Mountain.

A Utopia at short range. How we might change this country in thirty
years, if we changed our minds first. Mrs. Gilman's latest book, like
her earliest verse, is a protest against the parrot cry that "you
can't alter human nature."

By mail of Charlton Co., $1.10


What Diantha Did.

A Novel.

"What she did was to solve the domestic service problem for both
mistress and maid in a southern California town."

                                                       "_The Survey._"

"A sensible book, it gives a new and deserved comprehension of the
importance and complexity of housekeeping."

                                                  "_The Independent._"

"Mrs. Perkins Gilman is as full of ideas as ever, and her Diantha is a
model for all young women."

                                                 "_The Englishwoman._"

By mail of Charlton Co., $1.10


The Man-Made World.

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be moved to or towards conviction, whether he acknowledges it or not."

                                               "_San Francisco Star._"

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study, and observation of the much debated question of the relation of
man to woman and of woman to man. The subject is developed with much
wise argument and wholesome sense of humor."

                                                    "_The Craftsman._"

"Mrs. Gilman has applied her theory with much cleverness, consistency
and logical thinking."

                                             "_Chicago Evening Post._"

By mail of Charlton Co., $1.10


"IN THIS OUR WORLD"

There is a joyous superabundance of life, of strength, of health, in
Mrs. Gilman's verse, which seems born of the glorious sunshine and
rich gardens of California.

                                                 --_Washington Times._

The freshness, charm and geniality of her satire temporarily convert
us to her most advanced views.

                                                   --_Boston Journal._

The poet of women and for women, a new and prophetic voice in the
world. Montaigne would have rejoiced in her.

                                                   --_Mexican Herald._

By mail of Charlton Co., =$1.25=.


"THE HOME"

Indeed, Mrs. Gilman has not intended her book so much as a treatise
for scholars as a surgical operation on the popular mind.

                                             --_The Critic, New York._

Whatever Mrs. Gilman writes, people read--approving or protesting,
still they read.

                                    --_Republican, Springfield, Mass._

Full of thought and of new and striking suggestions. Tells what the
average woman has and ought not keep, what she is and ought not be.

                                                 --_Literature World._

But it is safe to say that no more stimulating arraignment has ever
before taken shape and that the argument of the book is noble, and, on
the whole, convincing.

                                        --_Congregationalist, Boston._

The name of this author is a guarantee of logical reasoning, sound
economical principles and progressive thought.

                                          --_The Craftsman, Syracuse._

By mail of Charlton Co., =$1.00=.

"The Home" has been translated into Swedish.


"WOMEN AND ECONOMICS"

Since John Stuart Mill's essay there has been no book dealing with the
whole position of women to approach it in originality of conception
and brilliancy of exposition.

                                                 --_London Chronicle._

The most significant utterance on the subject since Mill's "Subjection
of Women."

                                                       --_The Nation._

It is the strongest book on the woman question that has yet been
published.

                                              --_Minneapolis Journal._

A remarkable book. A work on economics that has not a dull page,--the
work of a woman about women that has not a flippant word.

                                                --_Boston Transcript._

This book unites in a remarkable degree the charm of a brilliantly
written essay with the inevitable logic of a proposition of Euclid.
Nothing that we have read for many a long day can approach in
clearness of conception, in power of arrangement, and in lucidity of
expression the argument developed in the first seven chapters of this
remarkable book.

                                      --_Westminster Gazette, London._

Will be widely read and discussed as the cleverest, fairest, most
forcible presentation of the view of the rapidly increasing group who
look with favor on the extension of industrial employment to women.

                                      --_Political Science Quarterly._

By mail of Charlton Co., =$1.50=.

"Women and Economics" has been translated into German, Dutch, Italian,
Hungarian, Russian and Japanese.


"CONCERNING CHILDREN"

WANTED:--A philanthropist, to give a copy to every English-speaking
parent.

                                              --_The Times, New York._

Should be read by every mother in the land.

                                              --_The Press, New York._

Wholesomely disturbing book that deserves to be read for its own sake.

                                                     --_Chicago Dial._

By mail of Charlton Co., =$1.25=.

"Concerning Children" has been translated into German, Dutch and
Yiddish.


"THE YELLOW WALLPAPER"

Worthy of a place beside some of the weird masterpieces of Hawthorne
and Poe.

                                                       --_Literature._

As a short story it stands among the most powerful produced in America.

                                                     --_Chicago News._

By mail of Charlton Co., =$0.50=.


"HUMAN WORK"

Charlotte Perkins Gilman has added a third to her great trilogy of
books on economic subjects as they affect our daily life, particularly
in the home. Mrs. Gilman is by far the most brilliant woman writer of
our day, and this new volume, which she calls "Human Work," is a
glorification of labor.

                                             --_New Orleans Picayune._

Charlotte Perkins Gilman has been writing a new book, entitled "Human
Work." It is the best thing that Mrs. Gilman has done, and it is meant
to focus all of her previous work, so to speak.

                                                 --_Tribune, Chicago._

In her latest volume, "Human Work," Charlotte Perkins Gilman places
herself among the foremost students and elucidators of the problem of
social economics.

                                               --_San Francisco Star._

It is impossible to overestimate the value of the insistence on the
social aspect of human affairs as Mrs. Gilman has outlined it.

                                                   --_Public Opinion._

By mail of Charlton Co., =$1.00=.

CHARLTON COMPANY, 67 Wall St., New York



THE FORERUNNER


A monthly magazine, written, edited, owned and published

by

CHARLOTTE PERKINS GILMAN
67 Wall Street, New York City
U. S. A.


SUBSCRIPTION PER YEAR

  Domestic      $1.00
  Canadian       1.12
  Foreign        1.25


Bound Volumes, each year $1.40 post paid


This magazine carries Mrs. Gilman's best and newest work, her social
philosophy, verse, satire, fiction, ethical teaching, humor and opinion.

It stands for Humanness in Women and Men; for better methods in Child
Culture; for the New Ethics, the better Economics--the New World we
are to make, are making. The breadth of Mrs. Gilman's thought and her
power of expressing it have made her well-known in America and Europe
as a leader along lines of human improvement and a champion of woman.

THE FORERUNNER voices her thought and its messages are not only many,
but strong, true and vital.

       *       *       *       *       *



Transcription Notes:


Text in bold has been marked with equal signs (=text=).

Text in italics has been marked with underscores (_text_).

The original spelling and minor inconsistencies in the spelling and
formatting have been retained.

Minor punctuation . , ; " ' changes have been made without annotation.

Other changes to the original text are listed as follows:

Page 2 Man-made/Man-Made: The Man-Made World
Page 45 evclaimed/exclaimed: exclaimed his wife
Page 110 Removed repeated word a: were a real
Page 115 who/why: why his hair's
Page 134 though/thought: I thought as much
Page 164 Mr./My: My dear Miss
Page 169 Removed repeated word and: her own and set it
Page 174 Removed redundant word a: he had not had
Page 194 though/thought: I thought I heard
Page 197 litle/little: a little dampened
Page 240 weedings/weddings: wooings and weddings
Page 260 irrestible/irresistible: sleep irresistible from
Page 261 Cottonwood/Cottonwoods: to The Cottonwoods
Page 285 busband/husband: live with her husband
Page 317 massages/messages: its messages are not only





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