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Title: May Iverson's Career
Author: Jordan, Elizabeth Garver, 1867-1947
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 "May Iverson's Career" ***

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

Transcriber's Note:

  Inconsistent hyphenation and spelling in the original document have
  been preserved. Obvious typographical errors have been corrected.

  Italic text is denoted by _underscores_.

  [Illustration: MAY IVERSON]





     F. H. B.


     CHAP.                                          PAGE

     I.        MY FIRST ASSIGNMENT                     1

     II.       THE CRY OF THE PACK                    24

     III.      THE GIRL IN GRAY                       43

     IV.       IN GAY BOHEMIA                         68

     V.        THE CASE OF HELEN BRANDOW              94

     VI.       THE LAST OF THE MORANS                120

     VII.      TO THE RESCUE OF MISS MORRIS          140

     VIII.     MARIA ANNUNCIATA                      162

     IX.       THE REVOLT OF TILDY MEARS             184

     X.        A MESSAGE FROM MOTHER ELISE           206

     XI.       "T. B." CONDUCTS A REHEARSAL          228

     XII.      THE RISE OF THE CURTAIN               256


     MAY IVERSON                          _Frontispiece_



     "D'YE KNOW THE WOMAN?" HE SAID                  176




The Commencement exercises at St. Catharine's were over, and everybody
in the big assembly-hall was looking relieved and grateful. Mabel
Muriel Murphy had welcomed our parents and friends to the convent
shades in an extemporaneous speech we had overheard her practising for
weeks; and the proud face of Mabel Muriel's father, beaming on her as
she talked, illumined the front row like an electric globe. Maudie
Joyce had read a beautiful essay, full of uplifting thoughts and rare
flowers of rhetoric; Mabel Blossom had tried to deliver her address
without the manuscript, and had forgotten it at a vital point; Adeline
Thurston had recited an original poem; Kittie James had sung a solo;
and Janet Trelawney had played the Sixth Hungarian Rhapsody on the

Need I say who read the valedictory? It was I--May Iverson--winner of
the Cross of Honor, winner of the Crown, leader of the convent
orchestra, and president of the senior class. If there are those who
think I should not mention these honors I will merely ask who would do
it if I did not--and pause for a reply. Besides, young as I am, I know
full well that worldly ambitions and triumphs are as ashes on the
lips; and already I was planning to cast mine aside. But at this
particular minute the girls were crying on one another over our
impending parting, and our parents were coming up to us and saying the
same things again and again, while Sister Edna was telling Mabel
Muriel Murphy, without being asked, that she was not ashamed of one of

I could see my father coming toward me through the crowd, stopping to
shake hands with my classmates and tell them how wonderful they were;
and I knew that when he reached me I must take him out into the
convent garden and break his big, devoted heart. At the thought of it
a great lump came into my throat, and while I was trying to swallow it
I felt his arm flung over my shoulder.

He bent down and kissed me. "Well, my girl," he said, "I'm proud of

That was all. I knew it was all he would ever say; but it meant more
than any one else could put into hours of talk. I did not try to
answer, but I kissed him hard, and, taking his arm, led him
down-stairs, through the long halls and out into the convent garden,
lovely with the scent of roses and honeysuckle and mignonette. He had
never seen the garden before. He wanted to stroll through it and
glance into the conservatories, to look at the fountain and visit the
Grotto of Lourdes and stand gazing up at the huge cross that rises
from a bed of passion-flowers. But at last I took him into a little
arbor and made him sit down. I was almost glad my delicate mother had
not been able to come to see me graduate. He would tell her what I had
to say better than I could.

When I have anything before me that is very hard I always want to do
it immediately and get it over. So now I stood with my back braced
against the side of the arbor, and, looking my dear father straight in
the eyes, I told him I had made up my mind to be a nun.

At first he looked as if he thought I must be joking. Then, all in a
minute, he seemed to change from a gallant middle-aged officer into a
crushed, disappointed old man. He bowed his head, his shoulders sagged
down, and, turning his eyes as if to keep me from seeing what was in
them, he stared out over the convent garden.

"Why, May!" he said; and then again, very quietly, "Why, May!"

I told him all that was in my mind, and he listened without a word. At
the end he said he had thought I wanted to be a newspaper woman. I
admitted that I had felt that desire a year ago--when I was only
seventeen and my mind was immature. He sat up in his seat then and
looked more comfortable--and younger.

"I'll put my answer in a nutshell," he said. "You're too young still
to know your mind about anything. Give your family and the world a
chance. I don't want you to be a nun. I don't want you to be a
newspaper woman, either. But I'll compromise. Be a newspaper woman for
three years."

I began to speak, but he stopped me. "It's an interesting life," he
went on. "You'll like it. But if you come to us the day you are
twenty-one and tell us you still want to be a nun I promise that your
mother and I will consent. Give us a chance, May." And he added,
gently, "_Play fair_."

Those two words hurt; but they conquered me. I agreed to do as he
asked, and then we sat together, hand in hand, talking over plans,
till the corners of the garden began to look mysterious in the
twilight. Before we went back to the assembly-room it was understood
that I was to go to New York in a week and begin my new career. Papa
had friends there who would look after me. I was sure they would never
have a chance; but I did not mention that to my dear father then,
while he was still feeling the shock of decision.

When I was saying good-by to Sister Irmingarde six days later I asked
her to give me some advice about my newspaper work. "Write of things
as they are," she said, without hesitation, "and write of them as
simply as you can."

I was a little disappointed. I had expected something
inspiring--something in the nature of a trumpet-call. I suppose she
saw my face fall, for she smiled her beautiful smile.

"And when you write the sad stories you're so fond of, dear May," she
said, "remember to let your readers shed their own tears."

I thought a great deal about those enigmatic words on my journey to
New York, but after I reached it I forgot them. It was just as well,
for no one associated with my work there had time to shed tears.

My editor was Mr. Nestor Hurd, of the _Searchlight_. He had promised
to give me a trial because Kittie James's brother-in-law, George
Morgan, who was his most intimate friend, said he must; but I don't
think he really wanted to. When I reported to him he looked as if he
had not eaten or slept for weeks, and as if seeing me was the one
extra trouble he simply could not endure. There was a bottle of
tablets on his desk, and every time he noticed it he stopped to
swallow a tablet. He must have taken six while he was talking to me.
He was a big man, with a round, smooth face, and dimples in his cheeks
and chin. He talked out of one side of his mouth in a kind of low
snarl, without looking at any one while he spoke.

"Oh," was his greeting to me, "you're the convent girl? Ready for
work? All right. I'll try you on this."

He turned to the other person in the office--a thin young man at a
desk near him. Neither of them had risen when I entered.

"Here, Morris," he said. "Put Miss Iverson down for the Ferncliff

The young man called Morris dropped a big pencil and looked very much

"But--" he said. "Why, say, she'll have to stay out in that house
alone--all night."

Mr. Hurd said shortly that I couldn't be in a safer place. "Are you
afraid of ghosts?" he asked, without looking at me. I said I was not,
and waited for him to explain the joke; but he didn't.

"Here's the story," he said. "Listen, and get it straight. Ferncliff
is a big country house out on Long Island, about three miles from
Sound View. It's said to be haunted. Its nearest neighbor is a quarter
of a mile away. It was empty for three years until this spring. Last
month Mrs. Wallace Vanderveer, a New York society woman, took a year's
lease of it and moved in with a lot of servants. Last week she moved
out. Servants wouldn't stay. Said they heard noises and saw ghosts.
She heard noises, too. Now the owner of Ferncliff, a Miss Watts, is
suing Mrs. Vanderveer for a year's rent. Nice little story in it. See

I didn't, exactly. That is, I didn't see what he wanted me to do about
it, and I said so.

"I want you to take the next train for Sound View," he snarled,
impatiently, and pulled the left side of his mouth down to his chin.
"When you get there, drive out and look at Ferncliff to see what it's
like in the daytime. Then go to the Sound View Hotel and have your
dinner. About ten o'clock go back to Ferncliff, and stay there all
night. Sit up. If you see any ghosts, write about 'em. If you don't,
write about how it felt to stay there and wait for 'em. Come back to
town to-morrow morning and turn in your story. If it's good we'll run
it. If it isn't," he added, grimly, "we'll throw it out. See now?" I
saw now.

"Here's the key of the house," he said. "We got it from the agent." He
turned and began to talk to Mr. Morris about something else--and I
knew that our interview was over.

I went to Sound View on the first train, and drove straight from the
station to Ferncliff. It was almost five o'clock, and a big storm was
coming up. The rain was like a wet, gray veil, and the wind snarled in
the tops of the pine-trees in a way that made me think of Mr. Hurd. I
didn't like the look of the house. It was a huge, gloomy, vine-covered
place, perched on a bluff overlooking the Sound, and set far back from
the road. An avenue of pines led up to it, and a high box-hedge along
the front cut off the grounds from the road and the near-by fields.
When we drove away my cabman kept glancing back over his shoulder as
if he expected to see the ghosts.

I was glad to get into the hotel and have a few hours for thought. I
was already perfectly sure that I was not going to like being a
newspaper woman, and I made up my mind to write to papa the next
morning and tell him so. I thought of the convent and of Sister
Irmingarde, who was probably at vespers now in the chapel, and the
idea of that assignment became more unpleasant every minute. Not that
I was afraid--I, an Iverson, and the daughter of a general in the
army! But the thing seemed silly and unworthy of a convent girl, and
lonesome work besides. As I thought of the convent it suddenly seemed
so near that I could almost hear its vesper bell, and that comforted

I went back to Ferncliff at ten o'clock. By that time the storm was
really wild. It might have been a night in November instead of in
July. The house looked very bleak and lonely, and the way my driver
lashed his horse and hurried away from the neighborhood did not make
it easier for me to unlock the front door and go in. But I forced
myself to do it.

I had filled a basket with candles and matches and some books and a
good luncheon, which the landlady at the hotel had put up for me. I
hurriedly lighted two candles and locked the front door. Then I took
the candles into the living-room at the left of the hall, and set them
on a table. They made two little blurs of light in which the
linen-covered furniture assumed queer, ghostly shapes that seemed to
move as the flames flickered. I did not like the effect, so I lighted
some more candles.

I was sure the first duty of a reporter was to search the house. So I
took a candle in each hand and went into every room, up stairs and
down, spending a great deal of time in each, for it was strangely
comforting to be busy. I heard all sorts of sounds--mice in the walls,
old boards cracking under my feet, and a death-tick that began to get
on my nerves, though I knew what it was. But there was nothing more
than might be heard in any other old house.

When I returned to the living-room I looked at my luncheon-basket--not
that I was hungry, but I wanted something more to do, and eating would
have filled the time so pleasantly. But if I ate, there would be
nothing to look forward to but the ghost, so I decided to wait.
Outside, the screeching wind seemed to be sweeping the rain before it
in a rising fury. It was half past eleven. Twelve is the hour when
ghosts are said to come, I remembered.

I took up a book and began to read. I had almost forgotten my
surroundings when a noise sounded on the veranda, a noise that made me
stop reading to listen. Something was out there--something that tried
the knob of the door and pushed against the panels; something that
scampered over to the window-blinds and pulled at them; something that
opened the shutters and tried to peer in.

I laid down my book. The feet scampered back to the door. I stopped
breathing. There followed a knocking at the door, the knocking of weak
hands, which soon began to beat against the panels with closed fists;
and next I heard a high, shrill voice. It seemed to be calling,
uttering words, but above the shriek of the storm I could not make
out what they were.

Creeping along the floor to the window, I pulled back one of the heavy
curtains and raised the green shade under it half an inch. For a
moment I could see nothing but the twisting pines. But at last I was
able to distinguish something moving near the door--something no
larger than a child, but with white hair floating round its head. It
was not a ghost. It was not an animal. It could not be a human being.
I had no idea what it was. While I looked it turned and came toward
the window where I was crouching, as if it felt my eyes upon it. And
this time I heard its words.

"Let me in!" it shrieked. "Let me in! Let me in!" And in a kind of
fury it scampered back and dashed itself against the door.

Then I was afraid--not merely nervous--afraid--with a degrading fear
that made my teeth chatter. If only I had known what it was; if only I
could think of something normal that was a cross between a little
child and an old woman! I went to the door and noiselessly turned the
key. I meant to open it an inch and ask what was there. But almost
before the door had moved on its hinges the thing outside saw it. It
gave a quick spring and a little screech and threw itself against the
panels. The next instant I went back and down, and the thing that had
been outside was inside.

I got up slowly and looked at it. It seemed to be a witch--a little
old, humpbacked witch--not more than four feet high, with white hair
that hung in wet locks around a shriveled brown face, and black eyes
gleaming at me in the dark hall like an angry cat's.

"You little fool!" she hissed. "Why didn't you let me in? I'm soaked
through. And why didn't that bell ring? What's been done to the wire?"

I could not speak, and after looking at me a moment more the little
old creature locked the hall door and walked into the living-room,
motioning to me to follow. She was panting with anger or exhaustion,
or both. When we had entered the room she turned and grinned at me
like a malicious monkey.

"Scared you, didn't I?" she chuckled, in her high, cracked voice.
"Serves you right. Keeping me out on that veranda fifteen minutes!"

She began to gather up the loose locks of her white hair and fasten
them at the back of her head. "Wind blew me to pieces," she muttered.

She took off her long black coat, threw it over a chair, and
straightened the hat that hung over one ear. She _was_ a human being,
after all; a terribly deformed human being, whose great, hunched back
now showed distinctly through her plain black dress. There was a bit
of lace at her throat, and when she took off her gloves handsome rings
glittered on her claw-like fingers.

"Well, well," she said, irritably, "don't stand there staring. I know
I'm not a beauty," and she cackled like an angry hen.

But it was reassuring, at least, to know she was human, and I felt
myself getting warm again. Then, as she seemed to expect me to say
something, I explained that I had not intended to let anybody in,
because I thought nobody had any right in the house.

"Humph," she said. "I've got a better right here than you have, young
lady. I am the owner of this house and everything in it--I am Miss
Watts. And I'll tell you one thing"--she suddenly began to trot around
the room--"I've stood this newspaper nonsense about ghosts just as
long as I'm going to. It's ruining the value of my property. I live in
Brooklyn, but when my agent telephoned me to-night that a reporter was
out here working up another lying yarn I took the first train and came
here to protect my interests."

She grumbled something about having sent her cab away at the gate and
having mislaid her keys. I asked her if she meant to stay till
morning, and she glared at me and snapped that she certainly did.
Then, taking a candle, she wandered off by herself for a while, and I
heard her scampering around on the upper floors. When she came back
she seemed very much surprised to hear that I was not going to bed.

"You're a fool," she said, rudely, "but I suppose you've got to do
what the other fools tell you to."


After that I didn't feel much like sharing my supper with her, but I
did, and she seemed to enjoy it. Then she curled herself up on a
big divan in the corner and grinned at me again. I liked her face
better when she was angry.

"I'm going to take a nap," she said. "Call me if any ghosts come."

I opened my book again and read for half an hour. Then suddenly, from
somewhere under the house, I heard a queer, muffled sound. "_Tap, tap,
tap_," it went. And again, "_Tap, tap, tap_."

At first it didn't interest me much. But after a minute I realized
that it was different from anything I had heard that night. And soon
another noise mingled with it--a kind of buzz, like the whir of an
electric fan, only louder. I looked at Miss Watts. She was asleep.

I picked up a candle and followed the noise--through the hall, down
the cellar steps, and along a bricked passage. There the sound
stopped. I stood still and waited. While I was staring at the bricks
in front of me I noticed one that seemed to have a light behind it. I
lowered my candle and examined it. Some plaster had been knocked out,
and through a hole the size of a penny I saw another passage cutting
through the earth like a little catacomb, with a light at the far end
of it. While I was staring, amazed, the tapping began again, much
nearer now; and I heard men's voices.

There were men under that house, in a secret cellar!

In half a minute I was standing beside Miss Watts, shaking her arm
and trying to wake her. Almost before I was able to make her
understand what I had seen she was through the front door and half-way
down the avenue, dragging me with her.

"Where are we going?" I gasped.

"To the next house, idiot, to telephone to the police," she said. "Do
you think we could stay there and do it?"

We left the avenue and came into the road, and as we ran on, stumbling
into mud-holes and whipped by wind and rain, she panted out that the
men were probably escaped convicts from some prison or patients from
some asylum. I ran faster after that, though I hadn't thought I could.
I wondered if I were having a bad dream. Several times I pinched
myself, but I didn't wake up. Instead, I kept on running and stumbling
and gasping, until I felt sure I had been running and stumbling and
gasping for years and must keep on doing it for eons more. But at last
we came to a house set far back in big grounds, and we raced side by
side up the driveway that led to the front door. Late as it was, there
were lights everywhere, and through the long windows opening on the
veranda we could see people moving about.

Miss Watts gave the bell a terrific pull; some one opened the door,
and we stumbled in. After that everything was a mixture of questions
and answers and excitement and telephoning, followed by a long wait
for the police. A man led Miss Watts and me into a room where a fire
was burning, and left us to get warm and dry. When we were alone I
asked Miss Watts if she thought they would keep us overnight. She
stared at me.

"You won't have much time for sleep," she answered, almost kindly. "It
will take you an hour or two to write your story."

It was my turn to stare, and I did it. "My story?" I asked her.
"To-night? What do you mean?"

She swung round in her chair and stared at me harder than ever. Then
she cackled in her nastiest way. "And this is a New York reporter!"
she said. "Why, you little dunce, you know you've _got_ a story, don't

"Yes," I answered, doubtfully. "But I'm to write it to-morrow, after I
talk to Mr. Hurd."

Miss Watts uttered a squawk and then a squeal. "I don't know what fool
sent you here," she snapped, "or what infant-class you've escaped
from. But one thing I do know: You came here to write a Sunday
'thriller,' I suppose, which would have destroyed what little value my
property has left. By bull-headed luck you've stumbled on the truth;
and it's a good news story. It will please your editor, and it will
save my property. Now, here's my point." She pushed her horrible
little face close to mine and kept it there while she finished. "That
story is coming out in the _Searchlight_ to-morrow morning. I'd do it
if I could, but I'm not a writer. So you're going to write it and
telephone it in to the _Searchlight_ office within the next hour. Have
I made myself clear?"

She had. I felt my face getting red and hot when I realized that I had
a big story and had not known it. I wondered if I could ever live that
down. I felt so humble that I was almost willing to let Miss Watts see

But before I could answer her there was the noise of many feet in the
hall, with the voices of men. Then our door was flung open, and a
young man came in, wearing a rain-coat, thick boots covered with mud,
and a wide grin. He was saving time by shaking the rain off his soft
hat as he crossed the room to us. His eyes touched me, then passed on
to Miss Watts as if I hadn't been there.

"Miss Watts," he said, "the police are here, and I'm going back to the
house with them to see the capture. I'm Gibson, of the _Searchlight_."

Miss Watts actually smiled at him. Then she held out her skinny little
claw of a hand. "A real reporter!" she said. "Thank Heaven! You know
what it means to me to have this thing put straight. But how do you
happen to be here?"

"Hurd sent me to look after Miss Iverson," he explained, glancing at
me again. "He couldn't put her in a haunted house without a watch-dog,
but, to do her justice, she didn't know she had one. I was in a
summer-house on the grounds. I saw you leave and followed you here.
Then I went up the road to meet the police."

He grinned at me, and I smiled a very little smile in return. I wasn't
going to give him a whole smile until I found out how he was going to
act about my story. Miss Watts started for the door.

"Come on," she said, with her hand on the knob.

The real reporter's eyes grew big. "Are _you_ going along?" he gasped.

"Certainly I'm going along," snapped Miss Watts. "I'm going to see
this thing through. And I'll tell you one thing right now, young man,"
she ended, "if you don't put the _facts_ into your story I'm going to
sue your newspaper for twenty-five thousand dollars."

He did not answer. His attention seemed to be diverted to me. I was
standing beside Miss Watts, buttoning my rain-coat and pulling my hat
over my eyes again, preparatory to going out.

"Say, kid," said the real reporter, "you go back and sit down. You're
not in this, you know. We'll come and get you and take you to the
hotel after it's all over."

I gave him a cold and dignified glance. Then I buttoned the last
button of my coat and went out into the hall. It was full of men. The
real reporter hurried after me. He seemed to expect me to say
something. So finally I did.

"Mr. Hurd told me to write this story," I explained, in level tones,
"and I'm going to try to write it. And I can't write it unless I see
everything that happens."

I looked at him and Miss Watts out of the corner of my eye as I spoke,
and I distinctly saw them give each other a significant glance. Miss
Watts shrugged her shoulders as if she didn't care what I did; but the
real reporter looked worried.

"Oh, well, all right," he said, at last. "I suppose it isn't fair not
to let you in on your own assignment. There's one good thing--you
can't get any wetter and muddier than you are." That thought seemed to
comfort him.

We had a hard time going back, but it was easier because there were
more of us to suffer. Besides, the real reporter helped Miss Watts and
me a little when we stumbled or when the wind blew us against a tree
or a fence. When we got near the house everybody moved very quietly,
keeping close to the high hedge. We all went around to the back
entrance. There the chief constable began to give his men orders, and
the real reporter led Miss Watts and me into a grape-arbor, about
fifty feet from the house.

"This is where we've got to stay," he whispered, pulling us inside and
closing the door. "We can see them come out, and get the other details
from Conroy, who's in charge."

The police were creeping closer to the house. Three of them took
places outside while the rest went forward. First there was a long
silence; then a sudden rush and crash--shouts and words that we didn't
catch. Gleams of light flashed up for a minute--then disappeared. The
men stationed outside the house ran toward the cellar. There was the
flashing of more light, and at last the police came out with their
prisoners--and the whole thing was over. There had not been a

I was as warm as toast in my wet clothes, but my teeth were chattering
with excitement, and I knew Miss Watts was excited, too, by the grip
of her hand on my shoulder. The men came toward us through the rain on
their way to the gate, and Mr. Conroy's voice sounded as if he had
been running a race. But he hadn't. He had been right there.

"Well, Miss Watts, we've got 'em," he crowed. "A nice little gang of
amachur counterfeiters. They've been visitin' you for 'most a year,
snug and cozy; but I guess this is the end of your troubles."

Miss Watts walked out into the rain and, taking a policeman's electric
bull's-eye, looked at the prisoners one by one. I followed her and
looked, too, while the real reporter talked to Mr. Conroy. There were
three counterfeiters, and they were all handcuffed and looked young.
It could not have been very hard for six policemen to take them. One
of them had blood on his face, and another was covered with mud, as if
he had been rolled in it. Miss Watts asked the bloody one, who was
also the biggest one, if his gang had really worked in a secret cellar
at Ferncliff for a year. He said it had been there about ten months.

"Then you were there all winter?" Miss Watts asked him. "And you were
so safe and comfortable that when the tenants moved in and you found
they were all women, except a stupid butler, you decided to scare them
away and stay right along?"

The man muttered something that seemed to mean that she was right. The
real reporter interrupted, looking busy and worried again. "Miss
Watts," he said, quickly, "can't we go right into your house and send
this story to the _Searchlight_ over your telephone? It's a quarter to
one, and there isn't a minute to lose. The _Searchlight_ goes to press
in an hour. I've got all the facts," he added, in a peaceful tone.

Miss Watts said we could, and led the way into the house, while the
counterfeiters and the police tramped off through the mud and rain.
When we got inside, Miss Watts took us to the library and lit the
electric lights, while the real reporter bustled about, looking busier
than any one I ever saw before. I watched him for a minute. Then I
told Miss Watts I wanted to go into a quiet room and write my story.
She and the real reporter looked at each other again. I was getting
tired of their looks. The real reporter spoke to me very kindly, like
a Sunday-school superintendent addressing his class.

"Now, see here, Miss Iverson," he said; "you've had a big, new
experience and lots of excitement. You discovered the counterfeiters.
You'll get full credit for it. Let it go at that, and I'll write the
story. It's got to be a real story, not a kindergarten special."

If he hadn't said that about the kindergarten special I might have let
him write the story, for I was cold and tired and scared. But at those
fatal words I felt myself stiffen all over.

"It's my story," I said, with icy determination. "And I'm going to
write it."

The real reporter looked annoyed. "But _can_ you?" he protested. "We
haven't time for experiments."

"Of course I can," I said. And I'm afraid I spoke crossly, for I was
getting annoyed. "I'll write it exactly the way Sister Irmingarde told
me to."

I sat down at the table as I spoke. I heard a bump and something that
sounded like a groan. The real reporter had fallen into a chair. "Good
Lord!" he said; and then for a long time he didn't say anything.
Finally he began to fuss with his paper, as if he meant to write the
story anyway. I wrote three pages and forgot about him. At last he
muttered, "Here, let me see those," and his voice sounded like a
dove's when it mourns under the eaves. I pushed the sheets toward him
with my left hand and went on writing. Suddenly I heard a gasp and a
chuckle. In another second the real reporter was standing beside me,
grinning his widest grin.

"Why, say, you little May Iverson kid," he almost shouted, "this story
is going to be good!"

I could hear Miss Watts straighten up in the chair from which she was
watching us. She snatched at my pages, and he let her have them. I
wanted to draw myself up to my full height and look at him coldly, but
I didn't--there wasn't time. Besides, far down inside of me I was
delighted by his praise.

"Of course it's going to be good," was all I said. "Sister Irmingarde
told me to write about things as they are, and very simply."

He had my pages back in his hands now and was running over them
quickly, putting in a few words here and there with a pencil. I could
see he was not changing much. Then he started on a jump for the next
room, where the telephone was, but stopped at the door. There was a
queer look in his eyes.

"Sister Irmingarde's a daisy!" he muttered.

Then I heard him calling New York. "Gimme the _Searchlight_," he
called. "Gimme the city desk. Hurry up! Say, Jack, this is Gibson, at
Sound View. We've got a crackerjack of a story out here. No--the
Iverson kid is doing it. It's all right, too. Get Hammond busy there
and let him take it on the typewriter as fast as I read it. Ready?
Here goes."

He began to read my first page.

Miss Watts got up and shut the door, and I bowed my thanks to her. The
storm was worse than ever, but I hardly heard it. For a second his
words had made me think of Sister Irmingarde. I felt sorry for her.
She would never have a chance like this--to write a real news story
for a great newspaper. The convent seemed like a place I had heard of,
long ago.

Then I settled down to work, and for the next hour there was no sound
in the room but the whisper of my busy pen and the respectful
footsteps of Miss Watts as she reverently carried my story, page by
page, to the chastened "real reporter."



Mr. Nestor Hurd, our "feature" editor, was in a bad humor. We all knew
he was, and everybody knew why, except Mr. Nestor Hurd himself. He
thought it was because he had not a competent writer on his whole
dash-blinged staff, and he was explaining this to space in words that
stung like active gnats. Really it was because his wife had just
called at his office and drawn his month's salary in advance to go to
Atlantic City.

Over the little partition that separated his private office from the
square pen where his reporters had their desks Mr. Hurd's words flew
and lit upon us. Occasionally we heard the murmur of Mr. Morris's
voice, patting the air like a soothing hand; and at last our chief got
tired and stopped, and an office boy came into the outer room and said
he wanted to see me.

I went in with steady knees. I was no longer afraid of Mr. Hurd. I had
been on the _Searchlight_ a whole week, and I had written one big
"story" and three small ones, and they had all been printed. I knew my
style was improving every day--growing more mature. I had dropped a
great many amateur expressions, and I had learned to stop when I
reached the end of my story instead of going right on. Besides, I was
no longer the newest of the "cub reporters." The latest one had been
taken on that morning--a scared-looking girl who told me in a
trembling voice that she had to write a special column every day for
women. It was plain that she had not studied life as we girls had in
the convent. She made me feel a thousand years old instead of only
eighteen. I had received so much advice during the week that some of
it was spilling over, and I freely and gladly gave the surplus to her.
I had a desk, too, by this time, in a corner near a window where I
could look out on City Hall Park and see the newsboys stealing baths
in the fountain. And I was going to be a nun in three years, so who
cared, anyway? I went to Mr. Hurd with my head high and the light of
confidence in my eyes.

"'S that?" remarked Mr. Hurd, when he heard my soft footfalls
approaching his desk. He was too busy to look up and see. He was
bending over a great heap of newspaper clippings, and the veins bulged
out on his brow from the violence of his mental efforts. Mr. Morris,
the thin young editor who had a desk near his, told him it was Miss
Iverson. Mr. Morris had a muscular bulge on each jaw-bone, which Mr.
Gibson had told me was caused by the strain of keeping back the things
he wanted to say to Mr. Hurd. Mr. Hurd twisted the right corner of
his mouth at me, which was his way of showing that he knew that the
person he was talking to stood at his right side.

"'S Iverson," he began (he hadn't time to say Miss Iverson), "got 'ny

I thought he wanted to borrow some. I had seen a great deal of
borrowing going on during the week; everybody's money seemed to belong
to everybody else. I was glad to let him have it, of course, but a
little surprised. I told him that I had some money, for when I left
home papa had given me--

He interrupted me rudely. "Don't want to know how much papa gave you,"
he snapped. "Want to know where 'tis."

I told him coldly that it was in a savings-bank, for papa thought--

He interrupted again. I had never been interrupted when I was in the
convent. There the girls hung on my words with suspended breath.

"'S all right, then," Mr. Hurd said. "Here's your story. Go and see
half a dozen of our biggest millionaires in Wall Street--Drake,
Carter, Hayden--you know the list. Tell 'em you're a stranger in town,
come to study music or painting. Got a little money to see you
through--'nough for a year. Ask 'em what to do with it--how to invest
it--and write what happens. Good story, eh?" He turned to Morris for
approval, and all his dimples showed, making him look like a
six-months-old baby. He immediately regretted this moment of weakness
and frowned at me.

"'S all," he said; and I went away.

I will now pause for a moment to describe an interesting phenomenon
that ran through my whole journalistic career. I always went into an
editor's room to take an assignment with perfect confidence, and I
usually came out of it in black despair. The confidence was caused by
the memory that I had got my past stories; the despair was caused by
the conviction that I could not possibly get the present one. Each
assignment Mr. Hurd had given me during the week seemed not only
harder than the last, but less worthy the dignity of a general's
daughter. Besides, a new and terrible thing was happening to me. I was
becoming afraid--not of work, but of men. I never had been afraid of
anything before. From the time we were laid in our cradles my father
taught my brother Jack and me not to be afraid. The worst of my fear
now was that I didn't know exactly why I felt it, and there was no one
I could go to and ask about it. All the men I met seemed to be divided
into two classes. In the first class were those who were not kind at
all--men like Mr. Hurd, who treated me as if I were a machine, and
ignored me altogether or looked over my head or past the side of my
face when they spoke to me. They seemed rude at first, and I did not
like them; but I liked them better and better as time went on. In the
second class were the men who were too kind--who sprawled over my desk
and wasted my time and grinned at me and said things I didn't
understand and wanted to take me to Coney Island. Most of them were
merely silly, but two or three of them were horrible. When they came
near me they made me feel queer and sick. After they had left I wanted
to throw open all the doors and windows and air the room. There was
one I used to dream of when I was overworked, which was usually. He
was always a snake in the dream--a fat, disgusting, lazy snake, slowly
squirming over the ground near me, with his bulging green eyes on my
face. There were times when I was afraid to go to sleep for fear of
dreaming of that snake; and when during the day he came into the room
and over to my desk I would hardly have been surprised to see him
crawl instead of walk. Indeed, his walk was a kind of crawl.

Mr. Gibson, Hurd's star reporter, whose desk was next to mine, spoke
to me about him one day, and his grin was not as wide as usual.

"Is Yawkins annoying you?" he asked. "I've seen you actually shudder
when he came to your desk. If the cad had any sense he'd see it, too.
Has he said anything? Done anything?"

I said he hadn't, exactly, but that I felt a strange feeling of horror
every time he came near me; and Gibson raised his eyebrows and said he
guessed he knew why, and that he would attend to it. He must have
attended to it, for Yawkins stopped coming to my desk, and after a few
months he was discharged for letting himself be "thrown down" on a big
story, and I never saw him again. But at the time Mr. Hurd gave me
his Wall Street assignment I was beginning to be horribly afraid to
approach strangers, which is no way for a reporter to feel; and when I
had to meet strange men I always found myself wondering whether they
would be the Hurd type or the Yawkins type. I hardly dared to hope
they would be like Mr. Gibson, who was like the men at home--kind and
casual and friendly; but of course some of them were.

Once Mrs. Hoppen, a woman reporter on the _Searchlight_, came and
spoke to me about them. She was forty and slender and black-eyed, and
her work was as clever as any man's, but it seemed to have made her
very hard. She seemed to believe in no one. She made me feel as if she
had dived so deep in life that she had come out into a place where
there wasn't anything. She came to me one day when Yawkins was coiled
over my desk. He crawled away as soon as he saw her, for he hated her.
After he went she stood looking down at me and hesitating. It was not
like her to hesitate about anything.

"Look here," she said at last; "I earn a good income by attending to
my own business, and I usually let other people's business alone.
Besides, I'm not cut out for a Star of Bethlehem. But I just want to
tell you not to worry about that kind of thing." She looked after
Yawkins, who had crawled through the door.

I tried to say that I wasn't worrying, but I couldn't, for it wasn't
true. And someway, though I didn't know why, I couldn't talk to her
about it. She didn't wait for me, however, but went right on.

"You're very young," she said, "and a long way from home. You haven't
been in New York long enough to make influential friends or create a
background for yourself; so you seem fair game, and the wolves are on
the trail. But you can be sure of one thing--they'll never get you; so
don't worry."

I thanked her, and she patted my shoulder and went away. I wasn't sure
just what she meant, but I knew she had tried to be kind.

The day I started down to Wall Street to see the multimillionaires I
was very thoughtful. I didn't know then, as I did later, how guarded
they were in their offices, and how hard it was for a stranger to get
near them. What I simply hated was having them look at me and grin at
me, and seeing them under false pretenses and having to tell them
lies. I knew Sister Irmingarde would not have approved of it--but
there were so many things in newspaper work that Sister Irmingarde
wouldn't approve of. I was beginning to wonder if there was anything
at all she would approve; and later, of course, I found there was. But
I discovered many, many other things long before that.

I went to Mr. Drake's office first. He was the one Mr. Hurd had
mentioned first, and while I was at school I had heard about him and
read that he was very old and very kind and very pious. I thought
perhaps he would be kind enough to see a strange girl for a few
minutes and give her some advice, even if his time was worth a
thousand dollars a minute, as they said it was. So I went straight to
his office and asked for him, and gave my card to a buttoned boy who
seemed strangely loath to take it. He was perfectly sure Mr. Drake
hadn't time to see me, and he wanted the whole story of my life before
he gave the card to any one; but I was not yet afraid of office boys,
and he finally took the card and went away with dragging steps.

Then my card began to circulate like a love story among the girls at
St. Catharine's. Men in little cages and at mahogany desks read it,
and stared at me and passed it on to other men. Finally it disappeared
in an inner room, and a young man came out holding it in his hand and
spoke to me in a very cold and direct manner. The card had my real
name on it, but no address or newspaper, and it didn't mean anything
at all to the direct young man. He wanted to know who I was and what I
wanted of Mr. Drake, and I told him what Mr. Hurd had told me to say.
The young man hesitated. Then he smiled, and at last he said he would
see what he could do and walked away. In five or six minutes he came
back again, still smiling, but in a pleasanter and more friendly
manner, and said Mr. Drake would see me if I could wait half an hour.

I thanked him and settled back in my seat to wait. It was a very
comfortable seat--a deep, leather-covered chair with big wide arms,
and there was enough going on around me to keep me interested. All
sorts of men came and went while I sat there; young men and old men,
and happy men and wretched men, and prosperous men and poor men; but
there was one thing in which they were all alike. Every man was in a
hurry, and every man had in his eyes the set, eager look my brother
Jack's eyes hold when he is running a college race and sees the goal
ahead of him. A few of them glanced at me, but none seemed interested
or surprised to see me there. Probably they thought, if they thought
of it at all, that I was a stenographer trying to get a situation.

The half-hour passed, and then another half-hour, and at last the
direct young man came out again. He did not apologize for keeping me
waiting twice as long as he had said it would be.

"Mr. Drake will see you now," he said.

I followed him through several offices full of clerks and typewriters,
and then into an office where a little old man sat alone. It was a
very large office, with old rugs on the floor, and heavy curtains and
beautiful furniture, and the little old man seemed almost lost in it.
He was a very thin old man, and he sat at a great mahogany desk facing
the door. The light in his office came from windows behind and beside
him, but it fell on my face, as I sat opposite him, and left his in
shadow. I could see, though, that his hair was very white, and that
his face was like an oval billiard-ball, the thin skin of it drawn
tightly over bones that showed. He might have been fifty years old or
a hundred--I didn't know which--but he was dressed very carefully in
gray clothes almost as light in color as his face and hair, and he
wore a gray tie with a star-sapphire pin in it. That pale-blue stone,
and the pale blue of his eyes, which had the same sort of odd, moving
light in them the sapphire had, were the only colors about him. He sat
back, very much at his ease, his small figure deep in his great
swivel-chair, the finger-tips of both hands close together, and stared
at me with his pale-blue eyes that showed their queer sparks under his
white eyebrows.

"Well, young woman," he said, "what can I do for you?"

And then I knew how old he was, for in the cracked tones of his voice
the clock of time seemed to be striking eighty. It made me feel
comfortable and almost happy to know that he was so old. I wasn't
afraid of him any more. I poured out my little story, which I had
rehearsed with his clerk, and he listened without a word, never taking
his narrow blue eyes from my face. When I stopped he asked me what
instrument I was studying, and I told him the piano, which was true
enough, for I was still keeping up the music I had worked on so hard
with Sister Cecilia ever since I was eight years old. He asked me what
music I liked best, and when I told him my favorite composers were
Beethoven and Debussy he smiled and murmured that it was a strange
combination. It was, too, and well I knew it. Sister Cecilia said
once that it made her understand why I wanted to be both a nun and a
newspaper woman.

In a few minutes I was talking to Mr. Drake as easily as I could talk
to George Morgan or to my father. He asked who my teachers had been,
and I told him all about the convent and my years of study there, and
how much better Janet Trelawney played than I did, and how severe
Sister Cecilia was with us both, and how much I liked church music. I
was so glad to be telling him the truth that I told him a great deal
more than I needed to. I told him almost everything there was to tell,
except that I was a newspaper reporter. I remembered not to tell him

He seemed to like to hear about school and the girls. Several times he
laughed, but very kindly, and _with_ me, you know, not _at_ me. Once
he said it had been a long time since any young girl had told him
about her school pranks, but he did not sigh over it or look
sentimental, as a man would in a book. He merely mentioned it. We
talked and talked. Twice the direct young secretary opened the door
and put his head in; but each time he took it out again because nobody
seemed to want it to stay there. At last I remembered that Mr. Drake
was a busy man, and that his time was worth a thousand dollars a
minute, and that I had taken about forty thousand dollars' worth of it
already, so I gasped and apologized and got up. I said I had forgotten
all about time; and he said he had, too, and that I must sit down
again because we hadn't even touched upon our business talk.

So I sat down again, and he looked at me more closely than ever, as if
he had noticed how hot and red my face had suddenly got and couldn't
understand why it looked that way. Of course he couldn't, either; for
I had just remembered that, though I had been a reporter for a whole
week, I had forgotten my assignment! It seemed as if I would never
learn to be a real newspaper woman. My heart went way down, and I
suppose the corners of my mouth did, too; they usually went down at
the same time. He asked very kindly what was the matter, and the tone
of his voice was beautiful--old and friendly and understanding. I said
it was because I was so silly and stupid and young and unbusiness-like.
He started to say something and stopped, then sat up and began to talk
in a very business-like way. He asked where my money was, and I told
him the name of the bank. He looked at his watch and frowned. I didn't
know why; but I thought perhaps it was because he wanted me to take it
out of there right away and it was too late. It was almost four
o'clock. Then he put the tips of his fingers together again, and
talked to me the way the cashier at the bank had talked when I put my
money in.

He said that the savings-bank was a good place for a girl's
money--under ordinary conditions it was the best place. The interest
would be small, but sure. Certain investments would, of course, bring
higher interest, but no woman should try to invest her money unless
she had business training or a very wise, experienced adviser back of
her. Then he stopped for a minute, and it seemed hard for him to go
on. I did not speak, for I saw that he was thinking something over,
and of course I knew better than to interrupt him. At last he said
that ordinarily, of course, he never paid any attention to small
accounts, but that he liked me very much and wanted to help me and
that, if I wished, he would invest my money for me in a way that would
bring in a great deal more interest than the savings-bank would pay.
And he asked if I understood what he meant.

I said I did--that he was offering to take entirely too much trouble
for a stranger, and that he was just as kind as he could be, but that
I couldn't think of letting him do it, and I was sure papa wouldn't
want me to. He seemed annoyed all of a sudden, and his manner changed.
He asked why I had come if I felt that way, and I began to see how
silly it looked to him, for of course he didn't know I was a reporter
getting a story on investments for women. I didn't know what to say or
what to do about the money, either, for Mr. Hurd hadn't told me how to
meet any offer of that kind.

While I was thinking and hesitating Mr. Drake sat still and looked at
me queerly; the blue sparks in his eyes actually seemed to shoot out
at me. They frightened me a little; and, without stopping to think
any more, I said I was very grateful to him and that I would bring the
money to his office the next day. Then I stood up and he stood up,
too; and I gave him my hand and told him he was the kindest man I had
met in New York--and the next minute I was gasping and struggling and
pushing him away with all my strength, and he stumbled and went
backward into his big chair, knocking over an inkstand full of ink,
which crawled to the edge of his desk in little black streams and fell
on his gray clothes.

For a minute he sat staring straight ahead of him and let them fall.
Then he brushed his hand across his head and picked up the inkstand
and soaked up the ink with a blotter, and finally turned and looked at
me. I stared back at him as if I were in a nightmare. I was opposite
him and against the wall, with my back to it, and for a moment I
couldn't move. But now I began to creep toward the door, with my eyes
on him. I felt some way that I dared not take them off. As I moved he
got up; he was much nearer the door than I was, and, though I sprang
for it, he reached it first and stood there quietly, holding the knob
in his hand. Neither of us had uttered a sound; but now he spoke, and
his voice was very low and steady.

"Wait a minute," he said. "I want to tell you something you need to
know. Then you may go." And he added, grimly, "Straighten your hat!"

I put up my hands and straightened it. Still I did not take my eyes
off his. His eyes seemed like those of Yawkins and the great snake in
my dreams, but as I looked into them they fell.

"For God's sake, child," he said, irritably, "don't look at me as if I
were an anaconda! Don't you know it was all a trick?" He came up
closer to me and gave me his next words eye to eye and very slowly, as
if to force me to listen and believe.

"I did that, Miss Iverson," he said, "to show you what happens to
beautiful girls in New York when they go into men's offices asking for
advice about money. Some one had to do it. I thought the lesson might
come better from me than from a younger man."

His words came to me from some place far away. A bit of my bit of
Greek came, too--something about Homeric laughter. Then next instant I
went to pieces and crumpled up in the big chair, and when he tried to
help me I wouldn't let him come near me. But little by little, when I
could speak, I told him what I thought of him and men like him, and of
what I had gone through since I came to New York, and of how he had
made me feel degraded and unclean for ever. At first he listened
without a word; then he began to ask a few questions.

"So you don't believe me," he said once. "That's too bad. I ought to
have thought of that."

He even wrung from me at last the thing that was worst of all--the
thing I had not dared to tell Mrs. Hoppen--the thing I had sworn to
myself no one should ever know--the deep-down, paralyzing fear that
there must be something wrong in me that brought these things upon me,
that perhaps I, too, was to blame. That seemed to stir him in a queer
fashion. He put out his hand as if to push the idea away.

"No," he said, emphatically. "No, _no_! Never think that." He went on
more quietly. "That's not it. It's only that you're a lamb among the

He seemed to forget me, then to remember me again. "But remember this,
child," he went on. "Some men are bad clear through; some are only
half bad. Some aren't wolves at all; they'll help to keep you from the
others. Don't you get to thinking that every mother's son runs in the
pack; and don't forget that it's mighty hard for any of us to believe
that you're as unsophisticated as you seem. You'll learn how to handle
wolves. That's a woman's primer lesson in life. And in the mean time
here's something to comfort you: Though you don't know it, you have a
talisman. You've got something in your eyes that will never let them
come too close. Now good-by."

It was six o'clock when I got back to the _Searchlight_ office. I had
gone down to the Battery to let the clean sea-air sweep over me. I had
dropped into a little chapel, too, and when I came out the world had
righted itself again and I could look my fellow human beings in the
eyes. Even Mr. Drake had said my experience was not my fault and that
I had a talisman. I knew now what the talisman was.

Mr. Hurd, still bunched over his desk, was drinking a bottle of
ginger-ale and eating a sandwich when I entered. Morris, at his desk,
was editing copy. The outer pen, where the rest of us sat, was
deserted by every one except Gibson, who was so busy that he did not
look up.

"Got your story?" asked Hurd, looking straight at me for the third
time since I had taken my place on his staff. He spoke with his mouth
full. "Hello," he added. "What's the matter with your eyes?"

I sat down by his desk and told him. The sandwich dropped from his
fingers. His young-old, dimpled face turned white with anger. He
waited without a word until I had finished.

"By God, I'll make him sweat for that!" he hissed. "I'll show him up!
The old hypocrite! The whited sepulcher! I'll make this town ring with
that story. I'll make it too hot to hold him!"

Morris got up, crossed to us, and stood beside him, looking down at
him. The bunches on his jaw-bones were very large.

"What's the use of talking like that, Hurd?" he asked, quietly. "You
know perfectly well you won't print that story. You don't dare. And
you know that you're as much to blame as Drake is for what's happened.
When you sent Miss Iverson out on that assignment you knew just what
was coming to her."

Hurd's face went purple. "I didn't," he protested, furiously. "I swear
I didn't. I thought she'd be able to get to them because she's so
pretty. But that's as far as my mind worked on it." He turned to me.
"You believe me, don't you?" he asked, gently. "Please say you do."

I nodded.

"Then it's all right," he said. "And I promise you one thing now: I'll
never put you up against a proposition like that again."

He picked up his sandwich and dropped the matter from his mind. Morris
stood still a minute longer, started to speak, stopped, and at last
brought out what he had to say.

"And you won't think every man you meet is a beast, will you, Miss
Iverson?" he asked.

I shook my head. I didn't seem to be able to say much. But it seemed
queer that both he and Mr. Drake had said almost the same thing.

"Because," said Morris, "in his heart, you know, every man wants to be

I filed that idea for future reference, as librarians say. Then I
asked them the question I had been asking myself for hours. "Do you
think Mr. Drake really _was_ teaching me a--a terrible lesson?" I

The two men exchanged a look. Each seemed to wait for the other to
speak. It was Gibson who answered me. He had opened the door, and was
watching us with no sign of his usual wide and cheerful grin.

"The way you tell it," he said, "it's a toss-up. But I'll tell you how
it strikes me. Just to be on the safe side, and whether he lied to you
or not, I'd like to give Henry F. Drake the all-firedest licking he
ever got in his life."

"You bet," muttered Hurd, through the last mouthful of his sandwich.
Mr. Morris didn't say anything, but the bunches on his jaw-bones
seemed larger than ever as he turned to his desk.

I looked at them, and in that moment I learned the lesson that follows
the primer lesson. At least one thing Mr. Drake had told me was
true--all men were not wolves.



Nine typewriters were stuttering over nine news stories; four electric
fans were singing their siren songs of coolness; two telephone bells
were ringing; one office boy, new to his job, was hurtling through the
air on his way to the night city editor's desk, and the night city
editor was discharging him because he was not coming faster; the
managing editor was "calling down" a copy-reader; the editor-in-chief
was telling the foreign editor he wished he could find an intelligent
man to take the foreign desk; Mr. Nestor Hurd was swearing at Mr.
Godfrey Morris. In other words, it was nearly midnight in the offices
of the _Searchlight_.

I was sitting at my desk, feeling very low in my mind. That day, for
the first time in my three weeks' experience as a reporter, Mr. Hurd
had not given me an assignment. This was neither his fault nor mine. I
had written a dozen good stories for him, besides many more that were
at least up to the average. My assignments had taken me to all sorts
of places strangely unlike the convent from which I had graduated only
a month before--morgues, hospitals, police stations, the Tombs, the
Chinese quarter--and I had always brought back something, even, as
Mr. Gibson had once muttered, if it were merely a few typhoid germs.
Mr. Gibson did not approve of sending me to all those places. Only
that morning I had heard my chief tell Mr. Morris the Iverson kid was
holding down her job so hard that the job was yelling for help. This
was a compliment, for Mr. Hurd never joked about any one who worked
less than eighteen hours a day.

I knew he hated to see me idle now, even for a few hours, and I did
not like it myself. But we both had to bear it, for this had been one
of the July days when nothing happened in New York. Individuals were
born, and married, and died, and were run over by automobiles, as
usual; but, as Mr. Hurd said, "the element of human interest was
lacking." At such times the newspapers fill their space with
symposiums on "Can a Couple Live on Eight Dollars a Week?" or "Is
Suicide a Sin?" Or they have a moral spasm over some play and send the
police to suppress it. The night before Mr. Hurd had sent Gibson, his
star reporter, with a police inspector, to see a play he hoped the
_Searchlight_ could have a moral spasm over. Mr. Gibson reported that
the police inspector had left the theater wiping his eyes and saying
he meant to look after his daughters better hereafter; so the
_Searchlight_ could not have a spasm that time, and Mr. Hurd swore for
five minutes without repeating once. He was wonderful that way, but
not so gifted as Col. John Cartwell, the editor-in-chief, who used to
check himself between the syllables of his words to drop little oaths
in. Such conversation was new and terrible to me. I had never heard
any one swear before, and at first it deeply offended me. I thought a
convent girl should not hear such things, especially a girl who
intended to be a nun when she was twenty-one. But after a week or two
I discovered that the editors never meant anything by their rude
words; they were merely part of their breath.

To kill time that evening I wrote a letter to my mother--the first
long one I had sent her since I left my Western home. I wrote it on
one side of my copy paper, underlining my "u's" and overlining my
"n's," and putting little circles around all my periods, to show the
family I was a real newspaper woman at last. When I finished the
letter I put it in an office envelope with a picture of the
_Searchlight_ building on the outside, and began to think of going
home. But I did not feel happy. I realized by this time that in
newspaper work what one did yesterday does not matter at all; it is
what one does to-day that counts. In the convent we could bask for a
fortnight in the afterglow of a good recitation, and the memory of a
brilliant essay would abide, as it were, for months. But full well I
knew that if I gave Mr. Hurd the biggest "story" of the week on
Thursday, and did nothing on Friday, he would go to bed Friday night
with hurt, grieved feelings in his heart. This was Friday.

However, there was no sense in waiting round the office any longer, so
I put on my hat and left the _Searchlight_ building, walking across
City Hall Park to Broadway, where I took an open car up-town. I was
getting used to being out alone late at night; but I had not ceased to
feel an exultant thrill whenever I realized that I, May Iverson, just
out of the convent and only eighteen, was actually part of the night
life of great, wonderful, mysterious New York. Almost every man and
woman I saw interested me because of the story I knew was hidden in
each human heart; so to-night, as usual, I studied closely those
around me. But my three fellow-passengers did not look as if they had
any stories in them. They were merely tired, sleepy, perspiring men
going home after a day of hard work. I envied them. I had not done a
day's work, and I felt that I hardly deserved to rest. This thought
was still in my mind when I left the car at Twenty-fifth Street and
walked across Madison Square toward the house where I had rooms.

It was after midnight and very hot. The benches in the park still held
many men--most of them the kind that stay there because they have no
place else to go. There were a dozen tramps, some stretched at full
length and sound asleep, others talking together. There were men out
of work, trying to read the newspaper advertisements by the electric
light from the globes far above them. Over the park hung a yellow mist
that looked like fog but was merely heat, and from every side came
the deep mutter of a great city on a summer night. The men around me
were the types I had seen every time I crossed the Square, and, though
I was always sorry for them, they no longer made me feel sick with
sympathy, as they did at first.

But on a bench a little apart from the rest sat a girl who interested
me at once. I noticed her first because she was young and alone, and
then because she seemed to be in trouble. She was drooping forward in
her seat, with her elbows on her knees and her chin in her hands,
staring hard at a spot on the ground in front of her. I could not see
what it was. It looked like an ordinary brown stain. I usually walked
very fast when I was alone at night, but now I slackened my pace and
strolled toward the girl as slowly as I dared, studying her as I went.
I could not see much of her face, which was in the hollow of her
joined hands, but the way she was sitting--all bunched up--showed me
that she was sick or discouraged, or both. She wore a gray dress with
a very narrow skirt, and a wide, plain lace collar on the jacket. The
suit had a discouraged air, as if it had started out to be smart and
knew it had failed. Her hat was a cheap straw with a quill on it that
had once been stiff but was now limp as an unstarched collar, and the
coil of hair under it was neat and brown and wavy. Her plain lingerie
blouse was cut low at the neck and fastened with a big black bow, and
when I was closer to her I saw that both her shoes were broken at the
sides. Altogether, she looked very sick and very poor, and when she
changed her position a little to glance at a man who was passing,
something about her profile made me think of one of my classmates at
St. Catharine's.

I had tried to pass her, but now my feet would not take me. It was
simply impossible to ignore a girl who looked like Janet Trelawney and
who seemed to be in trouble. I saw when I got nearer that she was not
Janet, but she might have been--and, anyway, she was a young girl like
myself. We were taught at the convent that to intrude on another
person's grief, uninvited, is worse than to intrude at any other time.
Mere sympathy does not excuse it. But this looked like a special case,
for there was no one else around to do anything for the girl in gray
if she needed help. However, I did not speak to her at once. I merely
sat down on the bench beside her and waited to see if she would speak
to me.

She raised her head the minute she felt me there, and sat up and
stared at me with eyes that were big and dark and had a queer,
desperate expression in them. It seemed to startle her to know that
some one was so near her, but after she had looked at me her surprise
changed to annoyance, and she moved as if she meant to get up and go
away. That full glance at her had shown me what she was like. She was
not pretty. Her face was dreadfully pale, her nose was ordinary in
shape, and her firmly set, thin lips made her mouth look like a
straight line. I did not see how I could have thought of Janet
Trelawney in connection with her. However, I felt that I could not
drive her away from her seat, so I stopped her and begged her pardon
and asked if she was ill or had hurt herself in any way, and if I
could help her.

At first she did not answer me. She merely sat still and looked me
over slowly, as if she were trying to make up her mind about me. The
longer she looked the more puzzled she seemed to be. It had been
raining when I left home in the morning, so I had on a mackintosh and
a little soft rainy-day hat. I knew I did not look impressive, and it
was plain that the girl in gray did not think much of me. At last she
asked what I wanted, and her voice sounded hard and indifferent--even
rude. I was disappointed in that, too, as well as in her face. It
would have been more interesting, of course, to help a refined,
educated girl. There was no doubt, however, that she needed help of
some kind, so I merely repeated in different words what I had said to
her at first. She laughed then--a laugh I did not like at all--and
stared at me again in her queer way, as if she could not make me out.
She seemed to be more puzzled over me than I was over her.

She kept on staring at me a long time with her singular eyes, that had
dark circles under them. At last she asked me if I was a "society
agent" or anything of that sort, and when I said I was not she asked
how I happened to be out so late, and what I was doing. Her voice was
as queer as her eyes--low and husky. I did not like her manner. It
almost seemed as if she thought I had no right to be there, so I told
her rather coldly that I was a reporter on the _Searchlight_ and that
I was on my way home from the office. As soon as I said that her whole
manner changed. I have noticed this quick change in others when they
hear that I am a newspaper woman. Some are pleased and some are not,
but few remain cold and detached. The girl in gray actually looked
relieved about something. She laughed again, a husky, throaty laugh
that sounded, however, much nicer and more human than before, and gave
me a good-natured little push.

"Oh," she said, "all right. Better beat it now. So-long." And she
waved me away as if she owned the park bench. I hesitated. I was sorry
now that I had stopped, and I wanted to go; but it seemed impossible
to leave her there. I sat still for a moment, thinking it over, and
suddenly she leaned toward me and advised me very earnestly not to
linger till the roundsman came to take my pedigree. She said he was
letting her alone because he knew she was only out of the hospital two
days and up against it, but the healthy thing for me was to move on
while the walking was good.

I was sorry she used so much slang, but of course the fact that she
was unrefined and uneducated made her situation harder, and demanded
even more sympathy from those better off. What she had said about the
hospital and being "up against it" proved that I had done right to

I told her I was going home in a few minutes, but that I wanted to
talk to her first if she did not mind, and that there was no reason
why I could not sit in the park if she could. She looked at me and
laughed again as if I had made a joke, and the laugh brought on an
attack of coughing which kept her busy for a full minute. When she had
stopped I pointed out my home to her. It was on the opposite side of
the Square, but we could see it quite plainly from where we sat. We
could even see the windows of my rooms, which faced the park. The girl
in gray looked up at them a long time.

"Gee!" she said, "you're lucky. Think of havin' a joint to fall into,
and not knowin' enough to go to it when you got a chance." She added,
"It wouldn't take me long to hop there if I owned the latch-key."

I asked her where she lived, and she laughed again and swung one knee
over the other as we were taught in the convent not to do, and
muttered that her present address was Madison Square Park, but she
hoped it would not be permanent. Then she got up and said, "So-long,"
and started to go. I got up, too, and caught her arm. Her last words
had simply thrilled me. I had read about girls being sick and out of
work and being dismissed from the hospital with no money and no place
to go to. But to read of them in books is one thing, and to see one
with your own eyes, to have one actually beside you, is another
thing--and very different. My heart swelled till it hurt; so did my
throat. The girl shook off my hand.

"Say," she said, and her voice was rude and cross again--"say, kid,
what's the matter with you? You ain't got nothin' on me. Beat it, will
you, or let me beat it. I can't set here and chin."

I held her arm. I knew what was the matter. She was too proud to ask
for help. I knew another thing, too. There was a story in her, the
story of what happens to the penniless girl in New York; and I could
get it from her and write it and put the matter on a business basis
that would mean as much to her as to me. Then I would have my story,
the story I had not got to-day, and she would have a room and shelter,
for of course I would give her some money in advance. My mind worked
like lightning. I saw exactly how the thing could be done.

"Wait a minute," I said. "Forgive me--but you're hungry, aren't you?"

She stared at me again with that queer look of hers. Then she answered
with simple truth. "You bet I am," she muttered.

"Very well," I said, and I put all the will-power I had in my voice.
"Come with me and get something to eat. Then tell me what has happened
to you. Perhaps I can make a newspaper story of it. If I can, we'll
divide the space rates."

The girl in gray hung back. I could see that she wanted to go with
me, but that for some reason she was afraid.

"Say," she said at last, "you're kidding ain't you? You don't look
like a reporter nor act like one. Honest, you got me guessin'."

I did not like that very much, but I could not blame her. I knew it
required more than three weeks to make one look like a real newspaper
woman. I opened my hand-bag and took out one of the new cards I had
had engraved, with _The New York Searchlight_ down in the left-hand
corner. It looked beautiful. I could see that at last the girl in gray
was impressed. She stood with the card in her hand, staring down at it
and thinking. Finally she shrugged her shoulders and clapped me on the
back with a force that hurt me.

"Al-l-l _right_!" she said, drawling out the first word and shooting
the second at me like a bullet from a pistol. "I got the goods. I'm
just out of Bellevue. I'll give you a spiel about the way those guys
treated me. I'll tell you about the House of Detention, too, and the
judges and the police. Oh, I got a story, all right, all right. I'll
give it to you straight."

She was pulling me along the street as she talked. She seemed to be in
a great hurry all of a sudden, and in good spirits, but I realized how
weak she was when I saw that even to walk half a block made her breath
come in little gasps.

"It's the eats first, ain't it?" she asked; and I told her it
certainly was. Then I asked her where we were going, for it was clear
that she was headed for some definite place.

"Owl-wagon," she told me, and saved her breath for the walk. I said we
would take a car, but she pointed to the "owl-wagon" standing against
the curb only a square away. The sight of it seemed to give her fresh
strength. She made for it like a carrier-pigeon going home. When we
reached it she sat down on the curbstone and nodded affably to the man
inside the wagon. He nodded back at her and then came through the door
and down the wagon steps to stare at me.

"Hello," he said to the girl in gray. "Heard you was sick. Glad to see
you round again. What'll you eat?"

She did not waste breath on him, but made a gesture toward me. For a
moment I think she could not speak.

"Give her a large glass of milk first," I told the man--"not too
cold." When I handed it to her I advised her to drink it slowly, but
she did not. It vanished in one long gulp. While the man was filling
another glass for her I asked her what she wanted for supper. Eating
at the "owl" was a new experience to me. I began to enjoy it, and to
examine the different kinds of food that stood on the little shelves
around the sides of the wagon. The girl in gray looked at me over the
rim of her glass.

"What'll you stand for?" she asked.

I laughed and told her to choose for herself; she could have
everything in the wagon if she wanted it. Before the words were past
my lips she was on the top step, selecting sandwiches and pie and
ordering the man around as if she owned the outfit. She took three
sandwiches, one of every kind he had, and two pieces of pie, and some
doughnuts. When she had all she wanted she got down from the wagon and
backed carefully to the curb, balancing the food in her hands. Then
she sat down again and smiled at me for the first time. Something
about that smile made me want to cry; but she seemed almost happy.

"Ain't this a bit of all right?" she asked, with her mouth full. She
told the proprietor that his pies had less sawdust in them than last
year and that he must have put some real lemon in one of them by
mistake. While they talked I continued to inspect the inside of the
wagon, but I heard the owl-man ask her a question in a whisper that
must have reached across the street. "Say, Mollie, who's your friend?"
he wanted to know.

The girl in gray told him it was none of his business. Her speech
sounded strangely like that of Mr. Hurd. There were several of his
favorite words in it. I sighed. She was a dreadfully disappointing
girl, but she had been starving, and I had only to look at her face
and her poor torn shoes to feel sympathy surge up in me again. When
she was finishing her last piece of pie she beckoned to me to come and
sit beside her on the curb.

"Now for the spiel," she said, and her husky voice sounded actually
gay. "You got the key. Wind me up. I'll run 's long's I can."

I looked around. The street was deserted except for two men who stood
beside the owl-wagon munching sandwiches. They stared hard at us, but
did not come near us. There was a light in the wagon, too, by which I
might have made some notes. But I did not want to get my story at one
o'clock in the morning out on a public avenue. I wanted a room and a
reading-lamp and chairs and a table. Six months later I could write
any story on the side of a steam-engine while the engine was in
motion, but this was not then. Besides, while the girl was eating I
had had an inspiration. I asked her if she had really meant what she
said about having no place to go but the park; and when she answered
that she had, I asked her where she would have gone that night if I
had not come along. She looked at me, hesitated a moment, and then
turned sulky.

"Aw, what's the use?" she said. "Get busy. Do I give you the story, or
don't I?"

I told her she did. Then I produced my inspiration. "Aren't there
homes for the friendless," I asked her, "where girls are taken in for
a night when they have no money?"

The girl in gray said there were, and sat eyeing me with her lower jaw
lax and a weary, discouraged air.

"All right," I said, briskly; "let's go to one."

It took her a long time to understand what I meant. I had to explain
over and over that I wanted to go with her and see exactly how girls
were received and treated in such places and what sort of rooms and
food they got, and that I must play the part of a penniless and
friendless girl myself to get the facts; for of course if the people
in the "refuge" knew I was a reporter everything would be colored for
me. At last my companion seemed to grasp my meaning. She got up,
wabbling a little on her weak knees, and started toward Twenty-third

"Come on, then," she muttered, and added something about a "funeral"
and some one being "crazy." She said the place we were going to was on
First Avenue, not very far away, but I stopped a car and made her get
into it. As we rode across town she told me the little she knew about
the refuge. She said girls who went there paid a few cents for their
rooms if they had money, but if not they were sometimes taken in
without charge. She said breakfast was five cents and dinner ten or
more, according to what one ate. The house closed at midnight, and she
was afraid we could not get in; but she had been there twice before,
and the matron knew she was sick, so perhaps she would admit us. I was
to be Kittie Smith, a friend of hers from Denver.

I did not like the appearance of the place very much when we finally
reached it. It was like a prison, I thought, and its black windows
seemed to glower at us menacingly as we looked at them. We climbed
the worn steps that led to the front door; there were only a few of
them, but I had to help the girl in gray. When we reached the last
one, she rang the bell labeled "Night bell." Beside it a brass sign
that needed polishing told us the institution was a "Home for
Friendless Girls." We could hear the bell jangling feebly far inside
the house, as if it hung at the end of a loose wire, but for a long
time no one answered it. The girl in gray sat down on the top step
while I rang the bell again. Then at last steps came along the hall,
the door opened an inch, and an old woman peered out at us. We could
see nothing of her but her eyes and a bit of white hair. The eyes
looked very cross, and the old woman's voice matched them when she
spoke to us. She asked what we wanted and explained in the same breath
that the house was closed and that it was too late to get in. The girl
in gray leaned back against the door so the old woman could not close
it, and said in a faint voice that she was sick.

"You remember me, Mrs. Catlin," she added, coaxingly. "Sure you do.
I'm Mollie Clark. I been here before."

Mrs. Catlin opened the door another inch, grudgingly, and surveyed
Mollie Clark.

"Humph!" she said. "It's you again, is it?"

She hesitated a moment and again looked Mollie Clark over. Then she
flung the door wide without a word and let us into a long hall with a
bare floor, whitewashed walls, and a flight of stairs at the end of
it. A gas-light, turned very low, burned at the rear, and the whole
house smelled of carbolic acid. It seemed to me that no girl's
situation anywhere could be as forlorn as that place looked. The old
woman picked up a candle which stood on a table near the door and lit
it at the solitary gas-jet. Then she motioned to us to follow her and
started rheumatically up-stairs, grumbling under her breath all the
way. She said it was against the rules to let us in at that hour, and
she didn't know what the superintendent would say in the morning, and
that there was only one room empty, anyhow, and we would have to be
content with it. She led us up three flights of stairs and into a
little hall-room at the front of the house. It had one window, which
was open. Its furniture was a small bed, a wash-stand with a white
bowl and pitcher, one towel, a table, and two chairs. My eyes must
have lit up when they saw the table. That was what I wanted, and I did
not care much about anything else.

Mrs. Catlin set the candle down on the table, whispered something
about taking our "records" in the morning, warned us not to talk and
disturb others, and went away without saying good night. The minute
the door closed behind her I sat down at the table and got out my
pencil and a fat note-book. I did not even stop to take off my hat,
but Mollie Clark removed hers and threw it in a corner. Her hair, as I
had suspected, was very pretty--soft and brown and wavy. She came and
sat down opposite me at the table and waited for me to begin.

At first when we got into the room I had felt rather queer--almost
nervous. But the minute I had my pencil in my hand and saw my
note-book open before me I forgot the place we were in and was
comfortable and happy. I smiled at Mollie Clark and told her to tell
me all about herself--the whole story of her life, so that I could use
as much or as little of it as I wanted to. Of course, she did not know
how to begin. People never do. She rested her elbows on the table and
her chin on her hands, which seemed to be her favorite attitude, and
sat quite still, thinking. To help her I asked a few questions. That
started her, and at last she grew interested and more at ease and
began to talk.

I will admit right here that before fifteen minutes had passed I was
in an abyss of black despair. Someway I simply could not get hold of
that story, and when I did begin to get hold of it I was frightened.
It was not because she used so much slang. I understood that, or most
of it. But some of the things she said I did not understand at all,
and when I showed I did not, or asked her what they meant, she was not
able to explain them. She put them in a different way, but I did not
get them that way, either; and she looked so surprised at first, and
so discouraged herself toward the end, that at last I stopped asking
her questions and simply wrote down what she told me, whether I knew
what it meant or not. After a time I began to feel as if some one in
a strange world was talking to me in an unknown tongue--which little
by little I began to comprehend. It seemed a horrible sort of world,
and the words suggested unspeakable things. Once or twice I felt sick
and giddy--as if something awful was coming toward me in a dark room
and would soon take hold of me. Occasionally the girl leaned across
the table to look at my notes and see what I was putting down, and I
kept pushing my chair farther and farther away from her. I hoped it
would not hurt her feelings, but I could not endure her near me.

For five minutes the story went beautifully. She had run away from
home when she was only sixteen--three years before; and the home had
been a farm, just as it is in books. She had gone to Denver--the farm
was thirty miles from Denver, but not large enough to be a ranch--and
she had worked for a while in a big shop and afterward in an office.
She had never learned typewriting or shorthand or expert filing, nor
anything of that kind, so she folded circulars and addressed
envelopes, and got five dollars a week for doing it. She said it was
impossible to live on five dollars a week, and that this was the
beginning of all her trouble.

After that she talked about her life in Chicago and Detroit and
Buffalo and Boston and New York, and about men who had helped her and
women who had robbed her, and police graft, and a great many things I
had never even heard of.

For a long time I wrote as fast as my hand could write. My head seemed
to be spinning round on my shoulders. I felt queerer and queerer, and
more and more certain I was in a nightmare; the worst part of the
nightmare was the steady husky whisper of the girl's voice--for of
course she had to whisper. At moments it seemed like the hissing of a
snake, and the girl looked like a snake, too, with her set straight
mouth and her strange, brilliant eyes. At last, after a long time, I
stopped writing and leaned back in my chair and looked at her. At the
same time she stopped talking and looked back at me, and for a minute
neither of us spoke. Then she bunched forward in her chair and sat
staring at the floor, exactly the way she had done in the park.

"It's no go," she said, in a queer, flat voice. "You ain't gettin' it,
are you?"

For a moment I did not answer her. It seemed someway that I could not.
I saw by her face how she felt--sick with disappointment. She muttered
some words to herself. They sounded like unpleasant words; I was glad
I did not hear them clearly. She had counted on her share of the space
rates for my story. She sat still for quite a long time. Once or twice
she looked at me as if she did not understand why I was allowed to
encumber the earth when I was so stupid. Then she shrugged her
shoulders, and finally she smiled at me in a sick kind of way. I
suppose she remembered that, after all, I had given her a supper. At
last she rose and picked up her hat and put it on.

"I'll blow out of here," she said. "Sorry you're out a meal for

She turned to go, and I felt more emotions in that moment than I had
ever felt before. There were dozens of them, but confusion and horror
and pity seemed to be the principal ones. I asked her to wait a
minute, and I went to my hand-bag and took out my purse. There was not
very much in it. I had been paid on Saturday, and this was Friday, so
of course I had spent most of my money. But there were six dollars
left, and I gave her five of them.

"What for?" she asked, and stared at me as she had done in the park.

"For the story," I said. "On account. I'll give you the rest when it's

She took the bill and stood still, looking down at it as it lay in her
hand. Then suddenly she threw it on the floor.

"Aw, say," she muttered, "what's the use? It's like takin' candy from
a kid. You'll need that money," she added, touching the bill with the
toe of her ragged shoe as she spoke. "You'll sure need it to get back
where you come from. You didn't get that story. You didn't get a word
of it."

The look of the ragged shoe as she put it out and pushed the money
away, and the look on her face as she spoke, made my heart turn over
with pity for her. I picked up my note-book and held it toward her.

"Didn't I get it?" I asked. "Look at this."

She took the note-book and turned the pages, at first slowly and
without hope, then with interest. Finally, without raising her eyes,
she sat down by the flickering candle and read them all. While she
read I watched her, and as I looked I realized that there was another
Watcher in the little room with us--one who stood close beside her,
waiting, and who would wait only a few weeks. I knew now what her
cough meant, and her husky voice, and the stain in the park, and the
red spots that came and went on her thin cheeks.

When she had finished reading the notes she laid down the book and
smiled at me. "Kiddin' me again, wasn't you?" she said, quietly. "You
got it all here, ain't you?"

"Yes," I said. "I've got the story."

"Sure you have," she corroborated. "That Bellevue stuff's great. And
take it from me, your editor will eat up the story about Holohan, with
the names _an'_ the dates _an'_ the places. Here's six girls will
swear to what I told you. And Miss Bates, the probation officer,
she'll stand for it, too. I'd have give it to a paper long ago if I'd
known who to go to."

An attack of coughing stopped her words. After it she leaned against
the table for a moment, exhausted. Then she bent and picked up the
bill from the floor. Last of all she took my pencil out of my hand,
wrote a name and address in my note-book, and laid the book back on
the table.

"Me for the outer darkness," she said. "That's where I'll be. I'll
stay in till four to-morrow afternoon, if your editor wants anything

She hesitated a moment, as if struggling with words that wouldn't
come. "Thanks for the banquet," she got out, at last. "So-long."

I looked straight into her strange eyes. There were many things I
wanted to say to her, but I didn't know how. I felt younger than I had
ever felt before, and ignorant and tongue-tied.

"You stay here," I said. "I'll go home."

The girl's eyes looked big and round as she stared at me. She held up
the five-dollar bill in her hand.

"Stay here," she gasped, "when I got money to go somewhere else? D'ye
think I'm crazy? _You_ got to stay an' get the rest of yer story. _I_
ain't! See?"

I saw.

"You'll go right to that address," I asked, "and rest?"

"Sure I will," she told me, cheerfully.

"I'll bring your half of the money to you as soon as I get it," I
ended. "Probably in two or three days. And I'm going to send a doctor
to see you to-morrow."

She was on her way to the door as I spoke, but she stopped and looked
back at me. "Say, kid," she said, "take my advice. Don't bring the
money. _Send_ it. Get me?"

I nodded. The door closed very softly behind her. I heard the old
stairs creak once or twice as she crept down them. Then I went to the
open window and leaned out. She was leaving the house, and I watched
her until she turned into a side street. She walked very slowly,
looking to the right and to the left and behind her, as if she felt

Two mornings later when I entered the city room of the _Searchlight_
Mr. Gibson rose and bowed low before me. Then he backed away, still
bowing, and beckoning to me at the same time. His actions were
mysterious, but I followed him across the room, and several reporters
rose from their desks and followed us both. Near the city editor's
desk Mr. Gibson stopped, made another salaam, and pointed impressively
to the wall. Tacked on it very conspicuously was a "model story" of
the day--the sort of thing the city editor occasionally clipped from
the _Searchlight_ or some other newspaper and hung there as "an
inspiration to the staff." We were always interested in his "model
stories," for they were always good; I had read some of them till I
knew them by heart. But this particular morning it was _my_ story
which was tacked there--my story of the girl in gray!

For a full minute I could not speak. I merely stood and stared while
the reporters congratulated me and joked around me. While I was still
trying to take in the stupendous fact that the "model story of the
day" was really mine the city editor, Mr. Farrell, came and stood
beside me. He was a fat man, with a face like a sad full moon, but he
was smiling now.

"Nice story," he said, kindly. "But don't get a swelled head over it.
You'll probably write a rotten one to-morrow."

I nodded. Full well I knew I probably would.

"Besides," continued Mr. Farrell, "the best thing in your story was
the tip it gave us for Gibson's big beat. That was a cub reporter's
luck. Thanks to it, we've got Holohan with the goods on. If you listen
you'll hear him squeal. And oh, by the way," he added, as he was
turning back to his desk, "we have a dozen messages already from
people who want to give care and nursing and country homes to your
'girl in gray.'"

I was glad of that. Also I was interested in something else, and I
mentioned it to Mr. Farrell. I told him I had felt sure my story was
spoiled because I had left so much out of it. The city editor looked
at me, and then jerked his head toward the story on the wall.

"It's what you left out of it," he said, "that makes that a model



The office door opened with a rush and shut with a bang. In the little
whirlwind caused by the draught it made, the papers on our desks rose,
swirled in the air, and played tag upon the floor. Everybody but me
stopped work and glanced up to nod or frown at the woman who had come
in. I did not stop. I knew too well who it was. There was only one
person on the _Searchlight_ whose entrance caused that sort of
commotion. Besides, I had heard the whisper of silk petticoats, and
smelled the strong odor of _peau d'Espagne_ which always preceded Miss
Mollie Merk to her desk.

Mollie Merk was Mr. Hurd's most sensational woman reporter--the one
who went up in air-ships and described her sensations, or purposely
fell in front of trolley-cars to prove that the fenders would not
work. She was what she herself called a "breezy writer," but her
breeziness did not exhaust itself in her literature. She was a breezy
person generally--small and thin and dark, and so full of vitality
that she always arrived anywhere as if she had been projected by some
violent mechanical force. She spoke very rapidly, in short explosive
sentences. She openly despised the young and made epigrams about them
to show her scorn. Before I had been on the _Searchlight_ a week she
announced that I would be endurable if I had a redeeming vice; and our
fellow-reporters went around quoting that remark and grinning over it.
After I had written a few "big stories" her manner changed to one of
open wonder, and she began to call me "the convent kid" and give me
advice, addressing me as if I were an infant class. When she was in
the same room with me I felt that she was mentally patting my head. I
appreciated her kind heart and her value to the _Searchlight_; but I
did not really like Mollie Merk.

Usually when she catapulted into the office she exchanged a few shouts
of greeting with "the boys" and then went directly to her desk, where
she dropped into her chair like a bag of ballast from a balloon, and
began to write with a pen that scratched louder than any other. But
to-night she followed the _peau d'Espagne_ across the room to me and
clapped her hand on my shoulder.

"'Lo, Iverson," she said, in her loud and breathless way. "Still on
the job? 'Can' it. I'm your vesper-bell."

I felt myself instinctively drop away from her hand. In her greeting
she had done two things I particularly disliked. She had called me
"Iverson"--it was a vulgar habit of hers to address other women by
their last names--and she had spoken of something connected with my
convent life, which was too sacred to be joked about. Still, I knew
she meant well. I looked up at her and tried to smile, but all I could
do was to drag one side of my mouth down to my chin in humble
imitation of Mr. Hurd when he is talking to a member of the staff.
Mollie Merk seemed to appreciate it. She roared, and her hand clapped
my shoulder again.

"Cheer up, Iverson," she said. "Worst's yet to come." And she added,
all in one breath, "I'm-going-to-give-a-party-for-you!"

I dropped my pen and turned in my chair to stare at her.

"Been meaning to do it right along," she jerked out. "Couldn't pull it
off. To-night's my chance. Nothing to do. Fell down on my story.
Hurrah! Give you a Bohemian dinner. Show you life outside the
cloister. Purple pasts. Crimson presents. All the rest of it. Make
your hair curl and your eyes stick out. Come on!"

Her words gave me a thrill, on which I immediately put down the stern
brake of conscience. As a student of life I wanted to see and learn
all I could--especially as I intended to be a nun in three years and
would have no further chances. But was I justified in deliberately
turning aside to seek such knowledge, when in the broad path of my
daily duty I was already acquiring more than one person could
understand? Also, would it be right to accept Mollie Merk's
hospitality when I did not approve of her? I decided that it would
not; and I tried to think of some polite and gracious way of declining
her invitation, but the right words did not come. I had no social
engagements, for I was still a stranger in New York, and Mollie Merk
knew it; and I had not learned to tell lies with unstudied ease.

Finally an inspiration came to me. I could make an engagement and then
keep it. I thanked Miss Merk and told her I intended to dine with my
classmates Maudie Joyce and Kittie James. They had come to New York
the day before with Kittie's sister, Mrs. George Morgan; and as they
were only to stay a week, I felt that I must see all I could of them.
As a matter of fact, I had dined with them the previous night, but
that did not matter. I knew they would be glad to see me, even two
nights in succession.

Mollie Merk was interested as soon as I spoke of them. "Classmates?"
she yelped. "Two more convent kids?"

I admitted coldly that Maudie and Kittie had been graduated with me
from St. Catharine's the month before.

"All right," said Mollie Merk. "Have 'em with us. Great. More convent
kids the merrier. Invite their chaperon, too. I'll get Mrs. Hoppen.
Hen-party of six."

I hesitated. Mrs. George Morgan would hardly approve of Mollie Merk,
but she would find her a new type. Mrs. Morgan liked new types and
strange experiences, and had seen many of them, for her husband was a
wealthy Chicago man who wrote plays. Moreover, Mrs. Hoppen would be
with us, and Mrs. Morgan would surely like her. Mrs. Hoppen was the
city editor's star woman reporter, and very old--older even than
Mollie Merk, who was at least twenty-five. Mrs. Hoppen, I had heard,
was over thirty. She was rather bitter and blasé at times, but usually
she had charming manners. I told Miss Merk I would get Mrs. Morgan on
the telephone and ask if she and the girls could come, and within five
minutes I was in the _Searchlight's_ telephone-booth calling up her

It was Maudie Joyce who answered, and she uttered a cry of joy when I
told her of Mollie Merk's invitation. She said Mrs. Morgan had gone to
bed with a sick-headache, and that she and Kittie James had been just
about sick, too, over the prospect of a whole evening shut up alone in
hotel rooms when so much Life was going to waste in the outer world.
Then she turned from the telephone and repeated Mollie's message. I
observed that she did not say anything about the dinner being Bohemian
and making our eyes stick out, though I had faithfully repeated our
hostess's words. Almost immediately her voice, breathless with joy,
came over the wire again, telling me that she and Kittie could dine
with us, and that Mrs. Morgan was very grateful to Miss Merk for
saving her young friends from a lonely evening.

The girls were waiting when we three reached the hotel, and my heart
swelled with pride as I introduced them. Mrs. Hoppen and Mollie Merk
and I were, of course, in our office clothes, as we had not gone home
to dress; but Kittie and Maudie were beautifully gowned for the
evening. They were both as charming as Helleu drawings, and in the
same exquisitely finished way; and their manners were so perfect that
I could almost hear Mollie Merk trying to climb up to them. By the
time the five of us had crowded into the taxi-cab, with the little
bustle and confusion the effort caused, everybody liked everybody
else. Maudie and Kittie were very proud of being with three newspaper
women, and showed it; and they were so fascinated by Mollie Merk that
they could not keep their eyes off her.

Of course, too, they were quivering with delight over the throngs, the
noise, the brilliant electric signs, the excitement on every side, and
the feeling that they were in the midst of it. Even I, though I had
been in New York for a whole month and was a reporter at that, felt an
occasional thrill. But as I leaned back and watched the faces of my
two friends, I realized that, though we three were about the same age,
in experience I was already a thousand years in advance of them. So
many things had happened in the past month--things we girls at St.
Catharine's had never heard of--things I could not even mention to
Kittie and Maudie. I felt that I had lost a great deal which they
still retained, and I expected a deep sadness to settle upon my soul.
But someway it did not.

The cab stopped at a restaurant ornamented by a huge electric sign,
and we got out and walked into a marble-lined vestibule. Mollie Merk
and Mrs. Hoppen led the way, and I followed them with an easy,
accustomed step. To dine at a great New York restaurant was just as
novel to me as it was to Maudie and Kittie, but they did not know
this, and I sincerely hoped they would not find it out.

A maid took our wraps in the anteroom, and sent us in single file
along a narrow hall to enter a huge room at the end of it, ablaze with
electric light, and full of smoke and music and little tables with
people sitting at them. All the tables were clustered close together
around the four sides of the room, leaving a big square space in the
center, roped off by a heavy red cord. It was empty, and I wondered
what it was for. Above there was a balcony with more tables and people
at them. There was laughter everywhere, some of it quite loud, and
many voices were speaking in many tongues. Above it all the band at
the head of the room poured forth gay music. I could hear Maudie and
Kittie draw quick breaths of delight, and my own feet hardly touched
the ground as we followed the head waiter to the table reserved for

There were bottles and glasses on most of the tables, and even the
women were helping to empty them. But I knew that many good people
drink wine in moderation, so I was not greatly shocked. After all,
this was New York--Bohemia, a new world. We were in it, and I at least
was of it. The reflection sent a thrill down my spine--the kind that
goes all the way. I felt almost wicked, and strangely happy.

When we were seated at our table Mollie Merk asked if we would have
cocktails. She spoke with a very casual air, and we tried to decline
in the same manner, though I am sure that Maudie and Kittie felt their
hair rise then and there. Even my own scalp prickled. I explained in
an offhand way that we never drank anything but water, so Mollie Merk
ordered some Apollinaris for us, and two cocktails "with a dash of
absinthe in them" for Mrs. Hoppen and herself. For five minutes
afterward Kittie and Maudie and I did not speak. We were stunned by
the mere sound of that fatal word.

Mollie Merk seemed to understand our emotions, for she began to tell
us about her first experience with absinthe, years ago, in Paris, when
she drank a large gobletful as if it had been a glass of lemonade. She
said it was the amount a Frenchman would spend an entire afternoon
over, sipping it a few drops at a time at a little sidewalk table in
front of some cafe; but that she gulped it down in a few swallows, and
then had just enough intelligence left to get into a cab and tell the
_cocher_ to drive her around for three hours. She said she had
ordered the man to keep to the Boulevards, but that he had taken her
through the Milky Way and to the places where the morning stars sang
together, and that she had distinctly heard them sing. Afterward, she
added, she had traveled for centuries through space, visiting the most
important objects in the universe and admiring color effects, for
everything was pulsing with purple and gold and amethyst lights.

As a student of Life I admired the unerring instinct with which Mollie
Merk had chosen her subject when she started in to make our eyes stick
out. But if this was the beginning, what would be the end? At last
Maudie Joyce, who had always had the manner of a woman of the world,
even when she was a school-girl, pulled herself together and asked
smilingly if Miss Merk's cocktail had swept her into space this time.
Mollie Merk sighed and said, alas, no; those were the joys of
yesteryear, and that the most a cocktail could do for her at present
was to make her forget her depression after she had received a letter
from home. Then a calcium light blazed from above, making a brilliant
circle on the floor inside the red ropes. The musicians struck into
wild Oriental music, and two mulattoes came into the limelight and
began to dance.

They were a man and a woman, very young, and in evening dress. They
padded into the ring like two black panthers, the woman first,
circling slowly around in time to the music, which was soft and
rather monotonous, and the man revolving slowly after her. At first
she seemed not to see him, but to be dancing by herself, for the love
of it, and there was beauty in every movement she made. I forgot all
about the dinner, the people, my friends and my hostess, and leaned
forward, watching.

Suddenly she looked over her shoulder and discovered the man. She
quickened her steps a little, and the musicians played faster, while
she circled in and out, as if through the tangled growths of some
dense jungle. I could almost see it springing up around her and hear
the sound of animals moving near her--wild things like herself. She
was very sure of herself as she writhed and twisted, and she had
reason to be; for, however fast the man came toward her, she was
always a little in advance of him. The music swelled into a sudden
crash of sound as he gave a leap and caught her. But she dipped and
slipped out of his hands and whirled away again, sometimes crouching
close to the ground, sometimes revolving around him with a mocking
smile. Once, as he leaped, she bent and let him go over her; again he
caught her, but a second time she slipped away.

At last the violins sent forth only a queer, muted, barbaric hum,
broken by a crash of cymbals as the man made his final spring and
captured the woman, this time holding her fast. There was a delirious
whirl of sound and motion while he held her up and performed a kind
of jungle _pas seule_ before he carried her away. The music grew
slower and slower and finally stopped; but for an instant or two after
the dancers had disappeared it seemed to me that I could still see the
man bearing his burden steadily through strange tropical growths and
under trees whose poisonous branches caught at him as he passed.

I turned and looked at Maudie and Kittie. They were sitting very
still, with their eyes fixed on the spot where the dancers had been. I
knew what they were thinking, and they knew I knew; but when they
caught my glance they both began to speak at once, and eagerly, as if
to reassure me. Maudie said the woman's clothes were in excellent
taste, and Kittie murmured that such violent exercise must be very
reducing. Kittie is extremely plump, and she loves good food so much
that she is growing plumper all the time. In her interest in the dance
she had forgotten her dinner, and now the waiter was taking away a
portion of salmon with a delicious green sauce before she had eaten
even a mouthful of it. That agonizing sight immediately diverted
Kittie's mind, and I was glad.

Mollie Merk met my startled eyes and grinned. "Cheer up, Iverson!" she
exclaimed. "Worst's yet to come, you know."

I managed to smile back at her. This was Life, and we were seeing it,
but I began to feel that we had seen enough for an evening. I tried to
remind myself again that we were in Bohemia, but under the look in
Maudie's eyes I felt my face grow hot. It was I who had brought her
and Kittie here--I and my new friends. What would Sister Irmingarde
think of me if she knew?

I had little time for such mournful reflections. There was a stir on
the musicians' platform as all the players but one laid aside their
instruments and filed out through a side door. This one, the first
violin, came down on the floor and walked about among the diners,
stopping at different tables. Every time he stopped, I discovered, it
was to play to some particular woman who had caught his eye. He was
tall and good-looking in his gipsy costume, with a wide red sash
around his waist, a white-silk shirt open at the neck, short velvet
trousers, and a black-velvet coat. Under his dark mustache his teeth
looked very white as he smiled, and he smiled often, or sighed and
made eyes at the women as he played to them.

I glanced at Kittie and Maudie. They were watching the gipsy with
absorbed interest.

He must have caught Maudie's eye, for suddenly he crossed to our table
and began to play to her--turning occasionally to Kittie and me for a
second only, while his violin shrieked and moaned and sighed and sang
in a way that made our hearts turn over. I could see by their faces,
which were pink with excitement, and by their shining eyes, what
emotions the moment held for my young friends, and certainly it was
thrilling enough for three girls just out of school to have a genius
playing to them alone in one of the gayest restaurants in New York.

For a few moments I was delighted with the gipsy and his music. Then I
began to notice the way he looked at us, alternately half-closing and
slowly opening his eyes as he put his soul into his music. He seemed
to be immensely interested in Maudie, and played to her much longer
than he did to any one else. Several times he came so close to her
that I was afraid he would touch her.

The other musicians had returned by this time, and were playing an
accompaniment to the violinist, who had swung into a Brahms waltz.
When he had finished the first movement he stopped playing, tucked his
violin under his arm, and held out his hand to Maudie, with his most
brilliant smile. She turned first red, then white, and shrank away
from him in her chair, while instinctively I, too, threw out my hands
to ward him off. He turned to me and took them at once, holding them
tight and trying to pull me to my feet. My heart stopped beating as I
resisted his drag on my wrists, and I looked at Mollie Merk and Mrs.
Hoppen, expecting them to spring up and interfere. But for a moment
they both sat regarding the scene as indifferently as if they were at
a play.

At last Mrs. Hoppen shook her head at the musician with her bored
little smile, and he bowed and shrugged his shoulders and went off to
a table some distance away, where he began to play to another woman.

Mollie Merk leaned toward me. "Say, Iverson," she exclaimed, in a tone
that must have reached the diners in the balcony, "what's up? You're
as white as your copy-paper. Which is it--indigestion or cold feet?"

Her words pulled me together. It was natural that I should look pale,
for by this time I was frightened--not for myself, but for Kittie and
Maudie. They, I could see, though embarrassed and ill at ease, were
not yet frightened. I knew why. _I_ was there, and they trusted me.
They were sure that nothing could harm them while I was with them. I
set my teeth in the determination that nothing should.

More entertainers came into the space shut off by the red cords. Every
moment the room grew closer and hotter, the smoke around us became
thicker, the atmosphere of excitement increased. The faces of Kittie
and Maudie began to float before me in a kind of mist. I decided that
if I ever got them out into a clean world again I would have nothing
left to pray for. But I knew I could not wipe the evening and its
incidents from their memories, and that knowledge was the hardest
thing I had to bear.

In desperation I turned from the dancers and began to watch the
diners. The way these accepted the dancing and the actions of the
gipsy had shown me at once what they were, and now they were becoming
gayer every minute and more noisy. Some of them got up occasionally
and whirled about together on the dancing-floor. Many sang
accompaniments to the violins. These men and women were moths, I
reflected, whirling about a lurid flame of life. There were dozens of
young girls in the room--many without chaperons.

Directly opposite me two persons--a man, and a girl in a white
dress--sat at a table alone, absorbed in each other. At first I
glanced at them only occasionally and idly, then with growing interest
and at last with horror, for I began to understand. The girl had a
sweet, good face, but a brief study of the man showed me what he was.
He was short and stout, with a bald head and a round, pleasure-loving
face. It was not so much his appearance, however, as the way he
watched the girl which betrayed him to me. He hardly took his eyes
from her face. Whatever was going on in the dancing-place, he looked
at her; and she, leaning a little forward in her chair, listened to
him as he talked, and swayed toward him. I saw him tap her hand, which
lay on the table, with his fat forefinger. The sight revolted me, but
she did not draw her hand away.

As I watched her I thought of all the dreadful things I had heard and
read and seen since I had been in New York, and wondered if the time
would ever come when I would be old enough and wise enough to rise
and go to a girl in such a situation and ask her if she needed help.
It seemed impossible that women experienced enough to do this with
dignity and courage should sit around to-night, all unheeding, and let
such things go on. Then looking at them again, table by table, I read
the answer. They were themselves the lost and strayed--callous,
indifferent, with faces and hearts hardened by the lives they had led.
I began to feel sick and faint, and for a moment I closed my eyes.

When I opened them, coming toward us slowly through the crowd was
Godfrey Morris, the assistant of Nestor Hurd, my chief on the
_Searchlight_. It was plain that he had just entered, for he was
looking around in search of a table. I shall never forget the feeling
that came over me when I recognized him. Now that he was there, I felt
absolutely safe. I had almost a vision of him picking up Maudie and
Kittie and me and taking us bodily away, and the relief and gratitude
I felt showed me how great my inward panic had been. I kept my eyes on
him, hoping he would turn and see me, but he was looking in another
direction. Still, he was drawing nearer, and I sat tight and waited in
silence, though I wanted to call out to him above the uproar around

It did not surprise me to see the girl in white put out her hand as he
passed her table and touch him on the arm. He stopped at once, looking
a little surprised, and then stood for a moment beside her and the
stout man, talking quietly to them both. I waited breathlessly. Now
he was speaking to the man alone, probably urging him to leave the
place. And then--I heard a sound as unexpected in that place as an
altar-bell. Mr. Morris had thrown back his head and laughed, and as he
laughed he smote the stout man heavily on the shoulder and dropped
into a chair beside him. The stout man filled a glass. I saw Mr.
Morris lift it, bow to the girl in white, and drink its contents.

I lived a long, long time during the next minute. I cannot describe my
emotions. I only knew that in that instant life seemed unbearable and
New York became a city I could not remain in any longer. Surely
nothing could be right in a place where even Godfrey Morris came to
resorts like this, not as a knight to the rescue of helplessness, but
as a familiar patron, who was there because he enjoyed it and found
congenial friends.

It was impossible to take my eyes from the horrible group at that
table. I kept on staring, and, as if he felt my gaze, Mr. Morris
turned around and saw me. The next instant he was on his feet, and a
second after that he was shaking hands with Mrs. Hoppen and Mollie
Merk and me. Evidently, he was neither surprised to find us there nor
ashamed to be found there himself. When he was presented to Kittie and
Maudie his manner was exactly as it might have been if he were meeting
them at an afternoon tea, and he settled down comfortably into the
sixth place at our table, which Mrs. Morgan had been invited to fill,
and chatted as if he had known the girls all his life.

I have no idea what he said. It did not matter. After the first few
moments Maudie and Kittie were able to talk to him. I heard their
voices, but not their words. I sat with my eyes on the table-cloth and
my cheeks burning. I wanted to get away that minute. I wanted to go to
my home, out West. Most of all, I wanted to return to the convent and
never, never leave it.

The gipsy was playing among the tables again, and now he was quite
near us. But I had reached the point where I was not even interested
when he turned, caught sight of our new companion, and crossed quickly
to our table, his hand outstretched to Mr. Morris, his face shining
like an electric globe when the light has been turned on inside of it.

Mr. Morris greeted him like a long-lost brother. "Hello, Fritz!" he
exclaimed, taking his hand in a most friendly grasp. "Business good?
How are the kids?"

The gipsy revealed the widest smile of the evening as he answered.
"_Ach_, Herr Morris," he cried, in a guttural German voice that simply
dripped affection, "you remember dose kids? T'ree we had--_aber_ now,
_now_ we got anoder one--since Tuesday!"

"Good!" cried Mr. Morris, looking around as if he expected us all to
share his joy over the glad tidings. "Girl or boy?"

"Girl," the gipsy player told him. "T'ree boys we had. Now we haf
girl for change. We t'ink, my wife and I, we make her noospaper woman.
Goot idea, _nicht wahr_?"

He laughed, and Mr. Morris laughed with him. "Fine," he declared.
"Send her down to the _Searchlight_ office in a week or two. We'll
give her Miss Merk's job."

Everybody laughed again, Mollie Merk, of course, loudest of all. The
musician bade us good night, beginning to play again at the tables. I
had forgotten about Kittie and Maudie, but now I knew they had been
listening, too, for I heard Kittie speak.

"Why, that gipsy isn't a gipsy at all, is he?" she gasped.

"No more than I am," Mollie Merk told her. "Wears the rig because it
pays--pleases romantic girls." She grinned at us, while Mrs. Hoppen
leaned forward.

"I'm afraid you hurt his feelings," she told Maudie and me, "by
refusing his invitation to dance a little while ago. That was the
greatest compliment he could pay you, you know."

Mr. Morris looked amused. "Did he invite them to dance?" he inquired,
with interest. "Good old Fritz. He doesn't often do that, this

Maudie and I exchanged a long glance. "I thought--" Maudie began, and
then stopped. I was glad she said no more. I looked again at the
gipsy, and, as if something had been stripped from my eyes, I saw him
as he was--no reckless and desperate adventurer, but a matter-of-fact
German, his silk shirt rather grimy, his black hair oily, his absurd
red sash and shabby velvet coat rebukes to the imagination that had
pictured a wild gipsy heart beating under them.

Mr. Morris was smiling at the girl in white. Now he turned to me and
nodded toward her. "That's Miss Hastings and George Brook," he said.
"Have you met them yet?" I was able to shake my head. "Well, it's high
time you did," were his next words. "I'll bring them over."

He rose, but I caught his arm and gasped out something that stopped
him. I don't remember what I said, but I succeeded in making him
understand that I did not want that particular man to meet my friends.
Mr. Morris stared at me hard for a moment. Then he sat down again and
looked me straight in the eyes.

"Miss Iverson," he said, quietly, "what have you against Brook? He's
the foreign editor of the _Searchlight_, and one of the best fellows

I could not speak. I was too much surprised.

"The girl he's with," Morris went on, "is Marion Hastings--Mrs.
Cartwell's social secretary. She and Brook are going to be married
next week."

He waited for me to reply. I muttered something about not wanting my
friends to meet any one in this place. That was all I said. My
self-control, my poise, had deserted me, but perhaps my burning face
was more eloquent than my tongue. Mr. Morris looked from me to
Maudie, and then at Kittie, and finally back at me.

"I see," he said at last, very slowly. "You three actually think you
are in a den of iniquity!"

He turned to Mollie Merk and addressed her as crisply and with as much
authority as if they were in the _Searchlight_ office.

"How did you come to give Miss Iverson that impression?" he demanded.

Mollie Merk looked guilty. "Didn't realize she had it till within the
last half-hour," she muttered.

"I see," said Morris again, in the same tone. "And then it was such
fun for you that you let it go on!"

For a moment Miss Merk seemed inclined to sulk. Then she threw herself
back in her chair and laughed. "Oh, well," she admitted, "'twas fun.
Know what started her. Said something about showing her Life--making
her eyes stick out. Adding her friends to the party changed the
program. Brought 'em here instead. Seeing us drink cocktails started
her panic. Harlem tango did the rest. Her imagination got busy."

I listened to her as one listens to a strange tongue in which one
hears an occasional familiar word. She turned to me. "What that dance
represents," she said, "is a suburbanite catching a cook. Least,
that's what the inventor says."

"It's very graceful. My nieces dance it charmingly," Mrs. Hoppen
added, mildly.

Mr. Morris smiled, but not as if he really wanted to. Then he turned
to me. There was a beautiful, understanding look in his gray eyes.

"Do you realize what has happened, Miss Iverson?" he asked. "You've
been having a bad dream. You expected something lurid, so you have
seen something lurid in everything you have looked at to-night. In
reality you are in one of the most eminently correct restaurants in
New York. Of course it has its _cabaret_--most of them have, this
season--but it's an extremely well-conducted and conservative one,
with no objectionable features whatever. Now look around you and try
to see things as they are."

He made a gesture with his hand, and I followed it slowly around the
room. At most of the tables ordinary-looking couples sat contentedly
munching food. A German woman near us was telling a friend how she
cooked _Wiener Schnitzel_. A tired-looking girl was doing an acrobatic
dance in the ring, but it was not vulgar. It was merely foolish and
dull. Three men on our left were arguing over some business question
and adding up penciled columns on the table-cloth. Our wild-hearted
gipsy, Fritz, was having a glass of beer with some friends off in a
corner. The musicians were playing "The Rosary," and several fat women
were lost in mournful memories. Not far away a waiter dropped a tray
and broke some glasses, and the head waiter hastened to him and swore
under his breath. That was the only lurid thing in the room, and it
was mild indeed to ears familiar with the daily conversation of Mr.
Hurd and Colonel Cartwell. Everything else suddenly, unmistakably, was
simple, cheerful, entirely proper, and rather commonplace.

"So much for the restaurant," remarked Mr. Morris, smiling as if he
had observed my change of expression. "Now for the people. That's the
editor of the _Argus_ over there"--he pointed to a thin, blond
man--"with his daughters. At the table next to them is Miss Blinn, the
artist. The stout old lady who is eating too much is her mother. The
chap with the white hair is the leading editorial-writer of the
_Modern Review_, and the lady opposite is his sister. Almost every one
prominent in New York drops into this place at one time or another.
Many worthy citizens come regularly. It's quite the thing, though

"I know," I stammered. "I know." I did know, but I was humiliated to
the soul. "Please don't say any more."

It is true that I form impressions quickly. It is also true that I can
change them just as quickly when I am shown that I am wrong. Mr.
Morris looked at my face, from which the blood now seemed to be
bursting, and took pity on me.

"All I want," he ended, "is to make you realize that you're visiting a
legitimate place of amusement and that the performers are honest,
hard-working people, though I think myself they're going a bit stale."

"Been doing the same thing too long," corroborated Mollie Merk.
"Garroti ought to change his program. Just the same," she added,
cheerfully, as she called the waiter and paid the bill, "they give you
the best _table d'hôte_ dinner in town. If you hadn't been too scared
to eat, Iverson, you'd have realized that much, anyway!"

At this, Kittie James broke into the conversation. Here was something
Kittie understood, though, like myself, she had been somewhat mixed as
to the place and the performers. Kittie told Mollie Merk with
impassioned earnestness that the dinner was one of the best she had
ever eaten, and that she would never forget the flavor of the
artichoke hearts with the mushrooms on them. Mollie Merk seemed
pleased and patted Kittie's hand.

"You see," she went on, addressing the others as if I were not there,
"Iverson's had a pretty hard time since she struck this town. It's
jolted her sense of values. Thought everything was white. Had some
unpleasant experiences. Decided everything was black. Been seeing
black to-night. Take another month or two," she added, kindly, turning
to me, "to discover most things are merely gray."

Those were her words. It was a moment of agony for me. I had now gone
down into the abyss of humiliation and struck the bottom hard. Mr.
Morris spoke to me, though at first I did not hear him.

"Don't forget one thing, Miss Iverson," he said, gently. "An
imagination like yours is the greatest asset a writer can have.
You'll appreciate it when you begin work on your novels and plays in a
year or two."

I felt a little better. I could see that Maudie and Kittie were

We drifted out into the street, toward a row of waiting taxi-cabs.
There Mrs. Hoppen and Mollie Merk bade us good night, and Mr. Morris
put Maudie and Kittie and me into a taxi-cab and got in after us. His
manner was beautiful--serious, sympathetic, and deeply respectful. On
the way to the hotel he told them what good work I was doing, and
about the "model story" I had written two weeks before. I was glad he
spoke of those things. I was afraid they had discovered that, after
all, there were still many lessons in life I had not learned.

After I had gone up to my room I went to one of the windows facing
Madison Square and looked out. It was not late--hardly eleven o'clock,
and the big city below was wide awake and hard at play. Many sad and
terrible things were happening in it, but I knew that many kind and
beautiful things were happening, too. I felt sure that hereafter I
would always be able to tell them apart.

Later, when I closed my eyes, all sorts of pictures crowded upon me. I
saw the mulatto dancer pursuing the Harlem cook. I heard again Fritz's
wild gipsy music and saw him wandering among the tables. I saw the
stout man and the girl in white, and felt my face burn as I recalled
what I had thought of them. But the thing I saw most clearly, the
thing that followed me into the land of dreams and drifted about there
till morning, was the face of Godfrey Morris, with a look of sympathy
and understanding in his gray eyes.



"'S Iverson," barked Nestor Hurd, over the low partition which divided
his office from that of his staff, "c'm' here!"

I responded to his call with sympathetic haste. It had been a hard day
for Mr. Hurd. Everything had gone wrong. Every reporter he had sent
out seemed to be "falling down" on his assignment and telephoning in
to explain why. Next to failures, our chief disliked explanations. "A
dead man doesn't care a hang what killed him," was his terse summing
up of their futility.

He was shouting an impassioned monologue into the telephone when I
reached his side, and as a final exclamation-point he hurled the
receiver down on his desk, upsetting a bottle of ink. I waited in
silence while he exhausted the richest treasures of his vocabulary and
soaked up the ink with blotters. It was a moment for feminine tact,
and I exercised it, though I was no longer in awe of Mr. Hurd. I had
been on the _Searchlight_ a year, and the temperamental storms of my
editors now disturbed me no more than the whirling and buzzing of
mechanical tops. Even Mollie Merk had ceased to call me the "convent
kid." I had made many friends, learned many lessons, suffered many
disappointments, lost many illusions, and taken on some new ones. I
had slowly developed a sense of humor--to my own abysmal surprise. The
memory of my convent had become as the sound of a vesper-bell, heard
occasionally above the bugle-calls of a strenuous life. Also, I had
learned to avoid "fine writing," which is why my pen faltered just now
over the "bugle-calls." I knew my men associates very well, and
admired most of them, though they often filled me with a maternal
desire to stand them in a corner with their faces to the wall. I
frequently explained to them what their wives or sweethearts really
meant by certain things they had said. I was the recognized office
authority on good form, Catholicism, and feminine psychology.
Therefore I presented to Mr. Hurd's embittered glance the serene brow
of an equal--even on occasions such as this, when the peace of the
office lay in fragments around us.

At last he ceased to address space, threw the blotters into his
waste-paper basket, and turned resentful eyes on me.

"Gibson's fallen down on the Brandow case," he snapped.

I uttered a coo of sympathy.

"The woman won't talk," continued Hurd, gloomily. "Don't believe
she'll talk to any one if she won't to Gibson. But we'll give her
'nother chance. Go 'n' see her."

I remained silent.

"You've followed the trial, haven't you?" Mr. Hurd demanded. "What
d'you think of the case?"

I murmured apologetically that I thought Mrs. Brandow was innocent,
and the remark produced exactly the effect I had expected. My chief
gave me one look of unutterable scorn and settled back in his chair.

"Great Scott!" he groaned. "So you've joined the sobbing sisterhood at
last! I wouldn't have believed it. 'S Iverson"--his voice changed, he
brought his hand down on the desk with a force that made the
ink-bottle rock--"that woman's as guilty as--as--"

I reminded him that the evidence against Mrs. Brandow was purely

"Circumstantial? 'Course it's circumstantial!" yelped Hurd. "She's too
clever to let it be anything else. She has hidden every track. She's
the slickest proposition we've had up for murder in this state, and
she's young, pretty, of good family--so she'll probably get off. But
she killed her husband as surely as you stand there, and the fact that
he was a brute and deserved what he got doesn't make her any less
guilty of his murder."

It was a long speech for Mr. Hurd. He seemed surprised by it himself,
and stopped to glare at me as if I were to blame for the effort it had
caused him.

"You know Davies, her lawyer, don't you?" he asked, more quietly.

I did.

"Think he'll give you a letter to her?"

I thought he would.

"'L right," snapped Mr. Hurd. "Go 'n' see her. If she'll talk, get an
interview. If she won't, describe her and her cell. Tell how she looks
and what she wears--from the amount of hair over her ears to the kind
of polish on her shoes. Leave mawkish sympathy out of it. See her as
she is--a murderess whose trial is going to make American justice look
like a hole in a doughnut."

I went back to my desk thinking of his words. While I was pinning on
my hat the door of Mr. Hurd's room opened and shut, and his assistant,
Godfrey Morris, came and stood beside me.

"I don't want to butt in," he began, "but--I hope you're going on this
assignment with an open mind, Miss Iverson."

That hurt me. For some reason it always hurt me surprisingly to have
Godfrey Morris show any lack of faith in me in any way.

"I told Mr. Hurd," I answered, with dignity, "that I think Mrs.
Brandow is innocent. But my opinion won't--"

"I know." Mr. Morris's ability to interrupt a speaker without seeming
rude was one of his special gifts. "Hurd thinks she's guilty," he went
on. "I think she's innocent. What I hope you'll do is to forget what
any one thinks. Go to the woman without prejudice one way or the
other. Write of her as you find her."

"That," I said, "is precisely what I intend to do."

"Good!" exclaimed Morris. "I was afraid that what Hurd said might send
you out with the wrong notion."

He strolled with me toward the elevator. "I never knew a case where
the evidence for and against a prisoner was so evenly balanced," he
mused. "I'm for her simply because I can't believe that a woman with
her brains and courage would commit such a crime. She's too good a
sport! By Jove, the way she went through that seven-hour session on
the witness-stand the other day ..." He checked himself. "Oh, well,"
he ended, easily, "I'm not her advocate. She may be fooling us all.
Good-by. Get a good story."

"I'll make her confess to me," I remarked, cheerfully, at the elevator
door. "Then we'll suppress the confession!"

"We'll give her a square deal, anyway," he called, as the elevator
began to descend.

It was easy to run out to Fairview, the scene of the trial, easy to
get the letter from Mr. Davies, and easiest of all to interview the
friendly warden of the big prison and send the note to Mrs. Brandow in
her cell when she had returned from court. After that the broad
highway of duty was no longer oiled. Very courteously, but very
firmly, too, Mrs. Brandow declined to see me. Many messages passed
between us before I was admitted to her presence on the distinct
understanding that I was not to ask her questions, that I was not to
quote anything she might say; that, in short, I was to confine the
drippings of my gifted pen to a description of her environment and of
herself. This was not a heartening task. Yet when the iron door of
Number 46 on the women's tier of the prison had swung back to admit me
my first glance at the prisoner and her background showed me that Mr.
Hurd would have at least one "feature" for the _Searchlight_ the next

On either side of Number 46 were typical white-painted and
carbolic-scented cells--one occupied by an intoxicated woman who
snored raucously on her narrow cot, the other by a wretched hag who
clung to the bars of her door with filthy fingers and leered at me as
I passed. Between the two was a spot as out of place in those
surroundings as a flower-bed would seem on the stern brow of an Alpine

Mrs. Brandow, the newspapers had told the world, was not only a
beautiful woman, but a woman who loved beauty. She had spent six
months in Fairview awaiting her trial. All the members of the "good
family" Mr. Hurd had mentioned had died young--probably as a reward of
their excellence. She had no intimate friends--her husband, it was
said, had made friendships impossible for her. Nevertheless, first
with one trifle, then with another, brought to her by the devoted maid
who had been with her for years, she had made herself a home in her

Tacked on the wall, facing her small, white-painted iron bed, was a
large piece of old Java print, its colors dimmed by time to dull
browns and blues. On the bed itself was a cover of blue linen, and the
cement floor was partly concealed by a Chinese rug whose rich tones
harmonized with those of the print. Over the bed hung a fine copy of a
Hobbema, in which two lines of trees stretched on and on toward a
vague, far-distant horizon. Near this a large framed print showed a
great stretch of Scotch moors and wide, empty skies. A few
silver-backed toilet articles lay on a small glass-covered hospital
table. Against this unlooked-for background the suspected murderess,
immaculate in white linen tailor-made garments, sat on a
white-enameled stool, peacefully sewing a button on a canvas shoe.

The whole effect was so unprecedented, even to me after a year of the
varied experiences which come to a New York reporter, that my sense of
the woman's situation was wiped out by the tableau she made. Without
intending to smile at all, I smiled widely as I entered and held out
my hand; and Mrs. Brandow, who had risen to receive me, sent back an
answering smile, cool, worldly, and understanding.

"It _is_ a cozy domestic scene, isn't it?" she asked, lightly, reading
my thoughts, "but on too small a scale. We're a trifle cramped. Take
the stool. I will sit on the bed."

She moved the stool an inch, with a hospitable gesture which almost
created an effect of space, and sat down opposite me, taking me in
from head to foot with one straight look from black eyes in whose
depths lurked an odd sparkle.

"You won't mind if I finish this?" she asked, as she picked up her
needle. "I have only two more buttons."

I reassured her, and she bit off a piece of cotton and rethreaded her
needle expertly.

"They won't let me have a pair of scissors," she explained, as she
began to sew. "It's a wonder they lend me a needle. They tell me it's
a special privilege. Once a week the guard brings it to me at this
hour, and the same evening he retrieves it with a long sigh of relief.
He is afraid I will swallow it and cheat the electric chair. He
needn't be. It isn't the method I should choose."

Her voice was a soft and warm contralto, whose vibrations seemed to
linger in the air when she had ceased to speak. Her manner was
indescribably matter-of-fact. She gave a vigorous pull to the button
she had sewed on and satisfied herself of its strength. Then she bit
the thread again and began to secure the last button, incidentally
chatting on, as she might have chatted to a friend over a cup of tea.

Very simply and easily, because it was my cue, but even more because
I was immensely interested, I fell into her mood. We talked a long
time and of many things. She asked about my work, and I gave her some
details of its amusing side. She spoke of the books she had read and
was reading, of places she had visited, and, in much the same tone, of
her nights in prison, made hideous by her neighbors in near-by cells.
As she talked, two dominating impressions strengthened in me
momentarily: she was the most immaculate human being I had ever seen,
and the most perfectly poised.

When she had sewed on the last button, fastening the thread with
workman-like deftness, she opened a box of pipe-clay and whitened both
shoes with a moist sponge.

"I don't quite know why I do all this," she murmured, casually. "I
suppose it's the force of habit. It's surprising how some habits last
and others fall away. The only wish I have now is that I and my
surroundings may remain decently clean."

"May I quote that?" I asked, tentatively--"that, and what you have
told me about the books you are reading?"

Her expression of indifferent tolerance changed. She regarded me with
narrowed eyes under drawn, black brows. "No," she said, curtly.
"You'll be good enough to keep to your bond. You agreed not to repeat
a word I said."

I rose to go. "And I won't," I told her, "naturally. But I hoped you
had changed your mind."

She rose also, the slight, ironic smile again playing about her lips.
"No," she answered, in a gentler tone, "the agreement holds. But I
don't wonder I misled you! I've prattled like a school-girl, and"--the
smile subtly changed its character--"do you know, I've rather enjoyed
it. I haven't talked to any one for months but my maid and my lawyer.
Mary's chat is punctuated by sobs. I'm like a freshly watered garden
when she ends her weekly visits. And the charms of Mr. Davies's
conversation leave me cold. So this has been"--she hesitated--"a
pleasure," she ended.

We shook hands again. "Thank you," I said, "and good-by. I hope"--In
my turn I hesitated an instant, seeking the right words. The odd
sparkle deepened in her eyes.

"Yes?" she murmured. "You hope--?"

"I hope you will soon be free," I ended simply.

Her eyes held mine for an instant. Then, "Thank you," she said, and
turned away. The guard, who had waited outside with something of the
effect of a clock about to strike, opened the iron door, and I passed

Late that night, after I had turned in my copy and received in
acknowledgment the grunt which was Mr. Hurd's highest tribute to
satisfactory work, I sat at my desk still thinking of the Brandow
case. Suddenly the chair beside me creaked as Godfrey Morris dropped
into it.

"Just been reading your Brandow story. Good work," he said, kindly.
"Without bias, too. What do you think of the woman now, after meeting

"She's innocent," I repeated, tersely.

"Then she didn't confess?" laughed Morris.

"No," I smiled, "she didn't confess. But if she had been guilty she
might have confessed. She talked a great deal."

Morris's eyes widened with interest. The day's work was over, and he
was in a mood to be entertained. "Did she?" he asked. "What did she

I repeated the interview, while he leaned back and listened, his hands
clasped behind his head.

"She _was_ communicative," he reflected, at the end. "In a mood like
that, after months of silence, a woman will tell anything. As you say,
if she had been guilty she might easily have given herself away. What
a problem it would have put up to you," he mused, "if she _had_ been
guilty and _had_ confessed! On the one hand, loyalty to the
_Searchlight_--you'd have had to publish the news. On the other hand,
sympathy for the woman--for it would be you who sent her to the
electric chair, or remained silent and saved her."

He looked at me quizzically. "Which would you have done?" he asked.

It seemed no problem at all to me, but I gave it an instant's
reflection. "I think you know," I told him.

He nodded. "I think I do," he agreed. "Just the same," he rose and
started for his desk, "don't you imagine there isn't a problem in the
situation. There's a big one."

He turned back, struck by a sudden idea. "Why don't you make a
magazine story of it?" he added. "I believe you can write fiction.
Here's your chance. Describe the confession of the murderess, the
mental struggle of the reporter, her suppression of the news, and its
after-effect on her career."

His suggestion hit me much harder than his problem. The latter was
certainly strong enough for purposes of fiction.

"Why," I said, slowly, "thank you. I believe I will."

Before Mr. Morris had closed the door I was drawing a fresh supply of
copy-paper toward me; before he had left the building I had written
the introduction to my first fiction story; and before the roar of the
presses came up to my ears from the basement, at a quarter to two in
the morning, I had made on my last page the final cross of the
press-writer and dropped the finished manuscript into a drawer of my
desk. It had been written with surprising ease. Helen Brandow had
entered my tale as naturally as she would enter a room; and against
the bleak background of her cell I seemed to see her whole life pass
before me like a series of moving-pictures which my pen raced after
and described.

The next morning found me severely critical as I read my story. Still,
I decided to send it to a famous novelist I had met a few months
before, who had since then spent some of her leisure in good-naturedly
urging me to "write." I believed she would tell me frankly what she
thought of this first sprout in my literary garden, and that night,
quite without compunction, I sent it to her. Two days later I received
a letter which I carried around in my pocket until the precious bit of
paper was almost in rags.

"Your story is a corker," wrote the distinguished author, whose
epistolary style was rather free. "I experienced a real thrill when
the woman confessed. You have made out a splendid case for her; also
for your reporter. Given all your premises, things _had_ to happen as
they did. Offer the story to Mrs. Langster, editor of _The Woman's
Friend_. Few editors have sense, but I think she'll know enough to
take it. I inclose a note to her."

If Mrs. Appleton had experienced a thrill over my heroine's confession
we were more than quits, for I experienced a dozen thrills over her
letter, and long afterward, when she came back from a visit to England
with new honors thick upon her, I amused her by describing them.
Within twenty-four hours after receiving her inspiring communication I
had wound my way up a circular staircase that made me feel like an
animated corkscrew, and was humbly awaiting Mrs. Langster's pleasure
in the room next to her dingy private office. She had read Mrs.
Appleton's note at once, and had sent an office boy to say that she
would receive me in a few minutes. I gladly waited thirty, for this
home of a big and successful magazine was a new world to me--and,
though it lacked the academic calm I had associated with the haunts of
literature in the making, everything in it was interesting, from the
ink-spattered desks and their aloof and busy workers to the recurrent
roar of the elevated trains that pounded past the windows.

Mrs. Langster proved to be an old lady, with a smile of extraordinary
sweetness. Looking at her white hair, and meeting the misty glance of
her near-sighted blue eyes, I felt a depressing doubt of Mrs.
Appleton's wisdom in sending me to her with a work of fiction which
turned on murder. One instinctively associated Mrs. Langster with
organ recitals, evening service, and afternoon teas in dimly lighted
rooms. But there was an admirable brain under her silver hair, and I
had swift proof of the keenness of her literary discrimination; for
within a week she accepted my story and sent me a check for an amount
equal to the salary I received for a month of work. Her letter, and
that of Mrs. Appleton, went to Sister Irmingarde--was it only a year
ago that I had parted from her and the convent? Then I framed them
side by side and hung them in a place of honor on my study wall, as a
solace in dark hours and an inspiration in brighter ones. They
represented a literary ladder, on the first rung of which I was sure I
had found firm footing, though the upper rungs were lost in clouds.

Mrs. Langster allowed my story to mellow for almost a year before she
published it; and in the long interval Helen Brandow was acquitted,
and disappeared from the world that had known her.

I myself had almost forgotten her, and I had even ceased to look for
my story in the columns of _The Woman's Friend_, when one morning I
found on my desk a note from Mr. Hurd. It was brief and cryptic, for
Mr. Hurd's notes were as time-saving as his speech. It read:

     Pls. rept. immed.
     N. H.

Without waiting to remove my hat I entered Mr. Hurd's office. He was
sitting bunched up over his desk, his eyebrows looking like an
intricate pattern of cross-stitching. Instead of his usual assortment
of newspaper clippings, he held in his hand an open magazine, which,
as I entered, he thrust toward me.

"Here!" he jerked. "What's this mean?"

I recognized with mild surprise the familiar cover of _The Woman's
Friend_. A second glance showed me that the page Mr. Hurd was
indicating with staccato movements of a nervous forefinger bore my
name. My heart leaped.

"Why," I exclaimed, delightedly, "it's my story!"

Mr. Hurd's hand held the magazine against the instinctive pull I gave
it. His manner was unusually quiet. Unusual, too, was the sudden
straight look of his tired eyes.

"Sit down," he said, curtly. "I want to ask you something."

I sat down, my eyes on the magazine. As Mr. Hurd held it, I could see
the top of one illustration. It looked interesting.

"See here," Mr. Hurd jerked out. "I'm not going to beat around the
bush. Did you throw us down on this story?"

I stared at him. For an instant I did not get his meaning. Then it
came to me that possibly I should have asked his permission to publish
any work outside of the _Searchlight_ columns.

"But," I stammered, "you don't print fiction."

Mr. Hurd tapped the open page with his finger. The unusual quiet of
his manner began to impress me. "_Is_ it fiction?" he asked. "That's
what I want to know."

Godfrey Morris rose from his desk and came toward us. Until that
instant I had only vaguely realized that he was in the room.

"Hurd," he said, quickly, "you're in the wrong pew. Miss Iverson
doesn't even know what you're talking about." He turned to me. "He's
afraid," he explained, "that Mrs. Brandow confessed to you in
Fairview, and that you threw us down by suppressing the story."

For an instant I was dazed. Then I laughed. "Mr. Hurd," I said, "I
give you my word that Mrs. Brandow never confessed anything to me."

Mr. Hurd's knitted brows uncreased. "That's straight, is it?" he

"That's straight," I repeated.

Hurd dropped the magazine on the floor and turned to his papers. "'L
right," he muttered, "don't let 't happen 'gain."

Mr. Morris and I exchanged an understanding smile as I picked up the
magazine and left the room.

In the outer room I met Gibson. His grin of greeting was wide and
friendly, his voice low and interested.

"Read your story last night," he whispered. "Say, tell me--_did_ she,

I filled the next five minutes explaining to Gibson. He looked
relieved. "I didn't think there was anything in it," he said. "That
woman's no murderess. But, say, you made the story read like the real

Within the next few days everybody on the _Searchlight_ staff seemed
to have read _The Woman's Friend_, and to be taking part in the
discussion my story aroused. Those of my associates who believed in
the innocence of Mrs. Brandow accepted the tale for what it was--a
work of fiction. Those without prejudice were inclined to think there
was "something in it," and at least half a dozen who believed her
guilty also firmly believed that I had allowed an acute and untimely
spasm of womanly sympathy to deprive the _Searchlight_ of "the best
and biggest beat in years." For a few days I remained pleasantly
unconscious of being a storm-center, but one morning a second summons
from Mr. Hurd opened my eyes to the situation.

"See here!" began that gentleman, rudely. "What does all this talk
mean, anyway? They're saying now that you and Morris suppressed the
Brandow confession between you. Jim, the elevator-boy, says he heard
you agree to do it."

Godfrey Morris leaped to his feet and came toward us. "Good Lord,
Hurd," he cried, fiercely, "I believe you're crazy! Why don't you come
to me with this rot, if you're going to notice it, and not bother Miss
Iverson? We joked about a confession, and I suppose Jim heard us. The
joke was what suggested the magazine story."

"Well, _that's_ no joke." Hurd spoke grudgingly, as if unwillingly
impressed. "Suppose the woman had confessed," he asked me,
suddenly--"would you have given us the story?"

I shook my head. "Certainly not," I admitted. "You forget that I had
agreed not to print a word she said."

Hurd's expression of uncertainty was so funny that I laughed. "But she
didn't," I added, comfortingly. "Do you think I'd lie to you?"

"You might." Hurd was in a pessimistic mood. "To save her, or--" A
rare phenomenon occurred; he smiled--all his boyish dimples suddenly
revealed--"to save Morris from losing his job," he finished, coolly.

I felt my face grow hot. Morris rushed to the rescue. "The only thing
I regret in this confounded mess," he muttered, ignoring Hurd's words,
"is the effect on Mrs. Brandow. _The Woman's Friend_ has half a
million readers. They'll all think she's guilty."

"Good job," said Hurd. "She _is_ guilty!"

"Rot! She's absolutely innocent," replied Morris. "Why, even the fool
jury acquitted her on the first ballot!"

I left them arguing and slipped away, sick at heart. In the sudden
moment of illumination following Morris's words it had come to me that
the one person to be considered in the whole episode was the person of
whom I had not thought at all! I had done Helen Brandow a great wrong.
Her case had been almost forgotten; somewhere she was trying to build
up a new life. I had knocked out the new foundations.

It was a disturbing reflection, and the events of the next few days
deepened my depression. Several reviewers commented on the similarity
of my story to the Brandow case. People began to ask where Mrs.
Brandow was, began again to argue the question of her innocence or her
guilt. Efforts were made to find her hiding-place. The thought of the
injury I had done the unhappy woman became an obsession. There seemed
only one way to exorcise it, and that was to see or write to my
"victim," as Hurd jocosely called her, make my confession, and have
her absolve me, if she would, of any intent of injury.

On the wings of this inspiration I sought Mr. Davies, and, putting the
situation before him, asked for his client's address.

"Of course I can't give you her address," he explained, mildly. "But
I'll write to her and tell her you want it. Yes, yes, with pleasure. I
know how you feel." He smiled reflectively. "She's a wonderful woman,"
he added. "Most remarkable woman I ever met--strongest soul." He
sighed, then smiled again. "I'll write," he repeated; and with this I
had to be content. I had done all that I could do. But my nerves began
to feel the effect of the strain upon them, and it was a relief when I
reached my home in Madison Square late one evening and found Mrs.
Brandow waiting for me.

She was sitting in a little reception-room off the main hall of the
building, and as I passed the door on my way to the elevator she rose
and came toward me. She wore a thick veil, but something in me
recognized her even before I caught the flash of her eyes through it,
and noticed the characteristically erect poise of the head which every
reporter who saw her had described.

"Mr. Davies said you wanted to talk to me," she began, without
greeting me. "Here I am. Have I come at the wrong time?"

I slipped my hand through her arm. "No," was all I could say. "It was
very good of you to come at all. I did not expect that." In silence
we entered the elevator and ascended to my floor. As I opened the door
with my latch-key and waited for her to go in I spoke again. "I can't
tell you how much I've been thinking of you," I said.

She made no reply. We passed through the hall into my study, and while
I turned on the electric lights she dropped into a big arm-chair
beside a window overlooking the Square, threw back her veil, and
slipped off the heavy furs she wore. As the lights flashed up we
exchanged a swift look. Little more than a year had passed since our
former meeting, but she seemed many years older and much less
beautiful. There were new lines about her eyes and mouth, and the
black hair over her temples was growing gray. I started to draw down
the window-shades, for it was snowing hard, and the empty Square
below, with a few tramps shivering on its benches, afforded but a
dreary vista. She checked me.

"Leave them as they are," she directed, imperiously, adding as an
afterthought: "Please. I like to be able to look out."

I obeyed, realizing now, as I had not done before, what those months
of confinement must have meant to her. When I had removed my hat and
coat, and lit the logs that lay ready in my big fireplace, I took a
chair near her.

"First of all," I began, "I want to thank you for coming. And then--I
want to beg your forgiveness."

For a moment she studied me in silence. "That's rather odd of you,"
she murmured, reflectively. "You know I'm fair game! Why shouldn't you
run with the pack?"

My eyes, even my head, went down before that. For a moment I could not
reply. Then it seemed to me that the most important thing in the world
was to make her understand.

"Of course," I admitted, "I deserve anything you say. I did a horrible
thing when I printed that story. I should never have offered it to an
editor. My defense is simply that I didn't realize what I was doing.
That's what I want to make clear to you. That's why I asked to see

"I see," she said, slowly. "It's not the story you're apologizing for.
It's the effect."

"Yes," I explained, eagerly, "it's the effect. I hadn't been out of
school more than a year when I came to you in Fairview," I hurried on.
"I was very young, and appallingly ignorant. It never occurred to me
that any one would connect a fiction story with--with your case."

She looked at me, and with all the courage I could summon I gazed
straight back into her strange, deep eyes. For a long instant the look
held, and during it something came to me, something new and poignant,
something that filled me with an indescribable pity for the loneliness
I now understood, and for the courage of the nature that bore it so
superbly. She would ask nothing of the world, this woman. Nor would
she defend herself. People could think what they chose. But she would

I leaned toward her. "Mrs. Brandow," I said, "I wish I could make you
understand how I feel about this. I believe it has made me ten years

She smiled. "That would be a pity," she said, "when you're so
deliciously young."

"Is there anything I can do?" I persisted.

She raised her eyebrows. "I'm afraid not," she murmured, "unless it is
to cease doing anything. You see, your activities where I am concerned
are so hectic."

I felt my face burn. "You're very hard on me, but I deserve it. I
didn't realize," I repeated, "that the story would suggest you to the

"Even though you described me?" she interjected, the odd, sardonic
gleam deepening in her black eyes.

"But I didn't describe you as you are," I protested, eagerly. "I made
you a blonde! Don't you remember? And I made a Western city the scene
of the trial, and changed some of the conditions of the--" I
faltered--"of the crime."

"As if that mattered," she said, coolly. "You described _me_--to the
shape of my finger-nails, the buttons on my shoes." Suddenly she
laughed. "Those dreadful buttons! I see them still in my dreams. It
seems to me that I was always sewing them on. The only parts of me I
allowed to move in the court-room were my feet. No one could see
them, under my skirt. I used to loosen a button almost every day. Then
of course I had to sew them on. I had a sick fear of looking messy and
untidy--of degenerating physically."

She faced the wide windows and the snow-filled sky. In my own chair,
facing the fire, I also directly faced her.

"I'm going to Europe," she announced at last. "I'm sailing to-morrow
morning--to be gone 'for good,' as the children say. That's why I came
to-night." For a moment she sat in silence, wholly, restfully at her
ease. Dimly I began to realize that she was enjoying the intimacy of
the moment, the sense of human companionship, and again it came to me
how tragically lonely she must be. She had no near friends, and in the
minds of all others there must always be the hideous interrogation-point
that stood between her and life. At best she had "the benefit of the
doubt." And I had helped to destroy even the little that was left to
her. I could have fallen at her feet.

"I'm going away," she added, "to see if there is any place for me in
the life abroad. If there is I want to find it. If I were the sort of
woman who went in for good works, my problem would be easier; but you
see I'm not."

I smiled. I could not see her as a worker in organized charity,
parceling out benefits tied with red tape. It was no effort, however,
to picture her doing many human and beautiful kindnesses in her own

We talked of Europe. I had never been there. She spoke of northern
Africa, of rides over Morocco hills, of a caravan journey from Tangier
to Fez, of Algerian nights, of camping in the desert, of palms and
ripe figs and of tropical gardens. It was fascinating talk in the
purple lights of my driftwood fire, with a snow-storm beating at my
windows. Suddenly she checked herself.

"I think, after all," she said, lightly, "you're rather good for me.
You've done me good to-night. You did me good the day you visited me
at Fairview. You were so young, so much in earnest, so much in love
with life, and you saw so much with your big, solemn eyes. You gave me
something new to think about, and I needed it. So--don't regret

I felt the tears spring to my eyes.

She drew on her gloves and buttoned them slowly, still smiling at me.

"I might never even have seen your story," she went on, quietly, "if
my maid had not brought it to me. I don't read _The Woman's Friend_."
There was a hint of the old superciliousness in her tone and about her
upper lip as she spoke. "On the whole, I don't think it did me any
harm. The opinion of strangers is the least important thing in my
little arctic circle. So, forget me. Good night--and good-by."

I kept her hand in mine for a moment. "Good-by," I said. "Peace be
with you."

She drew her veil down over her face, and moved to the door. I
followed and opened it for her. On the threshold she stopped and
hesitated, looking straight at me; and in that instant I knew as
surely as I ever knew anything in my life that now at last her guard
was down--that from the fastness of her soul something horrible had
escaped and was leaping toward me. She cast a quick glance up and down
the outer hall. It was dim and empty. I hardly dared to breathe.

"There is one thing more," she said, and her words rushed out with an
odd effect of breathlessness under the continued calm of her manner.
"The only really human emotion I've felt in a long time is--an
upheaval of curiosity."

I looked at her, and waited.

She hesitated an instant longer, then, standing very close to me,
gripped my shoulders hard, her eyes deep in mine, her voice so low I
hardly caught her meaning.

"Oh, wise young judge!" she whispered. "Tell me, before we part--_how
did you know_?"



On my right rose a jagged wall of rock, hundreds of feet high and bare
of vegetation save for a few dwarfed and wind-swept pines. On my left
gaped the wide mouth of what seemed to be a bottomless ravine. Between
the two was a ledge not more than six feet wide, along which "Jef'son
Davis," my mountain horse, was slowly and thoughtfully making his
difficult way. Occasionally from the pit's depths a hawk or
turkey-buzzard rose, startling me with the flapping of its strong
wings, and several times the feet of Jef'son Davis dislodged a bit of
rock which rattled across the ledge, slipped over the side, and
started on a downward journey whose distance I dared not estimate.

For more than an hour I had not met a human being. I had not seen a
mountain cabin or even a nodding plume of smoke. I had not heard the
bark of a dog, the tinkle of a cow-bell, nor any other reassuring and
homely testimony that I was in a world of men. Yet I knew that
somewhere around me must be lurking figures and watchful eyes, for I
was in the stronghold of the Morans and the Tyrrells, and the Morans
and Tyrrells were on the war-path, and therefore incessantly on guard.

This journey through the Virginia mountains to "write up family feuds"
was the result of an inspiration recently experienced by Colonel
Cartwell, our editor-in-chief. He was sure I could uncover "good
dramatic stuff."

"They're potting at each other every minute down there," he explained
to me when he sent me off on the assignment. "Give their time to it.
Morans and Tyrrells are the worst. Tyrrell has killed six Morans. Get
his story before the Morans get him. See? And find out what it's all
about, anyway."

According to the map I had made that morning under the direction of
the postmaster of Jayne's Crossroads, I knew I must be even now within
a mile of the cabin of the Morans.

"'Tain't healthy travelin' fo' men," that gentleman had volunteered
languidly, "but I reckon a lady's safe 'nuff, 'specially ef yo' leave
the jou'ney to the hawse. Jef'son Davis, he knows ev'ry inch of that
thar trail. All yo' got t' do is t' give Jef'son his haid."

Jef'son Davis was having his head, and he had thus far been true to
his trust. At a certain point on the trail I was to look for huge
boulders in a strange position, with a big and lonely cedar standing
guard near them. At the right of this cedar was an almost hidden
trail, which, followed for twenty minutes, would lead me to the Moran
cabin. I was not to be alarmed if a bullet whispered its sinister
message in my ear. To kill women was no part of the Moran traditions,
and a fatality to me would be a regrettable incident, due wholly, if
it occurred at all, to the impulsive nature of Samuel Tyrrell, who had
formed the careless habit of firing at moving objects without pausing
to discover what they were. It was because of this eccentricity, I
gathered, that the sympathy of the mountain people lay largely with
Moran--who, moreover, though both men were the last of their
respective lines, was a boy of twenty-two, while Tyrrell was well on
in middle life.

I rode slowly along the trail, which, clear in the high lights of the
noonday sun, was now widening and turning to the right. The ravine
appeared to be growing more shallow. Flashes of red haw and scarlet
dogwood began to leap out at me from the edges. Presently, beyond the
turn, I discovered the boulders, silhouetted sharply against the soft
October sky. Near them was the lonely cedar, and after twice passing
it I found the side-trail, and rode peacefully down its dim corridor.

There was nothing to mark the Moran home, and that, too, I almost
passed before I noticed it, a strongly built log cabin, backed against
the side of a hill, and commanding from its three barred windows the
approaches on every side. As I rode up, the door opened and an old
woman in a homespun dress stood before me. Her shoulders sagged under
the burden of seventy-five years, but the flame of an unconquerable
spirit burned in the keen black eyes set bead-like in her withered
little brown face. This, I knew, was Betsy Moran, who had helped to
bury her husband, four sons, and a grandson, all killed by the
Tyrrells, and who was said finally to have seized a gun herself and
added at least one Tyrrell to the row in the family burial-lot.

"How do you do?" I asked, cheerfully. "May I come in and rest for a
few moments?"

Her face did not soften, nor did she speak, but there was neither
suspicion nor fear in her steady regard; it held merely a
dispassionate curiosity. I slipped from the back of Jef'son Davis and
hesitated, looking around for a post or tree to tie him to, and the
old woman, stirred to a quick instinct of hospitality, looked
uncertainly behind her into the cabin. At the same instant a young
giant appeared behind her, pushed her lightly to one side, and strode
toward me with a nod of greeting. Then, taking the bridle-rein from my
hand, and still in silence, he led the horse away. Evidently the
Morans were not a talkative family.

Wholly forgetting the old woman, I stared after him. Here, obviously,
was young "Shep," the last of the Morans; and from the top of his
curly black hair to the boot-soles six feet two inches below it, he
looked extremely well able to take care of himself. He was powerfully
built, and he moved with the natural grace of the superb young animal
he was. He wore a rough homespun blue shirt, open at the neck, and a
pair of corduroy trousers tucked into high boots. From the swing of
his back as he strode off with Jef'son Davis I should hardly have been
surprised to see him throw that weary animal across his mighty

When he had disappeared I walked thoughtfully to the cabin door,
meeting again the level gaze of my hostess. A sudden gleam in her eyes
and a quick lift of her white head showed me she had caught my
unconscious tribute to the strength and beauty of the young man, who
was not only the last of her line, but, according to mountain
traditions, the "apple of her eye."

"Come 'long in," she said, quietly; and she added as I crossed her
threshold, "Ef yo' rid 'crost th' Gap, yo' mus' be mi-i-ghty ti'ed."


She pushed a chair in front of the great fireplace which filled one
side of the cabin, and I dropped gladly into it and took off my hat,
while she bustled about with hospitable enterprise, heating water and
rattling tea-cups. Suddenly she disappeared, and in another instant I
heard the despairing, final squawk of an unfortunate hen. I knew that
within the hour it would be served to me in a strange dish in which
the flavors of burnt feathers and of tough, unseasoned meat would
struggle for recognition, and I sighed. But the great logs burning in
the old fireplace were good to watch, and their warmth was
comforting, for the sun had suddenly gone behind a cloud and an autumn
wind had begun to whine around the cabin and in the big chimney.

There were only five pieces of furniture in the room--a narrow,
home-made wooden bed occupying one corner, a large spinning-wheel, a
pine table, a rough log settle, and the chair in which I sat. At the
right of the fireplace a ladder led to a trap-door which evidently
opened into a low attic--young Moran's quarters, I assumed. Just
outside the open door stood a low, flat-topped tree-trunk, holding a
tin basin full of water; a homespun towel on a nail below it testified
mutely to its past usefulness. While I was regarding these, the master
of the house reappeared, plunged his black head into the basin, flung
the water in a spray over his face and hands, wiped them on the towel,
and entered the cabin, ready for dinner. His immediate impulse was to
attend to the fire, and as he approached it he cast a side glance at
me, as shy and curious as that of some half-tamed creature of the
open. When he had put on another log he spoke without looking at me,
his brown cheeks flushing with the effort.

"Done fed th' critter," he announced, laconically.

I thanked him, and mercifully kept my eyes on the fire. For a time he
remained there, too, with occasional darting glances at me, which
finally, as I seemed unaware of them, settled into a steady and close
inspection. I realized what a strange, new type I presented to him--a
young woman from New York, wearing a riding-habit and riding-boots,
trim and slim and tailor-made. His glance lingered a long time on my
hair and my hands. There was nothing offensive about it. At first
merely curious, it had finally become reflective and friendly. At last
I began to talk to him, and after several false starts he was able to
respond, sprawling opposite me on the big settle, his hands clasped
behind his curly head, his legs extended toward the fire, while I told
him of New York and answered his extraordinary questions.

It had seemed somehow fitting that the sun should go behind a cloud
when I entered this tragic home; but for a long time there was no
intimation in our talk of the other shadows that lay over the cabin,
of the bloody trail that led to it, of the tragic row of graves on the
hill beside it, or of the bullets that had whispered the failure of
their mission in this boy's ears. We were a fairly cheerful company as
we drew up to the pine table when the old woman announced dinner, and
even the stoic calm of her face relaxed over the story of some of my
experiences on the trail with Jef'son Davis. She did the honors of her
house a little stiffly, but with dignity; and always, except when she
was thus engaged, her black eyes focused on the face of her grandson
and clung there, fixed. Her contribution to our talk consisted of two
eloquent sentences:

"Sometimes we got but'r," she remarked, as we sat down, "sometimes we
hain't. T'day we hain't."

We had, however, the expected chicken, with corn bread and tea, and in
the perfect flowering of his hospitality, young Shep Moran heaped
these high upon my plate, and mourned when I refused to devour the
entire repast. He was chatting now with much self-possession, while
under his talk and his occasional shy but brilliant smile his
grandmother expanded like a thirsty plant receiving water. He had, he
told me proudly, learned to read, and he owned two books--the Bible
and some poems by a man named Whittier. He knew most of the poems "by
hea't." He had never ridden on a railroad-train, but he could ride any
animal that traveled on four legs, and he had heard a fiddle played
upon during his one expedition out into the great world--his solitary
visit to Jayne's Crossroads, two years before.

When dinner was over he smoked a clay pipe before the fire, and
gradually his talk grew more intimate. He and his grandmother were
going to leave the cabin, he said, and live on the other side of the
mountain. A man had offered him a job in some coal-mines that were
being opened up. But he could not go yet--there was something he had
to do first. The shadow over the cabin seemed to deepen as he spoke. I
knew what he had to do--he had to kill Samuel Tyrrell, who had killed
his father. His uncles, his brother, and Samuel Tyrrell's sons had
killed one another. There were only himself and Samuel Tyrrell left.

He turned and looked at me. His whole expression had changed--his brow
was somber, his eyes brooding, his lips drawn back from his teeth in
an odd, unconscious snarl. Quite naturally he took it for granted that
I knew of him and his feud.

"Sam Tyrrell, he'd--" he hesitated, then added under his breath, as he
glanced at the old woman moving toward the cupboard with her
dishes--"he'd even shoot at gran ef he ketched 'er on the trail."

I rose and put on my hat. Before my eyes my mountain demigod had
suddenly been transformed into a young beast, lusting for blood. I
felt that I must get away from the oppression of the place. He made no
comment, but picked up his hat and went for my horse. When he returned
he was leading Jef'son Davis and riding his own horse, a rough-coated
mountain animal which, powerful though it was, seemed hardly up to the
huge bulk astride it. With a jerk of his head, he checked my protest
and the little cry that broke from his grandmother's lips.

"I'm jes' gwine ter th' bend," he told her, "t' p'int aout th' trail
t' Clapham's. She's gwine t' stay all night thar. Look fo' me home
'fore sundown."

The grandmother cast a quick glance at me, then dropped her eyes. The
fire seemed to have flickered and died out. Her steps dragged. In an
instant she had become a feeble, apprehensive old woman.

"Don't you take Shep no furder 'n th' bend," she quavered. "Will yuh?"

I met her look squarely. "You may be sure I will not," I promised, and
we rode away.

Young Moran's horse proved better than he looked. With the greatest
ease and lightness he carried his rider along the trail, a little in
advance of me where it was narrow, and close beside me when it widened
out. As we rode, the young man became all boy again. He knew every
mountain tree and shrub, every late plant that had raised a brave head
above the pall of autumn leaves, every bird whose note sounded near us
or which winged its flight above us. He pointed out the bright yellow
blossoms of the evening primrose, the bursting pods of the milkweed,
the "purty look" of asters, gentian, and white everlasting against the
somber background of the hills. He was delighted when we flushed a
covey of quail, and at one point he stopped abruptly to show me the
old swimming-hole which he and his brother had used, and on the banks
of which, he added grimly, his brother had been killed by Tyrrell's
eldest son. At this memory the shadow fell upon him again, and it was
while we were riding on in a silence broken only by the padded
hoof-beats of the horses that we heard a shot. Something from the
underbrush at our right went humming past me, clipped a leaf from an
overhanging bough above my companion's head, and sped onward to its
harmless finish. Moran's horse, jerked back on its haunches by the
rider's powerful grip on the bridle, stopped, trembling. Jef'son Davis
shied violently, only to be caught and steadied by the instantaneous
grasp of Moran's right hand. In the same second the young man himself
was transformed from the simple, gentle nature-lover of the trail to a
half-human spirit of hatred and revenge.

"The polecat!" he hissed. "I know whar he is. I'll _git_ him this
time!" With a quick swing he turned his horse. "Thar's your trail," he
called back over his shoulder. "Straight on tuh th' bend--then go

He put his horse at a low but sharp incline on the right, and the
animal scrambled up it with straining muscles and tearing hoofs that
sent back a shower of stones and earth. In another moment horse and
rider were out of sight.

It had all happened so suddenly that I had felt no fear. Now, left
alone, it seemed incredible that it should have happened at all.
Outwardly, everything was as it had been a moment before. The soft
haze of the October atmosphere still lay over the silent hills; the
reassuring whir of crickets was in the air. Jef'son Davis, happy in
the comfort of a lax bridle, was eagerly cropping the leaves from an
overhanging tree-branch. Yet within pistol-shot of this spot an
assassin had crouched. Even now he and his enemy were perhaps having
their last struggle.

With a deep breath, I gathered up the bridle and rode back at full
speed along the trail over which I had come. When I drew near the
Moran cabin I checked Jef'son Davis's pace and proceeded at a gentle
canter. I did not wish to alarm Betsy Moran, but the door flew open
while I was still some distance away, and the old woman hurried to
meet me. Almost as soon as I had jumped from the saddle she was beside
me, her eyes staring into mine with the question she dared not ask.

"Nothing serious has happened," I said, quickly, "but--" As I
hesitated, she finished the sentence.

"They're arfter each othe'?" she said, dully. "They're shootin'?"

I nodded. Without another word, she turned and entered the cabin. I
tethered my horse to a tree and followed her. There was nothing of
helpless age about her now. Instead there was something horrible in
her silence, something appalling in the preparations she at once began
to make. She had gone through it all before--many, many times. She was
ready to go through it again whenever the hour struck, and she had
developed a terrible efficiency.

She filled the great kettle with water. She turned down the covers of
the bed. From a closet in the wall she brought out linen and bandages,
a few bottles, and several bundles of herbs, of which she began to
make some sort of brew. At last she came and sat by the fire, crouched
over it, waiting and listening. Occasionally she rose, went to the
door, and looked out. Once or twice she whimpered a little, but she
did not speak.

Darkness came. Several times I rose and put fresh logs on the fire. I
found and lit a candle, to help out the firelight. It had become
impossible to sit longer in that dim room, with its shadows and its
memories, watching the terrible patience of the mountain woman and
picturing a dead man, or a wounded one, lying helpless near the trail.

"Can't I ride somewhere and get some one?" I suggested once.

"No," the old woman answered, curtly. Half an hour later she added,
more gently, and as if there had been no interval between her words:
"They ain't no doctor in thirty miles. Ef Shep gits home, I kin tend
t' him."

It was after ten o'clock before we heard a sound outside. I jumped to
my feet, but the old woman was before me. Hurrying to the door, she
flung it wide, and, shielding the candle with her hand, peered out
into the blackness. Then, with a little cry, she handed the candle to
me and ran forward. In the darkness something was crawling toward us,
something that stumbled and rose and stumbled again. It collapsed just
as it reached us, and fell near the threshold.

Someway, together, we dragged the last of the Morans into his home,
and closed the door between him and his mountain world. His great body
seemed to fill the cabin as it lay upon the floor, the arms and legs
sprawling in incredible helplessness, the boots and trousers covered
with mud, the blue shirt torn and blood-stained. Seizing one of her
bottles, the old woman forced some of its contents between the boy's
teeth, and as she did so he opened his eyes. For a moment he stared at
her, at me, and around the cabin, dim in the flickering light of logs
and candle. Then a gleam lit up his black eyes. His lips drew back
over his teeth in a hideous, wolflike grin.

"He's done daid, gran," he choked out. "I got 'im!"

The old woman, who had been bending above him, dropped the bottle and
sat back suddenly, flinging her lean arms above her head in a movement
of wild exultation. A high cackle of joy broke from her. Then,
remembering his need, she bent over him again and tried to force him
to take more of the liquor; but he frowned it away, his stiff tongue
seeking to form words.

"I--watched--him--die," he finally articulated,

He closed his eyes and lapsed into unconsciousness. The old woman
rocked above him.

"He's daid," she crooned. "He's daid, daid, daid!"

For a moment I thought it was her grandson she meant, but I saw that
she was continuing her ministrations, accompanying them with this
reassurance to those deaf ears. For a long time the hideous lullaby
went on, while she washed the wound in the boy's breast and checked
its flow of blood, bandaging it as skilfully as any surgeon could have
done the work. She let me help her now--keeping cold compresses on
his hot head, for he was moaning with pain and fever, and giving him
from time to time the medicine she had brewed. We could not move his
great body, but we made him as comfortable as we could on the floor,
and worked over him there while the night wore on, and the cries of
prowling animals came to us from the mountainside.

Toward dawn the fever subsided. The boy's high color faded, and he
hardly seemed to breathe. In my inexperience I was not sure whether
these were good or bad signs, and I had no indication from Betsy
Moran, whose face never changed as she hung above him. At sunrise she
rose and went to the door, motioning to me to accompany her. There,
following the direction indicated by her pointing, shaking old finger,
I saw on the side of the hill, at the left of the cabin, six low
mounds marked by six great boulders. For a long time the mountain
woman looked at them in silence. Then she turned to me.

"He's daid," she whispered, with a kind of fierce delight. "_Tyrrell's
daid._ Here's the e-end."

She leaned against the jamb of the door, staring up at the row of
mounds defined against the desolate mountain by the first clear rays
of the sun. A light breeze lifted the loose locks of her white hair
and blew them about her face. In her eyes shone the wild exultation
that had burned there the night before, when her boy had gasped out
his message.

"Mrs. Moran," I asked, quietly, "how many Tyrrell graves are there?"
She answered me somberly, almost absently. "Five," she said. Then, on
a sudden memory, her shriveled arm went up in a gesture of triumph.
"_Six!_" she corrected herself, exultantly. "Be six in th' Tyrrell lot

Six in the Tyrrell lot to-morrow. Six in the Moran lot to-day--perhaps
seven there to-morrow. And why? Unconsciously I uttered the word
aloud, and the hills seemed to fling back the ironic question. Beside
me the old woman stirred, thinking I was speaking to her. As if the
words had touched a hidden spring, her confidence gushed forth, and as
she talked she lifted her hands and began to twist into the tiny knob
of hair at the back of her head the white locks that blew about her

"'Twas fo'ty yeahs back," she said, at last, almost to herself. "Come
Christmas, hit's fo'ty yeahs back. Er yearlin' o' ourn had tooken up
with neighbor cattle, an' Tyrrell, he done claimed hit. They was
always polecats, th' Tyrrells. Words come o' that, an' licks follered
clost. At las' Tyrrell, he shot Amos--my man. 'Twa'n't long fo' Jep,
my oldest, Shep's father, he killed Tyrrell. That's th' sta't of it.
Now we've come t' th' e-end," she finished, and drew a long breath.
"He's daid--Tyrrell's daid. Shep, he seen 'um die."

She led the way back into the cabin, and stopped at the foot of the
ladder. "Go up thar," she said, almost gently. "Git some sleep. I
reckon ye're perished fo' it."

I protested, but in vain. It finally became plain that for some reason
she wished to be rid of me. She brought me a cup of some dark liquid
and urged me to drink it. It was not tempting in appearance or flavor,
but I drank it down. Then, as she still waited, I ascended the ladder
and found myself in Shep's room--a tiny attic, its rafters hung with
drying herbs, its pallet on the floor surprisingly clean, its one
narrow window covering the Tyrrell trail. I had not expected to sleep,
but I did--slept while the day mounted to high noon and waned to a
gorgeous autumnal sunset.

I was awakened by the sound of hoof-beats, of men's voices, of many
steps on the floor of the room below. For an instant I lay in puzzled
silence, staring at the rafters above my head. Then, as memory
awakened in its turn, I rose hurriedly and began to dress, my fingers
shaking with excitement and nervousness. I understood the meaning of
those pawing hoofs, of those heavy steps and rough voices, and as I
dressed I listened. But all I caught was the tramp of feet, the scrape
of furniture dragged across the floor, the whinnying of horses,
impatient in the rising evening wind. Once I heard the old woman's
voice, but I could distinguish only the word "sheriff." Soon I heard
the heavy steps pass out of the house, and the creak and rattle of
saddles and bridles as the visitors mounted their horses and rode
away. They went slowly. They had arranged, I assumed, some sort of
litter for the wounded man. In the room below there was absolutely no

For a moment I hesitated. How could I go down and face that stricken
old creature to whom life had just given this final turn of its
relentless screw? Then, very slowly, I descended the ladder, my back
to the room, afraid to move my eyes for fear of the scene they might
rest upon. It was not until I stood on the cabin floor that I dared to
look around me.

The living-room was swept and in perfect order. The last reflection of
the setting sun lay in a brilliant line across its immaculate floor.
The door was open, affording a view of the long trail, along which the
horsemen could be seen, riding slowly in single file. The kettle hung
on the crane, the table was set for supper, and in the center of this
peaceful scene my hostess sat alone, knitting a blue yarn sock.

Slowly she looked up at me. "Ef yo' slep' well," she said, quietly,
"mou't be yer ready t' eat?"

She rose, laid down the blue sock, and began to move about the room.
Speechless, I stared at her. I had thought the night before that,
coming from her, no evidence of self-control could surprise me. But
this uncanny poise filled me with a sort of awe. I dared not even ask
a question. She had erected between us the barrier of her primitive
dignity, her terrible courage. I could no more pass it than I could
have broken through the thick walls of her cabin.

She placed the chair at the table, and in silence I sat down. She
poured tea for me, and cut a wedge of corn bread, but I could not eat.
After a few moments I gave up the effort, rose, and took my hat from
the nail on which it hung. She watched me as I drew on my gloves. The
action seemed to recall something to her.

"Shep," she said, casually, "he had t' borry yo' critter. Ye'll git it
back soon's he kin send it."

"Oh!" I exclaimed, startled. "But--but was he able to ride--with his

She looked at me, her eyes showing the scorn of the primitive woman
for such softness. "Lordy! Hawseback's same's a cradle to Shep," she

I drew a deep breath.

"They rode very slowly," I said. "I hope it won't hurt him. Good-by,"
and I held out my hand. "I'll walk to Clapham's. I know the way."

She put her hand in mine. In her eyes danced a sudden light, half
mocking, half ecstatic. "Shep, he got off 'bout sun-up," she drawled.
"Fo'ty mile along he wuz 'fo' ever sheriff come a-nigh this place!"

I could not speak, but something, I know, flashed in my face and was
reflected in hers. For a moment longer her wrinkled old hand lay still
in mine. She seemed loath to withdraw it, anxious to say more. Perhaps
she was recalling the long vigil of the night, when we two had worked
together over the unconscious form of the last of the Morans. But her
vocabulary offered her nothing with which to clothe those naked hours.

"Good-by," she repeated. And she ended primly: "I wish yo' well, miss.
I sho'ly hev inj'yed yo' comp'ny!"



I met Grace Morris for the first time at Mrs. Hatfield's musical
tea--a unique affair at which the half-dozen world-famous artists our
hostess had engaged for the afternoon strove vainly to make their
music heard above the care-free voices of her guests. I had isolated
myself behind a potted palm in the great music-room, and was trying to
distinguish the strains of Mischa Elman's playing from the
conversational high notes around me when a deprecating little laugh
sounded in my ear.

"It's no use," said a clear, languid young voice. "We might as well
chat, too. But first _do_ rise on your toes, look over the purple
plume on the fat woman's hat, and catch one glimpse of Elman's
expression! He thinks we're all insane, or that he is."

I did not follow this stimulating suggestion. Instead I looked at the
speaker. She was a typical New York society girl of twenty-three, or
possibly twenty-four, dressed to perfection and bored to extinction,
her pale, pretty features stamped with the avid expression of the
chronic seeker of new sensations.

"You're Miss Iverson, aren't you?" she went on, when I had smiled my
acknowledgment of her swift service across the conversational net. "My
brother pointed you out to me at the theater the other night. He wants
us to meet. He's one of your editors on the _Searchlight_, you
know--Godfrey Morris."

In another minute we were chatting with as little compunction as the
ruthless throng around us, and while we talked I studied Miss Morris.
I knew a great deal about her. She had only recently returned from
Germany, where for two years she had been studying singing with
Lehmann. She had an exquisite voice, and, though it was understood
that she would make no professional use of it, she had already sung at
several concerts given in behalf of charities that appealed to her.
She possessed a large fortune, inherited from her grandfather; her
brother Godfrey had inherited one of equally impressive proportions,
but its coming had not interrupted the daily and nightly grind of his
editorial work. Evidently the Morrises, despite their languid air,
sprang from energetic stock. It was whispered that Miss Morris's
energies occasionally lent themselves to all-night tango parties, and
late suppers with Bohemian friends in operatic and dramatic worlds
whose orbits hardly touched the exclusive one in which she dwelt; but
thus far there had been nothing more significant than a few raised
eyebrows to emphasize this gossip.

"I'm lucky to meet you," she ran on now. "It saves writing a note.
Mother and I want you to dine with us Thursday evening of next week,
at our hotel. We haven't gone to housekeeping. We're at the Berkeley
for the winter, because Godfrey has an apartment there. Can you
come?--I'm so glad. At eight, then."

A ravishing strain of music reached us. Simultaneously the voice of
the fat woman with the purple plume uttered the final notes of the
recital she had been pouring into the ears of the acquaintance on her
left. "Then, and not till then," she shouted, "I found that the
unhappy woman _lived on the West Side_!"

Miss Morris's eyes and mine exchanged a look that carried us a long
way forward on the road of friendship.

"I wouldn't miss these musicales for the world," she murmured. "Isn't
Mrs. Hatfield unique? Look at her now, out in the dining-room, putting
a layer of French pastry over Amato's perfectly good voice! He won't
be able to sing for a week. Oh, Elman has finished. Do you know him?
No? Then come and meet him."

Miss Morris interested me, and I was sorry to say good-by to her when
we parted, and genuinely disappointed when I reached the Berkeley the
following Thursday night, to learn that she was not to be with us at
dinner. Her mother lost no time in acquainting me with this
distressing fact.

"Grace wants me to apologize for her, and to tell you how _very_ sorry
she is to miss you," Mrs. Morris drawled at once, as she came forward
to receive me.

She was a charming woman of fifty, with white hair, a young face, and
the figure of a girl of twenty. Under the controlled calm of her
manner a deep-seated nervousness struggled for expression. She had her
daughter's languor, but none of her cool insolence or cynicism; in the
look of her gray eyes I caught a glint oddly like that in the eyes of
her son.

"Grace was looking forward to your coming," she went on, as she seated
herself on a davenport facing the open fire, and motioned me to a
place beside her. "But an hour ago she received a note from a friend
who is in town only for the night. There was something very urgent in
it, and Grace rushed off without stopping to explain. My son Godfrey
will be with us--and we hope Grace will be back before you leave."

As if in response to his cue, "my son Godfrey" appeared, looking
extremely handsome in his evening clothes, and rather absurdly pleased
to find his mother and me so deep in talk that we did not hear him

"Friends already, aren't you?" was his comment on the effective
tableau we made, and as we descended in the elevator to the hotel
dining-room he explained again how glad he was to have his mother and
sister home after two years of absence, and to bring us together at

The little dinner moved on charmingly, but before an hour had passed
I realized that my host and hostess were under some special strain.
Mrs. Morris wore a nervous, expectant look--the look of one who is
listening for a bell, or a step long overdue. Several times I saw
Godfrey glance toward the door, and once I caught a swift look that
passed between him and his mother--a look charged with anxiety. Both
obviously tried to throw off their care, whatever it was, and to a
degree they succeeded. I was sending my spoon into the deep heart of a
raspberry-ice when a servant leaned over the back of my chair and
confidentially addressed me.

"Beg pardon, miss," he murmured, deprecatingly. "But if it's Miss
Iverson, a person wants Miss Iverson on the wire."

I flushed and hesitated, glancing at Mrs. Morris.

"Party says it's urgent, miss," prompted the servant.

I apologized to my hostess, and rose. There seemed no other course
open to me. Mrs. Morris looked mildly amused; her son looked
thoughtful as he, too, rose and accompanied me across the dining-room
to the door, returning then to the table, as I insisted that he must.
In the telephone-booth the voice of Grace Morris came to me over the
wire, not languid now, but quick and imperative.

"Miss Iverson?" she called. "Is that you at last? Thank Heaven! I
thought you were never coming. Are mother and Godfrey still in the
dining-room? Good! Will you do me a favor? It's a big one--vital."

I expressed my willingness to do Miss Morris a vital favor.

"Thank you," she said. "Then please do exactly what I tell you. Go to
the hotel desk and ask the clerk for the key to my suite. I left it
with him. Then go up to my bedroom. On my dressing-table you'll find
an open letter I dropped there--or perhaps it's on the floor. Conceal
it in your bosom, the way they do in books, and keep it for me till we

I gasped. With a rush, my mind leaped at some of the possible results
of carrying out this startling suggestion.

"Really, Miss Morris," I protested, "I can't do that. Suppose some one
caught me in the act? It's likely to happen. We're at dessert, and I
heard your mother order the coffee brought up to her sitting-room.
Isn't the letter safe till you get home?"

There was a sharp exclamation at the other end of the line. Then Miss
Morris's voice came to me again, in the controlled accents of

"Miss Iverson," she urged, "you've simply got to help me out! If my
mother goes into my room and sees that letter, she'll read it. She'll
think it's her duty. If she reads it--well, in plain words, there will
be the devil to pay. Now do you understand?"

"But why not come home and get it yourself?" I persisted.

"I can't. There isn't time. I'm away down at the Lafayette. Heavens! I
didn't mean to let that slip out, I'm so nervous I don't know what
I'm saying. Don't tell a soul where I am. Don't even let any one know
I've talked to you. And you _must_ get that letter. There isn't a
minute to lose!"

It began to look as if I had to get that letter. And since the thing
must be done, I wanted it over.

"Very well," I said, between my teeth, and hung up the receiver,
shutting off the stream of thanks that gushed forth from the other end
of the wire. In the same mood of grim acceptance I went to the hotel
desk. I did not intend to make this part of my task more difficult
than it need be, so I paid the clerk the compliment of truth.

"I want to get something from Miss Morris's room," I told him,
casually. "Will you give me the key, please? I am dining with Mrs.
Morris to-night."

He gave me a swift glance, then took the key from its rack and handed
it to me with a little bow. In another moment I was in the elevator
and on my way to the tenth floor, on which, as I had learned, each
independent member of the Morris family occupied a separate apartment,
though the suites of Mrs. Morris and her daughter had a connecting
door. The tag on Miss Morris's key gave me the number of her suite,
and I found her door without difficulty. My fingers shook with
nervousness as I inserted the key in the lock. I felt like a
housebreaker, and probably looked like one, as I glanced anxiously
over my shoulder and up and down the long hall, which, fortunately,
was empty.

Once inside the apartment I regained my courage. I went swiftly
through the entrance-hall and the sitting-room, turning, by instinct
as it seemed, to the door that opened into the bedroom. This, like the
sitting-room, was dark, and I could not immediately find the switch
that turned on the electric light. There was, however, an open fire
burning behind a brass fender, and by its uncertain light I made my
way to the dressing-table, my eyes racing ahead in their eager search.
There, among a litter of silver and glass toilet articles,
powder-puffs, and shell-pins, was the letter I was after--an unfolded
sheet, lying face downward. An envelope, obviously that from which it
had been taken, had fallen to the floor.

I picked up the letter. Just as I did so the door at the other end of
the bedroom opened, and Mrs. Morris entered. For an instant, startled,
we faced each other in the gloom. The next second, acting on an
impulse which seemed to flex the muscles of my arm before it touched
my brain, I flung the letter into the fire. At the same moment Mrs.
Morris touched an electric switch beside the door and filled the room
with light. Then she came toward me, easily and naturally.

"Oh, here you are," she said. "The elevator-boy told me you had come
this way. Is anything wrong? Are you ill?"

Her manner was perfect. There was exactly the right degree of
solicitude in her voice, of quiet assurance that everything would be
at once and satisfactorily explained. But as she spoke she turned and
fixed her eyes on the blazing letter in the fire. All but one corner
was burned, but the thick paper kept its perfect outline. Bending, she
picked up the envelope from the floor, glanced at the address, and
nodded as if to herself, still holding it in her hand.

For a second I remained speechless. It was a hideous situation to be
in. Still, even confronted by Godfrey Morris's mother, I felt that I
had done right, and before the pause was too deeply underlined I
managed to reply naturally that nothing was wrong and that I was quite
well. When my hostess realized that I did not intend to make any
explanation, she threw her arm across my shoulder and led me from the
room. It was not until we were again in her sitting-room, and side by
side on her big davenport, that she spoke.

"My dear," she said, then, very quietly, "won't you trust me?"

I looked at her, and she smiled back at me, but with something in her
face that hurt. She seemed suddenly to have grown old and care-worn.

"Do you imagine I don't understand?" she went on. "I have not lived
with my daughter Grace for almost a quarter of a century without
knowing her rather well. Of course it was she who telephoned you. Of
course she asked you to find and burn that letter. What else did she
say? Where is she now? There is a vital reason why her brother and I
should know. We have been anxious about her all evening. I am afraid
you noticed it."

I admitted that I had. "I'm sorry," I added. "But I can't explain. I
really can't say anything. I wish I could. I'm sure you will

Mrs. Morris studied me in silence for a moment. The glint in her gray
eyes deepened. Her jaw-line took on a sudden firmness, oddly like that
of her son.

"Of course I understand," she said. "It's girlish loyalty. You think
you must stand by Grace--that you must respect her confidence. But
can't you believe that Grace's mother and brother may be wiser than
she is?"

This, to one only two years emancipated from family rule, had a
familiar sound. Instinctively I resented it.

"Aren't you forgetting," I asked, gently, "that Miss Morris is really
a woman of the world? It isn't as if she were merely a school-girl,
you know, with immature judgment."

Mrs. Morris sighed. "You don't understand," she murmured. "You may
feel differently when you talk to my son. I see that we must be very
frank with you."

With an effort she talked of other things for a few moments, until
Godfrey joined us. His face brightened as he entered, and darkened
when his mother told him briefly what had occurred. Without preface,
he went at the heart of the tangle, in as direct and professional a
manner as if he were giving me an assignment in the _Searchlight_

"It all means just this, Miss Iverson," he said. "Grace has fallen in
love with an utterly worthless fellow. He has no family, no position;
but those things don't matter so much. Perhaps she has, as she says,
enough of them for two. What does matter is that he comes of bad
stock--rotten stock--that he's a bounder and worse."

That surprised me, and I showed it.

"Oh, he has some qualities, I admit," added Morris. "The most
important one is a fine tenor voice. He is a professional singer. That
interested Grace in the beginning. Now she is obsessed by him. She has
lost her head. Evidently he's in town to-night--you heard my mother
say that envelope was addressed in his handwriting. They're together
somewhere, and Heaven only knows what they're hatching up."

I resented that at first. Then it disturbed me. Perhaps they _were_
hatching up something.

"I'm sorry to bore you with all this," Mr. Morris apologized, "but
Grace seems to have dragged you into it. She and Dillon--that's the
fellow's name--have been trying to bring us 'round to their marriage.
Lately they've about given up hope of that. Now I believe Grace is
capable of eloping with him. Of course, as you say, we can't control
her, but I've been looking up his record, and it's mighty bad. If I
could show her proofs of what I know is true, she would throw him
over. With a little more time I can get them. I expect them this week.
But if in the mean time--to-night--"

He broke off suddenly, stood up, and began to stride about the room.

I rose. "I haven't any idea what she intends to do," I told him,
truthfully. "And I can't tell you where she is. But I'll do what I
can. I'll try to find her, and tell her what you say." I turned to his
mother. "Good night," I said. "I'll go at once."

They looked at each other, then at me. There was something fine in the
way their heads went up, in the quiet dignity with which they both
bade me good-by. It was plain that they were hurt, that they had
little hope that I could do anything; but they would not continue to
humiliate themselves by confidences or appeals to one who stood
outside the circle of anxiety which fate had drawn around them.

Arrived at the Lafayette, I went patiently from room to room of the
big French restaurant, glancing in at each door for the couple I
sought. It was not long before I found them. They were in a corner in
one of the smallest of the side rooms--one which held only four or
five tables. Grace Morris's back was toward me as I entered the room,
but her escort faced me, and I had a moment in which to look him over.
He was a thin, reedy person, about thirty years old, in immaculate
evening dress, with a lock of dry hair falling over a pale and narrow
brow, and with hollow, hectic eyes that burned into those of his
companion as he leaned over the table, facing her. They were talking
in very low tones, and so earnestly that neither noticed me until I
drew out a third chair at the table and quietly dropped into it. Both
started violently. The man stared; Miss Morris caught my arm.

"What happened?" she asked, quickly. "Mother didn't get that letter?"

"No," I said. "No one saw it. It's burned."

She relaxed in her chair, with a laugh of relief.

"Speaking of angels," she quoted. "I was telling Herbert about you
only a few moments ago." Her manner changed. "Miss Iverson," she said,
more formally, "may I present Mr. Dillon?"

The reedy gentleman rose and bowed. She allowed him the barest
interval for this ceremony before she continued.

"Herbert, listen to me," she said, emphatically. "If Miss Iverson will
stand by us, I'll do it."

The young man's sallow face lit up. He had nice teeth and a pleasant
smile. He had, also, the additional charm of a really beautiful
speaking-voice. Already I began to understand why Miss Morris liked

"By Jove, that's great!" he cried. "Miss Iverson, Heaven has sent you.
You've accomplished in ten seconds what I've failed to do in three
hours." He turned to Miss Morris. "You explain," he said, "while I pay
the bill and get the car ready. I'm not going to give you a chance to
change your mind!"

He disappeared, and Miss Morris remarked, casually: "We're going to be
married to-night, with you as maid of honor. Herbert gave me all the
plans in his letter, and I came down fully determined to carry them
out; but I've been hanging back. It's frightfully dismal to trot off
and be married all by one's self--"

I stopped her, and hurriedly described what had occurred at the
Berkeley. She listened thoughtfully.

"The poor dears," she murmured. "They can't get over the notion that
I'm still in leading-strings. They'll feel better after it's all over,
whereas if mother knew it was really coming off to-night she'd have a
succession of heart attacks between now and morning, and Godfrey would
spend the night pursuing us. We're going to Jersey for the
ceremony--to a little country minister I've known since I was a child.
Herbert will drive the car, and we'll put you into the chauffeur's fur

It took me a long time to convince her that I would not play the
important rôle she had assigned to me on the evening's program. At
last, however, she seemed impressed by my seriousness, and by the
emphasis I laid on the repetition of her brother's words. She rose,
resumed her usual languidly insolent air, and led the way from the
room. In the main hall, near the door, we found Mr. Dillon struggling
into a heavy coat while he gave orders to a stout youth who seemed to
be his chauffeur. Miss Morris drew Dillon to one side, and for a few
moments the two talked together. Then they came toward me, smiling.

"All right," said the prospective bridegroom, with much cheerfulness.
"Since she insists, we'll take Miss Iverson home first."

He gave me a cap that lay in the tonneau, helped Miss Morris and me
into fur coats, settled us comfortably in the back seat, folded heavy
rugs over our knees with great care, sprang into the driver's place,
and took the wheel. In another moment the car leaped forward, turned a
corner at an appallingly sharp angle, and went racing along a dark
side-street at a speed that made the lamp-posts slip by us like
wraiths. The wind sang past our ears. Miss Morris put her lips close
to my face and laughed exultantly.

"You're going, after all, you see," she triumphed. "Herbert and I
aren't easy to stop when we've set our hearts on anything. Here--what
are you doing? Don't be an idiot!"

She caught me as I tried to throw off the rugs. I had some mad idea of
jumping out, of stopping the car, even if I paid for it by serious
injury; but her strong grip held me fast.

"I thought you had more sense," she panted. "There, that's right. Sit

I sat still, trying to think. This mad escapade would not only cost me
my position on the _Searchlight_, where Godfrey Morris was growing
daily in power, but, what was infinitely worse, it would cost me his
interest and friendship. More than any one else, in my two years on
the newspaper, he had been helpful, sympathetic, and understanding.
And this was my return to him. What would he think of me? What must I
think of myself?

We were across the ferry now. Dillon stopped the car and got out to
light the lamps. During the interval Miss Morris held me by a
seemingly affectionate, but uncomfortably tight, pressure of an arm
through mine. I made no effort to get away. Whatever happened, I had
now decided I must see the thing through. There was always a chance
that in some way, _any_ way, I could prevent the marriage.

The great car sped on again, through a fog that, thin at first,
finally pressed against us like a moist gray net. Though we could see
hardly a dozen yards ahead of us, Dillon did not slacken his alarming
speed. From time to time we knew, by the wan glimmer of street lamps
through the mist, that we were sweeping through some town. Gradually
the roads grew rougher. Occasionally we made sharp turns, Dillon
stopping often to consult with Miss Morris, who at first had seemed to
know the way, but who now made suggestions with growing uncertainty.
Plainly, we had left the highway and were on country roads. The fog
lifted a trifle, and rain began to fall--lightly at first, then in a
cold, steady downpour. The car jolted over the ruts in the road,
tipped at a dangerous angle once or twice, but struggled on.

In varying degrees our tempers began to feel the effect of the cold,
the roughness, and the long-continued strain. Miss Morris and I sat
silent. At his wheel Dillon had begun to swear, at first under his
breath, then more audibly, in irritable, muttered words, and finally
openly and fluently, when he realized that we had lost our way.
Suddenly he stopped the car with a jerk that almost threw us out of
our seats.

"What dashed place is this?" he demanded, turning for the first time
to face us. "Thought you knew the way, Grace?"

With an obvious effort to ignore his manner, Miss Morris peered
unhappily into the gray mist around us. "I don't recognize it at all,"
she confessed, at last. "We must have taken the wrong turn somewhere.
I'm afraid we're lost."

Our escort swore again. His self-control, sufficient when all was
going smoothly, had quite deserted him. I stared at him, trying to
realize that this was the charming young man I had met at the
Lafayette less than three hours ago.

"This is an infernal mess," he exclaimed at last. "We're in some sort
of marsh! The mud's a foot deep!"

He continued to pull and tug and twist and swear, while the car
responded with eager throbs of its willing heart, but with lagging
wheels. At last, however, we were through the worst of the marsh and
out into a wider roadway, and just as we began to go more smoothly
there was a sudden, loud report. The car swerved. A series of oaths
poured from Dillon's lips as he stopped the car and got out in the mud
to inspect the damage.

"Cast a shoe, dash her," he snarled. "And on a road a million miles
from any place. Of all the fool performances this trip was the worst.
Why didn't you watch where you were going, Grace? You said you knew
the way. You knew I didn't know it."

His last words had degenerated into an actual whine. Looking at him,
as he stood in the mud, staring vacantly at us, I had a feeling that,
absurd and impossible as it seemed, in another minute the young man
would burst into tears! His nerves were in tatters; all self-control,
all self-respect, was gone.

Miss Morris did not answer. She merely sat still and looked at him, at
first in a white, flaming anger that was the more impressive because
so quiet, later in an odd, puzzled fashion, as if some solution of the
problem he presented had begun to dawn upon her. He meantime took off
his fur coat and evening coat, rolled up his sleeves, and got ready
for his uncongenial task of putting on a new tire. I took the big
electric bull's-eye he handed me, and directed its light upon his
work. By the time the new tire was on, his light evening shoes were
unrecognizable, his clothes were covered with mud, his face was
flushed with exertion and anger, and the few words he spoke came out
with a whine of exhausted vitality. At last he stopped work,
straightened up, reached into the car, and fumbled in the pocket of
his overcoat. Then he walked around to the side of the car farthest
from us, and bent forward as if to inspect something there. I started
to follow him, but he checked me.

"Stay where you are," he said, curtly. "Don't need you."

A moment later he came back to us, opened the door, and motioned us
into the tonneau. In the short interval his whole manner had changed.
He had stopped muttering and swearing; he seemed anxious to make us
comfortable, and he folded the rugs over our knees with special care,
casting at Miss Morris a series of anxious glances, which she quietly
ignored. Before he got in and took his place at the wheel he made a
careful inspection of the other tires, and several times, as I changed
the position of the light to fall more directly upon them, he smiled
and thanked me. Miss Morris was evidently impressed by his change of
mood. Quietly and seriously she studied him.

He was directly beside me now, bending over the rear right tire, and
suddenly, as his bare arm came into view, I saw on it something that
made me start and look at it again. I had not been mistaken. I glanced
at Miss Morris. Her eyes were on Dillon, but in her place on the left
side of the car she commanded a view of only his head and shoulders.
As if annoyed by a flicker in the light, I lifted the bull's-eye into
my lap and began to fumble with the snap, turning off the light. The
little manoeuver had the effect I expected. Mr. Dillon stood up at
once, and his bare arm came helpfully forward.

"What's the matter?" he asked, trying to take the bull's-eye. "Let me

I held it tight. At the same instant I flashed the light on again.

"_This_ is the matter," I said. "There's no mistaking what it means!"

To my ears my voice sounded hysterical, and I have no doubt it was,
for what I was doing went against the grain. The one thing I most
desire is to play the great game of life according to the highest
rules. Yet here, under the eyes of Dillon's future wife, I was
directing a relentless light on the young man's bare arm--an arm
peppered with dark needle-pricks, and covered with telltale scars. For
one instant, before the mind of its owner took in what I was saying,
it remained before us, giving its mute, horrible testimony to constant
use of the hypodermatic syringe. The next, it was wrenched away with a
jerk that knocked the bull's-eye from my hand. Over me Dillon leaned,
his face livid with rage.

"I'll make you regret that!" he snarled.

"Oh no, you won't, Herbert," Miss Morris said, gently. "This is not a
melodrama, you know. And you haven't anything against Miss Iverson,
for I was already beginning to--to--understand. Take us home."

He started to speak, but something in her eyes checked him, and with a
little shrug--no doubt, too, with the philosophy of the drug victim
who has just had his drug--he turned away. In silence he rolled down
his sleeves, put on his fur coat, took his place at the wheel, and,
turning the car, started back through the clearing fog toward the far
lights of the city.

It was a long ride and a silent one. At his wheel Dillon sat
motionless, his jaws set, his eyes staring straight ahead. His
driving, I noticed, was much more careful than on our outward ride.
Not once did I see Grace Morris look at him. Once or twice she
shivered, as if she felt cold. When we were on the ferry-boat Dillon
turned and spoke to her.

"I'm sorry I lost my temper," he said. "I suppose--your manner seems
to mean--that--I've lost everything."

For a moment Miss Morris did not reply. Under the robe her hand
slipped into mine and clung there, as if in a lonely world she
suddenly felt the need of a human touch.

"Poor old Herbert," she said, then, very gently. "I'm afraid we've
both lost everything. This has been a nightmare, but--I needed it."

There was absolute finality in her voice. Without a word the young man
turned from her and sat staring at the river lights before us. Miss
Morris pressed my hand.

"I'm going to take you home with me," she announced. She took out her
watch and looked at it. "Quarter to three," she murmured. "What a
night!" And after a moment she added under her breath, "And what an

She threw back her shoulders with a gesture as energetic as if at the
same time she had cast off some intolerable burden. Then she added, in
her cool, cynical fashion, "It's only fair, you know, that after such
a vigil your drooping spirit should be refreshed by the rain of my
mother's grateful tears--not to speak of Godfrey's!"



It had been a trying day in the _Searchlight_ office. Godfrey Morris,
our assistant feature editor, was ill, and much of his work had
devolved on me. From ten o'clock in the morning I had steadily read
copy and "built heads," realizing as my blue pencil raced over the
sheets before me that my associates would resent the cutting of their
stories and that Colonel Cartwell would freely condemn the heads. It
was a tradition in Park Row that no human being save himself had ever
built a newspaper head which satisfied our editor-in-chief, and his
nightly explosions of rage over those on the proofs that came to his
desk jarred even the firm walls of the _Searchlight_ building.

To-day I sympathized with Colonel Cartwell, for as I bent wearily over
my desk, cutting, rewriting, adding to the pile of edited copy before
me, a scare-head in a newspaper I had received that morning from my
home city swung constantly before my tired eyes. It was plain that the
ambitious Western editor had been taking lessons in head-building from
the _Searchlight_ itself, and was offering us the tribute of humble
imitation; for, in the blackest type he could select, and stretching
across two columns of the _Sentinel's_ first page, were these
startling lines:

     From City Room to Convent Cell

     Miss May Iverson, Daughter of General John Lamar Iverson of
     This City, to Take the Vows of a Nun of the Sacred Cross

The article which followed was illustrated with photographs of my
father, of me, and of the convent from which I had graduated nearly
four years ago. It sketched my career as a reporter on the New York
_Searchlight_, mentioned my newspaper work and my various magazine
stories with kindly approval, and stated that my intention when I
graduated at eighteen had been to enter the convent at twenty-one, but
that in deference to the wishes of my father I had consented to wait
another year. This time of probation was almost over, the _Sentinel_
added, and it was "now admitted" that Miss Iverson, "despite the
brilliant promise of her journalistic career," would be one of the
thirty novices who entered the convent of St. Catharine in July.

All this I had read only once before thrusting the _Sentinel_ out of
sight under the mass of copy on my desk. Now, word by word, it
returned to me as I built the heads that were to startle our reading
public in the morning. Around me the usual sounds of the city room
swelled steadily into the familiar symphony of our work. Typewriters
clicked and rattled, telephone bells kept up their insistent summons,
the presses, now printing the final evening editions, sent from far
below their deep and steady purr, while through it all the voices of
Farrell and Hurd cut their incisive way, like steamboat whistles in a
fog, to members of the staff. It was an hour I loved, even as I loved
the corresponding hour at St. Catharine's, when students and nuns
knelt together in the dim, beautiful convent chapel while the peace of
benediction fell upon our souls. I wanted both the convent and my
work. I could not have them both. And even now, toward the end of my
fourth year of professional life, I was still uncertain which I was to
choose. For months I had been hesitating, the helpless victim of
changing moods, of conflicting desires. Now, I realized, there must be
an end to these. The article in the _Sentinel_ had brought matters to
a focus. In one way or the other, and for all time, I must decide my

It was six o'clock when I sent down the last pages of copy, closed my
desk, and walked out of the _Searchlight_ building to find myself in
an unfamiliar world. Around me lay the worst fog New York had ever
known--a fog so dense that the forms of my fellow pedestrians were
almost lost in it, though I could hear their voices on every side.
From the near-by river the anxious warnings of horns and whistles came
to my ears thickly, as if through padded walls. The elevated station I
had to reach was less than a block away, but to-night no friendly eye
of light winked at me from it, and twice as I walked cautiously
forward I was jostled by vague bulks from which came short laughs and
apologies as they groped their way past me.

It was an uncanny experience, but it seemed, in my present mood,
merely a fitting accompaniment to my own mental chaos. Resolutely I
tried to steady my thoughts to pull myself together. I knew every inch
of the little journey to the station. In a few moments more, I
reflected, I would be comfortably seated in an elevated train, and
within half an hour, if all went normally, I would be safely at home
and dressing for dinner. It was pleasant to remember that I had made
no engagement for that evening. I could dine alone, slowly and
luxuriously, with an open book before me if I cared to add that last
sybaritic touch to my comfort--and later I could dawdle before my big
open fire, with a reading-lamp and half a dozen new magazines wooing
me at my elbow. Or I could take up my problem and settle it before I
went to bed.

My groping feet touched the lowest step of the elevated stairs. I put
my hand forward to raise my skirt for the ascent, and simultaneously,
as it seemed, a cold hand slipped through the fog and slid into mine,
folding around two of my fingers. It was a very tiny hand--almost a
baby's hand. Startled, I looked down. Something small and plump was
pressing against my knee, and as I bent to examine it closely I saw
that it was a child--a little girl three or four years old,
apparently lost, but obviously unafraid. Through the mist, as I knelt
to bring her face on a level with my own, a pair of big and wonderful
brown eyes looked steadily into mine, while a row of absurdly small
teeth shone upon me in a shy but trustful smile.

"Fine-kine-rady," remarked a wee voice in clear, dispassionate tones.

Impulsively I gave the intrepid adventurer a friendly hug. "Why, you
blessed infant!" I exclaimed. "What are you doing here all alone?
Where do you live? Where's your mama?"

Still kneeling, I waited for an answer, but none came. The soft little
body of the new-comer leaned confidingly against my shoulder. A small
left hand played with a button on my coat; its mate still clung firmly
to my fingers. The child's manner was that of pleased acceptance of
permanent and agreeable conditions. Into the atmosphere of well-being
and dignified reserve which she created, my repeated question
projected itself almost with an effect of rudeness. On its second
repetition it evoked a response, though merely an echo.

"Fine-kine-rady," repeated the young stranger, patiently. She
continued her absorbing occupation of twirling my coat button while I
pondered over the cryptic utterance. It meant nothing to me.

"She's certainly lost," I thought. "I wonder if Casey would remember
her if he saw her."

I peered through the fog, looking for the big Irish policeman whose
post for the past two years had been here at the junction of the three
tenement streets that radiated, spoke-like, from under the elevated
station. He must be somewhere near, I knew, possibly within ear-shot.
I decided to try the effect of a friendly hail.

"_Oh-ho--Officer Casey!_" I called, careful to speak cheerfully, that
the cry might not frighten the child beside me. "_Where--are--you?_"

After a moment I heard an answering hail; an instant later the
familiar bulk of Casey towered above me in the mist.

"Who's wantin' me?" he demanded, and then, as he recognized me:
"Hel-_lo_, Miss Iverson! Sure ye're not lost, are ye?" he added,

"I'm not," I told him, "but I think some one else is. Do you recognize
this youngster? I found her here just now--or, rather, she found me."

"Fine-kine-rady," murmured the child, antiphonally. She had turned her
brown velvet eyes on the policeman in one fleeting glance which seemed
to label and dismiss him. His existence, her manner plainly said, was
no concern of hers. Casey bent down and surveyed her with interest--a
task made somewhat difficult by the fact that she was coldly
presenting the back of her head to him and that the top of it was
about on a level with his knee.

"Let's take her up t' the waitin'-room," he suggested, "an' have a
good look at her. Can she walk, I wonder--or will I carry her?"

At the words the independent explorer below us started up the stairs,
dragging me with her, her hand still clinging to my fingers, her
short, willing legs taking one step at a time and subject to an
occasional embarrassing wabble, but on the whole moving briskly and
with the ease of habit.

"She understands English," remarked Casey, as he admiringly followed
her, "an' she's used to stairs. _That's_ clear."

We found the waiting-room deserted except by the ticket-seller and the
ticket-chopper, who were languidly discussing the fog. Both took an
animated interest in our appearance, and, when they learned our
mission, eagerly approached the child for minute inspection of her. In
the center of the little circle we made under the station lamp the
mite bore our regard with the utmost composure, her brown eyes on my
face, her hand still firmly grasping my third and fourth fingers. She
seemed mildly surprised by this second delay in getting anywhere, but
entirely willing to await the convenience of these strange beings who
were talking so much without saying anything. The ticket-seller
finally summed up the result of our joint observation.

"Whoever that kid is, she's a peach," he muttered, in spontaneous
tribute to the living picture before us.

She _was_ a peach. Her bare head was covered with short, upstanding
curls, decorated on the left side with a cheap but carefully tied
scarlet bow that stood out with the vivid effect of a poinsettia
against black velvet. In her cheeks were two deep dimples, and a
third lurked in the lower right side of her chin, awaiting only the
summons of her shy smile to spring into life. When she lowered her
eyes her curly black lashes seemed unbelievably long, and when she
raised them again something in their strange beauty made me catch my

She wore no mittens, though the night was cold, but her tiny body was
buttoned tightly into a worn, knitted, gray reefer-jacket, under which
showed a neat little woolen skirt and black stockings and shoes which,
though very shabby, revealed no holes. She was surprisingly clean. She
had, indeed, an effect of having been scrubbed and dressed with
special care and in her best clothes, poor though they were. Her
complexion had the soft, warm olive tint peculiar to Latin races.

For a long time she bore the close scrutiny of our four pairs of eyes
with her astonishing air of calm detachment. Then, as the inspection
threatened to be indefinitely prolonged, she became restless and took
refuge against my knee. Also, with an obvious effort to rise to any
social demands the occasion presented, she produced again the
masterpiece of her limited vocabulary.

"Fine-kine-rady," she murmured, anxiously, and this time her lips

"She's Eye-talian," decided Casey, sagely, "an' 'tis a sure thing she
lives somewhere near. Hasn't _anny_ of yez set eyes on her before?
Think, now."

Hopefully he and I gazed at the station employees, but both heads
shook a solemn negative. The light of a sudden inspiration illumined
the Celtic features of Casey.

"I'll tell ye what we'll do," he announced. "'Tis plain she's strayed
from home. I c'u'd take her t' th' station an' let her folks come fur
her--but that's the long way t' do ut. There's a shorter wan. 'Tis

He tried to draw me to one side, but the little manoeuver was not
successful. Tightening her grasp on my fingers, the object of our
solicitude promptly accompanied us. Casey lowered his voice to a
whisper which was like the buzzing of a giant bee.

"I'll take her back to the fut of th' stairs an' _lave_ her," he
pronounced. "She'll start home, an' she'll find her way like a burrd.
Av course," he added, hastily, apparently observing a lack of response
in my expression, "I'll folly her an' watch her. Av she don't find th'
place, I'll take her t' th' station. But she _will_. Lave it to her."

I hesitated. "I suppose that's the best plan," I unwillingly agreed,
at last. "Probably her mother is half frightened to death already.
But--couldn't we lead her home?"

Casey shook his head. "Not an inch w'u'd she budge, that wan," he
declared, "unless she was on her own. But lave her be, an' she'll find
her way. They're wise, thim young Eye-talians. Come, now."

He took the child's free hand and tried to draw her away. A pathetic
wail burst from her. Frantically, with both arms she clasped my knee.
Her poise, so perfect until now, deserted her wholly, as if she had
finally decided to admit to an unfeeling world that after all there
was a limit to the self-control of one of her tender age.

"Fine-kine-rady," she sobbed, while great tears formed and fell from
the brown eyes she still kept fixed on my face, a look of incredulous
horror dawning in them.

"I simply cannot send her away," I confessed to Casey, desperately.
"It seems so heartless. I'll go with her."

Officer Casey was a patient man, but he was also a firm one. "Now, see
here, Miss Iverson," he urged. "You've got sinse. Use ut. 'Tis just a
fancy she's takin' t' ye, an' sure I'm th' last t' blame her," he
added, gallantly. "But think av th' child's good. Ain't her mother
raisin' th' roof over her head somewhere this minute?" he added, with
deep craft. "Wud ye be killin' th' poor woman wid anxiety?"

"Well--" Again I gave way. "But you won't lose sight of her for one
second, will you?" I demanded. "You know if you did, in this fog--"

Casey turned upon me the look of one who suffers and forbears. "W'u'd
ye think ut?" he asked, coldly. "An' me wit' kids o' me own? But I'll
make her _think_ I've left her," he added. "I'll have to."

There seemed nothing to do but try his plan. Holding fast to the
mental picture of the anxious mother "raising the roof" somewhere in
the neighborhood, I gently pried loose the child's convulsively
clinging fingers and turned away. The wail and then the sobs that
followed wrung my heart. Casey picked up the frightened, almost
frantic baby and started down the stairs, while I followed at a safe
distance to watch their descent. As they went I heard him talking to
and coaxing the small burden he carried, his rich Irish voice full of
friendly cajolery, while, as if in sole but eloquent rebuttal of all
he said, the shrill treble refrain, "Fine-kine-rady," came back to me
sobbingly from the mist.

At the foot of the steps he set the child on her feet, told her to "go
home now like a good wan," and disappeared under the stairway. I crept
down the steps as far as I dared, and watched. The forlorn little
wanderer, left alone in a fog that was alarming many grown-ups that
night, stood still for a moment staring around her, as if trying to
get her bearings. A final sob or two came from her. Then in another
instant she had turned and trotted away, moving so fast that, though I
immediately ran down the remaining steps and followed her, I could
hardly keep her in sight. A little ahead of me I saw Casey hurriedly
cross the street and shadow the tiny figure. I pursued them both,
keeping my eyes on the child. I trusted Casey--indeed, my respect for
his judgment had increased enormously during the last two minutes--but
I felt that I must see for myself what happened to that baby.

Like wraiths the two figures in front of me hurried through the fog,
so close now that they almost touched, Casey unaware of my presence,
the child unconscious of us both. Not once, from the time she started,
had the little thing looked back. She made her way swiftly and surely
along the dingy tenement street that stretched off to the right; and
at a certain door she stopped, hesitated a moment, and finally
entered. Casey promptly followed her.

For a moment I stood hesitating, tempted to return to the station and
resume my interrupted journey home. The little episode had already
delayed me half an hour, and it seemed clear that the child was now
safe. Surely nothing more could be done. Yet even as these logical
reflections occurred to me I entered the door, impelled by an impulse
which I did not stop to analyze, but which I never afterward ceased to
bless. The heavy, typical smell of a tenement building rose to meet
me, intensified by the dampness of the night. It seemed incredible
that anything so exquisite as that baby could belong to such a place;
but, looking up, I saw her already near the head of a long flight of
dirty steps that rose from the dimly lighted hall. Casey, moving as
quietly as his heavy boots permitted, was at the bottom. I waited
until he, too, had climbed the uneven staircase. Then I followed them

At the right of the stairs, off a miserable hall lit by one dim,
blinking gas-jet, was an open door, which the child had evidently just
entered. As I paused for breath on the top step I caught a glimpse of
Casey's rubber coat also vanishing across the threshold. I slipped
back into the shadow of the hall and waited. What I wanted was to hear
the reassuring tones of human voices, and I found myself listening for
these with suspended breath and straining ears; but for a long moment
I heard nothing at all. I realized now that there was no light in the
room, and this suddenly seemed odd to me. Then I heard Casey's voice,
speaking to the child with a new note in it--a note of tense
excitement that made my heart-beats quicken. The next instant I, too,
was in the room.

Casey stood under the single gas-bracket, striking a match. As I went
toward him, the light flickered up, dimly revealing a clean, bleak
room, whose only furniture was a bed, a broken chair, and a small
gas-stove. On the chair lay an empty tin cup and a spoon. The child,
her back to both her visitors, stood beside the bed. Characteristically,
though Casey had spoken to her, she ignored his presence. She was
whimpering a little under her breath, and pulling with both hands at
something that lay before her, rigid and unresponsive.

With a rush I crossed the room, and the desolate mite of humanity at
the bed turned to stare at me, blinking in the sudden light. For an
instant her wet brown eyes failed to recognize me. In the next, with
an ecstatic, indescribably pathetic little cry, she lurched into the
arms I opened to her. I could not speak, but I sat down on the floor
and held her close, my tears falling on her curly head with its brave
red bow. For a moment more the silence held. Then the child drew a
long, quivering breath and patiently uttered again her parrot-like

"Fine-kine-rady," she murmured, brokenly.

Casey, his cap in his hand, stood looking down upon the silent figure
on the bed. "Starvation, most likely," he hazarded. "She's bin dead
fur an hour, maybe more," he mused aloud. "An' she's laid herself out,
d'ye mind. Whin she found death comin' she drew her feet together, an'
crost her hands on her breast, an' shut her eyes. They do ut
sometimes, whin they know they's no wan to do ut for thim. But first
she washed an' dressed her child in uts best an' sint ut out--so ut
w'u'dn't be scairt. D'ye know th' woman?" he added. "Have ye ivir seen
her? It seems t' me _I_ have!"

Holding the baby tight, her head against my shoulder, that she might
not see what I did, I went forward and looked at the wasted face.
There was something vaguely familiar about the black hair-line on the
broad, Madonna-like brow, about the exquisitely shaped nose, the
sunken cheeks, the pointed chin. For a long moment I looked at them
while memory stirred in me and then awoke.

"Yes," I said, at last. "I remember her now. Many evenings last month
I saw her standing at the foot of the elevated stairs when I was going
home. She wore a little shawl over her head--that's why I didn't
recognize her at once. She never begged, but she took what one gave
her. I always gave her something. She was evidently very poor. I
remember vaguely that she had a child with her--this one, of course. I
hardly noticed either of them as I swept by. One's always in a rush,
you know, to get home, and, unfortunately, there are so many beggars!"

"That's it," said Casey. "I remember her now, too."

"If only I had realized how ill she was," I reflected aloud,
miserably, "or stopped to think of the child. She called me 'kind
lady.' Oh, Casey! And I let her starve!"

"Hush now," said Casey, consolingly. "Sure how could ye know? Some of
thim that's beggin' has more than you have!"

"But she called me 'kind lady,'" I repeated. "And I let her--"

"Fine-kine-rady," murmured the child, drowsily, as if hearing and
responding to a cue. She was quiet and well content, again playing
with a coat-button; but she piped out her three words as if they were
part of a daily drill and the word of command had been uttered. Casey
and I looked at each other, then dropped our eyes.

  [Illustration: "D'YE KNOW THE WOMAN?" HE SAID]

"_Find kind lady_," I translated at last. Then I broke down, in the
bitterest storm of tears that I have ever known. Beside me Casey stood
guard, silent and unhappy. It was the whimper of the child that
recalled me to myself and her. She was growing frightened.

"Oh, Casey," I said again, when I had soothed her, "do you realize
that the poor woman sent this baby out into New York to-night on the
one chance in a million that she might see me at the station and that
I would remember her?"

"What else c'u'd the poor creature do?" muttered Casey. "I guess she
wasn't dependin' on her neighbors much. 'Tis easy to see that ivery
stick o' furniture an' stitch o' clothes, ixcept th' child's, was
pawned. Besides, thim tiniment kids is wise," he repeated. His blue
eyes dwelt on the baby with a brooding speculation in their depths.
"She's sleepy," he muttered, "but she's not starved. Th' mother fed
her t' th' last, an' wint without herself; an' she kep' her warm. They
do that sometimes, too."

With quick decision he put on his cap and started for the door. "I'll
telephone me report," he said, briskly. "Will ye be waitin' here till
I come back? Thin we'll take th' mother t' th' morgue an' the child t'
th' station."

"Oh no, we won't," I told him, gently. "We'll see that the mother has
proper burial. As for this baby, I'm going to take care of her until I
find an ideal home for her. I know women who will thank God for her. I
wish," I added, absently--"I wish I could keep her myself."

Casey turned on me a face that was like a smiling full moon. "'Tis
lucky th' child is to have ye for a friend. But she'll be a
raysponsibil'ty," he reminded me, "and an expinse."

I kissed the tiny hand that clung to mine. "That won't worry me," I
declared. "Why, do you know, Casey"--I drew the soft little body
closer to me--"I feel that if I worked for her a thousand years I
could never make up to this baby for that horrible moment when I
turned her adrift again--after she had found me."

       *       *       *       *       *

Two hours later my waif of the fog, having been fed and tubbed and
tucked into one of my nightgowns, reposed in my bed, and, still
beatifically clutching a cookie, sank into a restful slumber. My maid,
a "settled" Norwegian who had been with me for two years, had welcomed
her with hospitable rapture. A doctor had pronounced her in excellent
physical condition. A trained nurse, hastily summoned to supervise her
bath, her supper, and her general welfare, had already drawn up an
impressive plan indicating the broad highway of hygienic infant
living. Now, for the dozenth time, we were examining a scrap of paper
which I had found in a tiny bag around the child's neck when I
undressed her. It bore a brief message written in a wavering, foreign

     Maria Annunciata Zamati 3½ years old

     Parents dead. No relations. Be good to her and God will be
     good to you.

Besides this in the little bag was a narrow gold band, wrapped in a
bit of paper that read:

     Her mother's wedding-ring.

Broodingly I hung over the short but poignant record. "Maria
Annunciata," I repeated. "What a beautiful name! Three and a half
years old! What an adorable age! No relations. No one can ever take
her from us! I shall be her godmother and her best friend, whoever
adopts her. And I'll keep her till the right mother comes for her, if
it takes the rest of my life."

The doctor laughed and bade us good night, after a final approving
look at the sleeping baby in the big bed. The trained nurse departed
with evident reluctance for her room.

The telephone beside my bed clicked warningly, then tinkled. As I took
up the receiver a familiar voice came to me over the wire.

"Is that you, May?" it said. "This is Josephine Morgan. Did you get a
dinner invitation from me yesterday? Not hearing from you, I've been
trying to get you on the telephone all evening, but no one answered."

"I know," I said, cheerfully. "Awfully sorry. I've been busy. I've got
a baby."

Maria Annunciata stirred in her sleep. Speaking very softly, that I
might not awaken her, I told Josephine the story of my adventure.

"Come and see her soon," I ended. "I mustn't talk any more.
Annunciata is here beside me. She's absolutely different from any
other child in the world. Good night."

I undressed slowly, stopping at intervals to study the pleasing effect
of Maria Annunciata's short black curls on the pillow. At last, moving
very carefully for fear of disturbing her, I crept into bed. As
promptly as if the yielding of the mattress had been a signal that set
her tiny body in motion, Maria Annunciata awoke, smiled at me, cuddled
into the curve of my left arm, reached up, and firmly grasped my left
ear. Then, with a long sigh of ineffable content, she dropped back
into slumber.

The only light was the soft glow of an electric bulb behind an amber
shade. The button that controlled it was within easy reach of my hand;
a touch would have plunged the room into darkness. But I did not press
the little knob. Instead, I lay for a long, long time looking at the
sleeping child beside me.

There was a soft knock at the door. It opened quietly and my servant

"Mr. and Mrs. Morgan are outside," she whispered. "They say they've
come to see the baby."

"But," I gasped, "it's after eleven o'clock!"

"I know. Mrs. Morgan said they couldn't wait till morning. Shall I
show her in?"

I hesitated. I felt a sense of unreasonable annoyance, almost of fear.
"Yes," I said, at last, "let her come in."

Josephine Morgan came in with a soft little feminine rush. Something
of the atmosphere of the great world in which she lived came with her
as far as the bedside, then dropped from her like a garment as she
knelt beside us and kissed me, her eyes on Maria Annunciata's sleeping

"Oh, the darling, the lamb!" she breathed. "She's the most exquisite
thing I ever saw! And the pluck of her! George says she ought to have
a Carnegie medal." Still kneeling, she bent over the child, her
beautiful face quivering with feeling. "What do you know about her
family?" she asked.

With a gesture I indicated the scrap of paper and the ring that lay on
my dressing-table. "There's the whole record," I murmured.

She rose and examined them, standing very still for a moment
afterward, apparently in deep thought. Then, still holding them, she
returned to the bedside and with a quick but indescribably tender
movement gathered Maria Annunciata into her arms. "Let me show her to
George," she whispered.

I consented, and she carried the sleeping baby into the next room. I
heard their voices and an occasional low laugh. A strange feeling of
loneliness settled upon me. In a few moments she came back, her face
transfigured. Bending, she put the child in bed and sat down beside

"May," she said, quietly, "George and I want her. Will you give her to

The demand was so sudden that I could not speak. She looked at me, her
eyes filling.

"We've been looking for a little daughter for two years," she added.
"We've visited dozens of institutions."

"But," I stammered, "I wanted to keep her myself--for a while,

She smiled at me. "Why, you will--" she began, and stopped.

"You may have her," I said, quietly.

She kissed me. "We'll make her happy," she promised. "I suppose," she
added, "we couldn't take her away _to-night_? Of course the first
thing in the morning will _do_," she concluded, hastily, as she met my
indignant gaze.

"Josephine Morgan," I gasped, "I never met such selfishness! Of course
you can't have her to-night. You can't have her in the morning,
either. You've got to adopt her legally, with red seals and things. It
will take lots of time."

Mrs. Morgan laughed, passing a tender finger through one of Maria
Annunciata's short curls. "We'll do it," she said. "We'll do anything.
And we're going to be in New York all winter, so you can be with her a
great deal while she's getting used to us. Now I'll go." But she
lingered, making a pretext of tucking in the bedclothes around us.
"You've seen the _Sentinel_," she asked, "with that story about you?"

I shook my head at her. "Don't, please," I begged. "We'll talk about
that to-morrow."

She kissed the deep dimple in Maria Annunciata's left cheek. "Good
night," she said, again. "You'll never know how happy you have made

The door closed behind her. I raised my hand and pressed the button
above my head. Around me the friendly darkness settled, and a silence
as warm and friendly. In the hollow of my neck the face of Maria
Annunciata rested, a short curl tickling my cheek. I recalled "the
great silence" that fell over the convent at nine o'clock when the
lights went out, but to-night the reflection did not bring its usual
throb of homesickness and longing. Relaxed, content, I lay with eyes
wide open, looking into the future. Without struggle, without
self-analysis, but firmly and for all time, I had decided _not_ to be
a nun.



Every seat in the primitive town hall was occupied, and a somber
frieze of Dakota plainsmen and their sad-faced wives decorated the
rough, unpainted sides of the building. On boxes in the narrow aisles,
between long rows of pine boards on which were seated the early
arrivals, late-comers squatted discontentedly, among them a dozen
women carrying fretful babies, to whom from time to time they
addressed a comforting murmur as they swung them, cradle-fashion, in
their tired arms.

The exercises of the evening had not yet begun, but almost every eye
in the big, silent, patient assemblage was fixed on a woman, short and
stout, with snow-white hair and a young and vivid face, who had just
taken her place on the platform, escorted by a self-conscious official
of the little town. Every one in that gathering had heard of Dr. Anna
Harland; few had yet heard her speak, but all knew what she
represented: "new-fangled notions about women"--women's rights, woman
suffrage, feminism, unsettling ideas which threatened to disturb the
peace of minds accustomed to run in well-worn grooves. Many of the
men and women in her audience had driven twenty, thirty, or forty
miles across the plains to hear her, but there was no unanimity in the
expressions with which they studied her now as she sat before them. In
the men's regard were curiosity, prejudice, good-humored tolerance, or
a blend of all three. The women's faces held a different meaning:
pride, affectionate interest, admiration tinged with hope; and here
and there a hint of something deeper, a wireless message that passed
from soul to soul.

At a melodeon on the left of the platform a pale local belle, who had
volunteered her services, awaited the signal to play the opening
chords of the song that was to precede the speaker's address. In
brackets high on the rough walls a few kerosene lamps vaguely
illumined the scene, while from the open night outside came the voices
of cowboys noisily greeting late arrivals and urging them to "go on in
an' git a change of heart!"

The musician received her signal--a nod from the chairman of the
evening--and the next moment the voices of a relieved and relaxed
audience were heartily swelling the familiar strains of "The Battle
Hymn of the Republic." As the men and women before her sang on, Dr.
Harland watched them, the gaze of the brilliant dark eyes under her
straight black brows keen and intent. Even yet she had not decided
what she meant to say to these people. Something in the music,
something in the atmosphere, would surely give her a cue, she felt,
before she began to speak.

Sitting near her on the platform, I studied both her and her audience.
The Far West and its people were new to me; so was this great leader
of the woman's cause. But it behooved me to know her and to know her
well, for I had accompanied her on this Western campaign for the sole
purpose of writing a series of articles on her life and work, to be
published in the magazine of which I had recently been appointed
assistant editor. During our long railroad journeys and drives over
hills and plains she had talked to me of the past. Now, I knew, I was
to see her again perform the miracle at which I had not yet ceased to
marvel--the transformation of hundreds of indifferent or merely
casually interested persons into a mass of shouting enthusiasts, ready
to enlist under her yellow banner and follow wherever she led.

To-night, as she rose and for a moment stood silent before her
audience, I could see her, as usual, gathering them up, drawing them
to her by sheer force of magnetism, before she spoke a word.

"My friends," she began, in the beautiful voice whose vibrating
contralto notes reached every person in the great hall, "last Monday,
at Medora, I was asked by a missionary who is going to India to send a
message to the women of that land. I said to him, 'Tell them the world
was made for women, too.' To-night I am here to give you the same
message. The world is women's, too. The West is women's, too. You have
helped to make it, you splendid, pioneer women, who have borne with
your husbands the heat and burden of the long working-days. You have
held down your claims through the endless months of Western winters,
while your men were away; you have toiled with them in the fields; you
have endured with them the tragedies of cyclones, of droughts, of
sickness, of starvation. If woman's work is in the home alone, as our
opponents say it is, you have been most unwomanly. For you have
remained in the home only long enough to bear your children, to care
for them, to feed them and your husbands. The rest of the time you
have done a man's work in the West. The toil has been yours as well as
man's; the reward of such toil should be shared by you. The West is
yours, too. Now it holds work for you even greater than that you have
done in the past, and I am here to beg you to begin that work."

The address went on. In the dim light of the ill-smelling lamps I
could see the audience leaning forward, intent, fascinated. Even among
the men easy tolerance was giving place to eager response; on row
after row of the rough benches the spectators were already clay in the
hands of the speaker, to be molded, for the moment at least, into the
form she chose to give them. My eyes momentarily touched, then
fastened intently on a face in the third row on the left. It was the
face of a woman--a little, middle-aged woman of the primitive Western
type--her graying hair combed straight back from a high, narrow
forehead, her thin lips slightly parted, the flat chest under her
gingham dress rising and falling with emotion. But my interest was
held by her eyes--brown eyes, blazing eyes, almost the eyes of a
fanatic. Unswervingly they rested on the speaker's face, while the
strained attention, the parted lips, the attitude of the woman's
quivering little body betrayed almost uncontrollable excitement. At
that instant I should not have been surprised to see her spring to her
feet and shout, "_Alleluia!_"

A moment later I realized that Dr. Harland had seen her, too; that she
was, indeed, intensely conscious of her, and was directing many of her
best points to this absorbed listener. Here was the perfect type she
was describing to her audience--the true woman pioneer, who not only
worked and prayed, but who read and thought and aspired. The men and
women under the flickering lights were by this time as responsive to
the speaker's words as a child to its mother's voice. They laughed,
they wept, they nodded, they sighed. When the usual collection was
taken up they showed true Western generosity, and when the lecture was
over they crowded forward to shake hands with the woman leader, and to
exhaust their limited vocabulary in shy tributes to her eloquence. Far
on the outskirts of the wide circle that had formed around her I saw
the little woman with the blazing eyes, vainly endeavoring to force
her way toward us through the crowd. Dr. Harland observed her at the
same time and motioned to me.

"Will you ask her to wait, Miss Iverson?" she asked. "I would like to
talk to her before she slips away." And she added, with her
characteristic twinkle, "That woman would make a perfect 'Exhibit A'
for my lecture."

I skirted the throng and touched the arm of the little woman just as
she had given up hope of reaching the speaker, and was moving toward
the door. She started and stared at me, almost as if the touch of my
fingers had awakened her from a dream.

"Dr. Harland asks if you will wait a few moments till the others
leave," I told her. "She is anxious to meet you."

The brown-eyed woman drew in a deep breath.

"Tha's whut I want," she exclaimed, ecstatically, "but it looked like
I couldn't git near her."

We sat down on an empty bench half-way down the hall, and watched the
human stream flow toward and engulf the lecturer. "Ain't she jest
wonderful?" breathed my companion. "She knows us women better 'n we
know ourselves. She knows all we done an' how we feel about it. I felt
like she was tellin' them people all my secrets, but I didn't mind."
She hesitated, then added dreamily, "It's high time men was told whut
their women are thinkin' an' can't say fer themselves."

In the excited group around the speaker a baby, held high in its
mother's arms to avoid being injured in the crush, shrieked out a
sudden protest. My new acquaintance regarded it with sympathetic eyes.

"I've raised six of 'em," she told me. "My oldest is a girl nineteen.
My youngest is a boy of twelve. My big girl she's lookin' after the
house an' the fam'ly while I'm gone. I druv sixty miles 'cross the
plains to hear Dr. Harland. It took me two days, an' it's jest about
wore out my horse--but this is worth it. I ain't had sech a night
sence I was a girl."

She looked at me, her brown eyes lighting up again with their queer,
excited fires.

"My Jim he 'most fell dead when I told him I was comin'," she went on.
"But I says to him, 'I ain't been away from this place one minute in
twenty years,' I says. 'Now I guess you folks can git 'long without me
fer a few days. For, Jim,' I says, 'ef I don't git away, ef I don't go
somewhere an' have some change, somethin's goin' to snap, an' I guess
it'll be me!'"

"You mean," I exclaimed, in surprise, "that you've never left your
ranch in twenty years?"

She nodded.

"Not once," she corroborated. "Not fer a minute. You know whut the
summers are--work, work from daylight to dark; an' in the winters I
had t' hol' down the claim while Jim he went to the city an' worked.
Sometimes he'd only git home once or twice the hull winter. Then when
we begin to git on, seemed like 'twas harder than ever. Jim he kept
addin' more land an' more stock to whut we had, an' there was more
hands to be waited on, an' the babies come pretty fast. Lately Jim
he's gone to Chicago every year to sell his cattle, but I ain't bin
able to git away till now."

During her eager talk--a talk that gushed forth like a long-repressed
stream finding a sudden outlet--she had been leaning toward me with
her arm on the back of the bench and her shining eyes on mine. Now, as
if remembering her "company manners," she sat back stiffly, folded her
work-roughened hands primly in her lap, and sighed with supreme

"My!" she whispered, happily, "I feel like I was in a diff'rent world.
It don't seem possible that only sixty miles out on the plains that
ranch is right there, an' everything is goin' on without me. An' here
I be, hearin' the music, an' all the folks singin' together, an' that
wonderful woman talkin' like she did! I feel"--she hesitated for a
comparison, and then went on, with the laugh of a happy girl--"I feel
like I was up in a balloon an' on my way to heaven!"

I forgot the heat of the crowded hall, the smell of the smoking lamps,
the shuffle of hobnailed shoes on the pine floors, the wails of
fretful babies. I almost felt that I, too, was floating off with this
ecstatic stranger in the balloon of her imagination.

"I see," I murmured. "You're tired of drudgery. You haven't played
enough in all these years."

She swung round again until she faced me, her sallow cheeks flushed,
her eager, brilliant eyes on mine.

"I ain't played none at all," she said. "I dunno what play is. An'
work ain't the only thing I'm tired of. I'm tired of everything. I'm
tired of everything--except this."

Her voice lingered on the last two words. Her eyes left my face for an
instant and followed the lecturer, of whose white head we obtained a
glimpse from time to time as the crowd opened around her. Still gazing
toward her, but now as if unseeingly, the plainswoman went on, her
voice dropping to a lower, more confidential note.

"I'm sick of everything," she repeated. "Most of all, I'm sick of the
plains and the sky--stretching on and on and on and on, like they do,
as if they was no end to 'em. Sometimes when I'm alone I stand at my
door an' look at 'em an' shake my fists an' shriek. I begun to think
they wasn't anything but them nowhere. It seemed 's if the little town
back East where I come from was jest a place I dreamed of--it couldn't
really be. Nothin' _could_ be 'cept those plains an' the cattle an'
the sky. Then, this spring--"

She turned again to face me.

"I dunno why I'm tellin' you all this," she broke off, suddenly.
"Guess it's because I ain't had no one to talk to confidential fer so
long, an' you look like you understand."

"I do understand," I told her.

She nodded.

"Well, this spring," she went on, "I begun to hate everything, same as
I hated the plains. I couldn't exactly hate my children; but it seemed
to me they never did nothin' right, an' I jest had to keep tellin'
myself they was mine, an' they was young an' didn't understand how
they worried me by things they done. Then the hands drove me 'most
crazy. They was one man--why, jes' to have that man pass the door made
me feel sick, an' yet I hadn't nothin' again' him, really. An'
finally, last of all, Jim--even Jim--"

Her voice broke. Sudden tears filled her eyes, quenching for the
moment the sparks that burned there.

"Jim's a good man," she continued, steadily, after a moment's pause.
"He's a good, hard-workin' man. He's good to me in his way, an' he's
good to the children. But of course he ain't got much time for us. He
never was a talker. He's a worker, Jim is, an' when night comes he's
so tired he falls asleep over the fire. But everything he done always
seemed pretty near right to me--till this spring."

Her voice flattened and died on the last three words. For a moment she
sat silent, brooding, a strange puzzled look in her brown eyes. The
crowd around Dr. Harland was thinning out, and people were leaving
the hall. We could easily have reached her now, but I sat still,
afraid to dam the verbal freshet that was following so many frozen

"This spring," she went on, at last, "it jest seems like I can't bear
to have even Jim around." She checked herself and touched my arm
timidly, almost apologetically. "It's a terrible thing to say, ain't
it?" she almost whispered, and added slowly, "It's a terrible thing to
_feel_. I can't bear to see him come into the room. I can't bear the
way he eats, or the way he smokes, or the way he sets down, or the way
he gits up, or the way he breathes. He does 'em all jest like he
always has. They ain't nothin' wrong with 'em. But I can't bear 'em no
more." She beat her hands together softly, with a queer, frantic
gesture. Her voice took on a note of rising excitement. "I can't," she
gasped. "I can't, _I can't_!"

I rose.

"Come," I said, cheerfully. "Dr. Harland is free now. I want you to
talk to her. She can help you. She's a very wise woman."

A momentary flicker of something I did not recognize shone in my
companion's eyes. Was it doubt or pity, or both?

"She ain't a married woman, is she?" she asked, quietly, as she rose
and walked down the aisle by my side.

I laughed.

"No," I conceded, "she isn't, and neither am I. But you know even the
Bible admits that of ten virgins five were wise!"

Her face, somber now, showed no reflection of my amusement. She seemed
to be considering our claims to wisdom, turning over in her mind the
possibility of help from either of us, and experiencing a depressing

"Well, you're women, anyway," she murmured, at last, a pathetic note
of uncertainty lingering in her voice.

"Will you tell me your name?" I asked, "so that I may introduce you
properly to Dr. Harland?"

"Tildy Mears," she answered, promptly; then added, with stiff
formality, "Mrs. James Mears of the X. X. M. Ranch."

We were already facing Dr. Harland, and I presented Mrs. Mears without
further delay. The leader met her with the brilliant smile, the close
hand-clasp, the warm, human sympathy which rarely failed to thrill the
man or woman she was greeting. Under their influence Mrs. Mears
expanded like a thirsty plant in a gentle shower. Within five minutes
the two women were friends.

"You're at the hotel, of course," Dr. Harland asked, when she heard of
the sixty-mile drive across the country. "Then you must have supper
with Miss Iverson and me. We always want something after these long
evenings, and I will have it sent up to our sitting-room, so that we
can have a comfortable talk."

Half an hour later we were grouped around the table in the little
room, and over the cold meat, canned peaches, lemonade, and biscuits
which formed our collation Tildy Mears retold her story, adding
innumerable details and intimate touches under the stimulus of the
doctor's interest. At the end of it Dr. Harland sat for a long moment
in silent thought. Then, from the briskness with which she began to
speak, I knew that she had found some solution of the human problem
before us.

"Mrs. Mears," she said, abruptly, and without any comment on the
other's recital, "I wish you would travel around with us for a
fortnight. We're going to remain in this part of the state, and you
would find our meetings extremely interesting. On the other hand, you
could give me a great deal of help and information, and, though I
cannot offer you a salary, I will gladly pay your expenses."

This was a plan very characteristic of Dr. Harland, to whom half-way
measures of any kind made no appeal. I looked at Tildy Mears. For an
instant, under the surprise of the leader's unexpected words, she had
sat still, stunned; in the next, her eyes had flashed to us one of
their ecstatic messages, as if she had grasped all the other woman's
proposition held of change, of interest, of growth. Then abruptly the
light faded, went out.

"I'd love to," she said, dully, "I'd jest _love_ to! But of course it
ain't possible. Why, I got to start home to-morrer. Jim," she gulped,
bringing out the name with an obvious effort, "Jim expecks me back
Sat'day night."

"Listen to me, Mrs. Mears"--Dr. Harland leaned forward, her compelling
eyes deep in those of the Western woman--"I'm going to speak to you
very frankly--as if we were old friends; as if we were sisters, as,
indeed, we are."

Tildy Mears nodded. Her eyes, dull and tired now, looked trustfully
back at the other woman.

"I feel like we are," she agreed. And she added, "You kin say anything
you've a mind to."

"Then I want to say this."

I had never seen Dr. Harland more interested, more impressive. Into
what she was saying to the forlorn little creature before her she
threw all she had of persuasiveness, of magnetism, and of power.

"If you don't have a change," she continued, "and a very radical
change, you will surely have a bad nervous breakdown. That is what I
want to save you from. I cannot imagine anything that would do it more
effectively than to campaign with us for a time, and have the whole
current of your thoughts turned in a new direction. Why, don't you
understand"--her deep voice was full of feeling; for the moment at
least she was more interested in one human soul than in hundreds of
human votes--"it isn't that you have ceased to care for your home and
your family. It's only that your tortured nerves are crying out
against the horrible monotony of your life. Give them the change they
are demanding and everything else will come right. Go back and put
them through the old strain, and--well, I'm afraid everything will go

As if something in the other's words had galvanized her into sudden
action Mrs. Mears sprang to her feet. Like a wild thing she circled
the room, beating her hands together.

"I can't go back!" she cried. "I can't go back! Whut'll I do? Oh,
whut'll I do?"

"Do what I am advising you to do."

Dr. Harland's quiet voice steadied the hysterical woman. Under its
calming influence I could see her pull herself together.

"Write Mr. Mears that you are coming with us, and give him our advance
route, so that he will know exactly where you are all the time. If
your daughter can manage your home for five days she can manage it for
two weeks. And your little jaunt need not cost your husband one

"I brought twenty dollars with me," quavered Tildy Mears.

"Keep it," advised the temporarily reckless leader of the woman's
cause. "When we reach Bismarck you can buy yourself a new dress and
get some little presents to take home to the children."

Tildy Mears stopped her reckless pacing of the room and stood for a
moment very still, her eyes fixed on a worn spot in the rug at her

"I reckon I will," she then said, slowly. "Sence you ask me, I jest
reckon I'll stay."

The next evening, during her remarks to the gathering she was then
addressing, Dr. Harland abruptly checked herself.

"But there is some one here who knows more about that than I do," she
said, casually, referring to a point she was covering. "Mrs. Mears,
who is on the platform with me to-night, is one of you. She knows from
twenty years of actual experience what I am learning from study and
observation. She can tell you better than I can how many buckets of
water a plainsman's wife carries into an unpiped ranch during the day.
Will you tell us, Mrs. Mears?"

She asked a few questions, and hesitatingly, stammeringly at first,
the panic-stricken plainswoman answered her. Then a woman in the
audience spoke up timidly to compare notes, and in five minutes more
Dr. Harland was sitting quietly in the background while Tildy Mears,
her brown eyes blazing with interest and excitement, talked to her
fellow plainswomen about the problems she and they were meeting

Seeing the success of Dr. Harland's experiment, I felt an increased
respect for that remarkable woman. She had known that this would
happen; she had realized, as I had not, that Tildy Mears could talk to
others as simply and as pregnantly as to us, and that her human appeal
to her sister workers would be far greater than any even Anna Harland
herself could make. One night she described a stampede in words that
made a slow chill run the length of my spine. Half an hour later she
was discussing "hired hands," with a shrewd philosophy and a quaint
humor that drew good-natured guffaws from "hired hands" themselves as
well as from their employers in the audience.

Within the next few days Tildy Mears became a strong feature of our
campaign. Evening after evening, in primitive Dakota towns, her
self-consciousness now wholly gone, she supplemented Dr. Harland's
lectures by a talk to her sister women, so simple, so homely, so
crudely eloquent that its message reached every heart. During the days
she studied the suffrage question, reading and rereading the books we
had brought with us, and asking as many questions as an eager and
precocious child. Openly and unabashedly Dr. Harland gloried in her.

"Why, she's a born orator," she told me one day, almost breathlessly.
"She's a feminine Lincoln. There's no limit to her possibilities. I'd
like to take her East. I'd like to educate her--train her. Then she
could come back here and go through the West like a whirlwind."

The iridescent bubble was floating so beautifully that it seemed a
pity to prick it; but I did, with a callous reminder.

"How about her home?" I suggested--"and her children? and her

Dr. Harland frowned and bit her lip.

"Humph!" she muttered, her voice taking on the flat notes of
disappointment and chagrin. "Humph! I'd forgotten them."

For a moment she stood reflecting, readjusting her plans to a scale
which embraced the husband, the home, and the children of her
protégée. Then her brow cleared, her irresistible twinkle broke over
her face; she smiled like a mischievous child.

"I had forgotten them," she repeated. "Maybe"--this with irrepressible
hopefulness--"maybe Tildy will, too!"

That Tildy did nothing of the kind was proved to us all too soon. Six
days had passed, and the growing fame of Mrs. Mears as a suffrage
speaker was attracting the attention of editors in the towns we
visited. It reached its climax at a mass-meeting in Sedalia, where for
an hour the little woman talked to an audience of several hundred,
making all Dr. Harland's favorite points in her own simpler, homelier
words, while the famous leader of the cause beamed on her proudly from
the side of the stage. After the doctor's speech the two women held an
informal reception, which the Mayor graced, and to which the Board of
Aldermen also lent the light of their presence. These high dignitaries
gave most of their attention to our leader; she could answer any
question they wished to ask, as well as many others they were
extremely careful not to bring up. But the women in the audience, the
babies, the growing boys and girls--all these turned to Tildy Mears.
From the closing words of her speech until she disappeared within the
hotel she was followed by an admiring throng. As I caught the final
flash of her brown eyes before her bedroom engulfed her it seemed to
me that she looked pale and tired. She had explained that she wanted
no supper, but before I went to bed, hearing her still moving around
her room, I rapped at her door.

"Wouldn't you like a sandwich?" I asked, when she had opened it. "And
a glass of lemonade?"

She hesitated. Then, seeing that I had brought these modest
refreshments on a tray, she stepped back and allowed me to pass in.
There was an unusual self-consciousness in her manner, an unusual
bareness in the effect of the room. The nails on the wall had been
stripped of her garments. On the floor lay an open suit-case closely

"Why!" I gasped. "Why are you packing? We're going to stay here over
to-morrow, you know."

For an instant she stood silent before me, looking like a child caught
in some act of disobedience by a relentless parent. Then her head went

"Yes," she said, quietly. "I'm packed. I'm goin' home!"

"Going home!" I repeated, stupidly. It seemed to me that all I could
do was to echo her words. "When?" I finally brought out.

"To-morrer mornin'." She spoke almost defiantly. "I wanted to go
to-night," she added, "but there wasn't no train. I got to go back an'
start from Dickinson, where I left my horse."

"But why?" I persisted. "_Why?_ I thought you were going to be with us
another week at least?"

"Well"--she drew out the word consideringly. Then, on a sudden
resolve, she gave her explanation. "They was a man in the fourth row
to-night that looked like Jim."

"Yes?" I said, and waited. "Was he Mr. Mears?" I asked, at last.


She knelt, and closed and locked the suit-case.

"He looked like Jim," she repeated, as if that ended the discussion.

For an instant the situation was too complicated for me. Then, in a
flash of understanding, I remembered that only the week before I had
been made suddenly homesick for New York by one fleeting glimpse of a
man whose profile was like that of Godfrey Morris. Without another
word I sought Dr. Harland and broke the news to her in two pregnant

"Mrs. Mears is going home to-morrow morning. She saw a man at the
meeting to-night who looked like her husband."

Dr. Harland, who was preparing for bed, laid down the hair-brush she
was using, slipped a wrapper over her nightgown, and started for Mrs.
Mears's room. I followed. Characteristically, our leader disdained

"But, my dear woman," she exclaimed, "you can't leave us in the lurch
like this. You're announced to speak in Sweetbriar and Mendan and
Bismarck within the coming week."

"He looked jest like Jim," murmured Tildy Mears, in simple but full
rebuttal. She was standing with her back to the door, and she did not
turn as we entered. Her eyes were set toward the north, where her home
was, and her children and Jim. Her manner dismissed Sweetbriar,
Mendan, and Bismarck as if they were the flowers of last year.
Suddenly she wheeled, crossed the room, and caught Dr. Harland by the

"Woman," she cried, "I'm homesick. Can't ye understand that, even ef
you ain't got a home an' a husband ye been neglectin' fer days, like I
have? I'm homesick." Patiently she brought out her refrain again. "The
man looked jest like Jim," she ended.

She turned away, and with feverish haste put her case on a chair, and
her jacket and hat on the case, topping the collection with an old
pair of driving-gloves. The completeness of this preparation seemed to
give her some satisfaction. She continued with more animation.

"I'm startin' early," she explained. "I told the hotel man soon's I
come in to have me called at five o'clock. So I'll say good-by now.
An' thank ye both fer all yer kindness," she ended, primly.

Dr. Harland laughed. Then, impulsively, she took both the woman's
toil-hardened hands in hers.

"Good-by, then, and God bless you," she said. "My cure has worked.
I'll comfort myself with that knowledge."

For a moment the eyes of Tildy Mears fell.

"You ben mighty good," she said. "You both ben good. Don't think I
ain't grateful." She hesitated, then went on in halting explanation.
"'S long's you ain't married," she said, "an' ain't got nothin' else
to do, it's fine to travel round an' talk to folks. But someway sence
I see that man to-night, settin' there lookin' like Jim, I realize
things is different with us married women."

She drew her small figure erect, her voice taking on an odd suggestion
of its ringing platform note.

"Talkin' is one thing," she said, tersely, "livin' is another thing.
P'rhaps you ain't never thought of that. But I see the truth now, an'
I see it clear."

Her peroration filled the little room, and like a swelling organ tone
rolled through the open door and down the stairs, where it reached the
far recesses of the hall below. Her lean right arm shot upward in her
one characteristic gesture, as if she called on high Heaven itself to
bear witness to the wisdom of her words in this, her last official

"Woman's place," ended Tildy Mears, "is in the home!"



The Authors' Dinner had reached that peak of success which rises
serenely between the serving of the dessert and the opening words of
the first postprandial speech. Relaxed, content, at peace with
themselves and their publisher-host, the great assemblage of men and
women writers sipped their coffee and liqueurs, and beamed benignly
upon one another as they waited for the further entertainment the
speeches were expected to afford. Here and there, at the numerous
small tables which flowered in the great dining-room, a distinguished
author, strangely modest for the moment, stealthily consulted some
penciled notes tucked under his napkin, or with absent eyes on space
mentally rehearsed the opening sentences of his address. Even the
least of these men was accustomed to public speaking; but what they
had said to Chautauqua gatherings or tossed off casually at school
commencements in their home towns was not quite what they would care
to offer to an audience which included three hundred men and women
representing every stage of literary success, and gifted, beyond
doubt, with a highly developed sense of humor. A close observer could
discover the speakers of the evening by running an eye over the
brilliantly decorated tables and selecting those faces which alone in
that care-free assemblage wore expressions of nervous apprehension.

At my table, well toward the center of the room, I felt again a thrill
of delight at being a part of this unique composite picture. My first
book, still an infant in the literary cradle, had won me my
invitation; and nothing except the actual handling of the volume, hot
from the press, had given me so strong a sense of having at last made
a beginning in the work I loved. Save myself, every man and woman of
the eight at our table stood on the brow of the long hill each had
climbed. Three of them--a woman playwright, a man novelist, and a
famous diplomat--were among my close friends. The others I had met
to-night for the first time. The Playwright sat opposite me, and over
the tall vase of Spanish iris which stood between us I caught the
expression of her brown eyes, thoughtful and introspective. For the
moment at least she was very far away from the little group around
her. Beside her sat the Author, his white locks caressing a suddenly
troubled brow. He was one of the speakers of the evening, and he had
just confided to his companions that he had already forgotten his
carefully prepared extemporaneous address. At my right the grand old
man of American diplomacy smiled in calm content. He rarely graced
such festive scenes as this; he was over ninety, and, he admitted
cheerfully, "growing a little tired." But his Reminiscences, recently
published, was among the most widely read literature of the day, and
the mind which had won him distinction fifty years ago was still as
brilliant as during his days at foreign courts.

Over our group a sudden stillness had fallen, and with an obvious
effort to break this, one of my new acquaintances addressed me, her
cold blue eyes reflecting none of the sudden warmth of her manner.

"Do you know, Miss Iverson," she began, "I envy you. You have had five
years of New York newspaper experience--the best of all possible
training. Besides, you must have accumulated more material in those
five years than the average writer finds in twenty."

I had no opportunity to reply. As if the remark had been a gauntlet
tossed on the table in challenge, my companions fell upon it. Every
one talked at once, the Best Seller and the Author upholding the
opinion of the woman with the blue eyes, the rest disputing it, until
the Playwright checked the discussion with a remark that caught the
attention of all.

"There's nothing new in this world," she said, "and therefore there's
nothing interesting. We all know too much. The only interesting things
are those we can't understand, because they happen--elsewhere."

The Author looked at her and smiled, his white eyebrows moving upward
ever so slightly. "For example?" he murmured.

Almost imperceptibly the Playwright shrugged her shoulders.

"For example?" she repeated, lightly. "Oh, I wasn't contemplating an
example. Not that I couldn't give one if I chose." She stopped. Then,
stirred by the skeptical look in the Author's eyes, her face took on a
sudden look of decision. "And I might," she added, quietly, "if

The Best Seller leaned across the table and laid a small coin on her
plate. "I'll urge you," he said. "I'll take a story. We want the thing
in fiction form."

The Playwright smiled at him. "Very well," she said, indifferently;
"call it what you please--an instance, a story."

"And mind," interrupted the Best Seller, "it's something that didn't
happen on this earth."

The Playwright sat silent an instant, intent and thoughtful, as if
mentally marshaling her characters before her. "Part of it happened on
this earth," she said. "It began two years ago, when a friend of mine,
a woman editor, received a letter from a stranger, who was also a
woman. The stranger asked for a personal interview. She wished, she
said, for the editor's advice. The need had suddenly come to her to
make her living. She had had no special training; would the editor
talk to her and give her any suggestions she could? The editor
consented, naming a day and an hour for the interview, and at the time
appointed the stranger called at the other's office.

"She proved to be a beautiful woman, a little over forty, dressed
quietly but exquisitely in black, and with the walk and manner of an
empress. The editor was immensely impressed by her, but she soon
discovered that the stranger was wrapped in mystery. She could learn
nothing about her past, her friends, or herself. She was merely a
human package dropped from space and labeled 'Miss Driscoll'--the name
engraved on her card. Who 'Miss Driscoll' was, where she had come
from, what she had done, remained as much of a problem after half an
hour of conversation as at the moment she had entered the editor's
room. She wanted work; how could she get it? That was her question,
but she had no answers for any questions asked by the editor. When
they were put to her she hedged and fenced with exquisite skill. She
had a charming air of intimacy, of confidence in the editor's
judgment, yet nothing came from her that threw any light on her
experience or her qualifications.

"All the time they talked the editor studied her. Then suddenly,
without warning, she leaned forward and shot out the question that had
been slowly forming in her mind.

"'When did you leave your Order?' she asked.

"The stranger stiffened like one who had received an electric shock.
The next moment she sagged forward in her chair as if something in her
had given way. 'How did you know?' she breathed, at last.

"The editor shook her head. 'I did not know,' she admitted. 'I merely
suspected. You have one or two habits which suggest a nun, especially
the trick of crossing your hands as if you expected to slip them into
flowing sleeves. They look like a nun's hands, too; and your
complexion has the convent pallor. Now tell me all you can. I cannot
help you until I know more about you.'"

Around us there was the scrape of chairs on the polished floor. Some
of the dinner-guests were rising and crossing the room to chat with
friends at other tables. But the little group at our table sat in
motionless attention, every eye on the Playwright's charming face.

"Good beginning," remarked the Best Seller, helpfully. "And, by Jove,
the orchestra is giving you the 'Rosary' as an obbligato. There's a
coincidence for you."

"Then the story came out," resumed the Playwright, ignoring the
interruption. "At least part of it came out. The stranger had been the
Mother General of a large conventual Order, which she herself had
founded twenty years ago. She had built it up from one convent to
thirty. She had established schools and hospitals all over America, as
well as in Cuba, Porto Rico, and the Philippines. She was a brilliant
organizer, a human dynamo. Whatever she touched succeeded. She did
not need to explain this; the extraordinary growth of her Community
spoke for her. But a few months before she came to the editor, she
said, a cabal had been established against her in her Mother House.
She had returned from a visit to one of her Philippine convents to
find that an election had been held in her absence, that she had been
superseded, that the local superior of the Mother House had been
elected Mother General in her place; in short, that she herself was
deposed by her Community.

"She said that she never knew why. There was much talk of
extravagance, of too rapid growth; her broadening plans, and the big
financial risks she took, alarmed the more conservative nuns. She took
their breath away. Possibly they were tired of the pace she set, and
ready to rest on the Community's achievements. All that is not
important. Mother General Elise was deposed. She could not remain as a
subordinate in the Community she had ruled so long. Neither could she,
she said, risk destroying the work of her life by making a fight for
her rights and causing a newspaper sensation. So she left the Order,
taking with her her only living relative, her old mother, eighty-one
years of age, to whom for the previous year or two she had given a
home in her Mother House."

"I am afraid," murmured the Best Seller, sadly, "that this story is
going to depress me."

The Playwright nodded. "At first," she admitted. "But it ends with
what we will call 'an uplift.'"

The Best Seller emptied his glass. "Oh, all right," he murmured.
"Here's to the uplift!"

"The editor listened to the story," continued the Playwright. "Then
she advised Miss Driscoll to go to Rome and have her case taken up at
the Vatican. Surely what seemed such injustice would be righted there,
and without undesirable notoriety for the Community. She introduced
the former Mother General to several prominent New York men and women
who could help her and give her letters she needed. There were various
meetings at the houses of these people, who were all impressed by the
force, the magnetism, and the charm of the convent queen who had been
exiled from her kingdom. Then Miss Driscoll and her mother sailed for

The Diplomat leaned forward, his faded eyes as eager as a boy's. "Let
me tell some of it!" he begged. "Let me tell what happened in Rome!"

The blue-eyed woman who had started the discussion clapped her hands.
"Let each of us tell some of it," she cried. The Playwright smiled
across at the Diplomat. "By all means," she urged, "tell the Roman end
of it."

The Diplomat laid down his half-finished cigar, and put his elbows on
the table, joining his finger-tips in the pose characteristic of his
most thoughtful moments. He, too, took a moment for preparation, and
the faces of the others at the table showed that they were already
considering the twist they would give to the story when their
opportunity came.

"The mother and daughter reached Rome in May," began the Diplomat.
"They rented a few rooms and bought a few pieces of furniture, and,
because they were very poor, they lived very frugally. While the
daughter sought recognition at the Vatican the old mother spent her
days pottering around their little garden and trying to learn a few
words of Italian from her neighbors. It was hard to be transplanted at
eighty-one, but she was happy, for she was with the daughter she had
always adored. She would rather have been alone with her in a strange
land than in the highest heaven without her.

"One of the Cardinals at the Vatican finally took up the case of Miss
Driscoll. It interested him. He knew of the splendid work she had done
as Mother General Elise. He began an investigation of the whole
involved affair, and he had accumulated a great mass of documents, and
was almost ready to submit a formal report to the Holy Father, when he
fell ill with pneumonia and died a few days later.

"That was a crushing blow for Mother Elise. Under the shock of the
disappointment she, too, fell ill, and was taken to what we will call
the Hospital of the White Sisters. Her mother went with her, because
an old lady of eighty-two could not be left alone."

The old Diplomat paused and looked unseeingly before him, as if he
were calling up a picture.

"The convent hospital had a beautiful garden," the Diplomat resumed,
at last. "There the mother spent the next few days working among the
flowers and following the lay Sisters along the garden walks as a
contented child follows its nurse. Once a day she was allowed to see
her daughter for a few moments. It was her custom to reach the
sick-room long before the hour appointed and to wait in the hall until
she was admitted. She said the time of waiting seemed shorter there,
where she was so near. So one day, when a pale Sister told her that
her daughter was not quite ready to be seen, the old lady was not
surprised. This was her usual experience.

"Nothing warned her, no intuition told her, that her daughter had died
exactly five minutes before and that the Sisters back of that closed
door were huddled together, trying to find words to tell her what had
happened. They could not find them; words scamper away like frightened
beings in moments like that. So they sent for their Mother Superior,
and she came and put an arm around the bent shoulders of the old woman
and told her that her daughter's pain and trouble were over for all
time. Later they took her into the room where her daughter lay in a
peace which remained triumphant even while the mother's heart broke as
she looked upon it. When they found that they could not persuade her
to leave the room they allowed her to remain; and there she sat at the
foot of the bed day and night, while the Sisters came and went and
knelt and prayed, and the long wax tapers at the head and feet of the
dead nun burned slowly down to their sockets."

The Diplomat stopped. Then, as no one spoke, he turned to the Author.

"Will you go on?" he asked.

The Author took up the tale. "Mother Elise was buried in Rome," he
said, "and in the chapel of the White Sisters tapers still burn for
her. Her mother remained there, and was given a home in the convent,
because she had no other place to go. It was kind of the Sisters, for,
unlike her daughter, she was not a Catholic. But her old heart was
broken, and as months passed and she began to realize what had
happened she was filled with a great longing for her native land. The
bells of Rome got on her shattered nerves. They seemed eternally
ringing for her dead. From the garden she could see her daughter's
grave on the hill just beyond the convent walls. She longed for the
only thing she had left--her own country. She longed to hear her
native tongue. She said so to all who would listen. One day she
received an anonymous letter, inclosing bank-notes for five thousand
lira. The letter read:

     "I hear that you are homesick. Take this money and return to
     your native land. It will pay your passage and secure your
     admission to a home for aged gentlewomen. Do not try to
     discover the source of the gift.


"A little blossom of comfort bloomed in the old woman's heart, like an
edelweiss on a glacier. She packed her few possessions and sailed for
America. There was no one to meet her, but she had kept the name and
address of the woman editor; she was sure the editor would advise her
about getting into the right home. In the mean time she went from the
steamer to a cheap New York lodging-house, of which some fellow
passenger had told her, and from there she sent a hurried summons to
the editor. She was already panic-stricken in this big country, which
held the graves of all she loved but one. It suddenly seemed to her as
strange, as terrible as Italy. She was afraid of everything--afraid of
the people she met, of the sounds she heard, of the prying
lodging-house keeper and her red-eyed husband. Most of all, she was
afraid of these two, and she had reason to be.

"The editor had not even known the old lady was coming to this
country, but she responded to the call the night she received it, for
she could tell that the writer was frantic with fear. She climbed
three flights of rickety stairs and found the old woman in a state of
unreasoning terror, like a lost child in the dark. Already the keepers
of the lodging-house had tried to get her money from her; she was
hungry, for they did not furnish meals, and she had been afraid to go
out for food. The editor took her away from the place that night and
home to her own apartment. There she had a long talk with her.

"'Now, Mrs. Driscoll,' she said, 'I want you to forget your troubles
if you can and settle down here and be at peace. Leave the matter of
the home to me. I will find the right place, and when I have found it
I will tell you about it and take you to see it. Then, if you approve,
in you go. We will put your money in the bank to-morrow and leave it
there until the matter of the home is settled. In the mean time don't
think or talk about the future. It may take some time to find the
right home. I'm not going to run to you with every hope or
disappointment that my investigation brings. Forget about it yourself,
but don't think I have forgotten because I am not keeping you stirred
up with daily or weekly reports.'

"The old lady settled down like a contented child in its mother's lap.
As the weeks passed her eyes lost their look of panic and took on the
serenity of age. Her thin figure filled out. She transferred to her
only friend something of the devotion she had given her daughter. She
was almost happy.

"In the mean time the editor began her investigations, and she at once
discovered that it is not easy to find a home for an aged and indigent
gentlewoman. All the institutions to which she applied were filled,
and each had waiting-lists that looked, she said, 'yards long.' The
secretaries were courteous. They almost invariably sent her lists of
other institutions, and she wrote to these, or visited them if they
were within reach; and the weeks and months crawled by, and the city
grew hot and stifling. She was worn out by the quest to which she was
giving every hour of her spare time, but she was no nearer success
than she had been the first day. She had arranged to go to Europe for
a rest which she sadly needed, and the date of her sailing was very
near. But she could not go and leave her protégée unprovided for, nor
could she leave her alone with a servant. Her search became a very
serious thing; it kept her awake nights; it got on her nerves; it
became an obsession which, waking or sleeping, she could not forget.
She began to go down under it, but no one knew that, for she kept it
to herself; and the least suspicious person of all her friends was the
old lady, who each evening listened for her footstep as one listens
for that of the best beloved, coming home."

The Author stopped.

"By Jove!" said the Best Seller, "it _is_ a depressing yarn. Let me
see if I can't brighten it up a bit."

But the Author glanced at me. "Forgive me, old man," he said to the
Best Seller, who was a friend of his. "I know what you would do. You
would certainly brighten it up. You would discover a long-lost son,
throw in Thanksgiving at the old home, and wind up with the tango. I
think Miss Iverson ought to go on with the story."

He and the Playwright smiled at me. I felt neither nervous nor
self-conscious as I took up the story, but the Best Seller openly

"I could put some snap in that," he exclaimed. "But go on, Miss
Iverson. Only I call this a close corporation."

"There came," I began, "a very hot day. The editor had heard of a home
beyond the city limits, where the view was beautiful and the air was
pure. She went to see it. The date was the twenty-second of July, and
the day was the hottest of the season. At the end of the trolley-line
there was a broiling walk in the sun. The editor dragged her weary
feet along the dusty road, her eyes on the great brick building she
was approaching. Before it a cool lawn sloped down to a protecting
hedge. She could see old ladies sitting on benches under trees, and a
big lump came into her throat as she thought of her protégée and
wondered if at last she had found her a permanent resting-place, if
this haven was for her. In the dim reception-room she waited
hopefully, but almost the first words of the Sister who finally
appeared showed that nothing could be expected from her.

"She was merely repeating all the phrases the editor knew by heart.
The place was 'full to overflowing.' There were 'almost two hundred on
the waiting-list.' But, of course, there were other places. She
rattled off an impressive list. Every home on it was one the editor
had already visited or heard from; there was no room, she knew, in any
of them. At her side the Sister uttered sympathetic murmurs. It was,
she said, very sad. Then briskly she arose. She was a busy woman, and
she had already given this caller more time than she could well spare.
Perhaps the look on the editor's face checked her steps. Uncertainly
for a second she hesitated at the threshold. She could do nothing,
but--yes, there was still the impulse of hospitality.

"'Would you like to see our new chapel?' she asked, kindly. 'It is
just finished, and we are very proud of it.'

"The editor did not really care to see the new chapel. In her
depression she would not have cared to see anything. But she was very
warm, very tired, utterly discouraged. She wanted a few quiet moments
in which to pull herself together, to rest, to think, and to plan. The
new chapel would give her these. She followed the Sister to its dim
shelter, and, crossing its threshold, knelt in a pew near the door.
Sister Italia, kneeling beside her, suddenly leaned toward her and
whispered in her ear.

"'Remember,' she smiled, 'when you pray in a new chapel three prayers
are surely answered.'

"The editor returned her smile. Already she was feeling better. The
chapel was really beautiful, and its atmosphere was infinitely
soothing. Before the altar gleamed one soft light, like a distant
star, and like larger stars the rose windows at the right and left
seemed to pulse with color. Here and there a black-veiled nun knelt
motionless with bowed head. The editor offered two of her prayers:
that she might soon find a home for Mrs. Driscoll; that Mrs. Driscoll
might be happy and content in the home when she had found it. Then,
her eyes still on the distant altar light, her thoughts turned to
Mother Elise--at rest in her Roman grave. Here, surely, was a fit
setting for thought of her--a convent chapel such as those in which
she had spent years of her life. How many vigils she must have had in
such a place, how many lonely hours of fasting and of prayer!

"'I wish,' the editor reflected, dreamily, 'I wish I could feel that
she is with me in this search for the home. Of course she is--if she
knows. I'm sure of that. But _does_ she know? Or is she in some place
so inconceivably remote that even the tears and prayers of her
helpless old mother have never reached her? I wish I could know that
she is watching--that she won't let me make a mistake.'

"She sighed. Close to her Sister Italia stirred, then rose from her
knees and led the way from the chapel. The editor followed. At the
outer door of the main building Sister Italia asked a question.

"'Did you offer your three prayers?' she wanted to know.

"The editor reflected. 'I offered two,' she said, slowly. Then a
sudden memory came to her, and she smiled. 'Why, yes,' she said, 'I
offered all three, without realizing it.'"

The Best Seller interrupted. He was an irrepressible person. "It's
still too somber," he said. "But I see now how it can be lightened a
bit. Take your cue from the musicians. They're playing the Maxixe."

"Hush!" begged the woman with the blue eyes. She turned them on me.
There was an odd mist over their cold brilliance. "Please go on, Miss
Iverson," she said, gently.

I glanced at the Best Seller. "I'll lighten it a bit," I promised.

The face of the Best Seller brightened. "Good for you!" he exclaimed,

"The editor went home," I resumed. "She was very tired and still very
much discouraged. The long, hot ride had dispelled the memory of her
moments of peace. As she put her key in the lock of her door the old
mother heard the sound and came trotting down the hall to meet her.
She always did that, and usually she had a dozen questions to ask. Was
the editor tired? Had she had a hard day? Had it been very hot in her
office? But to-night she asked none of these. She came straight to the
editor and laid her hands on the other's shoulders; her face held an
odd look, apologetic, almost frightened.

"'Oh, my dear,' she quavered. 'I have a confession to make to you. I
have been false to a sacred trust.'

"The editor laughed and led her back into the living-room, where she
seated her in a big chair by an open window. She did not believe the
old lady had ever been false to any trust, and she was very anxious
to get out of her working-clothes and into cool garments.

"'I suppose it's something simply appalling,' she said. 'Let me
fortify myself for it with a bath and a glass of lemonade. Then I'll
listen to it.'

"But the old lady shook her head. 'No, no,' she gulped. 'I've waited
too long already. I _must_ do it now. Oh, listen; _please_ listen!'

"The editor humored her. The old lady was not often unreasonable, and
it was clear that she was desperately in earnest. The editor sat down
and rested her tired head against the back of her chair while she drew
off her gloves.

"'Very well,' she said, 'I'm listening.'

"The old lady began at once. Her words came out with an indescribable
effect of breathlessness, as if she could not make her explanation
soon enough. She leaned forward, her faded eyes, with their old
frightened look, fastened on the editor's face.

"'The day before my daughter died,' she began, almost in a whisper,
'she and I had our last talk. She seemed better. Neither of us thought
she was very ill. But she said it was wise when she felt well to
discuss a few things. She told me how little money we had and where it
was, and she said the Mother Superior had promised to let me stay in
the convent if ever I needed a home. Then she took off her ring, the
Community ring she had always worn as the symbol of her office, and
handed it to me. 'If I go before you,' she ended, 'I want you to send
this ring to our friend in New York--our friend the editor.'

"The old woman stopped. In her hand she held something with which her
fingers fumbled. Her head drooped.

"'I forgot it,' she confessed, in a whisper the editor strained her
ears to catch. 'When she died so suddenly the next day I forgot
everything except her going. When I remembered a few months later I
did not know how to send the ring to you, so I waited. And when I came
to New York those first horrible days in the lodging-house sent
everything else out of my mind.' Her head drooped lower. 'You'll
forgive me,' she ended.

"She rose and came toward the editor, and the editor rose to face her.

"'Why, my dear,' she began, 'you mustn't give it a second thought. Why
should you worry about it?'

"But the old lady interrupted her and went on, as if she had been
checked in a recital which she must finish without a break. 'Wait,'
she said. 'To-day, this afternoon, I remembered it! The memory came to
me with a kind of shock. I thought, "I have never given her the ring."
It brought me out of my chair. I started to get the ring at once, but
I could not remember where it was. I stood still, trying to think.
Then suddenly that came to me, too. It was down in the corner of my
biggest trunk, the one I had not unpacked, the one that holds all my
winter things. So I unpacked it--and here is the ring.'

"She held it out. It was a heavy gold band with a raised Latin
inscription on its outer surface. The editor took it in her hand, but
her mind held only one idea.

"'You unpacked that great trunk,' she gasped, 'this frightfully hot
day? With all those furs and flannels? Why, Mrs. Driscoll, how _could_
you do such a thing?'

"The old woman drew a deep breath. 'I had to,' she muttered. Her
eyebrows puckered. Plainly, she was puzzled and a little afraid. 'I
felt I had to,' she repeated. 'It seemed,' she added, slowly, 'almost
like a message from my daughter!'

"The editor turned the ring in her hand and looked at the Latin
inscription, and as she did so she saw again, not the face of the
beautiful woman who had come to her after her downfall, but the quiet
convent chapel in which she herself had knelt that afternoon. A little
chill ran the length of her spine. For there were three words on the

The Diplomat leaned forward. "That's interesting," he said. "I didn't
know about the inscription. The three words were--"

"'_Adveniat Regnum Tuum_,'" said the editor.

"'Thy Kingdom Come,'" translated the Best Seller, swiftly, proud of
his Latin. "By Jove, the editor got her message, didn't she? I like
your ending, Miss Iverson. But it doesn't prove the original point."

The Playwright leaned across the table. "Doesn't it?" she asked,
gently. "Then show them the ring, May."

I drew the heavy circle from my finger. In silence it was passed from
palm to palm. The glance of the blue-eyed woman touched the face of
the Playwright, the Diplomat, and the Author and rested on me. Then
she drew a deep breath.

"So it's true!" she said. "You four saw it work out! Where is Mrs.
Driscoll now?"

"In the Emerson Home for Gentlewomen," the Diplomat told her. "The
best, I think, in this country. You ran out to see her last week,
didn't you, Bassinger?"

The Author admitted the charge. "She's very happy there," he said.

At his table at the head of the room our host was on his feet. "Ladies
and gentlemen," he began--

But the Best Seller was whispering to me. "It wasn't exactly
telepathy," he said, "for no one but the old lady knew anything about
that ring. It was just an odd coincidence that sent her burrowing into
furs and moth-balls that hot day. But you can make a story of it, Miss
Iverson--a good one, too, if you'll work in a lot of drama and



The stage director rose and rolled up his copy of the play, pushing
toward me with his disengaged hand the half-dozen round white
peppermints which, arranged on a chalk-lined blue blotter, had been
chastely representing my most important characters in their most vital
scene. His smooth, round face was pale with fatigue; the glow of his
brown eyes had been dimmed by sleepless nights; he had the weary air
of a patient man who has listened to too much talk--but not for one
moment had he lost his control of the situation or of us.

"That might have made a better picture," he conceded, graciously. "But
we can't make any more changes till after the dress rehearsal
to-night; and if that goes well we won't want to make any. Don't you
worry, Miss Iverson. We've got a winner!"

This, coming from Herbert Elman at the close of our last official
conference, was as merciful rain to a parched field, but I was too
weary to respond to it, except by a tired smile. Under its
stimulation, however, our star, who had been drooping forward in her
chair surveying the peppermints much as Lady Macbeth must have gazed
upon the stain on her hand, blossomed in eager acknowledgment.

"Bertie, you are a trump!" she exclaimed, gratefully. "It's simply
wonderful how you keep up your enthusiasm after three weeks of work.
It was criminal of Miss Iverson and me to drag you here this
afternoon. I suppose we had lost our nerve, but that doesn't excuse

Elman had started for the door on the cue of his valedictory. At her
words he turned and came back to the desk where we sat together, his
face stamped with a sudden look of purpose; and upon my little study,
in which for the past three hours we had wrangled over a dozen
unimportant details, a hush fell, as if now, at last, something had
entered which was real and vital. For an instant he stood before us,
looking down at us with eyes that held an unaccustomed sternness. Then
he spoke.

"I had a few words to say to you two when I came here," he began, "but
you were both so edgy that I changed my mind. However, if you're
talking about losing your nerve you need them, and I'm going to get
them off my chest."

Miss Merrick interrupted him, her blue eyes widening like those of a
hurt baby.

"Oh, Bertie," she begged, "p-please don't say anything disagreeable.
Here we've been rehearsing for weeks, and we three still speak. We're
_al-most_ friendly. And now, at the eleventh hour, you're going to
spoil everything!"

Her words came out in a little wail. She dropped her head in her hands
with a gesture of utter fatigue.

"You are," she ended. "You know you are, and I'm _so-o_ tired!"

Elman laughed. No one ever took Stella Merrick seriously, except
during her hours on the stage when she ceased to be Stella Merrick at
all and entered the soul of the character she was impersonating.

"Nonsense," he said, brusquely. "I'm going to show my friendship by
giving you a pointer, that's all."

Miss Merrick drew a deep breath and twisted the corner of her mouth
toward me--a trick I had learned from Nestor Hurd five years ago and
had unconsciously taught her in the past three weeks.

"Oh, if that's all!" she murmured, in obvious relief.

"You should have been in your beds the entire day," continued Elman,
severely, "both of you, like the rest of the company. We'll rehearse
all night, and you know it; and I'll tell you right now," he added,
pregnantly, "that you're going to be up against it."

He waited a moment to give his words the benefit of their cumulative
effect, and then added, slowly:

"Just before I came here this afternoon T. B. told me that to-night he
intends to rehearse the company himself."

I heard Stella Merrick gasp. The little sound seemed to come from a
long distance, for the surprise of Elman's announcement had made me
dizzy. "T. B." was our manager, better known as "The Governor" and
"The Master." He had more friends, more enemies, more successes, more
insight, more failures, more blindness, more mannerisms, more
brutality, and more critics than any other man in the theatrical
world. His specialty was the avoidance of details. He let others
attend to these, and then, strolling in casually at the eleventh hour,
frequently undid the labor to which they had given weeks.

Though his money was producing my play, I had met him only once; and
this, I had been frequently assured by the company, had been the one
redeeming feature of an unusually strenuous theatrical experience. "T.
B." never attended any but dress rehearsals, leaving everything to his
stage directors until the black hours when he arrived to consider the
results they had accomplished. It was not an infrequent thing for him
on these occasions to disband the company and drop the play; that he
should change part of the cast and most of the "business" seemed
almost inevitable. For days I had been striving to accustom myself to
the thought that during our dress rehearsal "T. B." would be sitting
gloomily down in the orchestra, his eyes on the back drop, his chin on
his breast, a victim to that profound depression which seized him when
one of his new companies was rehearsing one of his new plays. At such
times he was said to bear, at the best, a look of utter desolation; at
the worst, that of a lost and suffering soul.

At long intervals, when Fate perversely chose to give her screw the
final turn for an unhappy playwright, "T. B." himself conducted the
last rehearsal, and for several months after one of these tragedies
theatrical people meeting on Broadway took each other into quiet
corners and discussed what had happened in awed whispers and with
fearsome glances behind them. It had not occurred to any of us that
"T. B." would be moved to conduct _our_ last rehearsal. This was his
busiest season, and Elman was his most trusted lieutenant. Now,
however, Elman's quiet voice was giving us the details of "T. B.'s"
intention, and as she listened Stella Merrick's face, paling slowly
under the touch of rouge on the cheeks, took on something of the
exaltation of one who dies gloriously for a Cause. She might not
survive the experience, it seemed to say, but surely even death under
the critical observation of "T. B." would take on some new dignity. If
she died in "T. B.'s" presence, "T. B." would see that at least she
did it "differently"!

"But, Bertie, that's _great_!" she exclaimed. "He must have a lot of
faith in the play. He must have heard something. He hadn't any idea of
conducting when I spoke to him yesterday."

"Oh yes, he had!" Elman's words fell on her enthusiasm as frost falls
on a tree in bloom. "He didn't want to rattle you by saying so, that's
all. And he isn't doing this work to-night because he's got faith in
the play. It's more because he hasn't. He hasn't faith in anything
just now. Three of his new plays have gone to the store-house this
month, and he's in a beastly humor. You'll have the devil of a time
with him."

Miss Merrick sprang to her feet and began to pace the study with
restless steps.

"What are you trying to do?" she threw back at him over her shoulder.
"Take what little courage we have left?"

Elman shook his dark head.

"I'm warning you," he said, quietly. "I want you both to brace up.
You'll need all the nerve you've got, and then some, to get through
what's before us. He'll probably have an entirely new idea of your
part, Stella; and I don't doubt he'll want Miss Iverson to rewrite
most of her play. But you'll both get through all right. You're not
quitters, you know."

His brown eyes, passing in turn from my face to hers, warmed at what
he saw in them. When he began to speak we had been relaxed, depressed,
almost discouraged. Lack of sleep, nervous strain, endless rehearsals
had broken down our confidence and sapped our energy; but now, in the
sudden lift of Stella Merrick's head, the quick straightening of her
shoulders, I caught a reflection of the change that was taking place
in me. At the first prospect of battle we were both as ready for
action as Highland regiments when the bagpipes begin to snarl. Looking
at us, Elman's pale face lit up with one of his rare and brilliant

"That's right," he said, heartily. "A word to the wise. And now I'm
really off."

Almost before the door had closed behind him Miss Merrick had seized
her hat and was driving her hat-pins through it with quick, determined

"I'm going home and to bed," she said. "We can both get in three
hours' sleep before the rehearsal--and believe me, Miss Iverson, we'll
need it! Do you remember what General Sherman said about war? He
should have saved his words for a description of 'T. B.'"

I followed her out into the hall and to the elevator door. I felt
oddly exhilarated, almost as if I had been given some powerfully
stimulating drug.

"He doesn't exactly kill, burn, or pillage, does he?" I asked, gaily.

With one foot in the elevator, our star stopped a second and looked
back at me. There was a world of meaning in her blue eyes.

"If he did nothing but that, my lamb!" she breathed, and dropped from

I returned to my desk. I had no idea of going to bed. I was no
Napoleon, to slumber soundly on the eve of a decisive battle, but
there was nothing else I could do except to sweep the peppermint
drops out of sight and tuck the diagrammed blotter behind a radiator.
While I was engaged in these homely tasks the bell of my telephone

"Hello, Miss Iverson," I heard when I took down the receiver. "Are you
going to be at home to-night?"

My heart leaped at the familiar greeting of Billy Gibson, star
reporter of the _Searchlight_, and one of my stanch friends ever since
the days, five long years ago, when he had given me my first lesson in
practical reporting. Almost before I could reply to him I noticed
something unnatural in the quality of his voice. It was a little too
easy, too casual, too carefully controlled.

"Heard any late news about Morris?" asked Gibson.

"News?" I echoed. "What news? What do you mean?"

"Oh, then you don't know."

Gibson's voice was still ostentatiously cheerful, but it dropped a
little on his next words.

"Why, he's sick," he said. "Pretty sick. Has pneumonia."

"I didn't know," I said, slowly. It had been difficult to bring out
the words. It was for some reason impossible to say more, but Gibson
went on without waiting, thus giving me time to think.

"Haven't lost all interest in us, have you, now that you've been away
from us a year and are writing plays?" he asked, cheerfully.

"Oh, Billy, what about him?" At last I was able to bring out the
words. "Is it serious?" I asked.

"No one at the office realized it was until to-day," said Gibson.
"This morning Colonel Cartwell stopped at the Morris house on his way
down-town and happened to meet one of the consulting physicians.
Godfrey's pretty low," he added, gently. "The crisis is expected

For what seemed a long time I sat staring blankly at the telephone.
Once or twice I tried to speak, but no speech came. The forgotten
receiver shook in my hand. Every thought but one was wiped out of my
mind. Godfrey Morris was ill--very ill. He had been ill for
days--perhaps for weeks--and I had not known it because I had been
absorbed in my petty interests, which until this moment had seemed so

"If you care to have me," went on Gibson, hesitatingly, "I'll
telephone you later. I'm to be at the Morris house most of the night
and keep the office posted from there. I can call you up once or twice
if--it won't disturb you."

I found my voice, but it sounded strange in my own ears. For an
instant I had seen myself sitting in my study the long night through,
getting messages from the sick-room, but now I remembered my work and
the others who were concerned in it.

"Billy," I said, "we're having the dress rehearsal of my play
to-night. I may have to be at the Berwyck Theater until three or four
in the morning. Can you send me word there--several times?"

Gibson's answer was prompt.

"You bet I can," he said. "I'll bring it. The Morris house is only a
few blocks from the Berwyck, and I'll be glad of something to do
besides receiving and sending bulletins. Tell your door-man to let me
pass, and I'll drop in two or three times during the night." His voice
changed. "I thought," he added, almost diffidently, "you'd want to

"Yes," I said, slowly, "I want to know. Thank you."

I hung up the receiver, which slipped in my stiff fingers. The
exhilaration of a few minutes before lay dead within me. I felt cold
and numb. From the living-room off my study the light of my open fire
winked at me as if in cheery reassurance. I crossed the room and
crouched down before it, stretching out shaking hands to the blaze. I
seemed to be moving in a nightmare, but with every sense horribly
acute. I remembered previous dreams in which I had seemed to see, as I
saw now, the familiar objects of my home around me. I heard the
beating of my heart, the hammering of the blood in my head, the sound
of the quick breath I drew--almost the murmur of Godfrey's voice as he
babbled in delirium in his distant sick-room.

"_The crisis is expected to-night._" Gibson's words came back to me.
What was it we had arranged? Oh yes--that he was to drop into the
Berwyck several times and give me the latest bulletins. But that
would be hours from now, and suddenly I realized that I could not
wait. With a rush I was back at the telephone asking for the Morris
home. I had neglected Grace Morris during the past few months, as I
had neglected all my other friends in the work which had absorbed me.
I dared not ask for her now, when the English accents of the Morris
butler met my ear.

"Is that you, Crumley?" I asked. "This is Miss Iverson. I've just
heard that Mr. Morris is very ill. Can you tell me how he is?"

Crumley's reply showed the impassiveness of the well-trained servant.

"He's very low, Miss," he replied, evenly. "Very low indeed. Two of
the doctors are here now. They don't hope for any change till toward

I found words for one more question.

"Is he suffering?" I asked, almost in a whisper.

"Suffering, Miss?" echoed Crumley. "No, Miss, I think not. He's very
quiet indeed--in a stupor-like."

I hung up the receiver with a steadier hand and sat down, staring
straight before me. As I had rallied to Elman's words half an hour
ago, so now I tried to meet this new demand upon me. There was nothing
I could do for Godfrey; but a few hours later there might be much to
do for the manager and the company who were giving my work to the
public. I must stand by them and it--that was the one clear fact in a
reeling world. I must be very cool, very clear-headed, very alert. I
must have, Elman had told me, all my nerve, "and then some." All this,
as I repeated it to myself, was quite plain, yet it meant nothing
vital to me. It was as if one side of me had lashed with these
reminders of duty another side which remained unmoved. The only thing
of which I was vividly conscious was a scene which I suddenly
visualized--a sick-room, large and cool and dim, a silent figure in a
big bed, doctors and nurses bending over it. At the foot of the bed
sat a figure I recognized, Godfrey's mother. Of course she would be
there. I saw the gleam of her white hair, the look in the gray eyes
which were so like her son's.

"_The crisis is expected to-night._" The old clock in my hall seemed
to be ticking off the words, over and over. The hammering blood in my
brain was making them into a refrain which I found myself dully

With a start I pulled myself together. I was on my feet again, walking
back and forth, back and forth, across my study. It was growing late.
Through my dark windows the lights of surrounding buildings glowed in
at me like evil eyes. I must get ready for my work. Resolutely I held
my thoughts to that point for an instant, then they swung away. "_The
crisis is expected to-night. The--crisis--is--expected--to-night.
Time--to--get--to--work. The crisis is expected to-night._"

I found that I was dressing. Well, let "T. B." do his worst. He could
tear me and my play to tatters, he could disband the company and disrupt
the universe, if only for a few blessed hours he could keep me from
seeing that shadowy room, that still, helpless figure. But he couldn't.
"_The--crisis--is--expected--to-night. The--crisis--is--expected--
to-night._" And when it came, while the great battle was waged that I
now knew meant life to me, too, I would be in an up-town theater,
listening to petty human beings recite the petty lines of a petty
play, to which in my incredible blindness I had given my time for
months, shutting myself away from my friends, shutting myself away
from Godfrey. How many times had he telephoned and written? Half a
dozen at least. He had urged me to go to a concert or two, to a play
or two, but I had been "too busy." It was monstrous, it was
unbelievable, but it was true. "_The--crisis--is--expected--to-night._"

I was at the theater now. How I had reached it was not quite clear.
The members of the company were there before me, scattered about in
the wings and on the big empty stage, lit by a single "bunch" light.
The information that "T. B." himself was to conduct had fallen upon
them like a pall. Under its sable influence they whispered together in
stricken groups of three or four. Near the right first entrance Elman
and Miss Merrick sat, their heads close, the star talking softly but
rapidly, Elman listening with his tired, courteous air. They nodded
across the stage at me when I appeared, but I did not join them.
Instead I slipped down into the dark auditorium and took my place in
an orchestra seat, where I could be alone. The whole thing was a
nightmare, of course. I could not possibly be sitting there when only
a few blocks away that sick-room held its watching group, its silent,
helpless patient. "_The--crisis--is--expected--to-night._"

There was a sudden stir on the stage, a quick straightening of every
figure there, a business-like bustle, and much scurrying to and fro.
"T. B." had entered the theater by the front door and was striding
down the middle aisle. I saw a huge bulk that loomed grotesque for an
instant as it leaned toward the dark footlights for a word with Mr.
Elman, and dropped with a grunt into a chair in the third row. Other
figures--I did not know how many--had entered the dark theater and
taken their places around me. From where I sat, half a dozen rows
behind him, I had a view of "T. B.'s" hair under the slouch hat he
kept on his head, the bulge of his jaw as he turned his profile toward
me, the sharp upward angle of the huge cigar in his mouth. The company
were in their places in the wings and on the stage. I heard Elman's
quick word, "Curtain." The rehearsal had begun. The familiar words of
the opening scene rolled over the footlights as cold and vague as a
fog that rolls in from the sea. "_The--crisis--is--expected--to-night._"
No, that was not what the office boy on the stage had just said. It
was what Gibson had said that afternoon, a thousand years ago, when he
had called me on the telephone.

Things were going badly up there on the stage. Like a patient coming
out of ether during an operation, and vaguely conscious of what was
passing around her, I had moments of realizing this. Boyce did not
know his lines; he was garbling them frightfully, and, by failing to
give his associates their cues, was adding to the panic into which "T.
B.'s" presence had already thrown them. There! He had ruined Miss
Merrick's opening scene, which was flattening out, going to pieces. It
seemed as if some one should do something. Yet, what could be done?
"_The--crisis--is--expected--to-night._" What difference did it make
what happened on that stage? The conscious interval was over. The
babble that came over the footlights meant nothing.

From his orchestra seat, into which he seemed to be sinking deeper as
the moments passed, "T. B." sent forth a sardonic croak. It was a
horrible noise--nerve-racking. It reached down to where I was
submerged, caught me, drew me up to the surface again. I saw the
company cringe under it, heard Elman's reprimand of Boyce, and his
sharp command to begin the scene again. Confusion, confusion, so much
confusion over such little things, when only a few blocks away was
that shadowy sick-room in which the great battle between life and
death was being fought with hardly a sound.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was midnight. "T. B." was conducting the rehearsal. For three
hours he had poured upon the company the vitriol of his merciless
tongue. For three hours he had raced up and down the aisles of the
theater, alternately yelping commands and taking flying leaps across
the footlights to the stage to go through a scene himself. He had
laughed, he had wept, he had pleaded, he had sworn, he had cooed, he
had roared. He had been strangely gentle with the white-haired old man
of the company, and wholly brutal to a young girl who was doing
beautiful work. He had reduced every woman to tears and every man to
smothered and stuttering profanity. And all the time, sitting in my
seat in the auditorium, I had watched him as dispassionately and with
almost as detached an interest as if he were a manikin pulled by
invisible wires and given speech by some ventriloquist. It was all a
bad dream. He did not exist. We were not really there. The things he
said to the company swept by my ears like the wail of a winter wind,
leaving an occasional chill behind them. The remarks he addressed
directly to me touched some cell of my brain which mechanically but
clearly responded. I struck out lines and gave him new speeches,
scrawling them with a pencil on a pad upon my knee; I "rebuilt" the
curtain speech of the second act according to his sudden notion and to
his momentary content; I transferred scenes and furnished new cues
while he waited for the copy with impatiently extended hand. All the
time the hush of the sick-room lay around me; I saw the still figure
in the great four-poster bed.

I had never seen Godfrey Morris's bedroom, though his sister had shown
me his study. But now it was clear in every detail--the polished,
uncarpeted floor, the carved pineapple tops of the four-poster, the
great windows, open at top and bottom, the logs on the brass andirons
in the grate, the brass-bound wood-box near it, the soft glow of the
night lamps, the portrait of his mother which Sargent had painted ten
years ago and which Godfrey had hung in his own room at the front of
his bed. Yes, I remembered now, he had told me about the portrait.
That was why I saw it so plainly, facing him as he lay unconscious. He
had told me about the four-poster, too, and the high-boys in the room,
and some chests of drawers he had picked up. He was interested in old
mahogany. No, he was not interested now in anything. He was "in a
stupor-like," Crumley had said. "_The--crisis--is--expected--to-night._"

"Great Scott, Miss Merrick!" shouted "T. B." "Don't you realize that
the woman would have hysterics at this point? First she'd whimper,
then she'd cry, then she'd shriek and find she couldn't stop. Like

The theater filled with strange sounds--the wail of a banshee, the
yelps of a suffering dog, a series of shrieks like the danger-blasts
of a locomotive whistle. Something in me lent an ear to them and
wondered what they meant. Surely they could not mean that my heroine
was to have an attack of hysteria at that moment in my play. That was
all wrong--wholly outside of the character and the scene; enough,
indeed, to kill the comedy, to turn it into farce.

"That's the idea," I heard "T. B." say. "Now you try it. Here, we'll
do it together."

Something flamed within me, instinctive, intense. I half rose, then
sank numbly back into my chair. What did it matter? The only thing
that disturbed me was the noise. The uproar beat against my eardrums
in waves of sound that threatened to burst them. My nightmare was
growing worse. Was it taking me to Bedlam? Was I shrieking, too? I
must not shriek in the big, quiet room where the silent figure lay "in
a stupor-like."

The chair beside me creaked. Gibson had dropped into it. "T. B." and
Miss Merrick were on the top notes of their hysteria, but suddenly I
ceased to hear them. Every sense I had hung on the new-comer's words.
"No change," said Gibson, briefly. "None expected till three or four
o'clock. Thought I'd drop in, anyway. Say"--a wraith of his wide and
boyish grin appeared--"what's going on? Is _this_ your rehearsal?"

The question meant nothing to me.

"Did you see any of the family?" I whispered.

Gibson nodded.

"Miss Morris came in for a minute at midnight," he told me, "while I
was having supper. I opened the door of Godfrey's room an inch, too,
and saw him through the crack."

"See here!" "T. B." was bellowing to a frightened boy on the stage.
"You're not giving an imitation of Corbett entering the ring; you're
supposed to be a gentleman coming into a drawing-room. See? Hook in
your spine an' try it. And now you're not havin' a hair-cut. You're
greeting a lady. And you're not makin' a face at her, either. You're
smiling at her. Smile, smile--my God, man, smile! Try it. T-r-y-y it!"

His voice broke. He seemed about to burst into tears. I caught
Gibson's arm.

"Oh, Billy," I gulped, "how did he look?"

Gibson patted my hand glancing away from me as he answered.

"Very quiet," he said. "He's unconscious. The nurse said he was
'resting comfortably.' That's their pet formula, you know.
Occasionally he mutters something--a few disconnected words. By Jove,
what _is_ that fellow doing now?"

I followed the direction of his eyes. "T. B." had taken one of his
flying leaps over the footlights, assisted midway by a chair in the
aisle which served the purpose of a spring-board in this acrobatic
feat. Now he was at the right first entrance, swaggering through the
open door, his hands deep in his pockets, every tooth in his head
revealed in a fixed and awful grin. Yet, strangely, through the
swagger, under the grin, one detected for an instant something
resembling a well-bred college boy entering a drawing-room--something,
too, of radiant youth, irresponsible and charming.

"Jove," breathed Gibson, "he gets it, somehow, doesn't he? One sees
exactly what he's driving at."

But the little scene had faded as I looked at it, like a negative
dimming in the light. The door that opened was the door of the
sick-room, and the man who had entered was one of the specialists who
watched over Godfrey to-night. I saw him approach the bed and lean
over the patient, looking at him in silence for a moment, his finger
on the pulse of the thin hand that lay so still. Somewhere near a
woman was sobbing. Was it Mrs. Morris, or the young girl in the wings?
I did not know. "T. B.'s" voice was cutting its way to me like the
blast of a steam siren through a fog.

"Miss Iverson," he yelled. "Cut out that kid's love scene. He can't do
it, and no one wants it there, anyway. You've got some drama here now,
and, by Heaven, it's about time you had! Don't throw it away. Keep to
it." His voice broke on the last words. Again he seemed to be on the
verge of tears. "_Keep--to--it_," he almost sobbed.

I carried my manuscript to a point in the wings where, vaguely aided
by one electric light hanging far above me, I could make the changes
for which "T. B." had asked. They meant new cues for several
characters and a number of verbal alterations in their lines. Far
down within me something sighed over the loss of that love
scene--sighed, and then moaned over the loss of something else. "T.
B.," his chin on his chest, his eyes on the floor, brooded somberly in
an orchestra seat until we were ready to go over the revised scene. As
I finished, Stella Merrick leaned over me, her hand clutching my left
shoulder in a grip that hurt. Her teeth were chattering with

"How _can_ you be so calm?" she gasped. "I've never seen him as
devilish as he is to-night. If you hadn't kept your nerve we'd all
have gone to smash. As it is, I have a temperature of a hundred and

I wondered what Godfrey's temperature was. Gibson had not told me.
There must be a fever-chart in the sick-room. It seemed almost as if I
could read it. Certainly I could see the jagged peaks of it, the last
point running off in a long wavering line of weakness. Perhaps Gibson
knew what the temperature was. But when I returned to my seat in the
orchestra Gibson was no longer there.

"Open some of those windows," ordered "T. B.," irritably. "It's like a
furnace in here."

Was that an ice-cap on Godfrey's head? Of course. The nurse was
changing it for a fresh one. For a moment, the first in that endless
night, I seemed to see his face, waxen, the sensitive nostrils
pinched, the gray eyes open now and staring unseeingly into space.

"No change," said Gibson's voice.

Another period of time had dragged its way past me like a sluggish

"What o'clock?" I heard myself ask.

Gibson looked at his watch.

"Quarter of two," he told me, snapping the case shut. "I saw Dr.
Weymarth just before I left."

"What did he say?"

Gibson's eyes shifted from mine, which vainly tried to hold them.

"No change," he repeated.

"Was that all?"

Gibson's eyes returned to mine for an instant and shifted again.

"Tell me," I insisted.

"He's disappointed in the heart. It's been holding its own, though the
temperature has been terrific from the first. But since midnight--"

"Yes, since midnight--"

"It's not quite so strong."

Gibson's words came slowly, as if against his will. There was a
strange silence over the theater. Through it the voice of "T. B."
ripped its way to us.

"Now we'll run through that scene again. And if the author and the
ladies and gentlemen of the company will kindly remember that this is
a rehearsal, and not an afternoon tea, perhaps we'll get somewhere."

"Billy," I whispered, "I can't bear it."

"I know." Gibson patted my hand. "Sit tight," he murmured. "I'm off
again. I'll be back in an hour or so. By then they ought to know."

I watched him slip like a shadow through the dark house, along the
wall, and back toward the stage-door. The voice of Stella Merrick was
filling the theater. I heard my name.

"Miss Iverson doesn't agree with me," she was saying, "but I think
that in this scene, when we are reconciled and I say to my husband,
'My boy,' he ought to answer, 'My mumsey!'"

"T. B.'s" reply sounded like a pistol-shot.

"What for?" he exploded. "Want to turn this play into a farce?"

"Certainly _not_!"

"Then follow the lines."

It was the settlement for all time of an argument which Miss Merrick
and I had waged for weeks. One scene at least, the final, vital scene,
would be spared to me. I felt a throb of gratitude, followed by a
sudden sick, indescribable sinking of the heart. Had I for one instant
forgotten? I remembered again. Nothing mattered. Nothing would ever

Some one sat down beside me, smiled at me, then stared frankly. "Good
Heaven, Miss Iverson, did I frighten you?" cried Elman. "You look like
a ghost!"

Before I could answer, "T. B." approached us both. Leaning over Elman,
he nodded toward the youth who was still vainly trying to act like a

"Get rid of him."

"But we open in Atlantic City to-morrow night--" began Elman.

"Get rid of him." "T. B.'s" tones permitted no argument. "Get rid of
Haskins, too, and of Miss Arnold."

"But, great Scott, Governor--"

Elman's voice, usually so controlled, was almost a wail. "T. B."
strolled away. To "open" the next night with three new members in the
company seemed impossible. Probably we wouldn't open at all. By
to-morrow night I would know. Godfrey would be out of danger, or
Godfrey would be--Why didn't Gibson come? Elman murmured something to
me about "not taking it so hard," but I caught only a few words. He
said it could be done--that he had the right people at hand. He would
see them the first thing in the morning, and go over the lines with
them and have them word-perfect by night.

My eyes were strained in the direction of the stage-door. My ears were
awaiting the sound of Gibson's quick footsteps. For now, I knew, in
the sick-room, where my mind and heart had been all night, the crisis
was near. Through the open windows the blue-gray dawn was visible. The
shaded lights were taking on a spectral pallor. Nurse and doctors were
close to the bed, watching, listening for the change that meant life
or death.

"Good--mighty good!" whispered Elman.

On the stage Miss Merrick and Peyton, the leading man, were going
through their final scene. The familiar words, over which I had
labored for months, came to me as if out of a life I had lived on some
other planet ages back.

"You seem so far away," said the man. "I feel as if I'd have to call
across the world to make you hear me. But I love you. Oh, Harriet,
can't you hear that?"

The voice of his wife, who was forgiving him and taking him back,
replied with the little break in its beautiful notes which Stella
Merrick always gave to her answer.

"Yes, dear; I guess I'd hear that anywhere." And then, as she drew his
head to her breast, "My boy!"

Within me something alive, suffering and struggling, cried out in sick
revolt. What did these puppets know about love? What had I known about
it when I wrote so arrogantly? But I knew now. Oh yes, I knew now.
Love and suspense and agony--I knew them all.

On the dim stage the leading man and woman melted into the embrace
that accompanied the slow fall of the curtain. In the wings, but well
in view, the members of the company clustered, watching the final
scene and wiping their wet eyes. They invariably cried over that
scene, partly because the leading man and woman set the example, but
more because they were temperamental and tired. Even the brilliant
eyes of Elman, who still sat beside me, took on a sudden softness. He
smiled at "T. B.," who had dropped into a seat near us.

"No change there, I guess," he hazarded.

"T. B." looked at his watch.

"Quarter of four," he said, with surprise. Then he yawned, and,
rising, reached for his light overcoat which lay on the back of a

"That's all," he called, as he struggled into it. "Boyce, study your
lines to-morrow, or you're going to have trouble. Peyton, you and Miss
Mason better go over that scene in the second act in the morning.
So-long, Miss Merrick."

He started to go, then stopped at my seat.

"Good night, Miss Iverson," he said, kindly. "You've got the right
nerve for this business. Of course we can't make predictions, but I
shouldn't wonder if we're giving the public what they want in this

He nodded and was gone. I had barely caught his words. Over his big
shoulders I saw Gibson approaching, his face one wide, expansive grin.
Never before had anything seemed so beautiful to me as that familiar
Gibson smile. Never had I dreamed I could be so rapturously happy in
seeing it.

"Good news," he said, as soon as he came within speaking-distance; and
he added when he reached me, "He's better. The doctors say they'll
pull him through."

At the first glimpse of him I had risen to my feet with some vague
impulse to take, standing, whatever was coming. For a moment I stood
quite still. Then the thing of horror that had ridden me through the
night loosened its grip slowly, reluctantly, and I drew a deep, deep
breath. I wanted to throw myself in Gibson's arms. I wanted to laugh,
to cry, to shout. But I did none of these things. I merely stood and
looked at him till he took my hand and drew it through his arm.

"Rehearsal's over, I see," he said. "I'm going to hunt up a taxi and
take you home."

Together we went out into the gray morning light, and I stood on the
curb, full-lunged, ecstatic, until Gibson and the taxi-cab appeared.
He helped me into the cab and took the seat beside me.

"You ought to go home," I murmured, with sudden compunction. "You must
be horribly tired."

They were my first words. I had made no comment on the message he
brought, and it was clear that he had expected none. Now he smiled at
me--the wide, kind, understanding smile that had warmed the five years
of our friendship.

"Let me do this much for you, May," he said. "You see, it's all I can

Our eyes met, and suddenly I understood. An irrepressible cry broke
from me.

"Oh, Billy," I said. "Not _you_! Not _me_!"

He smiled again.

"Yes," he replied. "Just that. Just you and me. But it's all right.
I'd rather be your friend than the husband of any other woman in the

The taxi-cab hummed on its way. The east reddened, then sent up a
flaming banner of light. I should have been tired; I should have been
hungry; I should, perhaps, have been excited over "T. B.'s" final
words. I was none of those things. I was merely in a state of supreme
content. Nothing mattered but the one thing in life which mattered
supremely. Godfrey was better; Godfrey would live!



On the desk in my study the bell of the telephone sounded a faint
warning, then rang compellingly. It had been ringing thus at
five-minute intervals throughout the day, but there was neither
impatience nor weariness in the haste with which I responded. I knew
what was coming; it was the same thing that had been coming since nine
o'clock that morning; and it was a pleasant sort of thing, diverting
to an exceedingly anxious mind.

"Hello, hello! Is that you, May? This is your awe-struck friend,
George Morgan. Josephine and I want to inquire the condition of your
temperature and your pulse."

I laughed.

"Quite normal, thank you," I said.

"Don't believe it." The sympathetic cadence of George Morgan's voice
removed all effect of brusqueness from his words. "No playwright was
ever normal three hours before the curtain went up on the first night
of her play in New York. Now I'll tell you exactly how you feel."

"Don't," I begged. "I _know_."

"But I must!" my friend's remorseless voice went on. "I've got to show
my insight into the human heart, as you used to say in your convent
days. So here goes. You're sinking into a bottomless pit; you're in a
blue funk; your feet are cold and your head is hot; you're breathing
with difficulty; you're struggling with a desire to take the first
train out of town; you're wondering if you can't go to bed and stay
there. You think no one suspects these things, for you're wearing a
smile that looks as if it had been tacked on; but it's so painful that
your father and mother keep their eyes turned away from it. You're--"

"George, for Heaven's sake--"

"Oh, all right; I merely wanted to show insight and express sympathy.
Having lived through four 'first nights' myself, I know what they
mean. And say, May,"--his gay voice took on a deeper note--"I needn't
tell you that Josephine and I will be going through the whole thing
with you. We've chosen seats in the fifth row of the orchestra,
instead of taking a box, because we both expect to burst into loud
sobs of joy during your speech, and we'll feel less exposed down on
the floor. And, oh yes, wait a minute; your god-daughter insists on
kissing you through the telephone!"

There was an instance's silence; then the breathless little voice of
Maria Annunciata Morgan, aged "four 'n a half, mos' five," according
to herself, came to my ear.

"'Lo, May, oh-h, May, 'lo, May," it gurgled, excitedly.

"Hello, babykins," I said. "Is that a new song you've learned that
you're singing for me?"

"No-o-o." Maria Annunciata's tones showed her scorn for grown-up
denseness. "I was just 'ginning my conversation," she added, with

I apologized.

"An' papa says," went on the adorable childish treble, "'at if your
play lasses till a mat'née, I--can--go--an'--see--it!"

"Bless your heart, so you shall, my baby," I laughed. "And if the play
lasses only a few minutes, I'll give you a 'mat'née' all by yourself.
Where's that kiss I was to have? I need it very much."

"Here 'tis. Here's fourteen an' 'leven." They came to me over the wire
in a succession of reports like the popping of tiny corks. "An' papa
says say good-by now, so I mus'. But I love you _very_ mush!"

"Good-by, darling. I love you very mush, too."

I turned from the telephone wonderfully cheered by the little talk,
but almost before I had hung up the receiver the bell rang again.

"Hello, May. If you've finished that impassioned love scene with which
you have kept the wire sizzling for the last half-hour I'd like to
utter a few calming words."

Bayard, a brilliantly successful playwright, was talking.

"Feel as if you were being boiled in oil, don't you?" was his cheery
beginning. "Feel as if you were being burned at the stake? Feel as if
you were being butchered to make a Roman holiday, and all that kind of
thing? But it's nothing to the way you're going to feel as you drive
to the theater and as you watch the curtain go up. However, keep a
stiff upper lip. Margaret and I will be in front, and Margaret says
you can have my chest to cry on immediately after the performance.
Good luck. Good-by."

Again, before I had left the room, the telephone bell recalled me. It
had been like this all day. I had begun to believe that it would
always be like this. Life had resolved itself into a series of
telephone talks, running through a strenuous but not unpleasant dream.
Every friend I had seemed determined to call me up and alternate rosy
good wishes with dark forebodings of disasters possible through no
fault of mine. The voice that came to me now was that of Arthur Locke,
the best actor and the most charming gentleman on the American stage.

"Good luck, Miss Iverson," he said, heartily. "I don't need to tell
you all my wife and I wish for you. But I want to give you a word of
warning about the critics. Don't let anything they do to-night disturb
you. They've all got their bag of tricks, you know, and they go
through them whether they like the play or not. For example"--his
beautiful voice took on a delicious quality of sympathetic
amusement--"Haskins usually drops off to sleep about the middle of
the second act. The audience is always immensely impressed by this,
and men and women exchange glances and hushed comments over it. But it
doesn't mean anything. He wakes up again. He slept through my entire
second act last year, and gave me an excellent notice the next
morning--to show his gratitude, I suppose. Allen usually leaves during
the middle of the third act, gathering up his overcoat with a weary
sigh and marching down the middle aisle so that no one can miss his
dramatic exit. People are so used to it that they don't mind it much.
Northrup sits with his eyebrows up in his pompadour, as if pained
beyond expression by the whole performance, and Elkins will take all
your best comedy with sad, sad shakes of the head. To equalize this,
however, Webster will grin over your pathetic scenes. The best thing
to do is not to look at any of them. You know where their seats are,
don't you? Keep your eyes the other way."

"Thank you," I said, faintly. "I think I will."

Beyond question Mr. Locke's intentions had been friendly, but his
words had not perceptibly soothed my uneasy nerves. Before I walked
from my study into my living-room I stopped a moment to straighten my
shoulders and take a deep breath. My entire family had come on from
the West to attend the first-night performance of my play in New
York--my father, my sister Grace, my brother Jack, now a lieutenant in
the army, even my delicate mother, to whom journeys and excitement
were not among life's usual privileges. They were, I knew, having tea
together, and as I opened the living-room door I found my features
taking on the stiff and artificial smile I must have unconsciously
worn all day. A saving memory of George Morgan's words came to me in
time, and I banished the smile and soberly entered the room.

The members of the familiar group greeted me characteristically. My
mother, by whose chair I stopped for an instant, smiled up at me in
silence, patting my hand. My father drew a deep, inviting chair close
to the open fire; my brother brought me the cup of tea my sister
hurriedly prepared. Each beloved face wore a look of acute nervous
strain, and from the moment of my entrance every one talked at once,
on subjects so remote from the drama that it seemed almost improper to
introduce it by repeating the telephone conversations I had just had.
I did so, however, and in the midst of the badinage that followed,
Stella Merrick, our "star," was announced.

She lived across the Square from me, and she promptly explained as she
drank her tea that she had been "too nervous to stay at home." For her
comfort I repeated again the pregnant words of Mr. Locke concerning
the New York critics, and she nodded in depressed confirmation. During
the close association required by our rehearsals, and our months
together "on the road," I had not analyzed to my satisfaction the
contradictions of Miss Merrick's temperament. She loved every line of
my play and was admirable, if not ideal, in the leading rôle. She
fiercely resented the slightest suggestion from me, and combated
almost every change I wished to make in the text as my work revealed
itself to me more clearly during rehearsals and performances. She
seemed to have a genuine fondness for me and a singular personal
dependence. She was uneasy if I missed a rehearsal, and had been
almost panic-stricken when once or twice during our preliminary tour I
had missed a first night in an important city. She claimed the credit
of all merit in the play and freely passed on to me the criticisms.
The slightest suggestion made by the "cub reporter" on any newspaper
or the call-boy in any theater seemed to have more weight with her
than any advice of mine. To-day, under the soothing influence of tea,
fire-light, and the not too stimulating charms of family conversation,
we could see her tense nerves relax.

"I've been working mentally on the critics," she confessed, as she
passed her cup to Grace for the second time. "They're the only persons
I've been afraid of here in New York. I know we'll get our audience.
We always do. And if Miss Iverson will stand by us, and make a speech
when she's called for, we're sure to have a brilliant night."

She smiled her charming smile at me.

"But the New York critics are enough to appal the strongest soul," she
went on. "They're so unjust sometimes, so merciless, so fiendishly
clever in suggesting labels that stick to one through life. Do you
remember what they said about Miss Carew--that her play was so
feminine she must have done it with crochet needles? And they said
Nazimova looked like 'the cussed damosel,' and that Fairbanks had the
figure of Romeo and the face of the apothecary. Those things appal me.
So for the last few days I've been working on them mentally. I believe
in mental science, you know."

She paused for a moment and sat stirring her tea, a reflective haze
over the brilliance of her blue eyes.

"Some way," she resumed, "in the forty-eight hours since I've been
trying the power of mind on them I have ceased to be afraid of the
critics. I realize now that they cannot hurt us or our work. I know
they are our friends. I have a wonderfully kind feeling for them.
Why,"--her voice took on a seductive tenderness, her eyes dwelt on the
fire with a dreamy abstraction in their depths--"now I almost love the
damned things!" she ended, peacefully.

My brother Jack choked, then laughed irrepressibly. My sister and I
joined him. But my mother was staring at Miss Merrick with startled
eyes, while Miss Merrick stared back at her with a face full of sudden

"Mrs. Iverson," she gasped, "I beg your pardon! I didn't know what I
was saying. I was--really--thinking aloud!"

Half an hour later I went with her to the elevator for a final word.

"I'm going straight to the theater," she told me. "Be early, won't
you? And come in to see me for a moment just before we begin."

She took my hands in a grip that hurt.

"We're going to win," she said, as she entered the elevator.

It was almost six. I had barely time to dress, to dine comfortably,
and to get to the theater before the curtain rose. At every stage of
my toilet the inexorable telephone called me; telegrams, too, were
coming from all parts of the country. My heart swelled. Whether I
proved to be a playwright or not, I had friends--many of them new
ones, made during the progress of this dramatic adventure. They would
not be too dearly bought, it seemed to me then, even by failure.

Dinner began as a silent meal. No one cared to talk. I recalled with a
sardonic smile the invitation of a society friend who had bought three
boxes for my first night and was giving a large dinner to precede the
play. She had expected me to grace that function and to sit in one of
her boxes; and she would never understand, I knew, why I refused to do
so. Godfrey Morris was coming at half after seven, with much pomp and
his new limousine, to take us to the theater. His mother and sister
were giving a box-party, but Godfrey was to sit with us in the body
of the house. I had frankly refused to have even him join us at
dinner. Four pairs of eyes fixed on me with loving sympathy during
that repast were, I realized, all I could endure. Even Godfrey's
understanding gaze would be the one thing too much--because it was so

At the table the first few remarks of the family dropped and lay like
visible, neglected things before us. Then Grace and Jack entered upon
a discussion which they succeeded in making animated, and in which it
was not necessary that I should take part. It gave me an opportunity
to swallow naturally, to try to control the queer fluttering of my
heart and the sense of faintness, almost of nausea, that threatened to
overcome me. When I went to my room to put on my evening coat I looked
at myself in the long mirror that paneled the door. To my relief, I
looked quite natural--pale, beyond question, but I never had much
color. Of the iciness and rigidity of my hands and feet, of the panic
that shook the very soul of me, no one but myself need know.

I greeted Godfrey with both hands outstretched and a real smile. I had
seen him only once before since his return three days ago from Palm
Beach, where he had gone for his convalescence after his attack of
pneumonia. He had come back for my first night--he had made that very
clear--and for a blessed instant my panic vanished in the comfort of
his presence, of the sure grasp of his firm hands, the look in his
gray eyes. In the next instant it returned with cumulative force. I
could bear failure alone if I had to. Others, many others, had borne
it before me, and there was always the future in which one could try
again. I could bear it before my family, for they would never believe
that the fault of failure was mine; or before the eyes of all my
friends, for the theater would be full of them. But to bear it in the
presence of Godfrey, to have him see me fail--no, that was
unthinkable. I had reached the point where I must set my teeth, take
my nerves and my imagination in hand, and control them as I had once
controlled a team of frantic horses plunging toward a river-bank.

"A good deal like being executed in the public square, isn't it?"
asked Godfrey, gently. We were on our way up-town, and now over the
whole party a sudden silence fell. The illuminated sign of the big
Broadway theater was before us: the name of my play and that of our
"star" stared at us in letters of fire that took strange shapes before
my eyes. My own name modestly adorned the tablet on each side of the
entrance and the bill-boards in the lobby. The latter, when we entered
it, was banked with flowers. We were early, but the theater was
filling rapidly, and the usual throng of "first-nighters," equally
ready for an execution or a triumph, chatted on the sidewalk and
thronged the entrance. The house manager, his coat adorned with a
white carnation, greeted me as we passed in.

"Good luck, Miss Iverson," he said, cordially. "Lots of telegrams here
for you. Wait, I'll get them. Here, Fred, let's have Miss Iverson's

He checked the line at the box-office, thrust a hand through the
little window, and drew it out with a thick package of the yellow
envelopes. Godfrey held out his hand.

"I'll take care of them, if you wish," he said, and as I nodded he
dropped them into a pocket of his coat.

In silence we filed down the aisle to our seats. The boxes were
already filled; the body of the house filled as we watched it. On
every side were faces I knew and loved--Mrs. Morris and Grace with
Colonel and Mrs. Cartwell and Mr. and Mrs. Nestor Hurd; the Morgans,
with Kittie James and Maudie Joyce, who had come from Chicago for this
big night in my life; my friend of the rejected dinner and her
brilliantly jeweled guests; a deputation from the _Searchlight_ and my
magazine offices, which, it seemed to me, filled half the house.
Mollie Merk was there, and Billy Gibson and Mrs. Hoppen. The occasion
had the atmosphere of a reception. Every one knew every one else;
friends chatted with each other across the aisles and visited from
seat to seat. A few came to greet me. The majority mercifully waited,
knowing I would wish them to wait. Godfrey, sitting beside me, opened
my program and found the evening bill. As he did so I saw that his
hand shook. He followed the direction of my eyes, and his brown
cheeks flushed.

"I won't deny it," he whispered. "I'm as excited as you are; probably
more so."

Our eyes met. For a moment I almost forgot where we were--almost, but
not quite. Then Godfrey went on.

"But I'm not going to tell you about that now," he said, quietly. "Now
I'm thinking of nothing but the play."

I rose hurriedly. "I'm afraid I'm not," I admitted. "I forgot to go to
Miss Merrick as I promised."

He rose and went with me. From our places at the end of the left-side
aisle it was easy to slip back of the boxes and behind the scenes.
Godfrey waited in the wings while I tapped at the door of Miss
Merrick's dressing-room and entered. The place seemed very full.
Elman, the stage director, was in the group that surrounded the star,
and Peyton, our leading man, the latter dressed for his entrance. Both
came forward at once to shake hands. Miss Merrick, her eyes on the
mirror, following the last touches of her make-up, smiled at me
without turning. She was pale under her rouge, and her eyes seemed
twice their usual size, but they brightened as she saw me.

"I'm not going to say a word," I told her. "You know how I feel."

It was clear that she hardly heard me.

"Look at all these," she said. "Everybody's awfully kind."

She waved her hand, indicating the masses of flowers around her, the
litter of telegrams and notes.

"I'm actually frozen with fear," she went on. "But I always am. It
will pass off soon after we begin. Am I speaking in my usual voice? It
sounds like a whisper to me."

I reassured her and slipped away. Elman, Peyton, and her maid closed
round her again. I heard her describing her symptoms in detail as I
closed the door. I recognized them. They were also mine. The theater
was dark and the curtain just rising as Godfrey and I returned to our
seats. I was deeply thankful for the gloom that enveloped me. My
mother, sitting at my right, reached out gently and took my hand, but
I was hardly conscious of the action. For the moment there was nothing
in the world but the lighted stage on which my familiar characters, my
"dea', dea' dollies," as Maria Annunciata called them, were going
through their parts.

The house was very still. Every head in the great audience was turned
toward the stage, politely attentive, willing to be interested,
waiting to know if interest was there. A moment dragged by, another
and another--the longest of my life except the moments of the night,
three months ago, when I had awaited news from Godfrey's sick-room.
And now he was here beside me, superbly well, wholly himself again. At
the thought my heart melted. My mind swerved for a second from the
interest on which it was focused. I turned and glanced at him. He was
leaning forward in his seat, his gray eyes fixed unwinkingly on the
stage, his face pale under its coat of Palm Beach tan. For an instant
he did not know that I was glancing at him; then he turned, and our
eyes met in a look which taught me that of all in the crowded house he
understood best what this hour meant to me, because it meant as much
to him. It was as if we thought with one mind, responded with one
nervous system to the influence around us.

At the back of the house a little ripple began, grew, swelled into a
laugh. I drew my first deep breath, and felt it echoed by Godfrey at
my side. Again our eyes met. His sparkled in the dimness. Another
laugh rippled around us, swelled, reached the balconies, and rolled
down from there. I heard the whisper of silk and the creak of seats as
the members of my family at last settled comfortably into their seats.

"By Jove," whispered Godfrey, "you've got them! They're with you!"

For the time at least we had them. The big, kindly-disposed audience,
anxious to be pleased, met every comedy line with a quick response
which grew more generous as the moments passed. The entrance of the
star brought an ovation which temporarily checked the progress of the
play. Under it Miss Merrick's brilliant eyes lost their look of
strain. She touched her highest moments in the pathos of her entrance
scene. The audience was again very quiet. Around us handkerchiefs
rustled; Godfrey's eyes, meeting mine, were wet, and my heart turned
to water as I looked at them. That he should be moved like that by my
play--no, by _our_ play. Everything, I knew, was _ours_ henceforth.

The curtain went down and the lights flared up. The audience had been
amused, interested, touched. It called out the players and called them
out again, while the curtain rose and fell, rose and fell, and the
members of the company, smiling now and with all their panic gone,
came before the footlights singly and in groups. So far all was well.
Whatever happened later, we had had a triumphant first act. Already
the play was a third over. I had no fears now as to the success of the
second act. It was almost wholly comedy, and the comedy had "got over"
with a rush. But the third act--I was by no means sure of the third
act, where our manager's scene of hysteria, the fatal scene he had
introduced during the dress rehearsal, still claimed its deadly

My friends were coming up to greet me--George Morgan, Bayard, a dozen
of them, congratulatory, jubilant.

"Josephine can't cross the house yet to speak to you herself,"
explained George, airily, "because her nose isn't fit to be seen.
She's crying for joy over there. She'll get around after the next

"You've got 'em," said Bayard, heartily. "They're _eating_ your comedy
and spoiling their complexions over your pathos. What more do you
want? Shall I call for the author now, or wait till the end of the
second act?"

My mother's gentle voice was in my ear.

"I'm so very happy, dear," she said, quietly.

I looked at my father. The nod he gave me, the expression in his eyes,
were the most beautiful things I had ever seen, except the tears in
Godfrey's eyes. Except--was it possible that at last I was putting
some one else before my father? It was possible. It was more than
possible; it was certain. For Godfrey himself was speaking now, and
nothing else had given me the thrill that came at the sound of the
quiet voice so close to my ear.

"May," he whispered. "Dear May, I'm so glad!"

That was all, but it was gloriously complete. And now the second act
was on, with the rollicking comedy of which I felt so sure. Around us
the audience rocked and laughed, breaking out frequently into little
whirlwinds of applause. The strain of rehearsals had had its effect on
my feeling for various members of the company, but to-night as I
watched them it seemed to me that I loved them all, for beyond doubt
each was giving all that was in him toward the winning of the success
that now seemed assured.

"Your hand is cold even through your glove," whispered Godfrey.
"That's the only sign you show of nervousness."

In the darkness he was holding it close.

"It's wonderful to be going through this with you," he whispered.

"It was wonderful of you to come back for it," I said.

He laughed, a little laugh of warm content.

"Do you think I could have kept away?" he asked.

I could not answer. The night was giving me too much. The curtain was
coming down, only to rise again and again and again as the house let
itself loose in the joyful tumult of friendly hearts that can at last
let friendly impulse have its way. Again and again the golden head of
Stella Merrick bent before the storm of applause that greeted her
repeated appearance. Again and again the members of the company
responded, singly and together. Again and again the light flashed up,
only to be lowered as the uproar continued.

And now they were calling for the author in an insistent, steady call,
from gallery, balcony, and orchestra--a call that tolerated no failure
to respond. My knees shook under me as I rose. To walk the length of
the house and out on that empty, waiting stage seemed impossible, but
perhaps I could say something here, standing in my place. For a second
I stood undiscovered; then, as if on a concerted signal, every head in
the house turned toward me. There was a whirl of greeting, of
applause, which my loyal friends led and prolonged.

"Speech! Speech! Speech!" The word came at me from every corner of the
theater. My knees steadied. My voice, as I began, sounded natural,
even casual. It seemed all at once the simplest matter in the world to
say a few words to this wonderful audience, so receptive, so
enthusiastic, so friendly.

"Ladies and gentlemen," I began. "I shall not try to make a speech. No
author should attempt that on a first night. Many are called, and some
get up, but very few get over."

I had to stop. These charming people thought that remark was amusing,
too, and joyfully applauded it.

"But I am glad of this opportunity," I continued, "to express my deep
obligation to our manager, to Miss Merrick, and to the members of the
company for all they have done for my play. And in their behalf first,
and then in my own, I thank you for the wonderful reception you have
given us."

That was all. There was more applause. The lights flashed up, and from
every part of the theater the men and women I knew came to me for a
few friendly words. The reception took in my little family party and
Mr. Morris, whose presence among us seemed to interest but not to
surprise the big delegation from the _Searchlight_.

"Now," I whispered to him, as the curtain rose on the third act, "if
only everything goes well for half an hour more! But the least little
thing can wreck an act. If some one sneezes--"

"If any one sneezes during this act," whispered Godfrey, firmly,
"he'll never sneeze again."

"Perhaps a cat will run across the stage," I whispered, "or some one
in the audience will see a mouse."

Godfrey shook his head.

"This isn't that kind of an evening," he declared. "The gods are
giving their personal attention to it."

It seemed, indeed, that they were. The act went on as smoothly as silk
thread running through a shuttle. We had a few additional moments of
celebration at the end of it, when the curtain fell on an audience
that wiped its eyes over the penultimate line even while it laughed
over the last line. I went "behind" for a word of appreciation to Miss
Merrick and the company before I left the theater. The great bulk of
"T. B.," our manager, loomed huge in the star's dressing-room.

"Hello, Miss Iverson!" was his jocund greeting. "You can't always go
by the enthusiasm of a first-night audience, but I guess we've got a
play here that will run a year or two."

He shook hands, said something to Miss Merrick about photographs in
the morning, and swung away. Miss Merrick, emotional, almost
hysterical, fell upon my neck and kissed me with lips that left round
red spots on my cheeks. Every one was happy. At the front entrance
some of my friends were waiting. There was still one thing I wanted,
had to have, indeed, and I got it after I had torn open half a dozen
of my telegrams.

     Our love, dear May, and our prayers for your success.


I handed the message to Maudie and Kittie, who were with me. They had
both been crying; their eyes moistened again.

"Who would have thought all this could happen, when we were
school-girls at St. Catharine's!" whispered Maudie. "Do you remember
your first play, May--the one we girls put on?" I remembered. I could
laugh at that tragedy now.

I heard Godfrey's voice speaking with a sudden masterfulness.

"If you don't mind," he was saying to my father, "I'll send you home
in my car and take May for a little spin in the Park in a taxi-cab. I
think she needs half an hour of quiet and fresh air."

My father smiled at him.

"I think she does," he agreed.

There were more congratulations, more hand-shaking, before I could get
away. Then I found myself with Godfrey in a taxi-cab which was making
its purring way up Fifth Avenue. It was strangely restful to be alone
with him after the strain and excitement of the past three hours. I
closed my eyes and leaned back against the cushions, my mind at first
a whirling kaleidoscope in which the scenes of the evening repeated
themselves over and over. Then, in the darkness and the silence, they
began to disappear. Suddenly there seemed nothing in the world but
Godfrey and me. He had leaned forward and taken my hand. We had
entered the Park and were slipping along an avenue of awake and
watchful trees.

"Well, May," he said, gently.

My heart slipped a beat. There was a new quality in the voice which
throbbed and shook a little. "I've waited almost five years," he went
on. "Isn't that long enough? Won't you come to me now?"

He held out his arms in the dark cab, and I entered them. From their
wonderful shelter I heard his next words.

"Marrying me," he said, "won't mean that you're giving up anything you
have. You are only adding me to it. I shall be as much interested in
your books and your plays as you are yourself. You know that, don't

But I interrupted him. In that moment books and plays seemed like the
snows of yesteryear.

"Godfrey," I said, "do you imagine that I'm thinking of books and
plays now? Let's talk about the real things."

The taxi-cab sang on its way. The trees that lined the broad drive of
the Park raced beside us, keeping us company. Far above them a tiny
new moon smiled down. My professional life, like the lights of the
Avenue, lay behind me. Little in it seemed to count in the new world
I was entering. Until to-night I had been merely a player waiting in
the wings. Now, out in front, I heard the orchestra playing. The
curtain of life was going up, and I had my cue in Godfrey's voice.


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