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Title: Affinities and Other Stories
Author: Rinehard, Mary Roberts
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 "Affinities and Other Stories" ***

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                                    THE WORKS OF
                                MARY ROBERTS RINEHART

                                     AFFINITIES
                                 AND OTHER STORIES


    THE REVIEW OF REVIEWS CORP.
    _Publishers_              NEW YORK

    PUBLISHED BY ARRANGEMENT WITH GEORGE H. DORAN COMPANY.

    _Copyright, 1920,
    By George H. Doran Company_

    _Copyright, 1909, 1913, 1914, 1915, by the Curtis Publishing
    Company_

    _Printed in the United States of America_



CONTENTS


        I AFFINITIES                                  9

       II THE FAMILY FRIEND                          55

      III CLARA'S LITTLE ESCAPADE                   103

       IV THE BORROWED HOUSE                        161

        V SAUCE FOR THE GANDER                      237



AFFINITIES


I

Somebody ought to know the truth about the Devil's Island affair and I
am going to tell it. The truth is generally either better or worse than
the stories that get about. In this case it is somewhat better, though I
am not proud of it.

It started with a discussion about married women having men friends. I
said I thought it was a positive duty--it kept them up to the mark with
their clothes and gave a sort of snap to things, without doing any harm.
There were six of us on the terrace at the Country Club at the time and
we all felt the same way--that it was fun to have somebody that
everybody expected to put by one at dinners, and to sit out dances with
and like the way one did one's hair, and to say nice things.

"And to slip out on the links for a moonlight chat with you," said
Annette, who is rather given to those little pastimes, the most
harmless in the world.

We were all awfully bored that Sunday afternoon. Most of the men were
golfing; and when you meet the same people all the time--day after day,
dinner after dinner, dance after dance--anything new is welcome. Really
the only variety we had was a new drink now and then. Some one would
come home from his vacation with a brand-new idea in beverages and order
one all round, and it was a real sensation.

That was all we had had all summer for excitement, except the time
Willie Anderson kissed Sybilla--she was his wife--on a wager. They had
been rather cool to each other for a month or so.

We would sit on the terrace and the conversation would be about like
this:

"There's the Jacksons' car."

"Why on earth does Ida Jackson wear green?"

"Hello, Ida! When d'you get back?"

"Yesterday. Bully time!"

Just in time to save us from utter boredom somebody would yawn and
remark:

"Here comes the Henderson car."

"Jane Henderson's put on weight. She's as big as a house! Hello, Jane!"

"Hello, everybody! My goodness! Why did I come back? Isn't it hot?"

More excitement for a minute and then more yawns. It was Ferd Jackson
who suggested the affinity party. He had heard about what I had said on
the terrace, and he came to me while Day was playing on the links. Day
is my husband.

"Had a nice afternoon?" he asked.

"Only fair. Day's been underfoot most of the time. Why?"

"How'd you like a picnic?"

"I would not!" I said decisively. "I hate cold food and motoring in a
procession until you choke with dust--and Day getting jealous and
disagreeable and wanting to get home early."

"Poor little girl!" said Ferd, and patted my hand in a friendly way.

Ferd was a good scout always; we got along together pretty well and sat
together at dinners whenever we could. He never made love to me or
anything like that, but he understood me thoroughly, which Day never
took the trouble to do. It is absurd, now that it's all over, to have
the others saying he was my affinity or anything of the sort. I never
cared for him.

"I didn't mean the usual sort of picnic," Ferd said. "How has it got its
pretty hair fixed to-day? Rather nice, lady-love; but why do you hide
your pretty ears?"

Lady-love was only a nickname.

"So I won't be able to hear Day bragging about his golf score. What sort
of a picnic?"

"It's a peach of an idea!" Ferd said. "It came to me out of a clear sky.
Every picnic we've ever had has been a failure--because why? Because
they were husband-and-wife picnics. There's no trouble about a picnic
where nobody's married, is there?"

"Humph! What's the peach of an idea? To get divorces?"

"Certainly not! Have husbands and wives--only somebody else's husband or
somebody else's wife. You and I--do you see?--and Annette and Tom; Jane
Henderson and Emerson Riley; Catherine Fredericks and that fellow who's
visiting the Moores. How about it?"

"Day would have a convulsion, Ferd."

"Good gracious, Fanny!" he said. "Haven't you any imagination? What has
Day got to do with it? You wouldn't tell him, of course!"

Well, that was different. I was rather scared when I got to thinking of
it, but it sounded amusing and different. One way and another I see such
a lot of Day. He's always around unless there's a golf tournament
somewhere else.

"It's moonlight," Ferd said. "The only thing, of course, is to get off.
I can stay over at the club or go on a motor trip. It's easy enough for
the fellows; but the girls will have to work out something."

So we sat and thought. Day came in from the links just then and stopped
by my chair.

"Great afternoon!" he said, mopping his face. "Y'ought to hear what I
did to Robson, Fan--I drove off my watch and never touched it. Then he
tried it with his. Couldn't even find the case!"

"Go away, Day," I said. "I'm thinking."

"Ferd doesn't seem to interfere with your thinking."

"He's negative and doesn't count," I explained. "You're positive."

That put him in a good humour again and he went off for a shower. I
turned to Ferd.

"I believe I've got it," I said--"I'll have a fight with Day the morning
of the picnic and I'll not be there when he gets home. I've done it
before. Then, when I do go home, he'll be so glad to see me he'll not
ask any questions. He'll think I've been off sulking."

"Good girl!" said Ferd.

"Only you must get home by ten o'clock--that's positive. By eleven he'd
be telephoning the police."

"Sure I will! We'll all have to get home at reasonable hours."

"And--I'm a wretch, Ferd. He's so fond of me!"

"That's no particular virtue in him. I'm fond of you--and that's mild,
Fan; but what's a virtue in Day is a weakness in me, I dare say."

"It's an indiscretion," I said, and got up. Enough is a sufficiency, as
somebody said one day, and I did not allow even Ferd to go too far.

Annette and Jane and Catherine were all crazy about it. Annette was the
luckiest, because Charles was going for a fishing trip, and her time was
her own. And Ferd's idea turned out to be perfectly bully when the eight
of us got together that evening and talked it over while the husbands
were shooting crap in the grill room.

"There's an island up the river," he explained, "where the men from our
mill have been camping; and, though the tents are down, they built a
wooden pavilion at the edge of the water for a dining hall--and, of
course, that's still there. We can leave town at, say, four o'clock and
motor up there--you and Tom, Annette and----"

"I've been thinking it over, Ferd," I put in, "and I won't motor. If the
car goes into a ditch or turns over you always get in the papers and
there's talk. Isn't there a street car?"

"There's a street car; but, for heaven's sake, Fanny----"

"Street car it is," I said with decision. "With a street car we'll know
we're going to get back to town. It won't be sitting on its tail lamp
in a gully; and we won't be hiding the license plates under a stone and
walking home, either."

There was a lot of demur and at first Annette said she wouldn't go that
way; but she came round at last.

"I'll send a basket up late in the afternoon," Ferd said, "with
something to eat in it. And you girls had better put on sensible things
and cut out the high heels and fancy clothes. If you are going in a
street car you'd better be inconspicuous."

That was the way we arranged it finally--the men to take one car and the
girls another and meet opposite the island on the river bank. We should
have to row across and Ferd was to arrange about boats. We set Thursday
as the day.

Some sort of premonition made me nervous--and I was sorry about Day too;
for though the picnic was only a lark and no harm at all, of course he
would have been furious had he known. And he was very nice to me all the
week. He sent flowers home twice and on Wednesday he said I might have a
new runabout. That made it rather difficult to quarrel with him
Thursday, as I had arranged.

I lay awake half the night trying to think of something to quarrel
about. I could not find anything that really answered until nearly dawn,
when I decided to give him some bills I had been holding back. I fell
asleep like a child then and did not waken until eleven o'clock. There
was a box of roses by the bed and a note in Day's writing.

     "Honey lamb!" he wrote: "Inclosed is a telegram from Waite calling
     me to Newburyport to the tournament. I'll hardly get back before
     to-morrow night. I came to tell you, but you looked so beautiful
     and so sound asleep I did not have the heart to waken you. Be a
     good girl! DAY."

Somehow the note startled me. Could he have had any suspicion? I felt
queer and uneasy all the time I was dressing; but after I had had a cup
of tea I felt better. There is nothing underhanded about Day. He has no
reserves. And if he had learned about the picnic he would have been
bleating all over the place.

The weather was splendid--a late summer day, not too warm, with a
September haze over everything. We met at the hairdresser's and Jane
Henderson was frightfully nervous.

"Of course I'm game," she said, while the man pinned on her net; "but my
hands are like ice."

Catherine, however, was fairly radiant.

"There's a sort of thrill about doing something clandestine," she
observed, "that isn't like anything else in the world. I feel like
eloping with Mr. Lee. You'll all be mad about him. He's the nicest
thing!"

Mr. Lee was the Moores' guest.

I had got into the spirit of the thing by that time and I drew a long
breath. Day was safely out of the way, the weather was fine, and I had
my hair over my ears the way Ferd liked it.


II

Everything went wonderfully--up to a certain point. Have you ever known
it to fail? Everything swims along and all is lovely--and the thing,
whatever it may be, is being so successful that it is almost a
culmination; and then suddenly, out of a clear sky, there is a slip-up
somewhere and you want to crawl off into a corner and die.

Ferd had got there early and had a boat ready, all scrubbed out and
lined with old carpets. He was just as excited as any of us.

"The trouble with us," he said, as we rowed over to the island, "is that
we are all in a rut. We do the same things over and over, at the same
places, with the same people. The _hoi polloi_ never make that mistake
and they get a lot more out of life. Every now and then the puddlers
from the mill come over here and have a great time."

There were two islands, one just above the other, with about a hundred
feet of water between them. The upper island was much the nicer and it
was there that Ferd had planned the party.

He does things awfully well, really. He had had a decorator out there
early in the day and the pavilion was fixed up with plants and vines
which looked as if they grew on it. He had the table fixed too, with a
mound of roses and the most interesting place cards. Mine had a little
jewelled dagger thrust through it, and the card said:

    _That's as much as to say, they are fools that marry._

He said the quotation was from Shakespeare and the dagger was for Day.

Annette's card said:

    _She was married, charming, chaste, and twenty-three,_

which delighted Annette, she being more than twenty-three.

Ferd's own card said:

    _Another woman now and then
    Is relished by the best of men._

I have forgotten the others. The dagger was a pin, and each card had
something pretty fastened to it.

We sat and gossiped while we waited for the others and then we wandered
round. The island was not very pretty--flat and weedy mostly, with a
good many cans the campers had left, and a muddy shore where a broken
dock, consisting of two planks on poles, was the boat landing. But it
was only later that I hated it, really. That afternoon we said it was
idyllic, and the very place for a picnic.

The other men arrived soon after, and it was really barrels of fun. We
made a rule first. No one was to mention an absent husband or wife; and
the person who did had to tell a story or sing a song as a forfeit. I
was more than proud of Ferd. He had even had a phonograph sent up, with
a lot of new music. We danced the rest of the afternoon and the Lee man
danced like an angel. I never had a better time. Jane voiced my feelings
perfectly.

"It's not that I'm tired of Bill," she said. "I dote on him, of course;
but it is a relief, once in a while, not to have a husband in the
offing, isn't it? And the most carping critic could not object to
anything we are doing. That's the best of all."

The dinner was really wonderful--trust Ferd for that too. We were almost
hilarious. Between courses we got up and changed our own plates, and we
danced to the side table and back again. Once we had an alarm, however.
An excursion boat came up the river and swung in close to the pavilion.
We had not noticed it until it was quite near and there was no time to
run; so we all sat down on the floor inside the railing, which was
covered with canvas, and had our salad there.

By the time dinner was over it was almost dark; and we took a bottle of
champagne down to the dock and drank it there, sitting on the boards,
with our feet hanging. Ferd had been growing sentimental for the last
hour or two and I had had to keep him down. He sat beside me on the
boards and kept talking about how he envied Day, and that Ida was a good
wife and better than he deserved; but no one had ever got into him the
way I had.

"I'm not trying to flatter you, Fanny," he said. "I've always been
honest with you. But there's a woman for every man, and you're my
woman."

He had come rather close and, anyhow, he was getting on my nerves; so I
gave him just the least little bit of a push and he fell right back into
the water. I was never so astonished in my life.

The way Jane Henderson told it later was criminally false. I did not
push him with all my strength and he had not tried to kiss me. Nobody
had had too much to drink. It was a perfectly proper party, and my own
mother could not have found a single thing to criticise.

Well, Ferd was wet through and not very agreeable. He said, however,
that he had merely overbalanced, and that he would dry out somehow. The
only thing was that he had to get back home and he felt he was not
looking his best.

The moon came up and was perfectly lovely; but about the time we had
settled down to singing soft little songs and the Lee man was saying
what a good lot of sports we were, and that he was going to take the
idea back home, a lot of puddlers and their wives rowed out from the
shore and started toward our island. Ferd was awfully annoyed. He stood
up and shouted at them.

"You can't come here!" he called. "This place is taken. Go to the other
island."

"Go to the devil!" one of the puddlers bellowed from the boat;
nevertheless they turned the boat's nose round and went to the other
island. We could hear them yelling and laughing there, and singing in
the commonest fashion. It ruined the moonlight for us. From that time
the bloom was off, as one may say, and things went from bad to worse.

The last car went at ten o'clock, and at half-past nine we commenced to
pack up. Annette insisted on taking the roses; and there was the
phonograph and the club's silver and dishes, and almost a boat-load of
stuff. We could not all get in, of course, so Ferd and Emerson Riley
agreed to wait; but just as I got into the boat I dropped my gold bag
overboard.

I would not go without the bag. It was set with diamonds and I did not
know when I should get another. I just got out of the boat and refused
to stir until it had been fished out.

There was a great deal of excitement. The last car had come and was
waiting on the bank for its return trip, and every one was anxious to
get off. Ferd, who was wet anyway, waded in, but he could not locate it
immediately, and Jane grew hysterical.

"Come on and leave it, Fan!" she begged. "What's a bag compared with
one's reputation? That car's moving now!"

"Go on!" I said coldly. "I shall stay here until Ferd finds it. Go on,
all of you! You can send a man back with the boat, I dare say."

They did it! I never was more astounded in my life; but they all piled
in except Ferd and me, and made for the shore as fast as they could.
They said it was all well enough for me, with Day out of town; but the
rest of them never had any luck and they had to get that car.

"They're terribly nervous, all at once!" I said. "If that car goes
without me, Ferd, I shall jump into the river!"

It was moonlight, but not very bright. I sat on the dock and Ferd fished
for the gold bag. He brought up an empty bottle, two tin cans and an old
shoe.

"Look here, Fan," he said finally, "I'll buy you a new bag. I'll do
anything--only let's get out of this."

"Try once more."

"I'll get neuralgia," he said. "I have to be awfully careful, Fanny. Ida
has to watch me like a hawk."

"I should imagine so," I replied coldly.

"I mean about the neuralgia."

"Humph! Day never has anything the matter with him--that's one thing.
Try again, Ferd."

He stooped again, and this time he got it. He straightened up with it in
his hand. The car was still on the bank and a boat was putting out from
the shore. All seemed to be well.

"They'll bribe the motorman to wait," said Ferd. "I told Riley to. So
you see, little girl, everything's all right. Here's the bag and there's
the boat. Do you like me a little bit again?"

I felt rather queer, alone there on the island with him; and the only
thing that occurred to me was to keep him down.

"I'll like you well enough when we get back to civilization," I said
shortly.

"You're not like yourself, Fanny. You aren't a bit kind to me."

"Being nice to you with everybody round is one thing. This is another.
I'm scared, Ferd."

"Not of me!" he said, getting hold of one of my hands. He looked horrid
in the moonlight, with his collar in a crease and his coat stuck to him.
He looked awfully thin, too, and his hair was in straggles over his
face. "Fan, the boat's coming and I never see you alone. Do say you care
a little bit!"

Well, I had to play the game. I am not a quitter. I had let him get up
the party and spend a lot of money, and I had pretended for months to be
interested in him. What was I to do? You may say what you like--a lot of
married women get into things they never meant to simply because they
are kind-hearted and hate to be called quitters.

"I've always cared a little," I said, trying not to look at him. "Ferd,
you're dripping! Don't touch me!"

"Lady-love!" cried Ferd, very close to my ear; and then: "Good gracious,
Fan! Where's the boat?"

It had absolutely disappeared! Ferd stood up on the shaky dock and
peered over the water.

"He's gone to the other island," he said after a moment. "They'll tell
him he's wrong, but--time's passing!"

He did not start the lady-love business again, and we sat side by side
on the dock, with the river, damp and smelly, underfoot. It was very
silent, save for the far-away yells of the puddlers on the next island
and the drip-drip from Ferd's trouser-ends to the water below.

Somehow the snap was gone out of the whole thing. I hated it, being
alone with him there, and his looking so mussy, and my vanity case
soaking from the river. I hated the puddlers' picnic; there was nothing
I didn't hate. And the boatman did not come. Even Ferd began to get
anxious.

"The infernal fool!" he said. "He's probably joined the picnic,
and----Hello, there!" he called, with his hands to his mouth.

I think they heard us on the bank, for we could hear the trolley bell
very faintly. And, immediately after, the car moved off! I had the most
awful feeling. We sat on the boards watching it getting smaller and
smaller down the river, and neither of us said anything. It had been our
one tie, as you may say, to respectability and home--and it had deserted
us. After a minute Ferd got up on his feet.

"It's the puddlers, after all!" he said. "We'll have to hail them and
get them to send that ass of a boatman. Wouldn't you think that Emerson
Riley would have had sense enough to wait and see that we got over
safely?"

I fairly clutched at his arm.

"You'll do nothing of the sort," I said. "They'll know you if they're
from your mill, and they'll know I am not Ida! It will be in the
papers!"

Ferd looked sulky.

"What am I to do, then?" he demanded. "Swim to the bank?"

"Couldn't you swim to the other island and steal one of their boats?"

He did not want to. I could see that; but what else was there to do?

"It's a good way off," he said. "It won't help things any for me to be
drowned, you know."

"It would be better than a scandal, wouldn't it?"

He threw up his hands.

"Oh, if that's the way you feel----"

"That isn't half the way I feel!"

He went off at that in a fury, leaving me alone on the little dock in a
state of frenzy. I kept thinking of Day's getting home sooner than he
expected and finding me gone, and calling up the police; and my
wandering in about daylight with my slippers worn through. I made up a
story--if the worst happened--about having had an attack of loss of
memory, coming to myself seven miles from town and walking in.

There was no sign of Ferd. The puddlers' picnic was noisier than ever;
they had brought a phonograph, too, and were dancing.

When I had waited for what seemed half the night I got frightened about
Ferd. He had said it was a good way to go; and if he was drowned--and
Ida really fond of him, and welcome to him so far as I was concerned--it
was all up with me. Day would loathe the very sight of me. I knew that.

The grass looked snaky in the moonlight and I felt I was taking my life
in my hands; but, somehow or other, with my hair pulled down by
branches, and ankle-deep in mud every now and then, I got to the place
where the two islands faced each other, end to end. There was not a sign
of Ferd.

I just sank down on the ground and hoped for death. There was no way
out. Jane and the others would think we had the boat and could hire a
machine or something to get to the city, and they would not give us
another thought. Even if I hailed the puddlers and told them, they would
never believe my story. And, of course, there was poor Ferd in the river
mud--sure to float in and spoil any story I could make up about loss of
memory.

It was when I had reached that point that pandemonium broke loose on the
other island. I could hear shouting--men and women together--and, in a
pause, the frantic splashing of oars. The next moment a boat appeared
round the corner of the island, with Ferd rowing like mad, and a perfect
pandemonium from the shore. He had stolen their boat and they had found
it out. I was almost crazy. I waded out to my knees and called to him;
and he saw me. There was no other boat after him yet, but some one was
yelling to follow him.

Ferd was rather steadied by the excitement, I think. He reached over and
dragged me in without a word, and the next instant we were pulling for
the shore in the moonlight, with the entire puddlers' picnic on their
bank, calling awful things to us.

That was not all, though. One of the men had got into their other boat
and was coming after us. He could row, too. I implored Ferd to
hurry--hurry. And I kept turning round to see whether he was gaining.
That was how I discovered why they were so wrought up. There were two
dozen quart bottles of champagne in the stern of that boat! We were
carrying off the picnic! I told Ferd. "Throw it overboard!" he said.
"It'll lighten the boat."

So I did, basket after basket; and, whether it lightened the boat or
not, we drew ahead. Ferd rowed like a demon. In the moonlight his face
was white and set, with the queerest expression.

We struck the shore with a bump that sent me on my knees, but Ferd
grabbed my hand and jerked me out.

"Now run--if you ever ran in your life!" he said. "Make for that grove
over there, and bend over. The bushes will hide us."

"I can't," I panted after a minute. "And why should I, Ferd? He's got
his old boat by this time----"

"Run!" gasped Ferd. And I ran.

We crouched down in the grove. My teeth were chattering, but I was
nothing to Ferd. He was pallid. The puddler landed just then. We heard
him throw his oars into the boat and drag it up on the beach, and I knew
he was examining the other boat and finding that the wine was gone. We
could hear him breathing hard, and he even made a start toward us,
beating the bushes with an oar. He was in a red fury, muttering to
himself in the most horrible manner. I had been in Ferd's mill once or
twice, and I remembered the enormous shoulders the men had, and how they
simply toyed with steel rails; and I was paralysed. A puddler turned
Berserk!

He gave it up just in time, however, and started back for the boat. I
could see him moving about--a huge creature in white flannels. And he
seemed to have cut himself on a branch or something, for he was tying a
handkerchief round his forehead.

We did not dare to move until he had started back and was safely out
from shore. Ferd's voice had lost its strained quality and he looked a
little less like death. We could hear the picnic party calling to the
man in the boat about the wine, and his calling back that we had got
away with it, but for some of them to come over and they could beat the
bushes. They couldn't come, of course, until he took the boat back.

"We've got to get out of here, Fan," Ferd said. "In ten minutes the
whole shooting match will be here. Can you run any more?"

"Not a foot--I'm all in. And I lost a shoe in the water at the island."

Ferd groaned.

"They'll have us up for stealing their champagne," he said. "I suppose
you can walk."

"I can limp along, I dare say." I was wet and cold, and horribly
miserable. "Don't let me detain you. They can't arrest me for stealing
their wine. You did that."

He turned to me suddenly.

"Fan," he said solemnly, "don't ask me why, but we must get out of here
quick. Must! If you can't walk, roll. Now come on!"

There were no houses in sight. The trolley line ends there, and I think
it is a picnic grove. He took my hand and dragged me along. I lost my
other slipper, but he paid no attention when I told him of it; and just
when I was about to sink down and die we reached a road.

"Now," said Ferd, "they came in something--machines probably--for
they'll have to get back, and there are no more cars. Ah, there they
are!"

There were two machines. I gripped Ferd's arm and held him back
desperately.

"The chauffeurs?" I gasped.

"We'll kill 'em, if necessary," he said between clenched teeth.

We were loping down the road toward the machines--Ferd sloshing, rather,
with each step; and we could hear loud calling from the islands and the
banging of oars in oarlocks.

"F-Ferd," I managed to say, "c-can--you--drive--a--car?"

"Why, you can, can't you?"

"I--can--d-drive--my--own car. I d-don't--know about--any other."

"They're all alike. The principle's the same."

"I don't know anything about the principles," I said despairingly. "And
I won't touch a strange machine."

"Oh, very well!" said Ferd sulkily. "We'll make a deuce of a
stir--arrested here for stealing a case of champagne; but never mind.
It'll blow over."

"We can tell the whole story."

"We cannot!" he said gloomily. "We can't tell on Jane and Annette and
Catherine. We'll have to take our medicine, that's all. We needn't give
our own names. That's one thing."

I was perfectly crazed with fright and exhaustion. I leaned up against a
fence, and I remembered the time Lily Slater asked Ollie Haynes to see
her off to Chicago, her husband being out of town; and how Ollie was
carried two hundred miles before the train would stop to let him off;
and how Harry never believed the story and was off shooting big game at
that very minute; and Lily getting gray over her ears as a result, and
not even going out to lunch with anybody for fear there were detectives
watching her.

And, compared with Day, Harry Slater was an angel of mildness.

The boat was almost across by that time and Ferd was wringing the ends
of his trousers. A sort of frenzy seized me. It seemed to me it would be
better to be found crushed under a strange car than to be arrested for
stealing champagne. I started on, rather tottery.

"I'll try it, Ferd," I said. "I think we'll be killed; but come on!"

For once luck was with us. It was a car exactly like my own! I almost
cried for joy. I leaped in and pressed the starter, and the purr of the
engine was joyous, absolutely. I let in the clutch and the darling slid
along without a jerk. We were saved! I could drive that car. I snapped
the gear lever forward into high and the six cylinders leaped to our
salvation. We were off, with the white road ahead; and the puddlers were
only beaching their boat. Ferd sat half turned and watched for pursuit.

"They'll search the bushes first," he said. "They'll not think of the
machines for a few minutes. We can hit it up along the highway for four
or five miles; then we'd better turn into a side road and put out the
lights and take off the license plates. They'll telephone ahead possibly
and give the license number."

We were going pretty fast by that time and just at that moment I saw a
buggy ahead in the road. Ferd called to me; but it was too late--I had
pressed the siren and the very hills echoed.

"Good heavens, Fan!" he said. "You've done it now!"

We topped a rise just then and Ferd looked back. The puddlers were
running along the road toward the place where they had left their cars.
It was a race for life after that. Ferd bent over and pressed the button
that put out the tail light, and I threw on all the gas I could.

"It's getting pretty serious," Ferd said. "We'll go up for a year or
two for this, probably. Stealing a machine is no joke."

"If it comes to that I'll steer the thing over a bank and die with it!"
I said, with my jaw set. "Ferd, there's something wrong somewhere!
Listen to that knocking!"

The engine was not behaving well. It was not hitting right and it was
telling on our speed. As we topped a long rise Ferd saw the lights of
another car appear over the crest of the last hill. Down in the valley
ahead lay a village, sound asleep. We raced through it like mad. A man
in his shirt-sleeves rushed out of a house and yelled something to us
about stopping, that we were under arrest. We almost went over him.

The race would be over soon, that was clear. The car was making time,
but not better time than the other machine. I do not know how I got the
idea, but we went limping and banging along until we had reached the
edge of the town, and just beyond, beside the road, was a barn, with the
doors open. I turned the car in there, shut off the engine and put out
the lamps. Ferd caught the idea at once and leaped out and closed the
doors.

"Good girl!" he said. "Unless the farmer heard us and comes out to
investigate, this is pretty snug, lady-love. They'll pass us without
even hesitating."

They did not, though. It gives me gooseflesh merely to remember the
next half-hour. We waited inside the door for the car to pass. We could
hear it coming. But just at the barn it stopped and we could hear them
arguing. It seems the road forked there and they were not certain which
way we had gone. My knees were shaking with terror and Ferd was
breathing hard.

When I look back I think I should have noticed how queer Ferd was during
the whole thing; and, when you think of it, why did he steal the boat at
the beginning and not just borrow it? But I was absolutely unsuspicious;
and as for noticing, there was no time.

I lost my courage, I'll admit, when they stopped; and I ran to the back
of the barn. There was a horse there and I squeezed in beside the thing;
it was company anyhow and not running about the country trying to arrest
people who were merely attempting to get home. It seemed uneasy and I
tried to pat its head to soothe it--and it had horns! I almost fainted.
Somehow or other I climbed out, and Ferd was coming toward me.

"Sh!" he whispered. "They've roused the farmer, and--holy
smoke!--they're coming in!"

Somebody had opened one of the doors about six inches. That made a path
of moonlight across the board floor.

"I dunno why they closed the barn doors to-night," said the farmer from
the opening--"mostly we leave 'em open. Now, gentlemen, if you want
water for your automobile there's a pail inside the door here, and the
pump's round the corner in the pig yard."

Ferd clutched my arm. The moonlight path was slowly widening as the door
swung open. "Quick!" he said; and the next minute I was climbing a
ladder to the haymow, with Ferd at my heels.

One thing saved us and one only: the farmer did not come inside to see
the car; and whoever did come clearly thought it belonged to the place
and never even glanced at it. As for us we lay face down in that awful
haymow with openings in the hay big enough to fall through, and watched
and listened. I shall never be the same person again after that
experience.

Whenever I get cocky, as Day would say, and reflect on my own virtues,
and how few things I do that any one could find fault with, not playing
bridge for more than two and a half cents a point, and stopping a
flirtation before it reaches any sort of gossipy stage, I think of Ferd
and myself in that awful haymow, with a man below searching round that
miserable machine for a pail, and Ferd oozing a slow drip-drip on the
floor below that was enough to give us away--like the blood dropping
from the ceiling in that play of David Belasco's.

There was one awful moment before it was all over, when the farmer had
gone back to bed and the man returned the pail. The others were all in
their machine, yelling to be off.

"They've had time to be gone twenty miles," one of them snarled. "The
next time we see them, shoot at their tires. It's the only way."

The man with the pail stood in the doorway and glanced in.

"Pipe the car!" he said. "The farmers are the only folks with real money
these days."

He came in with the pail and one of the drops from Ferd's clothes hit
him directly on top of the head! I heard it splat! He stopped as if he
had been shot and looked up. I closed my eyes and waited for the end;
but--nothing happened. He put away the pail and hurried out, and the
machine went on.

It was Ferd who spoke first. He raised himself on an elbow and listened.
Then he drew a long breath, as if he had not breathed for an hour.

"Well," he said, "I may not be a thief and a robber, as well as an
abductor of young married women, but I feel like one." He looked about
the haymow, and at me, crumpled in my corner. "Really, you know," he
said, "this sort of thing isn't done, Fanny."

"If it only doesn't get into the papers!" I wailed. "And if only Day
doesn't hear of it! Ferd, I must look a mess."

He glanced at me. The moonlight was coming through a window.

"You do look rather frowzy," he said.

I think, if there is a psychological moment for such things, that was
the moment. My affair, mild as it was, was dead from that instant. Day
would never have said such a thing. Day never takes his irritation out
on me; the worse I look the more certain Day is to reassure me. For
instance, Day never says that--to him--I am as pretty as the day he
first met me. He says that I am prettier than I ever was, and that every
one thinks so. Day has a positive talent for being married.

Well, we sat in the haymow and quarrelled. We thought it best to let
them go on, give up the search and go back to the island for their women
companions, before venturing out. So we sat and fought.

"It was stupid," I said, "to have stolen the boat and not borrowed it."

"I'd have had to explain you," said Ferd.

"You need not have mentioned me. What is a lie for, if not for such an
emergency? Couldn't you have found that boatman? That would have
explained everything."

"I couldn't find the boatman."

"Did you try?"

He turned sulky.

"I did my best," he said. "I risked my life. I'll probably have a sick
spell as it is. I've got a chill. How did I know the infernal boat had
champagne in it?"

I sat and thought. A lot of things came to me that I had not thought of
before, such as Ferd having got up the party and put me in my present
position, and having been a stupid in more ways than one. And what if
Day had got home unexpectedly? I said this to Ferd.

"Why didn't you think of that sooner?" he demanded brutally.

"What time is it?" I asked, as sweetly as I could.

He held his watch up in the moonlight, but of course it was full of
water and not running. His matches and cigarettes were wet, too, and he
grew more beastly every minute.

"Ferd," I said finally, "I'm afraid lately you've been thinking that
I--that I cared for you. It was my fault. I let you think so. I don't,
really. I only care for one man and I think you ought to know it. I've
been a shameless flirt. That's all."

Instead of being downcast, he rather brightened up at that remark.

"You'll break my heart if you say that," he said, trying not to be too
cheerful.

"There's only one man for me!" I said firmly. "It's not fashionable,
but it's very comforting. It's Day."

"I'll never be the same man again, Fanny," he replied. "Am I not to call
you up, or send you flowers, or look forward to seeing you at the
Country Club on Sunday afternoons? Is life to lose all its joy?"

"Oh, we'll have to meet, of course," I said largely; "but--the other is
off for good, Ferd! I find I can't stand too much of you. You're too
heady."

Well, he was almost blithe over it, and sat talking about Ida, and what
a trump she was about the time he lost so much on copper, and the way
she came home from Nice when he had typhoid. It was stupid; but if you
can understand me it seemed to put a cachet of respectability on our
position. The more we talked about Day and Ida, the more we felt that
the tongue of scandal could never touch us. We made a pact of platonic
friendship, too, and shook hands on it; and it shows how dead the old
affair was when Ferd never even kissed my hand.

About an hour afterward the other car went back toward the island and we
got up stiffly and crawled down the ladder. Ferd had had a nap, and he
slept with his mouth open!

We slipped out of the barn in the moonlight and reconnoitered. There was
no one in sight and the house across the road was dark. Ferd took off
the license plates and put them under one of the seat cushions and I
looked for the short circuit. I found it at last, and Ferd fixed it with
his pen-knife. Then he threw the doors open and we backed into the road.
The last thing I remember is that as we started off a window was raised
in the farmhouse and somebody yelled after us to stop.

"Damnation!" said Ferd between his teeth. "He'll telephone ahead and
they'll cut us off!"

"We needn't stick to the main road. We can go back through the country."

We found a lane leading off half a mile farther along and I turned into
it. It was rough, but its very condition argued for safety. As Ferd
said, no one in his sane mind would choose such a road. The secret of
the lane came out a mile or so farther on, however, when it came to an
end in a barnyard. It was a blow, really. We did not dare to go back and
we could not possibly go ahead.

"I can go up to the house and ask about the road," Ferd said. "The old
stage road ought to be round here somewhere. If we can't find it there's
nothing to do but to walk, Fan."

"I can't walk," I said, "and I won't walk. I'm in my stocking feet. I'm
through. Let's just go back and get arrested and have it over. I can't
stand much more."

"It's only twelve miles or so to town."

"I couldn't walk twelve miles to escape hanging!"

Ferd crawled out of the car and through a pig yard. I heard the pigs
squealing. And then for five awful minutes I heard nothing except his
distant knock and muffled voices. Then there was a silence, and out of
it came Ferd headlong. He fell over the fence and landed in the mud
beside the car.

"Quick!" he panted. "Turn round and get back to the main road. They've
got him on the telephone, and in another minute----"

Did you ever try to turn an automobile in a panic and a small barnyard,
with broken mowing machines and old wagons everywhere? I just could not
do it. I got part way round, with Ferd begging me for Heaven's sake to
get some speed on, when we heard people coming from the house on a run,
and a woman yelling from a window that she could see us and to shoot
quick.

There was a field next the barnyard--a pasture, I suppose--and the bars
were down that led into it. I just headed the car for it and shut my
eyes. Then we were shooting forward in a series of awful bumps, with
Ferd holding on with both hands, and the noise behind was dying away.

I do not recall the details of that part of the trip. Ferd says we went
through two creeks and a small woods, and entirely through and over a
barbed-wire fence, which was probably where we got our punctures.
However that may be, in five minutes or so we drew up just inside a
fence on the other side of which was a road. And we had two flat tires.

Ferd tried to take the fence down, but he could not; so I did the only
thing I could think of, and butted it down with the car. The glass in
the lamps was smashed, but we were too far gone by that time to care. I
had just one thought; if the gas only held out!

Ferd was quite sure he knew the way to town, but it turned out he did
not. For hours and hours we bumped along on two tires and two rims,
until my shoulders felt torn from their sockets. The worst of it was the
noise we made. Every now and then we passed a farmhouse where the lights
were going and everybody had been roused for the automobile thieves;
and, instead of slipping past, we bumped by like a circus parade with a
calliope.

The moon was gone by that time; and, our lamps being broken, more than
once we left the road entirely and rolled merrily along in a field until
we brought up against something. And, of course, we met a car. We heard
it coming, but there was nothing to do but bump along. It was a
limousine, and it hailed us and drew up so we could not pass.

"In trouble?" a man called.

"Nothing serious," Ferd said peevishly.

"Glad to give you a hand. You're cutting your tires to bits."

"No; thanks."

"I can take you back to town if you like."

It was Bill Henderson, Jane's husband, on his way from the club to his
mother's in the country! I could not even breathe. Ferd knew it too,
that minute.

"We are getting along all right," he snapped, trying to disguise his
voice. "If you'll get your car out of the way----"

"Oh, all right, Ferd, old chap!" said Bill, and signalled his man to go
on.

We sat as if petrified. Bill was Ida's cousin! The way of the
transgressor is hard; though why one should have to lose a reputation
built up by years of careful living just for one silly indiscretion is
what gets me. I put a hand on Ferd's arm.

"I'm gone!" I wailed. "It will be all over town to-morrow. Bill's the
worst old gossip. Oh, Ferd!"

"He didn't see you," Ferd snapped. "For goodness' sake, Fan, shut up!
This is my mess. There isn't any limit to the things he can say about
me."

We bumped on a little farther. I was crying, I'll admit; my head ached
and my spine was jarred numb.

"You'll have to do one thing," he said at last. "You'll have to tell
Ida it was you. Heaven knows what she'll think."

"I'll die first!" I snapped.

Well, we got into town finally and it was three-thirty by the first
clock we saw. Ferd got out and looked at the car, and then climbed in
again.

"Better get along a few blocks and then leave it," he said. "It looks
something fierce, and so do we."

And at that instant, before I could even start the engine, we were
arrested for stealing the miserable thing!

"There is some mistake," Ferd said loftily, but looking green in the
electric light. "This is Mrs. Day Illington and this is her own
machine."

"Are you Mr. Illington?"

"Yes!" said Ferd.

The man looked very strange, as well he might, considering--well,
considering the facts that came out later.

"I'll have to trouble you to come with me," he said, politely enough.
"It will be only a short delay and we'll get this straightened out. But
a car answering this description was stolen out the road a few miles and
headed toward town, and there's a reward offered."

He stood on the step and I drove to the station house. I had it fixed in
my own mind to go home and write a letter to Day confessing all, and
then pack a few things and hide my wretched self for the rest of my
life. I even planned what to take; my jewelry and my checkbook, and only
a dinner dress or two; and I wrote the letter to Day--in my mind--and
one to Ida, telling her it was only a lark, but it had gone wrong
without any fault of mine. Then we drew up at the station.

Ferd got out and went in, and the officer turned on the pavement to help
me out. But it was my chance and I took it; I just threw on the gas full
and shot ahead down the street. He yelled after me and then began
shooting. One bullet must have struck the good rear tire, for it
collapsed and almost turned the car round. But I was desperate. I never
looked back. I just drove for all I was worth down the street to its
end, and after that down other streets, and still others. All the time I
was saying I would rather die, and going round corners on two wheels, or
one wheel and a rim.

Finally I got into a part of town I knew and pulled up half a block from
my own house. I recall that and leaving the engine still going, and that
hideous nightmare of a machine standing by the curb, with its tires
lying out on the road in ribbons and its lamps smashed; and I remember
going up the steps and finding the hall door unlocked. Then I recall
nothing more for a while. I fainted.

It was Martha, one of the housemaids, who found me, I believe, as she
was going out to early mass. They got me upstairs to bed and there was
no use trying to run away that night; I could hardly stand. They got me
some hot tea and a doctor and a trained nurse, and in the morning before
breakfast Day came back. He tiptoed into my room and tried to kiss me,
looking awfully frightened; but I would not let him.

"Send the nurse out!" I whispered. So he did; and still I would not let
him kiss me. "Not until I've told you something," I said feebly. "You
may not care to when you've heard it all."

He looked so big and so dependable and so worried that I could have
screamed; but I had to tell him. Bill Henderson might have recognised
me; and Ferd, as like as not, would be goose enough to tell Ida the
whole story. And, anyhow, there's nothing like perfect honesty between
husband and wife.

"Day," I said tremulously, "I'm a felon--a thief! I--I stole a lot of
champagne last night and an automobile, and broke down fences, and
almost ran over a policeman, and was arrested--or Ferd was--Day, don't
look like that!" For his face was terrible. He had gone quite white.

"You!" he said.

"Get up and stand by the window, looking out," I implored him. "I can
tell you better if I can't see your eyes."

So he did and I told him the whole thing. He never moved, and I kept
getting more and more frightened. It sounded worse, somehow, when I told
it. When I had finished he did not come to me as I had hoped. He said:

"I'd like a few minutes to get used to it, Fan. I'll go out and walk
about a bit. It's--it's just a little hard to grasp, all at once."

So he went out, and I lay and cried into my pillow; but when the nurse
had brought me some tea and raised the shades, and the sun came in, I
felt a little better. He had not been noisy, anyhow; and in time perhaps
he would forgive me, though probably he would never really trust me
again. I got up in a chair and had my hair tied with a ribbon and my
nails done, and put on my new negligée with lace sleeves; and I felt
pretty well, considering.

At nine o'clock the policeman on the beat asked to see me. I sent down
word that I was indisposed; but he said it was urgent and would only
take a moment. The nurse put a blanket over my knees and a pillow behind
me, and the officer came in. I was frightened; but after all my only
real fear had been Day, and now that he knew, Fate could hardly have a
fresh blow. But it had, all right.

"Sorry to disturb you, ma'am," said the officer, "but it's about your
car."

"Yes?" My lips were trembling.

"It's been found; I found it--and only a block or so away, ma'am; but
it's in bad shape--lamps smashed and tires chewed to ribbons. It's a
sight, for sure!"

"But that's not my car!" I exclaimed, forgetting caution.

"I guess there's no mistake about it, ma'am. Those fellows that stole
it, up the river, must have climbed fences with it."

"How do you know it is my car?" I was absolutely bewildered.

"These are your license plates, aren't they? I found them under the
seat."

They were my license plates!

       *       *       *       *       *

Day came in shortly after and tiptoed into the room. The nurse was out.
He came over to me and stooped down.

"It took me a little by surprise, honey," he said; "but that's over now.
You've been foolish, but you've had your lesson. Let's kiss and be
friends again."

"Just a moment, Day," I said calmly. "Have you had your lesson?"

"Just what do you mean?"

He followed my eyes to the table and the license plates were there. He
actually paled.

"Where did you get them?"

"Under the seat of the car Ferd and I stole last night at Devil's
Island--my car, which you said was being overhauled!"

He drew a long breath. Then he got down on his knees and put his head in
my lap.

"I've had my lesson--honest, honey!" he said. "Some darned fool
suggested a picnic on one of those islands--mixed couples--and I was ass
enough to agree. I took Ida Jackson. We didn't have any picnic--the
champagne was stolen----"

"Ferd and I----" I put in.

"And then my car went----"

"My car--and I took it."

"And we spent all the evening and part of the night chasing the thing
for fear you'd hear of it!" He looked up at me and there were dark
circles round his eyes. "I haven't been to bed at all, honey," he said
humbly. "It's been a rotten night! I've had enough affinity for the rest
of my life. There's nobody like you!"

I would not kiss him just then, but I let him lie down on my couch and
hold my hand until he dropped asleep. Somehow the words of Ferd's silly
card kept running through my head:

    _Another woman now and then
    Is relished by the best of men._

My little affair with Ferd had seemed harmless enough and the picnic had
been a lark; but Day and Ida had had a picnic and it had been a
lark--only the shoe was on the other foot, and it hurt!

And somehow, as I sat there, it seemed to me that the affinity business
was only fun because it was dangerous. We were all children, and life
was a Fourth of July, enchanting because it was risky.

Day was sleeping, with his mouth shut! I leaned over and kissed him as
he dozed.

Sitting there, with Day asleep, I went over the events of the night, and
I knew that Ferd had had his lesson, too, and that, having been burnt,
he would not play with fire again--at least not until the blister had
healed; for Ferd had seen the island picnickers and had learned that
they were not puddlers. He had seen Ida and Day and, worst of all, he
had known that it was Day who was pursuing us.

I thought of that hour in the haymow, with Day and the others below, and
Ferd dripping; and very quietly, so as not to waken my husband, I went
into a paroxysm of mirth.



THE FAMILY FRIEND


I

I've thought the thing over and over, and honestly I don't know where it
went wrong. It began so well. I planned it out, and it went exactly as
I'd expected up to a certain point. Then it blew up.

There's no argument about it, a girl has to look out for herself. The
minute the family begin mixing in there's trouble.

The day after I came out mother and I had a real heart-to-heart talk.
I'd been away for years at school, and in the summers we hadn't seen
much of each other. She played golf all day and I had my tennis and my
horse. And in the evenings there were always kid dances. So we really
got acquainted that day.

She rustled into my room and gazed at what was left of my ball gown,
spread out on the bed.

"It really went rather well last night," she said.

"Yes, mother," I replied.

"I've sent the best of the flowers to the hospital."

"Yes, mother."

"You had more flowers than Bessie Willing."

I shrugged my shoulders, and for some reason or other that irritated
her.

"For heaven's sake, Kit," she said sharply, "I wish you'd show a little
appreciation. Your father has spent a fortune on you, one way and
another. The supper alone last night----But that's not what I came to
talk about."

"No, mother?"

"No. Are you going to continue to waste your time on Henry Baring?"

"I rather enjoy playing round with him. That's all it amounts to."

"Not at all," said mother in her best manner. "It keeps the others
away."

"As, for instance?" I asked politely.

She was getting on my nerves. I didn't mean to marry Henry, but I did
mean to carry on my own campaign.

"You know very well that there are only three marriageable men in town.
There are eleven débutantes. And--I don't care to be unkind, but at
least four of them are--are----"

"I know," I said wearily--"better looking than I am. Go ahead."

"You're not at all ugly," mother put in hastily. "A great many people
said nice things about you last night. The only thing I want to impress
on you is that Madge will have to come out next year, and that you've
been reared with expensive tastes."

"I've got brains. Most of the other eleven haven't."

"Brains are a liability, not an asset."

"That's an exploded idea, mother. The only times they are a liability is
when they are ruined by too much family interest."

"That sounds impertinent," she said coldly.

"Not at all; it's good business. If I'm to put over anything worth
while, I shall have to work along my own lines. I can't afford to have
my style cramped."

She raised her eyebrows at that, for she hates slang. But she looked
relieved too. When I think of how sure of myself I was that day I could
rave!

"Then you're not going to waste any more time on Henry?"

"I think," I said reflectively, "that I'm going to use Henry quite a
lot. But I don't intend to marry him."

Yes, that's what I said. I remember it perfectly well. I was putting a
dab of scent behind my ears at the time. I feel that I shall never use
the stuff again.

Well, mother went out quite cheered. It was the first real
mother-and-daughter talk we'd had for a long time. When she had gone I
went into my bathroom and locked the door and opened the windows and
smoked two cigarettes, thinking things out.

The family is opposed to my smoking, and no one knows except mother's
maid, who fixes my hair, and the gardener. When for the third time he
had seen smoke coming out of my bathroom window, and had rushed upstairs
with a fire grenade and all the servants at his heels, I was compelled
to take him into my confidence.

Well, I smoked and thought things out. I am not beautiful, but I'm
extremely _chic_, and at night, with a touch of rouge, I do very well. I
have always worn sophisticated clothes. I thought they suited my style.
But so did all the others. If I was to do anything distinguished it
would have to be on new lines.

"Early Victorian?" I said to myself.

But the idea of me Lydia-languishing, prunes-and-prisming round the
place was too much.

Athletics? Well, they were not bad. There's a lot of chance in golf,
although tennis is blowzy. I look well in sport clothes too. But if a
girl is a dub at a game a man is apt to tell her so, and I know my own
disposition. If he criticised me, before I knew it I'd be swatting my
prey with a mashie or a niblick, and everything over. Three men, mother
had said. I knew who they were. They had all sent me flowers and danced
with me, without saying a word, and then taken me back to mother and
rushed for the particular married woman they were interested in.

Oh, I'm not blind! All the men I knew, old enough to amount to anything,
were interested in some married woman. I drive my own car, and I used to
meet them on lonely back roads, Lillian Marshall and Tom Connor, Toots
Warrington and Russell Hill, and the rest of them.

I ask you, what chance had a débutante among them? There were two things
to decide that afternoon, the man and the method. I was out now. The
family had agreed to let me alone. I had a year before me, until Madge
came out. And I knew I could count on Henry Baring to help me all he
could. He was a sort of family friend. When he couldn't get me he would
take Madge to kid picnics, and mother used to call on him to make a
fourth at bridge or fill in at a dinner. You know the sort.

He worked at something or other, and made enough to keep him and pay his
club bills, and to let him send flowers to débutantes, and to set up an
occasional little supper to pay his way socially. But nobody ever
thought of marrying him. He was tall and red-headed and not very
handsome. Have I said that?

So I counted on Henry. It makes me bitter even to write it. His very
looks were solid and dependable, although I underestimated his hair.
I've said I had brains. Well, I had too many brains. Mother was
right--the world doesn't come to the clever folks, it comes to the
stubborn, obstinate, one-idea-at-a-time people.

I'm going to tell this thing, because a lot of people are saying I threw
away a good thing, and mother----

I have a certain amount of superstition in me. I remember, when I was
about to be confirmed at school, I was told to open the Bible at random
and take the first verse my eyes fell on for a sort of motto through
life. Mine was to the effect that as a partridge sits on eggs and fails
to hatch them, so too the person who gets riches without deserving them.
It rather bothered me at the time. Well, it never will again.

So I took three cigarettes and marked each one with the initials of an
eligible. Then I shook them up in a box and drew Russell Hill. I knew
then that I had my work cut out for me. Even with Henry's help it was
going to be a hard pull. Russell Hill was spoiled. Probably out of the
other eleven at least nine had Russell in the backs of their heads. And
he knew every move of the game. They'd all been tried on him--golf and
moonlight and 1830 methods and pro and anti suffrage and amateur
theatricals and ingénue technique and the come-hither glance. So far
they had all failed.

The girls were coming in for tea and to talk things over, and as I
dressed I was thinking hard. Mother had gone out for a golf lesson, so I
sent the rest of my cigarettes down to the drawing room and picked up a
book. I remember only one line of that book. Believe me, as a
matrimonial text it had the partridge one going. The girl in the story
had been crazy about a man.

"I always had my hand in his coat pocket!" she said.

Don't misunderstand, she was not robbing him. She slipped her hand into
his coat pocket to let him know how fond she was of him. And after a
moment, she said, he always put his hand in, too, over hers. And he
ended her slave. He was a very sophisticated man, up to every move of
the game, and he ended her slave!

But Russell would take tact. A man likes to be adored, but he hates to
look foolish. The first thing was, of course, to get his attention. I
was only one of a dozen. True, he had sent me flowers, but he probably
did what all the others did--had a standing order and a box of his cards
at the florist's. I wasn't fooled for a minute. To him I was a flapper,
nothing else. Whether flapper is a term of reproach or one of tribute
depends on whether the girl is a débutante or in the first line of the
chorus of a musical show. Oh, I wasn't very old, but I knew my way
about.

Margaret North came first and the rest trailed in soon after. Everybody
talked about the ball, and said it had been wonderful, and I sat there
and sized them up. I had a fight on my hands, and I knew it.

There was a picture of Madge sitting round, and Margaret North picked it
up and took it to the light. Margaret is one of the four mother had so
delicately referred to.

"You'll have to hurry, Kit," she said. "Sister's a raving beauty."

"Oh, I don't know," I observed casually. "Beauty's not everything.
The girl in the book had not been a beauty."

"It's all there is," said Margaret. "Figure doesn't count any more.
Anybody can have a figure who has a decent dressmaker."

"How about brains?" I asked.

There was a squeal at that.

"Cut 'em out," said Ellie Clavering. "Hide 'em. Disguise 'em. Brains
are--are clandestine."

"Anyhow," somebody put in, "Kit isn't worrying; she's got Henry."

That's how they'd fixed me. I knew what it meant. It was a cheap game,
but they were playing it. They were going to tie me to Henry. They
would ask us together, and put us together at dinners, and talk about us
together. In the end everybody would think of us together. I'd seen it
done before. It's ruined more débutantes than anything else. They'd put
me out of the running before I'd started.

I sat back with my cup of tea and listened, and it made me positively
ill. It wasn't that they were clever. They were just instinctive. I
could have screamed. And having disposed of me, having handcuffed me to
Henry Baring and lost the key, so to speak, they went on to the real
subject, which was Russell.

Mother had said there were three eligibles. But to those little idiots
round the tea table there was only one. They'd been friendly enough as
long as Henry and I were on the rack. But the moment Russell's name was
mentioned there was a difference. They didn't talk so much and they eyed
each other more. Ella Clavering put both lemon and cream in her tea, and
drank it without noticing. Somebody said very impressively that she
understood the affair with Toots was off, and that Russell had said,
according to report, that he was glad of it. He'd have a little time to
himself now.

"That means, I dare say," I said languidly, "that Russell is ready to
bring his warmed-over affections to some of us!"

There was a sort of electric silence for a minute.

"It will take a very sophisticated person to land Russell after Toots,"
I went on. "He's past the ingénue stage."

"If a girl is pretty she always has a chance with Russell." Margaret, of
course. She was standing in front of a mirror and I had my eyes on her.
Evidently what I had said made an impression, for she cocked her hat
down an inch more over her right eye and watched to see the effect.

"You ought to wear earrings, dear," I said. "You need just that dash of
_chic_."

Just for a moment I could see in every eye a sort of vision of Toots
Warrington, with the large pearls she always wore in her ears--Toots,
who had had Russell tame-catting for her off and on for years!

Oh, they fell for it all right! I poured myself another cup of tea to
hide the triumph in my face. Little idiots! If he was sick of Toots he'd
hate everything that reminded him of her. I could see the crowd of them
swaggering in at the next party, in their best imitation of Toots
Warrington, with eyes slightly narrowed, and earrings. And I could see
Russell's soul turn over in revolt and go out and take a walk. I knew a
lot about men even then, but not enough. I know more now.


II

That night Henry Baring came to call. Being a sort of family friend he
had a way of walking in unexpectedly, with a box of candy for whoever
saw him first. If mother and I were out, he played chess with father. If
there was no one in, he was quite likely to range round the lower floor,
and ask the butler about his family, and maybe read for an hour or so in
the library. The servants adored him, but he was matrimonially
impossible.

That night he came. I was at home alone.

"You will take two full days' rest after your ball," mother had said. "I
have seen enough débutantes looking ready for the hospital the first
week they came out."

So I was alone that evening, and mother and father had gone to a dinner.
I was sulky, I don't mind saying. At six o'clock a box of flowers had
come, but they were only from Henry and not exciting. "Thought I'd send
them to-day," he wrote on his card. "Didn't like the idea of my personal
offering nailed to the club wall."

About nine o'clock I put on my silk dressing gown and went down to the
library for the book about the girl who always had her hand in the man's
coat pocket. I had got clear in when I saw Henry's red head over the top
of a deep chair.

"Come in!" he called. "I was told there was no one at home, but methinks
I know the step and the rustle."

"Don't look round," I said sharply. "I'm not dressed."

"Can't you stay a few minutes?"

"Certainly not."

"If I don't look?"

Well, it seemed silly to run. I was more covered up than I'd been the
night before in my ball gown. Besides, it had occurred to me that Henry
could be useful if he would. A sort of plan had popped into my head.
Inspiration, I called it then.

"Pretty nice last night, wasn't it?" he asked, talking to the fireplace.
"You looked some person, Kit, believe me."

"Considering that I've spent nineteen years getting ready, it should
have gone off rather well."

"I suppose I'll never see you any more."

"This looks like it! Why?"

"You'll be so popular."

"Oh, that! I'm not sure, Henry. I'm not beautiful."

He jumped at that, and almost turned round.

"Not beautiful!" he said. "You're--you're the loveliest thing that ever
lived, and you know it."

It began to look to me as if he wouldn't help after all. There was a
sort of huskiness in his voice, a--Oh, well, you know. I began on the
plan, however.

"You'll see me, all right," I said. "I'll have other friends, of course.
I hope so anyhow. But when one thinks who and what they are----"

"Good gracious, Kit! What are you driving at?"

"I'm young," I said. "I know that. But I'm not ignorant. And a really
nice girl with ideals----"

"I'll have to get up," he said suddenly. "I'll stand with my back to
you, if you insist, but I'll have to get up. What's all this about
ideals?"

"You know very well," I put in with dignity. "If every time I meet a
nice man people come to me with stories about him, or mother and father
warn me against him, what am I to do?"

"Can't you stand behind a chair and let me face you? This is serious."

"Oh, turn round," I said recklessly. "If I hear any one coming I can
run. Anyhow, it may be unconventional but I'm fully clothed."

"Are you being warned against me?" he threw at me like a bomb. "Because,
if--if you are, it's absurd nonsense. I'm no saint, and I'd never be fit
for you to--What silly story have you heard, Kit?"

He was quite white, and his red hair looked like a conflagration.

"It's not about you at all; it's about Russell Hill."

It took him a moment to breathe normally again.

"Oh--Russell!" he said. "Well, that's probably nonsense too. You don't
mean to say your people object to your knowing Russell?"

"Not quite that," I said. "But I can't have him here, or go round with
him, or anything of that sort."

"Do they venture to give a reason?"

"Toots Warrington."

It's queer about men, the way they stand up for each other. Henry knew
as well as he knew anything that most of the girls we both knew were
crazy about Russell. And if he cared for me--and the way he acted made
me suspicious--he had a good chance to throw Russell into the discard
that night. But he didn't. I knew well enough he wouldn't.

"That's perfect idiocy," he said sternly. "Society is organised along
certain lines, and maybe if you and I had anything to do with it we'd
change things. But there is no commandment or social law or anything
else against a man having a married woman for a friend."

"Friend!"

"Exactly--friend."

"I don't care to have anything to do with him."

"You needn't, of course. But you owe it to Russell to give him a chance
to set things straight. Any how he and Mrs. Warrington are not seeing
each other much any more. It's off."

"The very fact that you say it is 'off' shows that it was once 'on.'"

He waved his hands in perfect despair. If I'd rehearsed him he couldn't
have picked up his cues any better.

"I'm going to tell him," he said. "It's ridiculous. It's--it's
libellous."

"I don't want him coming here explaining. I am not even interested."

"You're a perfect child, a stubborn child! Your mind's in pigtails, like
your hair."

Yes, my hair was down. I have rather nice hair.

"If he comes here," I said with my eyes wide, "he will have to come when
mother and father are out."

"I'll bring him," said Henry valiantly. "I'm not going to see him
calumniated, that's all." Then something struck his sense of humour and
he chuckled. "It will be a new and valuable experience to him," he said,
"to have to come clandestinely. Do him good!"

I went upstairs then. It had been a fair day's work.

But it's hard to count on a family. Mother sprained her ankle getting
out of the car that night and was laid up for three days. I chafed at
first. Henry might change his mind or one of the eleven get in some
fine work. We declined everything that week, and I made some experiments
with my hair and the aid of mother's maid. I wanted a sort of awfully
feminine method--not sappy but not at all sophisticated. Toots
Warrington is always waved and netted, and all the girls by that time
had got earrings and were going round waved and netted too.

I wanted to fix my hair like a girl who slips her hand into a man's coat
pocket because she can't help it, and then tries to get it out, and
can't because his hand has got hold of it.

Then one night I got it. Henry had dropped in, and found mother with her
foot up and the look of a dyspeptic martyr on her face, and father with
a cold and a thermometer in his mouth.

"I've come to take Kit to the movies," he announced calmly. "Far be it
from me not to contribute to the entertainment of a young lady who is
just out!"

"Full of gerbs!" father grunted, referring to the movies of course, not
me. But mother agreed.

"Do take her out, Henry," she said. "She's been on my nerves all
evening."

So we went, and there was a girl in one of the pictures who had exactly
the right hair arrangement. She had it loose and wavy about her face,
and it blew about the way things do blow in the movies, and in the back
it was a sort of soft wad.

It shows the association of ideas that I found my hand in Henry's coat
pocket, and he grabbed it like a lunatic.

"You darling!" he said thickly. "Don't do that unless you mean it. I
can't stand it."

I had to be very cool on the way home in the motor or he would have
kissed me.

Mother and I went to a reception on the following Tuesday, and I
wondered if mother noticed. She did. Coming home in the motor she turned
and stared at me.

"Thank heaven, Kit," she said, "you still look like a young girl. All at
once Ellie and the others look like married women. Earrings! It's
absurd. And such earrings! I am quite sure," she went on, eying me,
"that some of them had been smoking. I got an unmistakable whiff of it
when I was talking with Bessie Willing."

Well, I had rinsed my mouth with mouth wash and dabbed my lips with
cologne, so she got nothing from me. But I tasted like a drug store.

I am not smoking now. I am not doing much of anything. I--but I'm coming
to that.

I'm no hypocrite. I'd been raised for one purpose, and that was to marry
well. If I did it in my own way, and you think my way not exactly
ethical, I can't help it. This thing of sitting back and letting
somebody find you and propose to you is ridiculous. There is only one
life, and we have to make the best we can of it.

Ethical! Don't girls always have the worst of it anyhow? They can't go
and ask the man. They have to lie in wait and plan and scheme, or get
left and have their younger sisters come out and crowd them, and at
twenty-five or so begin to regard any man at all as a prospect. Maybe my
methods sound a bit crude, but compared with the average girl I know, I
was delicate. I didn't play up my attractions, at least not more than
was necessary. I was using my mind, not my body.


III

On Tuesday night I was going to a dance. Mother and father were dining
out and were to meet me later, so I was free until ten o'clock. That
night Henry brought Russell Hill.

I kept them waiting a few minutes, and came down ready for the car. At
the last minute I pulled my hair a bit loose over my face, and the
effect was exactly right.

Henry was horribly uncomfortable, and left in a few minutes. He was
going with some people to the dance, and would see us later. About all
he said was with his usual tact.

"You two ought to get together," he said. "There's a lot too much being
whispered these days, and not enough talking out loud."

With that he went, and we two were left facing each other.

"This is one of Henry's inspirations, Miss Katherine," Russell said.
"I--I don't usually have to wait until the family is out before I make a
call."

"Families are queer," I said non-committally. There was a window open
and I stood near it, under a pink lamp, and let my hair blow about.

"Are we going to sit down, or am I to be banished as soon as I've
explained that I am a safe companion for a débutante?"

He was plainly laughing at me, although he was uncomfortable too. And I
have some spirit left.

"I am afraid you are giving me credit for too much interest," I said.
"This is Henry's idea, you know. You needn't defend yourself to me. You
look--entirely safe."

He hated that. No man likes to look entirely safe. He put his hands in
his pockets and half closed his eyes.

"Humph!" he said. "Then I gather that this whole meeting is a mistake.
I'm respectable enough to be uninteresting, and the ban your people have
placed on me doesn't particularly concern you!"

"That's not quite true," I said slowly. "I--if I ever got a chance to
know you really well, I'm sure we'd be--but I'll never get a chance, you
know."

"Upon my word," he broke out, "I'd like to know just what your people
have heard! But that doesn't matter. What really matters"--he had hardly
taken his eyes off me--"what really matters is that I am going to see
you again. Often!"

"It's impossible."

"Rot! We're always going to the same places. Am I absolutely warned
off?"

"You're not. But I am."

He began to walk up and down the room. Half an hour before he had never
given me a thought. Henry, I knew, had lugged him there by sheer force
and a misplaced sense of justice. And now he was pacing about in a rage!

He stopped rather near me.

"If it's Mrs. Warrington all the fuss is about, it's imbecile," he said.
"In the first place, there never was anything to it. In the second
place, it's all over anyhow."

"I don't know what the fuss is about."

"You know the whole thing. Don't pretend you don't. You've got the face
of a little saint, with all that fluffy hair, but your eyes don't belong
to the rest, young lady. Are you going to dance with me to-night?"

"I'm afraid not."

"Well, you'll give me a little time, won't you? I suppose we can sit in
a closet and talk, or hide on a veranda."

"It's--it's rather sneaking, isn't it?"

"That doesn't hurt it any for me."

So I promised, and, the car being announced, he put my wrap round my
shoulders.

"Stunning hair you've got," he said from behind me. "Thank heaven for
hair that isn't marceled and glued up in a net!"

I held out my hand in the hall, and he took it.

"I'm not such a bad lot after all, am I?" he demanded.

With my best spontaneous gesture I put my free hand over his as it held
mine.

"I'm so sorry, so terribly sorry, if I've misunderstood," I said
earnestly.

Wallace had gone to the outer door. Russell Hill stooped over and kissed
my hand.

Well, it was working. An hour before I was one of what I'd heard he had
called "the dolly dozen." Now, by merely letting him understand that he
couldn't have what he'd never wanted, he was eager.

We sat out one dance under the stairs, and an intermission in a pantry
while the musicians who had been stationed there were getting their
supper. He tried to hold my hand and I drew it away--not too fast, but
so he could understand the struggle I was having between duty and
inclination. And we talked about love.

I said I liked to play round with men and have a good time and all that
sort of thing, but that I thought I was naturally cold.

"You cold?" he said. "It's only that the right man has not come along."

"I've known a good many. A good many have--have----"

"Cared for you? Of course. They're not fools or blind. Look here, I'm
going to ring you up now and then."

"I think you'd better not."

"If I'm not to see you and not to telephone, how's this friendship of
ours to get on?"

"People who are real friends don't need to see each other."

"That's the first real débutante speech you've made to-night. Now, see
here, I'm going to see you again, and often. And I'm going to ring you
up. What's your tailor's name?"

I told him, and he put it down on his dance card.

"All right," he said. "Herschenrother is now my middle name, and if it's
not convenient to talk, you can give me the high sign."

Toots Warrington came along just then with an army officer she'd taken
on. They got clear round the palms and into the pantry before they saw
us, and her face was funny.

Mother and I had another heart-to-heart talk that night on the way home.
Father had gone a couple of hours earlier and we had the car to
ourselves. Mother was tired and irritable.

"It seemed to me, Kit," she observed, "that you danced with every
hopeless ineligible there. You danced three times with Henry."

"For heaven's sake, mother," I snapped, "let poor Henry alone. Henry is
the most useful person I know."

"You can't play with red-headed people and not get burned," mother said
with unconscious humour. "He's very fond of you, Kit. I watched him
to-night."

"The fonder the better," I said flippantly. Yes, that's what I said.
When I look back on that evening and think how little Henry entered into
my plans, and the rest of it, it makes me cold.

"I want you to do one thing--just one, mother: I want you to be very
cool to Russell Hill."

"Cool!"

"And I want you to forbid me to see him."

"I'm not insane, Katherine."

"Listen, mother," I said desperately. "All his life Russell Hill has had
everything he wanted. He's had so much that--that he's got a sort of
social indigestion. The only things he wants now are the things he
can't have. So he can't have me."

Mother's not very subtle. And she was alarmed. I can still see her
trying to readjust her ideas, and getting tied up in them, and coming a
mental cropper, so to speak.

"If he can't have me he'll want me."

"I'm not sure of it. He----"

"Mother," I said in despair, "you've been married for twenty years, and
you know less about men in a month than I do in a minute. Please forbid
him the house--not in so many words, but act it."

"Why?" she said feebly.

"Anything you can think of--Toots Warrington will do."

She got out her salts and held them to her nose.

"I feel as though I'm losing my mind," she said at last. "But if you're
set on it----"

That was all until we got home. Then on the stairs I thought of
something.

"Oh, yes," I said. "No matter what I am doing, mother, if Herschenrother
the tailor calls up I want to go to the telephone."

I can still see her staring after me with her mouth open as I went up
the stairs.

Herschenrother called me up the next morning, and asked me how I was,
and how the dragons were, and if there was any chance of my walking in
the park at five o'clock. I said there was, and called up Henry and
asked him to walk with me.

"I should say so," he said. "You've only got to ask me, Kit. I'm always
ready to hang round."

There was rather a bad half hour in the park, and for a time I felt that
Henry had been a wrong move. But, as it turned out he hadn't, for
Russell took advantage of somebody's signalling to Henry from a machine
to say:

"Just a bit afraid of me still, aren't you?"

"Why?"

"You brought Henry. I know the signs. You asked him, and he's so set up
about it that he's walking on clouds."

"I am afraid."

"Of me?"

"Of myself."

He caught my arm as he helped me across a puddle, and squeezed it.

"Good girl!" he said.

And later on, when Henry was called again--he's terribly popular, Henry
is--he had another chance.

"I'm going to see you alone if I have to steal you," he said.

Herschenrother called up again the next day, and Madge, who had come
home for the Christmas holidays, called me.

"Gee, Kit," she said, "you must be getting a trousseau. That tailor's
always on the phone."

I went.

"Hello," said Russell's voice, "how about that fitting?"

"I don't know. I'm horribly busy to-day."

"It's very important. I--I can't go ahead without it."

"Oh, all right," I said. Madge was listening and I had to be careful. "I
must have the suit."

"You can have anything I've got. How about the Art Gallery? Art is long
and time is fleeting. Nobody goes there."

"Very well, four o'clock," I replied, and rang off.

"Rather a nice voice," Madge said, eying me. "Think I'll go along, Kit.
I've been shut up in school until the mere thought of even a
good-looking tailor makes me thrill."

She was so insistent that I had to go to mother finally, and mother told
her she would have to practise. She was furious. Really, mother turned
out to be a most understanding person. I got to be quite fond of her. We
had a chat that afternoon that brought us closer together than ever.

"Things are doing pretty well, mother," I said when she'd finished
Madge.

"He must be interested when he would take that absurd name."

"And the Art Gallery! I dare say he has never voluntarily been inside of
one in his life."

"Kit," mother said, "what about your father?"

"Haven't you told him?"

"No; he wouldn't understand."

Of course not. I knew men well enough for that. They believe that life
and marriage arrange themselves. That it's all a sort of combination of
Providence and chance. Predestination plus opportunity!

"Can't you tell him you've heard something about Russell, and that he'd
better be cool to him?"

"And have him turn the man down if it really comes to a proposal!"

"That won't matter," I told her. "We'll probably elope anyhow."

Mother opposed that vigorously. She said that no matter how good a match
it was, there was always something queer about an elopement. And anyhow
she'd been giving wedding gifts for years and it was time something came
in instead of going out. It was the only point we differed on.

Well, father did his best to queer things that very day. All the way
through I played in hard luck. Just when things were going right
something happened.

I met Russell at the Art Gallery. It was a cold day, but I left my muff
at home. It was about time for the coat-pocket business. I couldn't
afford to wait, for one or two of the girls were wearing their hair like
mine, and I'd heard that Toots Warrington had gone to Russell and asked
him how he liked kindergartening. Bessie Willing, who told me, said that
Russell's reply was:

"It's rather pleasant. I'm reversing things. Instead of going from the
cradle to the grave, I'm going from the grave to the cradle."

I don't believe he said it. In the first place, he is too polite. In the
second place, he is too stupid. But as Toots is not young he may have
thought of it.

He was waiting near a heater, and we sat down together. I shivered.

"Cold, honey?" he asked.

"Hands are cold. Do you mind if I put one in your coat pocket?"

Did he mind? He did not. He was very polite at first and emptied the
pocket of various things, including a letter which he mentioned casually
was a bill. But after a moment he slid his hand in on top of mine.

"You're a wonderful young person," he said, "and you've got me going."

Then he squeezed the hand until it hurt. Suddenly he looked up.

"Great Scott!" he said. "There's Henry!"

Of course it was Henry. He had brought a catalogue and was going
painstakingly from one picture to another. He did not see us at first,
and we had time to stand up and be looking at a landscape when he got to
us. He looked moderately surprised and waited to mark something in the
catalogue before he joined us.

"Bully show, isn't it?" he said cheerfully. "Never saw so many good
'uns. Well, what are you children up to?"

"Dropped in to get warm," said Russell. And I was going to add
something, but Henry's interest in us had passed evidently. He marked
another cross in the catalogue and went on, with the light shining on
his red hair and his soul clearly as uplifted as his chin.

"You needn't worry about Henry," I said. "He's a friend of the family,
and I'll just call him up and tell him not to say anything."

"I used to think he was fond of you."

"That's all over," I said casually. "It was just one of the things that
comes and goes. Like this little--acquaintance of ours."

"What do you mean, goes?" he demanded almost fiercely.

"They always do, don't they? Awfully pleasant things don't last. And we
can't go on meeting indefinitely. Some one will tell father, and then
where will I be?"

That was a wrong move about father.

"That reminds me," he said. "Are you sure your father dislikes me such a
lot?"

"Don't let's talk about it," I said, and closed my eyes.

"Because I met him to-day, and he nearly fell on my neck and hugged me."

Can you beat that? I was stunned.

"The more he detests people," I managed finally, "the more polite he
is."

Then I took off my gloves and fell to rubbing the fingers of my left
hand. And he moved round and put it in the other coat pocket without a
word, with his hand over it, and the danger was past, for the time
anyhow.

Mother came round that evening about the elopement.

"Perhaps you are right, Katherine," she said. "A lot of people will send
things when the announcement cards go out. And Russell can afford to buy
you anything you want anyhow."

Madge was a nuisance all that week. She was always at the telephone
first when it rang, and I did not like her tone when she said it was
Herschenrother again. Once I could have sworn that I saw her following
me, but she ducked into a shop when I turned round.

She had transferred her affections to Henry, and he took her to a
cotillon or two for the school set, and played round with the youngsters
generally, and showed her a sweet time, as she said.

But once when mother and I had been shut in my room, going over my
clothes and making notes of what I would take with me, if the thing came
to an elopement--I was pretty sure by that time, and we planned a sort
of week-end outfit without riding things--I opened the door suddenly,
and Madge was just outside.

Well, we got her back to school finally, and Henry took her to the
train. I remember mother's watching them as they got into the car
together.

"That wouldn't be so bad for Madge," she said reflectively. "She is
bound to marry badly anyhow, she's so impulsive, and Henry would be a
good counterweight. He is very dependable."

"She would make him most unhappy," I said. "Probably Henry would be all
right for Madge, but how about Madge for Henry?"

Mother looked at me and said nothing.

Russell proposed at the end of the next week, and I refused. He proposed
in a movie. We'd had to give up the Art Gallery because Henry was always
taking people through it. He took Toots one afternoon, and that finished
us.

There was a little talk that Henry and Toots were getting rather thick.
The army man's leave was up, and she had to have somebody. There was
probably something to it. We saw them in the park one afternoon sitting
on a bench, and I could have sworn she had her hand in his coat pocket!

Well, I refused Russell.

"Why?" he said. "You're crazy about me, and you know it."

"I'm not going to marry a past," I said. "You'd make me horribly
unhappy."

"I'd never bore you, that's one thing."

"No, but you might find me dull."

"Dull! Darling girl, I've never had as interesting a month in my life."

I said nothing. After a minute:

"Do you remember the first night we really met?"

"In the pantry. Yes."

"Do you remember what you said about being cold? And I told you it was a
question of the right man?"

I remembered.

"Well, I'm the man," he said triumphantly. "Don't fool yourself--that
little hand of yours slips into my coat pocket as if it belonged there.
And it does."

He pulled it out and kissed it. Luckily the theatre was dark.

Two days later I consented to elope with him. Mother was quite
delirious when I told her. She came over and kissed my cheek.

"You've never disappointed me, Kit, never," she said. "If only Madge
would do as well."

She sighed.

"Madge will probably marry for love, and be happy," I snapped. It was a
silly speech. I haven't an idea why I made it.

"And shabby," said mother.

I turned on her sharply. The strain of the last month was over, and I
dare say I went to pieces.

"It's all very well for you to be satisfied," I cried. "You're not going
to marry Russell Hill, and have him call you 'girlie,' and see his hat
move every time he raises his eyebrows. I am."

She went out very stiffly, and sent her maid in with hot tea.

I was out at a theatre party that night, and mother was in my room when
I got back.

"I want to talk to you, Katherine," she said, "I've been uneasy all
evening."

"If you mean about what I said this afternoon, please forget it, mother.
I was tired and nervous. I didn't mean it."

"Not that. I don't want any mistake about this elopement. Now and then
those things have a way of going wrong. Quite often there is trouble
about a license or a minister."

"Send father ahead," I said flippantly.

"Not father. But some one really ought to look after things. Russell is
not the sort to arrange anything in advance. I thought perhaps Henry--"

"Henry!"

"He is reliable," said mother. "And he has your well-being at heart. He
is more like a brother than a good many brothers I know."

I could scream my head off when I think of it now. For we fixed on
Henry, and I telephoned him to come round to dinner. He seemed rather
surprised when he heard my voice.

"Honestly, Kit," he said, "do you want me?"

"I want you to do something for me."

"Then I'll come. That's all that's necessary."

But it wasn't as easy as it had promised after all. There's something so
downright about Henry. He was standing in front of the library fire
after dinner when I told him.

"Henry," I said, "I am going to be married."

He did not say anything at first. Then:

"Well?" he asked.

"Do you know to whom?"

"Yes."

"Aren't you going to say anything?"

"I don't know what I can say," he said very slowly and carefully. "If
each of you cares a lot, that's all there is to it, isn't it? The point
is, of course, why you are doing it. If it's to cut out somebody else,
or to get money or anything like that, I'm not going to wish you
happiness, because you won't deserve it. If you're in love with him,
that's different."

Did you ever try to tell a lie to a red-headed young man with blue eyes?
It's extremely difficult.

"I'm not in love with him, Henry," I said. I was astounded to hear
myself saying it.

"Then you're giving him a crooked deal."

"He's not in love with me either. So that's even."

"Then why----"

"Because he thinks he can't have me," I said. "I'm marrying him because
he's the most marriageable man I know, and I have to marry money. I've
been raised for that. And he's marrying me because I'm the only girl
whose people didn't fling her at him."

"Then I wish you joy of each other!" he said hoarsely, and slammed out
of the room and out of the house.

I haven't the faintest idea what came over me that night. I went
upstairs and cried my eyes out.

A few days later, after a round of luncheons, dinners and dances until I
was half dead, I had a free evening. The elopement had been set for
Friday, and it was Wednesday. Mother and father were out, and I went
downstairs for a book. I had got it and was just going out when I saw
Henry's red head over the back of the leather chair by the fire.

I went over. He was not reading. He was just sitting, his long legs
stretched out in front of him.

"Hello, Kit," he said calmly. "I knew this was an off night. Sit down."

I sat down, rather suspicious of his manner. Henry can't dissemble.

"About the other night," he said, "I was taken by surprise. Just forget
it, Kit. Now, when are you going to pull this thing off?"

I told him, and where.

"Russell made any arrangements?"

"I haven't asked."

"Probably not. He'll expect to get out of the train and find a license
and a preacher on the platform. I'd better be best man, and go down
there a day before to fix things."

Well, it wasn't flattering to see him so eager to get me married. There
had been a time when I thought--However--

"Oh!" I said.

"Better do it right while you're about it," he said. "You might give me
one of your rings, and I'll order a wedding ring. Platinum or gold?"

"Platinum," I said feebly.

"Anything inside?"

"The--the date, I suppose."

"No initials or anything like that?"

I roused from a sort of stupor of astonishment.

"I like a very narrow ring," I said. "There won't be room for much
inside. The date will do. But I'm sure that Russell----"

"All right if he does. Perhaps I'd better not put in the date. Then, if
he takes one along, I can return this and have it credited to him."

"You're very thoughtful."

"Not at all," he said with the first atom of feeling he'd shown. "I
don't approve of anything about this business; but if it's going to
happen, it's going to happen right!"

He got up and stood in front of the fire.

"The thing to be sure of, Kit," he said soberly, "is that you don't love
any one else. It's bad enough as it is, but that would be worse."

"I wouldn't dare to be in love with any one who wasn't eligible," I
said, not looking at him. "I've been raised for just what I'm doing. I'm
fulfilling my destiny."

"There's nobody else, then?"

"Who could there be?"

"That's twice I've asked you a perfectly simple question, Kit, and you
have evaded it. The plain truth, of course, is that you are in love,
absolutely single-heartedly in love, but not with Russell."

"Then who?" I demanded sharply.

"With yourself," he said, and picked up his hat and went out.


IV

Russell and I eloped on a Friday morning. Mother and I packed my
dressing case and a bag, and I gave her an itemized list of what was to
be sent on in my trunk when I wired for it. She was greatly relieved to
know that Henry was looking after things, especially the ring.

"I do hope he gets a narrow one," she said. "Wedding rings are nonsense
at any time. You can never wear other rings with them. But if it is
platinum you can have it set with diamonds later on."

I think she was disappointed when I refused to leave a note on my
dressing table for her.

"That's out of date, mother," I said. "You needn't know anything until
you get my wire that it's over. Then you can call up the newspapers and
deny it. That's the best way to let them know."

Then she went out, per agreement, after kissing me good-by, and I called
a taxicab and eloped.

Did you ever have a day when things went wrong with you and when you
knew that the fault was somewhere in you? Well, that was that sort of
day. The minute I was in the taxicab I was uncomfortable. All at once I
didn't want to be married. I hoped Russell would miss the train, and I
could go back home and be a spinster lady and be on committees.

But he did not miss the train. He was there, waiting. He had on a very
ugly necktie and an English ulster that made his chest dish in, although
he has a good figure.

"Hello, girlie," he said. "Stuff all here? Any excitement at home? No?
Nice work."

My lips felt stiff.

"Train's waiting," he said. "What do you think of Henry? Big lift, that
is. I've never been married before. I'm fairly twittering."

We got into the train. There was no Pullman. Not that it mattered, but
it helped to upset me. I hated eloping in a day coach. And a woman with
a market basket sat across the aisle, and the legs of a chicken stuck
out.

Russell squeezed into the seat beside me.

"Jove, this is great!" he said. "Aren't you going to put your hand in my
coat pocket, honey?"

Quite suddenly I said:

"I don't want to."

He drew away a trifle.

"You're nervous," he said. "So am I, for that matter. D'you mind if I go
and smoke?"

I didn't mind. I thought if I had to see that ulster dishing in and that
tie another minute I'd go crazy.

I grew calmer when he had gone. Here was the thing I had worked so hard
for, mine at last. I thought of Toots, and her face when she saw the
papers. I thought of Ellie Clavering and Bessie Willing and Margaret
North and the others, with their earrings and the imitation of Toots and
all the rest of it. I felt rather better. When Russell came back I could
even smile at him.

"I wish I could have a cigarette," I said.

He turned and put a hand over mine.

"You're going to cut that out, you know, girlie," he said. "I can't have
my wife smoking."

Yes, that's what he said. For ten years he'd sent girls cigarettes and
offered them cigarettes and sat with them in corners while they smoked
cigarettes. But he didn't want his wife smoking. Wasn't it typical?

Oh, well, I didn't care. I'd do as I liked once we were married. Then
about half way, without the slightest warning, I knew I couldn't marry
him. Marry him! Why, I didn't even like him. And the way he made me sit
with my hand in his coat pocket was sickening.

"I don't think I'll marry you after all," I said.

"Eh? What?"

"I said I've changed my mind. I won't do it."

"I haven't changed mine."

"I'm not really in love with you."

"You're nervous," he said calmly. "Go ahead and talk. It's the new
psychology. Never bury your worries. Talk 'em out and get rid of 'em."

"I was never forbidden to see you."

"All right," he said contentedly. "I knew that all along. What else?"

"Even my hand in your coat pocket is a trick."

"Sure it is, but it's a nice trick. What else?"

"I'm not going to marry you."

"Oh, yes, you are. You can't very well go back, can you? Mother's
probably called up the papers already."

Then he sat up and looked at me.

"Now, look here, young lady," he said. "I'm no idiot. I knew before you
were born some of the stunts you pulled. I've never been fooled for a
minute about them. But you're going to marry me. Why? Because I'm crazy
about you. That's why. And that's enough."

It was terrible. And there was no way out, none. The train rumbled on.
There was a tunnel and he kissed me. It was a short tunnel.

Somebody behind chuckled.

And then at last it was over, and we were there, and I was being led
like a sheep to the altar, and Henry was on the platform with ring and
license and all the implements of sacrifice.

"Behold," said Russell from the train platform, "the family friend is on
hand. Whose idea was Henry, anyhow? His or yours or mother's?"

Henry came up. He looked cheerful enough, although I fancied he was
pale. I liked his necktie. I always liked Henry's ties.

"Hello," he said. "Everything here? Where's your luggage?"

"Baggage car," said Russell. "Look after Kit, Henry, will you? I'll see
to it."

He hadn't taken two steps before Henry had clutched my arm.

"I knew you wouldn't," he said. "I can see it in your face."

"Henry!" I gasped. "What am I to do?"

"You're to marry me," he said in a sort of fierce whisper. "Don't stop
to argue. I've always meant to marry you. Quick, into the taxi!"

That's all I remember just then, except hearing him say he had the
license and the ring, and an uproar from where we'd left Russell and all
his money on the platform.

"Wha-what sort of license?" I asked, with my teeth chattering from pure
fright. "If it's in Russell's name it's not good, is it?"

"It's in my name," said Henry, grimly.

"But the ring--that's Russell's."

"Not at all," said Henry, still without an atom of tenderness. "I bought
it and paid for it. It's got 'From H. to K.' inside of it. Very small,"
he added hastily. "It's quite narrow, as you requested."

"Henry," I said, sitting up stiffly, "what would I have done if you
hadn't been round?"

"You needn't worry about that. After this I'll always be round. I don't
intend to be underfoot," he volunteered, "but I'll be within call. As a
matter of fact," he added, "I've been within call practically all of the
last month. It's taken a lot of time."

If only he had said something agreeable or yielding, or looked anything
but grim and efficient, I could have stood it. But, there we were, on
our way to be married, and he looked as sentimental as a piano tuner.

All at once it came over me that it was Henry, it always had been Henry,
it always would be Henry. And he looked calm and altruistic and rather
hollow round his eyes.

"If you're only doing this to save me," I said, "you needn't, you know.
I can go home, even if the papers have got it."

"Don't make me any more nervous than I am, Kit," he said. "I'm about
evenly divided as to beating you up or kissing you. Any extra strain,
and it's one or the other."

"Don't beat me, Henry."

"I'm damnably poor, Kit," he said.

For reply I slid my hand into his coat pocket. He melted quite suddenly
after that, and put his arms round me. I knew I was being a fool but I
was idiotically happy.

"Henry," I said, "do you know that verse in the Bible, that as a
partridge sits on eggs and fails to hatch them, so too the person who
gets riches without deserving them?"

He held me off and looked at me as if he suspected my sanity. Then he
kissed me.


V

Mother has never really forgiven me. It put her in so awfully wrong, of
course. For she called up the newspapers, and said that if they received
a report that I had eloped with Mr. Russell Hill, they were please to
deny it.

Of course they sent reporters everywhere at once. And they traced me to
the station. About the time mother was reading the headlines "Society
Bud and Well-Known Clubman Elope," and wiring Madge, she got Henry's
telegram.

She thinks I threw away the chance of a lifetime. But since the day
before yesterday I've been wondering. I was going over Henry's old
suits, getting them ready to be cleaned and pressed. We have to be very
economical. And in a pocket I came across this letter:

     "DEAR BOY: We have decided on the eleven-o'clock train. For the
     love of Mike don't miss meeting it! And after thinking it over
     carefully, you're right. When I go to see after the luggage will be
     the best time.

     "Yours,

     "RUSSELL."



CLARA'S LITTLE ESCAPADE


"The plain truth is," said Carrie Smith, "that, no matter how happy two
people may be together, the time comes when they are bored to death with
each other."

Nobody said anything. It was true and we knew it. Ida Elliott put down
the scarf she was knitting for the Belgians and looked down over the
hill to where a lot of husbands were playing in the swimming pool.

"It isn't just a matter of being bored, you know, Carrie," she said. "A
good many of us have made mistakes." Then she sighed. Ida is not really
unhappy, but she likes to think she is.

None of the rest made any comment. But one or two of the other girls put
down their knitting and looked out over the hills.

"I hope you don't mind my saying it, Clara," Carrie said, turning to me;
"but it's a mistake to have a week-end party like this. Last night when
I played pool with your Bill after the rest of you had gone upstairs,
Wallie refused to speak to me when I went to bed. He's still sulking."

I am not sensitive; but when they everyone turned on me and said it was
a beautiful party, but why, in heaven's name, had I asked only husbands
and not one extra man, it made me a trifle hot.

"As most of us see our husbands only during week-ends," I said tartly,
"I should think this sort of family reunion would be good for us."

Carrie sniffed.

"See them!" she snapped. "They've been a part of the landscape since we
came, and that's all. Either they're in the pool, or playing clock golf,
or making caricatures of themselves on the tennis court. A good
photograph would be as comforting, and wouldn't sulk."

Well, the whole thing really started from that. I made up my mind,
somehow or other, to even up with them. I'd planned a really nice party,
and even if they were bored they might have had the politeness to
conceal it.

Even now, badly as things turned out, I maintain that the idea was a
good one. I had a bad time, I'll admit that. But the rest of them were
pretty unhappy for a while. The only thing I can't quite forgive is that
Bill--but that comes later on.

There had been very little doing all spring. Everybody was poor, and
laying up extra motors, and trying to side-step appeals for Eastern
relief, and hiding dressmakers' bills. There were hardly any dividends
at all, and what with the styles completely changing from wide skirts
to narrow ones, so that not a thing from last year would do, and the men
talking nothing but retrenchment and staying at the table hours after
every dinner party, fighting the war over again, while we sat and
knitted, I never remember a drearier spring.

"Although," Carrie Smith said with truth, "the knitting's rather good
for us. No woman can enjoy a cigarette and knit at the same time."

The craze for dancing was dying away, too, and nothing came along to
take its place. The débutantes were playing tennis, but no woman over
twenty-two should ever play tennis, so most of us were out of that.
Anyhow it's violent. And bridge, for anything worth while, was apt to be
too expensive.

But to go back.

We sat and knitted and yawned, and the husbands put on dressing gowns
and ambled up the hill and round to the shower baths in the basement. I
looked at Bill. Bill is my husband and I'm fond of Bill. But there are
times when he gets on my nerves. He has a faded old bathrobe that saw
him through college and his honeymoon, and that he still refuses to part
with, and he had it on.

It was rather short, and Bill's legs, though serviceable, are not
beautiful.

He waved his hand to me.

"If you'd do a little of that sort of thing, Clara," he called, "you
wouldn't need to have the fat rubbed off you by an expensive masseuse."

"Quite a typical husbandly speech!" said Carrie Smith.

"Do they ever think of anything but exercise and expense?"

Well, the men bathed and dressed and had whisky-and-sodas, and came out
patronisingly and joined us at tea on the terrace. But inside of ten
minutes they were in a group round the ball news and the financial page
of the evening papers, and we were alone again.

Carrie Smith came over and sat down beside me, with her eyes narrowed to
a slit.

"I didn't want to hurt your feelings, Clara," she said, "but you see
what I mean. They're not interested in us. We manage their houses and
bring up their children. That's all."

As Carrie was the only one who had any children, and as they were being
reared by a trained nurse and a governess, and the baby yelled like an
Apache if Carrie went near him, her air of virtue was rather out of
place. However:

"What would you recommend?" I asked wearily. "They're all alike, aren't
they?"

"Not all." Her eyes were still narrowed. And at that moment Wallie Smith
came over and threw an envelope into her lap.

"It came to the office by mistake," he said grimly. "What made you have
your necklace reset when I'm practically bankrupt?"

"I bought hardly any new stones," she flashed at him. "Anyhow, I intend
to be decently clothed. Tear it up; nobody's paying any bills."

He stalked away, and Carrie looked at me.

"No," she said slowly, "they are not all alike. Thank heaven there are a
few men who don't hoist the dollar mark as a flag. Clara, do you
remember Harry Delaney?"

I looked at Carrie.

A little spot of red had come into each of her cheeks, and her eyes,
mere slits by now, were fixed on the far-away hills.

She and Harry had been engaged years ago, and she threw him over because
of his jealous nature. But she seemed to have forgotten that.

"Of course," I said, rather startled.

"He was a dear. Sometimes I think he was the most generous soul in the
world. I cannot imagine his fussing about a necklace, or sulking for
hours over a bit of innocent pleasure like my playing a game of pool
after a lot of sleepyheads had gone to bed."

"What time did you and Bill go upstairs?"

"Something after two. We got tired of playing and sat out here and
talked. I knew you wouldn't mind, Clara. You've got too much sense.
Surely a woman ought to be allowed friends, even if she is married."

"Oh, friends!" I retorted. "If she's going to keep her husband a friend
she's got her hands full. Certainly I'm not jealous of you and Bill,
Carrie. But it's not friends most of us want, if you're after the truth.
We want passionate but perfectly respectable, commandment-keeping
lovers!"

Carrie laughed, but her colour died down.

"How silly you are!" she said, and got up. "Maybe we'd like to feel that
we're not clear out of the game, but that's all. We're a little tired of
being taken for granted. I don't want a lover; I want amusement, and if
I'd married Harry Delaney I'd have had it."

"If you'd married him he would have been down there at the pool, showing
off like a goldfish in a bowl, the same as the others."

"He would not. He can't swim," said Carrie, and sauntered away. Somehow
I got the impression that she had been sounding me, and had got what she
wanted. She looked very handsome that night, and wore the necklace.
Someone commented on it at dinner, and Wallie glared across at it.

"It isn't paid for," he said, "and as far as I can see, it never will
be."

Of course, even among old friends, that was going rather far.

Well, the usual thing happened after dinner. The men smoked and argued,
and we sat on the terrace and yawned. When they did come out it was to
say that golf and swimming had made them sleepy, and Jim Elliott went
asleep in his chair. Carrie said very little, except once to lean over
and ask me if I remembered the name of the man Alice Warrington had
thrown over for Ted. When I told her she settled back into silence
again.

The next morning all the husbands were up early and off to the club for
a Sunday's golfing. At ten o'clock a note came in on my breakfast tray
from Carrie.

"Slip on something and come to my room," it said.

When I got there Ida and Alice Warrington were there already, and Carrie
was sitting up in bed, with the same spots of colour I'd seen before. I
curled up on the bed with my hands round my knees.

"Go to it, Carrie," I said. "If it's church, it's too late. If it's a
picnic, it looks like rain."

"Close the door, Ida," said Carrie. "Girls, I'm getting pretty tired of
this."

"Of what?"

"Of dragging the matrimonial ball and chain wherever I go, and having to
hear it clank and swear and sulk, and--all the rest. I'm tired, and so
are all of you. Only I'm more honest."

"It's all rather a mess," Ida said languidly. "But divorce is a mess
too. And, anyhow, what's the use of changing? Just as one gets to know a
man's pet stories, and needn't pretend to laugh at them any more, why
take on a new bunch of stories--or habits?"

"The truth is," said Carrie, ignoring her, "that they have all the good
times. They don't have to look pretty. Their clothes last forever. And
they're utterly selfish socially. You girls know how much they dance
with the married women when there are any débutantes about."

We knew.

"The thing to do," said Carrie, "is to bring them back to a sense of
obligation. They've got us. We stay put. They take us to parties and get
up a table of bridge for us, and go off to a corner with a chit just out
of school, or dance through three handkerchiefs and two collars, and
grumble at paying our bridge losses. Or else they stay at home, and
nothing short of a high explosive would get them out of their chairs."

"Destructive criticism," said Alice Warrington, "never gets anywhere. We
agree with you. There's no discussion. Are you recommending the high
explosive?"

"I am," said Carrie calmly. "I propose to wake them up, and to have a
good time doing it."

Well, as it turned out, it was I who wakened them up, and nobody had a
very good time about it.

"There's just one man a husband is always jealous of," Carrie went on,
and her eyes were slitted as usual. "That's the man his wife could have
married and didn't."

I expect I coloured, for Bill has always been insanely jealous of Roger
Waite, although honestly I never really cared for Roger. We used to have
good times together, of course. You know.

Carrie's plan came out by degrees.

"It will serve two purposes," she said. "It will bring the men to a
sense of responsibility, and stop this silly nonsense about bills and
all that sort of thing. And it will be rather fun. It's a sin to drop
old friends. Does Wallie drop his? Not so you could notice it. Every
time I'm out of town he lives at Grace Barnabee's."

Carrie had asked us all to spend the next week-end with her, but the
husbands were going to New York for the polo game and she had called the
party off. But now it was on again.

"Do you girls remember the house party I had when Wallie was in Cuba,
before we were engaged? We had a gorgeous time. I'm going to repeat it.
It's silly to say lightning doesn't strike twice in the same place. Of
course it does, if one doesn't use lightning rods. Peter Arundel for
Alice, and Roger for you, Clara. Ida, you were in Europe, but we'll let
you in. Who'll you have?"

"Only one?" asked Ida.

"Only one."

Ida chose Wilbur Bayne, and Carrie wrote the notes right there in bed,
with a pillow for a desk, and got ink on my best linen sheets.

"I'm sorry I never thought of it before," she said. "The house party is
bound to be fun, and if it turns out well we'll do it regularly. I'll
ask in a few people for dancing Saturday night, but we'll keep Sunday
for ourselves. We'll have a deliciously sentimental day."

She sat back and threw out her arms.

"Good Lord," she said, "I'm just ripe for a bit of sentiment. I want
about forty-eight hours without bills or butlers or bridge. I'm going to
send my diamond necklace to a safe deposit, and get out my débutante
pearls, and have the wave washed out of my hair, and fill in the necks
of one or two gowns. I warn you fairly, there won't be a cigarette for
any of you."

When I left them they were already talking clothes, and Carrie had a
hand glass and was looking at herself intently in it.

"I've changed, of course," she sighed. "One can't have two children and
not show the wear and tear of maternity. I could take off five pounds
by going on a milk diet. I think I will."

She went on the diet at luncheon that day, and Wallie told her that if
she would cut out heavy dinners and wine her stomach would be her
friend, not her enemy. She glanced at me, but I ignored her. Somehow I
was feeling blue.

The week-end had not been a success, and the girls had not been slow to
tell me about it. The very eagerness with which they planned for the
next week told me what a failure I'd had. Even then the idea of getting
even somehow with Carrie was in the back of my mind.

The men did some trap shooting that afternoon, and during dinner Jim
started a discussion about putting women on a clothes allowance and
making them keep within it.

"I can systematise my business," he said, "but I can't systematise my
home. I'm spending more now than I'm getting out of the mill."

Wallie Smith came up to scratch about that time by saying that his
mother raised him with the assistance of a nursemaid, and no governess
and trained nurse nonsense.

"That is why I insist on a trained nurse and a governess," said Carrie
coldly, and took another sip of milk.

They went home that night, and Bill, having seen them into the motors,
came up on the terrace.

"Bully party, old dear," he said enthusiastically. "Have 'em often,
won't you?"

He sat down near me and put a hand over mine. All at once I was sorry
I'd accepted Carrie's invitation. Not that there would be any harm in
seeing Roger again, but because Bill wouldn't like it. The touch of his
warm hand on mine, the quiet of the early summer night after the noise
that had gone before, the scent of the honeysuckle over the pergola, all
combined to soften me.

"I'm glad you had a good time, Bill," I said after a little silence.
"I'm afraid the girls didn't enjoy it much. You men were either golfing
or swimming or shooting, and there wasn't much to do but talk."

Bill said nothing. I thought he might be resentful, and I was in a
softened mood.

"I didn't really mind your staying downstairs the other night with
Carrie," I said. "Bill, do smell the honeysuckle. Doesn't it remind you
of the night you asked me to marry you?"

Still Bill said nothing. I leaned over and looked at him. As usual he
was asleep.

About the middle of the week Roger Waite called me up. We did not often
meet--two or three times in the winter at a ball, or once in a season at
a dinner. Ida Elliott always said he avoided me because it hurt him to
see me. We had been rather sentimental. He would dance once with me,
saying very little, and go away as soon as he decently could directly
the dance was over. Sometimes I had thought that it pleased him to fancy
himself still in love with me, and it's perfectly true that he showed no
signs of marrying. It was rather the thing for the débutantes to go
crazy about Roger. He had an air of knowing such a lot and keeping it
from them.

"Why don't you keep him around?" Ida asked me once. "He's so ornamental.
I'm not strong for tame cats, but I wouldn't mind Roger on the hearthrug
myself."

But up to this time I'd never really wanted anybody on the hearthrug but
Bill. If I do say it, I was a perfectly contented wife until the time
Carrie Smith made her historic effort to revive the past. "Let sleeping
dogs lie" is my motto now--and tame cats too.

Well, Roger called me up, and there was the little thrill in his voice
that I used to think he kept for me. I know better now.

"What's this about going out to Carrie Smith's?" he said over the phone.

"That's all," I replied. "You're invited and I'm going."

"O!" said Roger. And waited a moment. Then:

"I was going on to the polo," he said, "but of course--What's wrong with
Bill and polo?"

"He's going."

"Oh!" said Roger. "Well, then, I think I'll go to Carrie's. It sounds
too good to be true--you, and no scowling husband in the offing!"

"It's--it's rather a long time since you and I had a real talk."

"Too long," said Roger. "Too long by about three years."

That afternoon he sent me a great box of flowers. My conscience was
troubling me rather, so I sent them down to the dinner table. Whatever
happened I was not going to lie about them.

But Bill only frowned.

"I've just paid a florist's bill of two hundred dollars," he grumbled.
"Cut out the American beauties, old dear."

It was not his tone that made me angry. It was his calm assumption that
I had bought the things. As if no one would think of sending me flowers!

"If you would stop sending orchids to silly débutantes when they come
out," I snapped, "there would be no such florist's bills."

One way or another Bill got on my nerves that week. He brought Wallie
Smith home one night to dinner, and Wallie got on my nerves too. I could
remember, when Wallie and Carrie were engaged and we were just married,
how he used to come and talk us black in the face about Carrie.

"How's Carrie, Wallie?" I said during the soup.

"She's all right," he replied, and changed the subject. But later in the
evening, while Bill was walking on the lawn with a cigar, he broke out
for fair.

"Carrie's on a milk diet," he said apropos of nothing. "If she stays on
it another week I'm going to Colorado. She's positively brutal, and she
hasn't ordered a real dinner for anybody for a week."

"Really!" I said.

He got up and towered over me.

"Look here, Clara," he said; "you're a sensible woman. Am I fat? Am I
bald? Am I a doddering and toothless venerable? To hear Carrie this past
few days you'd think I need to wear overshoes when I go out in the
grass."

I rather started, because I'd been looking at Bill at that minute and
wondering if he was getting his feet wet. He had only pumps on.

"It isn't only that she's brutal," he said, "she has soft moments when
she mothers me. Confound it, I don't want to be mothered! She's taken
off eight pounds," he went on gloomily. "And that isn't the worst." He
lowered his voice. "I found her crying over some old letters the other
day. She isn't happy, Clara. You know she could have married a lot of
fellows. She was the most popular girl I ever knew."

Well, I'd known Carrie longer than he had, and of course a lot of men
used to hang round her house because there was always something to do.
But I'd never known that such a lot of them made love to Carrie or
wanted to marry her. She was clever enough to hesitate over Wallie, but,
believe me, she knew she had him cinched before she ran any risk.
However:

"I'm sure you've tried to make her happy," I said. "But of course she
was awfully popular."

I'm not so very keen about Carrie, but the way I felt that week, when it
was a question between a husband and a wife, I was for the wife. "Of
course," I said as Bill came within hearing distance, "it's not easy,
when one's had a lot of attention, to settle down to one man, especially
if the man is considerably older and--and settled."

That was a wrong move, as it turned out. For Bill, who never says much,
got quieter than ever, and announced, just before he went to bed, that
he'd given up the polo game. I was furious. I'd had one or two simple
little frocks run up for Carrie's party, and by the greatest sort of
luck I'd happened on a piece of flowered lawn almost exactly like one
Roger used to be crazy about.

For twenty-four hours things hung in the balance. Bill has a hideous
way of doing what he says he'll do. Roger had sent more flowers--not
roses this time, but mignonette and valley lilies, with a few white
orchids. It looked rather bridey. It would have been too maddening to
have Bill queer the whole thing at the last minute.

But I fixed things at bridge one night by saying that I thought married
people were always better off for short separations, and that I was
never so fond of Bill as when he'd been away for a few days.

"Polo for me!" said Bill.

And I went out during my dummy hand and telephoned Carrie.

I hope I have been clear about the way the thing began. I feel that my
situation should be explained. For one thing, all sorts of silly stories
are going round, and it is stupid of people to think they cannot ask
Roger and me to the same dinners. If Bill would only act like a
Christian, and not roar the moment his name is mentioned, there would be
a chance for the thing to die out. But you know what Bill is.

Well, the husbands left on Saturday morning, and by eleven o'clock Ida,
Alice and I were all at Carrie's. The change in her was simply
startling. She looked like a willow wand. She'd put her hair low on her
neck, and except for a touch of black on her eyelashes, and of course
her lips coloured, she hadn't a speck of makeup on. She'd taken the
pearls out of her ears, too, and she wore tennis clothes and flat-heeled
shoes that made her look like a child.

She was sending the children off in the car as we went up the drive.

"They're off to mother's," she said. "I'll miss them frightfully, but
this is a real lark, girls, and I can't imagine anything more killing to
romance than small children."

She kissed the top of the baby's head, and he yelled like a trooper.
Then the motor drove off, and, as Alice Warrington said, the stage was
set.

"Get your tennis things on," Carrie said. "The men will be here for
lunch."

We said with one voice that we wouldn't play tennis. It was too hot. She
eyed us coldly.

"For heaven's sake," she said, "play up. Nobody asked you to play
tennis. But if you are asked don't say it's too hot. Do any of the
flappers at the club ever find it too hot to play? Sprain an ankle or
break a racket, but don't talk about its being too violent, or that
you've given it up the last few years. Try to remember that for two days
you're in the game again, and don't take on a handicap to begin with."

Well, things started off all right, I'll have to admit that, although
Carrie looked a trifle queer when Harry Delaney, getting out of the
motor that had brought them from the station, held out a baby's rattle
to her.

"Found it in the car," he said. "How are the youngsters anyhow?"

"Adorable!" said Carrie, and flung the rattle into the house.

Roger came straight to me and took both my hands.

"Upon my word, Clara," he said, "this is more luck than I ever expected
again. Do you remember the last time we were all here together?"

"Of course I do." He was still holding my hands and I felt rather silly.
But the others had paired off instantly and no one was paying any
attention.

"I was almost suicidal that last evening. You--you had just told me, you
know."

I withdrew my hands. When a man is being sentimental I like him to be
accurately sentimental. It had been a full month after that house party,
at a dance Carrie gave, that I had told him of my engagement to Bill.
However, I said nothing and took a good look at Roger. He was wonderful.

Why is it that married men lose their boyishness, and look smug and
sleek and domesticated almost before the honeymoon is over? Roger stood
there with his hat in his hand and the hot noon sun shining on him. And
he hadn't changed a particle, except that his hair was grey over his
ears and maybe a bit thinner. He was just as eager, just as boyish,
just as lean as he'd ever been. And positively he was handsomer than
ever.

Bill is plain. He is large and strong, of course, but he says himself
his face must have been cut out with an axe. "Rugged and true," he used
to call himself. But lately, in spite of golf, he had put on weight.

Well, to get on.

Luncheon was gay. Everyone sat beside the person he wanted to sit
beside, and said idiotic things, and Peter Arundel insisted on feeding
Alice's strawberries to her one by one. Nobody talked bills or the high
cost of living. Roger is a capital _raconteur_, and we laughed until we
wept over his stories. I told some of Bill's stock jokes and they went
with a hurrah. At three o'clock we were still at the table, and when
Carrie asked the men if they wanted to run over to the Country Club for
a couple of hours of golf Wilbur Bayne put the question to a vote and
they voted "No" with a roar.

I remember that Harry Delaney said a most satisfactory thing just as
luncheon was over.

"It's what I call a real party," he said. "After a man is thirty or
thereabouts he finds débutantes still thrilling, of course, but not
restful. They're always wanting to go somewhere or do something. They're
too blooming healthy. The last week-end I spent I danced until 4 A. M.
and was wakened at seven-thirty by a fair young flower throwing gravel
through my open window and inviting me to a walk before breakfast!"

"Anyone seen about the place before eleven to-morrow morning," said
Carrie, "will be placed under restraint. For one thing, it would make
the servants talk. They're not used to it."

So far so good. I'll confess freely that if they'd let me alone I'd
never have thought of getting even. But you know Carrie Smith. She has
no reserves. And she had to tell about my party and the way the husbands
behaved.

"Don't glare, Clara," she said. "Your house is nice and your food and
drink all that could be desired. But it was not a hilarious party, and
I'll put it up to the others."

Then and there she told about the swimming and the golf and the
knitting. The men roared. She exaggerated, of course. Bill did not go to
sleep at dinner. But she made a good story of it, and I caught Roger's
eye fixed on me with a look that said plainly that he'd always known I'd
made a mistake, and here was the proof.

We went out into the garden and sat under a tree. But soon the others
paired off and wandered about. Roger and I were left alone, and I was
boiling.

"Don't look like that, little girl," said Roger, bending toward me. "It
hurts me terribly to--to think you are not happy."

He put a hand over mine, and at that moment Alice Warrington turned from
a rosebush she and Peter were pretending to examine, and saw me. She
raised her eyebrows, and that gave me the idea. I put my free hand over
Roger's and tried to put my soul into my eyes.

"Don't move," I said. "Hold the position for a moment, Roger, and look
desperately unhappy."

"I am," he said. "Seeing you again brings it all back. Are they looking?
Shall I kiss your hand?"

I looked over. Alice and Peter were still staring.

"Bend over," I said quickly, "and put your cheek against it. It's more
significant and rather hopeless. I'll explain later."

He did extremely well. He bent over passionately until his head was
almost in my lap, and I could see how carefully his hair was brushed
over a thin place at the crown. Thank goodness, Bill keeps his hair
anyhow!

"How's this?" he said in a muffled voice.

"That's plenty." I'd made up my mind, and I meant to go through with it.
But I felt like a fool. There's something about broad daylight that
makes even real sentiment look idiotic.

He sat up and looked into my eyes.

"There are times," he said, raising his voice, "when I feel I can't
stand it. I'm desperately--desperately unhappy, Clara."

"We must make the best of things," I said, and let my eyes wander toward
Alice and Peter. They had turned and were retreating swiftly through the
garden.

"Now," said Roger, sitting back and smoothing his hair, "what's it all
about?"

So I told him and explained my plan. Even now, when I never want to see
him again, I must admit that Roger is a sport. He never turned a hair.

"Of course I'll do it. It isn't as hard as you imagine. Our meeting like
this revives the old fire. I'm mad about you, recklessly mad, and you're
crazy about me. All right so far. But a thing like that won't throw much
of a crimp into Carrie. Probably she expects it."

"To-night," I explained, "we'll be together, but silent and moody. When
we smile at their nonsense it is to be a forced smile. We're intent on
ourselves. Do you see? And you might go to Carrie after dinner and tell
her you think you'll go. You can't stand being near me. It's too
painful. I'll talk to one of the men too."

He looked rather uncomfortable.

"Oh, I wouldn't do that, Clara. They wouldn't understand."

"Not about you," I retorted coldly. "I'll merely indicate that Bill and
I aren't hitting it off, and that a woman has a right to be happy. Then,
when things happen, they'll remember what I said."

He turned round his wicker chair so that he faced me.

"When things happen?" he said. "What things?"

"When we elope to-morrow night," I replied.

I'm not defending myself. Goodness knows I've gone through all that. I
am merely explaining. And I think Roger deserves part of the blame, but
of course the woman always suffers. If he had only been frank with me at
the time it need never have happened. Besides, I've been back to that
bridge again and again, and with ordinary intelligence and a hammer he
could have repaired it. It is well enough for him to say he didn't have
a hammer. He should have had a hammer.

At the mention of an elopement Roger changed colour, but I did not
remember that until afterward. He came up to scratch rather handsomely,
when he was able to speak, but he insisted that I write the whole thing
to Bill.

"I can tell him afterward," I protested.

"That won't help me if he has beaten me up first. You write him to the
office, so he'll get it Monday morning when he gets back from the game.
If anything should slip up you're protected, don't you see? Tell him
it's a joke and why we're doing it. I--I hope Bill has kept his sense of
humor."

Well, it looked simple enough. We were to act perfectly silly and
moonstruck all the rest of that day and Sunday until we had them all
thoroughly worried. Then on Sunday night we were to steal Wallie's car
and run away in it. The through train stops at a station about four
miles away, at eleven-fourteen at night, and we were to start that way
and then turn around and go to mother's.

We planned it thoroughly, I must say. Roger said he'd get one of the
fellows to cash a check for all the money he had about him. They'd be
sure to think of that when Carrie got my note. And I made a draft of the
note then and there on the back of an old envelope from Roger's pocket.
We made it as vague as possible.

"Dear Carrie," it ran, "by the time you receive this I shall be on my
way to happiness. Try to forgive me. I couldn't stand things another
moment. We only live one life and we all make mistakes. Read Ellen Key
and don't try to follow me. I'm old enough to know my own mind, and all
you have been saying this last few days has convinced me that when a
chance for happiness comes one is a fool not to take it. Had it not been
for you I should never have had my eyes opened to what I've been
missing all this time. I have wasted my best years, but at last I am
being true to myself. CLARA."

"Now," I said, rather viciously I dare say, "let her read that and throw
a fit. She'll never again be able to accuse me of making things dull for
her."

Roger read it over.

"We'd better write Bill's letter," he said, "and get it off. We--it
wouldn't do to have Bill worried, you know."

So we went into the house and wrote Bill's letter. We explained
everything--how stupid they'd all found our party and that this was only
a form of revenge.

"Suppose," Roger said as I sealed it, "suppose they get excited and send
for the police?"

That stumped us. It was one thing to give them a bad night, and
telephone them in the morning that it was a joke and that I'd gone
direct from Carrie's to mother's, which was the arrangement. But Carrie
was a great one for getting in detectives. You remember, the time her
sister was married, that Carrie had a detective in the house for a week
before the wedding watching the presents, and how at the last minute the
sister wanted to marry the detective, who was a good-looking boy, and
they had a dreadful time getting her to the church.

We both thought intently for quite a time.

"We must cut the telephone wire, Roger," I said at length.

Roger was not eager about cutting the telephone. He said he would
probably be shocked to death, although if he could find a pair of rubber
overshoes he'd take the risk.

"It ought to be done the very last thing," he said. "No use rousing
their suspicions early."

We played up hard all afternoon. Roger kissed the lump of sugar he put
in my tea, and went and sulked on the parapet when Peter Arundel came
and sat beside me. Carrie joined him there, and I could see her talking
earnestly to him while Roger looked out over the landscape with eyes
that were positively sombre.

"Having a good time?" said Peter Arundel to me.

"Heavenly, Peter," I replied, looking at Roger. "I didn't believe I
could be so happy."

"Go to it," said Peter. "What's a day or two out of a lifetime."

I turned round and faced him, my hands gripped hard in my lap.

"That's it," I said tensely. "That's the thought that's killing me. One
can only be happy for a day or two."

"Oh, I wouldn't go so far as that," said Peter. "You have a pretty fair
time, you know, Clara. Old Bill's a good sort."

"Oh, Bill!" I said.

"I went to college with Bill. Maybe Bill hasn't any frills, but he's a
real man." He glared at Roger's drooping shoulders. "He's no tailor's
dummy anyhow."

I ignored this.

"Peter," I said in a thin voice, "have you ever read Ellen Key?"

"Not on your life!" said Peter.

I quoted a bit I happened to remember.

"'Nothing is wiser than the modern woman's desire to see life with her
own eyes, not only with those of a husband.'" I sighed.

"If I were Bill," said Peter, "I'd burn that book."

"'Nothing,'" I continued, "'is more true than that souls which are
parted by a lack of perfect frankness never belonged to one another.'"

"Look here," said Peter, and got up; "I think you've lost your mind,
Clara--you and Roger Waite both. Look at him mooning over there. I'd
like to turn the garden hose on him."

I looked at Roger--a long gaze that made Peter writhe.

"'Love's double heartbeat'----" I began. But Peter stalked away,
muttering.

Carrie had left Roger, so I put down my cup and followed him to the
parapet of the terrace.

"Darling!" he said. And then, finding Peter was not with me: "How's it
going?"

"Cracking! They're all worried already."

"We've hardly started. Slip your arm through mine, Clara, and I'll hold
your hand. Dear little hand!" he said. "When I think that instead of
that ring----" Here he choked and kissed my hand. Then I saw that Harry
Delaney was just below the wall.

Carrie's voice broke in on our philandering.

"If," she said coldly, "you two people can be pried apart with a crowbar
for a sufficient length of time, we will motor to Bubbling Spring.
There's just time before dinner."

"I don't think I'll go, Carrie," I said languidly. "I have a headache
and Roger has just offered to read to me. Do you remember how you used
to cure my headaches, Roger?"

"I'd rather not talk about those days, Clara," said Roger in a shaky
voice.

"I wish you two people could see and hear yourselves!" Carrie cried
furiously, and turned on her heel.

"I guess that will hold her for a while," Roger purred. "Clara, you're
an angel and an inspiration. I haven't had such a good time since I had
scarlet fever."

Dinner, which should have been gay, was simply noisy. They were all
worried, and it is indicative of how Carrie had forgotten her pose and
herself that she wore her diamond necklace. Roger had been placed at the
other end of the table from me, but he slipped in and changed the cards.
There were half a dozen dinner guests, but Roger and I ate little or
nothing.

"Act as though the thought of food sickens you," I commanded.

"But I'm starving!"

"I'll have my maid take a tray into the garden later."

In spite of me he broke over at the entrée, which was extremely good.
But everyone saw that we were not eating. The woman on Roger's right, a
visitor, took advantage of a lull in the noise to accuse Roger of being
in love. Ida giggled, but Roger turned to his neighbour.

"I am in love," he said mournfully; "hopelessly, idiotically, madly,
recklessly in love."

"With any particular person?"

"With you," said Roger, who had never seen her before.

She quite fluttered.

"But I am married!"

"Unfortunate, but not fatal," said Roger distinctly, while everyone
listened. "These days one must be true to one's self."

We were awfully pleased with ourselves that evening. I said my head
still ached and I could not dance. Roger and I sat out-of-doors most of
the time, and at eleven o'clock Powell, my maid, brought out a tray of
what was left from dinner and the dance supper. She took it by order to
a small shaded porch off the billiard room, and we found her there with
it.

"Thank you, Powell," I said. But Roger followed her into the house. When
he returned he was grinning.

"Might as well do it right while we're about it," he observed.
"To-morrow morning Powell will go to Carrie and tell her you sat up all
night by the window, and she's afraid you are going to be ill."

In the dusk we shook hands over the tray.

Well, a lot of things happened, such as our overhearing the men in the
billiard room debating about getting poor old Bill on the long distance.

"It isn't a flirtation," said Wilbur Bayne. "I've seen Clara flirting
many a time. But this is different. They're reckless, positively
reckless. When a man as fond of his stomach as Roger lets a whole meal
go by, he's pretty far gone."

Roger bent over, with a part of a squab in his hand.

"Have they bitten!" he said. "They've not only swallowed hook, line and
sinker but they're walking up the bank to put themselves in the basket!"

Well, the next morning it was clear that the girls had decided on a
course and were following it. Although it had been arranged that
everyone was to sleep late, breakfast trays appeared in the rooms at
nine-thirty, with notes asking us to go to church. When I said I had not
slept, and did not care to go, no one went, and when Roger appeared at
eleven the girls surrounded me like a cordon of police.

Roger was doing splendidly. He came up across the tennis court, covered
with dust, and said he had not slept and had been walking since six
o'clock. The men eyed him with positive ferocity.

I'll not go into the details of that day, except to relate a
conversation Ida Elliott and I had after luncheon. She came into my room
and closed the door behind her softly, as if I were ill.

"Well," she said, "I did think, Clara, that if you didn't have any
sense, you would have some consideration for Carrie."

I had been addressing the envelope to Bill, and so I shoved a sheet of
paper over it.

"I'm not going to try to read what you are writing," she said rudely.

"What do you mean about Carrie?"

"She's almost ill, that's all. How could anyone have had any idea that
Roger and you----" She fairly choked.

"Roger and I are only glad to be together again," I said defiantly. Then
I changed to a wistful tone. Just hearing it made me sorry for myself.
"We are old friends; Carrie knew that. It is cruel of you all to--to
spoil the little bit of happiness I can get out of life."

"What about Bill?"

"Bill?" I said vaguely. "Oh--Bill! Well, Bill would never stand in the
way of my being true to myself. He would want me to be happy."

I put my handkerchief suddenly to my eyes, and she gave me a scathing
glance.

"I'm going to telephone Bill," she said. "You're not sane, Clara. And
when you come back to your senses it may be too late."

She flounced out, and I knew she would call Bill if she could. From the
window I could see that Harry Delaney had Roger by the arm and was
walking him up and down. It was necessary, if the fun was to go on, to
disconnect the telephone. I ran down to the library and dropped the
instrument on the floor twice, but when I put it to my ear to see if it
was still working I found it was, for Central was saying: "For the love
of heaven, something nearly busted my eardrum!"

Ida had not come down yet, and the telephone was on a table in the
corner, beside a vase of flowers. When I saw the flowers I knew I was
saved. I turned the vase over and let the water soak into the green cord
that covers the wires. I knew it would short-circuit the telephone, for
once one of the maids at home, washing the floor, had wet the cord, and
we were cut off for an entire day.

During the afternoon I gave Harry Delaney the letter to Bill. Harry was
going to the little town that was the post office to get something for
Carrie.

"You won't forget to mail it, will you, Harry?" I asked in a pathetic
voice.

He read the address and looked at me.

"What are you writing to Bill for, Clara? He'll be home in the morning."

I looked confused. Then I became frank.

"I'm writing him something I don't particularly care to tell him."

He fairly groaned and thrust the thing into his pocket.

"For refined cruelty and absolute selfishness," he said, "commend me to
the woman with nothing to do but to get into mischief."

"Will you promise to mail it?"

"Oh, I'll mail it all right," he said; "but I give you until six o'clock
this evening to think it over. I'm not going to the station until
then."

"To think over what?" I asked, my eyes opened innocently wide. But he
flung away in a fury.

It was rather fun that afternoon. If my party had been dreary on Sunday
it was nothing to Carrie's. They'd clearly all agreed to stay round and
keep Roger and me apart. Everybody sulked, and the men got the Sunday
newspapers and buried themselves in them. Once I caught Roger dropping
into a doze. He had refused the paper and had been playing up well,
sitting back in his chair with his cap over his eyes and gazing at me
until everybody wiggled.

"Roger," I called, when I saw his eyes closing, "are you game for a long
walk?"

Roger tried to look eager.

"Sure," he said.

"Haven't you a particle of humanity?" Carrie demanded. She knew some of
them would have to go along, and nobody wanted to walk. It was boiling.
"He has been up since dawn and he's walked miles."

Roger ignored her.

"To the ends of the world--with you, Clara," he said, and got up.

In the end they all went. It was a tragic-looking party. We walked for
miles and miles, and Carrie was carrying her right shoe when we got
back. It was too late to dress for dinner, and everyone was worn out.
So we went in as we were.

"I'm terribly sorry it's nearly over," I babbled as the soup was coming
in. "It has been the most wonderful success, hasn't it? Ida, won't you
have us all next week? Maybe we can send the husbands to the yacht
races."

"Sorry," said Ida coldly; "I've something else on."

Worried as they were, nobody expected us to run away. How to let them
know what had happened, and put a climax to their discomfiture, was the
question. I solved it at last by telling Powell to come in at midnight
with the sleeping medicine Carrie had given her for me. I knew, when she
found I was not there, she would wait and at last raise the alarm. What
I did not know was that she would come in half an hour early, and cut
off our lead by thirty minutes.

The evening dragged like the afternoon, and so thoroughly was the spice
out of everything for them all, that when I went upstairs at ten-thirty
Ida Elliott was singing Jim's praises to Wilbur Bayne, and Carrie had
got out the children's photographs and was passing them round.

As I went out through the door Roger opened for me, he bowed over my
hand and kissed it.

"Oh, cut it out!" I heard Peter growl, and there was a chorus from the
others.

I had to stop in the hall outside and laugh. It was the last time I
laughed for a good many hours.

By eleven I was ready. Everyone was upstairs, and Carrie had found out
about the telephone by trying to call up her mother to inquire about the
children. I had packed a small suitcase and at Roger's whistle I was to
drop it out the window to him. Things began to go wrong with that, for
just as I was ready to drop it someone rapped at my door. I swung it too
far out, and it caught Roger full in the chest and carried him over
backward. I had just time to see him disappear in the shrubbery with a
sort of dull thud when Alice Warrington knocked again.

She came in and sat on the bed.

"I don't want to be nasty, Clara," she said, "but you know how fond I am
of you, and I don't want you to misunderstand Roger. It's his way to
make violent love to people and then get out. Of course you know he's
being very attentive to Maisie Brown. She's jealous of you now. Somebody
told her Roger used to be crazy about you. If she hears of this----"

"Clara!" said Roger's voice under the window.

Alice rose, with the most outraged face I've ever seen.

"He is positively shameless," she said. "As for you, Clara, I can't tell
you how I feel."

"Clara!" said Roger. "I must speak to you. Just one word."

Alice swept out of the room and banged the door. I went to the window.

"Something seems to have broken in the dratted thing," he said. "It
smells like eau de Cologne. I'm covered with it."

As it developed later it was eau de Cologne. I have never got a whiff of
it since that I don't turn fairly sick. And all of that awful night
Roger fairly reeked with it.

Well, by midnight everything was quiet, and I got downstairs and into
the drive without alarming anyone. Roger was waiting, and for some
reason or other--possibly the knock--he seemed less enthusiastic.

"I hope Harry remembered the letter to Bill," he said. "Whether this
thing is a joke or not depends on the other person's sense of humor.
What in heaven's name made you put scent in your bag?"

He had his car waiting at the foot of the drive, and just as I got in we
heard it thunder.

"How far is it to your mother's?"

"Twelve miles."

"It's going to rain."

"Rain or not, I'm not going back, Roger," I said. "Imagine Bill's
getting that letter for nothing."

He got into the car and it began to rain at once. Everyone knows about
that storm now. We had gone about four miles when the sky fairly opened.
The water beat in under the top and washed about our feet. We drove up
to the hubs in water, and the lights, instead of showing us the way,
only lit up a wall of water ahead. It was like riding into Niagara
Falls. We were pretty sick, I can tell you.

"Why didn't you look at the sky?" I yelled at Roger, above the beating
of the storm. "Bill can always tell when it's going to storm."

"Oh, damn Bill!" said Roger, and the car slid off the road and into a
gully. Roger just sat still and clutched the wheel.

"Aren't you going to do something?" I snapped. "I'm not going to sit
here all night and be drowned."

"Is there anything you could suggest?"

"Can't you get out and push it?"

"I cannot."

But after five minutes or so he did crawl out, and by tying my suitcase
straps round one of the wheels he got the car back into the road. I
daresay I was a trifle pettish by that time.

"I wish you wouldn't drip on me," I said.

"I beg your pardon," he replied, and moved as far from me as he could.

We went on in silence. At last:

"There's one comfort about getting that soaking," he said: "it's washed
that damned perfume off."

There's one thing about Bill, he keeps his temper. And he doesn't raise
the roof when he gets his clothes wet. He rather likes getting into
difficulties, to show how well he can get out of them. But Roger is like
a cat. He always hated to get his feet wet.

"If you had kept the car in the centre of the road you wouldn't have had
to get out," I said shortly.

"Oh, well, if you're going back to first causes," he retorted, "if you'd
never suggested this idiotic thing I wouldn't be laying up a case of
lumbago at this minute."

"Lumbago is middle-aged, isn't it?"

"We're neither of us as young as we were a few years ago."

That was inexcusable. Roger is at least six years older than I am.
Besides, even if it were true, there was no necessity for him to say it.
But there was no time to quarrel, for at that moment we were going
across a bridge over a small stream. It was a river now. The first thing
I knew was that the car shook and rocked and there was a dull groaning
underneath. The next minute we had gone slowly down about four feet and
the creek was flowing over us.

We said nothing at first. The lights went off almost immediately, as
the engine drowned, and there we sat in the flood, and the first thing I
knew I was crying.

"The bridge is broken," said Roger, above the rush of the stream.

"I didn't think you were washing the car," I whimpered. "We'll be
drowned, that's all."

The worst of the storm was over, but as far as I was concerned it might
just as well have been pouring. When Roger got his matches and tried to
light one it only made a sick streak of phosphorescence on the side of
the box. To make things worse, Roger turned round, and where the road
crossed the brow of the hill behind us there was the glow of automobile
lamps. He swore under his breath.

"They're coming, Clara," he said. "That fool of a maid didn't wait until
midnight."

The thought of being found like that, waist-deep in water, drove me to
frenzy. I knew how they'd laugh, how they'd keep on laughing for years.
They'd call us the Water Babies probably, or something equally hateful.
I just couldn't stand the thought.

I got up.

"Let them think we're drowned--anything," I said desperately. "I will
not be found like this."

Roger looked about like a hunted animal.

"There's--there's a house near here on the hill," he said. Afterward I
remembered how he hesitated over it. "We could get up there, I'm pretty
sure."

He looked back.

"They seem to have stopped," he said. "Perhaps the other bridge has
gone."

He lifted me out and set me on the bank. He was not particularly gentle
about it, and I was all he could carry. That's one thing about
Bill--he's as strong as an ox and as gentle as a young gazelle.

Well, we scurried up the bank, the water pouring off us, and I lost a
shoe. Roger wouldn't wait until I found it, but dragged me along,
panting. Suddenly I knew that I hated him with a deadly hatred. The
thought of how nearly I had married him made me shiver.

"I wish you'd let go of me," I said.

"Why? You can't climb alone in the silly clothes you wear."

"Perhaps not, but I don't like you to touch me."

"Oh, if you feel like that----" He let me go, and I almost fell. "You
know, Clara, I am trying hard to restrain myself, but--this is all your
doing."

"I suppose I broke the bridge down," I said bitterly, "and brought on
the rain, and all the rest of it."

"Now I recognise the Clara I used to know," he had the audacity to say,
"always begging the question and shifting the responsibility. For
heaven's sake don't stop to quarrel! They've probably found the car by
this time."

We got to the house and I fell exhausted on the steps. To my surprise
Roger got out a bunch of keys and fitted one to the lock.

"I know these people," he said. "I--I sometimes come out in the fall for
a bit of shooting. Place is closed now."

The interior looked dark and smelled musty. I didn't want to go in, but
it was raining again and there was nothing else to do.

"Better overcome your repugnance and give me your hand," he said. "If we
turn on a light they'll spot us."

Oh, it is all very well to say, looking back, that we should have sat in
the car until we were found, and have carried it all off as a part of
the joke. I couldn't, that's flat. I couldn't have laughed if I'd been
paid to.

We bumped into a square hall and I sat down. It was very quiet all at
once, and the only thing to be heard was the water dripping from us to
the hardwood floor.

"If that's a velvet chair you're on it will be ruined," said Roger's
voice out of the darkness.

"I hope it is. Where is the telephone?"

"There is a telephone closet under the stairs."

"You know a lot about this house. Whose is it?"

"It's the Brown place. You know it."

"Maisie Brown's!"

"Yes." He was quite sullen.

"And you have a key like one of the family! Roger, you are engaged to
her!"

"I was," he said. "The chances are when this gets out I won't be."

I don't know why now, but it struck me as funny. I sat and laughed like
a goose, and the more I laughed the harder Roger breathed.

"You've got to see me through this, Clara," he said at last. "You can't
telephone Carrie--you've fixed all that. But you can get your mother.
Tell her the circumstances and have her send a car for you. I'll stay
here to-night. And if you take my advice you'll meet Bill at the train
to-morrow morning and beat Carrie to it. She'll be in town with a line
of conversation by daybreak."

He found some dry matches and led me to the telephone. Something in the
way I dripped, or because I padded across the floor in one stocking
foot, made him a trifle more human.

"I'll close the curtains and light the log fire," he said. "Things are
bad enough without your taking pneumonia."

The moment I took the receiver off the hook I knew the wires were down
somewhere. I sat for a moment, then I opened the door. Roger was on his
knees lighting the fire. He looked very thin, with his clothes stuck to
him, and the hair that he wore brushed over the bare place had been
washed down, and he looked almost bald.

"Roger," I said, with the calmness of despair, "the wires are down!"

"Hush," said Roger suddenly. "And close that door."

It seemed rather foolish to me at the time. Since they had followed us,
they'd know perfectly well that if Roger was there I was.

_In walked Maisie Brown and about a dozen other people!_

I can still hear the noise they made coming in, and then a silence,
broken by Maisie's voice.

"Why, Roger!" she said.

"Awfully surprising to see you here--I mean, I expect you are surprised
to see me here," said Roger's voice, rather thin and stringy. "The fact
is, I was going by, and--it was raining hard, and I----"

"Then that was your car in the creek?"

"Well, yes," Roger admitted, after a hesitation. He was evidently
weighing every word, afraid of committing himself to anything dangerous.

"I thought you were at Carrie Smith's."

"I was on my way home."

Everybody laughed. It was about a dozen miles to Roger's road home from
Carrie's.

"Come on, now, there's a mystery. Own up," said a man's voice. "Where's
the beautiful lady? Drowned?"

Luckily no one waited for an answer. They demanded how he had got in,
and when he said he had a key they laughed again. Some one told Maisie
she might as well confess. If Roger had a key to the house it required
explanation.

If ever I heard cold suspicion in a girl's voice, it was in Maisie's
when she answered:

"Oh, we're engaged all right, if that's what you mean," she said. "But I
think Roger and I----"

They didn't give her a chance to finish, the idiots! They gave three
cheers, and then, as nearly as I could make out, they formed a ring and
danced round them. They'd been to a picnic somewhere, and as the bridges
were down they were there for the night.

Do you think they went to bed?

Not a bit of it. They found some canned things in a pantry, and fixed
some hot drinks and drank to Maisie and Roger. And I sat in the
telephone closet and tried not to sneeze.

I sat there for two hours.

About two o'clock I heard Maisie say she would have to telephone home,
and if a totally innocent person can suffer the way I did I don't know
how a guilty one could live. But Roger leaped in front of her.

"I'll do it, honey," he said. "I--I was just thinking of telephoning."

They were close to the door.

"Don't call me honey," Maisie said in a tense voice. "I know about
Carrie Smith's party and who was there. After the way Clara has schemed
all these years to get you back, to have you fall into a trap like that!
It's sickening!"

She put her hand on the knob of the door.

"Listen, darling," Roger implored. "I--I don't care a hang for anyone
but you. I'm perfectly wretched. I----"

He pulled her hand off the knob of the door and I heard him kiss it.

"Let me call your mother," he said. "She'll know you are all right when
I'm here."

Well, I had to listen. The idea of her saying I'd tried to get him back,
when everybody knows how he carried on when I turned him down! I hadn't
given him a thought for years.

"Did you make love to Clara?"

"Certainly not. Look here, Maisie, you can afford to be magnanimous.
Clara's a nice woman, but she's years older than you are. You know who
loves you, don't you?"

Positively he was appealing. He sounded fairly sick.

"Get mother on the wire," said Maisie curtly. "Then call me. I'll talk
to her."

Roger opened the door as soon as she had gone and squeezed in beside me.

"She's coming to telephone. You'll have to go somewhere else, Clara," he
said.

"Where, for instance?"

"I may be able to collect them in the pantry. Then you can run across
and get out the door."

"Into the rain?"

"Well, you can't stay here, can you?"

"I'll do nothing of the sort. Go and tell her the wires are down. They
are. And then get that crowd of flappers upstairs. If they go the men
will. I give you ten minutes. At the end of that time I'm coming out to
the fire. I'm cold."

"And after they go up, what?"

"Then you're going into somebody's room to steal me a pair of dry shoes.
Get Maisie's, she's about my size. We'll have to walk to mother's."

"I can't leave, Clara. If anything happened and I was missing----"

When I said nothing he knew I was in earnest. He went out and told them
the telephone was out of order, and somehow or other he shooed them
upstairs. I opened the door of the telephone closet for air, and I
could hear them overhead, ragging Roger about the engagement and how he
happened to get to Maisie's when it was so far from his road home. Every
time I thought they were settled, some fool of a boy or giggling
débutante would come down again and look for soap, or towels, or
matches, or heaven knows what. I could have strangled the lot of them.

By three o'clock it was fairly quiet, and I crept out and sat by the log
fire. If I had had a shoe I would have started off then and there. I'm
no coward and I was desperate. But I couldn't go in my silk stockings.
And when after a while Roger slipped down the stairs he had no shoes for
me.

"I've tried all the girls' doors," he said wretchedly, "and they're
locked. Couldn't you tie a towel round your foot, or something? I'm
going to get into trouble over this thing yet. I feel it."

"Go up and bring me little Teddy Robinson's shoes," I snapped. "It won't
compromise you to go into his room, I daresay."

"What if he's not asleep?"

"Tell him you're going to clean them. Tell him anything. And, Roger,
don't let Maisie pull the _ingénue_ stunt on you. I may be years older
than she is, but Maisie's no child."

Well, with everyone gone and Roger hunting me some boots, I felt rather
better. I went to the pantry and fixed some hot milk and carried it in
to drink by the fire. Roger came down with the boots, and to save time
he laced them on my feet while I sat back and sipped.

That, of course, in spite of what Bill pretends to think, is why Roger
was on his knees before me when Peter walked in.

Oh, yes, Peter Arundel walked in! It just shows the sort of luck I
played in that night. He walked in and slammed the door.

"Thank heaven!" he said, and stalked over to me and jerked the cup out
of my hand. "You pair of idiots!" he fairly snarled. "What sort of an
escapade is this anyhow?"

"It--it's a joke, Peter," I quavered. He stared at me in speechless
scorn. "Positively it is a joke, Peter."

"I daresay," he said grimly. "Perhaps to-morrow I may see it that way.
The question is, will Bill think it's a joke?"

He looked round, and luckily for me he saw all the girls' wraps lying
about.

"If the family's here, Clara," he said in a milder voice, "I--I may be
doing you an injustice."

Roger had not said a word. He was standing in front of the fire,
watching the stairs.

"When we found the note," Peter went on in his awful booming voice,
"saying you were going at last to be true to yourself, and when you and
Roger had disappeared, what were we to think? Especially after the way
you two had fallen into each other's arms from the moment you met."

"How interesting!" said a voice from the staircase.

It was Maisie!

Well, what's the use of going into it again? She gave Roger his ring
instantly, and Roger was positively grey. He went back on me without a
particle of shame--said I'd suggested the whole thing and begged him to
help me; that he'd felt like a fool the whole time.

"Maisie, darling," he said, "surely you know that there's nobody in all
the world for me but you."

He held out the ring to her, but she shook her head.

"I'm not angry--not any more," she said. "I've lost my faith in you,
that's all. One thing I'm profoundly grateful for--that you and Clara
had this--this explosion before we were married and not after."

"Maisie!" he cried.

All at once I remembered Bill's letter, which would positively clear us.
But Peter said Harry Delaney's coat had been stolen from the machine,
letter and all! Maisie laughed at that, as if she didn't believe there
had been such a letter, and Roger went a shade greyer. All at once it
came to me that now Bill would never forgive me. He is so upright, Bill
is, and he expects everyone to come up to his standard. And in a way
Bill had always had me on a pedestal, and he would never believe that I
had been such a fool as to jump off for a lark.

Maisie turned and walked upstairs, leaving the three of us there, Roger
holding the ring and staring at it with a perfectly vacant face. At last
he turned and went to the door.

"Where are you going, Roger?" I asked helplessly.

"I'm going out to drown myself," he said, and went out.

I shall pass over the rest briefly. Peter took me home in his car. I did
not go to mother's. For one thing, the bridge was down. For another, it
seemed better for Bill and me to settle things ourselves without family
interference.

I went home and went to bed, and all day Monday I watched for Bill.
Powell came over and I put on my best negligée and waited, with a water
bottle to keep my feet warm and my courage up.

He did not come.

I stayed in bed for three days, and there was not a sign from him.
Carrie and Ida telephoned, but only formal messages, and Alice
Warrington sent me a box of flowers with her card. But Bill did not
come home or call up. I knew he must be staying at the club, and I had
terrible hours when I knew he would never forgive me, and then there
would be a divorce, and I wanted to die. Roger never gave a sign, but he
had not drowned himself.

Wednesday evening came, and no Bill. By that time I knew it was Bill or
nobody for me. After those terrible two days at Carrie's, the thought of
Bill's ugly, quiet face made me perfectly homesick for him. I didn't
care how much he fell asleep in the evening after dinner. That only
showed how contented he was. And I tried to imagine being married to
Roger, and seeing him fuss about his ties, and brush the hair over the
thin places on top of his head, and I simply couldn't.

It was Wednesday evening when I heard a car come up the drive. I knew at
once that it was Bill. I had barely time to turn out all the lights but
the pink-shaded one by the bed, and to lay a handkerchief across my
eyes, when he came in.

"Well, Clara," he said, standing just inside the door, "I thought we'd
better talk this over."

"Bill!" I said, from under the handkerchief.

"I should have come out sooner," he said without moving, "but at first I
could not trust myself. I needed a little time."

"Who told you?"

"That doesn't matter, does it? Everybody knows it. But that's not the
question. The real issue is between you and me and that--that
nincompoop, Waite."

"What has Roger got to do with it?" I looked out from under the
handkerchief, and he was livid, positively.

"Bill," I said desperately, "will you come over and sit down on the side
of the bed and let me tell you the whole story?"

"I won't be bamboozled, Clara; this is serious. If you've got anything
to say, say it. I'll sit here."

He sat down just inside the door on a straight chair and folded his long
arms. It was a perfectly hopeless distance.

"Bill!" I said appealingly, and he came over and sat, very
uncompromising and stiff, on the side of the bed. I put out my hand, and
after a moment's hesitation he took it, but I must say without
enthusiasm. I felt like the guiltiest wretch unhung. That's what makes
me so perfectly furious now.

"You see, Bill," I said, "it was like this." And I told him the whole
thing. About halfway through he dropped my hand.

"It's been an awful lesson, Bill," I ended up. "I'll never say a word
again about your enjoying yourself the way you want to. You can swim and
play golf and shoot all you like, and--and sleep after dinner, if
you'll only forgive me. Bill, suppose I had married Roger Waite!"

He drew a long breath.

"So that was it, old dear!" he said. "Well, all right. We'll put the
whole thing in the discard." And he leaned over and put his arms round
me.

       *       *       *       *       *

That ought to be the end of the story. I'd had a lesson and so had some
of the others. As Carrie Smith said afterward, to have a good time is
one thing, but to be happy is entirely different, and the only way to be
happy is to be smug and conventional and virtuous. I never say anything
when she starts that line of conversation. But once or twice I've caught
her eye, and she has had the grace to look uneasy.

But that's not all. There is more to the story, and now and then I eye
Bill, and wonder when he will come and tell me the whole thing. For the
other day, in the back of Bill's chiffonier, I came across the letter to
him Harry Delaney said he had lost. And Bill had received it Monday
morning!

That is not all. Clamped to it was a note from Peter Arundel, and that
is why I am writing the whole story, using names and everything. It was
a mean trick, and if Bill wants to go to Maisie Brown's wedding he can
go. I shall not.

This is Peter's note:

     "_Dear Old Man_: Inclosed is the letter Clara gave Delaney to mail,
     which I read to you last night over the long-distance phone. I'm
     called away or I'd bring it round.

     "It was easy enough for you to say not to let Clara get away with
     it, but for a time during the storm it looked as if she'd got the
     bit and was off. Luckily their car got stuck in the creek, and the
     rest was easy. We saw them, during a flash of lightning, climbing
     the hill to the Brown place for shelter. Luck was with us after
     that, for Maisie and a crowd came along, and we told Maisie the
     story. I take my hat off to Maisie. She's a trump. If you could
     have seen Roger Waite's face when she gave him back the ring!
     Carrie, who was looking through the windows with the others, was so
     sorry for him that she wanted to go in and let him cry on her
     shoulder.

     "I hope Clara didn't take cold. She must have been pretty wet. But
     you were quite right. It wasn't only that she'd have had the laugh
     on all of us if she got away with it. As you said, it would be a
     bad precedent.

     "Burn this, for the love of Mike. If Clara sees it she'll go crazy.

     "Yours,

     "PETER."



THE BORROWED HOUSE


I

"And the things the balloon man said!" observed Daphne, stirring her
tea. Daphne is my English cousin, and misnamed. "He went too high and
Poppy's nose began to bleed."

"It poured," Poppy confirmed plaintively to me. "I leaned over the edge
of the basket and it poured. And the next day the papers said it had
rained blood in Tooting and that quantities of people had gone to the
churches!" Poppy is short and wears her hair cut close and curled with
an iron all over her head. She affects plaids.

"Then," Daphne went on, addressing the room in general, "he let some gas
out of the bag and we began to settle. But just when we were directly
over the Tower he grew excited and threw out sand. He said he wasn't
going to hang his balloon on the Houses of Parliament like a penny
ornament on a Christmas tree. And then the wind carried us north and we
missed it altogether."

Mrs. Harcourt-Standish took a tea-cake. "I was sea-sick," she remarked
pensively, "and he was unpleasant about that, too. It was really
mountain sickness, although, of course, there wasn't any mountain. When
we began to throw out the handbills he asked if I had swallowed _them_,
too."

Mrs. Harcourt-Standish plays up the feminine. She is slim and blond, and
wears slinky clothes and a bang--only they call it a fringe--across her
forehead. She has been in prison five times and is supposed to have
influence with the Cabinet. She showed me a lot of photographs of
herself in the dock and in jail, put up in a frame that was made to
represent a barred window. It was Violet Harcourt-Standish, you
remember, who broke up the meeting of the Woman's Liberty League, the
rival Suffragette association, by engaging the suite below their rooms,
burning chemicals in the grates, and sending in a fire alarm when the
smoke poured out of the windows.

I had been in England visiting Daphne for four months while Mother went
to Italy, and I had had a very queer time. One was apt to go shopping
with Daphne and end up on a carriage block or the box of a hansom cab,
passing out handbills about votes for women. And once, when we dressed
in our best gowns and went to a reception for the Cabinet, or something
of the kind, Daphne stood on the stairs and began to make a speech. It
turned out that she hadn't been invited at all and they put her out
immediately--politely, but firmly. I slid away into the crowd, quite
pale with the shock and disgrace, and stood in a corner, waiting to be
arrested and searched for the spoons. But for a long time no one noticed
me. Then a sunburned gentleman who was passing in the crowd saw me,
hesitated and came back.

"I beg pardon," he said, and my heart turned entirely over, "but I think
you came with Miss Wyndham? If you will allow me----"

"I am afraid you have made a mistake," I replied frigidly, with my lips
stiff with fright. He bowed at that and passed on, but not before he had
looked straight into my eyes and read the lie there.

After ages I left the window where I had taken shelter and got somehow
to the dressing-room. Of course, Daphne had taken the carriage, so I
told a sad-eyed maid that I was ill and would not wait for my brougham,
and to call a cab. I was perfectly numb with rage when I got to Daphne's
apartment, and burst in like a whirlwind. But Daphne was not at home.
She came in at three that morning, maudlin with triumph, and found me
asleep on the floor in my ball-gown, with a half-packed trunk before me.

She brought me tea and toast herself the next morning and offered it on
her knees, which means something for Daphne--she is very stout and
almost unbendable--and explained that I had been her patent of
respectability, and that it had been a _coup_; that Mrs. Langley, of the
Woman's Liberty League, had hired as a maid for the reception and had
never got her foot out of the dressing-room! Red hair? Yes. And when I
told Daphne that Mrs. Langley had helped me into my wrap she got up
heavily and hopped three steps one way and three another, which is the
way Daphne dances with joy.

I am afraid I have digressed. It is much harder to write a thing than to
tell it. I used to write stories for our Journal at school and the girls
were mad over them. But they were love stories, and this one deals with
English politics and criminals--yes, you might call it a crime story. Of
course there is love, too, but it comes in rather unexpectedly.

I left Daphne hopping three steps each way in triumph. Well, after that
she did not take me around with her, although her friends came in and
talked about The Cause to me quite often. And gradually I began to see
that there was something to it, and why, if I paid taxes, shouldn't I
vote? And hadn't I as much intelligence as the cab drivers and street
sweepers? And why couldn't I will my money to my children if I ever had
any?--children, not money. Of course, as Father pointed out afterward, I
should have been using my abilities in America; but most of the
American women I knew were so cravenly and abjectly contented. But even
after my conversion Daphne would not take me in the balloon. She said I
represented too much money to risk dumping in the Thames or hanging on a
chimney.

The meeting at Daphne's was mainly to talk over the failure of the
balloon ascension and to plan something new. But the actual conspiracy
that followed was really an accident. It came about in the most casual
way.

Violet Harcourt-Standish got up and went to the mirror to put on her
veil, and some of the people began to gather their wraps.

"I'm tired," Daphne said suddenly. "We don't seem to get anywhere. We
always come out the door we go in."

"Sometimes forcibly," Poppy said to me aside.

"And I haven't been strong, you know, since last summer," Daphne went
on. Everybody nodded sympathetically. Daffie had raised a disturbance
when Royalty was laying a cornerstone and had been jailed for it. (They
put her to making bags and she sewed "Votes for Women" in white thread
on every bag she made.) "I am going to take Madge down to Ivry for a
week." I am Madge.

Violet turned from the mirror and raised her eyebrows. "Ivry!" she said.
"How familiar it sounds! Do you remember, Daphne, when pressure at the
Hall became too strong for me, how I used to ride over to Ivry and have
hysterics in the Tudor Room? And how once I wept on your Louis-Seize
divan and had to have the purple stains bleached off my face? You lived
a sort of vicarious matrimonial existence in those days, didn't you?"

Whatever she may have done to the Louis-Seize divan in earlier days, she
was cheerful enough now, and I hailed her with delight.

"Do you live near Ivry?" I exclaimed. "How jolly! That is English; I am
frightfully English in my speech after a few weeks in London."

Somebody laughed and Daphne chuckled. It isn't especially feminine to
chuckle, but neither is Daphne.

"My dear child," Mrs. Harcourt-Standish said, turning to me, "Harcourt
Hall is closed. Mr. Harcourt is no longer my husband. The one is empty,
the other in Canada"--vague, but rhetorical--"I have forgotten them
both." There was nothing ambiguous about that. "I recall the house as
miles from everything that was joyful. I shall always regard my being
taken there as nothing short of kidnapping."

Then--she stopped short and glanced at Daphne. From Daphne her eyes
travelled to Ernestine Sutcliffe, who put down her teacup with a
clatter. There was a sudden hushed silence in the room; then Lady Jane
Willoughby, who had been tying her motor veil, took it off and folded it
in her lap. The Staffords, Poppy and her mother, exchanged glances.
Without in the least understanding it I saw that something psychological
was happening.

"Why not?" said Daphne quietly, looking around. "The house is still
furnished, isn't it, Violet? And I suppose you could get in?"

Violet shrugged her shoulders. "I dare say; as I recall it, one could
enter any one of the doors by merely leaning against it. The place is a
million years old."

Everybody talked at once for a few minutes. I gave up trying to
understand and took a fresh tea-cake. Then I noticed Lady Willoughby. In
all that militant body, whatever adventure was afoot, hers was the only
craven soul. She was picking at her veil with nervous fingers.

"I--don't you think it is very radical?" she ventured when she could be
heard. Here Mrs. Stafford objected to the word "radical," and she
substituted "revolutionary." "I should not wish anything to happen to
him. He was a great friend of Willoughby's mother while she lived."

"That's all right among ourselves, Jane," Mrs. Stafford put in, "but if
I recall the circumstances I wouldn't lay any emphasis on _that_.
Anyhow, we don't intend to murder the man."

Lady Jane was only partially reassured. "Of course, you wouldn't mean
to," she retorted, "but there is no use asking me to forget what Poppy
Stafford did to the president of the Board of Trade last summer."

Poppy glanced up and shook her curls. "You are envious, Willieboy," she
said, and put four lumps of sugar in her tea. "Willieboy" is Lady
Willoughby's affectionate diminutive. They had started the tea all over
again and I rather edged away from Poppy, but Daphne said afterward it
was only a matter of a chair Poppy threw from the gallery at a public
meeting, and that the man it fell on was only a secretary to the
president of the Board of Trade.

Finally, I made out what the plan was, and mentally during the rest of
the meeting I was making bags in jail.

_They were going to abduct the Prime Minister!_

Lady Jane had stopped looking back and had put her hand to the plow.
(This sounds well, so I won't cut it out; but wasn't it Lot's wife that
looked back? And wasn't that before the day of plows? Or was it?) And it
was she who finally settled the whole thing, for it seems that the P. M.
had confided to Lord Willoughby that the town was so noisy with
Suffragettes that he could not find a quiet spot for a rubber of
bridge; that since the balloon incident he slept in his clothes with the
windows shut and locked; and that since the latest kitchen-maid had
turned out to be the Honourable Maude Twombley, who slipped handbills
into his entrées and served warnings in his dessert, he was going to
travel, incognito and alone, to his daughter's place, The Oaks, outside
of West Newbury, and get a little sleep.

And West Newbury was only four miles from the empty Harcourt Hall! In
short, as Daphne succinctly put it: "Our Jonah was about to jump
voluntarily overboard from the ship of state into the whaleboned jaws of
the Suffragette whale."

Everybody went mad at that point, but as they grew excited I got cold.
It began with my toes and went all over me.

Ernestine Sutcliffe stood on one of Daphne's tulip-wood and marquetry
chairs and made a speech, gesticulating with her cup and dripping tea on
me. And then somebody asked me to stand up and say what I thought. (I
have never really spoken in public, but I always second the motions in a
little club I belong to at home. It is a current-events club--so much
easier to get the news that way than to read the newspaper.)

So I got up and made a short speech. I said: "I am only a feeble voice
in this clamour of outraged womanhood against the oppressor, Man. I
believe in the franchise for women, the ballot instead of the ballet.
But at home, in America, when we want to take a bath we don't jump off
the Brooklyn Bridge into the East River to do it."

Then I sat down. Daphne was raging.

"You are exceedingly vulgar," she said, "but since you insist on that
figure of speech, you in America have waited a long time for the bath,
and if you continue your present methods you won't get it before you
need it."


II

Now that they had thought of it, they were all frantic for fear Mrs.
Cobden-Fitzjames and the Woman's Liberty League might think of it, too,
kidnap the Prime Minister, and leave us a miserable president of the
Local Government Board or a wretched under-secretary of something or
other.

The plan we evolved before the meeting broke up was to send a wire to
Mrs. Gresham, the Premier's daughter, that he had been delayed, and to
meet a later train. Then, Daphne's motor would meet the proper train--he
was to arrive somewhere between seven and eight in the evening--carry
his Impressiveness to Harcourt Hall and deliver him into the hands of
the enemy. As Violet Harcourt-Standish voiced it: the motor gone, the
railway miles away, what can he do? He will keep awake, because he will
have slept in the train going down, and we can give him a cold supper.
Nothing heavy to make him drowsy. Perhaps it would be better not to give
him anything. (Hear! Hear!) Then, six speeches, each an hour long. At
the end of that time we can promise him something to eat and a machine
to take him to West Newbury on one condition. Every one looked up. "He
must sign an indorsement of Suffrage for Women." (Loud applause.)

"Why not have a table laid," I suggested, "and show it to him? Let him
smell it, so to speak. Visualise your temptation. You know,--'And the
devil----'"

"This is the Prime Minister, Madge," Daphne broke in shortly, "and you
are not happy in your Scriptural references."

Things went along with suspicious smoothness. Daphne really took the
onus of the whole thing, and, of course, I helped her.

We all got new clothes, for everybody knows that if you can attract a
man's eye you can get and maybe hold his ear. And Daphne wrote a fresh
speech, one she had thought out in jail. It began, "Words! Words!!
Words!!!" She wrote a poem, too, called the Song of the Vote, with the
meter of the Song of a Shirt, and she wanted me to recite it, but even
before I read it I refused.

The gown Mother had ordered for me at Paquin's on her way to the Riviera
came just in time, a nice white thing over silver, with a square-cut
neck and bits of sleeves made of gauze and silver fringe. Daphne got a
pink velvet, although she is stout and inclined to be florid. She had
jet butterflies embroidered over it, a flight of them climbing up one
side of her skirt and crawling to the opposite shoulder, so that if one
stood off at a distance she had a curiously diagonal appearance, as if
she had listed heavily to one side.

By hurrying we got to Ivry on Thursday evening, and I was in a blue
funk. Daphne was militantly cheerful, and, in the drawing-room after
dinner, she put the finishing touches to her speech. It was warm and
rainy, and I wandered aimlessly around, looking at hideous English
photographs and wondering if picking oakum in an English jail was worse
than making bags--and if they could arrest me, after all. Could they
touch an American citizen? (But was I an American citizen? Perhaps I
should have been naturalised, or something of that kind!) And I thought
of Mother at Florence, in the villa on the Via Michelangelo--Mother, who
classes Suffragists with Anti-Vaccinationists and Theosophists.

I would have gone up to bed, but that meant a candle and queer, shaky
shadows on the wall; so I stayed with Daphne and looked at the picture
of a young man in a uniform.

"Basil Harcourt," Daphne said absently, with a pen in her mouth, when I
asked about it. "Taken years ago before he became an ass. How do you
spell 'Supererogation'?"

"I haven't an idea," I admitted. "I don't even know what it means. I
always confuse it with 'eleemosynary'." Daphne grunted. "Do you mean
that this is Violet's husband?"

"It was--her first. Don't ask me about him: he always gives me
indigestion. The man's mad! He stood right in this room, where he had
eaten my ginger-cakes all his life and where he came to show me his
first Eton collar and long trousers, and told me that he expected The
Cause for his wife to be himself, and if she would rather raise hell for
women than a family of children she would have to choose at once. And
Violet stood just where you are, Madge, and retorted that maternity was
not a Cause, and that any hen in the barnyard could raise a family.

"'I suppose you want to crow,' Basil said furiously, and slammed out. He
went to Canada very soon after."

"Then perhaps he won't like our using his house for such a purpose. If
he isn't in sympathy----"

"Twaddle," Daphne remarked, poising her pen to go on. "In the first
place, it isn't a house--it's a rattletrap; and in the second place, he
won't know a thing about it."

It was all very tragic. I was thinking of them when I went out on the
terrace in Daphne's mackintosh. The air was damp and sticky, but it was
better than Daphne's conversation. I stood in the fountain court,
leaning against a column and listening to the spray as it blew over on
to the caladium leaves.

I am not sure just when I saw the figure. First it was part of the
gloom, a deeper shadow in the misty garden. I saw it, so to speak, out
of the tail of my eye. When I looked directly there was nothing there.
Finally, I called softly over my shoulder to Daphne, but she did not
hear. Instead, the shadow disengaged itself, moved forward and resolved
into Bagsby, Daphne's chauffeur.

"I wasn't sure at first that you saw me, Miss," he said, touching his
cap. "It's my turn until midnight; Clarkson 'as it until three, and the
gardener until daylight."

"Good gracious!" I gasped. "Do you mean you are guarding the house?"

"Perhaps it's more what you would call surveillance," he said
cautiously, "the picture gallery being over your head, Miss, and an easy
job from the conservatory roof. We 'aven't told Miss Wyndham, yet, Miss,
but the Wimberley Romney was stolen from the Towers last night, Miss,
and the whole countryside is up."

"The Romney?" I inquired. "Do you mean a painting?"

"Yes, Miss," he said patiently. "Cut out of its frame, and worth twenty
thousand pounds! By a gentlemanly-looking chap--a tourist by
appearances, with a bicycle, in tweeds and knickers, Miss."

Whether the bicycle or the tourist wore tweeds and knickers was not
entirely clear. Bagsby was saying that the thief was supposed to be
hiding on the moor when Daphne came out, and he disappeared.

Poppy Stafford and Ernestine came unexpectedly late that night after I
had gone to bed. I was in my first sleep and dreaming that Poppy was
braining Bagsby with a gilt-framed painting, and that he was shouting
"Votes for Women" instead of "'elp!" when somebody knocked at my door.
It turned out to be Poppy, and she said she thought there was a bat in
her room, and as she was quite pallid with fright I let her get into my
bed. I was full of my dream and I wanted to ask her some particulars
about the man she had brained the summer before. But she put her head
under the sheet, and as soon as she stopped trembling she went to sleep.

Daphne called me early and we went over to the Hall to take a look
around. As Daphne said, it would be night and the grounds would not
matter, but we would have to uncover some of the furniture. And as we
could not let the servants know, we had to do it ourselves. We took a
brush and pan, and tore up a linen sheet to dust with. Bagsby, who had
been bribed, and suspected what he wasn't told, got the brush and pan,
and later he showed us a pail and a piece of soap in the tonneau.

The place was dreadful. No doubt the park had been lovely, but it was
overshadowed and overgrown. The hedges were untrimmed; paths began,
wandered around and died in a mess of undergrowth; and the terrace had
lost an end in a wilderness where a garden-house was falling to decay.
The fading outlines of the kitchen garden seemed to shout aloud of lost
domesticity, and over everything lay a sodden layer of the previous
autumn's leaves. (For fear I am accused of plagiarism, the sentence
about the kitchen garden is not original. Madge.)

Daphne had got a key somewhere, and inside it was worse. Coverings over
the pictures and furniture, six years' dust everywhere, and a smell of
mould like a crypt of one of the Continental cathedrals, only not so
ancestor-y. While we were taking off the covers, with Bagsby's help,
Daphne alternately sang and coughed in the dust.

"Why aren't you more cheerful?" she demanded. "It will be a red-letter
day for The Cause. When I think of Mabel Fitzjames I almost weep!"

"I think it must be because I am not used to it," I said meekly. "You
see, I come from a Republican country--and Democratic, too, of
course--and we don't have any Prime Ministers to steal. One has to grow
accustomed to things like this gradually, Daffie, or be born to them.
And then--I lay awake most of last night, wondering what would happen if
he didn't--er--see the joke, you know."

Daphne jerked a cover from a moth-eaten sofa and sneezed promptly in the
dust.

"Joke!" she repeated when she could speak. "No, I don't think he will
see the joke. In fact, I don't believe he will think there is any joke
to see. If I know anything, he is going to be wild. He's going to tear
his hair and throw the vases off the mantel. He's going to use language
that you never heard--at least, I hope not."

It was then that I realised that I was not, heart and soul, a
Suffragist. If I had only had the courage to have spoken up then, to
have told her that I didn't feel The Cause the way I ought to, and that
I hoped to get married and have dozens of children, and that, anyhow, I
had a headache and I thought I ought to go on to Italy and meet Mother!
But, instead, I followed her around like a sheep, tacking up cards with
Suffrage mottoes on them all over the drawing-room, and stretching a
long canvas banner in the hall across the back of a great Gothic
hall-seat, with "Votes for Women" in red letters on it.

Bagsby brushed out a sort of oasis in the middle of the drawing-room and
a path to the door, and Daphne and I dusted seven chairs and a table. We
had brought over a duplex lamp and some candles, and when we had put a
cover on the table the middle of the room looked quite habitable. Then
Bagsby brushed the leaves off the steps, and as Daphne pleasantly
expressed it:

    _Won't you step into my parlor?
    Said the spider to the fly._

Mrs. Stafford, Violet and Lady Jane arrived that afternoon, after having
waited to send the wire on which the conspiracy was hung. They put
themselves into negligees and the hands of their maids at once, and were
still dressing when Ernestine and I, the advance guard, started with the
hamper of cold supper at half after six. Things went wrong from that
moment.

Ernestine started to recite her speech to me as we went down the drive,
found she had forgotten everything but the first sentence, which began,
like The Walrus and the Carpenter, "The time has come----" and had to go
back for the manuscript. We had to leave her for the second trip.
Bagsby, who was in the conspiracy to the extent of five pounds, took me
over alone and lighted the duplex lamp. He cut the telephone wire, also,
by Daphne's order, before he left. We were not leaving anything to
chance, although the thing had probably been disconnected for years.

"I 'ardly like to leave you 'ere alone, Miss," he said when everything
was ready. It was growing dark by that time and raining again. "Folks is
always ready to give a hempty 'ouse a black eye, so to speak. The 'All
ghost isn't what you might call authenticated, but the 'ouse isn't
'abitable for a lady alone, Miss."

"I am not at all nervous," I quavered as he went down the steps.
"Only--please tell them to hurry, Bagsby."

I called to him again as he climbed into the car.

"Oh, Bagsby," I said nervously, "I--I suppose there is no danger of the
picture thief being around."

"Not for pictures, anyhow, Miss," he returned jocularly, and started
off.

_Not for pictures, anyhow!_

I stood at the door and watched the tail light of the motor disappear
down the drive, show for an instant a spark by the dilapidated lodge and
then go out entirely.

       *       *       *       *       *

The second part of the story begins about here. The first part, as you
have seen, has been purely political: the rest is romance, intermingled
with crime. It is a little late to bring in a hero, but to have done it
earlier would have spoiled the story, besides being distinctly
untruthful. And I suppose a real novelist would have had the hero turn
out to be the sunburned gentleman of some pages before; but the fact is
he wasn't, and I never saw the sunburned gentleman again.

Well, after Bagsby left, and I had examined the supper in the hamper and
lighted more candles in the drawing-room, I began to wish we had not cut
the telephone wire so soon. It was perfectly dark, and any one could
step in through the windows--open to air the house--and cut my throat
and take my string of pearls which Father had had matched for me and
walk away calmly and be safe ten feet from the house in the undergrowth.
And then Bagsby's ghost began to walk in my mind and I quite lost sight
of the fact that it was not authenticated.

It was blowing by that time, and every joint of the rheumatic old house
creaked and groaned. The candles flickered and nearly went out, and the
motto cards began to fly around the room as if carried by invisible
fingers. One of them said, "You have been weighed and found wanting,"
and another one, "Beware!" They had all the effect of spirit messages
on me. When I tried to close the windows I found them stuck in their
dilapidated frames. I wanted desperately to hide in a corner behind one
of the high-backed chairs, but it was dusty there and hardly dignified
for a person who was abducting the Prime Minister. And then it would be
ignominious to faint there and have some one peer over the back and say:
"Why, here she is!"

So, to divert my mind from ghosts and gentlemen burglars who steal
pictures, I began to investigate the hamper. There were _pâté_ and salad
and sandwiches and quite a lot of stuff. But all at once I remembered
that Daphne had given me the small silver and that I had laid it on my
bed and left it there. And most of the provisions were too messy for a
P.M. to manage with his fingers. Luckily, I remembered something Violet
had said when Daphne gave me the silver.

"Personally," she had announced, "I am not in favor of feeding him at
all. Or else I would give him prison fare. But if you're going to be
mushy over him you'll probably find some dishes and forks in a little
closet over the dining-room fireplace. They were kept there to use if
Basil ever went down for the shooting, and I dare say they are still
there."

So I picked up a candle and trembled through the darkness toward where
the breakfast-room ought to be. I went through a square garden-hall
which shook when I did, and the motor coat around my shoulders made the
shadow of a pirate on the wall.

I found the breakfast-room and the mantel cupboard at last, and, putting
the candle on a chair, stood for a moment listening, my hands clapped
over my heart. I thought I heard some one walking over bare boards near
by, but the sounds, whatever they were, ceased.

The mantel cupboard was locked. I pulled and twisted at the knob to no
purpose. Finally, I dug at the lock with a hairpin, and something gave;
the door swung open with a squeak, and a moment later I had a flannel
case in my hands and was taking out some silver forks. At that moment a
plate in the cupboard fell forward with a slam, and something leaped on
to the forks, which I dropped with a crash. The candle went out
immediately and, gasping for breath, I backed against the cupboard and
stood staring into the blackness of the room.

The door by which I had entered was a faint, yellowish rectangle from
the distant hall lamp. That is, it had been a rectangle. It was partly
obscured now. And gradually the opacity took on the height and breadth
and general outline of a man. He was pointing a revolver at me!


III

I think it occurred to him then that I might be pointing something at
him--not knowing that my deadliest weapon was a silver fork. For he slid
inside the room with his back against the wall. And there we stood,
backed against opposite corners, staring into the darkness, and I, for
one, totally unable to speak. Finally, he said: "I think it will end
right here."

"I--I don't know what you mean," I quavered, for I was plainly expected
to say something. There was another total silence, which I learned
afterward was inability on _his_ part to speak. Then----

"By Jove!" he exclaimed; and then again, under his breath: "By Jove!"

(That assured me somewhat. "By Jove" is so largely a gentleman's
exclamation. If he had said "Blow me," which is English lower class, or
"Shiver my timbers," I know I should have shivered mine. But "By Jove"
gave me courage.)

He fumbled for and lighted a match then, and took a step forward. We had
a ghastly glimpse of each other before the match went out, and I saw he
was _in tweeds and knickers_, and had one of Daphne's sandwiches in his
left hand. He saw the candle then and, stepping forward, he lighted it
where it stood on the chair. And when he had lighted it and put it on
the table he actually smiled across it.

"I am not sure yet that I am awake," he said easily. "Please don't
disappear. The sandwich seems real enough, but that's the way in dreams.
You find something delectable and wake up before you taste it. You see,
the sandwich is gone already."

"You dropped it," I said as calmly as I could.

"Oh," he said, lowering the candle and peering under the table. "Ah,
here it is. So it isn't a dream! You have no idea how many times I have
dreamed I was finding money--sovereigns, you know, and all that--and
wakened at the psychological moment." He put his revolver on the table,
took a bite of the sandwich and stared at me, at my gown, _and then at
my pearls_. I fancied his eyes gleamed.

I did not speak; I was listening with all my might for the car, but I
could hear nothing but the patter of the rain on the flagstones outside.

"I'm afraid I have startled you," he went on, still looking at me with
uncomfortable intentness. "The fact is, I was asleep. I got in through a
window an hour or so ago after a day and a night on the moor. I had no
idea there was anybody here until you brushed past me in the dark."

The moor! Then of course I knew. It had been dawning on me slowly. For
all I could tell, he might have had the Romney under his coat at that
moment. I put my hands to my throat for air because, although he was
smiling and pleasant enough, everybody knows that the bigger the game a
burglar makes a specialty of the more likely he is to look and act like
a gentleman. So, because he seemed to expect me to do something, I
unclasped my collar with shaking fingers and threw it to him across the
table.

"Oh, please take it and go away," I implored him. "It--it isn't
imitation, anyhow, and Daphne says--the Romney was."

"Oh," he said slowly, staring at the pearls, "so Daphne says the Romney
was, eh?"

He ran the collar through his fingers as if his conscience was troubling
him a little. Then, "I wouldn't care to pit my judgment against that of
a lady," he went on without even a word about the collar, "but--I think
your friend Daphne is wrong." His eyes travelled comprehensively to the
silver on the floor.

"If you don't mind," he said whimsically--(this seems the only word,
although--can a burglar be whimsical?)--"I wish you would tell me how
you opened that cupboard door. It was locked an hour ago."

"I dare say it was very unprofessional," I said boldly--for he didn't
show any sign of trying to choke me, and my courage was returning,
"but--I did it with a hairpin."

"Ah!" He was thoughtful. "And--I suppose that is the way you opened the
front entry door, also?"

"No. Violet had a key----" I began. Then I stopped, furious at myself.

He dropped the sandwich again and took a step forward with his eyes
narrowed.

"Violet!" he said.

It seems extraordinary, looking back, to think I could have mistaken him
for a thief when he was something else altogether. But that wasn't the
only mistake I made. I could scream when I remember. He was not at all
like his picture, and because I hadn't recognised him as Basil Harcourt,
who hated The Cause, I had lost quantities of valuable time.

One thinks quickly in emergencies, and women have one advantage over
men. They can think very hard while they are talking about an entirely
different subject. His next question gave me a cue. He came forward and
leaned on the table, near the candle. I could see he was not very old
after all--not nearly so old as I had expected.

"I know it isn't my affair at all," he began, half smiling, "but--I am
under the impression that the Hall has been closed for some years. And
yet--I find a young woman here alone, surrounded by--er--dust and
decay. It's a sort of reversed Sleeping Beauty and the Prince. _You_
should have been asleep. As you say, it isn't my affair, but--what in
the world brought you here?"

(When I told this afterward Poppy said: "It sounds exactly like him, of
course.")

"I came to steal the silver," I said brazenly.

That was my plan, you see. If he would only take me away and give me in
charge he would be safely out of the way and beyond interfering. And the
next morning, when everything was over, I would tell my real name and be
released, and everything would be over. Something had to be done at
once, for, as Daphne said, "to kidnap the Prime Minister would be a
_coup d'état_, but to try to do it and fail would be low comedy."

When I said I was stealing the silver, which was certainly not worth
five guineas, Mr. Harcourt took a step back and caught hold of a chair.

"Really!" he said. And then: "But what in the world did you intend doing
with it?--if you don't mind the question."

This was unexpected, but I rose to the occasion.

"Melt it," I declared. I thought this was inspired. Don't they always
melt down stolen silver?

"By Jove!" he exclaimed. "You _are_ experienced!" Then he sat down
suddenly in the chair and coughed very hard into his handkerchief. But
he made no move to arrest me.

"Aren't you going to give me in charge?" I asked in alarm, for time was
flying. He put away his handkerchief.

"Wouldn't that be a horrible thing for me to do?" he asked gravely.
"Perhaps it's your first offence, you know, although I doubt that. You
seem so capable. And if I let you go you may reform. Take my word for
it, there's nothing to a life of crime. I suppose you--er--appropriated
the string of pearls that are not imitation?"

This was unexpected.

"It is mine, honestly mine, Mr. Harcourt," I began. He glanced at me
when I called him by name. Then he took the collar out and looked at it.
"I shall advertise it," he said judicially and slid it back into his
pocket. "If the owner offers a reward I will see that you get it--minus
the newspaper costs, of course."

Then--we both heard it at the same moment--there came the throb of the
machine down the drive. He raised his eyebrows and glanced at me. "More
people after the silver, probably," he said, and picked up the candle. I
slipped after him to the entrance hall.

Just inside the door, with a cordial smile of greeting fading into a
blank, stood a middle-aged English gentleman, rather florid, with a
drooping, sandy moustache and thinnish hair. When he saw me the ghost of
the smile returned.

"I am sure I beg your pardon. A--a thousand apologies. That
cursed--hem--the chauffeur has made a beastly mistake. I was led to
believe--I--that is----"

He was staring at me. Then his eye struck the banner across the hall,
with "Votes for Women" on it, and from there it travelled to Mr.
Harcourt. He had grown visibly paler. He put a hand to his tweed
travelling-cap, gave it a jerk and, turning without warning, he
disappeared through the entry into the storm. I caught Mr. Harcourt by
the arm as he was about to follow, muttering savagely.

"Oh, he's going to run away," I wailed. "And he will take pneumonia or
something like that, and die! I told Daphne how it would be!" Mr.
Harcourt ran down the steps. "Sir George! Sir George!" I called
desperately into the darkness from the doorway. There was no answer, but
Mr. Harcourt stopped and glanced back from the drive.

"Sir George!" he exclaimed. "What do you mean?"

"It's the Prime Minister," I called desperately, "and if you care
anything at all about Violet--but, of course, you don't--oh, do find him
and bring him back!"

(Nothing but the excitement of the occasion would have made me mention
Violet to him. I was sorry on the instant, for Mother knew a man once
who had a fainting spell every time he heard his divorced wife's name,
and the only way they could revive him was by sprinkling him with lilac
water, which had been her favourite perfume. Very romantic, I think. But
there was nothing but rain to sprinkle on Mr. Harcourt, even if he had
taken a fit, which he didn't.)

Instead, he turned on his heel and started down the drive. Sir George
had disappeared, and the engine of the motor car had given a final throb
and died in the distance. Sounds of feet splashing through mud and water
came back to me.

For ten minutes I cowered on that miserable settee, with "Votes for
Women" over my head. And I remembered America, and the way I was always
sheltered there, and nobody even thinking of kidnapping the Cabinet. The
President being the whole thing anyhow and always guarded by secret
service men. And besides, imagine abducting nine men! Or is it seven?

After eternities I heard voices outside and Mr. Harcourt appeared, half
leading, half coaxing Sir George. He had him by the arm. The Prime
Minister was oozing mud and he was very pale.

"Terrible!" he was saying. "Unbelievable! Is there anything they won't
do!" Then he caught a glimpse of the seven chairs and the gavel on the
drawing-room table, and tried to bolt again. But the entry door was
closed.

"Now, then," Mr. Harcourt said to me disagreeably. "Tell us what you
know about this thing. It isn't an accident, I presume?"

I shook my head.

"You see, sir," he said to the P. M., "you are the centre--the storm
centre--of a Suffragette plot of some sort. I was a fool not to have
guessed it, but I actually thought----Well, no matter what I thought. I
presume you were going to Gresham Place?"

Sir George nodded and groaned. A terrible flash of lightning was
followed almost instantly by a splintering crash. The very house rocked.
Mr. Harcourt closed the door.

"This is Harcourt Hall," he explained. "It's in bad shape, but we have
at least a roof. I think you are alone?" to me very curtly.

I nodded mutely.

"I fancy the best thing under the circumstances is to wire to Gresham
Place, and have them send a car over--providing the telephone is in
order."

"The wire is cut," I broke in. And then, like the poor thing I am, I
began to cry. I hate lightning. It always makes me nervous.

Both Sir George and Mr. Harcourt stared at me helplessly. And then,
still sniffling, I told them the whole story, and how Daphne and the
rest would soon be there, and that I wasn't really a Suffragette; that I
was an American, and I thought women ought to vote, but be ladylike and
proper about it, and that, at least, they ought to be school directors,
because they understood little children so well and paid taxes, anyhow.

When I got through and looked up at them Sir George was staring at me in
bewilderment and Mr. Harcourt was smiling broadly.

"My dear young lady," he said, "of course you ought to vote. And if
voting went by general attractiveness you would have to be what
Americans call a repeater--vote twice, you know."

(It was at this point, when I told the story, that Ernestine Sutcliffe
looked contemptuous. "We are not _all_ pretty puppets," she said. And I
retorted: "No, I should say not!")

All this had taken longer than it sounds, for on the very tail of Mr.
Harcourt's speech came a double honk from the drive. Mr. Harcourt jumped
for the hall lamp and extinguished it in an instant. I hardly know what
happened next. My eyes were still staring wide into the blackness when
he reached over and clutched me by the shoulder.

"Not a word, please," he ordered. "This way, Sir George! The door is
bolted, and we will have time to get upstairs and hide. There's a secret
room, if I can remember how to get to it. Walk lightly."

I could hear Daphne at the door outside and I opened my mouth to scream.
But Mr. Harcourt divined my intention and clapped a hand over it.

As I was half led, half dragged back through the dark hall I saw Violet
enter by one of the windows.


IV

We got upstairs somehow, with Sir George breathing in gasps. I realised
then that Mr. Harcourt was still supporting me and I freed myself with a
jerk, on which he coolly took my hand and led the way along the musty
hall. Once or twice boards creaked and the two men stopped in alarm. But
no one heard. From below came a babel of high, excited voices and the
crash of an overturned chair. I backed against the wall and held my
hands out defensively in front of me.

"How dare you carry me off like this!" I demanded when I could speak. "I
am going back!"

But Mr. Harcourt blocked the passage with his broad shoulders and struck
a match cautiously. First he looked at the walls, then he glanced at me.

"My dear young lady," he said curtly, "we should be only too happy to
leave you--but you know too much." Then, to Sir George: "I must have
taken a wrong turn," he whispered ruefully. "There ought to be a
wainscoting here. Good Heavens! I believe they are coming up."

We could hear Daphne calling "Madge!" frantically from the lower stairs.
And suddenly I was ashamed of the whole affair: of myself, for lending
myself to it; of Violet, for thrusting the man beside me out of her life
and then stooping to borrow his house; of Poppy, for braining a man with
a chair and then being afraid of a bat. I turned to Mr. Harcourt as the
footsteps ran up the stairs.

"The door at the end of the corridor is partly open," I whispered. "We
may be able to lock it behind us."

With that _we_ I shifted my allegiance. From that moment my sole object
was to get the Prime Minister of Great Britain back to his family, his
friends and his Sovereign without injury.

We scurried down the hall and closed the door behind us. It did not
lock! But there was no time to go elsewhere. We stood just inside the
door, breathing hard, and listened. For a time the search confined
itself to the lower floor. Mr. Harcourt struck another match and looked
around him.

We were in a huge, old-fashioned bedroom with mullioned windows and
panelled walls. The furniture was carefully covered, and the carpet had
been folded and wrapped in the centre of the floor. I sat down on it in
a perfectly exhausted condition.

Mr. Harcourt stood with his back against the door and we all listened.
But the search had not penetrated to our wing. Sir George was breathing
heavily and mopping his head. The air was stifling.

"I'm awfully sorry," said Mr. Harcourt cautiously; "I could have sworn I
had taken the right turn. If I remember rightly there was a passage from
the Refuge Chamber down to the garden. How many women are downstairs?"

"Six," I whispered, "and I suppose Poppy Stafford would count as two.
She almost killed a man last year." When Sir George heard Poppy's name
he began to fumble with the window-lock. "And, of course," I went on,
"your--I mean--Violet knows the house perfectly."

"If we could get out of here," Mr. Harcourt reflected, "we could get
down to the lodge somehow. Then, when the motor comes back we could stop
it at the gates--have them closed, you know--and when the chauffeur gets
out to open them steal the car."

Sir George relaxed perceptibly. "A valuable suggestion," he said almost
cheerfully. But suddenly I had turned cold.

"Most valuable," I said from the darkness, "save for one thing: Mr.
Harcourt has forgotten, no doubt, but there are no gates at the lodge!"

He gave a quick movement in the darkness. "Then we will have to manage
without gates," he said quite calmly. "I had forgotten, for the moment,
that they had been taken down. What's the conundrum? When is a gate not
a gate?"

But his lightness did not reassure me. Why had he taken the wrong
turning in his own house? And what man in his senses would forget
whether his own lodge had gates or not! But there was no time to puzzle
it out. The search had abandoned the first floor and was coming up the
stairs. The Prime Minister threw open the window. From down the hall
came a babel of voices and Daphne's soap-box and monument voice. "I
think I had better tell you," she was saying "that Violet and I have
found traces of two men--muddy footprints that lead up the stairs.
Bagsby says he brought Sir George alone. I do not hazard a guess,
but--something unforeseen has happened. I only hope----" Here she broke
off, and there was a rattle of metallic objects that sounded like brass
fire-irons.

The search came our way slowly but certainly. I sat on my carpet and
shivered. Mr. Harcourt stood braced against the door, and Sir George had
got the window open and was testing the roof of a conservatory with his
foot. Footsteps came down the hall and we sat motionless. I remembered
suddenly that somebody always sneezed at crises like these, and then I
realised inevitably that I was going to be the person. Somewhere I had
heard that if you hold your breath and swallow at the psychological
moment you may sneeze silently. So I tried it in desperation and almost
strangled, and felt very queer about the ears for an hour after. And at
the best there was some sound, for the footsteps outside turned and ran
toward the stairs, where there was a hurried colloquy.

At that, Sir George put the other foot over the windowsill, and in a
moment we were all in headlong flight. Luckily, the very top of the
conservatory was boarded on top of the glass, but it began to slope
sooner than I had expected, and I lost my hold on Sir George's hand and
slid without warning. I landed on the ground below, standing up to my
waist in shrubbery and very much jarred. Sir George was not so lucky. He
put a foot through a pane of glass with a terrible crash, and it took
all of Mr. Harcourt's strength to release him. Standing below, I could
see a flare of light in the room we had just left, and the silhouettes
of the two men struggling on the roof. Somebody came to the window just
as we were united on the soggy ground. I think it was Violet, but the
crash of the rain on the glass of the conservatory had covered the noise
of our escape. Mr. Harcourt picked me out of my bush and we darted into
the shrubbery.


V

I have only a sketchy recollection of what followed. The rain beat on my
face and my bare shoulders; the drive was a river. Once some one came to
the entry door of the Hall behind us and waved a lamp, which the wind
promptly extinguished. And on either side of me, in gloomy silence,
ploughed the Prime Minister and Mr. Harcourt. Once Sir George left the
drive, seeking better walking on the turf, and came back after a moment
with a brief statement that he had collided with a tree and had loosened
a tooth. And twice Mr. Harcourt touched my elbow to guide me and I shook
him off.

He got into the gatekeeper's house through a window and opened the door
for us. The interior was desolate enough, but it was at least dry. Mr.
Harcourt produced a candle from his pocket, evidently from the room we
had left, and it revealed two packing-cases, one small keg, and a
collection of straw and rubbish in a corner. It also showed that Sir
George had struck his nose and that it was bleeding profusely. I got a
glimpse, too, of the wreck of my gown, and that and the blood together
brought my responsibility for the whole thing home to me. I sat down on
the keg and buried my face in my hands.

When I looked up again a fire was crackling on the hearth and Sir
George's boots were steaming in front of it. Mr. Harcourt had taken off
his coat and was drying it. The smell of wet woollen cloth filled the
air. He smiled at me over his shoulder.

"This is for you," he said cheerfully. "Go into the back room and strip
off that draggled gown and put this on."

"I'm very well as I am," I said, and shivered.

"Nonsense!" He came over to me and held out the coat. "That white satin
is saturated. Don't be idiotic. This is certainly no time to stand on
propriety."

"I--I can't," I stammered.

"Now, look here," he persisted. "I've got sisters--lots of 'em, and Sir
George is a grandfather. Put this on over your petticoat."

Now, of course, anybody who knows anything about clothing to-day knows
that petticoats don't belong with it. And even if they did, there were
about eighty-seven hooks on the back of my gown, and only four that I
could reach.

"I am very comfortable as I am," I said stubbornly. "Please don't bother
about me. I sha'n't make any change."

He flung the coat angrily on to a box and turned his back squarely on
me. It was maddening to have him think me some prudish little schoolgirl
who would say limbs for legs, and who, after showing them for years in
very short frocks, suddenly puts on her first long gown and is for
denying she has any limbs--that is, legs. Sir George sneezed and drew a
long, shuddering breath.

"Terrible!" he said. "This is what comes of admitting women to the
universities. Would any man in his senses believe that such a situation
as this is real?"

Nobody answered. Sir George was inspecting the inner room. I had gone to
the window, and after a moment Mr. Harcourt joined me there. The
thunder, which had ceased, was commencing again, and a blue-white flash
threw out the landscape. It showed a long stretch of country road,
running with mad little streams of yellow water, the drive curving past
and flowing a dignified tributary into the lane, and it revealed
something else. _The lodge gates were there, opened back against the
shrubbery!_ Under cover of the noise I turned to my companion.

"Who are you?" I demanded under my breath. "You are not Basil Harcourt!
You had no more right to be in that house than I had."

"Save the right of sanctuary," he returned, looking at me oddly. "I got
in through the chapel. And what does it matter, anyhow? It is enough
for me just now that you are you and I am I."

"You are flippant," I retorted cautiously. "Why did you say you had had
the gates taken down when they are still there, opened against the
hedge?"

"Jove! That's a piece of luck," he exclaimed, without troubling to
explain. "Why in the world did you say there were no gates?"

He opened the door and ran out into the storm. A moment later I saw him
testing the hinges, and I flung away from the window. Before he came
back he had closed the outer shutters.

Sir George had taken off his mackintosh and cap and, with a candle and a
deck of cards, was preparing for solitaire on the top of the keg. The
candle-light struck full on his face and showed his sandy moustache
hanging limp and dejected, while little beads of moisture showed between
the thin hair brushed across the top of his head. He was more nervous
than he would have had us know, and the hands--very fine, long-fingered
hands they were--that laid out the cards were trembling noticeably. At
every sound he raised his head and stared at the door, and his arched,
patrician nose would have been pinched if it had not been so swollen. I
shuddered with remorse every time I looked at him. His right trouser was
torn to ribbons from the knee down, and soon after our arrival he had
disappeared into the rear room and emerged, bandaged with his spare
handkerchiefs, and limping.

_We sat there for two hours_, Sir George pretending to play, I huddled
on a box by the fire, and The Unknown across the hearth from me,
stretched on the floor, and leaning on his elbows and whistling softly.
Sometimes he looked at me and sometimes at the fire, and once or twice I
found him watching Sir George with a curiously meditative gaze. I could
not help wondering if he was thinking what a chance for ransom there
would be if he could hold the two of us prisoner for a time.

(For story purposes, it is a pity he did not. What a novel it would have
made! The whole House of Lords out searching for us, and the Premier and
myself living in a cave, with our captor sitting at the entrance with a
gun across his knees!)

After two hours of cards and steaming before the fire Sir George became
drowsy. He yawned prodigiously, apologised to me thickly, and when the
candle finally burned out he put his head on top of the keg and was
asleep immediately. Not a sound had come from the Hall; everything was
quiet except for a drip from the leaking roof, that splashed in a
corner.

Then:

"If you please," I said in a small voice, "may I have my necklace now?"

The Unknown turned quickly and glanced at Sir George, but he was
noisily asleep. Then he edged over along the hearth until he was almost
at my feet.

"I was going to advertise them," he said in an undertone. "Possibly you
recall my fair offer. Some poor woman is probably having a serious
illness at this minute because her pearls have been--er--appropriated."

"I don't feel a particle ill," I said stubbornly, "but I want them back.
They belong to me. What are you going to do with them?"

"'Melt them down and sell them,'" he quoted easily. "Or dissolve them in
vinegar and swallow them. That's historic, anyhow."

"There is a better Biblical precedent," I said and stopped, furious at
myself. He was an ordinary highwayman masquerading as a gentleman, and
for all I knew he might at that very minute have had the stolen Romney
sewed around him like a cuirass. (He _did_ hold himself very erect, now
I thought of it.) And I had allowed his debonair manner to carry me
away.

But he did not give me a chance to snub him, for the next moment he was
speaking gravely in an undertone and looking directly in my eyes. I will
say he had a most misleadingly frank expression.

"I will give them to you when you are safely back at Ivry," he said,
"and not one moment before. I am sure Sir George would agree with me
that they are too valuable for a young girl to wear under the
circumstances. I will give you my word, if it is worth anything to you."

"And if I will not take it?"

"It would make no difference," he replied imperturbably, and leaned over
to replenish the fire.

Sir George slept on noisily; the drip in the corner had become a splash;
my white satin slippers before the fire were drying into limp
shapelessness. The man in tweeds on the floor raised himself into a
sitting position and listened, his hands clasped about his knees.

(Knickers with a man are like _décolletage_ with a woman, only to be
worn by the elect. Mother wishes me to cut this out, because she says
this story is to be read by young persons. But the modern young person
is really awfully sophisticated. Sometimes I feel as though mother is a
mere child, compared to me.)

After a time the man in knickers who was one of the elect dropped on his
elbow and began to talk again, looking into the fire.

"Rum affair altogether, isn't it?" he said chattily. "Nature having a
spasm outside, half a dozen lady votaries of the vote having spasms up
at the house, the--er--Premier of Great Britain, on whose possessions
the sun never sets, having apoplexy on a packing-case. And out of all
this chaos a moment like this: you and I alone here, where I could reach
out my hand and touch you--if I dared----" he supplemented as I
straightened. "You see, you have gone to my head. You are the most
beautiful person I have ever seen."

One could tell that, however low he had fallen, he had been properly
raised--although I think firelight is always becoming, especially with a
white gown.

Here Sir George began to rouse. He coughed huskily, sat up and looked
around him in a daze, and then stretched out his legs and groaned.

"Gad!" he said with a deep breath, "I hoped I had dreamed it." He looked
at us both as if to establish our reality, and, reaching over, began to
struggle into his shrunken boots.

"If the storm has subsided," he said, stamping his foot in an endeavour
to get his heel down where it belonged, "I think I shall be going on.
This place is damp."

"Not half so damp as the road," objected the other man. "It's a matter
of miles, you know; and besides, I imagine we are going to have another
storm. Listen!"

The distant rumble of thunder had been coming closer to us. The rain had
almost stopped, but, as Sir George opened the door, over the ominous
stillness flashed a terrific fork of lightning, followed instantly by a
crash near at hand. A blue-white streak ran down the bole of a tree
across the road. The thunder that followed echoed and re-echoed above
our heads as we faced each other in the firelight. Sir George had closed
the door precipitately, but, as the noise died away, he jammed his cap
over his ears and resolutely prepared for flight.

Argument had no effect on him. Whatever had caused his sudden change of
mind, he was determined to leave at once. I was panic-stricken. He had
been my patent of respectability so far in what was, to say the least,
an unconventional situation. But to have him go like that and leave me
there with an ordinary thief, even if he did look like a Greek god
except his nose, which was modern--(I do not like those old Greek noses,
anyhow; they begin so far up on the forehead)--to have him leave me like
that was dreadful.

However, there came an interruption just then, a splashing of horses'
feet along the road and the sound of men's voices. They halted just
outside the gates and we caught a word here and there: "Gresham Place,"
and "Automobile," and one sentence that stuck in my mind and brought me
a picture of myself in a hideous prison cap, sewing bags. It was: "Half
a dozen are watching Ivry Manor House!"

I think Sir George realised when I did that it was a searching party for
him; he had been leaning against the door, listening. Suddenly he bolted
for the keg where he had left his mackintosh, and picked it up. But The
Unknown was before him. He quickly locked the outer door and stood with
his back against it.

"I cannot allow you to go out, sir," he said very politely. "Whether
those men are searching for you or are hunting for--for some one else,
you and I have a duty to perform: we must protect this young lady. In
fact, and however strongly you may feel against it, I hope, sir, you
will see the wisdom of shielding all the women concerned from publicity.
And in this case it is not chivalry; it is self-protection." Sir George
wavered. "You can see what the papers will make of it, sir. That the
plot has failed would not check the general excitement; the situation is
ludicrous instead of serious. That is the difference."

Sir George sat down heavily and groaned. Perhaps I imagined it, but he
looked older, leaner, paler than he had done earlier in the evening.

"I have this plan to offer," pursued The Unknown. "We will get the
machine from Bagsby in an hour"--he consulted a handsome watch; I
wondered whose it had been--"and I will take you wherever you wish; to
Gresham Place, or, if you will feel safer back in town, to the express
for London. You can get it at East Newbury. If--if the young lady
wishes, we will drop her at Ivry on the way."

Sir George considered and decided to go back to town. He would not feel
safe, after this, in the country, and he could wire ahead and be met
by--I think he said he intended to call out the reserves. I may be wrong
about this, but he gave me the impression that he would never walk out
again without a detachment of the Royal Guard.

And so we settled down again to wait for Bagsby--that is, we settled
down apparently; actually, I was busy devising a method to get rid of
our highwayman and to secure my necklace again. For any one could tell
that he only meant to get Daphne's motor to escape in and that he would
probably dump Sir George and me in a ditch, or cut our throats, or
sandbag us, and make his escape with everything valuable on us,
including my slipper buckles which were platinum and had my monogram on
in diamonds.

If I could only have warned Sir George! But there The Unknown sat
between us, with his eyes on both of us at once (if this is possible in
anything but a fish), asking me how I liked England and what I thought
of wealthy American girls marrying impoverished foreigners; and did I
know that in the Canadian Northwest Mounted Police the word "home" was
practically taboo! And I said I abominated England and that I couldn't
understand any kind of an American girl marrying any Englishman, and
where was Canada? He gave up at that and, producing a gold
cigarette-case with somebody's initials on it, smoked moodily for some
time.

Then I had my second inspiration of the evening. I began to get hungry,
and by stages I grew weak, dizzy and, finally, almost fainting. Sir
George was very mildly interested, but The Unknown was flatteringly so.
However, when I said faintly that I had had no dinner, and that I was
sure I should swoon if I did not have the hamper brought from the Hall
at once, he cooled somewhat.

"You would better try to stick it out," he urged. "You haven't had any
dinner: I haven't had food for--well, for some time. There's a tap in
the back room: let me bring you a drink of water. You have no idea,
until you have to, how long you can go on water."

"I am not a boat," I said scornfully. And after a time, when he proved
shockingly distrustful of me and most unchivalrous, he agreed grudgingly
to try to steal the hamper from the house.

"But remember," he said, turning up his coat collar, "if anything goes
wrong you will have the whole shooting-match down on us here." (Item:
was he American, after all? An Englishman would have said "the whole
bally crowd.")

I think he wanted to say something to me before he left, but having
gained my point I turned my back on him. He went, finally, but he stood
for a moment on the lodge porch, looking back at me. I pretended not to
know it.

When I heard him splashing up the drive I turned on Sir George like a
hurricane. It took him some time to understand; I had to go over the
part about the pearls several times, and when he finally made out that
they were very valuable he still could not understand how I came to
throw them at the other man. Then I told him about the theft of the
picture, and that we had the thief in our grasp if we could get him. Sir
George's face was very queer. When he got it all finally, however, he
wakened up at once. He asked me what the collar was worth, and said
young English girls did not wear such costly jewels, but that he would
see that they were recovered. And the plan was simple enough. The
greatest things in life are simple. I said to him that I could easily
see how he became Premier.

The shutters of the inner room were bolted on the outside. We would coax
our gentleman in there and lock the door. He would be there, as I said
with enthusiasm to Sir George, like a ripe apple on a tree, ready for
picking at any time.

It worked to a charm, although the result was not what we had expected.
Very far from it, indeed. The Unknown, which is shorter than saying "The
Man in Tweeds" or "The Sociable Highwayman," came back in about half an
hour, with his cap missing and mud up to his knees.

"Jove," he said, shaking himself, "this is Paradise compared to that up
there. The lower floor is a wreck: two of them are asleep, three of them
are standing on chairs and talking at once, and a tall, fair woman in
green satin is having ladylike hysterics by herself in a corner."

"The tall, fair woman in green," I said coldly, "is Mrs.
Harcourt-Standish. It is strange you did not know her."

He whistled and then looked at me with one of his slow, boyish smiles.

"Well, as to that," he observed, opening the hamper, "I--you see, I
never saw her in hysterics. It's supposed to make a great difference."

"We need a box from the other room," I said, inwardly trembling. "We
have used one for firewood." We had, purposely, and it threatened to
fire the chimney. I don't mind saying that I had a horrid guilty feeling
when I said it, like Delilah cutting Samson's hair, or the place where
Blanche Bates took the card out of her stocking in The Girl of the
Golden West. The Unknown glanced at the box on the hearth, at the Prime
Minister, who was getting out the salad, and at me, feeling as I have
just said. Then he turned on his heel, whistling softly, and went into
the inner room.

Sir George dropped the salad on the instant, with a crash, and had the
door slammed and locked immediately. His sandy moustache stood out quite
straight, and he looked very military (or is it militant?). There was
silence from the inner room, and then my gentleman found the door and
rattled the crazy latch.

"The lock has sprung in some way," he said politely from the other side.
"I will have to trouble you to open it."

The band around my throat began to loosen, and, anyhow, if he had been
little and ugly I would not have cared. Why should I condone a crime
because Nature had given him a handsome body to hold an ignoble spirit?
I went over to the door and called through it triumphantly:

"We are not going to unlock the door, and when Bagsby comes we are going
to send for the police."

(That was the Premier's plan. He would waylay Bagsby at the point of his
revolver--Sir George's--and make him take him to the nearest constable.
Then Sir George would get a conveyance and make his escape after sending
me on to Ivry. I would not stay in the lodge alone with a desperate
criminal, and I did not wish to face Daphne and the rest in their
present condition.)

I was not hungry, after all. Everything I ate stuck somewhere in my
throat and brought tears to my eyes, and Sir George was not hungry,
either. He kept walking around the room and eying the door, and once he
got out his revolver and put it on the box. Finally, he went to the
doorway.

"If you will pass this young woman's jewelry out under the door," he
said, "we will see that you are not molested by the police."

"On our honour!" I called eagerly. For, after all, he had been gentle
with me when he thought I was stealing the forks. (Although, after all,
why should he not have been? They were not his.)

"I'll see you in perdition first!" came the sulky answer. I hoped it was
meant for Sir George. And after that there was nothing to do but wait
for Bagsby.


VI

We did not talk. Sir George watched the door to the inner room and
sneezed frequently. Part of the time he examined his revolver, which he
put on the keg in front of him. He was very clumsy with it; I suppose a
Prime Minister has an armour-bearer usually, or something of that sort.
Once we heard an automobile far off, and Sir George ran out to the
gates and closed them. But the machine went past, and from the voices it
seemed to be filled with men. I saw it again later.

While Sir George was outside in the rain I emptied his revolver. It is
one thing to have a man arrested for stealing one's jewels, and quite a
different one to murder him in cold blood. I had the cartridges in my
hand when Sir George opened the door, and in my excitement I threw them
into the fire. From that moment until we left I stood behind one of the
packing-cases and waited for the hearth to open fire on us. But for some
reason the cartridges did not explode. Perhaps they fell too far back in
the chimney.

(I. E. This would make a good plot for a detective story. Some time I
shall try it. Writing is much easier than I had thought it would be,
especially conversation. The villain could put a row of shells on a
fire-log, pointing toward the hero's easy-chair. The hero comes home and
lights the fire, and then the heroine, whom the villain loves, comes on
some agonised errand to the hero's room at night, sits in his chair and
is murdered. Of course, the hero is suspected, or perhaps the villain
jumps from behind a curtain to save the lady, kneels on the hearthrug
and gets a broadside that finishes him. You can see the possibilities.)

Sir George was growing distinctly less agreeable. He made another
appeal to the prisoner to give up the necklace and put it out under the
door, but the prisoner did not make any reply.

At three o'clock Bagsby came. We hurried out to the little porch and
watched him stop the car just beside us, with its nose at the gates. As
he was getting out, muttering, to open them, Sir George caught him by
the shoulder and held the revolver under his nose.

"Get back into the car," he commanded, "and take this young woman and
myself to Newbury. And mind you do it. No nonsense. Do you know the
road?"

Bagsby muttered sullenly that he did, and then, just when I was safely
in the tonneau and had drawn a long breath, Sir George stopped with his
foot on the step and--I think he swore. Then he put the revolver in my
hand and pointed it at Bagsby's neck.

"Do you know how to shoot?" he demanded.

"Ye--yes."

"I have forgotten my mackintosh," he explained curtly. "Shoot him if he
attempts to start the car." He turned in the doorway to say: "Don't take
your finger off the trigger." I might just as well have been pointing
the automobile wrench, for there was nothing in the revolver.

Then he went into the cottage, and was gone fully a minute. But the
strange thing was that as he went into the house a lightning flash lit
up his figure, and he had his mackintosh over his arm! However, he might
have meant his goloshes, which is English for overshoes and sounds like
mackintosh. (I know at home I always confuse Wabash and Oshkosh.) While
he was in the house the second strange thing happened. Bagsby squirmed
in his seat in front of me and said in a muffled voice: "Be easy with
that trigger, Miss!"

It was not Bagsby at all! _It was the prisoner we had locked in the
inner room!_

"Oh!" I said limply, and the revolver slid out of my lap. He turned
cautiously and bent over the back of the driver's seat.

"Everything's all right," he said quickly. "You are perfectly safe; I am
going to take you home. Unload that revolver, won't you, before he gets
back? Or let me do it."

"It is unloaded," I quavered. "I did it myself. But why----?"

"Sh! Hold out your hand."

I did, slowly, and I felt my necklace drop into it. He caught my fingers
and held them.

"Now, will you trust me?" he whispered. We could hear Sir George falling
over boxes in the house and talking to himself. "I have been fair with
_you_, haven't I?"

"I--yes!" I couldn't say less, could I, with the pearls in my hand?
"I--I suppose I can trust you. I only want to go home and have a cup of
weak tea and go to bed."

"Good girl!" he said. "Of course you can trust me." And leaning over,
without any warning, he kissed my palm, while the necklace slid to the
floor of the tonneau beside the revolver. It was all most amazing. "Not
a word to Sir George, please. He is upset enough as it is. It is my turn
to trust you."

"But I don't understand," I was beginning, when Sir George came to the
door of the cottage. At that moment one of the cartridges in the fire
exploded, and without looking back he leaped off the porch and into the
car. I had only time to pick up the revolver and to point its harmless
barrel at the chauffeur's back. I have no doubt that to this minute Sir
George thinks that a desperate attempt was made that night on his life.
For reasons that I am coming to, I never explained. I am very vague
about the next thirty minutes. We passed a man, I recall, some distance
down the lane, a man who turned and yelled at us through the storm, and
I rather thought that it was Bagsby. I couldn't be quite certain. And
after we had gone perhaps a mile we met the automobile we had heard
earlier coming back through the mud. We made a détour which almost
ditched us, and passed them without slackening speed.

The pace was terrific. Sir George and I rattled about in the tonneau,
now jammed together at one side and now at another. I was much too busy
trying to stay in the car to have time to wonder what it all meant. But
I found out soon enough.

The other car had turned and was following us! It was coming very fast,
too; and they had taken off the muffler, which made it even more
alarming. When Sir George saw that we were being pursued he became
frantic. After threatening the supposed Bagsby he began to offer bribes.
For, of course, one could understand that the position was an
ignominious one for any Prime Minister, and that his dignity would be
sure to suffer if we were overtaken and the story came out. How many
times at home I have sat in a theatre and seen cinematograph pictures of
people in a motor being followed at top speed, with perhaps an angry
father shaking his fist from the pursuing car. But never had I expected
to be playing castanets with the Premier of Great Britain in the tonneau
of a machine driven by a highwayman, and flying from unknown pursuers
who were chasing us for Heaven knows what reason. Even at the time I
remember thinking what a cinematograph picture we would make.

Up to this point the story has been mild enough. Now it becomes tragic.
For at the place where the car should have kept straight on to go to
Newbury it turned suddenly, putting me in Sir George's lap for a moment,
and jounced along over mud and ruts, through a narrow lane. Sir George
threw me off ungallantly and yelled. Then he leaned over and held the
revolver against the driver's neck.

"What do you mean?" he almost shrieked. "Where are you going, sir? This
is not the road to Newbury!" But the car kept on. Sir George was
frantic. He demanded that the car be stopped, so he could get out and
hide in the hedge. He snapped the trigger, regardless of the fact that
had it been loaded we would have gone crashing into eternity and a tree
at forty miles an hour.

Then he commanded our chauffeur to turn around and ram the pursuing car
to destruction, although he put it differently. And then, finding he
made no impression on the hooded and goggled figure in the driver's
seat, he stood up frantically and poised the revolver to brain the man
at the wheel.

He was quite mad. It was not courage on my part that made me leap and
catch his arm. It was sheer self-preservation. The revolver hurtled into
the road. (I cannot find the dictionary, but I'm sure "hurtled" is
correct, and certainly it is forceful.) The revolver hurtled into the
road, and Sir George collapsed, with me on top of him. Afterwards, of
course, I had chills, because, being the Prime Minister, no doubt he
could have me put in the Tower or beheaded, or something dreadful. And
would it be "lèse-majesté" to knock over the King's representative?

By this time we were well up the lane, and the other car shot past along
the highroad. But our pace did not moderate, and after a little the
other car found its mistake and came back. We could hear it a quarter of
a mile or so behind us. And at that precise instant we began to slow up:
the engine struggled for a few yards, began to pant, gave two or three
exhausted gasps, and then turned over on its side and died. The next
moment we were all three in the road and running like mad up a hill.

If one knows _where_ one is going, and whom one is with, and who is
behind one shouting "Stop thief!" it is not so bad. But to have a man
you don't know take you by the arm and drag you along through briers and
mud toward Heaven knows where, with half a dozen other men just below
climbing faster than you can run, and it is raining, and you haven't an
idea what it is all about--well, it is not pleasant. And I had lost a
heel off one slipper and was three inches shorter on one side than on
the other.

Sir George was for refusing the hill and for dodging among the trees,
but our deliverer (?) held him tight. Once, in a frenzy of alarm, he
did break loose, but he was promptly captured and brought back, with
apologies, but firmness. It was easy to see why. He would have caught
his death of cold if he had wandered over those hills all night in the
rain, and what would have become of England? (I am very glad there are
no Prime Ministers in America, and most of the Presidents that I recall
would be as easy to run away with as a bull hippopotamus.)

And then we found ourselves at a side entry of what seemed to be a
colossal house. The door was partly open and a man in livery was asleep
on a bench just inside the door.

The hold on my arm was released. The Prime Minister, assisted by The
Unknown, went up the steps and in through the door.

I struggled up alone, with my lungs suddenly collapsed and yells from
somewhere behind me in the darkness. I could hardly lift my feet, and
yet I knew I must get up the steps and through that open door before
somebody reached out from the black behind me and clutched me. It was a
nightmare come to life. And then the footman caught my outstretched hand
and dragged me in, the door slammed, and I sat down very quietly on the
hall bench and fainted away.

(One of the people in this story insists that I was _not_ left to drag
myself up the steps alone, and that he took me up and put me on the
bench. But he was excited, and I should know what really happened. He
never even glanced at me.)


VII

I am sure, gentle reader--you can see what facility I am gaining; I
would not have dared the "gentle reader" in Chapter I--I am sure you
will think me stupid not to have understood the situation by that time.
But I did not. When I came to myself the footman was standing by, very
stiffly, with a glass of wine on a tray, and it was easy to see that he
knew I had lost my heel and that one of my lace sleeves was gone. When I
unclenched my hand and found the necklace still there, and then dropped
it on the tray while I drank the wine, his jaw fell. But where he had
said, "Will you have some wine, Miss?" before, now he said, "Shall I
call 'Awkins, my lady?"

"Don't call any one," I said wearily. "Or--I wish you would find
the--the person who just came in with Sir George." And as he turned to
go, looking very puzzled, "Where am I?" I asked.

This really should have been said when I first roused.

"At Wimberley Towers, my lady," the man answered, but he looked at me
again curiously.

There was loud talking going on down the hall, and, as I sat, I could
make out scraps of it. A man's voice, vaguely familiar, in an even
monotone, followed by a shrill, excited one, also masculine.

"Berthold said there was a woman in the car, and that was what threw us
off, sir. He's always seeing women."

A cold, high English voice came next and then another, but without the
incisiveness of the earlier night--Sir George's voice, heavy and
lifeless, yet with an undercurrent of scorn.

"Surely you do not think _that_ necessary," he said.

The door was closed again, but a word reached me now and then,
occasional raisins in the loaf of my darkness. (This is a better
metaphor than I expected it to be, because I was loafing and the hall
was dark!) There was talk about Three-Mile Lane, and somebody being
accosted at a station, and a jingle of something that sounded like
money, followed by the heavy tramping of men along a distant corridor
and the closing of a door. Then a machine started somewhere outside with
half a dozen shot-like reports followed by the soft hum of the engine. I
had a queer feeling of being deserted in a strange place, and it came
over me suddenly that I had heard there was a Lady Lethbridge at
Wimberley, only they mostly called her Snooksie--English people use the
queerest diminutives--and what if she came and asked me what I was
doing and how I got there? Or perhaps Sir George would wire to town and
bring down a lot of people to take me off to the Tower. The more I
thought of it, the surer I felt that this was what was coming. I hoped
they would let me change my gown, anyhow--white satin and what was left
of bits of lace sleeves would look so queer being carried off to prison.
And to think how I had dreamed of that gown, and how, because it was my
first really dignified evening gown--all the rest being tulle and
dancing frocks--how I had thought I would wear it just once and perhaps
meet somebody who liked it terribly and me in it. And then I would lay
it away, and some time later--much later--I would bring it out, a little
yellow, and say, "Do you remember it?" And he would say, "Remember it?
As long as I live." And I would say, "I thought of having baby's
christening cloak made of it on account of the sentiment." And then he
would hold out his arms and say, "Please don't!"

I had not heard any one come along the hall, because I was sniffling;
so, when something touched me on the shoulder I looked up, and there
_he_ was, just as I had been--well, there he was. And he sat down on the
bench beside me, in a puddle, and helped me find my handkerchief.

"I didn't mean to leave you," he said gently, "but there was something
that had to be attended to and couldn't wait. Can you walk as far as the
library? There is a fire there and I will get you something dry. We
can't go upstairs, because I suppose you don't care to let Blanche in on
this?"

"Blanche?" I said, trying to balance on my one heel.

"My brother's wife," he explained. "Luckily, she's a little deaf, and
Thad has gone up to see she doesn't snoop. What in the world is the
matter? Just now you were quite tall and stately, and now you are hardly
to my shoulder!"

So I told him about my heel, and he said he liked little women, and that
no person who was just five feet two inches and had really curly hair
was ever a Militant at heart, and that he had always thought young
American girls were well heeled. It was an astonishing joke for an
Englishman, until it developed that he had been living in California for
a dozen years and was only home on a visit. And that his name was John,
although he was mostly called Jack. When we were nicely settled by the
library fire and the man had brought me a cup of tea that would have
floated an egg, I asked him quite casually if there was a Mrs. John. He
drew his chair up just opposite me and leaned forward with his chin in
his hands.

"Not yet," he said.

Something made me draw my breath in sharply--I think it was his
tone--and I quite scalded my throat with the tea. The fire was very hot,
and little clouds of steam began to rise from my white satin.

"I have spoiled my gown," I said ruefully, "and I had such plans for
it."

"What kind of plans?" he asked, moving his chair forward a little. "Do
tell me. I'm always making plans myself. And pretty soon, when you are
dry and the motor is ready, I shall have to take you back to Ivry, and
when we meet again--if we ever do, for Daphne is going to kill me on
sight--you will be very, very formal and have both your heels."

"I hope you will forgive me," I said stiffly, "for calling you a--a
thief and locking you up and--everything. I don't understand anything
yet; it must be because I am so sleepy."

"Poor little girl!" he said. "What you have gone through! And as for
forgiving you, you saved my life to-night. Why, if you thought me a
thief, did you unload that revolver? If you tell me that I will try to
clear up the rest of the mysteries."

"I was afraid he might become excited and shoot you," I returned simply.
And he bent over and took my hand.

"I hoped that was it," he said, just as simply. He did not relinquish my
hand.

(When I told Daphne the story I merely said of this: "I dried myself by
the library fire.")

But suddenly I saw something that fairly made my blood chill in my
veins. On the floor, at his very feet, the firelight dancing on their
polished metal, lay a pair of handcuffs.

"Oh!" I cried and jumped to my feet, pointing. "You haven't been telling
me the truth. They have given you a few minutes, and then they are
coming back to take you away. Oh, don't let them to do it. I couldn't
stand it!"

Yes, that is what I said. It was utterly shameless, of course, and no
properly-behaved young woman would ever have said it. But no
properly-behaved young woman would have kidnapped a Prime Minister,
anyhow, and sat in a strange house while her hostess was asleep,
drinking tea at four o'clock in the morning.

When I stood up _he_ stood up, too, and looked down at me. "It is worth
while having been a brute and a villain," he said soberly, "to hear
that. I am not under arrest or going to be. The fact is that two
entirely different and--if you will forgive me--nefarious schemes have
been under way at the same time, and the lines crossed. You and I got
tangled in them and nearly submerged. But that was not accident; it was
destiny." He took my other hand.

At that absorbing moment the footman announced cautiously that the motor
was at the door. It was horribly disappointing. From destiny to motor
wraps is such a descent.

"Do we have to go right away?" I said.


VIII

It was just dawn when we started, one of the grey dawns that have a
suggestion of pink, like a smoke-coloured chiffon over a rose
foundation. The rain was over, and down in the valley below us lay
shadowy white lakes of mist. I threw back my head and took a great
breath.

"How beautiful!" I said. And he repeated, "Beautiful!" But he looked
directly at me. I had a queer, thrilly feeling in the back of my neck.

And then we were flying down the hillside we had climbed so painfully
the night before, and were dipping into the mist pools. Here and there
grey shadows moved under the trees and resolved themselves first into
rocks and then into sheep. (My descriptions are improving.) And as we
went along he told me the story.

It seems he had come back from America for a visit, and on the second
day of his stay the Wimberley Romney had been stolen by an expert
picture thief posing as a tourist. He had caught a glimpse of the
visitor, so when the Romney was missed he started out at once on the
search, taking a motor cycle. The whole countryside was roused, and
three detectives came down from London. But he had an idea that he would
find his man somewhere on the moor, and he had lost himself there. After
a night under a rock he had found a cottage and got his bearings. But
the rain kept him there. He had got as far as Harcourt Hall when another
storm came up. To his surprise he found the place almost in decay, but
the house open. He went in, dropped asleep in the morning-room on a
divan, wakened by hearing me pass within a foot of where he lay, and
followed me. When I threw my necklace at him, at first he was puzzled
and amused. Later, he kept it deliberately.

The next part of his story he had secured, I think he said, by sitting
on Bagsby's chest down the road, after he had escaped by means of a
broken shutter from the rear room where we had locked him. Bagsby had
had a puncture, and finding he had no time to go back to Ivry for Daphne
and the rest, he went directly to the station. A train had just pulled
out, and a man in an ulster and travelling-cap was standing on the
platform. He said, "The car for Gresham Place, sir"--which is what he
was to say--and the gentleman climbed in. But about two miles out of
town he (the passenger) had discovered he had made a mistake, and
demanded to be set down. But Bagsby had his orders. He carried him to
the door of the Hall on the third speed, and the rest we knew.

"Then," I cried breathlessly, "Sir George was _not_--Sir George!"

"Far from it," he said cheerfully. "Poor old chap, what a front he put
up! It seems that after he got the picture the alarm was raised too soon
for him. He cut back over the country to make the railroad at Hepburn,
and was overtaken by a storm. He found the Hall, crawled in through a
rear window, concealed the picture there--it is still rolled in that
carpet in the room where we hid, and waited for the storm to cease. But
hunger drove him out. The picture off his hands, he made a break for it,
got to Newbury just in time to miss the train, saw the constable and a
posse approaching in a machine and bristling with guns, and at that
minute Bagsby said: 'Gresham Place, sir.' From that time on he was
virtually our prisoner, poor chap. He fell in with the plot because he
didn't know what else to do. But what a shock it must have been when
Bagsby dumped him back at the Hall, after he had walked six miles to get
away from it."

"But you?" I exclaimed in bewilderment. "If you knew all the time----"

"I didn't. I did not recognise him until he took off his mackintosh at
the lodge. After that I had two problems: to capture him without
alarming you, and to prevent the old-woman constable of the country from
discovering us and dragging you and Daphne and all the rest into
notoriety. Thanks to your coöperation it will never be known that a
Suffragette plot to kidnap the Prime Minister was foiled last night."

"Then--the real Prime Minister"--I could hardly speak. I was horribly
disappointed. I had hitched my wagon to a star and it had turned out to
be a dirt-grubbing little meteorite.

"His grandchildren at Gresham Place took measles and they telegraphed
him not to come."

There was silence for a moment. We were both thinking. Then:

"I am sure you managed it all very nicely," I conceded, "and I am very
grateful now that you saved my necklace and--and all that. But if you
think you captured _him_ without alarming me you are mistaken. I shall
never, never be the same person again. And as for the reward, I don't
want it. I shall give it to Daphne for The Cause."

He looked around at me quickly. "To take my place," I amended. "I don't
really care anything about voting, and, anyhow, I should never do it
properly. They will welcome the money in my place, although doesn't it
really belong to you?"

"I have already three rewards," he said, looking straight ahead. "The
revolver which you emptied for fear our friend might shoot me, the limp
little ball that is your handkerchief in my breast pocket, and this hour
that belongs to me--the dawn, the empty world, and you sharing it all
with me. Do you know," he went on, "that Daphne has seventeen pictures
of you, and that I used to say I was going to marry you? There was one
in very short skirts and long, white----"

"Mercy!" I broke in. "What is that over there?"

The mist had parted like a curtain, and on a lower road we saw, moving
slowly, a strange procession. We stopped the machine and watched. Daphne
was leading. She had the tail of her pink velvet gown thrown up over her
shoulders and _she was in her stocking feet_. She carried her slippers
dejectedly in her hand and she was ploughing along without ever
troubling to seek a path. Behind her trailed the others. Most of them
limped: all were mud-stained and dishevelled. An early sun-ray touched
Violet and showed her wrapped, toga-fashion, in the hall banner. The red
letters of "Votes for Women" ran around her diagonally like the stripes
of a barber-pole. Poppy was trailing listlessly at the end of the
procession, her gown abandoned to its fate and sweeping two yards behind
her; a ribbon fillet with a blue satin rose that had nestled above her
ear had become dislodged and the rose now hung dispiritedly at the back
of her neck. Her short hair was all out of curl and lay matted in very
straight little strands over her head.

And bringing up the tail of the procession--kicking viciously at Poppy's
blue satin train in front of him--came Bagsby, a sheepish Bagsby loaded
down with the hamper, a pail, a broom and a double-burner lamp with
green shades. Even as he watched he took a hasty look ahead at the
plodding back of his mistress, raised the lamp aloft and flung it
against a stone. The crash was colossal, but not one head was turned to
see the cause. They struggled along, sunk in deep bitterness and gloom.

And so they passed across our perspective, unseeing, unheeding, and the
mists of the valley claimed them again.

The man beside me turned to me, his hands on the wheel. "Are you sorry
you are not with them?" he asked gently. But I cowered back in my wraps
and shook my head. "Take me home," I implored, "and please don't look at
me again. If they all look like that I must be unspeakable!"

"We will get there ahead and wait for them together," he said. "And
to-night I shall bring Thad and Blanche over to meet you. You--you won't
mind seeing me again so soon?"

"Oh, no," I said hastily. "It--it is hours until evening."

"It will seem like eternities," he reflected.

"Yes, it will," I said.

(For it would to me, and if a man likes you and you like him, why not
let him know it? And if he liked me the way I looked then, what would he
think when he saw me clothed properly and in my right mind?)

He leaned over and kissed my hands as they lay in my lap. "Bless you!"
he said. "I suppose you couldn't possibly wear that gown? Will you have
to throw it away?"

"No," I announced, "I am going to lay it away. I--I may use it some
time."

"How?" He was as curious as a child. "Are you going to make a banner of
it, with gold fringe all round and 'Votes for Women' embroidered on it?"

"_No!_" I said decisively.



SAUCE FOR THE GANDER


It was on a Thursday evening that Basil Ward came to Poppy's house at
Lancaster Gate. We had been very glum at dinner, with Poppy staring
through me with her fork half raised, and dabs of powder around her eyes
so I wouldn't know she had been crying. Vivian's place was laid, but of
course he was not there. And after dinner we went up to the drawing
room, and Poppy worked at the kitchen clock.

We heard Basil coming up the stairs, and Poppy went quite pale. The
alarm on the clock went off just then, too, and for a minute we both
thought we'd been blown up.

Basil stood in the doorway--he's very good-looking, Basil, especially
when he is excited. And he was excited now. Poppy rose and stared at
him. It was very dramatic.

"Well?" she said.

"I'm deucedly sorry, Poppy," said Basil. "He absolutely refuses. He says
he'll stay. Says he likes it. It's extremely quiet. He wants his pens
and some paper sent over--has an idea for the new book."

Poppy's color came back in two spots in her cheeks.

"So he likes it!" she observed. "Very well. Then that's settled." She
turned to me. "You've heard Basil, Madge, and you've heard me. That's
all there is to it."

Poppy is very excitable, and as long as she had the clock in her hand
Basil stayed near the door. Now, however, she put it down, and Basil
came in.

"You and Vivian are a pair of young geese," he said to Poppy. "It's a
horrible place."

"Vivian likes it."

"You are going to let him stay?"

"I didn't make the law. You men make these laws. Now try living up to
them. When women have the vote----"

But Basil headed her off. He dropped his voice.

"That isn't the worst, Mrs. Viv," he said slowly. "He's--gone on a
hunger strike!"

       *       *       *       *       *

I'd been in England for six months visiting Daphne Delaney, who is my
cousin. But visiting Daphne had been hard work. She is so earnest. One
started out to go shopping with her, and ended up on a counter in
Harrod's demanding of a mob of women hunting bargains in one-and-six
kids (gloves) why they were sheep.

"Sheep!" she would say, eyeing them scornfully. "Silly sheep who do
nothing but bleat--with but one occupation, or reason for living, to
cover your backs!"

Then two or three stately gentlemen in frock-coats would pull her down,
and I would try to pretend I was not with her.

Now I believe in Suffrage. I own a house back home in America. Father
gave it to me so I could dress myself out of the rent. (But between
plumbers and taxes and a baby with a hammer, which ruined the paint, I
never get much. Mother has to help.) The first thing I knew, the men
voted to pave the street in front of the old thing, and I had to give up
a rose-coloured charmeuse and pass over a check. But that isn't all. The
minute the street was paved, some more men came along and raised my
taxes because the street was improved! So I paid two hundred dollars to
have my taxes raised! Just wait!

That made me strong for Suffrage. And of course there are a lot of other
things. But I'm not militant. You know as well as I do that it's coming.
The American men are just doing what father does at Christmas time. For
about a month beforehand he talks about hard times, and not seeing his
way clear and all that. And on Christmas morning he comes down stairs
awfully glum, with one hand behind him. He looks perfectly miserable,
but he's really having the time of his life. We always play up. We kiss
him and tell him never to mind; maybe he can do it next year. And we're
always awfully surprised when he brings his hand around with checks for
everybody, bigger than they'd expected.

(That's the way with Suffrage in America. The men are holding off, and
having a good time doing it. But they'll hand it over pretty soon, with
bells on. The American man always gives his womenkind what they want, if
they want it hard enough. Only he's holding off a little, so they'll
appreciate it when they get it.)

It was after the affair of the Prime Minister that I left Daphne. We
kidnapped him, you remember, only it turned out to be someone else, and
Violet Harcourt-Standish got in awfully wrong and had to go to the
Riviera. I really did not wish to kidnap him, but the thing came up at
tea at Daphne's one day, and one hates to stay out of things.

Poppy was going on a motor trip just then, and when she asked me to go
along, I agreed. I was spending a Sunday with her.

"I'm not running away, Madge," she explained. "But I'm stony broke, and
that's the truth. I'll have to get back to work."

"You can't work in the motor."

Poppy paints, and makes a lot of money--mural decorations, you know,
panels for public buildings, and all that sort of thing.

"I want sea, sea with mist over it, and rocks. And a cave----"

"Caves are damp. There are plenty of hotels."

"A cave," she said, examining her cigarette dreamily, "with the sea
coming in against a setting sun, and the spray every color in the world.
I think it's Tintagel, Madge."

Poppy is terribly pretty, and this is her story, not mine.

"That's a sweet frock," I said. "Did you hear that man to-day, when you
were speaking at the Monument? He said, 'Bless its pretty 'eart----'"

Poppy's hair is the softest, straightest hair you ever saw, and her nose
is short and childish. Her eyes are soft, too, and her profile is so
helpless that the bobbies help her across the streets. But her full face
is full of character.

"Was he in front of me?" she demanded.

"At the side."

We both understood. It was her profile again. She fell back in her chair
and sighed.

"If you could address the House of Lords in profile," I said, "you'd get
the vote."

"That's rot, you know," she retorted. But she coloured. She knew and she
knew I knew that her new photographs were profile ones. And we both
knew, too, that they were taken because Vivian Harcourt had demanded a
picture.

"You're not doing the right thing, Poppy," I accused her. "For one day
in the week that Viv sees you, there are six days for him to look at
that picture."

"He isn't obliged to look at it at all."

"So long as women beg the question like that," I said severely, "just so
long do they postpone serious consideration for the Cause."

She leaned back and laughed--rather rudely. The English can be very rude
sometimes. They call it frankness.

"The ridiculous thing about you is that you don't know anything about
the Cause," she said. "With you, it's a fad. It's the only thing you
can't have, so you want it, little Madge. With some of us it's--well, I
can't talk about it."

It made me furious. The idea of dedicating your life to a thing, and
then being accused----

"I think enough of the Cause to stand out all day in a broiling sun," I
snapped, "and be burnt to a cinder. Didn't I pass out your wretched
literature for hours and make six shillings?"

"Don't call it wretched literature," she said gently. "But--now think a
minute. If it came to a showdown--your own expression, isn't it--a
question between one of these men who are so mad about you, Basil or any
of the others--and the Cause, which would it be?"

"Both," I replied promptly.

She laughed again.

"You delightful little hypocrite!" she cried. "A Compromise, then! Not
victory, but a truce! Oh, martyr to the Cause!"

"And you?"

"The Cause," she said, and turned, fullface to me.

Well, of course that was Poppy's affair. I believe in living up to one's
conviction, and all that. But when you think of the lengths to which she
carried her conviction, and the horrible situation that developed, it
seems an exceedingly selfish theory of life. I believe in diplomatic
compromise.

(I wrote the whole conversation that night to father, and he cabled a
reply. He generally cables, being very busy. He said, "Life is a series
of compromises. Who is Basil?")

Well, we got started at last. Poppy left in a raging temper over
something or other--a bill before the house, I think. I was so busy
getting packed that I forgot what it was, if I ever knew--and hardly
spoke for twenty miles. But at Guildford she recovered her temper. It
was the time of the Assizes, and the Sheriff was lunching at our hotel.
His gilt coach was at the door, with a footman in wig and plush, white
stockings and buckles, and a most magnificent coachman. Poppy's eyes
narrowed. She pointed to the footman's ornamented legs.

"The great babies!" she said. "How a man loves to dress! Government, is
it? Eighteenth century costumes and mediæval laws! Government--in gold
lace and a cocked hat! Law in its majesty, Madge, with common sense and
common justice in rags. _That_ can vote, while you and I----" she
stopped for breath.

The footman's calves twitched, but he looked straight ahead.

I got her into the building somehow or other. She looked quite calm,
except that she was breathing hard. I confess that I thought she was
ashamed of herself; I reminded her that she had promised to be quiet on
this trip, and I told her, as firmly as I could, that it wasn't proper
to make fun of a man's legs.

She powdered her nose and looked penitent and distractingly pretty.

"I'm sorry," she said. "It's this parade of authority that gets on my
nerves, and this glittering show of half the people ruling all the
people."

When she came back from ordering the luncheon she was smiling. I thought
it was all over. (I am telling this incident, not because it belongs to
the story, but because it sheds a light on Poppy's character, and
perhaps explains what came later.)

"Luncheon!" she said, cheerfully, "with strawberries as big as a teacup,
and clotted cream."

I think my mind was on the clotted cream, for I followed her past one
dining-room to a second, a long, low room, full of men. She pushed me in
ahead.

"I--I think it's the wrong room, Poppy," I said. "There's the----"

It _was_ the wrong room, and she knew it. The Sheriff was at the centre
table and near him was a great serving stand, with hot and cold roasts
and joints.

I tried to back out, but at that moment Poppy slammed the door and
locked it.

"Don't yell!" she said to me under her breath, and _dropped something
ice-cold down my back. The key!_

About half the men started to their feet. Poppy raised a hand.

"Gentlemen," she said, "you need not rise! I have a few things I would
like to say while you finish luncheon. I shall be entirely orderly. The
question of the Suffrage----"

They dodged as if she had been loaded with shrapnel instead of a speech.
They shouted and clamored. They ordered us out. And all the time the
door was locked and the key was down my back.

"Poppy!" I said, clutching her arm. "Poppy, for the love of heaven----"

She had forgotten me absolutely. When she finally turned her eyes on me,
she never even saw me.

"The door is locked, gentlemen," she said. "Locked and the key hidden.
If you will give me five minutes----"

But they would not listen. The Sheriff sat still and ate his luncheon.
Time might come and time might go, tides flow and ebb, old eras give way
to new--but the British lion must be fed. But once I caught his eye, and
I almost thought it twinkled. Perish the thought! The old order wink at
the new!

They demanded the key. The lunch hour was over. The Assizes waited. In
vain Poppy plead for five minutes to talk.

"After that, I'll turn over the key," she promised.

The only way she could have turned over the key was, of course, to take
me into a corner, stand me on my head and jounce it out! I was very
nervous, I'll confess. No one had laid a hand on Poppy as yet. She was
so young and good looking, and the minute anybody loomed very close, she
turned her baby profile to him and he looked as if he'd been caught
gunning for butterflies.

Finally, however, the noise becoming a tumult, and Poppy and I forced
back against the door; the Lord High Sheriff--which sounds like Gilbert
& Sullivan--approached. The crowd made respectful way for him.

"Now, young ladies," he said, "this has been an agreeable break in our
long day. But--all pleasant things must end. Open the door, please."

"Will you give me five minutes?" Poppy demanded. "I'm a tax-payer. I
help to pay the people in this room. I have a right to be heard."

"Open the door," said the Sheriff.

"No."

"Then give up the key, and one of my men----"

I caught his arm. I couldn't stand it another minute. It is all well
enough for Poppy to say it was cowardly, and that the situation was ours
until I gave it away. The key was not down _her_ back.

"Break the lock," I said frantically. "The--the key is where I can't get
it."

He was really twinkling now, but the crowd around was outraged for him
and his dignity.

"You didn't swallow it, did you?" he asked in an undertone.

"It's down the back of my frock," I replied.

Poppy said afterwards that I cried and made a scene and disgraced her
generally. It is not true. If tears came, they were tears of rage. It is
not true that I cried on the Sheriff's breast. I only leaned my head
against his arm for a minute, and he was not angry, for he patted my
shoulder. I am terribly fond of Poppy, but she is not always reasonable,
as you will see.

There had been a great deal of noise. I remember hearing echoes of the
dining-room excitement from the hallway beyond the door, and some one
pounding. They were breaking the lock from the outside. All the time
Poppy was talking in her lovely soft voice. She said:

"Since woman is called on to obey the laws, she ought to have a voice in
making them----"

"Hear, hear!" cried somebody.

"Since she doesn't make them, why should she obey them?" demanded Poppy,
lifting violet eyes to the crowd.

"I didn't make the Ten Commandments," said a voice from the rear of the
room, "but I'll get hell just the same if I break them. What have you
got to say about that?"

Poppy was stumped for once. I believe it was the most humiliating moment
of her public life.

Luckily the lock broke just then, and we were hustled out of the room.
There was a crowd in the hall, and it was most disagreeable. I expected
to be arrested, of course--although I'd been arrested before, and if one
is sensible and eats, it is not so bad--but the crowd, feeling it had
the best of things with the Ten Commandments, was in high good humor.
They let us by without a word and the Sheriff himself stood on the steps
while we got into our car.

Just as Poppy's chauffeur got the engine started, the landlord ran out
and demanded the key. Poppy told the chauffeur to go on, in a frantic
voice, but he hesitated. All the majesty of British law was there on the
steps, and the gold coach was waiting. Of course, to be arrested for
disturbing the peace with a suffrage speech is one thing, but theft is
another. I threw a pleading glance at the Sheriff, and he came slowly
down the steps. Men with wands kept the crowd back. The fat coachman
with the wig did not turn his head, but the footman at the coach door
leered and avenged his calves. Even Poppy went a little pale.

"Quick," said the Sheriff, ferociously, in a low tone, "give me
something that looks like a key, and then get away as quickly as you
can."

I opened my pocketbook. The only thing that was even the size of a key
was my smelling salts bottle. So I gave him that, and he covered it with
his big hand. Then, still frowning savagely, he made us a lordly gesture
to move on.

(Have you ever been in the Forum Club building that Poppy decorated? The
staircase walls are wonderful--crowds of women, poor and old, young and
rich with clouds around them and so on, all ascending toward a saintly
person with a key--Saint Peter, or somebody. Well, the saint is the
Sheriff at Guildford, and the key is a salts bottle, if you look
closely.)

We slept at Bournemouth that night. Or rather, we didn't sleep. Poppy
sat up half the night trying to think of an answer to the ten
commandment thing. She said she'd get that again--she felt it--and what
was she to say? I had recovered the key and my good humor by that time,
but I could not help much. Seeing her so disturbed, I had not the heart
to tell her what I suspected. But I was sure that I had seen Vivian
Harcourt on the edge of the crowd at Guildford. It would have made her
furious to think that she was under any sort of espionage. But Vivian
was following us, I felt confident, with enough money to bail us out if
she did anything reckless. He knew her, you see.

That is why all the rest of it seems so silly. Vivian knew Poppy; he
knew her convictions, and her courage. For him to do the baby thing
later was stupid. And anyhow, if it was hard on him, what was it for me?

Poppy slept late in the morning, and I got up and went down to the pier,
a melancholy place, wet with morning mist and almost deserted. There
were rows of beach chairs, and bathing machines and overturned boats
littering the beach, and not a soul in sight but a few fishermen. I sat
there and thought of Newport on a bright July morning, with children and
nurses on the sand, and throngs of people, and white sailboats and nice
young men in flannels----I was awfully homesick for a minute. And it
came over me, too, that I had no particular business helping the Cause
in England, and having keys put down my back, and giving up my
gold-topped salts bottle, which was a present from Basil Ward, when all
the time the Cause at home was fighting just as grimly and much more
politely.

Vivian was on the pier, at the very end. He was sitting looking out,
with his finger hooked around his cigarette (which is Cambridge fashion,
I believe, or may be the King does it) and looking very glum.

"Where is she? In jail?" he demanded.

"She's asleep, poor thing," I said.

He snorted.

"Lots of sleep I've had," he said. "Look here, Madge, is she going to
take her vacation by locking up Sheriffs all along the route? Because if
she is, I'm going back to London."

"I think it very likely," I replied, coldly. "You'd better go back
anyhow; she'll be murderous if she knows she's followed."

He groaned.

"I can't leave her alone, can I?"

"I'm along."

He laughed. It was rude of him.

"You!" he said. "Madge, tell me honestly--_where_ was the key?"

"She put it down my back."

He fairly howled with joy. I hated him. But he calmed before long, and
offered me a cigarette as a peace offering. I declined.

"You'd better go along," he said. "She may need the--back again. Madge,
is there any chance for me with her?"

"Well, she likes you, when you are not in the way."

"I'd be in the way now, I suppose, if I turned up to-night at--where do
you stop?"

"At Torquay. Look here, Vivian, I've just thought of something. She's
put out about a thing a man said yesterday. She wants an answer. She's
got arguments, but what she wants is a retort--about six words and
smart. If you could give her one, she'd probably forgive you hanging
around, and all that."

So I told him about the ten commandments and Poppy knowing she'd get it
again and sitting up to worry it out. He said it was easy. He'd have
something to break his appearance at Torquay. But it wasn't as easy as
it seemed at first. I left him sitting there, looking out to sea, with a
notebook on his knee. He called after me that he'd follow us, a few
miles behind, but he wouldn't turn up until he had thought of something
worth while.

According to Basil, it was he who finally thought of something. It
seems that Vivian wrote out pages of a reply, saying that if the
questioner compared man-made law with the ten commandments, then he made
Parliament and the House of Lords divine, and that this was a _reductio
ad absurdum_, which is Greek or something for ridiculous. But he almost
went mad trying to make it short, and it wasn't funny at all. Whereas,
as he knew very well, the only chance the speaker had, in such a case,
was to get a laugh. What he really needed was a retort, not a reply.

We made rather slow progress. In the first place, Poppy learned that the
_chauffeur_, who was a new one and quite intelligent, was not in favour
of suffrage, and for hours we crawled along, while she argued with him.
And in the second place, we stopped frequently to nail up posters along
the roadside. Vivian said later that he trailed us quite easily, and
that there were times when he was only one curve in the road behind. He
used to get out and putter over the engine to pass the time and let us
get ahead. He did not appear at Torquay, so I knew he wasn't getting
along well with the ten commandments.

But except being put out of a hotel at Exeter for discovering a member
of Parliament there, in bed with the gout, and flinging some handbills
in through the transom, the rest of the trip was very peaceful. Dartmoor
put Poppy into a trance; the heather was in bloom, and she made
sketches and colour bits, and lay back in the car in a sort of dream,
planning the next winter's work.

She was irritable when she was disturbed, too. The creative instinct is
a queer thing. Once Bootles, the chauffeur, asked her a question when
she was trying to catch some combination or other, and she answered him
sharply.

"When the women go to vote, Miss," he said, turning around and touching
his cap, "who is going to mind the children?"

"We intend to establish a messenger service," said Poppy, with a crayon
in her mouth.

"A _messenger_ service?" Bootles' eyes stuck out.

"Yes. To summon the fathers home from the pubs to hold the babies."

(A "pub" of course is an English saloon.)

The T. C. matter was still bothering Poppy at intervals. She knew as
well as anyone that she needed a laugh in her retort, and as you have
seen, Poppy is too earnest to be funny. I said this to Basil Ward the
night we got to Tintagel.

Poppy was tired, and went to bed early. I walked out on the terrace, and
Basil was there. He said Viv had sent for him on the T. C. matter, and
he had something in view.

"He gave it up, poor chap," he said. "He isn't humorous, you know. As a
matter of fact, he and Poppy are both so bally serious that it makes me
wonder how they'll hit it off."

"If she's as earnest about matrimony as she is about Suffrage," I said,
"she'll be a sincere wife."

Basil said nothing. We had walked out to the edge of the cliff, and were
leaning against the rough stone parapet.

"It's rather nice, isn't it," he said suddenly. "Here we are, almost at
Land's End, and the old Atlantic--Madge, will you give me a perfectly
honest answer to a question?"

I braced myself.

"Yes."

"Did you stay over here in England because your whole heart is in the
Cause?"

"Ye--es."

"Your _whole_ heart?"

"Our motives are always mixed, Basil," I said kindly. "It would have
been awfully silly to have endured that miserable spring and not have
stayed for June and July."

"You get a great many cablegrams from America."

"That," I said, with dignity, "is of course my own affair."

"About the Cause?"

"Not--always."

"From a man, of course."

"Yes," I said sweetly, and went back to the hotel.

I broke the news to Poppy about Vivian and she stormed. But suddenly she
stopped, with a calculating gleam in her eye.

"He's a fool to follow me," she said, "but he has gleams of
intelligence, Madge. I shall put the T. C. matter up to him!"

So I sent Viv a note that night. You see one must manage Poppy.

     "Dear Viv: She knows and the worst is over. Breakfast early and
     keep out of the way until noon. She is going to work, and anyhow,
     it will make her curious. If you have a good retort to the T. C.
     business, don't give it at once. It would humiliate her. Then, when
     you've given it to her, if she's pleased, you can ask her _the
     other_. She's silly about you, Viv, but she won't acknowledge it to
     herself.

     "Madge.

     "P. S. Don't make any stipulation about Suffrage, but make her
     promise to let you do and think as you like. _Be sure._ Get her to
     write it, if you can. I happen to know that if she marries you, she
     hopes you'll take alternate Sundays with her at the Monument, so
     she can speak at Camberwell.

     "M."

Poppy came down to breakfast in her best morning frock, looking lovely,
and sat with her profile to the room. I thought she watched the door,
too, and she took only an egg, although she usually has a kipper also.

But neither of the men showed up. She loitered over the _Times_, but at
last she got her sketching things, and we went out to the cliff head,
where there's a bench. It is a long tongue of rock, about twenty feet
wide or so, and far below, on each side, the ocean. There was a
rough-haired pony out there also, and the three of us were crowded. The
pony wanted sugar or something, and kept getting in the way. Poppy
sketched, but her heart wasn't in it and at every new halloo from some
tourist exploring King Arthur's ruins (The Castle, of course) she looked
up expectantly.

At last I caught sight of Basil waving to me from the hotel, and I went
back. I left Poppy there alone, pretending to sketch, although it was
perfectly clear to every one that the only view she had was of the
pony's mangy side. Shortly after, I saw Vivian, in walking tweeds, going
along one of the sheep's paths toward her, and looking very handsome and
determined.

Basil and I sat on the terrace and "concentrated." It was my idea.

"Will her to take him," I said.

"I am," said Basil, looking at me.

"She's so pretty," said I.

"Lovely!" said Basil.

"And it's such a _natural_ thing," I went on. "He has a lot of
character, and he's gentle as well as firm."

"I thank you," said Basil, and bowed.

"I don't believe," I said severely, "that you are concentrating."

The pony had got around behind the bench, and we lost them for a moment.
But the little beast moved off just then, and it was like lifting a
curtain. Poppy's head was on Vivian's shoulder.

"Good old Viv!" said Basil. "Happy chap!" and sighed.

       *       *       *       *       *

I met Vivian as I went down to luncheon. He was coming up three stairs
at a time, but he stopped and drew me into a corner.

"All fixed," he said. "You're a trump, Madge. The T. C. did it. She's
promised all sorts of things."

"And you?" I demanded. I thought he evaded my eye.

"I?" he said. "Well, I've agreed not to interfere with her career.
That's only reasonable."

"And--Suffrage?"

"She's going to be less militant," he said. "Of course, her conviction
is the same. I want her to stand by her principle. I wouldn't respect
her if she didn't."

It didn't quite satisfy me. I knew Poppy. But he was so happy that I
said nothing. After all, what could I say? Viv after all had never
opposed Suffrage, except in its militant form--although I don't believe
he had felt the necessity for it. But the trouble was that Poppy was a
born militant, a born aggressor. And he had promised her the strength of
her convictions!

(I wrote it all to father that afternoon and his cablegram came when I
was back in London again and settled.

"No great revolution ever accomplished without bloodshed.")


PART SECOND

When Poppy and Vivian had been married and gone to Brittany, I went back
to Daphne's. Daphne was very discouraging about them. I remember her
standing by the fire and orating, with her tea cup in her hand.

"There's a loss somewhere--bound to be," she said. Daphne is short and
stout, and wears her hair short and curled over her head with an iron.
"Either Suffrage loses her, or she loses a husband. I've watched it. It
doesn't do, Maggie," which is her pet name for me. "A Suffragist as
valuable as Poppy should not marry. You remember what Jane Willoughby's
husband said to her, that he expected The Cause for his wife to be
himself, and that if she'd rather raise votes for women than a family of
children she would have to choose at once. When she asked him why she
couldn't do both, he went to Africa!"

"Without giving her an answer?"

"Bless the child, there isn't any answer! It isn't wisdom that takes
refuge in silence. It's silly, besotted, dumbheaded idiocy."

"Viv isn't an imbecile," I said feebly.

"He's a male," she snapped, and ran her fingers up through her fringe,
so that she appeared to stand in a gale of wind.

The first blow fell about a week after. Poppy and Vivian came home from
their wedding trip. They were settled in Viv's house in Lancaster Gate,
and one part of the wings was being turned into a studio for Poppy, with
a glass roof. Vivian is the playwright, you know, and his study was to
be beneath her work shop, with a private staircase connecting. She was
most awfully happy. She'd brought home some stunning sketches, and her
first work was going to be his study walls.

Basil and I were asked to dinner. Poppy wanted to talk over her plans
with us, and there was no one else. Poppy was radiant. We drank to the
pony at Tintagel, and to the key at Guildford, and to the new play and
the new paintings. The thing was a great success until half way through
the dinner, when suddenly Poppy said:

"By the way, Viv, the income tax man was here to-day."

I felt, for some reason, as I had felt when the key went down my back.

Viv smiled, and went to his doom.

"Just imagine, Basil," he said. "The sweet young person across the table
made more than I did last year! Four thousand pounds!"

"I'm too commercially successful to think I have any real genius," said
Poppy, complacently.

"And some small sum the same sweet young person will have to pay over to
the tax man," Basil observed.

Poppy raised her violet eyes.

"I don't intend to pay it," she said.

Vivian put down his glass.

"That's what Madge would call a 'bluff,'" he said, with his eyes on her.
"You'll be obliged to pay it, dearest. You know that."

"'Taxation without representation' is what it amounts to." Poppy's face
was dangerously agreeable. "The American colonies seceded, didn't they,
for something like that? I paid it last year, but I made up my mind then
I'd never do it again."

Basil was looking very uncomfortable.

"I gave you the privilege of your convictions," said Viv, stiffly. "Of
course, if that's your intention, there is nothing more to be said."

Poppy looked puzzled.

"But it _is_ wrong, isn't it?" she demanded. "Surely that's the a.b.c.
of the reason for the discontent of Englishwomen."

"The principle may not be entirely equitable. Few laws work equally well
for all." Vivian now, a little white about the lips. "But, such as it
is, it's the law of your country."

"I didn't choose my country, or make it's laws," Poppy said coldly. "I
have a right to protest; I'll not pay it."

Now, as I have said before, motives are seldom unmixed. I think what
Poppy meant to do was simply to register a protest, refuse to pay, make
a lot of fuss about it. If they sent her to jail, being the prominent
person she was--she was the Honourable Poppy, I think I forgot to say
that before--it would make a lot of feeling. She did not mind jail very
much. She'd been there twice. Then, having asserted her principles, she
could get sick or go on a hunger strike, and Vivian would pay the tax
and get her out.

Basil laughed with assumed cheerfulness.

"Then Viv is stuck for the tax," he said.

Vivian looked across the table and met Poppy's eyes.

"That's hardly what you are getting at, is it?" he asked. "Your protest
is against the imposition of the tax, isn't it? It's a matter of
principle, isn't it? My paying it wouldn't help."

"I have not asked you to pay it."

"As a matter of fact, I haven't the slightest intention of paying it,
Poppy. You put me in an absurd position, that's all."

We had finished dinner, and the men went up to the drawing room with
us. A funny thought struck Basil on the way up. He chuckled.

"Of course, Viv," he said, "if Poppy sticks to that, you'll have to do
something. There's the Husband's Liability Act. You're liable, you
know."

Basil is a barrister.

Well, we talked of other things and pretended not to notice Vivian's
strained eyes and Poppy's high color. She took me off after a time to
see the new studio, and it did not take me long to tell her what I
thought.

"It's absurd," I said. "Do you expect to break down iron bars by banging
a head against them?"

"It's my head," she said sulkily.

"Not at all. It's Vivian's. They will jail him."

"I didn't make the law."

"Like the man with the Ten Commandments at Guildford!" I retorted. "He
didn't make them, but you know where he said he'd go if he broke them.
By the way, Poppy, I've always meant to ask you, did you ever get a
retort ready in case the T. C. came up again?"

But the men came in just then, and I did not learn. It was rather a
ghastly evening. We were all most polite and formal and Basil took me
home. I told him about my house at home in the United States, and the
way I'd been treated, and having nothing at the end of a year but
plumber's bills and tax receipts.

"I'm glad you haven't any particular income," he said at last. "That's
one element of discord removed."

"I don't understand."

"Yes, you do," he said calmly. "You know exactly what I mean, and what I
hope and what I feel. I don't dare to say it, because if I start
I'll--Madge, I shall _not_ propose to you until my Uncle Egbert dies. I
don't want you until I can support you comfortably--that's a lie. I want
you damnably, all the time."

I do not remember that we said anything more until we reached Daphne's.
Then, as he helped me out, I said:

"How old is Uncle Egbert?"

"Eighty-six," he replied grimly, and went away without shaking hands.

Well, to go back to Poppy, for of course it is her story I am telling,
not mine. Mother came over soon after that and I went with her to
Mentone for two months. Then she went back to America from Genoa, and I
went back to London. Mother is the sweetest person in the world, and I
adore her, but she represents the old-fashioned woman, and of course I
stand for the advanced. For instance, she was much more interested in
Basil Ward than in the Cause, and she absolutely disapproved of Poppy's
stand about the income tax.

"I don't care to discuss the Cause," she said to me. "We have trouble
enough now with only the men voting. Why should we double our
anxieties?"

"That's silly, mother," I retorted. "Because one baby is a trouble and
naughty sometimes, should one have only one child?"

Basil met me at Charing Cross, and I knew there was something up by the
very way his stick hung to his arm.

"How's everything?" I asked, when he had called a cab and settled me in
it. "How nice and sooty it is, after the Riviera!"

"Filthy hole!" said Basil grumpily. "Haven't had a decent day since you
left."

(This was remarkable, because the papers had all said the weather in
London was wonderful for that time of year.)

"And Poppy?"

"Poppy's a fool," Basil broke out. "I'm glad you're back, Madge. Maybe
you can do something with her."

But he refused to tell me anything further. He asked if I would mind
going directly to Lancaster Gate, and sat back in a corner eyeing me
most of the way.

"You make me nervous," I said at last. "If you can't look at me
pleasantly, why look at all?"

"I can't help looking at you, and I'm blessed if I can look pleasant.
Madge, just how much is your heart and soul in the--er--Cause?"

Well, I was pretty tired of being questioned all the time. I said:

"There isn't any sacrifice I wouldn't make for it."

"If you were married----"

"I wouldn't marry a man who didn't think as I do."

He seemed to drop back further into his corner.

The whole thing puzzled me. For Basil said nothing, but looked dejected
and _beaten_, somehow. And yet he had always believed that women should
vote.

We found Poppy in her studio, but Viv's workroom below was empty and the
door into the passage stood open. His desk was orderly and his pens in a
row. It looked queer. Poppy was painting, standing before a huge canvas
and looking very smeary; she gave me a cheek to kiss, and she was thin!
Positively thin!

"You're looking very fit, Maggie," she said, without a smile. "We've
missed her, haven't we, Basil?"

Basil grunted something. Suddenly it occurred to me that he and Poppy
hardly glanced at one another, and that he was still holding his hat and
gloves. Their constraint, and Viv not around and everything--I was very
uncomfortable. Of course, if Basil cared for Poppy and I used to think
he did, and if Vivian had found it out--

"No, thanks, Poppy," said Basil, "I'll--I'll drop in again."

"Crumpets for tea!" said Poppy. They'd engaged the cook for her
crumpets.

"Thanks awfully," Basil muttered and having said something about seeing
me again very soon, he got out. I stared after him. Could this be Basil
the arrogant? Basil the abject? This brooding individual who did nothing
but stare at me as if he were trying to work something out!

Poppy came over to me, with her fists in the pockets of her painting
apron, and looked down at me.

"Frightened, like all the rest!" she said. "They say I'm responsible for
hundreds of broken engagements! They made the law themselves, and now,
when they see it in operation, they squeal."

It came over me then; Poppy's strained eyes, and her painting without a
cigarette, and Basil looking so queer.

"Then Viv----"

"Viv is in jail, my dear," she said. "Men made the law, of course, but I
wish you'd hear them! The Husband's Liability Act, child. A married
woman's husband is responsible for her debts. I refused to pay my
income tax as taxation without representation. Viv got stubborn, and
said _he_ wouldn't. Result, the entire male population screaming for
help, engaged men breaking with Suffragist fiancées, the population
prospects of the country poor, and--Viv in jail!"

I could hardly speak for a minute.

"That--that's what is wrong with Basil?"

"Of course I'm sorry, Maggie. You see, you have an income of your own
and at any moment, by refusing to pay the tax on it, you can send Basil
to jail."

"If he were any sort of a husband," I said furiously, "he could pay the
tax and save all the trouble."

"Not at all. The men have banded together. They call it the Husband's
Defence! They take turns at visiting Viv, and sending him books and
things. It's--it's maddening."

Poppy asked me to stay with her. She was really in a bad way. She wasn't
eating or sleeping, and that very night a crowd of men gathered in front
of the house, and hissed and called her things. One of them made a
speech. We listened from behind the curtains. He said his wife was
holding out her taxes on him and he expected to "go up" the next day.
Poppy went out on the balcony and tried to tell them why she had done
it, and that it was a matter of principle, and all that. But they would
not listen, and only jeered. She came back into the drawing room quite
beaten, and covered her face with her hands.

It was the next evening that Basil told us that Vivian, feeling as he
did that he represented the married men of the Kingdom and that he stood
for principle also, had gone on a hunger strike!

       *       *       *       *       *

After all, it was Daphne who came to the rescue. She came over to
luncheon the day after and found Poppy in bed with cold cloths on her
head, and her wedding ring off. Daphne sniffed.

"You and Viv are two children," she said. "You're a silly for thinking
you can beat the government at its own game, which is taxation, and
Viv's a fool for letting you be one."

Poppy is not placid of disposition, and she flung the cold cloths at
Daphne and ordered her out. But Daphne only wrung out the cloths and
hung them up, and raised the shades.

"You haven't got a headache; you have a pain in your disposition," she
said. "Put this on again."

And Poppy put on her wedding ring.

"Now," said Daphne. "You won't pay this money as a matter of principle,
and Viv won't, for the same reason. I won't because I haven't got it:
Madge probably ditto. But it must be paid. Have you got it in the
house?"

Poppy nodded.

"In notes?"

"Yes."

"Where?"

"In my jewel case."

"Very well. Now," said Daphne, "Madge and I are going to fix this thing
up. You are not to know anything about it. You can swear to that later
on, if the question comes up. Is there any place in your studio where
you keep money?"

"In the table drawer."

"Very well. To-night before you go to bed put that money there. Early
to-morrow morning send a maid to the drawer. If, by any chance, it is
not there, send for the police."

Poppy was sitting up in bed, her eyes narrowed.

"The door of that wing is always locked. Viv has one key; I have the
other."

"Never mind about the keys," said Daphne, loftily. "Now lie back and
take a nap. Madge and I are going to look at the new picture. And I'm
taking Madge home to dinner. I want her to go with me to the Edgware
Road meeting to-night."

We did not look at the picture very long. Daphne's lips were shut tight,
and I was feeling very queer. I knew what Daphne meant to do--to have
the exact amount of Poppy's tax stolen from the table, and reported to
the police. And later on in the day to have it sent to the tax office in
Poppy's name. Poppy could swear she had not done it and point to the
robbery. But by that time it would be credited to her name, and Viv
would be free.

"It's a knot," said Daphne, running her fingers through her hair. "It's
past un-tying. We have to cut it."

I know it sounds silly now and father has advised me never to tell
mother, but it seemed the only thing at the time. Here were Viv and
Poppy at an _impasse_, as one may say, and things getting worse every
day--Viv on a hunger strike, and Poppy's work waiting, and the vote,
which was our natural solution, as far off as ever.

"I'll unlock a window in Viv's study," said Daphne, "and you can come
back after midnight and crawl in. I'd do it, but I'm too fat. Once in,
you've only to go up the little staircase to the studio, and get the
money. The key's always in the side door. You can let yourself out."

"But I don't like it, Daphne."

"A broken window," said Daphne, "would look a lot better. More natural,
you know. Here, hold a pillow."

She raised one of Viv's windows a little--we were in his study--and she
put her arm outside, with a paper weight in her hand. A smart tap, and
a pane fell in on my pillow. We listened but no servants had come
running and the house next door was closed and shuttered.

Daphne is very clever. She unlocked the window, drew the shade as it had
been before, and put the glass in a little heap on the floor. The area
was outside, about five feet below.

"I could never do it," I protested. "I--I haven't your courage, Daffie.
Be a dear and do it yourself."

"Have to be at Edgware Road," said Daphne. "After all, Poppy's your
friend. You made the match, didn't you?"

"But if I'm arrested----"

"You won't be. Jane Willoughby is going with me to-night. I'll lend her
some of your clothes and a veil. She can make a speech in your name.
There's an alibi for you!"

Now it sounded all right at the time, but looking back, it seems queer.
For of what use is an alibi if the police have you? But one thing I
would not do. I would not climb in the window. Daphne finally put me
behind one of Poppy's canvases in the studio on a chair.

"They'll _think_ you broke in, which answers as well," she said. "And
you can get the money and let yourself out the side door without any
trouble."

"I sha'n't have any dinner," I reminded her. But she said she'd have
something ready for me at home after I'd committed my crime, and went
down the staircase whistling.

I shall never forget that awful night. I was most uncomfortable. There
was a chance that the servants, locking up, would go into Viv's study
and find the glass, although it was behind the curtain. But I'd seen
Peters lock up before. He stood in a doorway and looked at each window,
and if the curtains did not blow the house was safe. Luckily there was
no wind that evening!

But I hated the whole thing. It got darker and darker and things
scrambled in the walls. Poppy brought the money and put it in a drawer
but of course I did not speak to her. She had to be able to swear she
knew nothing. She kissed Viv's picture which she had painted, and
trotted out again, sighing. Peters did not discover the broken window in
the den below, because he never even went to look. And I felt very
dreary, with no one really caring for me, and so far from America, and
men--like Basil, for instance--acting so strange and uneasy.

Of course I could have taken the money and gone, as soon as it was dark.
But a policeman took up a position outside the area door, and waited for
somebody. He and Peters had a few words about Poppy's maid, and the
policeman said he would see her if he had to stay there all night. He
stayed for hours.

I got the money and put it in my handbag, and because I did not wish to
get it mixed with my own, I put it by itself in one of the pockets. Then
I think I dozed for two or three hours, for when waking the street was
quiet and the policeman had gone away. I was stiff, tired, and out of
humor, and I started down the little staircase past Viv's study to the
area door. As I reached the bottom, somebody tried the lock outside. I
nearly fainted. I turned and ran up in the dark, and the door below
opened. A man came in stealthily and went directly to Vivian's den. And
just then a church clock struck two.

I was frightened. It seemed to me that as soon as he ransacked the room
below, he'd come up to the studio. Perhaps he knew about the money.
Burglars seem to be able to _smell_ money. And the idea of being caught
in the studio, as in a _cul de sac_, made me panicky. I clutched my bag,
and slipped down the staircase, past Vivian's door. The burglar was
there, going through Viv's desk, with a light turned on and a cap down
over his eyes.

I forgot to be cautious then. I bolted for the door, flung it open--it
was a patent lock, with a knob inside--and stepped out into the night
air and the policeman's arms.

"Easy a bit, hold girl!" he said. "Hi'm 'ere and you're 'ere. What's the
'urry?" He held me off and looked at me. Luckily I'd never seen him
before. "Quick with your 'ands, ain't you! In you goes and in five
minutes out you pops!"

"If you think I'm a burglar," I said haughtily, "I'm nothing of the
sort. I'm----" It came over me, all at once, that I'd better not say I
was a friend of Poppy's. You see she was being watched very closely. If
I was searched, and the exact amount of her income tax in my pocket, it
would look very queer, and the whole thing would be out, of course. "The
burglar you followed is still in the house," I said. "He's in Mr.--in
the study, just beyond that door."

"None of that, young woman," he said, sternly. "You'll just come along
with me! 'Ouse-breaking it is; I watched you in and I watched you hout."

He took me by the arm, and I went along. There was nothing else to do. I
tried to drop my hand bag as we went, but he heard it and picked it up.
I was rather dazed. The only thing I could think of was that for the
sake of the Cause and Poppy I must not tell who I was. But I begged him
to send an officer to Poppy's house, because there _was_ a burglar in
it, probably after the idea of Vivian's new novel.

At the police station they telephoned Poppy, and here she made her
terrible mistake. She said afterwards that if Daphne had only explained
she'd have known. But she thought it was all a part of the plot, and
she went back to her studio and said she'd lost the money out of a table
drawer. She told how it was, in notes and gold, and, of course, they
found the exact amount in my bag. She says that when they told her they
had it and a young woman too, she almost swooned. She tried to find
Basil, but he was not in his rooms and Daphne had been arrested at
Edgware Road and was _incommunicado_!

Poppy's position was pitiable. She didn't know what to do. If she
declared the plot and freed me, all London would laugh, and the Cause
would suffer. If she did not declare the plot, I would get a prison
sentence. I have drawn a poor picture of Poppy if you think I stood a
chance against The Cause.

That is how things stood the next morning; Daphne, Vivian and I in jail,
and Poppy in hysterics. Then a curious thing happened. The evening
papers announced that Vivian had paid the tax for Poppy and was free.
Viv repudiated the payment--said he had not done it, and refused his
liberty.

"Mr. Harcourt," said one paper, "is quite thin and shows the strain of
his confinement. He is apparently cheerful, but very feeble, supporting
himself by the back of a chair while he stood. His eyes flashed,
however, as he stated that the Income Tax office could not legally
accept the payment, as it was not his money. If any of his supporters
had, in mistaken zeal, taken a collection for this purpose, he could
only regret their action and refuse to profit by it."

At this time I had refused to talk and Poppy was in bed.

But on the next day the _Times_ published a letter, signed "Only a Man"
which stirred the whole thing up again. The writer declared that the tax
had been paid with Vivian's own money, that the writer himself had
stolen it out of a desk in Mr. Harcourt's house, that it had been sent
by messenger to the proper authorities, and a receipt issued, which was
appended. And that, in other words, while Mr. Harcourt was to be lauded
for his principles, his refusal to accept his liberty was now absurd.
Also, the writer was under the impression that an innocent person was
being held for his crime.

This story being investigated by the authorities and Poppy's recovering
enough to come down and identify me, furiously indignant at my detention
and outraged that I had not told my name and how I came to be leaving
her house at that hour, which she said was because we had had a long
talk about the next campaign, I was freed at last. It leaked out like
this:

(a) Viv was free with no loss of principle.

(b) Poppy's tax was paid, with no loss of principle.

(c) "A Mere Man" was not apprehended.

(d) Basil reappeared, after a heavy cold.

I was not present when Viv and Poppy met, owing to some formalities of
my release. I drove to the house with Poppy's money in my bag, and went
up unannounced. Viv was not pale and wan. He looked rested and fit, and
Poppy was on his knee. When I went in she moved to the arm of his chair,
but no further, and she kept her profile toward him.

They were very apologetic and said how sorry they were, and Poppy said
she knew Daphne and I meant well, but that one wrong would never help
another. I was speechless with rage, and I took from my bag her money
and held it out to her.

"Of course," I said, "Vivian has no idea of who 'A Mere Man' is?"

"None whatever," said Viv shamelessly.

"That's curious," I observed. "I saw him quite distinctly, you know, as
I went down the stairs."

(I had--his back!)

I went out, with my head up. They called to me, and I think Vivian
started to follow. But I got into a taxicab and drove to Daphne's. I was
very depressed.

Basil came to see me that night. Daphne was still in jail, and very
comfortable. She sent me word not to worry, as she was getting new
material for speeches, and had two ready.

I refused to see Basil, but he followed the maid back, and stood looking
down at me.

"Viv says you saw me," he began without any preamble.

"I did, but I didn't recognise you. You've committed yourself."

He changed colour.

"What else was there to do?" he demanded. "Those two geese would have
gone on forever. Viv had the money in his desk, but it was my plan, not
his."

As it happened, I had sent father a cablegram about Viv and Poppy just
before I was arrested, and now I saw his reply on the mantel.

"Sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander," he had cabled. Well, I
had had the jail, and Basil had had--a cold! Basil followed my eyes.

"More cablegrams!" he said. "Why doesn't that chap come over and get
you?"

"Because I am going back to him. I can't stand the pressure, Basil. Viv
and Poppy are all right for this year, but how about next? Is it to be
the same thing again?"

"They're going to Italy to live."

"A compromise?" I quoted, rather bitterly. "'Not victory but a truce.'
You and I made that marriage. It was the T. C. that did it."

Basil took the cablegram from the mantel and deliberately read it. When
he got to the signature he drew a long breath and then he grinned.

"So that's that!" he said. "Well, Maggie, are you going back to father,
or--staying here with me?"

"You're afraid of me."

"I'll take the risk, Madge. I didn't tell you, Uncle Egbert died while
you were away."

"I've been in jail for stealing," I quavered. "And I'd do it again,
Basil, for the Cause."

"Bless the Cause," said Basil manfully. "Why shouldn't you vote, if you
want to? Aren't you cleverer, and lovelier, and more courageous than any
man that ever lived? Anyhow, you're right. Things are rotten. What sane
government would lock a man up because his wife refuses to pay her
taxes?"

I lifted my head from his shoulder.

"That wretched house at home----" I began.

But he was quite cheerful.

"We'll sell it," he said, "and you shall spend the money for pretties to
wear, that don't pay a tax."

It was compromise again. I knew it, but I yielded. After a time I said:

"Basil, what was the retort you gave Poppy about the T. C.?"

"Nothing much," he replied complacently, "I told her, if any one sprung
it at her again, to say that if men had made the Ten Commandments,
they'd have added an eleventh amendment long ago, or else have annulled
them."





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